Monday, July 28, 2014

PwKHAL Part 3: Mescaline. Part I

Psychedelics we Have Known And Loved
Reflections on Shulgins Death Part IV

The Basic Structure of the Magic Half Dozen: The Phenethylamine. 
“Use them with care, and use them with respect as to the transformations they can achieve, and you have an extraordinary research tool. Go banging about with a psychedelic drug for a Saturday night turn-on, and you can get into a really bad place, psychologically. Know what you're using, decide just why you're using it, and you can have a rich experience. They're not addictive, and they're certainly not escapist, either, but they're exceptionally valuable tools for understanding the human mind, and how it works.” S. Shulgin

Shulgin's "Magical Half Dozen" were created - literally invented - by Sasha in his backyard laboratory in California. All 6, except the molecule mescaline, which occurs naturally in several species of Cacti, were hand crafted by the Einstein or Armstrong of Psychonautics. This chapter will cover the basic structuce behind all of these psychedelic molecule's. All of Shulgin's Magic 6 are molecules called phenethylamines. I will explain what a phenethylamnie is and provide some basic facts which in later chapters will be useful for understanding why phenethylamines are psychoactive and psychedelic.This reflection will begin to cover the fascinating compound that is Mescaline, but there will be follow up chapters that go deeper into the subjective effects of mescaline and Shulgin's deep facination with this powerful molecule.

To begin, here is the 6 phenethylamines that Shugin found were the most important or noteworthy for our species. These are the 6 he chose from the 150+ he created and the 200+ he examined experientially. These 6 are the compounds we will examine in detail in this series. By doing so, we will learn what these molecules are, how they work their "magic" in the brain, and why they are important at all. The Magic 6 psychedelics all acheive psychoactivity because they exploit the brains naturally occuring neuro-synaptic receptors. The Magic 6 virtually all work by targeting specific serotonin sites. Serotonin is one of the most interesting and one of the most indispensible neurotransmitter's in our brains - it is here that these molecules do their mysterious work, an enigmatic lock we are slowly building the keys to unlock. 

1. Mescaline         (3,4,5 - trimethoxyphenethylamine)
2. DOM               (2,5-dimethoxy-4-methlyamphetamine)
3. 2C-B               (2,5-dimethoxy-4-bromophenethylamine)
4. 2C-E               (2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylphenethylamine)
5. 2C-T-2           (2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylthiophenethylamine)
6. 2C-T-7           (2,5-dimethoxy-4-propylthiophenethylamine)


Peyote Mescaline Cacti. 
Lophophora williamsii
To understand what Mescaline is, on a molecular and structural level, you need to know a few basic things. Compreheding the structure of a compound is important as one can then compare it to the serotonin molecule, which is where most psychedelic activity takes place - serotonin 2a to be exact. Furthermore, it is then easier to deal with the harder problem of why, or rather how, mescaline targets certain serotonin receptor sites and not others.


Mescaline (3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine) is a Phenethylamine, as the end-half of the chemical name suggests. The 2D molecule to the right, is the basic construction that all phenethylamines share. The hexagon to the left of this molecule is called a Benzene Ring. A benzene ring is 6 Carbon atoms double bonded to one another and each bonded to 2 Hydrogen atoms. The lines inside the hexagon represent carbon atoms. double bonded to other carbon atoms. Carbon has four electrons in it's outer shell and thus wants four chemical bonds to complete this outer shell, this makes the molecule stable and happy. Carbon is the base atom for all organic chemistry and for all of organic life - including your brain's neurotransmitters.

The up-down-up line attached to the benzene ring, in the middle of the molecule to the right, represents a 2 Carbon chain. This is called an ethyl molecule and it represents the ethyl in phen'ethyl'amine. Each is bonded to Hydrogen and each is bonded to one-another. Except the last atom which is bonded to Nitrogen as the picture to the right illistrates. 4 bonds completes the outer electron shell for each carbon atom and thereby making it 'happy'. Hydrogen is not usually named or labelled on 2D molecule diagrams, such as in the one on the right. If it's blank or unlabelled it's a hydrogen atom. Carbon is often represented with just a join or bond on the diagram, rather than the letter C - unless there is another letter saying otherwise such as N or O, then it's carbon bonded to hydrogen. This simplifies the pictures as labelling all the carbon and hydrogen atoms quickly makes the diagram's tedious to draw or read. Also it makes it messy, especially with large molecules with dozens of hydrogen atoms. The simplified version represents exactly the same molecule, only in a neat and conscise fashion.


 (not including the amine, which can also be altered)
This leaves 5 'free' carbon positions on the benzene ring (the carbon attached to the up-down-up line or ethyl group is used), and 2 carbon atoms on the up-down-up line where atoms or molecules can be added are also free giving 7 total. As it turns out this is exactly what Shulgin did with these 7 'free' carbon positions. Some positions are better than others to attach new molecules or atoms to, something Shulgin learned from trial and error. Knowing where to put what atom(s) means you have a greater chance at making a novel drug which you can then evaluate for any psychoactivity - the hope or aim is to create a profoundly new psychedelic, such as Mescaline or 2C-B.

Basically Shulgin would remove the hydrogen atom stuck to the carbon atoms and replace it with another atom, or a group of atoms; a molecule. By doing this one can add atoms or molecules which are of more intrigue, such as Bromine, Ethyl, Carbon or Oxygen etc. Shulgin was so proficient at this process, after decades of doing the laborious but rewarding procedure, that he developed a methodology of 'knowing' where to put what atom to acheive a more promising end compound. Sasha more or less "knew" where to add what atom(s), to get plausibly psychoactive molecules. Furthermore he could make good predictions about what the approximate psychactive effectes of the new creation may be. Most combinations are not active, or are not very interesting to the Psychonaut, but practice as Shulgin demonstrated more than anyone else, makes one significantly more proficient if not quite perfect.

Finally the N, to the far left of the molecule (on the right of the page), is a Nitrogen atom bonded to hydrogen atoms and one carbon atom. This part is called the amine and represents the amine in phenethyl'amine'. The amine is connected to the benzene ring via the ethyl or 2 carbon chain. The 2 carbon chain incidentally is why Shulgin named 2C-B with a 2 at the front - the 2 represented the 2 carbon atoms.

This is the simplified, but accurate for our purposes, molecular structure of all the magic 6 phenethylamines. Shulgin created over 150 novel psychedleic molecules by following this process of attaching interesting atoms or combinations of atoms to the 'free' carbon atoms on the phenethylamine. This is all we need to know about the basic strucutre of the organic molecule called the phenethylamine.

San Pedro (Echinopsis Panachoi)
This molecule is the building block of many of the brains neurotransmitters, notably Dopamine and Adrenaline, called the Catecholamines. It also bears a striking resemblance to the neurotransmitter Serotonin. Serotonin is where Mescaline produces it's unique and often profound effects. The phenethylamine is also the base molecule of many illegal drugs, not just psychedelics but central nervous system stimulants, such as Methamphetamine and empathic/entactogens drugs, such as MDMA. Just because these drugs are phenethylamines does not mean they are psychedlic, a psychedelic has special charateristics that must be met to be called a psychedleic.

 All of Shulgins magic half dozen psychedelics are phenethylamines and are true psychedlics - meaning they activate specific serotonin receptors in the human brain. Below is a diagramatic comparison of mescaline, phenethylamine and the neurotransmitter serotonin. Notice the basic structure of all is largely the same. Mescaline has three identical molecule's attached to the right hand side (benzene ring positions 3,4,5) in the diagram below, this is the only difference between it and a basic phenethylamine. We will discuss the structure of Mescaline further, but in the next chapter on Mescaline we will examine it's qualitative, experiential side - what happens when you take the drug and is it really better than over 150 other psychedelic phenethylamines? We will also examine why Sasha Shulgin was so fascinated and captivated by this molecule. His first dose of Mescaline began his career in psychopharmacology after all.

In the following chapters we will discuss my experiences with Mescaline. I will try and contrast these with Shulgin's reports. I agree with Shulgin regarding the addition of Mecaline to the Magic 6 list. There are literally thousands of psychedelic drugs, deciding which one's are the most important for humanity is difficult - and thats putting it mildly. It is subjective by it's very nature, but there must be a reason why the Godfather of jourying into the mind AKA Psychonautics, found mescaline more than compelling.


Notice the similarities in the molecules. For example mescaline and serotonin share similiarities and this is a reasonable indication of what kind of psychaoctive effects mescaline might produce. So if it is similiar to serotonin it is plausibly a psychedelic, but not always. Mescaline is a phenethylamine with three methoxy molecules bonded to 3 carbon positions on the left of the phenethylamine. These positions are called 3,4 and 5. Think of the benzene ring (the hexagon) as a clock. The positions where the carbon atoms are located are called 1,2,3,4,5 and 6. Position 1 is carbon attached to the up-down-up line (the ethyl molecule), and working anti-clockwise you count through positions 2,3,4,5 and 6, which is below the up-down line. Dont worry I will walk us all through the basic chemcial structure of Mescaline and Serotonin in coming chapters for anyone who is confused. Just observe their similarities and differences. ;) This is one key to PwKHAL.



Thanks Brady.

PwKHAL. Reflections on Shulgins Death. Part 1

PwKHAL. Reflections on Shulgins Death. Part 2

Thursday, July 24, 2014

PwHKAL- Reflections on Shulgin's Death. Part 2.

The Magical Half Dozen: My Review. Introduction. 

“How long will this last, this delicious feeling of being alive, of having penetrated the veil which hides beauty and the wonders of celestial vistas? It doesn't matter, as there can be nothing but gratitude for even a glimpse of what exists for those who can become open to it.” -A. Shulgin

Shulgins Magic Half Dozen:

Mescaline - (3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine)
DOM - (2,5-dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine,)
2C-B - (2,5-dimethoxy-4-bromophenethylamine)
2C-E - (2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylphenethylamine)
2C-T-2 - (2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylthiophenethylamine)
2C-T-7 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-propylthiophenethylamine)

My Magic Six: (Inventor/Isolated from nature). 

Mescaline   - (Natural/Hefter)
2C-B         - (Shulgin)
2C-T-7      - (Shulgin)
Psilocin      -  (Natural/Hoffman)
25I-NBOMe - (Heim)
LSD         -  (Hoffman)

                                             The Keys to The Doors of Perception

There are two great puzzles that are inherently illusive and tower above all others in my view. The first is the Universe itself, which is inherently mysterious. The second is Consciousness - matter becoming aware of itself. When Carl Sagan was writing the novel Cosmos, he penned some words that are often quoted. The quote is profound as it ties the two puzzles I mentioned above together - and resonates deeply with me, and I suspect with all sentient creatures: "We are a way for the Cosmos to know Itself". It is true after all - we are atoms configured in such a remarkable way, that a collection of atoms are aware of "their" own existence and aware of the wider cosmos. Truly an astonishing observation, a revelation for all humanity.

Additionally to this we have finally learned how to manufacture, even hand craft - as an artist sculpts a great work of art - the chemical keys to unlock the chemical synaptic locks of the mind itself. There are even names for people who explore the cosmos and names for people who explore human consciousness. They are the Astronaut and the Psychonaut.

What is a Psychonaut? Well, the answer is in the word, but I will elucidate the concept and etymology for us anyhow. Psyche is Greek for Mind and Nautes is Greek for Sailor. Just as Astronauts sail the celestial cosmic ocean. The Psychonauts voyage is into the human mind. This journey is into that other great mystery, the enigma of human consciousness. Perhaps no single man has journeyed further or unraveled more about the mind than Sasha Shulgin, he is the Neil Armstrong of Psychonautics.

Sasha Shulgin's passing has not made me as melancholic as I had predicted it would. In fact, it has motivated me to celebrate his life, rather than mourn the sadness associated with losing psychoactive chemistry's greatest mind. A mind so great that in my view he was deserving of a Nobel prize, but due to the legality of his work, this was made impossible - and is now just another pathetic side-note to the tragedy that is the War on Drugs.

I will do a six part series where I examine Sasha's "Magical Half Dozen" each and in detail. Having personally tried four of the six compounds on the list I want to see why he chose these, out of over 150 he created (all except DOB and 2C-T-2 I have experience with, analogous of DOB and 2C-T-2 I have tried). Furthermore I want to shed light on why none of the six were chosen from the large inventory of natural and other man-made psychedelics available to him, he tried most of these but did not invent them or include them in his list? (excluding Mescaline which nature beat Sasha to, by inventing first :). What was it that Sasha found so intriguing about these six molecules, this is what I will attempt to explain, why did he find them so special and worthy of special notation.

More than this I will try to learn and teach what psychedelics are and why many users report them to have profound effects. Myself being no exception to this rule, psychedelics have forever changed my life - this essentially means that Sasha, and his creations, have forever influenced my destiny. Almost unanimously for the better.

My personal "half dozen" contrasted with Sasha's has some overlap but is different, this is not surprising as everybody is unique. I am trying to piece together the puzzle of why he, the greatest psychoanaut of all time, added the compounds he did to this list. I want to know the story behind why Sasha spent his entire adult life pursuing the Psychedelic equivalent of the Apollo Moon Mission. He did it virtually all by himself and achieved what most chemists can only dream of accomplishing. He wrote the books (literally: PiKHAL/TiKHL) on how to be a psychonaut and how to be a responsible one. The doors of perception were opened more by no other person in history, and I intend to share my understanding with you about what lies beyond the doors of perception and inside the realm of consciousness.

Thanks Brady,
Part 3:1 - Mescaline (coming next).

Saturday, July 19, 2014

PwKHAL - Reflections On Shulgin's Death. Part 1.

PwKHAL - Psychedelics We Have Known And Loved.

In Memory of Alexander (Sasha) Shulgin - June 17, 1925 – June 2, 2014
“The most compelling insight of that day was that this awesome recall had been brought about by a fraction of a gram of a white solid, but that in no way whatsoever could it be argued that these memories had been contained within the white solid. Everything I had recognized came from the depths of my memory and my psyche. I understood that our entire universe is contained in the mind and the spirit. We may choose not to find access to it, we may even deny its existence, but it is indeed there inside us, and there are chemicals that can catalyze its availability.” Shulgin. 
The Worlds Greatest Psycho-Pharmacologist and Organic Chemist Passed Away on June 2, 2014, aged 88 years, or 2000 Psycho-Nautical Years.

For those of you who are unaware, or unenlightened about Sasha Shulgin, you are almost certainly familiar with his substantial societal impact. Sasha Shulgin single-handedly invented well over 200 unique psychedelic and empathogenic/entactogenic psychoactive molecules. Virtually all of these new compounds do not exist in nature. His resume of inventions and accreditation's is lengthy, and includes, but is not limited to; 2C-B, 2C-E, 2C-I, 2C-T-7 and the 2C-x family in general. He also is credited with the creation of the DOx family of psychedelics, which includes novel compounds such as DOI, DOB and DOC. His most well known contribution to the field of psycho-pharmacology - and the contribution everyone should have heard of - is the re-discovery and recommendation of the use of MDMA as a psychiatric medicine in the 1970's.

Sasha in his Laboratory
Sasha began his epic journey, which ended with him being awarded the justified label of "the godfather of psychedelics", as a talented organic chemist, studying at Harvard on a scholarship at age 16. When WWII began his study was put on hold while he joined the navy, serving in the Pacific theater of war. After the conclusion of WWII he received his doctorate in Biochemistry from the University of Berkeley, California in 1954.

In 1954 psychedelic drugs were largely unknown and the general population was not familiar with their existence, let alone their profound effects on the mind. It was around this time that Shulgin first took a psychedelic drug: Mescaline. This experience was so profound that it would not only shape his own destiny but change the future of psychedelic's forever.
Peyote (Lophophora Williamsii)

Mescaline was the very first psychedelic to be chemically isolated from it's natural biological source, by the German chemist Arthur Heffter in 1897. Mescaline is found in several species of Cacti, including the Peyote and San Pedro. Between 1897 and 1950 only a few other psychedelics had been invented or isolated from their organic origins. The next psychedelic to be chemically synthesized was DMT, which was isolated in the 1930's, making it the second psychedelic compound to be separated from it's original biological source. DMT is ubiquitous in nature, being found in several plant species such as the Acacia and Psychotria Viridis species. DMT also has the unique characteristic of being the only known psychedelic to naturally occur in the brains of animals as a neurotransmitter. DMT is a schedule 1 drug and is manufactured in the brains of humans. So technically anyone charged with synthesizing DMT is arguably just as guilty as the court judge and court jury are. This in just another irony in the War on Drugs, a war with no short supply of the tragically ironic.

Most famous, or most notorious, of all, was the discovery of LSD, or Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, in 1943 by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann. LSD was a noteworthy and incredible breakthrough as it was the first psychedelic molecule to be created synthetically. LSD does not occur in nature, it is entirely man-made. LSD is manufactured using the ergot fungus as a precursor. Hofmann tested LSD on himself, later calling it his problem child in his book of the same name.
LSD (with Hoffman's Famous 'Bike Ride' printed on it)

Hofmann did not rest on the laurel of making the most prolific, synthetic psychedelic in modern history. He did more research into psychedelia by investigating the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms, of the Psilocybe species. Isolating Psilocybin, a pro-drug, for the active molecule Psilocin, which he also separated from the psychedelic mushroom. He then went on to create a new, synthetic and novel compound unknown in nature, 4-AcO-DET. 4-AcO-DET is an analogue of psilocin which has similar effects but subtle experiential differences in it's qualitative effect. Hofmann is rightly regarded as the grandfather of modern psychedelics - arguably only matched, or surpassed by Alexander Shulgin in societal impact and fame.
Psilocin Mushrooms

After Shulgin's late 1950's mescaline experience directed his career path into a lifelong pursuit of studying and synthesizing psychedelics. The stage was set for his legendary next several decades of research. In Part 2 Shulgin will reach his full potential and as Aldous Huxley puts it, he will open the "doors of perception" more than any one else in history.

Shulgin tested all his compounds on himself and found 6 that he called the "magical half dozen", they are; DOB, 2C-B, 2C-E, 2C-T-2, 2C-T-7 and Mescaline. He created the first five compounds himself (mescaline is naturally occurring). 2C-B and Mescaline surely belong on this list :D


Thanks, Brady.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fusion or Confusion! Nuclear War: Part III

"Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” ― "J.R Oppenheimer

"The Earth is a lovely place and more or less a placid place. Things change but slowly. We can lead a full life and personally never encounter a natural disaster more violent than a storm. And so we become complacent, relaxed, unconcerned. But in the history of nature the record is clear...even we humans have the dubious technical distinction of being able to make our own disasters, both intentional and inadvertent." - C. Sagan. 

The Cold War Starts With A Blast! Nuclear War. Part III

Fusion nuclear weapons, which have proliferated to several countries after their invention in the early 1950's are a serious danger to life on Earth. To ignore the obvious is to deny reality. One of the many sobering facts about nuclear weapons is that they not only do fall into the possession of despotic, unstable, unpredictable regimes - but even nukes under the authority of more stable nations, are arguably, still an accident in the making. The clown must only slip on the banana peel once to bring about unprecedented horror and annihilation - annihilation precisely translated means: "literally to make it nothing".



A psychotic, eschatological or nihilistic regime is one possibility. Another is a country loosing a war and seeing no option but to launch the nukes in a final act of narcissistic defiance. Third is an unbalanced nuclear equipped nation, overthrown in a coup that ends in nuclear holocaust, or in a preemptive counter strike from the neighbouring country, fearing a nuclear attack - The fact is that there are a myriad of potential and real scenarios that need only occur once to bring about the end of times on Earth. One needs not list all the possible dangers, as it would fill many volumes and I intend to be somewhat brief and to the point. A few examples hopefully will shine sufficient light on the threat to show that nuclear weapons are like hydrogen zeppelins, they suffer from the "Hydenberg" problem. Reason and evidence should prevent such disasters, but they all too frequently do not, and instead result in catastrophes.

When World War II came to its grisly nuclear conclusion in August 1945. Europe was immediately being carved up by the victors - a common and almost banal tradition in military history. Western Europe installed democratic systems, such as in France, Italy, Scandinavia, Austria, Hungary and West Germany and West Berlin. Japan was also forced to adopt a less militaristic society, ending their pugnacious and belligerent Empire of the Sun. Under the deal struck between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin in the final years of the war, Eastern Europe was to be split into the "Eastern Block" or what Churchill later christened the Iron Curtain.

Dictatorial, semi, to near-actual communist regimes were instated in the areas the USSR had annexed from the retreating German Wehrmacht in 1944-45, such as Belarus, Czechoslovakia, the Baltic and the Balkans to name a few regions. Poland, in another tragically ironic turn of history, was not only left in the lurch by the Allies, but was also further abused by Stalin. Both Stalin and Hitler, after signing the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, agreed to invade and occupy, then split between them all of Poland. The cynical irony is further compounded when one notes that Britain declared war on Germany because Poland was invaded, Stalin avoided war with Britain despite having fingerprints and troops all over the crime scene. The paradox of the Soviet/Nazi Polish invasion of 1939, which triggered the war, ended up with Poland being ruled by the autocratic Stalin just as was the case in 1939. As if this was not enough, the eastern half of Poland that Stalin annexed in the initial dual Nazi/Soviet invasion, became a permanent part of the USSR - until the Soviet implosion in 1991. Churchill clearly should feel some shame for this overt betrayal of Polish sovereignty.

After World War II finished and had earned the warranted and contemptible trait of having the most human extirpations in history, only one country had access to fission uranium and plutonium weapons - the USA. Two things are worthy of notation in the history of weaponry, which also apply to nuclear weapons in my view. Weapons proliferate and do so almost as a rule, and if they are effective they get increasingly more sophisticated in their destructive capacity.

 The first cannons of China and the Middle-East did not stay in these few locales for long, by the 14th century they were improved and customary in most arsenals in Europe. The musket became the rifle and replaced the arrow or crossbow bolt, the rifle then became bored (to increase accuracy), the rifle then was breach loaded, then it acquired bolt action potential and multi-shot capacity, then magazine fed ammunition, culminating in fully automatic assault rifles - which are now the main infantry weapons on the battlefields. The assault rifle originated as the SturmGewehr (Storm/Assault Rifle) and is another invention of war time Nazi Germany.

It is an unsettling fact, but nonetheless true, that war often drives invention and innovation; jet aeroplanes that now fly us faster across continents and ballistic V2 rockets which led to the Moon landings are two great examples of war technology being converted into actual useful inventions. A third example, especially relevant here, is nuclear fission. The atomic bomb, also led to the nuclear reactor and breakthroughs in physics. Optimism aside, the same progression of increased lethality is observable in most weapons from grenades, land mines, bombs, ships, tanks and planes. They all get better at killing and they all get more ubiquitous in number or destructive capacity. Why would one think nuclear weapons will be an exception to these unambiguous and prophetic rules in the history of war?

It turns out that nuclear weapons are no exception, in actuality they only prove the rule: weapons proliferate and get more deadly. By 1949 the growing superpower of Stalin's dictatorship had produced their own Atomic bomb, despite the fact that the USA would not assist the despotic regime in acquiring the awesome new power of nuclear fission. Four years after the world war had reached it's bloody conclusion and the dead had just been counted - reaching a gruesome figure of some fifty million casualties or more. The USA and now the nuclear equipped USSR both were capable of repeating the atrocities of Nagasaki or Hiroshima.

It could, and has, been argued that nuclear weapons are so dangerous that owning them avoids another major World War. Now that the USSR and the USA both have nukes. A war between the two irreconcilable political systems would appear to have only one actual conclusion, a dualistic and reciprocal murder/suicide - or Mutually Assured Destruction as it is commonly referred to - or it's comically apt and allusive acronymic form: M.A.D.

The idea that nukes can avoid large scale wars is supported by the fact that the half century long Cold War between the USSR and the USA did not result in any direct conflicts and there were no Russians or Americans killing each other en masse. Mutual Assured Destruction did avoid the only two super powers engaging in a direct conflict, nukes did avoid another "Axis vs the Allies" disaster.

 Due to the two competing ideologies of capitalism and communism though, there were a great many proxy wars, where the USSR backed a semi to near-communist regime and the USA backed a more democratic one.

The spread of Russia's communist ideology to Kim Ill Sung's North Korea ignited the pointless and still unresolved war over the Korean peninsula, again leaving millions of bodies to rot and leading directly to the ongoing and unspeakably evil situation. Korea has fission nukes, therefore the population are essentially trapped, as invasion would conceivably end in another August 6th or August 9th, 1945. The world has to watch in guilt and shame as the cultish-Deified, inherited dictators of the DPRK starve, enslave, brainwash and
torture; both literally and in the sense that "survival" is actually a slow torture from the cradle to the expected early grave ("survival" is more appropriate than "living" when describing 'life' north of the 38th parallel).

 This is a strong argument against nuclear proliferation that should be proof of itself. N. Korea is a lesson and an example of what can happen when nukes are added to a totalitarian regime. There are other nations that are similar to the DPRK, in their limitless depravity, total authority and in the extent of their tyranny - but thankfully most do not have a centrifuge to enrich radioactive elements - yet. North Korea was tenderly gifted a centrifuge by the USSR. The only silver lining here is that they have not yet built a fusion bomb. For now they are still stuck with the equivalent of US or USSR 1940's fission technology. The DPRK is a lesson in what to avoid in the future - and prevent at perhaps any cost, with the exception of the nuclear price tag.

The USSR spread communism with success into China, North Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and exported it to Cuba all of which resulted in wars. The USA had a policy of stopping the apparent "domino" effect of communism. With each mighty superpower arming, training, assisting and funding opposite sides in battle, but never directly engaging one-another in the wars, meant the net effect of these so-called proxy wars was not too surprising - but a tragedy all the same. The human cost in terms of brutality, mayhem, murder, destruction and countless other atrocities, caused by these superpower sponsored proxy wars is terrible to contemplate, even worse to calculate. These proxy wars were driven by the incompatible nature of the USSR and the US and went on for decades. Culminating in the predictable and unsurprising murder of millions of people and the usual mass destruction, genocides, and other abominations of war too numerous or too despicable to describe. War is hell after all, at least these were not nuclear M.A.D worked but at what price? The fact remains that nukes did avoid World War III, but one must account for the proxy wars that were fought as a result of MAD and a difference in ideology.

The Cold War has much to teach us still though. By the 1950's the fantastical monster, the mother of all nuclear reactions was discovered or unleashed on us forever, into our fragile human hands and superstitious, naive minds: Nuclear Fusion was here! As with the invention of any new weapon it is a truism that it, like any new toy in an arsenal, it will be used. This follows axiomatically, to not use it would be the exception to the rule; all of the weapons in history follow this rule. This rule is now much more risky to obey though, as a stone spearpoint or a rifle, is not the same as a fusion bomb. The rule of using a newly made weapon becomes abusing it at a certain point. I think that point has now been breached, the observation that a single bomb can make all the other weapons on Earth combined seem not only primitive or near redundant, but in contrasting the two one may conclude that one bomb beats all the navies, armies and aircraft on Earth.

The reason this is true is due to what a fusion bomb does. Unlike nuclear fission, powerful as it is, it pales in comparison to this new fusion device. Clever people made it, but perhaps they were not so wise when they decided to improve on nuclear weaponry, this is casuistry defined. Nuclear fission releases energy by the splitting of one unstable atom into two, fusion bombs work using two lighter atoms, and after a fission reaction to kick the fusion process off, fuse the two lighter atoms into one atom with more mass, releasing enormously more energy.

Fusion is the same process that powers the Sun and other Stars. Now we are literally playing with fire, but of unimaginable heat. If we do not act like adults and harness this potential limitless source of energy, we lose this gift. By behaving like children we become evidence in support of the proverb: children playing with fire will get their hands burnt - playing with fire is not for a species whom virtually all agree that the supernatural is a real thing. This is a genuinely frightening twist in the history of humans and nuclear weapons. Are we mature enough, as a whole, to overcome our primitive innate urges toward barbarism and willful ignorance, if this is not true then why are there still nukes?


Nuclear technology and the observable, demonstrable, repeatable human tendencies of barbaric and violent behaviour our species is prone to cannot be stressed enough. This combination is to be avoided at all costs, apes with the power of the sun is not a cocktail one should ever mix, the drink is poison unless we show that Einstein was not right when he noted "The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe". Our thinking must change if we are to co-exist with nuclear weapons, a saner or wiser species would avoid making them - yet we have thousands. If some healthy modifications are not made toward the way we collectively think, then we invented a weapon that eventually will play out the ending to Dr. Strangelove, only without the cameras rolling and I suspect nobody will be entertained.

Thanks - Part Four coming soon.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Having a Blast! Nuclear War Part II.

Having a Blast! Ignorance Unleashed. Nuclear War Part II. 

“The best way to solve any problem is to remove its cause.” -Martin Luther King

“There is, in fact, an axiom of proliferation. It states that as long as any state holds nuclear weapons, others will seek to acquire them.” -
Richard Butler

Fusion weaponry is here to stay. It is analogous to trying to put tooth paste back in the tube, the proverbial genie is out of the bottle for good. The question now is what the hell do we do with this new nuclear genie of immense destructive power. First we should learn from history, we are an old species with a new weapon, the first place to visit is where it began and discover how quickly, how naively, even how exigently we build and then detonated two nuclear bombs within a half a decade. It seems insane in retrospect, from building the first atomic bomb to dropping it on a civilian city within 5 years, a record for human stupidity perhaps.

 The second world war was raging and the casuistry that still haunts the decision to use the new atomic weapon must be studied. After this we should more lucidly see which road is safer to traverse. Do we start down the road that could lead to the desensitized, almost banal use of nuclear bombs? It happened before. A cliche of history, but true nonetheless, is that history is said to often be repeating itself. Shall we tread the road of restriction and never use a power as awesome as this again? The weapons of 1945 are mere playthings compared to todays refined and obscenely catastrophic thermal nukes, but the lesson is similiar: learn from history or ignore it at your peril.

A quick revision of nuclear weapons and their history may lead one into a false sense of security, or into a justifiable panic. On the one hand there has only been one nuclear war since the very first atomic fission bombs were developed. In 1939 Einstein, fully aware of the physics behind the potential of Uranium 235 to be used in a weaponized form, wrote a letter to Roosevelt. The letter warned the US president of the possibility that Hitlers Third Reich could be working on fission based weapons. Roosevelt took this warning seriously and changed military history by gathering physicists in Los Alamos to begin work on the Manhattan Project - or the first Atomic bomb.

The ethical implications became murkier as the rationale the US government gave for building an atomic bomb was based on a fear that the Nazi's would build one first, and it is true that this was a possible and unacceptable threat in 1939. And it was even a potential threat through to late 1944. However by 1944 it was clear that the war was over, not literally but pragmatically. In the US during mid 1945, around the time when Hitler was in the Fuhrer bunker, surrounded by Soviets, with his Walther PPK in his mouth and his finger on the trigger, an event that would end the war in Europe, the US were only a few months away from completing a fully functional uranium bomb and another plutonium based fission bomb. Although Europe was still a bloodbath of unspeakable horror, the war was won in the sense that the Nazis were no longer able to compete with the combined might of the Allies pushing rapidly into West Germany and the Soviets were closing in on Berlin from the East. The justification for building the bomb, which used some of the greatest minds in physics such as Richard Feynman and Enrico Fermi, was no longer valid. Both Einstein and Feynman would later be deeply troubled by their own participation in their creation.

After Germany's surrender in May 1945, the target to drop the bomb on Berlin was now null and void, except that the Allies were also at war with Japan. The December 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbour was the first attack on US soil since the British burned the White House down in 1812. Beginning in 1942 the Allies planned to "island hop", reclaiming one island after another, until the eventual and dreaded invasion of mainland Japan. There were dozens of islands to liberate in the Pacific after the rapid expansion and successful conquest of most of south east asia by the Japanese. The Japanese were notably brutal to the conquered peoples, seeing them as inferior. Unlike the Allied soldiers, the Japanese soldiers fought (with negligible exceptions) not only to the death but were often eager to die for their cause. This fanaticism was enabled by a mix of traditional samurai culture, bushido code, honour in death, shame in surrender, extreme nationalism, and a belief that their Emperor, HiroHito, was an actual living Deity. All these factors combined meant that death was more honourable than surrender. The Allies would eventually win but the cost would be tremendous for both sides, especially for Japan and for Japans subjugated civilian populations. China losing some 15+ million.

Every island engagement from Guadalcanal, to Peleleu, to Saipan, to Iwo Jima ended in a similar slaughterhouse pattern, virtually no Japanese soldiers were left alive after each island or atoll was taken, stained red after an assault and the US flag was planted amongst the fly infested corpses. Yet each island hop brought the Allies closer to the final goal, the military invasion of Japan, something that appeared as the only way to win. Similar to Germany it would come down to troops on the ground, but due to the unbelievable suicidal defiance of the Empire of the Sun it would be paid in obscene numbers of human lives. The Manhattan Project could avoid US soldiers from dying on Japanese soil.

After the bloodiest battle yet, Iwo Jima, the Allies were ready to invade Japan. The plan was to head for Okinawa an island chain south of Japan's four main islands which could then be used as a launch platform or as the final preamble to the invasion. The Okinawa campaign began in April 1945. Three important factors in the the soon to be, one and only, nuclear war occurred in April. Firstly Eisenhower died, Hitler shot himself the same month, and President Truman now had to decide on the final strategy to end the second world war. Okinawa's body count was adding up, with about 400 000 deaths. This meant an invasion of Japan, assuming they will fight to the death, would reach a death toll in the many millions, for both sides.

Suicide Kamikaze pilots flew into Allied navy ships with reckless abandon, the remnants of Japanese regiments proudly banzai charged into the US machine guns, or committed mass suicide, all were preferable to surrender. Tragically surrender is what the Allies wanted, they wanted an unconditional surrender like they forced out of Germany after the leaders or Golden Pheasants all committed suicide. There was to be no unconditional surrender though, the Japanese mindset made surrender less plausible than Waffen SS troops surrendering pre-1943, unlikely to say the least. After Okinawa was finally subdued and the Japanese Commanding General committed the traditional samurai seppuku with his Katana sword, slicing his stomach open. The remaining officers were ordered to hold grenades to their chest and pull the pin.Truman assessed the gruesome situation unfolding and evaluated his options. Use traditional warfare or fast track the A-bomb?

Japan was in ruins, fire bombing had killed 100 000 people in Tokyo and burned their paper homes to ashes. The same was desolation occurred in most major cities as the US flew continuous bombing runs indiscriminately levelling civilian, industrial and military targets alike. The Soviet Union had entered the war and was pushing Japan back out of China, Japan was surrounded and like Germany seemed to be hell-bent on a fight to the death, only with an even greater, unrelenting resistant fanaticism.

By July the first atomic bomb in all history was tested in New Mexico, code named Trinity it was a plutonium fission reaction and was equivalent to 20 odd tons of TNT. Feynman recalls watching the mushroom cloud and later being ashamed for participating in what Trinity's siblings were later used for. Japan was still being bombed round the clock but they would not accept unconditional surrender. Japan had been isolationist for some decades and like Nazi Germany saw itself as superior or somehow above defeat. In July the Japanese were offered an ultimatum at the Potsdam conference, total surrender or total military defeat through invasion, Japan refused. Interestingly in another tragedy of history the Japanese were not really warned of the impending atomic bomb attacks, the targets of which city to test this awesome new weapon on were already being decided though. Leaflets were not dropped warning the Hiroshima or Nagasaki inhabitants. These unsuspecting people would be the first, and hopefully the last, to know the true horror of nuclear war. Would Japan have surrendered in another few months of traditional bombing? Perhaps, but the Allies were set to invade. Would they give up if they knew the atomic explosions were about to happen? Maybe. These are rhetorical questions as history only had one path and one true answer. For better or worse, the bombs would be used.

 When August arrived, two atomic bombs authorized by Truman, had been loaded onto planes and were sitting on Tinian island, 6 hours flight from Japan. One nuke was a Uranium bomb called "Little Boy' the other a Plutonium based weapon called "Fat Man". The first was flown over the city of Hiroshima on August 6th 1945, it exploded above the city and that was the day humanity set a dangerous precedent - only to repeat the procedure again... Nuclear bombs had been used, and on civilians too - and possibly even in surplus to the actual requirements to attain a surrender. Three days later the second bomb was flown and detonated over Nagasaki, Kyoto was the original target but cultural sites changed the fate of the second bombs fallout, the last nuclear weapon to be dropped in a war was to be the city of Nagasaki. 100 000 people died from the explosions, similar to the death toll from the fire bombing of Tokyo, this new weapon was in it's infancy, thousands more died from radiation.

The clever minds who made the bomb must have known, spears get sharper, guns get more accurate, land mines get more refined, bombs deliver ever greater devastation. War and weaponry follows an upward trend toward less intimacy and more extermination. The fact of war repeats itself over time, and the nuclear spear will be no exception to the rule, instead it will get sharper, it will follow the rule of increasing lethality. Indeed it has done just this, now we can destroy not just a city but a whole planet.

On the 15th of August the Japanese Emperor/God signed the surrender, although not unconditionally. He spoke on Japanese radio for the first time to his people telling them the war is over, he announced as part of the surrender terms that he is not a Deity but is still the Emperor of Japan.

The first atomic bombs cost 2 billion dollars to make, and did in fact end the worst war in human history (which was already fizzling out). They also marked the end of the only nuclear war in history - for now. Yet the entire justification for using or even constructing the bomb in the first place did not deter their use, once the original justification ceased to exist, Truman found a reason and set a precedent. Precedents can lead to the same rationalization that led to the original precedent, once it is set it can be used as a case in point. Atomic bombs stopped the war, the cost of their 2 billion dollar construction may be nowhere near the actual price though, the knowledge that we killed 100 000 civilians with a new weapon to win a war that was nearly over is not the full cost. The future improvement of nuclear weapons and their combination with the Nazi V2 ballistic missiles and their subsequent refinements makes a price estimation impossible.

In Part three everyone wants the newest toy in their armory, and the most advanced societies get the toy. Then they make it even more deadly! Is Marx correct "history once a tragedy is now a farce"? The future is mutually assured to be either destroyed or preserved. It all rests on us and how it will be written, assuming someone is there to write it...

Part 3

Going Out With A Bang! Nuclear War Part 1.

"If you think the cost of Education is expensive, you should see the price of Ignorance." Derek Bok

“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” Albert Einstein

The Cost of Ignorance. Nuclear War Part 1. Going Out With A Bang!  

How can we expect to have a scientific, viable, sustainable, just, free and truly global civilization if we, the custodians and inhabitants of Earth, are not equipped to critically evaluate evidence, exploit science to it's full potential and enable basic human freedoms? The answer is: we can't.
If one has an educated, humanistic, secular, and scientifically literate populace then it almost axiomatically follows that we are not destined for a 21st century rife with insignificant, petty, myopic and greedy human squabbles (unlike all the previous centuries, this one could be different - better or worse). The fate of our unique species, and of our rare, life preserving Earth is currently hanging tenuously in the balance, on an ever diminishing foothold. Nothing in the vast indifference of the cosmos is coming to save us from ourselves. If there is to be change, it must be us that make it.

The creation, amelioration, and seemingly inevitable proliferation of fusion nuclear technology cannot be undone, but it can be controlled to a degree, by us, but only if we choose to, and only if we work together. An unlikely ending to a serious situation I grant you. As one looks around at the copious nukes in stockpiles from semi-stable to developing countries such as the USA, Israel (allegedly, as they deny Atomic Energy inspections), Russia, China, UK, France and India, to the countries that could likely or easily make them if they choose, such as Japan, Ukraine, or Western Europe. and to the unstable or despotic nations aspiring or acquiring their own defensive fusion bombs such as Iran, North Korea or Pakistan. (Iran could possibly make them now, if they wanted, but like North Korea they choose to employ nukes as a source of political leverage). An alien or an impartial onlooker observing this curious behaviour might conclude that we are a suicidal species, or very, very naive - or both. The stakes could not be higher, figuratively, metaphorically but more of all literally. Theoretically fusion bombs can in principle have arbitrary high explosive capacities, this is a sobering fact that is worrying in of itself - in a nutshell it means a single nuclear bomb could permanently terminate our nuclear naive, and our potentially great species forever.

I could have expended the use of the words 'terrifying' or 'horrific' etc. in the first paragraphs - and not used them as overstated hyperbole, but as accurate descriptions. I could have used these instead of the more impotent words "worrying" or "sobering" but I did so deliberately. There are critical and very real dangers with nuclear weapons that require the employment of adjectives far more prescient or nightmarish to accurately describe the scenarios nuclear weapons could or might have brought about. In other words I will reserve the use of some adjectives and semantics to give more power to the most serious nuclear scenarios, or to deliberately embellish the terror inherent in the most destructive weapon in mans arsenal.

We are only a few hundred years clear of the million year dark ages that we evolved from, most humans had to endure in this unimaginable ignorance, in stark contrast to our scientifically enabled, relatively enlightened present position. Noting this and adding the fact that fusion bomb explosions are basically apes exploiting the same chemical reaction that makes stars shine - this should make you pause. It should really achieve the desired reaction of fear in you, or rather should be self-evidently petrifying from the start. Nuclear weapons, especially the fusion type are scary, if they do not frighten you yet, a quote from Yoda may be applicable here: "you will be", if you already are concerned get ready for recurring nightmares as I run through some doomsday scenarios. Humanity destroying Humanity, perhaps this is the ultimate in irony, and irony (as this statement alludes to) is in no short supply within our species as a whole, or within our observed self destructive tendency to make weapons that can only be used to extirpate the human experiment. :)...

Part 2 Here:

Thanks, Brady.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Cosmic Perspective

The Cosmic Perspective.

"Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves." C. Sagan.

1969 may go down in the history books as the year humans left the realm of myopia and entered the realm of legend. The Apollo Moon landings are arguably the greatest achievement in terms of adventure, ambition, perspective and discovery, they are in summary greater than all prior human endeavors. Space is waiting for us to explore and un-weave its countless mysteries. With the knowledge that we can travel to the Moon, if we wished, one is left wondering what is the limit on human potential?

There is a profound lesson that was bestowed upon our species from venturing into the uncharted depths of the cosmos. The lesson is simple but perhaps it is the most important lesson of all, if we ignore this gift we all lose. If we take it seriously we not only gain the new perspective, but we no longer are limited by our own provincial myopia. The same narrow mindedness that resulted in the countless human tragedies of history would become redundant with this new mindset.

 The reward from space travel is in the form of vantage, viewpoint or perspective, not financial, or social, or national or political perspective - although these are all effected by this new perspective. The real dividend of space travel is seeing the Earth, our planetary home, from a vantage point that no-one in history has ever had the privilege and honour to see. The cosmic perspective, the fragile Earth contrasted against the backdrop of the cold vacuum of space is the priceless and unexpected reward of space travel.

Now that we have access to the cosmic perspective is space travel no longer needed? Is the money better spent on Earth? After all going to space is expensive and there are countless problems down here that need urgent attention, and they are also expensive. My opinion is that one cannot put a price on knowledge. If one has knowledge one can have wisdom. The cosmic perspective enables us, and urges us, all of us, to build a just and sustainable civilization - something that we do not currently have, but desperately require (you may have noticed).

Simply put, the more people who value and actually grasp the significance of the cosmic perspective, the more we are compelled to help with the prescient issues on our own planet and continue reaching for further cosmic understanding. The two go hand in hand. We live at a time when we could be writing the final chapters of the human experiment, or alternatively as an enlightened species we could author the start of a new world civilization based on reason and evidence, and of-coarse the cosmic perspective.

“Sailors on a becalmed sea, we sense the stirring of a breeze.”

Thanks, Brady.