20 August 2010


VOYAGER. On this day in 1977, Voyager 2 (shown above), an unmanned interplanetary space probe, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It is the first and only spacecraft to complete the Planetary Grand Tour, and 33 years later after leaving the solar system on a path to the stars, is still operational.

The Voyager program and the antecedant Pioneer program have been successful beyond the designers' wildest dreams, sending back floods of data on the solar system's planets, moons, and smaller orbital bodies. This space enthusiast hopes the time will return when we once more make manned space missions a national priority.

MASLOW. Most survivors of Psych 101 will recall the Hierarchy of Needs posited by Abraham Maslow (see schema above, click to enlarge). He proposed that humans seek to have the lower levels of needs met before proceeding to higher levels, which is intuitively sound. A new study suggests that Maslow's hierarchy should be revised to feature mating and producing offspring at the top of the pyramid (see schema below). I have serious reservations about this. I think Maslow had it right. Any person of average intellect and ambition can mate and breed, and probably feel content. That doesn't even approach the higher self-development found in Maslow's model. But here is the revision proposal with readers' comments, see what you think.

LSD. Got your attention? Two recent studies "reveal that hallucinogens are good for your mental health" by "boosting signaling between neurons in the brain," and facilitating the growth of synaptic growth. Back in the 1970s, when recreational hallucinogens were inexpensive and pure, I experimented with a number of substances, including marijuana, hashish, LSD, psilocybin, peyote, jimson root, and speed. My experiences were overwhelmingly positive. I learned to sense and interpret the world -- visually, aurally and cognitively -- in details and nuances which had been unavailable to me before. I've never experienced acid flashbacks (an urban myth, for the most part), and I ingested in moderation -- infrequently and always in a safe and comforting setting.

I suspect that moderation is key, as is the case with any mind-altering substance (alcohol, caffeine, pain relievers). It is likely that someone who drops acid frequently would fry their brain, just as surely as someone who drinks alcohol frequently pickles their liver and brain. Just as a glass of red wine is good for your heart, apparently a hit of acid can actually be good for your brain. However, I no longer trust the quality of hallucinogens -- too many sellers lace their product with strychnine, baby powder or other contaminants. Probably the safest alternative is medical marijuana, which is bred and grown under controlled conditions by knowledgable horticulturalists.

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