Friday, April 26, 2013

The most valuable commodity on Mars? Cadavers and embryos top the list.

When humans finally colonize Mars, everything will be recycled. Nothing will go to waste. Certainly not valuable organic material, which can be used for everything from compost and fertilizer to starter for growing lab meat.

It is thought that terra-forming Mars at any significant scale will take millions of years. Until the time microorganisms, plants and animals populate Mars, we will dependent on whatever organic material can contribute to the growth or production of food.

I’m quite sure they won’t be burying the dead, as the ground is hard and frozen. Without oxygen, they won’t be cremating them either. The need for regular production of food will be paramount, and this need will supersede the maintenance of taboos cultivated on Earth.

Consider the high rate at which developing embryos fail here on Earth. The complexity of the human brain engenders a trade-off. No mammal on earth exhibits the rate of failure associated with human pregnancies. Ergo the frequency of partial or complete reabsorption of the foetus, as well as stillborn events.

Urine will be recycled to drink; feces will be coveted for the nutrients they lend to plant growth.

I imagine a restaurant on Mars outfitted with food printers. The “ink” loaded into such printers will be derived from collagen, protein, and cellulose. The only reliable source for this “ink” will come from the colonists themselves. These dishes may well mimic the foodstuffs we crave on earth in taste, color, and texture. Lighting, Holograms and mood-enhancing drugs may further help to reproduce the pleasurable experience of dining here on earth.

The post-war story “Soylent Green” imagined cadaver-derived food production methods on a post-apocalyptic earth. But on Mars there will be no need to hurry death toward these ends. Sickness and dysfunction in embryos and adults will be insured by extreme conditions on Mars. Cosmic rays and extremely low gravity will compromise the development of embryos, as well as our senses and organ function. Extreme temperatures, lack of oxygen, and the probability of deadly viral outbreaks in cramped, contained micro-environments will further stress those who bravely venture where no man has gone before. Yes, we will have new ways to limit these dangers. But we will also be surprised by unexpected stressful events.

The need initially for contained micro-environments will severely limit – if not preclude – the introduction of familiar flora and fauna on Mars.

Taboos develop and change based on pressures acting on communities. Significant pressure to evolve and adapt will ensure the rapid shift of some of our most dear beliefs.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Needles and Pins

Acupuncture has been somewhat useful for short-term relief of the distress and agitation of rapid cycling and mixed Bipolar symptoms. These symptoms subsided suddenly with a tiny needle inside the center of the right outer ear (in the center of the dome that is attached to the head). This needle completed a circuit, already laid down by needles at key points in the loop. The sensation was that of a balloon rapidly deflating. The sudden absolute calm was a relief. This calming effect kicked in during the 3rd acupuncture treatment in as many weeks. Initial treatments were helpful but the benefit increases with regular treatment, especially with stubborn symptoms. For chronic symptoms regular acupuncture treatments have been more effective than sporadic treatments, though regular treatments can be prohibitively expensive. Needles leave no side effects, unlike pills.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Not My Specialty

The diagnosis from the Ophthalmologist in August was “dry eyes”. But I went there with “dry eyes”. I guess I should have pointed that out to him. What I really wanted to know: why the dryness, diminished vision, and reduced pressure (goopey or soft eyeballs)? The Ophthalmologist was looking into the front of my eyes. But I wish he’d looked at the back – the veins and nerves that nourish and control the eye. The vascular system has been malfunctioning due to Dysautonomia for a decades, the organs starved of blood, nourishment, glucose. How does one explain Dysautonomia to a doctor? It is too strange.

Outcome at Ophthalmology: A $300 bill for a prescription for OTC eye drops. In moments like these I think about the Nicole Kidman line from ”Days of Thunder”, when her doctor character admonishes the Tom Cruise character for an inappropriate request. “That’s not my specialty” she intones icily, then exits the exam room. It often feels just like that, as if you had make an inappropriate request, by showing up with a bewildering problem at the doctor. The request in this case was to get help with organs that are suffering the effects of an "invisible" or neurologic disease, rather than an affliction that originates in the eye.

If he would have told me that his diagnosis, besides “dry eyes”, included “adult onset goopey eye”, and “bitch lyin’ ‘bout bein’ blind” then his “diagnosis” would have been complete. Note to self: Do not go to a young doctor again. Do not go to any specialist unfamiliar with neurologic patterns. It is a complete waste of time.

In the future I would ask the Ophthalmologist to measure my eye pressure. I would ask them to image blood flow to the eyes. Maybe they could explain why the right eye goes out, but not the left. But what will these measurements really yield, besides data about a problem that can't be solved.

An Ophthalmologist should be knowledgeable about neurologic conditions involving optical nerves including nystagmus, migraine auras, ischemic stroke, sinus tachycardia, etc. The problem with doctor’s “specializing” in anything, is they become willfully unaware of important peripheral information, which would allow them to assist a patient who comes in with a complex problem. “Not my Specialty” is a tactic doctors use to avoid helping patients when symptoms don't have an simple solution.

Why isn't medicine treated the same as other professions? When one goes to the mechanic, and the mechanic cannot find a problem with the car, the mechanic doesn’t charge you for not helping you. When you go to a lawyer for help with a standard legal issue, unless the lawyer wins the case, they don’t get paid. But when you go to a doctor you are expected to pay in full – even when they decide not to help you.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

“Remember to spay and neuter your poor” and other advice from StephenColbert

“Remember to spay and neuter your poor!”

“Why don’t we put up a prescription booth. Just grab as many pills as you can in 30 seconds. Who knows? One of them might cure you. The others might get you high.”

A couple of bombshells this week from Stephen Colbert. After laughing I felt alarmed at the truth in these observations. In the first statement, you can replace "poor" with "sick" and it still makes sense. In America, those that lose their health typically lose their job and health insurance at the same time. This triple whammy is common. That’s partly why SSI offices are filled with those who have lost the ability to care for themselves, or to get the medical care they need. The other reason is the baby boomer generation is now at the age where neuro-psych afflictions tend to become disabling among those carrying the genes.

The second statement reflects the attitude about pills among American doctors, particularly those treating neuro psych patients. Many such patients take 40 or 60 pills daily. Typically doctors aren’t aware of counter-indications, so it is important for individuals to research the latest info re: which pills cannot be taken together, or by patients with a particular diagnosis. Genetics also plays a role in whether medication will be effective – or create significant problems. So discuss with family members with the same diagnoses. Fatalities and serious conditions resulting from pill toxicity are not uncommon - they show up on records and death certificates as Myocardial Infarction (heart failure), liver failure, kidney failure, etc. Unfortunately pill incompatibility, pharma-toxicology risks, and the role of genetics is not discussed between doctors and their patients.

I hope Colbert continues to draw attention to these issues. Maybe humor is the best way to draw people toward a constructive dialogue.