Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Stuff I wish I had known when I was in Junior high school science class.

1. Fermi’s Paradox: Scientists estimate that there are 100 billion planets in the Milky Way. Not the universe – just our ‘neighborhood,’ our galaxy. Many of them are older than earth. If life can come into existence spontaneously it potentially could have done so 100 billion times, creating hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of intelligent systems long before Earth even sent out its first man-made radio wave. By now, those other intelligent systems should have invented long range space travel. Wouldn’t their explorations have focused on all the signals coming from Earth? So the question propounded by rocket scientist Fermi was, Where is everybody? Space around earth should be a celestial traffic jam of UFOs every night.
2. Science claims the “Miller-Urey” experiments created life in a test tube in 1952. The Miller-Urey ‘primordial soup’ consisted of hydrogen, methane, and ammonia. Methane and ammonia are both waste products of LIVING things. Very little of it is found in non-biologic formations, and none is found in the sediment layers that predate life. That's kind of like starting with some eggs and saying, "Watch me make a chicken."
3. Amino acids have a ‘twist,’ referred to as being “right-handed” or “left-handed.” The fewer than 20 amino acids created by Miller-Urey were equally divided between “right-handed” and “left-handed.” But amino acids that make up living things are all left-handed.
4. Amino acids also come in alpha and beta. Miller-Urey’s amino acids were equally divided between both. But living things use only alphas.
5. Amino acids are not life. They are the building blocks of polypeptides. The total number of polypeptide combinations from 20 amino acids is 20 to the 146th power, yet only 50 of those combinations are the correct ones for life.
6. Polypeptides are not life, either. They are the building blocks of proteins. The possible number of protein combinations from 50 polypeptides is a number a thousand times larger than that one. Yet out of that immense number, only 250 of those proteins are the right ones for creating a living organism.
7. The right 250 proteins are not life, either. They are simply the building blocks used to create the DNA and structure of all living things. 
8. While amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, amino acids do not ‘join’ to form proteins. That would be like suggesting that bricks join themselves to form a brick wall. Rather, unprotected proteins – such as a conglomeration of amino acids floating in a primordial soup – break down into amino acids.
9. The simplest protein known is ribonuclease. Its ingredients are 17 different amino acids. But it is a chain 124 amino acids long, in exact order. The first two amino acids in the chain are lysine and glutamic acid, in that order. Of the 17 amino acids relevant to this protein, what are the odds of a lysine amino acid linking to a glutamic acid in a primordial soup containing billions of amino acids? If the soup was made entirely of those 17 amino acids and nothing else, the odds are still 1 in 289.
10. What are the odds of those two amino acids, linked in the correct order, linking to threonine, the 3rd amino acid in this protein? 1 in 4,913. With each additional amino acid in order, the odds grow exponentially. To get all 17 linked in the right order, the odds have been calculated at one chance in a number that would be written as a 1 followed by 552 zeroes. That's more than the number if characters in this paragraph and the one above it. That is a larger number than the number of seconds the universe has been in existence. It is a larger number than the total number of atoms in the universe.
11. And even if they did somehow manage to link up, they are still unprotected, floating around in a primordial soup, with no way to replicate. And self-replication is one part of the definition of life.
12. We said earlier that the simplest organism that could be called living would consist of 250 different proteins. None has been found in nature, so they’ve taken the simplest known form, a bacterium with 901 base pairs in its DNA, and are working at stripping away parts of that DNA to make it simpler. They have managed to get it down to 473. But at 472, it is no longer living. And to create an organism with 473 base pairs requires 531,000 instructions, each happening in the right order, at the right time.
13. Now, go back to the amino acid question at the top. Remember, right handed versus left handed, and alpha versus beta? Imagine a bag full of billions of mixed Legos – red, green, white, and blue. Suppose you want to build a white spiral staircase of Legos. Imagine drawing Legos out of the bag, one at a time, 531,000 times, and only getting white ones.
Oh, and just to be fair, you can’t use your eyes, your hands, or your intelligence…
Read my other columns by clicking here and then scrolling down. To read a free sample of one of my books go to smashwords.com
This page does not use Google Adsense. All the ads on here are selected by me personally. Please support the page by shopping these ads. If you have a product or service you think fits the theme of my website, please contact me.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Worldwide Letter-writing Campaign Protests Proposed Religious Ban

A huge news story is being almost completely ignored by the media.

Post offices across the country are running out of international stamps. Facebook is blowing up with pictures of people writing letters. The Guinness people are watching to see if this letter-writing campaign will make it into their Book of World Records. (The current record-holder for a letter-writing campaign is 900,000 letters written for Amnesty International.) What’s the story?

While the news is busy arguing about to what extent Russia may have interfered in the recent American election, Russia has been quietly, dramatically restricting the freedoms of one specific group of their citizens.

Maybe you read that and say, ‘Well, it is Russia, after all; aren’t they always restricting their citizens?’ No, actually. After the Soviet Union ended, Russia became a democratic society, with a constitution and everything. Section One Chapter 2 of that document reads:
“Everyone shall be guaranteed the right to freedom of conscience, to freedom of religious worship, including the right to profess, individually or jointly with others, any religion, or to profess no religion, to freely choose, possess and disseminate religious or other beliefs, and to act in conformity with them.”
That’s even clearer than the freedom of religion guaranteed by the United States constitution.

In spite of that guarantee, the government of Russia has petitioned their Supreme Court to brand Jehovah’s Witnesses as extremists, in the same league as ISIS. If that move succeeds it will become illegal for the 170,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in that country to meet for worship, to discuss the bible with others, or even to read the bible in their own homes. The case is scheduled to be heard on April 5, 2017. 

In response, the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses has asked all 8,000,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide to write to six key officials in Moscow, including Vladimir Putin himself.

From the United States, mailing those six letters to Moscow costs about $7. In some other countries, it could cost a family a significant portion of their monthly income. Yet, based on reports on Facebook, Jehovah’s Witnesses, their friends and business associates are pitching in with a will. Total cost of postage, according to one Facebooker, will be over $55 million, based just on the U.S. rate. 

If 8,000,000 people each send six letters, another Facebook mathematician calculated, the Moscow post office can expect a stack of mail nearly 19 miles high! 

A handful of other websites have circulated the news about the impending court decision and the letter-writing campaign against it:

Rochester, NY: Jehovah’s Witnesses plead for freedom, mercy, in Russia crackdown 

The University of Missouri’s Religion News Service: Jehovah’s Witnesses Fear Russian Government may Ban Them 

Ghana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Zambia websites also reposted the news release from jw.org.

Headlines from pro-Russian news sources have a somewhat different outlook. Russia’s English-language Sputnik reads:
Enough is enough! Jehovah’s Witnesses face Ban
On Tuesday, the Helsinki Commission, which includes U.S. Senators and congressmen, condemned the planned Russian legal move. 

While their sentiments are appreciated, the millions of letters pouring in from around the world are far more likely to sway Moscow than a handful of American politicians. 

If your local news outlet hasn't covered this story, please feel free to send them the link to this column.

Note: This page does NOT use Google Adsense. All the sponsors were personally selected by me. Please continue to support this page by clicking on the ads. To see other products I endorse, click here. 
To return to the home page, click here

 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including two novels - The Minotaur Medallion, and the best-selling Resurrection Day. Both are available in paperback here

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Is Medical Marijuana for Christians?

Marijuana is now legal to use for medical purposes in 28 states. Eight states have legalized its recreational use. But it is still illegal federally. That means:

  • If you work for the federal government, you can’t use marijuana for any reason.
  • If you work at a job regulated by the Federal Transportation and Safety board, such as truck driver, you can’t use marijuana. The same is true of many jobs in the healthcare field.
  • Your prescription doesn’t exempt you from employer drug tests… they can legally fire you if you test positive for marijuana.
  • You can’t use it if you live on federal property or in federally-assisted housing, such as Section 8.
  • If you are in a legal marijuana business accepting credit card payments via most banks runs you afoul of federal banking laws. And, of course, you can’t take any business deductions on your federal taxes, since the IRS considers your business illegal.
In 2013, the Justice department released what came to be called the Cole memo that significantly altered the cannabis landscape. It made clear that the federal government was going to lay off cannabis in states where marijuana was legal, with the exception of 8 specific criteria. These are:

  • Distribution to minors;
  • Marijuana revenue going to criminal enterprises, gangs or cartels;
  • Diverting marijuana from states where it is legal to other states;
  • Running a marijuana business as a cover for an illegal business, such as illegal drugs;
  • Violence or the use of firearms in connection with a marijuana business;
  • Contributing to drugged driving or other adverse public health risks;
  • Growing cannabis on public (federal) lands;
  • Using marijuana products on federal property.
 Of course, this could all change under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch opponent of legalizing marijuana.

Up until the late 1800s, cannabis farming was common, even encouraged. The fibrous cannabis plant, called hemp by most growers, was a terrific source for paper, rope and fabric. The word “canvas,” in fact, stems from the word “cannabis.”

According to some sources, the war against marijuana was spurred in the 1920s and 1930s by William Randolph Hearst’s newspaper empire, abetted by DuPont Chemical. Hearst had significant timber holdings and feared they would be devalued by a growing hemp-based paper industry; DuPont wanted people to use their newly created oil-based nylon products instead of hemp products.

“William Randolph Hearst hated minorities,” says one of his biographies, “and he used his chain of newspapers to aggravate racial tensions at every opportunity. Hearst especially hated Mexicans. Hearst papers portrayed Mexicans as lazy, degenerate, and violent, and as marijuana smokers and job stealers. The real motive behind this prejudice may well have been that Hearst had lost 800,000 acres of prime timberland in Mexico to the rebel Pancho Villa.” In fact, it is said that he ordered his newspapers to use the word “marijuana” rather than hemp or cannabis, because of the word’s Mexican connotation.

According to the DEA:

·         “The Institute of Medicine conducted a comprehensive study in 1999 to assess the potential health benefits of marijuana and its constituent cannabinoids. The study concluded that smoking marijuana is not recommended for the treatment of any disease condition. In addition, there are more effective medications currently available.”
·         Marijuana contributes to crime. “Nationwide, 40 percent of adult males tested positive for marijuana at the time of their arrest.”
·         “According to the National Institutes of Health, studies show that someone who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day.”

Given all this, then, why the Cole memo? Because, hundreds of thousands of people across the country are using marijuana for medical reasons, despite the DEA’s claims that it has no medicinal value.

That shouldn’t be surprising: my brother and sister-in-law take the cooking spice turmeric for muscle and stomach pain. The AMA may not acknowledge any medicinal value to it, but don’t try to take it away from my brother. He has told me of his wife waking up crying with leg cramps that go away within minutes of taking turmeric.

And there are, of course, literally hundreds of other ‘alternative’ health cures that users swear by, from laser light to okra, despite there being no scientific studies proving their efficacy.

On a trip to Oregon in 2010 I had occasion to visit with a medical marijuana user I’ll call John.
John suffered for years with arthritis and neuropathy in his feet. “Sometimes, when I get up in the morning and put my feet on the floor, I fall flat on my face,” he said. Before using marijuana, he took Vicodin nearly every day, but he got tired of living in a fog. “Plus, it’s expensive.” He was spending $60 to $70 a month on Vicodin before he got approved to grow and use marijuana.

He was affiliated with an organization called Oregon Green Freedom, who helped him get started growing a marijuana strain called “Agent Orange.” Under Oregon law he was allowed to possess 18 juvenile plants and 6 mature plants. He grew it organically. “I’ve tasted some that was grown in containers indoors, and you can taste the Miracle-Gro,” he said. I didn’t ask whether he could taste the horse manure he fertilizes his plants with.

John puts about two ounces of marijuana buds in a quart of glycerin, and lets it steep in the sun on the window sill for a couple months. Only the buds are used. “The rest of the plant just becomes compost.”

 I asked about getting high. He said, “Buds harvested early are better for pain relief; a later harvest produces more of a high. So I harvest early.”

He used about a tablespoon a day of the tincture to control the pain of the arthritis and neuropathy. It had also helped him with the nausea of chemotherapy the previous year when he had cancer. The tincture takes about 30 minutes to work. Would smoking it work faster? “It might, but smoked marijuana tends to go to your head. I need it to go to my feet.”

Furthermore, “as a Christian,” he said, “there are certain Bible principles I need to comply with for the sake of my conscience.” What principles? He listed them: “‘Cleanse yourselves of every defilement of the flesh.’ (2 Corinthians 7:1) Smoking pot would ‘defile’ my hair, my clothes, and my home.” He is also aware of 1 Corinthians 15:33, "Bad company corrupts good character." So he has to be careful marijuana use doesn’t bring him into company with those who link marijuana-smoking with unchristian conduct, especially the illicit drug community.

The principle of 2 Timothy 4:5, “You should keep a clear mind in every situation,” certainly rules out recreational drug use, but can’t really be applied to medical usage, or else Christians would have to avoid all pain remediation. But what about addiction? Romans 6:16 does say, after all, “You become the slave of whatever you choose to obey.” John said that was not a problem; for him, at least, his marijuana tincture was not addictive. “Vicodin, that was really addictive.”

Still, John acknowledges, it is a controversial matter. There is a significant stigma attached to marijuana use, and he doesn’t want to be seen as a “stoner.” When he recently requested approval for additional privileges in his congregation, a lengthy discussion ensued. Even though he had the approval of the state of Oregon, he was technically breaking federal law, making the principle at Romans 13:1 about obeying the governmental authorities a matter for his conscience to deal with. He also, at the request of the congregation, stopped supplying marijuana to other legal users who lack their own growing space – a practice allowed under the Oregon program –  because he didn’t want to feel responsible if they misused it.

A few months before our interview he took a road trip across the U.S. and had to leave the tincture at home. His user I.D. card is only valid in Oregon. So he had to pull out the Vicodan. “Which is ironic,” he said. Why? Because, he said, he knows how soon he’s safe to drive after taking the tincture, but he feels less sure of his abilities after taking Vicodan.

Speaking of driving: Since he has to carry the I.D. card at all times, if he were involved in an accident, he would be pretty much automatically at fault. A police officer seeing the card would likely send him for a urine test, which he would fail even if he hadn’t used the tincture in several days.

I asked about John on my recent trip to Oregon. His neuropathy is now gone, and he’s stopped using his tincture. I doubt if anyone has ever cured neuropathy with Vicodin.

One of my preconceptions before talking to John was that people are making up symptoms to legally get stoned. John said there is probably some of that, but, in Oregon at least, in 2010 it required a two-year medical history, as well as a lot of other hoops to jump through, to get on the program. “I doubt if too many people would go to the trouble.”

There has been relatively little research into the efficacy of marijuana. However, that is in part due to the fact that it is illegal. If you are a scientist wanting to research the medical benefits of marijuana, for decades there was only one legal source: A government-managed plot of about 500 plants at the University of Mississippi. Only recently has the government recognized the silliness of this, and begun to make it easier for scientists to study marijuana. It is widely believed that ‘street marijuana’ is considerably more potent than the strain grown at the university; also, that different strains have different medicinal uses.

With the growth of alternative health products, and the growing movement to legalize marijuana, if you don’t currently know someone who has considered using marijuana medicinally, you likely will in the near future.

Follow me on Facebook.

Note: This page does NOT use Google Adsense. All the sponsors were personally selected by me. Please continue to support this page by clicking on the ads. To see other products I endorse, click here. 

To return to the home page, click here

 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including two novels - The Minotaur Medallion, and the best-selling Resurrection Day. Both are available in paperback here

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Spread the Word: Transfusion is NOT a "Lifesaving Procedure."

It’s happened again: Still another study, this time out of Canada, proving beyond all doubt that blood transfusion is bad medicine. 

The February, 2017, World Journal of Urology contains the results of a nine-year study of bladder cancer patients who underwent a surgical procedure called radical cystectomy.

Of the 2,593 patients, 62% overall received blood transfusions. (In 2000, at the beginning of the study, it was 68%. By 2008 the number had dropped to 54%. So surgeons are slowly getting the message, but not fast enough.)

Transfused:                                                 Not transfused:

Average hospital stay:            11 days                                 9 days
Readmitted within 90 days:   38%                                      29%    
Mortality:                               11%                                      4%

And here’s the big one: Overall 5-year survival rate was 33% higher among those patients not transfused. And the cancer-specific survival rate was a whopping 39% higher among those who had bloodless surgery!

This is like the umpteenth study proving that blood transfusion is a terrible idea. Here are just a few recent examples:

“Jehovah’s Witnesses who refused blood transfusions while undergoing cardiac surgery were significantly less likely to need another operation for bleeding compared with non-Witnesses who were transfused. They were also less likely to suffer a post-op heart attack or kidney failure.”
 Can’t we, by now, safely assume that, what has been found to be true in these fields of surgery, is true in every field? Yet the same day this bladder cancer study came out, another  story was published about the new guidelines for surgeons when a patient refuses a transfusion. It was introduced with the line, 
“Blood transfusions are a common and often lifesaving procedure.”
 That article noted that doctors are frequently accused of having a God complex. Many of them cultivate an attitude of all-knowing, don’t-question-me superiority called "paternalistic medicine." In some cases it’s ego. However, another reason they do this is simply time management: A time-and-motion study showed that, contrary to the picture of them painted by TV shows like Pure Genius or  Chicago Med, doctors spend less than one third of their time at work actually seeing patients. They spend more than two thirds of their time writing notes and filling out forms to satisfy the requirements of their institution and insurance companies. That would make for terrible TV, wouldn't it? But if they encouraged questions from their patients they’d never get any work done.

Because of the intimidation factor, and considering the years they spent in medical school, plus what we assume must be hours of ongoing study, you may feel the doctor surely already knows anything you might be inclined to tell him. Not so.

Surgeons spend on average 4.4 hours a week reading medical journals. Less than 5 hours a week! I spend more time than that on Facebook. If you are a heart surgeon, how likely is it that you’re going to spend part of your precious 5 hours of reading time perusing the “World Journal of Urology”?

Of course, as the list above shows, there have been articles in heart surgery journals, too, about the advantages of bloodless surgery, just as there have been in nearly every other field, from journals about joint replacement to journals about emergency medicine.

But changing the thinking of doctors is a slow process. As cardiothoracic specialist Bruce Spiess even went so far as to say:
"Blood transfusions are a religion. They have never been safety or efficacy tested," he said. "Drug options are carefully tested and regulated through prospective, randomised double-blind testing, but blood transfusion stands apart in that it has predominantly been believed to be helpful and evolved as a pillar of modern medicine."
Blood transfusions are not life-saving. They are simply bad medicine. Click on the links, do your research. Tell everyone you know, particularly if they are in the medical field, or if they are in the media. 

Unlike those drug commercials, I'm not suggesting you "ask your doctor." I'm suggesting you "TELL your doctor." If he disagrees, find a doctor who has read something other than facebook this week. 

Note: This page does NOT use Google Adsense. All the sponsors were personally selected by me. Please continue to support this page by clicking on the ads. To see other products I endorse, click here. 
To return to the home page, click here

 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including two novels - The Minotaur Medallion, and the best-selling Resurrection Day. Both are available in paperback here

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Real Problem of Fake News

I cannot believe this happened to me… AGAIN!
I allowed my buddy Jerry to talk me into going to a little hole-in-the-wall taco stand for lunch. The place has like four tables. The last time we went there, a couple weeks before the election, we were discussing the news. I said something like, ‘Trump is claiming the election is rigged. I wonder whether he’ll stick to that claim if he wins?’
Before Jerry could say anything, a rabid Trump supporter came over to the table and began telling me how Awesome Trump was, how He was going to Make America Great Again (she even spoke in capital letters). I asked her whether the recent news of Trump’s disgusting remarks about women had changed her opinion somewhat, and she reacted like I’d accused Trump of being an illegal alien. That recording was fake! It was just a Hillary plot to discredit her savior Trump, etc. At this point, Jerry and I both pointed out to her that we had no horse in this race – that we were completely apolitical, neutral, don’t care who wins, that we wouldn’t be voting for either candidate.
“Not voting is the same as voting for Hillary,” she said. I don’t get the math there – maybe it’s connected to how a Hillary win would prove voter fraud but a Trump win would prove he was on the side of the angels. We finally got ourselves disentangled from her – fortunately, most people get their tacos to go at that place, and hers were getting cold.
I swore I’d never go back. Today, Jerry insisted we go - he loves the food and the low prices. What could go wrong? The election is over, I now have a better understanding of the acoustics in the place. I went.
So Jerry brought up a mutual friend who is very bright but seems to have a blind spot where it comes to ‘secret knowledge’, conspiracy theories, etc. I said my problem with conspiracy theories was what they all have in common – the teller of the story claims to have acquired some insider knowledge that the majority of us don’t have. Where’d he get it?
“Like fake news,” I said.
“What’s that?”
“Oh, you know, like that story about what’s-her-name” (I purposely didn’t say Hillary, even though I was speaking quietly, just in case the ONLY OTHER person in the cafĂ© was a Trump supporter) "supposedly running a sex-ring out of the basement of a pizza parlor in Baltimore.”
“Yeah. Totally fake story. But a guy believed it, went in and shot up the place. The FBI got involved, proved the story came from the computer of a high-level Trump supporter, who admitted he made it up.”
Before I could finish, I was interrupted by the ONLY OTHER patron in the place… you guessed it: Trump supporter. “Excuse me, I couldn’t help overhearing. Do you mind if I join your conversation?”
“Actually, I do mind…”
“That story was true! Just because you read something in the New York Times that says otherwise doesn’t make it not true! Stop being a sheeple! Hillary is running a pedophile sex ring in Washington, and they’re trying to cover it up!”
-To Jerry: “I am never eating here again, I don’t care how good their carne asada is.” –To the fat woman in the leopard print stretch pants: “You are NOT welcome in this conversation. I was talking with my friend here, NOT you. Please leave us alone.” Not that she was inclined to, but her tacos arrived.
Jerry, of course, finds all this hilarious.
Here’s why I find this serious enough to write about. In a conversation between Jesus and Pilate, Jesus said ‘Everyone who is on the side of Truth listens to me.’ Pilate sarcastically replied, “What is truth?”
2000 years ago, there was already a tendency to question the Truth – to at least doubt, to raise doubts as to whether absolute truth were even knowable.
We often hear praise for having an open mind, but what if your mind is so open that common sense completely falls out?
Jesus foretold that the Good News of the Kingdom would be preached in all he inhabited earth right before the end. (Matthew 24:14) If that is happening right now, it is reasonable that Satan will do anything to obscure it. Since he doesn’t have much of an imagination, he’s using the same old nugget – obfuscate the truth.
In the 1960s you could tell someone, for example, that when we die we return to dust, we become nothing, we exist only in God’s memory… there is no “soul” that flies off to somewhere else. To prove it, you simply cracked open your Bible (or theirs) to Ezekiel 18:4, Ecclesiastes 9:10, and John 11:11 and proved it to them. They had to choose between two, and ONLY two options: either change their beliefs to harmonize with the Bible, or live the rest of their life knowing their beliefs didn’t match that Bible. The Bible was considered the final authority. There used to be a bumper sticker that read, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.” I loved talking to people who had that bumper sticker.
Today, though, for more and more people, the Bible doesn’t settle anything. Show them a scripture that directly contradicts their beliefs, and they are just as likely to reply, ‘Yes, but Jung said,’ or ‘modern science has proven,’ or ‘my preacher says’ or ‘I think…’
So someone can make up a completely false ‘news’ story about a sex ring operating out of a basement of a pizza parlor (the place has no basement, btw), and ten million people believe it. Two weeks later multiple respected national news agencies can report that he admitted to the FBI that he made the whole thing up; do all ten million people admit to themselves that they were duped? No. Some do. But there are still some, a few million or so, who believe the made-up story.
Jesus only said the preaching of the Good News had to be completed before the end comes. He didn’t say – but it makes sense – that the preaching of the Good News also must be completed before humanity completely loses its ability to tell the difference between Truth and lies.

Note: This page does NOT use Google Adsense. All the sponsors were personally selected by me. Please continue to support this page by clicking on the ads. To see other products I endorse, click here. 
To return to the home page, click here

 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including two novels - The Minotaur Medallion, and the best-selling Resurrection Day. Both are available in paperback here

Thursday, December 15, 2016

You Must Know This Before Your Next Operation

A new study out Baylor College of Medicine in Houston shows that use of effective anti-bleeding drugs during surgery is up, but not up enough. Dr. Henry Huang says,

 “There is a growing body of literature to support the use of antifibrinolytics to decrease perioperative blood loss, so the hope was that utilization rate would come up, and it did so in our study. But nearly 30% of centers have still decided not to use antifibrinolytics despite the increasing evidence.”
Antifibrinolytics are drugs, such as TXA (tranexamic acid) that promote clotting.

As Dr. Huang reported at the 2016 World Congress of Anaesthesiologists, significant blood loss remains a perioperative concern for patients undergoing many types of surgery. So an important question before the Group was utilization rates of antifibrinolytics.

“Because there are a limited number of [a particular type of facial surgery] cases per year for each institute, it’s hard to use just one center’s data to study the surgical complications or anesthetic management outcomes,” Dr. Huang explained, “and one of the bigger fears of the procedure is bleeding.”
A broad study of TXA in 2012 called CRASH-2 looked at 20,000 patients (half given TXA, half a placebo). It proved beyond all doubt that doctors most common fears about TXA - that it would cause patients to "throw" a clot that would harm them - were absolutely groundless.

Hence, the 30% of operating teams that are not using TXA or something similar is a concern. What has prevented the adoption of what is essentially a miracle drug?

Of the centers that did not use antifibrinolytics, two factors were predominantly cited: surgeon preference and concerns about side effects.

Since CRASH-2 proved that the side effects were minimal, what's the remaining hold up? "Surgeon preference."


Take a card, write "TXA" on it in large letters, and keep it in your wallet. If you need surgery, pull it out. If your surgeon has a "preference" for blood transfusion instead of preventing blood loss, perhaps you should "prefer" another surgeon.

Note: This page does NOT use Google Adsense. All the sponsors were personally selected by me. Please continue to support this page by clicking on the ads. To see other products I endorse, click here. 
To return to the home page, click here

 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including two novels - The Minotaur Medallion, and the best-selling Resurrection Day. Both are available in paperback here

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How did Moses feed 3 million people?

Here's a logistical problem for you: 

There's a meme that goes around from time to time about how Moses could have planned to take care of roughly three million people who left Egypt in one night. 

First, they had to be fed.

According to a quartermaster of the Army during the Civil war, men carried an eight day supply of food that weighed 24 pounds…three pounds per day. On that basis, Moses would have needed a minimum of 4,500 tons of food each day. How much food is that?

According to rail car manufacturer GATX, a typical freight car has a capacity of 143 tons. To transport 4,500 tons would require a train 32 cars long.

Every day. 

Since their food wasn't pemmican or k-rations or MREs they would also have needed firewood to cook the food.  This would take a minimum of 8,000 tons of wood - another 56 freight cars, just for one day.

One more not-so-minor detail: water.

GATX has a product called the TankTrain System.  According to their website,

“A string of interconnected tank cars with flexible hoses, the TankTrain System can quickly load and unload large volumes of liquid. At a rate of 3,000 gallons per minute, that's 1 1/2 hours to load a 5-car string. A 90-car train can load in less than five hours.”  

That works out to a capacity of 900,000 gallons.  To provide enough water for two gallons per person, about six million gallons per day - which would be the bare minimum for drinking and bathing - would have required seven 90-car trains! 

Six million gallons - that's the daily output of The Water Department of Iowa City, Iowa. And they have only 62,000 customers.

But wait: The Israelites would have needed far more than that…they must have had millions of thirsty animals traveling with them. Figure three times as much water at the very least. That is not the kind of flow of water you get from a spigot, or even from a fire hydrant. That is the equivalent of a good-sized trout-fishing stream, such as the Frying Pan river in Colorado.

What about getting across the Red Sea in one night?

Let’s assume that people standing, ready to march, can be spaced 3 feet apart. If the red sea only opened to a narrow path, so that they had to walk two abreast, the line would have been about 850 miles long. At 3 miles an hour, with no stumbling or any confusion at all, it would have required nearly 12 days and nights for all to pass through.

To pass through in less than 8 hours we need to multiply our files… if they walked 100 abreast, spaced at 3 feet horizontally and vertically, a 300 foot opening would have allowed them all to pass a given point in about 6 hours; seems sufficient, but it’s not. They weren’t simply passing a point, they all had to cross several miles of the seabed of the gulf of Suez, along with their animals.  The book Insight on the Scriptures says:

‘The channel may have been a kilometer or more in width. Though in fairly close marching formation, such a group, along with what wagons they had, their baggage, and their cattle, even when rather closely ranked, would occupy an area of perhaps 3 square miles or more. It appears, therefore, that the sea-opening allowed the Israelites to cross on a fairly wide front. If there was about a 1 mile front, then the depth of the Israelite column would probably be about 3 miles or more. If it was about a 1.5 mile front, the depth might be about 2 miles or more. It would take such a column several hours to get into the seabed and travel across it. While they did not go in panic, but maintained their battle formation, they would no doubt move with considerable haste.’

To put that in perspective, look at this picture of the Pope's visit to Copacabana Beach. This crowd is estimated to be about 400,000.

Crossing the Jordan 40 years later would have required a similarly gargantuan operation.

Another problem: Camping space.  At Little Big Horn, 10,000 Sioux made a camp that took up a little over half of one square mile.  At that rate, the three million in the Israelite encampment would have spread out over nearly 150 square miles! But estimates of camp size have been made by many commentators, are unreliable, and vary widely. My wife and I live in a humble 700 square foot two-bedroom home that is sufficient for us, but would be crowded by one more person, at least by today’s standards. Imagine a small three-bedroom home of 1000 square feet with ten people in it. But even if we use that figure – 100 square feet per person – three million people would take up over 55 square miles! If you cram people into half that space, not forgetting space for pathways, animals, and the tabernacle, they could - possibly - have fit into a square mobile city approximately six miles by six miles.

And they moved camp 40 times during the next 40 years.

Moses had been raised in the upper echelons of Egyptian society. His education was the best available at that time. He would have been familiar with the logistical problems of organizing large numbers of people. We can assume, for example, that he grew up listening to discussions of the problems of getting 10,000 employees to show up for work on a pyramid each day, provide them all with tools, a noon meal and enough water to prevent heatstroke. But did his training prepare him for the task of moving an entire nation? 

Absolutely not! Quite the opposite, in fact. All his training would have told him that such a task was physically impossible. This is why Paul said, "By faith he left Egypt." (Hebrews 11:27)

Now, if you believe the Bible, do you think God has any problem taking care of all your needs?

Note: This page does NOT use Google Adsense. All the sponsors were personally selected by me. Please continue to support this page by clicking on the ads. To see other products I endorse, click here. 
To return to the home page, click here

 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including two novels - The Minotaur Medallion, and the best-selling Resurrection Day. Both are available in paperback here