James M. Willoughby
2764 Gore Street
Houston, TX 77026
Emergency measures in response to fatal gang rape of Delhi medical student in 2012 will be compulsory from June
Panic buttons are to be made mandatory on India’s public buses “to ensure the safety of women”, the transport minister has said, more than three years after the fatal gang rape of a student on a bus in Delhi.
The government said a series of measures designed to curb sexual violence against women would become law on 2 June.
“To ensure the safety of women after the unfortunate incident, we have decided to make it mandatory for public transport buses to install emergency panic buttons,
CCTV cameras and GPS-enabled vehicle tracking devices,” Nitin Gadkari told reporters in New Delhi.
The “unfortunate incident” to which Gadkari was referring was the brutal attack on a woman in December 2012 as she returned home from the cinema. The assault triggered outrage and mass protests across India, leading to an overhaul of its rape laws, but high numbers of assaults persist.
The state of
Rajasthan is pioneering trials of the new measures on 20 of its vehicles. Panic buttons are placed above the front doors which, when pressed, send an emergency message to a police control room that can then view live footage of the bus interior.
Gadkari said all public buses would have to be remodelled the same way, while manufacturers must ensure new buses come equipped with the facilities.
The government’s latest measure to prevent sex attacks follows its announcement last month that all mobile phones sold in India would have to have a panic button from the start of 2017. The button would allow users to call emergency services by pressing a single key on their phone.
Laurel, Maryland: Talking Death with the Late Psychedelic Chemist Sasha Shulgin
Joseph L. Jensen
4683 Marie Street
Laurel, MD 20707
The Shulgins first came to my attention in 1998 when I judged an essay contest for MIT students asked to forecast science’s future. My favorite essay proclaimed that research into mind-expanding drugs represents science’s most promising frontier. The essay included several pungent quotes about the potential of psychedelics from someone named Alexander Shulgin. He complained that “our generation is the first, ever, to have made the search for self-awareness a crime, if it is done with the use of plants or chemical compounds as the means of opening the psychic doors.”
Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, I learned later, was a top-rank researcher for Dow Chemical in 1960 when he ingested a psychedelic compound—mescaline—for the first time. Shulgin found the experience so astonishing that he devoted the rest of his career to psychedelic chemistry. He left Dow in 1966 and supported himself thereafter by consulting, lecturing and teaching. Working out of a laboratory on his ranch east of San Francisco, he synthesized more than two hundred novel psychotropic compounds.
Shulgin tested these substances and others on himself and a group of trusted friends. He and his fellow “psychonauts” took meticulous notes on their research sessions. They rated their experiences according to a scale invented by Shulgin. It ranged from a minus sign, which represents no change, up to plus four (written as ++++), which is a sublime, potentially life-changing, “peak” experience.
There were a few rules for the sessions. Subjects could not be taking any medication, and they had to refrain from ingesting any other drugs for at least three days before the session. If someone said, “Hand in the air” while raising her hand during a trip, that meant she wanted to discuss a serious “reality-based concern or problem” (for example, the smoky smell in the kitchen). Sexual contact was prohibited between people not previously involved.
“Of course, if an established couple wishes to retire to a private room to make love, they are free to do so with the blessings (and probably the envy) of the rest of us,” Shulgin once remarked.
In the late 1980s, Shulgin was left unsettled by a biography of renegade psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich. Reich invented the “orgone machine,” a metallic box that he claimed could heal those who lay within it. Beginning in the late 1940s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pressured Reich to stop prescribing his orgone machine. When Reich refused, federal officials imprisoned him. Reich died in prison in 1957, and the Federal government destroyed all of his papers.
Haunted by Reich’s tragic story, Shulgin vowed that he would not suffer a similar fate. Although he had written about his research for peer-reviewed journals, the bulk of his findings were confined to his personal notes. He ended up pouring his knowledge into a PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story. This remarkable book is a fictionalized autobiography written by Sasha and his wife Ann, a writer, lay psychotherapist, and enthusiastic collaborator in Sasha’s psychedelic research. PIHKAL is an acronym for “phenethylamines I have known and loved.” Phenethylamines are a class of natural and synthetic compounds, some with powerful psychotropic properties.
The best-known naturally occurring phenethylamine is mescaline and the best-known synthetic one is methylenedioxymethylamphetamine, as known as MDMA or Ecstasy. Although MDMA was first synthesized in the early twentieth century, Shulgin is credited with having drawn attention to its unusual psychotropic properties in the 1970s.
The first half of PIHKAL, called “The Love Story,” was narrated alternately by Sasha, known in the book as "Shura Borodin," and by Ann, whose alter ego is "Alice." Each recounts how they met and fell in love in the mid-1970s after their previous marriages dissolved. The book is in part a sexually and psychologically explicit love story involving two intelligent, cultured, Bohemian protagonists.
What sets PIHKAL apart from comparable romantic memoirs is its account of Shura’s initiation of Alice into his circle of psychonauts, and its detailed descriptions of their experiences with DOM, 2C-T-4, and other compounds synthesized by Shura.
That is Part I of PIHKAL, which covers 450 pages. Part II, “The Chemical Story,” which runs for another 528 pages, offers recipes for 179 phenethylamines and accounts of the physiological and psychological effects at various dosages.
“No one who is lacking legal authorization should attempt the synthesis of any of the compounds described in the second half of this book,” the Shulgins warn in a “Note to the Reader.” But they also declare that investigations of the scientific and therapeutic potential of psychedelics “must be not only allowed but encouraged. It is essential that our present negative propaganda regarding psychedelic drugs be replaced with honesty and truthfulness about their effects, both good and bad.”
The Shulgins published PIHKAL under their own imprint in 1991. Six years later they released TIHKAL, for “tryptamines I have known and loved.” Tryptamine compounds include the well-known psychedelics psilocybin and DMT and the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine. Like its predecessor, TIKHAL is divided into two parts. Part I tells more tales from the personal life of “Shura” and “Alice.” Because they are now happily married, the narrative focuses less on romantic episodes than on psychedelic ones. Alice discusses her use of MDMA in her therapeutic practice. Part II consists of recipes for and commentaries upon 55 tryptamines.
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TIKHAL is more overtly political than its predecessor, and it alludes to legal tribulations that the Shulgins endured after their first book was published. In 1994, agents from the local branch of the Drug Enforcement Administration carried out a surprise inspection of Sasha’s laboratory. Shulgin’s research has always been legal; the Drug Enforcement Administration has licensed him to do research on scheduled compounds. But these agents accused him of violating various “new” regulations—and implied that he was manufacturing drugs for sale. Although Shulgin was never indicted, his alter ego wonders in TIHKAL whether this visit is just the beginning of a harassment campaign against him.
Before flying to California, I contacted the Shulgins by phone to arrange our meetings. Sasha’s directions to his home are detailed and meticulous, just like his recipes for synthesizing hallucinogens.
I rumble down a dusty dirt road in the foothills east of San Francisco to a rambling, tree-shaded, one-story home, with a few outlying sheds. Sasha is a big, barrel-chested, rugged man, with a hoary, leonine beard and mane. Ann has a deeply lined face, and eyes whose downward slant imparts empathy rather than melancholy.
Sasha gives me a tour of the ranch. A room crammed floor-to-ceiling with books and journals in metal bookcases is the library.
“If it’s on psychedelics,” he boasts, “I’ve got it.”
A room down the hall contains a magnetic-resonance imaging machine, a mass spectrometer, and other instruments for performing chemical analysis. “This is a filthy room that I call the clean room,” Sasha says. He adds, squinting at a cobweb-veiled skylight, that the spiders keep down the bug population.
As we stroll down a path to Sasha’s lab, he points out plants: shocking-pink lilies, a bay tree, several gnarled pine, various cacti, and a weedy plant that Sasha identifies as Salvia divinorum—which contains what may be the most potent naturally occurring psychedelic compound known to science.
On the door of his laboratory--an ivy-draped, cinder-block hut--is the familiar icon warning of the presence of radioactive materials. Another sign reads: “NOTICE: This is a research facility that is known to, and authorized by, the Contra County Sheriff’s office, all San Francisco DEA personnel, and the State and Federal EPA authorities.”
Within the lab is a dusty, twilit jungle of exotic glassware, tubing, racks, clamps, and labeled bottles. The lab’s pungent, sulfuric odor stirs up long-buried childhood memories in me of playing mad scientist with my chemistry set. A voodoo doll hangs from a test-tube rack. A friend gave it to Sasha to improve his luck with difficult copper-based experiments. It worked for a while, then it didn’t, Sasha says.
Back at the house, Ann makes sandwiches in the kitchen while Sasha and I sit in an adjoining room crammed with books, papers, potted plants. A picture window looks across a valley at a great brown mound: Mount Diablo, Sasha informs me. Pinned to one wall is a piece of yellow tape that reads: “SHERIFF’S LINE: DO NOT CROSS.” That is a memento of a 1998 raid by the local Sheriff’s department, which suspected Sasha of manufacturing methamphetamine, also known as “crystal” or “ice.” After a few telephone calls, the agents apologized for the misunderstanding and left the Shulgins in peace.
A pattern emerges early on in my conversation with Ann and Sasha. At one point I ask, Do you think the legal and political climate for psychedelics is improving? No, Sasha replies, shaking his head. If anything, things are getting worse. He is appalled by a recent federal law giving police power to confiscate property of those accused of breaking drug laws.
“I have a different view on that,” Ann calls out from the kitchen. She is encouraged by the fact that commentators, or at least intelligent ones, increasingly refer to the “failed” war on drugs. “Everyone knows this thing has not only failed; it has made the drug problem actually worse,” she says. “If we get one politician with courage, that's all it's going to take to break the whole thing apart and start changing things.”
“She's optimistic, I'm pessimistic,” Sasha summarizes. “We balance out very nicely.”
Later, Ann says she firmly believes in reincarnation. Sasha finds reports about people remembering past lives interesting but ultimately unconvincing. Ann intuits a divine intelligence guiding the cosmos, while Sasha is skeptical. She is the romantic empath, he the hard-headed rationalist. She is the psychotherapist, he the chemist. But they are unfailingly gracious toward each other. When Ann interrupts Sasha to disagree with him, as she does often, he seems less irritated than charmed.
Sasha likes to turn my questions back on me. What do I mean by "mysticism"? By "God"? When I ask if he meditates, he replies that it depends on my definition of meditation.
“Are you doing things with your mind, or are you undoing things?" he asks. "Structuring, or destructuring? Assembling and analyzing, or disassembling and avoiding?”
Sasha tried Zen but found no benefit in it. “The idea of sitting there quietly and voiding your mind of any thoughts, of any process, of turning off the record, just turning the amplifier not down but off--I find it frightening! I don't see what the virtue is. You’re in absolute, thoughtless, mindless space for about twenty seconds. And I say to myself, ‘Why the hell am I doing this?’”
If meditation means total immersion in an activity, being absorbed in the moment, Sasha continues, well, he does that whenever he works in his laboratory. “I consider that meditation, but very active,” he says. “For me that's a treasure.”
When I ask Sasha how many drug trips he has taken in all, he says it depends on how I define “trip.” When exploring a new compound, he starts with very small amounts to test for potency and gradually increases the dose.
“Not all of these were trips, and a lot of them were just exploring.” He has taken compounds that are at least potentially psychoactive three or four times a week for more than 40 years, but only a few thousand of those experiments were genuine trips.
Their psychedelic days are over, Sasha and Ann assure me. Ann used to give MDMA to her psychotherapeutic patients, but she stopped after the drug was outlawed in 1986 under the so-called Designer Drug Act. The team of psychonauts that had tested compounds concocted by Sasha has disbanded. Sasha's research continues; one of his current projects involves searching for new antidepressants. But he no longer either ingests or synthesizes psychedelics.
Like other spiritual practices, psychedelics are a two-edged sword, Sasha emphasizes. They may help us become more compassionate and wise, but they may also lead to ego-inflation or worse. He poses a hypothetical question: What if a psychedelic drug helps an evil person accept his evil nature? Would that be a positive step?
“It's not a panacea,” he warns.
I ask if they believe in God. Define God, Sasha demands. I mumble something about a creative force or intelligence underlying the design of the universe.
“I believe the concept of God is absolutely unnecessary,” Sasha declares.
“Unnecessary?” Ann responds, staring at him.
“That’s a straight answer,” Sasha growls. “Things are what they are.”
“Do you think the concept of a purposeful universe is nonsense?” Ann presses him.
“It's nonsense. Yeah,” Sasha replies. “I don't think it's created by a divine force with a beard.”
No one of any intelligence, Ann tells her husband sternly, takes that old patriarchal image of God seriously any more. Turning back to me, she says she believes that some sort of God or intelligence or consciousness or something underlies material reality, but it is not distinct from us.
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“We’re all parts of it, expressions of it. So we are it.”
Ann has a friend who experiences God as pure love. “That brings out the cynicism even in non-cynics,” Ann grants. How can anyone believe that God is love, given how suffused nature is with pain and suffering? The answer, Ann suggests, is that our suffering is somehow a necessary part of our development and learning.
“It's a little bit like watching your one-year-old experimenting,” Ann says. When they fall down and cry, “you sympathize, because they are having a little bit of pain on their bottom. But you realize that that is a step toward growing up.” Psychedelics, Ann says, can help you see things from this cosmic perspective.
Sasha and Ann both reject the notion of enlightenment as a final state of mystical knowledge. There is no final state, Sasha says, only a never-ending process. Ann agrees. She has had a few flashes of what Zen Buddhists call satori, both in psychedelic visions and in lucid dreams. “But they are not a destination. They are a reminder.”
I say that psychedelics have drawn me in two opposite directions: They can make me feel blissfully connected to all things, or alienated and alone. Which experience is truer?
“The place I think the Buddhists try and get you to,” Ann responds, “is right on the knife edge between the two. That's where the truth is. But don't ever forget that the truth of the universe changes second by second. It's not the same universe it was when we sat down at this table.”
Our development, our learning, never stops, Ann says. “You learn in your sleep, from conversations. You learn unconsciously, consciously. You learn from every book you read and every trip you take,” she says. “You're experiencing and taking in and changing as a result all the time, and yet you remain the same, essentially.”
Sasha gives me advice that has helped get him “through many years, and will get me through a few more”: Never lose your sense of humor or take yourself too seriously.
“The laughing Buddha is your best guide,” Ann adds. “What the heck is he laughing about? You can't explain that logically, but you can get into that state. And the final answer you're looking for is the knife edge, because both exist: that terrible darkness, and that absolute life.”
I ask whether their psychedelic experiences have helped them come to terms with their mortality. Ann says her psychedelic experiences have bolstered her faith that “the mind, consciousness, almost certainly exists outside of the body” and will survive death. After her brother died unexpectedly of a heart attack a year ago, she was overcome by grief. But when she viewed her brother’s body before he was buried, her grief gave way to a strange joy, as she felt her brother’s intelligent, humorous presence still surrounding her.
Ann has much she wants to accomplish before she dies, but otherwise she does not fear death. “I’ve never believed there was nothing on the other side,” she says. “It doesn't make any sense. We are continuing streams of energy. Now the form you take afterwards, the form of the consciousness, that's open to some question. But I have a feeling that we all know, because we all have the unconscious memory of having gone through it many times before. I think it is really a going home. I think it will be familiar as soon as you get to the door.”
Sasha says his view of death keeps evolving. As a young man, he believed that when you die, that's it; your consciousness is extinguished. In middle age, his fear of death became so acute that it complicated his research on psychedelics.
Now, at the age of 74, he does not exactly look forward to death, but he no longer fears it. Speaking quietly, calmly, Sasha says he views death as “another transition, another state of consciousness. Admittedly it's one I've not explored, but then again, any new drug is one you've not explored.”
Houston, Texas: Penis size may increase by 2 inches with one injection
Michael L. Swartz
2415 Werninger Street
Houston, TX 77032
As discussions about sex increase, age old beliefs about intercourse, orgasm and satisfaction in bed are being talked about more. One of the most highly debated concepts is the difference caused by the size of a man’s penis to the overall experience.
But this doesn’t stop a lot of men from seeking to increase the size of their penis, and they employ various techniques from diet to devices and even potentially harmful measures. In this situation, a surgeon has stepped in to introduce a new method which can increase the size of a man’s member by two inches in circumference.
All it takes is a simple injection and a procedure that lasts only for 10 minutes. There’s not even need for a recovery period, as people can just get back to work after the process. The idea is to draw blood from a person’s body and inject it into their penis to increase size.
The only precaution to be taken after this is not having sex for few days, and this procedure was inspired by Botox as well as a treatment used in sports where muscles are revived by injecting a person’s blood back in their own body.
So as long as the girth of the penis goes, this simple new procedure seems to be a major boost.
Lehigh Acres, Florida: Spooky Action at a Distance: The Strange Science of Radionics
Michael R. Honea
4134 Sunburst Drive
Lehigh Acres, FL 33936
I'm in a leafy garden behind a San Francisco coffee shop, holding on to a copper rod connected by a wire to a big wooden box. Inside the box are glowing knobs that look like red jewels. There's an empty glass beaker through which a shortwave ultraviolet light can be shown, and a flat piece of Bakelite that hides a copper coil. There are dials appointed with an elegant brass finish.
The box's owner, Joseph Max, is twiddling the dials and slowly rubbing two fingers across the Bakelite plate, eyes crinkled in concentration. When he hits on something, he writes down a score of 461 for my "general vitality" and then he checks my "aura coordination." It's 405.
"It's okay," he says reassuringly but with a hint of bemusement.
"I have a bad aura?" I ask, frowning.
"Maybe you're going through a lot of stress lately," he offers kindly.
The copper rod is getting warm in my hand. In true San Francisco fashion, no one around us—not the gym-rat hipster couple, not the French family—seems to care this is happening. Just blocks away on Haight Street you can buy weed from a dispensary, ogle multiple people whose leashed cats ride on their shoulders like parrots, or buy Victorian-inspired fetish gear. Our wacky box does not even register as interesting.
Max is dressed in all black: black polo shirt, black fleece vest, black slacks, black wristwatch. His snowy white hair is pulled back in a neat ponytail. He peers with light blue eyes through his round glasses at his radionics machine, the battery-powered device I'm currently hooked up to that is supposedly scanning my aura like so many bags at the airport.
Max carefully records my numbers on a form he has brought with him, and then we proceed to the main event. He wants to give me a shot at operating the mysterious box, and in order to do so a nearby shrub has to make a donation.
Max snaps a leafy twig off the plant behind us and pops it into the beaker—the "witness well." I clean my fingers with alcohol to remove any grease and slowly rub my right index and pointer finger along the surface of the Bakelite—what's known as a stickplate—while turning a knob on the machine with my left. It's a little bit like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time. The idea, he tells me, is to detect life in the plant. When I start to feel the "stickiness" I'll stop turning the dial, and the number I land on will be the plant's rate—the measurement of its general vitality.
We are both sitting on the same side of a pair of green plastic tables, the box in front of us. Max is watching me expectantly, and I admit I want to feel the stickiness. For weeks now I have been told about The Stickiness, the magical, murky thrum that connects your body to the ether. And I do feel something. My finger catches, it trips along the bakelite plate a bit, and we decide that the plant's number is 381. (It is not a stellar number; but for an urban plant whose main job is to decorate a coffee shop, this is not surprising.)
I ask Max how he knows if I was right and he checks the leaf himself, settling on a slightly higher number. I nod and smile and sip my lukewarm vat of coffee. How did I get here, manipulating the innards of a tricked-out wooden box, comparing the vitality numbers about a plant?
This is the most common way people have explained radionics to me (and several people have tried): Radionics is a way of using a device to take your thoughts (or intention, or consciousness) and amplify and broadcast them into the ether to affect some kind of change in your own life or the lives of others. You could be seeking a romantic partner or a financial windfall or better health. Maybe you just want to find a diamond ring on a sandy beach. (This is something I was told a person asked for, and received, through a radionics device.)
To some extent, the user (or maker) decides how to use the machine and for what. Not everyone would take an aura reading; this is just Max's approach. The device is a cosmic ham radio—a direct, if fuzzy, line to the big Whatever that provides things when they are asked for in the right way. Radionics is also called psionics or psychotronics, and radionics machines "wishing machines."
The most common incarnation of a radionics device is a box outfitted with a stickplate, a witness well (the space where one places a physical representation of his or her intentions), and dials that allow the user to tune the box in to that intention. Inside the box there is often a combination of copper wires, circuit boards, and even crystals. The user places the witness in the well (it could be a hair clipping, say, or a photo of a house, if you're seeking a new home) and then gently rubs the plate while turning the dials, waiting for the all-important stickiness a physical sensation that has been described as a tingling or similar to that of rubbing a balloon or sensing a very high-pitched sound. Once stickiness has been achieved, the box may be left alone to broadcast the user's intentions to the universe.
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There are as many variations on the radionics device as there are on your standard automobile. Boxes are common, but there are also bicycle helmets outfitted with crystal-topped copper rods. There are devices that employ pendulums instead of stickplates. There are belts and headbands. There are even entirely paper-based machines and radionics software. Design-wise, radionics devices look like a mashup of original-series Star Trek, Jules Verne, and 1950s science-fiction magazines. They have a charming ray-gun quality about them.
But you can't buy a radionics machine at Target—or any store, really. That leaves true believers to build the machines themselves or buy one from a handful of sellers. There is a whole community of makers who swap tips on Facebook groups and on sites like BerkanaPath.com about how to build the best stickplates and where to buy potentiometers and antique knobs. Radio Shack and eBay are staples within this community. Enthusiasts post YouTube videos and offer critiques and encouragement to fellow makers. There are conventions and associations.
A few have managed to turn radionics into a business, and, like the devices themselves, these organizations are eclectic. There are the sober sites that work hard to promote an air of antiseptic professionalism, and there are the admittedly more common rainbow-colored sites that promise riches and babes, usually with an excess of exclamation points. ("Yes, you can charge food radionically with sexual energy and intent!!!")
Radionics exists on the fringe and is dismissed by the mainstream scientific community. And the story of how this cast of curious characters and their DIY wishing boxes got here features orgasms, potato blight, and the death of at least one guinea pig.
Albert Abrams was born in 1863 in San Francisco, earned a medical degree from Heidelberg University in Germany in 1882, and returned home to become a professor of pathology at Cooper Medical College (later absorbed by Stanford University) and the vice president of the California State Medical Society. Abrams was a respected member of the San Francisco intelligentsia; his comings and going were fodder for the local society column, which dutifully recorded his Yosemite vacations and his wife's tasteful luncheons.
In 1916 Abrams published a paper espousing his discovery of what he modestly named "Electronic Reactions of Abrams." "Every individual, it is maintained," he wrote, "is enveloped in a radiance (Aura) invisible to the carnal eye and only perceived by the soul accustomed to it." As evidence of this, Abrams listed portraits of saints with glowing halos and luminescent fish and crustaceans. This radiating energy, or ERA, could be used to not only diagnose conditions but could be tapped into in order to treat and diagnose patients of any manner of things, including cancer and syphilis.
Thus, throughout the 1900s, Abrams rolled out a series of electronic devices that he insisted did just that, including the "Dynomizer" and the "Oscilloclast." These machines could diagnose illness even in a remote subject, as long as the patient supplied a drop of blood, according to Abrams. Maladies were assigned a "rate" and when patients were treated, the machines were tuned to that number.
Abrams garnered fans (including the muckracking author Upton Sinclair) and his machines were leased to practitioners around the country; he offered classes at his San Francisco outpost. At one point, he announced plans to found an "electronic college." (This did not come to fruition.) But many doubted Abrams, chief among them Morris Fishbein, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association from 1924 to 1950. Fishbein devoted an entire chapter to Abrams in his 1932 book Fads and Quackery in Healing. In addition to calling Abrams a cultist, he wrote that: "It is the opinion of most of the electricians who have investigated Abrams' device, that Abrams knew little or nothing at all about the fundamental facts of electricity."
Suspicion grew to a point that the American Medical Association launched a sting operation against Abrams. The AMA mailed blood samples from a "virtuous, unsuspecting lady guinea pig" to an Abrams devotee in Oklahoma City, claiming they were from a "Mr. P." Fishbein reported with no small amount of glee that the practitioner not only failed to realize he had been sent guinea pig blood, but diagnosed "Mr. P" with several illnesses. (Unfortunately for the lady guinea pig, the very thorough AMA dispatched her in order to perform a postmortem and confirm that she wasn't suffering from any illnesses. She was not.)
In Jonesboro, Arkansas, a similar sting was undertaken on an Abrams practitioner using chicken blood. The practitioner was brought up on charges, and Abrams was expected to appear as a witness and defend his invention but he never got the chance. Abrams died in January 1924, an outcast from the mainstream medical community, the same week The British Medical Journal published an article excoriating his lucrative practices.
But Abrams' ideas didn't die with him. In 1927, not long after he departed this world, an Austrian psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Reich, published a paper called "The Function of the Orgasm." Nervous conditions, he wrote, could be resolved through "full genital gratification," and "sexual, vegetative energy is active in everything that lives."
Not long after arriving in New York in 1939, Reich announced the discovery of "orgone," something he described as "the primordial, cosmic energy." Reich believed that it floated throughout the atmosphere and that, if gathered and restored to the human body, its recipients would be infused with a number of health benefits. He built a contraption called an orgone accumulator, about the size of a phone booth, that he believed could collect and concentrate orgone. Patients sat passively inside, sometimes for hours at a time, hoping to be revitalized.
Among Reich's defenders were journalist Norman Mailer and artist William Steig. But Reich, too, had plenty of doubters, including the Federal Drug Administration, which investigated him. He was eventually ordered to stop selling orgone goods and literature over state lines and in 1956 was found guilty of violating that order and sentenced to two years in prison. Reich was 60 when he died of a heart attack in 1957 at the Lewisberg Federal Penitentiary in Pennsylvania. (Today there are some who wonder if the FDA's zestful pursuit of Reich had as much to do with prudishness as with public health.)
During the time Reich was defending the idea of orgone energy, T. Galen Hieronymus, an inventor in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1949 received a patent for his homemade radionics device. Galen, who was trained as an electrician by the National Guard and worked as an engineer for the Kansas City Power and Light Company, was an acolyte of Dr. Abrams and started tinkering with electricity and plants in 1931. His Hieronymus machine was intended to detect and measure "eloptic energy" that emanated from all living things. The Hieronymus machine became the blueprint for today's radionics devices; Hieronymus introduced the idea of the stickplate and the well. He thought his machines were especially useful for agriculture and wrote that he had documented their effectiveness on curing crops of pest and disease, including aphids and potato blight. "To date, our research has not revealed any substance that does not lend itself to analysis by our instrument," Hieronymus wrote in his autobiography The Story of Eloptic Energy. Hieronymus died in 1988.
It is the legacy of these men—a pastiche of science, mysticism, and persecution—that set the stage for the modern radionics community.
Ed Kelly is perfectly aware of what people think about radionics. He runs what is probably the only legacy radionics company in the United States, but if a stranger at a cocktail party asks him what he does for a living, he usually says he's in the electronics business.
"I just leave it at that, because, you know, it's just so kooky," he says, resigned. "And if you have to go into a giant explanation they're probably going to either assume that you're a crazy person, or worse yet, that you're selling snake oil."
Kelly's father Peter founded Kelly Research Technologies (KRT) in 1984. The elder Kelly—who was "kind of a hippie," according to his son—discovered radionics during the early '70s and built what had started as a hobby into a career. He ran his business from a plot of land in Lakemont, Georgia, out of a pair of dome houses, where Kelly still lives with his wife and several cats. (One of which yowled throughout our phone conversation despite Kelly's reassuring asides.)
KRT's expertise is agriculture. In the United States, it's illegal to promote radionics for diagnostic or treatment purposes in people or animals, so the Kellys focus on crops. The company's machines are modeled after the Hieronymus version, and it publishes a book of rates for farmers. Say you want a corn seed that is most "harmonious" with your land: You could use the Kelly gadgets to tune in to samples and figure out which one vibes best with the soil.
In the realm of radionic aesthetics, the KRT brand is more Wheaties than Lucky Charms—its site is simple, rendered in sedate colors. Its machines, built on-site by Kelly and his three employees, are businesslike, gray and black, in simple wooden boxes. The most popular (and least expensive) is the $1,450 Personal Instrument. Kelly says the company sells a few hundred machines a year to farmers all over the world who want to tap into the free-floating energies of the universe.
"To me, that's been one of the greatest validators," says Kelly. "These are men and women who are interested in yield and what kind of results they get. And you're not going to pull some crazy esoteric 'put a crystal on it' kind of deal on a farmer who is interested in what kind of results they get."
Kelly is not a farmer, but he uses his machines to bolster the business. When things get slow, he places a photo of the dome on the witness well—remember, the spot where users place the physical representation of their intention—tunes up, and focuses on the idea of "those who need us find us." In half an hour or so, he says, it is not unusual for the phone to ring with a customer on the other line.
For an outsider, it is these kind of examples that are frustrating. Why not ask for a million dollars? A car? A house?
I called up Joshua P. Warren, who is a kind of paranormal jack-of-all-trades. He is a ghost hunter, he has dipped into cryptozoology and the study of the Bermuda triangle. He has made television appearances and written books about hauntings in his hometown, Asheville, North Carolina. He also sells wishing machines, which are built by a man he calls Dr. Mulder—a pseudonym borrowed from The X-Files. Dr. Mulder, Warren told me, is very private and not available for interviews. But Warren was able to provide examples of results he produced with his wishing machines. (It was Warren who told me that radionics had delivered to him a diamond-encrusted gold ring.)
Warren said that using the machine, he had obtained a second home in Puerto Rico, a pair of discounted high-quality headphones, and a deal to write a Star Wars-themed book about how to "draw on the universe's energy to achieve your dreams." Of course, you don't just tune a wishing machine and then wait for the keys of your beach house to arrive in the mail.
"You can't just kick back and wish for something and hope it's going to materialize," says Warren. "What you have to do is set the intention and then you go out and you interact with the world and see the opportunity present itself."
In the case of his vacation home, for instance, he says he placed a photo of a sandy beach on his witness plate, tuned the machine, and shortly thereafter accepted a ghost-hunting gig in Puerto Rico, where he just happened to meet a real estate agent who showed him the house he eventually bought. The kicker? The photo—which he chose randomly off the Internet—showed the beach where his new home would be.
Like a fusty skeptic, I asked him why this wasn't just a coincidence.
"The wishing machine seems to operate via coincidence," he told me.
These kinds of explanations can make you feel like you're running in circles. The people I talked to do believe there is a scientific basis for how radionics works—but that we just don't understand it yet. Several times the science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke's famous line was quoted to me: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Quantum physics was mentioned frequently. But they also believe there is something more—energy, consciousness, or even magic—that makes explanation difficult or even impossible.
It is hard to investigate the ethereal thinking around radionics, but physics is something that can be parsed. So I got in touch with Chad Orzel, a physics professor at Union College in New York and the author of several popular science books, including How To Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog. This sounded about my speed, and I ran a few ideas about physics and radionics past him, particularly "quantum entanglement," which several people offered as evidence that radionics is possible.
"Entanglement is a very strange phenomenon," says Orzel. "But it's a very real thing."
Basically, entanglement is the idea that two particles, separated by a great distance, can be shown to correlate with each other. By measuring one of the particles, you can be guaranteed to know the state of the other one, even though it's miles away. (Researchers in the Netherlands recently claimed to have proven this theory using particles encased in diamonds.) Quantum entanglement may be the key to building next-generation super-fast quantum computers, or to developing nearly unbreakable quantum cryptography. At the moment, though, it's a fascinating real phenomenon without many practical applications.
"People try to invoke this as a way of justifying ESP sorts of things: 'Well, maybe electrons in your brain are entangled with electrons somewhere else.' There's a couple of problems with it," Orzel says.
The main one is that the particles used in such experiments were at some point in contact with each other, and scientists took great care during their separation to maintain that relationship. (It is the conscious uncoupling of the science world.) The same can't be said of other electrons sloshing around in the universe.
"If you look at it in a slightly incorrect way, it seems like you're influencing things a really long way away," says Orzel. "But what you're really doing is you're just making manifest a correlation that already existed because these two things interacted in the past."
Suffice to say, Orzel is no fan of radionics.
"If you think carefully about it—it's just amazing that the universe works that way," he says. "But it's not quite as amazing as being able to use your thoughts to do magic. So it's frustrating in the way that it takes away from the wonder of the actual theory [of quantum entanglement]. Because it's not some crazy fictional version of magic. The reality is really pretty awesome in its own right."
It is easy, and typical, to laugh at people who buy into things like radionics. But despite their dubious scientific backing, related ideas have completely crossed over to the mainstream in recent years. The United States government has been so intrigued by the psychic possibilities of the mind that it has expended no small amount of effort investigating it. The 2006 book The Secret, which promoted the idea that sending good thoughts out into the world produced positive results, sold more than 19 million copies. (It was also drubbed in The New York Times.) On a regular basis, my yoga teacher encourages me (and the dozen or so other people in the class, who may or may not think of themselves as "woo-woo") to "set my intention" before practice, and broadcast groovy vibes to someone I love.
So, though radionics is on the fringe, the fringe is coming closer to the center. It's now just something everyone tolerates (everyone who does yoga, anyway). Which does not make it true, or even good. It just means that under the right circumstances we are all probably capable of believing in things that other people think are impossible or ridiculous.
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Like anything, a belief in the metaphysical can be passed down through families. Kelly inherited his father's radionics business. Warren grew up listening to ghost stories. A man I talked to who runs an online radionics forum told me his father was a hypnotherapist and paranormal investigator.
But Max says that—if anything—he is rebelling against a straight-laced upbringing.
Here on the bright San Francisco coffeehouse patio, there is little to reveal this rebellion. Max is soft-spoken and modestly attired. Sitting in front of a stack of his papers, we could be a couple of teachers going over our lesson plans. We could be doing our taxes.
Max was born in Detroit. His father worked for IBM and his family moved around a lot (IBM stands for "I've been moved," he jokes.) He got a degree in theater arts and became an audio engineer. He tried New York but ended up in San Francisco where he fell into the late-'70s punk scene, working both on and offstage, playing bass and synthesizer. Eventually Max would go on to do audio engineering for acts like Destiny's Child and tour the world with Daft Punk. He still works as an audio engineer.
Max first learned about radionics while reading science fiction magazines as a kid. He filed it under interesting, but there wasn't much he could do about it then. Then his newly acquired engineering skills collided with the Bay Area's permissive acceptance of alternative philosophies. ("It's hard to be classified as crazy for doing anything in Berkeley.") He got into steampunk, started playing the theremin and—almost on a whim—built a Hieronymus box. He did it as an experiment, as much an art project as anything else. Then he tried to use it and felt the telltale "stick".
Hooked, Max delved into the radionics community. He started a blog ("Aetheric Arts"), he moderates a Facebook group, he went to a convention.
"I found that, for me," he says, sighing, "a lot of the people involved in it are also involved in the kind of fringe I don't have a lot of respect for. There were a lot of anti-vaxxers and anti-GMO people and government conspiracy theorists, and that's not my cup of tea."
He has distanced himself from the community since then, but still experiments with his boxes.
Unlike most of the other people I talked to, Max says he uses the machines for healing purposes and doesn't really fiddle around with the idea of bringing riches or other perks into his life. ("Might as well be praying.") He extends his services to family and friends, doesn't advertise, doesn't charge, and believes the power of radionics to be supplemental to traditional medical care. He says he has helped ease his own neck pain, diagnose a friend's mysterious lethargy (it was a problem with her left ventricle) and treated his 94-year-old mother's constipation, among other successes.
Today, unfortunately, as we sit in the shade, regarding Max's machinery and careful notes, there is not much to be revealed or accomplished by his handsome Hieronymus machine. My aura is just okay, but other than that there is nothing wrong with me, nothing interesting or shocking for the machine to impart or improve about my state of being. But the point of our meeting, really, was not to check out my aura but to give me a chance to investigate the esoteric promises of radionics myself. We did, after all, agree about the relative number of that plant. I felt something (or at least convinced myself I felt something) similar to what Max was feeling.
Was that sensation a cosmic record scratch? If it was, it was anticlimactic.
We chat a bit longer and then I ask him how he would feel if there were a massive scientific study and in the end the verdict was that radionics was all bunk? Would Max be upset, would he feel like he had wasted a bunch of time?
He insists that he wouldn't.
"I would think, what a pretty box I made."
Southfield, Michigan: ‘Scrotox’ Is The New Botox For Guys Who Want To Fix Their Sweaty, Wrinkly Balls
Kenneth N. Devries
2621 Front Street
Southfield, MI 48075
Most of us (unfortunately) have some type of body insecurity. It’s why cosmetic procedures that melt fat away or rejuvenate your vagina not only exist, but continue to grow in popularity.
And now, there’s a new fix to add to that ~beautifying~ list: Scrotox. Yep, it’s exactly what it sounds like… botox for a guy’s balls (or scrotum, if you like anatomical terms).
Now, personally, I don’t really care what a guy’s balls look like. But after scouring the web, I learned that saggy, small, and wrinkly balls seem to be a valid concern for a lot of dudes.
“I know they look like the excess skin from a 60-year-old man who lost 200 pounds way too fast, but I can’t do much about it. There’s no botox for balls,”
Cosmopolitan’s male columnist, Cosmo Frank, once admitted about his own pair.
Another dude confessed to Women’s Health, “My penis, balls, and taint are usually marinating in my own sweat throughout the day, which doesn’t exactly yield a lovely floral scent, so I’m always insecure about what a girl will think if/when she goes down on me. All I can do to overcome that is to powder my balls or spray some cologne or Febreeze down there before a big date and then hope for the best.”
Ah, but now there IS something you can do about these problems, guys! Now there is!
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As Metro UK explains, Scrotox promises to reinflate deflated and slightly wrinkly balls, reduce the amount of sack sweating, and enlarge the twins’ appearance by relaxing the scrotum muscles.
But the injection is no joke, as it can cost over $3,000 to give your balls a makeover.
Mark Norfolk, Clinical Director of Transform, a cosmetic surgery center in the UK, told Metro that requests for Scrotox at his office have doubled in the past year — even though he doesn’t currently offer it. This matches the trend of more men getting plastic surgery in general over the past 10 years.
But be warned, fellas: Despite its sweat-eliminating and swelling abilities, ball Botox won’t necessarily have a huge effect on the wrinkles or sagging, Norfolk says. So if “lots of loose skin” is what you’re mostly concerned about, you may be better off opting for surgery to get rid of excess skin.
Otherwise, if you’re really insecure about your ball sweat, size, or wrinkles — and you have a ton of cash to spend, as well as a high tolerance for needles in your balls — Scrotox may be worth a try.
I may not kick you out of bed if your balls aren’t perfectly large and baby smooth. But that’s just me.
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