THERMODYNAMICS


The first month I was an intern in medicine, we had a person with congestive heart failure who was on fluid restriction.  Despite this and diuretic therapy, the patient did not lose weight.  Maybe, he was getting fluid from heaven.  Or was he?

I decided to ask the man some questions.  What did he do in the hospital?  He took walks with his wife.  OK, good.  “Did you stop by a drinking fountain at any point?”

“Oh yes, I often did.”

“What did you do.”

His wife answered, “He took a big drink.”

When we restricted him to his room, his weight dropped and his condition improved.

At the weekly Stammtisch the other night, I got more than a German education.  One lady was talking about fire walkers, and a guy was talking about a man in India who allegedly had lived for 70 years without eating or drinking. I was polite, simply saying extraordinary claims (the second) require extraordinary evidence.  Fire walking exists, and there are reasons why people can do it.  We understand the science behind fire walking.  Don’t run, make sure the wood is dry before burning, and don’t try it on metal.

Getting one’s nutrients from the air, or from heaven, is another matter, unless one is moss growing from a Sitka Spruce on the Oregon Coast.  I hadn’t heard of people’s doing that, but these days there are so many new stories that it is difficult to keep up with them.  I decided to check online.

Indeed, such a man has claimed this.  He was checked with CCTV for 15 days and indeed did not eat or drink.  Interestingly, he was dressed while being observed.  Supposedly, he had no urine in his bladder and had no bowel movements.  I say supposedly, because maybe somebody filming him had an agenda and lied.  People do.  In addition, I did not see results of daily weights, electrolytes, BUN and Creatinine, UUN (urine urea nitrogen), urine specific gravity, if there were any, all of which would have been necessary.  If he were indeed getting nutrients from heaven, which plants do, his weight should have stayed the same. This story is an extraordinary claim; it requires extraordinary evidence, which was not forthcoming.  CCTV for 15 days is not enough.  I want to see the above.  Why?

There was no explanation of the few times the individual was NOT on CCTV, having gone to meet with his supporters.   I wonder if there were water fountains. He was dressed and could have hid a lot of food under his clothes.  I didn’t argue with the individual who told me the story.  He was equating some of this to “My Spiritual Beliefs” with a few references to Jesus.  Those arguments are un-winnable.  I was a bit disturbed that somebody would take such a claim at face value, but people do that these days.  I’ve seen pictures showing a huge eclipsed Moon from the North Pole.  It doesn’t work that way, and I can prove it, but many still believe this sort of stuff.  The local paper didn’t know that the Harvest Moon occurred annually, simple to research, a weatherman in Tucson thought local noon was at 12 p.m., which it is not,* and a different weatherman once commented that the Sun was “already” setting later on Christmas, “only four days after the equinox.”⁺ These are easily observable with the eye.  Technology is a wonderful thing, but photoshopping is too often believed; film was harder to fake.  I suspected nothing I said would convince the man otherwise.  I did mention “thermodynamics” twice, and he looked at me with a quizzical expression.

Obtaining food from heaven is reserved for plants, whose pyrrole rings have magnesium and not iron.  We can’t do this; indeed, people who have tried have lost an extreme amount of weight, had incipient renal failure, and some even died.  In short, there is compelling evidence suggesting that not eating or drinking leads to severe physiologic compromise and even death.  At the end of life, VSED  (Voluntary Stoppage of Eating and Drinking) causes death.  Why are there not survivors in this transition stage, especially given that impending death is an extremely spiritual time?

I try to be a reasonable skeptic, but here, reasonable has requirements.  “Spiritual,” and “God” don’t cut it with me as proof.  People used to call a child’s death from acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) “God’s will.”  Today, 90% survive 10 years and are considered cured; half a century ago, ALL was a death sentence.  Sounds more like science to me.

I want the individual naked on a bare bed in a bare room with no evidence of food or water present.  I want the trial to be at least a month, subject’s health willing, so that possible over hydration issues or medications that were given (antidiuretic hormone, for example) can “wash out” and not be a factor.  People fake things all the time; I did a grand rounds on this for many years as a neurologist, to show how people could fake dilated pupils, paralysis and a host of other neurological conditions.

How did I know?  People who have paralysis from a stroke or a tumor do not lose sensation sharply to the midline, they do not lose smell on one side of the nose, and they don’t lose vision in the eye on that side.  Our brain does not work that way.  Those who present with a dilated pupil and coma, where fakery is a real consideration, require two things:  Pilocarpine should constrict a pupil caused by oculomotor nerve paralysis.  Drugs placed into the eye to dilate the pupil will resist pilocarpine.  As for “coma,” ice water squirted into the ear is not only exceedingly uncomfortable, but the eyes move in a way that cannot be faked. Some people want to be ill, as strange as that sounds.  I carried pilocarpine in my medical bag.

I feel the same way about UFOs.  There are many things for which we do not have an explanation.  I try to look for natural causes, rather than to postulate UFOs, Poltergeists, alien abductions, and government conspiracies (amazing secrets kept by a group of people who are often labelled incompetent bureaucrats).  During World War II, Venus was fired upon by the US from Maine when its bright light appeared over the ocean.  Our memories are fallible, they change with recall, and perceived sincerity, looks, or voice of an individual do not constitute proof. People have strange ideas how the body works.  They hear tales from their friends, see newspapers at the check out line, and assume these must be truthful.  I’m guilty of magical thinking, too. The difference is I know I am hoping for things to happen that I have no control over.

I found it interesting that the man who was so willing to believe a person could survive for 70 years without oral intake of food and water was so unwilling to believe that fire walking could exist.

Thermodynamics.

 

 

 

*Local noon is when the Sun is highest in the sky.  Not counting Daylight Savings Time, this occurs at noon only at longitudes evenly divided by 15 degrees.  For example, Tucson’s longitude of about 111 degrees is 6 degrees west of 105.  Local noon varies around the mean of 12:24.  Every 4 minutes is one degree of longitude:  1440 minutes/day/ 360 degrees of longitude/day.

⁺The equation of time is the difference in Sun time from clock time. The Sun runs faster than clock time in December, but every day it is slowing down much more than its southerly movement is occurring.  The first delays the sunset, the second speeds it up.  This makes the earliest Sunset about 6 December and the latest sunrise in early January.  By Christmas, the Sun has been setting later for nearly 3 weeks and is quite noticeable…if one looks.

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One Response to “THERMODYNAMICS”

  1. steve nash Says:

    Lovely!

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