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Saturday, July 21, 2007Oneness With Universe
Back on February 7th 1971 (Earth time), Ed Mitchell was speeding much faster than a rifle bullet, on track between the Earth and Moon. That’s when the strangest thing happened…
Mitchell had piloted Apollo 14’s Lunar Module down to the Fra Mauro region of the Moon, become the sixth human to do science in the dust, and gotten himself and Cdr. Alan Shepard back off the regolith and onto their bus ride back home.
Now he was bored. “We were just systems engineers on a perfectly functioning spacecraft.” So he looked out the window. The Command Module was pointing “up” – which is to say perpendicular to the plane of the Solar System – and spinning slowly, about once every two minutes. “Barbecue Mode”, it’s called; to evenly heat the vehicle. Ed was floating, watching the Earth, Moon, Sun and starfield pan by.
And then, without warning: an overwhelming feeing of bliss, timelessness, connected-ness… He suddenly and deeply felt the understanding of his constituent atoms as having been born in the fires of ancient supernovas. He saw Earth and it’s people and all it’s other species and systems as a unified integrated synergistic whole. He felt good; ecstatic actually…
He was not the first – nor the last – to have this specific epiphany.
Rusty Schweikart had felt it back on March 6th 1969 during a spacewalk outside his Apollo 9 vehicle: “When you go around the Earth in an hour and a half, you begin to recognize that your identity is with that whole thing. That makes a change…it comes through to you so powerfully that you’re the sensing element for Man.”
20 years ago, author Frank White collected, sifted, polished and curated the observations of 30 astronauts and cosmonauts. But these weren’t science observations or notes about the spacecraft hardware. They were reports of this specific, marked psychological shift – common to all these space travelers – immediately and profoundly broadening these hard-boiled guys’ perspectives.
This morning, in a hotel across the street from the Pentagon in Washington, DC, Frank White addressed proponents of proselytizing this Overview Effect. Cognitive scientist David Beaver had called us here. A core group of about 40 authors, astronauts, special; effects designers, ex-magicians, musicians, scientists, technologists, producers, journalists, capitalists, space-tourist adventurers, humanists, assorted geeks, hippie-survivors (and, yes, this reporter) quickly decided upon a loose strategy of collaboration and mutual support. Intended mission: maximize opportunities for Earth-dwellers to have individual Overview experiences. Strategy: use art, science, mass media, music, environmental awareness, personal networking and, oh yeah: the Web to spread the opportunity for non-space travelers to understand and possibly experience the Effect.
After decades of studying this, Ed Mitchell is pretty certain that the feeling of interconnectedness / oneness with the Universe is a consequence of quantum physics. Now Mitchell and the others assembled here want, specifically to induce or produce the Overview Effect in as many of Earth’s citizens as possible.
If this feels a little religiously fervent to you, you’re not wrong. And that’s a danger – for at least three reasons: It tends to turn critical thinkers off before they start thinking truly critically about the possibilities. The Overviewers’ advocacy
But, to the good, the Overview Effect is - by definition - simultaneously ecumenical and agnostic. And it’s nothing if not a thrill ride:
40 years ago, Doug Trumbull instantiated Overview Effects in moviegoers as the special effects designer of Kubrick and Clarke’s 2001 a Space Odyssey. Since then Trumbull’s technical-artistic touched has graced many pivotal motions pictures. He, more than anyone, invented the motion-based movie-driven theme park ride. That little thing at Universal called Back to the Future, for instance; Trumbull made it fly.
Today, at the conference, Doug foresaw a time perhaps 5-6 years out when a video iPod-like device would deliver an Overview Effect-producing dose of media content directly to users’ retinas. Oh, and it looks like Trumbull will own or co-own the patent…
Andy Newberg, a neuroscientist/physician with a background in space medicine, is learning how to spot the markers: “You can often tell when you’re with someone who has flown in space,” he says, “It’s palpable.” Andy scans brains for a living: praying nuns, transcendental meditators, others in the act of focused states. He can pinpoint regions in subjects’ gray matter that correlate to these circumstances. Newberg is seriously looking at how to fly equipment that could study, in-situ, the brain functions of space travelers. If this Overview Effect is physiologically real, Andy could watch it happen.
Interestingly, Newberg’s first test subject will not be a paid astronaut, but rather a paying space tourist: Reda Andersen slated to fly with Rocketplane Kistler says “It would be criminal NOT to study the first of us (space adventure travelers).”
Barbara Marx Hubbard is convinced this is evolution in action: “The sleep of the womb is over,” she says, “We are growing up; becoming fully human.” Hubbard has worn many hats: disciple of Bucky Fuller, Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee, international space advocate, and importantly a mother of five. As we’re born, Barbara says: “we pass from the Inner Space of our mothers into Outer Space”
So, keep the term “Overview Effect” in the top list of your search engine. In the next few years, you’ll see it connected to some awfully smart, entertaining, pithy, profound, soulful, and, yeah probably some way-too-silly and hopelessly doomed-to-fail stuff, as well.
But such is the messy, non-directed, unintended way of evolution.
Melanie McGuire, the 34-year-old fertility clinic nurse convicted of killing her husband and stuffing his remains into suitcases, was sentenced to life in prison this morning.
"The depravity of this murder simply shocks the conscience of this courtroom," Superior Court Judge Frederick DeVesa said as he issued the sentence, calling the crime especially "heinous" and "cruel."
Melanie McGuire reacts as her sentence is read."The nature and the complexity and the scope of this criminal episode involved many, many overt actions committed over a three-week period spanning four different states, and reflected a willfullness and a malice that goes far beyond the elements of the crime of murder," the judge said.
McGuire has remained in custody since her April 23 conviction, after prosecutors said she drugged, shot and dismembered her husband, William T. McGuire, 39, in their Woodbridge townhouse on April 28, 2004, and then stuffed his remains into three matching suitcases before dumping them in the Chesapeake Bay.
"His sons were just babies, only 2 and 4 years old, when the sun rose on that April morning and their daddy was nowhere to be found," said Cindy Ligosh, William McGuire's elder sister, as she testified before the sentencing. The boys, she said, "were denied a chance to even say goodbye."
Laura Ligosh, William McGuire's niece, said she could no longer remember her uncle by "his infectious grin and the boyish mischief in his eyes."
"I see the pencil sketch rendered by the Virginia police department of a body that was pulled out of the water on three separate days," she said. "No name, no voice, just lifeless eyes set in a bloated, misshapen head."
Melanie McGuire sat handcuffed, wearing a green jail sweatshirt. She sobbed through much of this morning's hearing.
Allison LiCalsi, McGuire's best friend, spoke on her behalf, saying she is big-hearted woman who became a nurse to help others. During her time in jail, McGuire has helped a fellow inmate cope with heroin withdrawal, LiCalsi said.
McGuire winced and cried, sometimes bowing, as LiCalsi spoke. When Ligosh mentioned William and Melanie McGuire's young sons, the defendant screamed silently - her mouth wide open, her eyes shut tight.
Her attorney, Joseph Tacopina, said his client was wrongly convicted. He asked the judge to sentence McGuire to 30 years without parole.
"Melanie McGuire is innocent. We respect the jury's verdict, but we don't agree with it," he said. "She is always giving of herself, and she has gotten people through incredibly difficult times. Melanie McGuire continues to be that person today, even though she's in a place where she does not belong."
Assistant Attorney General Patricia Prezioso told the judge there is "ample reason" to give McGuire the maximum penalty.
"This defendant desecrated his body then she tried to desecrate his memory," she said. "(Melanie McGuire) continues to deny her part and displays a total and complete lack of remorse. She displays an arrogance as if she is entitled to be above the law. She should never, ever walk free again."
During the trial in Middlesex County, prosecutors said McGuire killed her husband so she could be with her lover Bradley Miller, a doctor at the Morristown fertility clinic where they both worked.
Late at night, Lynne Kaiser is awake.
It's a routine she has come to terms with over the last seven years, as her bout with restless legs syndrome (RLS) has become debilitating.
Kaiser has had to go so far as to alter her occupation because RLS keeps her from holding a job during regular business hours.
"I created a job out of it. I'm an artist, so I did things I could do quietly late at night," she said. "I might go to bed from anywhere between 2 and 7 in the morning."
But by noon, her symptoms return, waking her and stealing much needed sleep for the rest of the day.
"I was not the mother I wanted to be because I didn't have the patience or the brain function or the ability to hold myself together," she said. "And God bless my husband -- I certainly wasn't the woman he married."
Kaiser's case is rare. Less than 3 percent of Americans are severely affected by RLS, and even fewer have the same troubles she does.
But what is normal about Kaiser's RLS experience is that, once she does fall asleep, she involuntarily kicks her legs.
"I own most of our bed. My husband gets about the top right eighth," she said. "Even the animals know: If they want to get into the bed, they don't lay near my legs at all."
Now, scientists may have pinpointed the gene that increases the chances that people will kick in their sleep. Their findings, which could have big implications for many RLS sufferers, are presented in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
"One of the components of RLS that is found in somewhere around 80 percent of patients was, in addition to having discomfort in the legs, that they move their legs in a dramatic fashion," said Dr. Kári Stefánsson, president of deCODE Genetics, a biotechnology company based in Reykjavik, Iceland.
The company, which has been tracking down disease genes since 1996, was heavily involved with the new study. This same company has successfully located other specific sections of DNA that contribute to diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart attack and prostate cancer.
Men in search of true happiness should steer clear of bimbos and dumb blondes: research shows men are happiest if they marry smart women.
Every extra year of education a wife has under her belt significantly increases the chances her husband will report being highly satisfied with life. But Shane Mathew Worner, of the Australian National University's economics program, says it may be that an educated woman's earning power is her biggest asset.
In a paper to be presented at the HILDA Survey Research conference this week, he says "the higher the education level of the wife, the happier the husband is."
The study is based on a sample of more than 5000 Australians drawn from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey.