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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Deathbed Visions: The Earliest Accounts (Part 1)

At the web site of the Daily Mail, we recently had a very sad-sounding story with the headline, "They All Suffer and Die Alone."  The story is an interview with an ICU doctor Daniela Lamas. Curently hospitalized victims of the coronavirus are not allowed visitors, to minimize the chance that such visitors become infected with the coronavirus.  "The devastating image of the lonely deaths of coronavirus patients in Italy hangs over us all," Dr. Lamas states.

But is it actually true that those dying of coronavirus in hospitals have almost all died lonely, isolated deaths? There is a strong reason for suspecting that such a thing may not be true.  The reason is related to the little-publicized phenomenon of deathbed visions, in which dying people see apparitions of deceased family members and deceased friends. 

Deathbed visions are a different phenomenon from near-death experiences. Near-death experiences are accounts of extraordinary experiences of those who had close brushes with death, but who recovered to tell the story of their remarkable experiences, often in writing. Deathbed visions are extraordinary accounts (purely oral) told by those who came very close to dying, and then actually did die.  The great interest in near-death experiences has caused the different phenomenon of deathbed visions to be overshadowed and overlooked. 

The first major reference to this phenomenon that I can find in the literature of parapsychology is the fascinating 1906 paper "Apparitions of Deceased Persons at Death-Beds" in pages 67-100 of the February 1906 Annals of Psychical Research, (Volume 3), which can be read here. I will now cite several cases from this paper by Ernesto Bozzano. 

The first case cited (pages 70-71) is an account told by a well-known figure of the death of his son:

"Suddenly he murmured: ' Earth recedes, heaven opens up before  me. I have been beyond the gates. God is calling. Don't call me back. It is beautiful. It is like a trance. If this is death it is sweet.' Then his face lit up and he said in a voice of joyful rapture : 'Dwight! Irene! I see the children's faces' (referring to two little grandchildren, gone before). Turning to his wife he said: ' Mamma, you have been a good wife to me,' and with that he became unconscious."

We will see that this seeing of a deceased relative is the most common feature of a deathbed vision. On page 71 this feature occurs again in this account:

"For half an hour, he said, the dying man had been sinking. The breathing, growing more laboured, became slower and fainter. The watcher thought the man was dead, when suddenly his eyes opened with a glad look of wonder and joyful recognition; he threw up his arms as in an embrace, and his whole face was illuminated as he rapturously exclaimed: 'Why, mother!' The same instant he fell back dead. 'Nothing will ever convince me,' said the watcher, relating the occurrence years afterwards, 'that that man didn't actually see his mother then and there.' " 

On page 72 we have this account by an Alfred Smedley of the death of his wife: 

"A short time before her decease, her eyes being fixed on something that seemed to fill her with pleasant surprise, she exclaimed: 'Why ! there is sister Charlotte here ; and mother and father, and brother John, and sister Mary ! And now they have brought Bessie Heap !! They are all here. Oh! how beautiful! Cannot you see them ? ' she asked. 'No, my dear; I very much wish I could,' I answered. ' Cannot you see them ? ' she again asked in surprise : ' why they are all here, and they are come to bear me away with them. Part of our family have crossed the flood, and soon the other part will be gathered home, and then we shall be a family complete in heaven.' "

On page 72 we have this account by a Dr. Paul Edwards of the death of a patient, who said this:

"I see people moving-all in white. The music is strangely enchanting. Oh! here is Sadie; she is with me-and-she knows who I am." 

We are told that Sadie "was a little girl she had lost about ten years before," and that "the dying wife was in full view of the two worlds at the same time, for she described how the moving figures looked in the world beyond, as she directed her words to mortals in this world." On page 73 we read the account of a Dr. Wilson who observed the death of a singer named James Moore:

"Then something which I shall never forget to my dying day happened; something which is utterly indescribable. While he appeared perfectly rational and as sane as any man I have ever seen, the only way that I can express it is that be was transported into another world, and although I cannot satisfactorily explain the matter to myself, I am fully convinced that he had entered the Golden City - for he said in a stronger voice than he had used since I had attended him: 'There is mother! Why, mother, have you come here to see me? No, no, I'm coming to see you. Just wait, mother, I am almost over. I can jump it. Wait, mother.' On his face there was a look of inexpressible happiness, and the way in which he said the words impressed me as I have never been before, and I am as firmly convinced that be saw and talked with his mother as I am that I am sitting here."

On page 78 we have this account of the death of Lloyd Ellis:

"Lying in an apparent sleep one night (one Monday night, I believe) be woke up suddenly and asked his mother: ' Where is my father ? ' She answered him tearfully: ' Lloyd dear, you know your dear father is dead. He has been dead for more than a year now.'  'Is he ?'-he asked, incredulously -' why he was in the room just now, and I have an appointment with him, three o'clock next Wesnesday.' And Lloyd Ellis died at three o'clock on the following Wednesday morning." 

On page 79 we have this account of the death of a brother, who had not been told that his brother had recently died (the account is quoted from page 459 of Volume 5 of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research):

"Harry died at Abbot's Langley on November 2nd, fourteen miles from my vicarage at Aspley; David the following day at Aspley. About an hour before the death of this latter child, he sat up in bed, and pointing to the bottom of the bed, said distinctly : ' There is little Harry calling to me.' .. Mr. Taylor adds the following details: ' Mr. Z. tells me that care was taken to keep David from knowing that Harry was dead, and that he feels sure that David did not know it.' "

On page 79 we have this account quoted from page 460 of Volume 5 of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research:

"My brother, John Aikin Ogle, died at Leeds, July 17th, 1879. About an hour before he expired he saw his brother, who had died about sixteen years before, and looking up with fixed interest, said: ' Joe! Joe !' and immediately after exclaimed with ardent surprise : ' George Hanley ! ' My mother, who had come from Melbourne, a distance of about forty miles, where George Hanley resided, was astonished at this, and turning to my sister-in-law, asked if anybody had told John of George Hanley's death. She said, 'No one,' and my mother was the only person present who was aware of the fact."

On pages 79-80 we have the following account:

"ln a city not far from Boston, a little girl 9 years of age was dying....Then, as she began to sink, she called out that she saw the faces of friends one after another; grandpa and grandma appeared ; and then, starting with sudden surprise, she turned to her father and said : 'Why, papa, why did you not tell me that Jenny had gone? Here is Jenny, come to meet me.' She had had no idea that there was anything the matter with Jenny; but as a matter of fact she had died only a little while before. They had scrupulously kept this fact from the little girl for fear that the knowledge of it might bave a depressing effect upon her." 

A deathbed vision might be like this

On page 81 we have an account that is taken from page 92   of Volume 3 of the Proceedings of the Society of Psychical Research: 

"Six or seven years passed away, and Mrs.--, who had been long ill, was dying, in fact she did die the following day....She changed the subject and said : "Do you hear those voices singing? ' I replied that I did not; and she said : ' I have beard them several times to-day, and I am sure they are the angels welcoming me to Heaven; but '-she added-' it is strange, there is one voice amongst them I am sure I know, and cannot remember whose voice is is.' Suddenly she stopped, and said, pointing straight over my bead : 'Why there she is; in the corner of the room; it is Julia X.; she is coming on ; she is leaning over you'.... I turned but could see nothing....Two days afterwards, taking up the Times newspaper, I saw recorded the death of Julia Z., wife of Mr. Z. I was so astounded that a day or so after the funeral I went up to ---- and asked Mr. X. if Mrs. Z, his daughter, was dead. He said: ' Yes, poor thing, she died of puerperal fever. On the day she died she began singing in the morning, and sang and sang until she died. ' " 

Another source of early accounts of deathbed visions is the 1926 book Death-bed Visions by Sir William Barrett.  On page 11 of the book we have an account of a Mrs. B. who became gravely ill after chidbirth. When near death she complained that the room was getting darker and darker. She then suddenly stated that she saw "lovely brightness -- wonderful beings,"  and her father. Her newborn child was brought in to her, but she seemed to have more interest in the visions than in seeing her newborn child. She then died an hour later.  On page 13 we are told this about something said by this Mrs. B:

"Mrs. B. said, ‘ Oh, why there’s Vida,’ referring to a sister of whose death three weeks previously she had not been told. Afterwards the mother, who was present at the time, told me, as I have said, that Vida was the name of a dead sister of Mrs. B.’s, of whose illness and death she was quite ignorant, as they had carefully kept this news from Mrs. B. owing to her serious illness."

On pages 22-23 of the book, we read the following about an M. Paul Durocq who died of yellow fever in 1894:

"Just before his death, and while surrounded by all his family, he had a prolonged delirium, during which he called out the names of certain friends left in France, and whom he seemed to see. 'Well, well, you too—, and you- , you as well!'  Although struck by this incident, nobody attached any extraordinary importance to these words at the time they were uttered, but they acquired later on exceptional importance when the family found, on their return to Paris, the funeral invitation cards of the persons named by my uncle before his death, and who had died before him." 

On pages 24-25 of the book we read this account by an H. Wedgewood: 

"A young girl, a near connexion of mine, was dying of consumption. She had lain for some days in a prostrate 
condition taking no notice of anything, when she opened her eyes, and looking upwards, said slowly, 'Susan—and Jane—and Ellen' as if recognizing the presence of her three sisters, who had previously died of the same disease. Then after a short pause she continued, ‘and Edward too !'— naming a brother then supposed to be alive and well in India—as if surprised at seeing him in the company. She said no more, and sank shortly afterwards. In the course of the post, letters came from India announcing the death of Edward, from an accident a week or two previous to the death of his sister." 

On page 26 of the same book we read this account by Dr. E. H. Plumptre: 

"The mother of one of the foremost thinkers and theologians of our time was lying on her death-bed in the April of 1854. She had been for some days in a state of almost complete unconsciousness. A short time before her death, the words came from her lips, ‘There they are, all of them—William and Elizabeth, and Emma and Anne';  then, after a pause,‘ and Priscilla too.' William was a son who had died in infancy, and whose name had never for years passed the mother’s lips. Priscilla had died two days before, but her death, though known to the family, had not been reported to her.”

On page 29 we have this account by a Mrs. Snell:

"I recall the death of a woman (Mrs. Brown, aged 36) who was the victim of that most dreadful disease, malignant cancer. Her sufferings were excruciating, and she prayed earnestly that death might speedily come to her and end her agony. Suddenly her sufferings appeared to cease ; the expression of her face, which a moment before had been distorted by pain, changed to one of radiant joy. Gazing upwards, with a glad light in her eyes, she raised her hands and exclaimed, ‘ Oh, mother dear, you have come to take me home. I am so glad ! ' And in another moment her physical life had ceased."

An A. R. Besacon tells this account on page 31, which is a paranormal "twofer" involving both a deathbed vision of a deceased Marie and also apparently an apparition sighting of the very person who had this deathbed vision:

"My mother was attended by my grandmother during her illness. One night the latter was surprised at hearing my mother, who was sleeping in the next room, pronounce certain sentences, among others this :—“ Marie, I can see you at last, I am glad you have come. Help me.' (Marie was my sister who died a few years before this.) Grandmother thought it was a dream ; she rose and approached my mother’s bed, and to her great surprise she found her in a perfectly normal state. My mother even told her the satisfaction she had had in seeing her daughter. Later on in 
the night the 'conversation' was resumed, but we paid no further attention. But on the next morning, Mother was no more. Moreover, during the same night, one of my aunts who lived in the neighbouring village of V----, had the clear impression of seeing mother. 'She passed,' she said to me the following day, 'beside my bed without speaking, then went to embrace my two daughters and disappeared.' "

On page 32 we read this account of the death of a four-year-old boy after the death of his siblings Fred and Annie several weeks earlier:

"On the night when he died the father came to his bedside with the customary medicine, when the little boy, sitting upright in bed, cried out : ' There’s Fred and Annie.’ ‘ Where, my boy ?’ asked the father. ‘ Don’t you see them there—there ? ’ said the lad, pointing to the wall, ‘ they’re waiting for me to go to them,’ and the next minute the little sufferer fell back on the pillow dead." 

Typically, as in the previous case, a deathbed vision is seen only by the dying person. But on page 34 we have an account of a daughter who saw in her last days a vision of her father. She asked her mother whether she saw the same thing, and the mother also saw a mysterious white formOn page 37 we have an account of a child who in her dying days kept seeing visions of an aunt of hers who had previously died. She kept saying, "My aunt has come to fetch me; she is holding out her arms to me." 

On page 38 we have this story told by a mother who lost two sons within two months, with the second one seeing visions of the first son who had previously died: 

"In 1883 I was the mother of two strong, healthy boys. The eldest was a bright boy of two years and seven months. The other a darling baby boy of eight months. August 6th, 1883, my baby died. Ray, my little son, was then in perfect health. Every day after baby’s death (and I may safely say every hour in the day) he would say to me, ' Mamma, baby calls Ray.’ He would often leave his play and come running to me, saying, ' Mamma, baby calls Ray all the time.' Every night he would waken me out of my sleep and say, ‘ Mamma, baby calls Ray all the time. He wants Ray to come where he is ; you must not cry when Ray goes, Mamma ; you must not cry, for baby wants Ray.’ ...Ray soon became very sick. Nursing and medicine were of no avail. He died Oct. 13th, 1883, two months and seven days after baby’s death."

Contrary to the impression sometimes given in movies, the overwhelming majority of hallucinations of psychotic people are auditory, not visual. But the visions discussed here were all visual.  And they were generally from people with no history of psychosis or hallucinations. Several of the accounts I have given include details suggesting that something is going on far more than hallucinations, such as the several cases I have quoted where someone sees an apparition of a person he did not know was dead. 

There are many other fascinating accounts in the Barrett book that I discuss in Part 2 of this post, which will be as long as this one. I will also discuss how the phenomenon of deathbed visions has been well-confirmed by large-scale research done decades after these early twentieth century accounts, research suggesting such visions occur to very many dying people (as many as 45%, according to one source I will cite). 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Why It's Not Scientific to Call Speculative Things “Scientific”

The physicist Sabine Hossenfelder writes a very readable physics and cosmology blog. Hossenfelder has a recent blog post entitled “Are Dark Energy and Dark Matter Scientific?” It is clear in her post that she wants to give an answer of “Yes,” and the RealClearScience.com site has a link to her post with the title “Are Dark Energy and Dark Matter Scientific? Yes.” In the post Hossenfelder claims, “Dark energy and dark matter are entirely normal, and perfectly scientific hypotheses.” She also states the following:

This is why dark matter and dark energy are good scientific explanations. They are simple and yet explain a lot of data.”

But I will argue the following:

  • Hossenfelder was not speaking in a scientific manner when she stated “dark energy and dark matter are entirely normal.”
  • Hossenfelder was not speaking in a scientific manner when she stated dark energy and dark matter are “perfectly scientific hypotheses.”
  • Hossenfelder was not speaking in a scientific manner when she stated dark energy and dark matter “are simple.” 

First, let us delve into the question of what it is to be scientific. The definition I get when I do a Google search for "scientific" is “based on or characterized by the methods and principles of science.” Upon hearing such a definition, the idea that dark matter or dark energy could be scientific sounds very strange and far-fetched. How could some undiscovered postulated particles be “based on or characterized by the methods and principles of science”?

The term “scientific” is not really something we should be using about physical entities, whether observed or unobserved. It makes no particular sense to say something such as “the moon is scientific” or "the ocean is scientific" or “dark energy is scientific.” The term “scientific” is one that should be used mainly when referring to speech, writing, and behavior.

What are some of the things that make writing, speech or behavior “scientific”? The two biggest hallmarks I can think of are the following:

  1. Scientific behavior is conduct that involves very careful and precise observations and very careful and precise recording of such observations.
  2. Scientific speech uses language that is precise, accurate and unambiguous.

It is easy to give examples of speech that is scientific and speech that is unscientific. If I say, “The instant I saw him I knew he'd taken more than he could handle, because he had this kind of 'hit by a tidal wave' look that showed he was in for a world of trouble,” that is not at all scientific language. It's not scientific mainly because it's so ambiguous and imprecise. What is meant by “taken more than he could handle”? What exactly is meant by a “hit by a tidal wave” look? What is meant by “in for a world of trouble?” No one knows. On the other hand, it would be a scientific language if you said something like, “On initial examination I observed the patient had an elevated pulse of 103 beats per minute, a temperature of 102 degrees F, and complaints of weakness and a headache.”

Now, what about calling some theoretical physical entity “scientific”? It's not scientific to be calling theoretical physical things “scientific.” Why is that? Because “scientific” is usually not a precise term when used in any reference that is not a reference to behavior, speech or conduct.

In fact, when you use the term “scientific” when referring to some theory of something unobserved, you are using what is called “loaded language.” Loaded language is language that isn't very precise, but is heavy with hazy connotations, often emotional or judgmental connotations.

Here are some “loaded language” terms that are vague, and heavy with emotional or judgmental connotations, which may be either favorable connotations or unfavorable connotations:

  • un-American
  • imperialistic
  • propaganda (rather than “messaging”)
  • holy
  • virtuous
  • subversive
  • exemplary
  • simple (rather than “skimpy”)
  • skimpy (rather than “simple”)
  • hijack (rather than “use”)
  • flourishing (rather than “growing”)
  • cancerous (rather than “growing”)
  • scientific (rather than “speculative” or “hypothetical”)
  • first-rate
  • top-notch
  • economical (rather than “cheap”)

Notice that I have included “scientific” on my list of “loaded language” terms, meaning terms that are vague and heavy with emotional or judgmental connotations. If you are talking about someone's method of operation, it is fairly clear what is meant by calling such a method “scientific”: you mean that the method is precise and rich in careful truthful observations. But what does it mean to call some unverified speculation “scientific”? It really means nothing precise at all. But someone may call some speculation "scientific" as a way of evoking a vague feeling of approval. Calling some speculation “scientific” is really no more precise or meaningful than calling it “top-notch” or “first-rate.” Since it's not precise to be calling some speculation “scientific,” and since being scientific is largely about being precise, it's not scientific to be saying things such as “dark matter and dark energy are scientific.”

What would be a scientific thing to say about dark matter or dark energy? It would be a precise statement such as “dark energy is a mysterious invisible unobserved energy speculatively postulated by cosmologists to help deal with various observational mysteries they are faced with.”

But what about calling dark energy and dark matter “simple” as Hossenfelder did? That is vague spin-speak that has no precise meaning when used in a discussion of a scientific theory. When people use the term “simple” in regard to speculations about nature, what they mainly mean is “parsimonious,” which means “postulating not very much.” Neither “parsimonious” nor “simple” is a precise term.

And there are very good reasons why neither dark matter nor dark energy should be regarded as simple or parsimonious theories. Dark energy postulates that there is some unobserved energy that has more mass-energy than all other observed matter and energy in the universe. This is the idea that for every observed particle there are very many unobserved particles. There's nothing parsimonious about that. Anyone postulating a theory of dark energy will become entangled in the extremely complex "cosmological constant" problem, the problem of why the vacuum does not have an incredibly high energy density because of quantum contributions. This is one of the most complex problems of science. You can't have a dark energy theory without becoming entangled in great complexities. 

Dark matter involves a similar assumption, that for every observed material particle there are many unobserved invisible particles. Moreover, dark matter requires you to believe in very specific assumptions about the arrangement of such dark matter. In order to solve the observational problems which the idea of dark matter was contrived to solve, you must believe not just that dark matter exists, but that dark matter is arranged in very specific ways. We may compare this to some theory that does not just postulate that angels exist, but also says that angels live in some very specific geographical arrangements such as angel kingdoms existing in particular locations. It is very dubious spin-speak indeed to be calling such a theory of dark matter “simple.”

scientific theory

As for Hossenfelder's claims that “dark energy and dark matter are entirely normal” and that they are “perfectly scientific,” one might coin the term “double spin-speak” to refer to such phrases, which are not at all scientific claims, being completely lacking in the unambiguous precision that characterizes truly scientific claims. Dark matter is supposedly invisible, so how can invisible matter be "entirely normal"? All in all, Hossenfelder's claims about dark matter and dark energy being “perfectly scientific” and "simple" and "entirely normal" are no more substantively sound than her strange recent claim about the coronavirus, this lackadaisical thought: I feel like there isn’t much we can do right now other than washing our hands and not coughing other people in the face.” Of course, there are many other things that we can and should do right now about this extremely severe crisis, including the many things I mentioned in my recent post on the topic of coronavirus (quoting from my 2013 post on how to avoid a pandemic), and also the many important and urgent actions that are being discussed frequently on television these days by health officials, White House officials, and people like the mayor of New York City and the governor of New York.

The jargon term used by scientists for the theory of dark matter is LCDM, which stands for "lambda cold dark matter." It is interesting that a very recent scientific paper is entitled, "Cosmic Discordance: Planck and luminosity distance data exclude LCDM." The paper is co-authored by Joseph Silk, who was the author of a book on cosmology I read.  The authors claim that their analysis "excludes a flat universe" and suggest that the theory of dark matter "needs to be replaced."  If they are correct, then we should reject two of the biggest claims cosmologists have made in the past thirty years: that dark matter exists and that the universe has a flat geometry. 

A person marketing unproven speculations about invisible never-observed particles may say that his theory is "perfectly scientific." And a US Congressman pitching some pork-barrel legislation may call his bill "truly patriotic." And a theologian advocating some apocalypse dogma may say that his scenario is "genuinely Christian."  In each such case of spin-speak, we may say, "an adjective is being used not to say anything precise, but to help sell something by creating a vague positive feeling." 

Postscript: A later post by Sabine contains some seriously erroneous teachings, such as the completely misguided claim that "biology can be reduced to chemistry," which is as false as the idea that mental phenomena can be reduced to biology.  See here for the utter failure of attempts to do the latter. 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

My 2013 Depiction of a New York City Pandemic

Below are excerpts from the beginning of my very poorly titled 2013 post "How to Have a Pleasant Pandemic." At the beginning of that post, I imagined a pandemic in New York City.

"One day on the television news you hear about some new strain of flu called H3N7. You don't pay any real attention, because the news report mentions only a small number of deaths. But then over the next few weeks you hear more and more news reporters talking about this H3N7 strain. The reporters say that this new flu has spread to major cities in the United States.

Not very worried, you go on with your business without hardly thinking about the issue. Then one day you notice that the news reporters seem to be talking about almost nothing other than H3N7. Hundreds of people are dropping dead because of this new strain. Scientists have started to work on a vaccine, but they have just got started, and it will be a long time before they are finished.

The reporters tell you to always sneeze onto your shoulder, and to wash your hands frequently. You start doing that. You take the subway to work in New York City, and whenever you see someone sneezing or coughing you move to a different part of the subway.

Before long you hear that hundreds of people have died from the new flu strain in New York City alone. You notice that many people on the subway are starting to wear surgical masks. You wonder whether you should do so also. But you figure that it's a rather timid thing to do, and you notice that still most people are not wearing the masks. So you decide not to wear one.

Soon the death toll in New York City rises to the thousands. At about the time when most of the people start wearing surgical masks on the subway, you start wearing one too. Then you start seeing people collapse on the street, and collapse in the subways. Now you decide you will take no more subways until the H3N7 pandemic ends. You start walking three miles to work every day.

The death toll in New York City rises higher and higher...You decide to take no more chances. You quit your job, and buy all the food you can. It's hard to find much, because the stores have been stripped clean. Then you go to your apartment, and vow to wait it out there until the horrible pandemic is over.

The next day you wake up in your apartment with chills and a horrible headache. You use a thermometer to find out that your temperature is 103 degrees F. You look in the mirror, and notice your face is pale. You are in the grip of the deadly flu. You slump against the wall, and wonder what to do next."

This fictional depiction that I published on this blog in 2013 was somewhat prescient. The virus is not called H3N7 but coronavirus or COVID-19. The virus can give people a fever. A great pandemic now threatens the place where I live, New York City. More than 8000 residents of New York City have the virus, and that number is growing by about 25% to 33% per day. 

A significant fraction of the people in the city are now wearing face masks outdoors.  The news reporters are talking about almost nothing but the virus. Non-essential workers have all been ordered by the governor to stay home. Given the current trajectory in which the number of people infected in the city is rising so dramatically, the death toll in New York City will probably rise to the thousands within another 60 days. People in the city have rushed to stock up their shelves with food.  It's not true that the "the stores have been stripped clean," but when I went to buy pasta recently at my local Target store,  there was almost no pasta or pasta sauce left on the shelves.  A vaccine is a long way off, as in my story. The coronavirus that originated in China has spread to many other places around the world, and has had particularly devastating effects in Italy. 

Coronavirus active cases, 3/23/20, from this site

What advice can I give to anyone threatened by coronavirus? I will now simply quote the exact words I wrote in 2013 about how to get through a pandemic (whenever you read "flu" simply substitute "coronavirus"):
  • "Wash your hands frequently, particularly after returning to your home from outside. A flu virus can spread rapidly through a means such as this: a sick person touches his nose or lips, and gets germs on his hands; that person then touches a surface such as a door knob or subway rail; you then touch the same surface and get the same germs on your hands; you then touch your nose or lips and bring the germs into your body. You can help minimize the chance of this transmission by washing your hands frequently, particularly after returning from outside. You can conveniently wash your hands in a subway, mall, or office by carrying a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Just put a few drops on your hands, rub your hands thoroughly, and wait until they are dry."
  • "Avoid touching your nose or mouth with your hands while you are outside, unless you wash your hands first  If your nose itches, don't use your fingers to scratch it. Use the middle of your arm. The middle of your arm will not have touched any surfaces during the time you were outside, so it will be relatively free of germs."
  • "Try not to let your hands touch commonly touched surfaces. You can assume that there are many germs on commonly touched surfaces, so you wish to avoid them. Let's take the example of a public bathroom. If there is a door knob, it will probably have many germs. You can avoid touching the knob when you enter the bathroom by waiting for someone else to go in first, and quickly follow them in; or you can simply use the knob and wash your hands immediately after. When you leave the bathroom, you can either wait for someone else to open the door and quickly follow them out, or you can grab a paper towel and wrap that for a second around the door knob."
  • "Cough or sneeze into your shoulder, rather than using your hands to block your coughing or sneezing. While walking around outside you may have got other people's germs on your hands, and by sneezing or coughing into your hands, you may be helping such germs into your body."
  • "If a flu pandemic is spreading, avoid crowds. One way to do this is to avoid going to work during rush hour. Other ways to do this include avoiding shopping when there are large crowds, avoiding theater events and sporting events, and avoiding large-crowd public events such as parades and New Years Day celebrations."
  • "If a flu pandemic is spreading, wear a surgical mask or dust mask while you are in crowds. No matter how carefully you follow the advice above, you won't be protected if you are in a crowded train, and the person next to you starts sneezing. A sneeze is a remarkably effective way to transmit germs. So if a very serious flu pandemic is spreading, wear a surgical mask or dust mask in places such as trains and train stations."
  • "If you are in a crowd near someone who is sneezing or coughing, immediately cover your nose and mouth with your shoulder, and hurry to ten feet away. This is a case such as when you are sitting in a subway and someone a few away sneezes or coughs. Immediately lower your head to the left, placing your nose and mouth next to your shoulder, and walk ten feet away."
  • "In a train, theater, or sports arena, try to sit 10 feet away from strangers. No matter how carefully you try to move away from a sneezing passenger in a train, you may breathe in some of his germs. It is best to sit ten feet away from any stranger, when this is practical."
  • "Avoid promiscuous sexual activity. Because some pandemics are transmitted through sexual contact, it is a good idea to limit your sexual partners, ideally to a very small number."
  • "Use disinfectant wipes on your door knobs, cell phones, and shopping carts. Germs tend to accumulate on cell phones, door knobs, and the push handles of shopping carts. You can reduce this risk by wiping them down with germ-killing disinfectant wipes."
  • "Avoid shaking hands with strangers. When meeting someone at an office, a salute and a smile is an alternative gesture of friendliness and respect."
  • "Press elevator buttons with your elbow or a pen. Going into an office building and pressing the elevator buttons with your fingers is like shaking hands with 30 strangers."
  • "Use stairs rather than elevators. If you are going up several floors in an elevator, you are basically trapped if someone starts sneezing or coughing. Better to use the stairs and avoid the risk entirely. Stair climbing is also great aerobic exercise."
  • "Consume foods and supplements which boost your immune system. Eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruit can boost your immune system, which make it less likely that you catch any disease spreading in a pandemic. Among vegetables, garlic is supposedly the most effective at boosting the immune system. To boost your immune system, you can also take a daily multivitamin tablet that includes vitamin C and zinc, or swallow a garlic tablet."

Such was the exact advice I gave in 2013 on how to survive a pandemic. To this I will now add: for the next two months or so,  try to stay two meters from anyone you don't know, and try to take advantage of all opportunities to communicate electronically rather than face-to-face (including telecommuting, Skype, FaceTime, Facebook and email).  

The coronavirus has caused a sharp stock market downturn. Without recommending any financial advice, I can state a very important fact regarding 401k plans and IRA accounts that some people overlook. This fact is that it is never necessary to withdraw money from a 401K plan or IRA account merely because you want to reduce your stock holdings. Doing such a thing (called "requesting a distribution") is unnecessary if you merely want to reduce your stock holdings, because there's a simpler way to do that, a way that has no tax consequences and no 10% early withdrawal penalty. That simpler way is to move money from a stock fund of your 401K plan or IRA account to some other fund within your 401K plan or IRA, such as a money market fund. Every 401K plan and IRA account allows you to do this online, by some online interface.   Some 401k plans or IRA accounts have 10 or 20 funds you can choose from, allowing you to switch money between such funds. At the very least, any 401K plan or IRA account will always have a money market fund (like a no-risk bank account) that can be used as a "safe harbor" during turbulent times, and it is easy to move money online back and forth to such a "safe harbor," after logging in online to your 401K plan or IRA account.  When you make such a movement from one fund of your 401K plan or IRA to another fund in the same 401K plan or IRA account, that is not considered taking money out of your 401K plan or IRA account; it is not considered "requesting a distribution"; and there are no tax consequences or penalties. What I state here is simply a very important fact that some people are unaware of, not any type of investment recommendation.  I am as baffled as anyone else about how money should be invested in these confusing days.  

social distancing
A local government visual about social distancing

Postscript: As of March 28, 2020, the coronavirus has infected 29,158 in New York City. But the daily rate of increase has slowed to less than 15% per day.  The case for wearing masks to reduce coronavirus cases is convincingly made in this Wired post.  The fact that some biology experts in the US have told us we don't need to wear masks is another example of the extremely common phenomenon of biologists teaching unwise or unwarranted opinions contrary to facts or logic. In China, almost everyone in cities wore masks, and the virus infections there are now almost zero. In the USA we have had major experts tell us we don't need to wear masks, and the number of virus infections is skyrocketing, with projections that up to 200,000 in the USA may die from the virus. 

Post-postscript: As of April 4, 2020, the coronavirus has infected 60,850 in New York City. Sadly, the line in my 2013 story saying "the death toll in New York City rises to the thousands" has come true, and there are now 2254 coronavirus deaths in New York City. On April 3, 2020 the CDC finally got around to advising the general public to wear face masks outdoors.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

His “Deep History” Does Not Sound Very Deep

Scientist Joseph LeDoux has authored a recent book entitled The Deep History of Ourselves: The Four-Billion-Year Story of How We Got Conscious Brains. I think the title is rather inappropriate, because what LeDoux presents isn't really history and isn't very deep.

The reason why a book such as LeDoux's isn't really history is that it is so largely speculative. History is a narrative of recorded events derived from observations of such events. But when scientists fill up books with doubtful speculations about things such as the origin of life, the origin of eukaryotic cells, the origin of multi-cellular life, the origin of sex, the origin of language and the origin of mind – all events never observed by humans – they are not really doing any such thing as giving us a history. They are instead merely giving us a speculative narrative. Until someone invents a time machine allowing observations of the past, or gets a record of historical observations of Earth made long ago by extraterrestrials, or until human science advances vastly beyond its current limits, no one can credibly claim to write a matter-of-fact history of life on our planet (unless he is merely listing when this or that species appeared, based on fossils).

From an explanatory standpoint, there is nothing very deep about what LeDoux provides. His explanations are based on two ideas: Darwinism and the idea that human mental phenomena are explained purely by brains. Neither of these ideas is deep. There are very deep theories in modern science, including the very deep and hard-to-explain ideas of general relativity and quantum mechanics. But Darwinism is a shallow notion that is so simple it could be written on the palm of your hand. Darwinism is basically the idea that incredibly lucky random things sometimes happen, and that such luck piles up, to become all of the wonders of biology. You would have no trouble stating the bulk of such an idea as a fortune-cookie message, which would look kind of like this:

As for the idea that human mental phenomena are explained purely by brains, there is nothing deep in such an idea. Below are two answers, neither of which involve any terribly deep thinking.

Little girl: Jimmy, who made the sun? And who made the tall buildings? And who made the cars? And who made the clouds?
Little boy: The answers are simple. They are: Santa Claus, Santa Claus, Santa Claus and Santa Claus.

Philosopher: From whence comes that hint of the transcendent we feel when we look at a sky ablaze with stars? From where do our loftiest ethical principles arise? Why do we lie awake at night and ponder the weightiest riddles of existence? How do we ever grasp the most abstract notions such as the idea of the universe and the eternal laws of nature?
The answers are simple. They are: neurons, neurons, neurons, and neurons.

I'll give some reasons why I don't think there's much depth in LeDoux's discussion of how we got our minds. Consider the question of human memory. There are three main things that would need to be explained by any neural theory of human memory:

  • Storage: How it is that humans could ever store a memory for decades, or even for a single year, in a brain where proteins have an average lifetime of only a few weeks.
  • Encoding: How is it that human knowledge (such as conceptual information or episodic memories) could ever be translated into neuron states or synapse states.
  • Retrieval: How is it that a human could ever instantly retrieve a memory, such as we see happening when someone speaks a name, and you instantly remember many different facts about that person.

Looking at the index of LeDoux's book, I see quite a few entries under “memory,” but I see no entries for memory storage, memory encoding or memory retrieval. And I see no entries under “storage,” “retrieval” or “encoding.” LeDoux seems to have not given any substantive explanation for the three items in my bullet list above.  Our bodies show mountainous heights of organization and complexity, but in the index of LeDoux's book I see no entries for "organization" or "order" or "complexity." So his claim to have a “deep history of ourselves” seems rather suspect. 

There are many diagrams in the book, and some of them are  objectionable. Some examples:

  • On page 58 we have a diagram showing the glass apparatus of the Miller-Urey experiment, and it has the very untrue caption “Miller and Urey's Experiment to Create Life in the Lab,” which probably leaves some readers with the idea that life was created in a lab. The Miller and Urey experiment created neither life in the lab nor the building blocks of life (proteins), nor was it either an attempt to create life in the lab, nor an attempt to create proteins in the lab. The experiment was merely an attempt to create amino acids, which are the building blocks of the building blocks of life.
  • On page 69 we have a diagram comparing a prokaryotic cell and a eukaryotic cell. The diagram (looking like a child's sketch) makes a eukaryotic cell look maybe 100 or 1000 times simpler than it is, and makes it look as if a eukaryotic cell is maybe twice as complicated as a prokaryotic cell. Although the complexity of a eukaryotic cell is almost impossible to properly depict in a diagram, there are diagrams that properly convey the idea that eukaryotic cells are very many times more complex than prokaryotic cells, such as the one we see on this page.
  • On page 72 we have a diagram depicting a "tall tale" theory of the origin of eukaryotic cells, a theory that we got these cells 100 times more complex than prokaryotic cells through mere acts of ingestion.
  • On page 163 we have an implausible-looking graph claiming that jaws evolved from gills. The visuals fail to show any structural similarity between the two. Since DNA does not specify either cell types or visible structures such as jaws or gills, we do not have any credible theory of how gills could have evolved into jaws by random mutation changes in DNA, nor do we have any credible theory of how any one complex visible structure could have evolved into any other very different visible structure because of mutations in DNA. 
  • Throughout the book are “family tree” ancestry diagrams that are not historical, but merely speculative.
  • On page 303 we have a “regions of the brain” diagram which makes many unproven assertions, such as claims that particular mental facilities comes from particular tiny parts of the brain. It rather reminds you of one of those phrenology charts that used to be popular, like this one. 
  • On page 113 we have a visual marked “Cambrian Explosion.” But it merely looks like some animals in an aquarium tank, which tells us almost nothing. A proper diagram shedding light on the Cambrian Explosion would be a “phylum origination” chart graphing the origin of animal phyla over the past billion years, and showing that the animal phyla all originated in one burst during the Cambrian Era. The diagram would look like the one below.

Cambrian Explosion

LeDoux's explanation for this explosion of so many different types of enormously organized body plans is that a worm diversified (page 113), which I don't regard as a very deep explanation, particularly when I consider the vast number of new proteins needed for the origination of such phyla, each such protein being a very complex invention incredibly unlikely to arise from random mutations.  But LeDoux's readers may not have such reservations, as they are never given any explanation of the complexity of proteins, and are never told things such as that most proteins require a very special arrangement of  hundreds of amino acids to achieve a functional end, like hundreds of well-arranged characters in a computer software subroutine. 

LeDoux avoids discussing the vast organizational complexities of biological life, perhaps because such a discussion might clash with his story line.  Not just in the diagrams but also in the text the author sometimes rather seems to portray life as being very much simpler than it is. On page 95 he very strangely claims “there are only three forms of complex life.” On page 59 he makes it sound rather as if DNA required only a single gene. He states, “DNA is believed to have emerged through a transformation of RNA, possibly by a virus that converted an RNA gene into a DNA gene.” To the contrary, the simplest self-reproducing cell would have required DNA with at least 100 genes, and probably many more.  A team of 9 scientists wrote a scientific paper entitled, “Essential genes of a minimal bacterium.” It analyzed a type of bacteria (Mycoplasma genitalium) that has “the smallest genome of any organism that can be grown in pure culture.” According to wikipedia's article, this bacteria has 525 genes consisting of 580,070 base pairs. The paper concluded that 382 of this bacteria's protein-coding genes (72 percent) are essential. 

We have on page 22 a diagram that teaches the unproven dogma that humans and chimps have a common ancestor, but the diagram does not specify what such an ancestor was, just as it does not identify six other points in the ancestry tree depicted.  How can we have confidence in such a diagram when so many of its nodes are unspecified?  Such diagrams depicting "trees of human ancestry" seem to be getting more and more vague as time goes on. 

In Chapter 47 LeDoux discusses the origin of language, but says nothing to suggest he has any deep understanding on this supremely perplexing problem.  He mainly just mentions various thinkers' fragmentary thoughts on such topic, such as saying that "Michael Corballis...proposed that language evolved because it allowed communication about internal states to others," and that a pair of other people suggested that "language was cobbled together in early humans by way of synaptic plasticity that coupled together neural mechanisms underlying existing traits, such as nonverbal communication, serial cognition and tool use," which is a big mouthful that doesn't really say much of anything.  

No one has ever come up with a credible detailed scenario by which a first human language could have naturally originated.  This is one reason that no movie, play or TV show has ever depicted the origin of language. The problem is that you can't create a spoken language and establish a spoken language in a community unless a language already exists, leaving no path for explaining the appearance of a first language.  We can imagine some cave men agreeing on some hand gestures, but can imagine no path of progression by which some set of hand gestures would evolve into a rich spoken language with complex rules of grammar. 

A real "deep history of ourselves" would have a lengthy discussion of the psychic and paranormal experiences that are so often a part of human experience, but such experiences are usually never mentioned in books such as LeDoux's, probably because the authors wish to exclude human experiences conflicting with their explanatory claims, the types of experiences that are inexplicable as neural effects.  

It might be convincing if a book were to present a series of facts forcing on us the idea that thought comes from the prefrontal cortex, and if the author were to then say, "Therefore, based on all of these many facts I have discussed, we are forced to conclude that thought comes from the prefrontal cortex."  But instead in LeDoux's book we have these lines (page 248), which sound  like dogmatic traditionalism:

"The prefrontal cortex is traditionally viewed as home to the headquarters of cognition. This is undoubtedly the case." 

No one should be confident about such a belief tradition after reading the many facts and observations discussed in this post,  which mainly conflict with such a belief dogma. For example, the 1966 study here states, "Taken as a whole, the mean I.Q. of 95.55 for the 31 patients with lateralized frontal tumors suggests that neoplasms in either the right or left frontal lobe result in only slight impairment of intellectual functions as measured by the Wechsler Bellevue test."  

When I read the overconfident dogmatism in a book such as this, such as its claims that particular mental functions come from particular little spots of the brain, it reminds me of the erring geographical specificity of Donald Rumsfeld. The USA invaded Iraq in March 2003, ostensibly to capture “weapons of mass destruction” supposedly stockpiled in Iraq. In March 2003 Rumseld was asked by George Stephanopoulos whether it was “curious to you that given how much control U.S. and coalition forces now have in the country, they haven’t found any weapons of mass destruction?” Rumsfeld claimed “we know where they are,” and that “they’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.” The claim was bunk, and after the US invasion weapons of mass destruction were never found in Iraq.

Just as the weapons in mass destruction in Iraq were embarrassingly absent to the weapons searchers, memories in brains are embarrassingly absent to the engram searchers. If memories were stored in brains, we would have discovered readable memories that could be read from dead bodies. Just as we discovered around 1950 the genetic code used by microscopic DNA, we would have discovered in the twentieth century proof of some brain code used to store memories, if such a code existed. But no such memories can be read from dead bodies, and no such code has been discovered. We can discover nothing about what an organism has learned from studying its brain.  Scientists have not found in the brain anything like a memory-writing component or a memory-reading component, and can find in the human genome none of the memory-encoding proteins that we would expect to exist in very massive numbers if a brain encoded memories into neural states or synapse states. In the places they hoped might be a stable storage place for memories (synapses), neuroscientists have found only instability, short molecular lifetimes and rapid protein turnover.  Nor have our neuroscientists ever found anything to explain how a neuron or any group of neurons can think or imagine or have an abstract idea or have anything like self-hood, despite all the decades of lavish funding for neuroscientists.  

If we ever discover the cause of the super-complex organization of our bodies (far more impressive than anything humans have ever built), and the cause of our minds and memory (something that can never be produced by the most complex computer technology), and the cause of a progression of a speck-sized egg to become a full-grown human (an effect our technology could never mimic), I suspect it will be explanations about 20,000 leagues deeper than the facile explanations of today's professors. 

Sunday, March 15, 2020

More Accounts of Veridical Apparitions

In the five posts below I have described or quoted about 115 cases of someone experiencing something like a suprising apparition of someone, only to soon later learn that the corresponding person had died, usually at about the same time the apparition was seen. The five posts are below:

25 Who Were "Ghost-Told" of a Death

25 More Who Were "Ghost-Told" of a Death

Scientific American's Very Lame "Ghost Explanations"

They Also Were "Ghost Told" of a Death

In this post I will discuss additional cases of this type, which are sometimes called veridical apparitions.  The links I will give will usually take you to the exact page of an account that I discuss or quote. 

On page 47 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion, we have an account by a Lord Brougham who saw an apparition:

"I had had a school friend, in high school, named G , whom I particularly loved and esteemed. At times we discussed the great subject of the immortality of the soul. One day we were foolish enough to draw up a contract, written in our blood, stating that whichever of us two should die first, that one should return and manifest himself to the other in order to banish any doubt that he might have had as to the continuation of life after death. G left for India, and I virtually forgot his existence. I was then, as I say, in my bath, in delicious enjoyment of the grateful heat that warmed my numbed limbs, when, preparing to rise, I cast my eyes upon the chair on which I had put my clothing, and what was my stupefaction to see my friend G seated there, gazing at me calmly! How I got out of the bath-tub 1 cannot say, for when I came to myself I found myself stretched out on the floor. This apparition, or whatever the phenomenon was which was a likeness of my friend, was no longer there. So strongly was I impressed that I wished to write down, without delay, all the details together with the date, which was December 19th."

It was subsequently found out that the friend G. had died on exactly this day. A similar account is told on page 54 of the same book.  A Baron de Maricourt tells how a priest jokingly said to his young neice, "If you die before I do, let me know." The priest later saw an apparition of his young niece, one that bid goodbye. It was later found that the niece had died on exactly the same day and hour. 

On page 122 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion, we have an account by a
Henry Bourgeois who learned of a death from an apparition:

"I had a friend named Charles, a youth of sixteen. It was in 1908. One evening, when I was reentering my home, I heard myself called several times, most distinctly, and I recognized his voice perfectly. The voice was disturbed and beseeching, but very tender...Disturbed in spite of myself, I did not go to sleep until very late. Then, almost at once, I was awakened by some one touching my forehead, and a voice calling me; I saw Charles distinctly at the head of my bed; he said to me: 'Good-by! Good-by! All is well with me! Comfort my family! I'll come back to your seances!' And he disappeared slowly. Then there was nothing more! As soon as morning came I ran to our friends' home. I found them greatly disturbed: Charles had not come back that night. Instinctively — I do not know why — I thought of a little piece of ground in the country which they owned. I confided my fears to the family, and took them there. In the garden, under the arbor, we found his body, stretched out on the ground; in his right hand he held a flask in which there was still left a little cyanide solution." 

On page 146 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion, we have an account of a man who stated that he saw his uncle at about 9:30 AM. He states, "The vision was of rather short duration." He later learned that his uncle had committed suicide at 5:00 AM that day.  And speaking of uncle ghosts, on the next page we read that "a woman, in excellent health and under absolutely normal conditions for observation, saw her uncle appear, for several minutes, seven hours after his death, which she did not know of." We read the following:

"The same phantom rose before her. 'But Uncle, why have you come here? Are you dead?' The apparition vanished immediately after Madame de Lagenest had uttered these words."

On page 153-154 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion, we have this account by a C. H. of a man in Montbeliard who learned of someone's death many miles away in Haute-Loire, by seeing the man's apparition:

"On a certain evening of the year 1888, my son-in-law, who was living in Haute-Loire, appeared to me. It was about eleven o'clock, and I was thoroughly awake. On the following day I learned that he had died on the morning of the previous day, at eleven o'clock. It is noteworthy that I had no reason to believe him ill, and that he died suddenly."

On pages 169-170 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion, we have this first-hand account by Jules Lermina:

"I explained to him that my cousin had arrived, and even added that he was doubtless hiding, to tease me. But my father answered: 'It's impossible for Wenand to be here! He died yesterday. I didn't want to tell you.' In short, I saw a person who had been dead for twenty-four hours, and spoke to him."

On page 182 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion, we have this first-hand account by a Princess de Montarcy:

"My grandmother had always said to me, 'If you're not 

with me when I die, I 'll let you know I 'm dead.'... That same evening I went to bed at seven o'clock. At nine o'clock my little dog jumped up on my bed, howling as if he were being killed. I looked and saw (the lamp was lighted) at the foot of my bed, my grandmother, just as I had seen her last, but pale. She threw me a kiss, and disappeared. The following morning, at seven o'clock, I was brought a telegram announcing that she had died between eight and nine in the evening."

On page 202 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion, we have this first-hand account by G. Bloche:

"My aunt was busy piling up wood in the kitchen. Suddenly I beard her utter a terrible cry. Terrified, she came into the room, and said, weeping: 'My sister Hannah is dead! She appeared to me behind the sticks of wood, dressed all in white!' As a matter of fact, this sister, who lived in Grussenheim, a village about twenty kilometers from ours, had died some days previously." 

Apparitions don't always appear as moving phantoms. Sometimes an apparition will appear as if it were designed to tell someone of a death. An example of this occurs on  page 202-203 of Death and Its Mystery: After Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion, where we have this first-hand account by Lord Beresford:

"It was in the spring of 1864; I was on board the frigate Raccoon on its way from Gibraltar to Marseilles. I had to go down into my cabin to get my pipe. Inside the cabin I saw a coffin in which my father was lying; I saw this as distinctly as if it had been real! I was deeply impressed, and at once told my companions what had happened; they were seated near there, between the cannon, talking. I also told the ship's chaplain, the Rev. Mr. Onslow. In a few days we reached Marseilles, and there I learned of my father's death; he had been buried on the same day and at the same time at which he had appeared to me (half -past twelve). I must add that at the moment of the apparition there was splendid weather, and that I was feeling no uneasiness as to my father, having recently received reassuring news as to his improved health."

On Page 21-22 of Volume 15 of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, we read the following account:

"A case reported by M. Belbeder of the 6th Colonial regiment 

is similar...He had been in bed for about half an hour, and had 
just read his paper, and put out his candle, when, at the corner 
of the mantelpiece which was opposite the bed, he saw a white and transparent mist gradually detach itself, advance toward the bed and bend over him. Belbeder states that he clearly heard it say : 'Always be a friend to my son.' The misty form then retired slowly as it came. ' I clearly recognized,' adds the soldier, 'the mother of one of my best friends, whom I had left in the best of health. When I returned home, I was very surprised to learn that she had died just on the day when I saw the apparition, an hour or two before it approached my bed.' "

Finally let us consider a case discussed in a paper entitled "A Daylight Interview with a Man Recently Dead" by Charles Whitby M.D, found on pages 321-323 of Volume 7 of the Annals of Psychical Research (1908).  One day an ailing John H. met his employer Mr. P. by chance on a tram car. Mr P. stated that about a week later at about 10:30 AM he met John H. while crossing a bridge.  The figure Mr. P. met referred to the previous meeting between the two, and said he was worried about what would happen to his children if he died.  John H. got word from Mr. P. that he would interest himself in the welfare of John H's children. About an hour later Mr. P. mentioned meeting John H. on the bridge at about 10:30. He was told this was impossible, because John H. had died that very morning, at 9:15.  It was later learned that the dying John H. "in his last moments had expressed a very strong desire to see Mr. P."