Addiction Treatment

Effective Addiction Treatment

JANE E. BRODY | February 4, 2013 | The New York Time

Countless people addicted to drugs, alcohol or both have managed to get clean and stay clean with the help of organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous or the thousands of residential and outpatient clinics devoted to treating addiction.

But if you have failed one or more times to achieve lasting sobriety after rehab, perhaps after spending tens of thousands of dollars, you’re not alone. And chances are, it’s not your fault.

Of the 23.5 million teenagers and adults addicted to alcohol or drugs, only about 1 in 10 gets treatment, which too often fails to keep them drug-free. Many of these programs fail to use proven methods to deal with the factors that underlie addiction and set off relapse.

According to recent examinations of treatment programs, most are rooted in outdated methods rather than newer approaches shown in scientific studies to be more effective in helping people achieve and maintain addiction-free lives. People typically do more research when shopping for a new car than when seeking treatment for addiction.

A groundbreaking report published last year by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University concluded that “the vast majority of people in need of addiction treatment do not receive anything that approximates evidence-based care.” The report added, “Only a small fraction of individuals receive interventions or treatment consistent with scientific knowledge about what works.”

The Columbia report found that most addiction treatment providers are not medical professionals and are not equipped with the knowledge, skills or credentials needed to provide the full range of evidence-based services, including medication and psychosocial therapy. The authors suggested that such insufficient care could be considered “a form of medical malpractice.”

The failings of many treatment programs — and the comprehensive therapies that have been scientifically validated but remain vastly underused — are described in an eye-opening new book, “Inside Rehab,” by Anne M. Fletcher, a science writer whose previous books include the highly acclaimed “Sober for Good.”

“There are exceptions, but of the many thousands of treatment programs out there, most use exactly the same kind of treatment you would have received in 1950, not modern scientific approaches,” A. Thomas McLellan, co-founder of the Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia, told Ms. Fletcher.

Ms. Fletcher’s book, replete with the experiences of treated addicts, offers myriad suggestions to help patients find addiction treatments with the highest probability of success.

Often, Ms. Fletcher found, low-cost, publicly funded clinics have better-qualified therapists and better outcomes than the high-end residential centers typically used by celebrities like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. Indeed, their revolving-door experiences with treatment helped prompt Ms. Fletcher’s exhaustive exploration in the first place.

In an interview, Ms. Fletcher said she wanted to inform consumers “about science-based practices that should form the basis of addiction treatment” and explode some of the myths surrounding it.

One such myth is the belief that most addicts need to go to a rehab center.

“The truth is that most people recover (1) completely on their own, (2) by attending self-help groups, and/or (3) by seeing a counselor or therapist individually,” she wrote.

Contrary to the 30-day stint typical of inpatient rehab, “people with serious substance abuse disorders commonly require care for months or even years,” she wrote. “The short-term fix mentality partially explains why so many people go back to their old habits.”

Dr. Mark Willenbring, a former director of treatment and recovery research at the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said in an interview, “You don’t treat a chronic illness for four weeks and then send the patient to a support group. People with a chronic form of addiction need multimodal treatment that is individualized and offered continuously or intermittently for as long as they need it.”

Dr. Willenbring now practices in St. Paul, where he is creating a clinic called Alltyr “to serve as a model to demonstrate what comprehensive 21st century treatment should look like.”

“While some people are helped by one intensive round of treatment, the majority of addicts continue to need services,” Dr. Willenbring said. He cited the case of a 43-year-old woman “who has been in and out of rehab 42 times” because she never got the full range of medical and support services she needed.

Dr. Willenbring is especially distressed about patients who are treated for opioid addiction, then relapse in part because they are not given maintenance therapy with the drug Suboxone.

“We have some pretty good drugs to help people with addiction problems, but doctors don’t know how to use them,” he said. “The 12-step community doesn’t want to use relapse-prevention medication because they view it as a crutch.”

Before committing to a treatment program, Ms. Fletcher urges prospective clients or their families to do their homework. The first step, she said, is to get an independent assessment of the need for treatment, as well as the kind of treatment needed, by an expert who is not affiliated with the program you are considering.

Check on the credentials of the program’s personnel, who should have “at least a master’s degree,” Ms. Fletcher said. If the therapist is a physician, he or she should be certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine.

Does the facility’s approach to treatment fit with your beliefs and values? If a 12-step program like A.A. is not right for you, don’t choose it just because it’s the best known approach.

Meet with the therapist who will treat you and ask what your treatment plan will be. “It should be more than movies, lectures or three-hour classes three times a week,” Ms. Fletcher said. “You should be treated by a licensed addiction counselor who will see you one-on-one. Treatment should be individualized. One size does not fit all.”

Find out if you will receive therapy for any underlying condition, like depression, or a social problem that could sabotage recovery. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states in its Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment, “To be effective, treatment must address the individual’s drug abuse and any associated medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal problems.”

Look for programs using research-validated techniques, like cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps addicts recognize what prompts them to use drugs or alcohol, and learn to redirect their thoughts and reactions away from the abused substance.

Other validated treatment methods include Community Reinforcement and Family Training, or Craft, an approach developed by Robert J. Meyers and described in his book, “Get Your Loved One Sober,” with co-author Brenda L. Wolfe. It helps addicts adopt a lifestyle more rewarding than one filled with drugs and alcohol.



A First: Organs Tailor-Made With Body’s Own Cells


Published: September 15, 2012 | The New York Times

STOCKHOLM — Andemariam Beyene sat by the hospital window, the low Arctic sun on his face, and talked about the time he thought he would die.

Two and a half years ago doctors in Iceland, where Mr. Beyene was studying to be an engineer, discovered a golf-ball-size tumor growing into his windpipe. Despite surgery and radiation, it kept growing. In the spring of 2011, when Mr. Beyene came to Sweden to see another doctor, he was practically out of options. “I was almost dead,” he said. “There was suffering. A lot of suffering.”

But the doctor, Paolo Macchiarini, at the Karolinska Institute here, had a radical idea. He wanted to make Mr. Beyene a new windpipe, out of plastic and his own cells.

Implanting such a “bioartificial” organ would be a first-of-its-kind procedure for the field of regenerative medicine, which for decades has been promising a future of ready-made replacement organs — livers, kidneys, even hearts — built in the laboratory.

For the most part that future has remained a science-fiction fantasy. Now, however, researchers like Dr. Macchiarini are building organs with a different approach, using the body’s cells and letting the body itself do most of the work.

“The human body is so beautiful, I’m convinced we must use it in the most proper way,” said Dr. Macchiarini, a surgeon who runs a laboratory that is a leader in the field, also called tissue engineering.

So far, only a few organs have been made and transplanted, and they are relatively simple, hollow ones — like bladders and Mr. Beyene’s windpipe, which was implanted in June 2011. But scientists around the world are using similar techniques with the goal of building more complex organs. At Wake Forest University in North Carolina, for example, where the bladders were developed, researchers are working on kidneys, livers and more. Labs in China and the Netherlands are among many working on blood vessels.

The work of these new body builders is far different from the efforts that produced artificial hearts decades ago. Those devices, which are still used temporarily by some patients awaiting transplants, are sophisticated machines, but in the end they are only that: machines.

Tissue engineers aim to produce something that is more human. They want to make organs with the cells, blood vessels and nerves to become a living, functioning part of the body. Some, like Dr. Macchiarini, want to go even further — to harness the body’s repair mechanisms so that it can remake a damaged organ on its own.

Researchers are making use of advances in knowledge of stem cells, basic cells that can be transformed into types that are specific to tissues like liver or lung. They are learning more about what they call scaffolds, compounds that act like mortar to hold cells in their proper place and that also play a major role in how cells are recruited for tissue repair.

Tissue engineers caution that the work they are doing is experimental and costly, and that the creation of complex organs is still a long way off. But they are increasingly optimistic about the possibilities.

“Over 27 years, I’ve become more convinced that this is doable,” said Dr. Joseph P. Vacanti, a director of the Laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Organ Fabrication at Massachusetts General Hospital and a pioneer in the field.

In Mr. Beyene’s case, an exact copy of his windpipe was made from a porous, fibrous plastic, which was then seeded with stem cells harvested from his bone marrow. After just a day and a half in a bioreactor — a kind of incubator in which the windpipe was spun, rotisserie-style, in a nutrient solution — the implant was stitched into Mr. Beyene, replacing his cancerous windpipe.

It was such a seemingly wild scheme that Mr. Beyene had his doubts when Dr. Macchiarini first proposed it.

“I told him, I prefer to live three years and then die,” he said. “I almost refused. It had only been done in pigs. But he convinced me in a very scientific way.”

Now, 15 months after the operation, Mr. Beyene, 39, who is from Eritrea, is tumor-free and breathing normally. He is back in Iceland with his wife and two small children, including a 1-year-old boy whom he had thought he would never get to know. In Stockholm earlier this year for a follow-up visit, he showed the long vertical scar on his chest and spoke quietly in English, the raspiness of his voice a leftover from radiation therapy.

His strength was improving every day, he said, and he could even run a little.

“Things are good,” Mr. Beyene said. “Life is much better.”

Imitating Nature

To make an organ, it helps to know how nature does it.

That is why Philipp Jungebluth, a researcher in Dr. Macchiarini’s lab, had mounted a heart and a pair of lungs inside a glass jar on a workbench and connected them by tubing to another jar containing a detergent-like liquid. The organs, fresh from a sacrificed rat, had slowly turned pale as the detergent dripped through and out of them, carrying away their living cells. After three days the cells were gone, leaving a glistening mass that retained the basic shape of the organs.

These were the heart and lungs’ natural scaffolds, or extracellular matrix — intricate three-dimensional webs of fibrous proteins and other compounds that keep the various kinds of cells in their proper positions and help them communicate.

Labs around the world are now experimenting with scaffolds. In some cases the goal is to use the natural scaffolds themselves to build new organs — to take a donor lung, for example, strip all its cells and reseed it with a patient’s own cells. Why not use what nature has perfected, this line of thinking goes, rather than try to replicate it in a synthetic scaffold?

Dr. Macchiarini and his team tried this beginning in 2008, successfully implanting reseeded windpipes from cadavers in about a dozen patients, most of whom are now living normal lives. Because the donor’s own cells are removed, this approach all but eliminates a major problem of transplants: the risk that foreign tissue will be rejected by the recipient. But it does not solve several other problems that may be just as troublesome. A donated windpipe may not be the right size; it has to be stripped of its cells and reseeded while the recipient waits; and the procedure still requires donor organs, which are in short supply.

So for Mr. Beyene, the decision was made to produce a scaffold out of plastic. But all the work with natural windpipes proved useful. “We learned so much, starting from zero,” Dr. Macchiarini said. “We could have never done the artificial transplant without the past experience.”

Made to Order

Mr. Beyene’s synthetic scaffold was fabricated by scientists at University College London, using scans of his natural windpipe as a template. It was an exquisite piece of polymer engineering, tailor-made to fit his chest.

But it was still just a lifeless piece of porous plastic. To become a working organ, the tiny spaces in the plastic needed to be filled with cells that would eventually function together as tissue. Not just any cells would do; Dr. Macchiarini and his team would start with stem cells.

To ensure that the organ would not be rejected, the cells had to come from Mr. Beyene himself, which also bypasses the kind of ethical issues that have arisen over the use of embryonic stem cells. Mr. Beyene’s stem cells were obtained from his bone marrow. The cells were placed in nutrient solution and then dripped by pipette over the scaffold. It was like basting a turkey.

Human stem cells are part of the body’s system for building and repairing itself. They begin as a blank slate, but are able to become specialized cells specific to particular tissues or organs like the windpipe. In recent years, scientists have made great advances in understanding how stem cells can differentiate in this way.

The Stockholm team was hoping that with the help of stem-cell-stimulating drugs, the marrow cells placed on the windpipe would start to become the right kinds of cells on both the inside and outside of the organ. But Dr. Macchiarini does not think the process worked quite as planned. “I’m convinced that the cells we are putting in the bioreactor after two or three days are gone,” he said. But as they die they release chemicals that signal the body to send more stem cells from the bone marrow through the bloodstream to the site, aiding the regenerative process.

Or at least that is what Dr. Macchiarini thinks happened. “We are far away from understanding this process,” he said. “Far, far away.”

‘If It Bleeds, It Lives’

If you cannot cough, you’re dead.

That sums up one of the important functions of the windpipe: keeping bacteria and other particles in the air out of the lungs, where they could cause potentially fatal infections. A normal windpipe is lined with specialized cells, including some that produce mucus that can trap the particles. Coughing then brings the mucus up and out.

So one test of a tissue-engineered windpipe is whether it contains these specialized cells. In Dr. Macchiarini’s earlier work involving donor windpipes, he had seeded the inside with similar cells taken from the recipient’s nose. But with Mr. Beyene, Dr. Macchiarini was counting on stem cells to differentiate into these other kinds of cells, generating a lining for the windpipe.

In November, five months after the surgery, Mr. Beyene’s windpipe was found to be partly lined with the specialized cells. And in the later follow-up visit, Dr. Macchiarini noted that the lining was still thriving, with no sign of infection. “And he is able to cough,” Dr. Macchiarini said.

If the cells are surviving, that means the windpipe is developing a complex network of tiny blood vessels through the same regenerative process that produced the specialized cells. All tissues must have such a network so that every cell can get oxygen and nutrients. But developing one — or ensuring that one develops — is an enormous challenge for tissue engineers.

“From the beginning, our view was that the principal barrier to this was going to be the blood supply,” said Dr. Vacanti, whose laboratory has long worked on developing a tissue-engineered liver, among other organs.

Mr. Beyene’s doctors had one way to be certain that his windpipe was developing a blood vessel network. As part of their follow-up exam, they purposely injured the internal lining slightly.

“If it bleeds, it lives,” Dr. Macchiarini said.

Mr. Beyene’s windpipe bled.

A Quest Continues

Mr. Beyene hopes to return someday to Eritrea and work as a geothermal engineer. But for now he remains in Iceland, to be close to Stockholm for regular follow-up visits.

The windpipe contains only his own cells, so he does not need to take drugs to suppress his immune system to ward off rejection. But the synthetic scaffold, like any foreign material, caused the body to produce scar tissue, which had to be removed. While that is no longer a problem, Mr. Beyene does not know when, or if, he will be able to return home. “They have to say, ‘Things are perfect; you don’t need any more care,’ ” he said.

“Nobody knows. This is the first case.”

Last November, five months after Mr. Beyene’s surgery, Dr. Macchiarini implanted a bioartificial windpipe in another cancer patient, Christopher Lyles. He used an improved plastic scaffold, made up of even smaller fibers for the cells to be embedded in. Mr. Lyles returned home to Maryland in January but died in March. The family did not release the cause of death, but Dr. Macchiarini said that the implant had been functioning well.

Despite that setback, in June Dr. Macchiarini performed similar operations on two patients in Russia. Both have been discharged from the hospital and are doing well, he said.

Dr. Macchiarini is planning even more operations. But there needs to be a less complex and cumbersome solution, he said, beyond procedures that can cost up to half a million dollars.

Because the need for this kind of work is potentially so enormous, “we cannot pretend that we can reseed with the specific cells outside the body,” he said. Instead, he envisions developing even better scaffolds and implanting them without cells, relying on drugs to stimulate the body to send cells to the site.

His ultimate dream is to eliminate even the synthetic scaffold. Instead, drugs would enable the body to rebuild its own scaffold.

“Don’t touch the patient,” Dr. Macchiarini said. “Just use his body to recreate his own organ. It would be fantastic.”

Monday: Using animal scaffolding to get human tissue growing.

Companies That Pay Interns Boatloads Of Money

20 Tech Companies That Pay Interns Boatloads Of Money

Alyson Shontell | Feb. 2, 2013, 8:15 AM | Business Insider

If you intern for a high-profile tech company, you can make more money than the average US citizen.

Facebook, for example, pays its average intern $6,056 per month. That ends up being a base salary of about $72,000 per year.

But there’s another tech company that pays its interns even more than Facebook.

Glassdoor, a career and company rating site, helped us compile a list of tech companies that pay their interns the most. Its salary data is based on anonymous salary reports voluntarily shared by current and recent employees, including interns.

The following list combines monthly average pay with hourly monthly pay to take into account a larger data sample among tech interns. Companies were only included if they had 20 or more salary reports within the past two years.

Here’s who pays its lowest level people thousands of dollars every month.

20. Cisco Systems pays its interns an average of $3,930 per month

Annually, that would be: $47,160

“Great company, very knowledgeable peers from top universities, work is good, good compensation and you learn a lot. Flexibility and work/life balance is unmatched. Free movie tickets, tickets to amusement park, free frequent lunches, great gym, free train pass, lot of intern events with free food, pays for your tuition, San Jose a good place to live. College grads like me these days wants to work for more recent brands like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter but companies like CISCO and others who have been there from decades are great places to start your career.” — Former Cisco Systems college intern (San Jose, CA)

19. IBM pays its interns an average of $3,942 per month

Annually, that would be: $47,304

“Tech giant with massive resources and really talented people. You work on products that are touched by millions in mission critical areas. For such a big company, it feels very nimble. You can easily reach any employee worldwide through Same time. It feels like a tight-knit environment, even thought you are 1 or hundreds of thousands. Every manager I have dealt with is awesome. Uber professionalism throughout.” — IBM software engineer intern (Austin, TX)

18. EMC pays its interns an average of $4,004 per month

Annually, that would be: $48,048

“EMC is a great company with great employees. Seniors are willing to help and easy about timelines. Its was a awesome experience as a starter and provided me a good learning experience. With that said, it has good salaries for the intern.” — EMC software engineer intern (Hopkinton, MA)

17. Hewlett-Packard pays its interns an average of $4,008 per month

Annually, that would be: $48,096

“Great place to start working, a lot of opportunities, resources in other departments, great pay for an internship, great company to start a career with.” — HP intern (San Diego, CA)

16. Dell pays its interns an average of $4,024 per month

Annually, that would be: $48,288

“Excellent community, with an open atmosphere. The company is reshaping itself, there is a lot of room for upward movement, and it is clear that Dell will be a part of the future of technology.” — Former Dell Engineering Intern

15. Intuit pays its interns an average of $4,427 per month

Annually, that would be: $53,124

“Very open and collaborative work culture, employees are very helpful and friendly. Accommodation is provided by the company for internship.” — Intuit Data Analyst Intern (Mountain View, CA)

14. NetApp pays its interns an average of $4,559 per month

Annually, that would be: $54,708

“Nice cafeterias; bright, successful people. Plenty of space for meeting rooms, and the building is full of the latest technology.” — NetApp intern (Sunnyvale, CA)

13. Autodesk pays its interns an average of $4,559 per month

Annually, that would be: $54,708

“They go out of their way to make employees feel part of the company. There are perks, such as paid volunteer, sabbatical, and nice offices.” — Autodesk intern (San Francisco, CA)

12. QUALCOMM pays its interns an average of $4,560 per month

Annually, that would be: $54,720

“Competitive salary, lodging reimbursement, relocation reimbursement, paid time off. Worked on projects just same as a full-time. opportunities to get access to top-level technologies and made real contributions to the future products.” — Interim QUALCOMM Engineering Intern (San Diego, CA)

11. Intel pays its interns an average of $4,749 per month

Annually, that would be: $56,988

“Intel has a very organized and constructive internship program. They set you up for success and provide many opportunities for future employment. Excellent pay as well.” — Former Intel BIOS Technical Intern

10. Apple pays its interns an average of $4,914 per month

Annually, that would be: $58,968

“Great culture, great people, very efficient workplace, good food in cafe, and great knowing people take pride in their work. They have the resources to do what you need. They take good care of their interns with nice overtime pay. Their are lots of nice intern activities (giants game, great America), along with the executive seminar series. The gym is nice although it can get busy.” — Apple Hardware intern (Cupertino, CA)

9. Yahoo pays its interns an average of $5,191 per month

Annually, that would be: $62,292

“Has good culture. Has best Managers. Good work-life balance. New CEO is very good. Positive environment. UR team pampers interns. Free food is one of the major attractions here. The environment is completely different inside, media has created a hype.” — Former Yahoo Software Developer Intern (Santa Clara, CA)

8. NVIDIA pays its interns an average of $5,215 per month

Annually, that would be: $62,580

“In the GPU group, you will learn a lot from the best in the industry. Of course you are working for the leader in graphics technologies involved with exciting products so that’s a big plus. They put me in a position to handle plenty of responsibility. Also, did a lot of design work instead of stereotypical intern work. My group was very friendly and helpful. Even held some small outings together. Many events and free swag for interns, but don’t expect it to be a Google experience.” — Former NVIDIA hardware intern (Santa Clara, CA)

7. Amazon pays its interns an average of $5,366 per month

Annually, that would be: $64,392

“Great culture and a fun place to work. Everyone is intelligent and drives each other to be better. Be prepared to work hard and be pushed to do well. Although they pay very well and as a result expect you to perform. Firings will happen but they are often expected and never unwarranted. Also the concept of moving groups or leaving for new opportunities is accepted here and never feels awkward. Many people even end up coming back after they leave.” — Amazon Software Development Engineer (Seattle, WA)

6. Google pays its interns an average of $5,678 per month

Annually, that would be: $68,136

“Very attractive company culture; great work-life balance; genius co-workers; some interesting intern events; very nice recruiting team; good pay; free food and many more things.” — Google Engineer Intern (Mountain View, CA)

5. Adobe pays its interns an average of $5,757 per month

Annually, that would be: $69,084

Stocked Kitchen, Beer Bashes on Fridays. Lunches are well prepared by chefs (not free though). Very passionate and smart people. Very fun and relaxed atmosphere to work in. ‘Work Hard, Play Hard.’ Awesome game room. People are very open minded and willing to listen to your opinion and ideas and courteous as well. Good pay, cool perks like free fitness reimbursement.” — Former Adobe intern (Seattle, WA)

4. LinkedIn pays its interns an average of $5,808 per month

Annually, that would be: $69,696

“inSpiring! People love their jobs, the culture tries to make the employees happy, free food, a chance to collaborate with people from different departments, fun environment, maintains a small company feel even with 1000+ employees.” — LinkedIn intern (Mountain View, CA)

3. Microsoft pays its interns an average of $5,936 per month

Annually, that would be: $71,232

“Great compensation, fun activities, fabulous intern gifts – you can tell that money was really thrown your way as an intern.” – Microsoft Software Development Engineer Intern (Bellevue, WA)

2. Facebook pays its interns an average of $6,056 per month

Annually, that would be: $72,672

“The benefits and pay are obviously great, and since it’s a well-known company it’s a good place to start if you’re looking to get recognized at other tech companies and startups.” – Facebook Software Engineering Intern (Palo Alto, CA)

1. VMWare pays its interns an average of $6,536 per month

Annually, that would be: $78,432

“Salary. I was making more than any of my classmates. Environment…almost everything was free. As an intern, the intern leaders were extremely helpful and supportive and responsive of feedback.” – VMware Technical Staff Intern (Palo Alto, CA)

Death Phenomenon

Permanent Link: Does Death Exist? New Theory Says ‘No’

Robert Lanza, MD

Chief Scientific Officer of Advanced Cell Technology


Many of us fear death. We believe in death because we have been told we will die. We associate ourselves with the body, and we know that bodies die. But a new scientific theory suggests that death is not the terminal event we think.

One well-known aspect of quantum physics is that certain observations cannot be predicted absolutely. Instead, there is a range of possible observations each with a different probability. One mainstream explanation, the “many-worlds” interpretation, states that each of these possible observations corresponds to a different universe (the ‘multiverse’). A new scientific theory – called biocentrism – refines these ideas. There are an infinite number of universes, and everything that could possibly happen occurs in some universe. Death does not exist in any real sense in these scenarios. All possible universes exist simultaneously, regardless of what happens in any of them. Although individual bodies are destined to self-destruct, the alive feeling – the ‘Who am I?’- is just a 20-watt fountain of energy operating in the brain. But this energy doesn’t go away at death. One of the surest axioms of science is that energy never dies; it can neither be created nor destroyed. But does this energy transcend from one world to the other?

Consider an experiment that was recently published in the journal Science showing that scientists could retroactively change something that had happened in the past. Particles had to decide how to behave when they hit a beam splitter. Later on, the experimenter could turn a second switch on or off. It turns out that what the observer decided at that point, determined what the particle did in the past. Regardless of the choice you, the observer, make, it is you who will experience the outcomes that will result. The linkages between these various histories and universes transcend our ordinary classical ideas of space and time. Think of the 20-watts of energy as simply holo-projecting either this or that result onto a screen. Whether you turn the second beam splitter on or off, it’s still the same battery or agent responsible for the projection.

According to Biocentrism, space and time are not the hard objects we think. Wave your hand through the air – if you take everything away, what’s left? Nothing. The same thing applies for time. You can’t see anything through the bone that surrounds your brain. Everything you see and experience right now is a whirl of information occurring in your mind. Space and time are simply the tools for putting everything together.

Death does not exist in a timeless, spaceless world. In the end, even Einstein admitted, “Now Besso” (an old friend) “has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us…know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Immortality doesn’t mean a perpetual existence in time without end, but rather resides outside of time altogether.

This was clear with the death of my sister Christine. After viewing her body at the hospital, I went out to speak with family members. Christine’s husband – Ed – started to sob uncontrollably. For a few moments I felt like I was transcending the provincialism of time. I thought about the 20-watts of energy, and about experiments that show a single particle can pass through two holes at the same time. I could not dismiss the conclusion: Christine was both alive and dead, outside of time.

Christine had had a hard life. She had finally found a man that she loved very much. My younger sister couldn’t make it to her wedding because she had a card game that had been scheduled for several weeks. My mother also couldn’t make the wedding due to an important engagement she had at the Elks Club. The wedding was one of the most important days in Christine’s life. Since no one else from our side of the family showed, Christine asked me to walk her down the aisle to give her away.

Soon after the wedding, Christine and Ed were driving to the dream house they had just bought when their car hit a patch of black ice. She was thrown from the car and landed in a banking of snow.

“Ed,” she said “I can’t feel my leg.”

She never knew that her liver had been ripped in half and blood was rushing into her peritoneum.

After the death of his son, Emerson wrote “Our life is not so much threatened as our perception. I grieve that grief can teach me nothing, nor carry me one step into real nature.”

Whether it’s flipping the switch for the Science experiment, or turning the driving wheel ever so slightly this way or that way on black-ice, it’s the 20-watts of energy that will experience the result. In some cases the car will swerve off the road, but in other cases the car will continue on its way to my sister’s dream house.

Christine had recently lost 100 pounds, and Ed had bought her a surprise pair of diamond earrings. It’s going to be hard to wait, but I know Christine is going to look fabulous in them the next time I see her.

Follow Robert Lanza on Twitter @robertlanza

Mythical World Ending

Mayan prophecies: Life after the (non) end of the world

By Jon Kelly BBC News Magazine, Washington DC | 21 December 2012 Last updated at 01:56 GMT

Man in gasmask holding "End of the world 2012" sign

Despite all the predictions of Mayan apocalypse, the world will probably not end by Saturday morning. How will the believers cope when life carries on?

The clock strikes midnight, the hallowed date arrives and, once again, the apocalypse fails to turn up on schedule.

For such a cataclysmic event, the projected end of the world has come around with surprising regularity throughout history.

Each time a group of believers has been left bewildered at the absence of all-consuming death and devastation.

If they’ve taking the warnings seriously enough, they will have sold their homes, abandoned earthly civilisation’s material trappings and braced themselves for the arrival of a new era.

The latest date to herald widespread alarm is 21 December, which marks the conclusion of the 5,125-year “Long Count” Mayan calendar.

Around the world, precautions are being taken.

Panic-buying of candles has been reported in China’s Sichuan province. In Russia, where sales of tinned goods and matches have surged, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has urged his countryfolk to remain calm.

Authorities in the French Pyrenees are preparing for an influx of believers to the mountain Pic de Bugarach, where rumours have spread that UFOs will rescue human gatherers.

And one doesn’t have to belong to a sect to find these predictions compelling. Humankind’s ongoing fascination with the apocalypse is evident in mainstream popular culture.

Films like 2012, Armageddon and The Day After Tomorrow all packed out multiplexes by depicting threats of global catastrophe. The Left Behind novels about a “post-rapture” world have reportedly sold more than 70 million copies.

If precedent is any guide, however, 21 December is likely to prove an anti-climax. Since the dawn of civilisation, humans have often been gripped by certainty that the world was about to end.

The Romans panicked at predictions their city would be destroyed in 634 BC. Millennial fears gripped Europe ahead of the year 1000 AD. During the English Civil War, groups like the Fifth Monarchists believed the end was nigh.

More recent apocalypses have panned out in much the same way. Followers of Nostradamus braced themselves for the arrival of the “King of Terror” in “1999 and seven months”. US television evangelist Pat Robertson forecast that “something like” a nuclear attack would occur in late 2007.

End of days glitch?

Dr Geoffrey Braswell University of California, San Diego

The 2012 phenomenon is essentially an accounting problem; a misinterpretation of some very ancient book keeping.

It is based on the Maya calendar, which counts the days since a date in the mythical past. This count reset after the last creation (on or about 11 August, 3114BC). On 21 December, we will reach that same number of days once again, and many now are concerned that a calendrical reset the following day will mean the end of the world.

But it is not even clear that the Maya themselves agreed on this book-keeping issue. Two ancient inscriptions emphasise the importance of the date. But a third focuses on 13 October 4772, the end of an even bigger cycle that cannot happen if a reset occurs in 2012.

This more detailed text predicts that, at an even later date, the great king K’inich Janaab’ Pakal will return to Palenque to rule. If this Maya prophesy is true, then the world will not end in 2012 or even 4772, no matter how the ancient calendar functioned.

The California radio preacher Harold Camping set a date for the end of the world no fewer than six times, settling on 22 October 2011 – a day which, historians may recall, was distinguished by an absence of fire and brimstone.

For those who paid heed to their dire warnings, learning that life will in fact carry on as normal might be expected to be a deeply traumatic experience.

Surprisingly, however, groups which predict the end of the world have quite a good record of carrying on after the world is supposed to have ended, says Lorne Dawson, an expert in the sociology of religion at the University of Waterloo.

“The vast majority seem to shrug off the failure of prophecy fairly well,” he says.

Of 75 groups identified by Dawson which predicted the apocalypse, all but six remained intact after catastrophe failed to materialise.

Indeed, many have gone on to flourish. Jehovah’s Witnesses are viewed as having predicted some form of end several times and yet still have more than seven million followers.

The Seventh Day Adventists, who have an estimated 17 million members, grew out of the Millerites, whose failed apocalyptic forecast in 1844 became known as the Great Disappointment.

The seminal study into this phenomenon came in the 1956 text When Prophecy Fails, in which psychologist Leon Festinger recounted how he and his students infiltrated a group who believed the world was about to end with members being rescued by a flying saucer.

When both the apocalypse and the UFO failed to materialise, Festinger found, the leader declared that the small circle of believers had “spread so much light” that God had spared the planet. Her followers responded by proselytising the good news among non-believers in what Festinger saw as a classic case of cognitive dissonance.

In a similar exercise, psychiatrist Simon Dein spent time with a small community of Lubavitch Hassidic Jews in Stamford Hill, north London. For years many Lubavitchers had believed their spiritual leader Menechem Mendel Schneerson, known as the rebbe, was the messiah.

According to their theology, he would herald the end of civilisation and usher in a new age. Their faith was tested, however, when the rebbe passed away in New York in 1994.

“I was there at the time he died,” says Dein. “They were crying. They were mourning. There was a great sense of denial – he couldn’t die. Would he reveal himself?”

But, Dein says, these Lubavitchers did not give up their belief system. Very quickly, they took up the idea he was still alive and could not be seen, or that he would somehow rise from the dead.

“There are very heated tensions between those who believe he’s alive and those who believe he’s dead, but his death doesn’t seem to have diminished the number of people in the group,” Dein says.

The Great Disappointment

  • William Miller, a Baptist preacher in the US, believed Jesus would return to Earth in 1844
  • He drew on prophecies in the Book of Daniel (especially chapter 8:14 “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed”)
  • Tens of thousands of followers waited in vain on 22 October 1844 – some having given away their money and possessions
  • “It was a bitter disappointment that fell upon the little flock whose faith had been so strong and whose hope had been so high,” wrote follower Ellen West, “but we were surprised that we felt so free in the Lord, and were so strongly sustained by His strength and grace”

According to Dawson, the 200 Lubavitcher families in Stamford Hill had the most crucial trait necessary to keep a group together after a failed apocalypse – a strong sense of community.

“If the group itself has been pretty cohesive, it’s been free of schism and dissent, they can get through,” he says.

When apocalypse fails to arrive

“In 1988 there was a really big apocalyptic scenario. I was 14 and in my freshman year at high school in Amarillo, Texas,” says Jason Boylett, author of Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse.

“A former Nasa scientist and mathematician called Edgar Whisenant had predicted the world was going to end in September based on calculations from the Bible. He sent his pamphlets out to hundreds of thousands of churches. My Southern Baptist pastor talked about it from the pulpit.

“I spent that summer really pretty scared, because people who had authority our our lives said this is something that might happen in September. I was afraid this was going to be my last summer. When the dates came round I went to bed thinking this is going to be the last time I see my parents.

“Afterwards, obviously, I was relieved. But it really disillusioned me. I knew then I couldn’t always trust my pastor.

“I’m still a practicing Christian and I’m not walking around psychologically wounded. But since then my religious belief has been marked with a lot of questioning, a lot of doubt and a lot of cynicism.”

Also important, he believes, is the presence of a decisive leadership who can offer a swift explanation.

“If rationalisation comes quickly, the group can withstand ridicule from outside,” he adds.

Some leaders, such as Camping on several occasions, simply offer a new date for the apocalypse. Others apologise to their members for getting the scheduling wrong.

Tragically, some take more drastic action. The bodies of 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult were found in 1997. They had taken their own lives in the belief they would reach a UFO following the Hale-Bopp comet.

Most, however, find a peaceful way to adjust.

“When you have invested so much in a belief, you have a very strong interest in salvaging something from it,” says Philip Jenkins, a historian of religion at Baylor University in Texas.

For Jenkins, the appeal of leaders preaching the impending apocalypse down the ages has always been about far more than the specifics of their prophecies.

“It’s a kind of rejection of the order of the world as it is,” he says. “It’s to do with imagining something far better. After it becomes apparent that the new order isn’t going to come, there are ways of adjusting the message.”

For true believers, the saga is only just beginning when the clock hands reach 12.