Now read on if you’re intrigued at how these all fit together:
This week I watched a documentary (not really a documentary but a BBC talk show from 1988 ) called God, The Universe and Everything Else. The commentators on this program, sort of a roundtable discussion about black holes, The Big Bang Theory, God, extraterrestrials etc, were Carl Sagan, Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Hawking and it was moderated by Magnus Magnusson. All three of the panel members are brilliant in their own right but seeing Stephen Hawking on stage in his electric wheelchair, nearly immobile due to his battle with ALS and “speaking” through the use of a voice synthesizer that is activated with the twitch of his finger is what really began the inspiration for this blog.
Stephen Hawking is widely considered one of the most brilliant minds in modern history, and almost certainly one of the most influential physicists to have ever lived. When he was 21 he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). ALS is a horrific disorder that progressively paralyzes the body but leaves the brain perfectly in-tact. Paralysis spreads throughout the body usually resulting in death within 3-5 years. It struck me as odd that Dr. Hawking was still alive 40 years after being diagnosed with the disorder. This was certainly a unique situation. I began to wonder if maybe Dr. Hawking’s intellect was keeping him alive.
Paralysis is usually caused when the communication link between the brain, nerves and muscles is disrupted. In the case of ALS there is usually no physical sign of disconnect, unlike a broken back for example. The brain works by using chemicals and electrical impulses for everything from thoughts, feelings, theories, imagination and muscle movement. Death in ALS patients is usually as a result of the heart becoming paralyzed. Somehow, it seems, Stephen Hawking’s brain is able to continue to make the muscles that operate his heart still work, and why wouldn’t it? I’m sure that he uses more of his available brain power (whether in quantity, quality or efficiency) than the average human. But what if his brain was actually the reason that he was stricken with ALS?
During the course of the show the issue of religion was raised. Arthur C. Clarke responded by using one of he favorite quotes: “Pandit Nehru said ‘Politics and religion are obsolete; the time has come for science and spirituality.” Almost immediately Dr. Hawking responded by saying that “Science cannot tell us how to treat our neighbors.” This was one of two things that I disagreed with during this show, (the other being his disbelief in extraterrestrial life, simply because there is no evidence that we have been visited. An ant in a remote South American jungle probably doesn’t believe that humans exist because they haven’t been visited, yet we certainly do exist*). I think that science can and does tell us everything that we need to know about how to treat our neighbors.
The building blocks of life from molecules to atoms to DNA all need to work together in order to be successful and many of the laws of physics seem to translate to the laws of civilized society. Take, for example, the recent audio clip that surfaced of Patti Lupone stopping the Broadway Show “Gypsy” in the middle of a song because some asshole in the audience was taking pictures. She stopped the show and had the disruptive audience member ejected because he was being rude to the cast, rude to the crew, and rude to the rest of the paying audience members. In the recording she states that “we have lost our public manners” and I couldn’t agree with her more. I find it more and more difficult to venture into public because people seem to think that no matter where they go whether it’s the theater, the movie theater or the grocery story, they are still in their living room and they have no respect for other people. But back to physics, the photographer was, essentially, ejected from society. The same way that a “rude” or disruptive sub-atomic (or not so sub-atomic) particle would be ejected. The universe works toward self preservation without religion or politics. Religion and/or politics reinforce or validate these rules and laws but they do not create them. I found it a bit strange that Dr. Hawking didn’t consider that when he made his statement.
Back to my last question, what if Dr. Hawking’s brain is what actually caused his disorder. Or even more mysteriously, what if God is what caused Dr. Hawking’s disorder because of his brain. I’m sure that if all of the data was gathered a numerical “excuse” for Hawking being afflicted with ALS could be determined, but there’s also the possibility that the algorithms would have no end and continue into a Mandelbrot Set. Dr. Hawking has said that just before being diagnosed (or stricken) with ALS he had become bored. After the diagnosis his life (although he thought it would only be for 3-5 more years) seemed to have more meaning and he decided that there were a lot of worthwhile things he could do and he would sacrifice his life to save others. His research began to make progress and his life had meaning. What if Dr. Hawking had never received that diagnosis? Would one of the greatest minds of our time have gone to waste? Was there some sort of “Greater Power” that decided Stephen Hawking wasn’t putting his gifts to use? Or was this a scientifically discernable part of the collective sub-atomic world kicking Dr. Hawking in the ass? Of course the ultimate tragedy is that at some point Dr. Hawking’s mind is going to continue working, thinking and theorizing but his body, no matter the technology applied to it, will no longer be able to communicate his brilliance to us.
All of this thinking about using untapped potential, or having gifts that are unrealized reminded me of an audio program that my friend, Bret Logan, developed called Gnaural. Gnaural is a binaural-beat generator. Essentially what happens is that pure, unwavering tones of differing frequencies are presented in each ear an illusory “beat” is created, in your head. If you only listen to one headphone, it’s a steady beat. If you listen to the tone(s) through regular speakers, not headphones, the tones mix acoustically and is a steady tone. When you listen to it with headphones your brain creates the beat. Bret introduced me, and the cast and crew of “Burning Inside” one day when he was on the set. He told us that he uses the Gnaural during stressful times or during the day to get a power-nap style meditation in. He also mentioned that he feels that it has a tendency to improve his creativity (he’s a musician and formerly a painter as well as an actor) and mental energy. The anecdotal evidence seems to suggest to me that maybe by forcing the brain to produce the varying beats internally because it can’t deal with the overall information new and rarely used streets in the brain are opened allowing for a different course of brainwave activity. If you happen to google “gnaural” you’ll find a lot of anecdotal evidence on-line of the “results” that people get from Gnaural. You’ll also find people hawking CDs and making all kinds of promises. Don’t bother paying for it and don’t listen to anyone that makes promises. Go straight to the source at http://gnaural.sourceforge.net/ download it, put it in you ipod and see if you are able to realize some extra brain power.