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The Placebo Effect

The mind-body effect should not be surprising in view of the experience over the years with placebos. The term 'placebo9 is used to describe a 'pill' that contains no medical ingredients but that often produces the same effect as genuine medication. Placebos provide ample proof that expectations can have an effect on body chemistry.

According to

a recent article on placebos in Medical World News, studies conducted over the past 25 years have shown that placebos satisfactorily relieved symptoms in an average of 35 per cent of patients tested. These symptoms include: fever, severe post-operative pain, anginal pain, headache, and anxiety, among other complaints. The explanation for this strange phenomenon is that the human mind can create actual changes in body chemistry

As a result of

what it believes. If,

for example

, a person believes that a certain medication contains a substance that can accomplish a specific need, the body

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tends to move in that direction.

An increasing number of scientists now contend that the body’s healing system and its belief system are closely related. That is why hope, faith, and the will to live can be vital factors in the struggle against disease. The belief system converts positive expectations into plus factors in any contest against illness.


Memory, like sweatshirts, comes in three sizes. There is a sensory storage system which can hold information for only a very brief time period. Next is a short-term storage which can hold a small amount of information. Finally, you have a long-term storage system which holds vast amounts of information.

What psychological processes are involved in remembering a stimulus which is briefly perceived,

such as

the license number of a car? Psychologists have discovered that a stimulus is maintained in a sensory storage system which holds information for less than a second. The sensory storage system is called iconic memory if visual stimuli are involved or echoic memory if the stimulation is auditory.

Your sensory storage system appears to operate in a fairly automatic way. There seems to be no voluntary action you can take to prolong the life of information from sensory storage


using the next stage of memory, called short-term memory (STM), or primary memory. Information can be recycled in short-term memory by a process called rehearsal. When rehearsal is prevented or disrupted, information in short-term memory is lost and so cannot enter long-term memory (LTM).


, once information has entered long-term memory, rehearsal is no longer necessary to guarantee that information is not forgotten. While preventing items from being forgotten is the major difficulty in short-term memory, long-term memory suffers from the opposite problem. There is so much information contained in long-term memory that locating and retrieving this information can be quite difficult. Indeed, psychologists distinguish between information which is


in long-term memory and that which is accessible. All information in long-term memory is considered


; that is, it can be remembered




circumstances. But only that information which


is remembered is accessible.


, accessible information is always


, but


information cannot always be accessible. The process of obtaining memory information from wherever it is stored is called retrieval. In order for information to be accessible, it must first be retrieved. Retrieval of information from long-term memory is a difficult process and is not always successful. Retrieval from short-term memory is considerably easier, and many models of short-term memory assume that if an item is


in short-term memory, it is automatically accessible.

While information in short-term memory is coded primarily by acoustic features (how the words sound when spoken), information in long-term memory is organized primarily

according to

what the words mean. While

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interference in short-term memory is based upon acoustic relationships, interference in long-term memory occurs among Semantically related words.

The most dramatic distinction between short and long-term memory Systems lies in their respective capacities - the number of items each system can store. Short-term memory has a very limited capacity compared to the


unlimited storage capacity of long-term memory.



Education in Britain is primarily the responsibility of local educational authorities


the central government lays down guidelines and provides or withholds money. From the end of the Second World War


the 1960's, education


state control depended on the '11-plus' examination, taken by all pupils between the ages of eleven and twelve. The most successful went to grammar schools or direct-grant schools, while the rest went to secondary modern schools. Since the 1960's,


all local authorities have introduced comprehensive schools, where all pupils attend the same school,

even though

there is


an attempt to separate them

according to

ability once they are there. Local authorities where the Labour Party is


in control tend, by now, to be


completely comprehensive; those where the Conservatives hold power have been more resistant to the change.

Throughout this period, the public schools, which are private in all except name, have continued to exist, independent of the state system. Some became direct-grant schools, accepting students who had passed the 11-plus examination and were paid for by local authorities, but this system came to an end in many cases when a Labour-controlled local authority refused to go on paying the grants because of its commitment to comprehensive education.

The public debate in England and Wales between the supporters of comprehensive schools and those who want to retain or revive grammar schools continues unabated. Every year statistics are produced to demonstrate that comprehensive schools provide better education than grammar schools (and in some cases, better than the prestigious private sector). These statistics are


contradicted by others proving the opposite. The local authorities have, on the whole, been converted to the comprehensive system, in some cases with en


iasm, in others with marked reluctance.


the real complication of the debate stems from the fact that


arguments are


stated in educational terms,


all of them are based on political opinions.

It is clear that those local authorities that have abolished grammar schools completely were determined that their experiment should succeed because of their belief that it is just as wrong to separate children by intelligence as by social class. Such authorities tend to associate grammar schools with the private sector they would also like to abolish if they had the


. In their view, any system that

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differentiates between children strengthens class barriers, and the fact that more upper-class children tend to go to university is not evidence that comprehensive schools are inferior; it is merely further evidence of the discrimination that


exists in society.

The defenders of grammar schools use examination results to show that children reach their maximum potential when placed with others of similar intelligence and point out that even in comprehensive schools they are put in different classes

according to

ability. It is difficult to believe,


, that this defence is inspired purely by a desire for academic excellence.


Organisms exhibit biological rhythms. Some are short and can be measured in minutes or hours. Others last days or months. The idea that our bodies are in


flux is fairly new and goes against traditional medical training. In the past, many doctors were taught to believe the body has a relatively stable, or homeostatic, internal environment. Any fluctuations were considered random and not meaningful enough to be studied.

As early as the 1940's,


, some scientists questioned the homeostatic view of the body. Franz Halberg, a young European scientist working in the United States, conducted a series of experiments on mice and noticed that the number of white blood cells in these animals was dramatically higher and lower at different times of the day. Gradually, such research spread to the study of biological rhythms in human beings, and the findings were sometimes startling.

For example

, the time of day when a person receives X-ray or drug treatment for cancer can affect treatment benefits and ultimately mean the difference between life and death.

This new science, the study of biological rhythms in human beings, is called chronobiology, and the evidence supporting it has become increasingly persuasive. Along the way, the scientific and medical communities are beginning to rethink their ideas about how the human body works, and gradually what had been considered a minor science just a few years ago is being studied in major universities and medical centers


the world.

With their new findings, they are teaching us things that can literally change our lives - by helping us organize


so we can work with our natural rhythms rather than against them. This can enhance our out

look on

life as well as our performance at work.

Because they are easy to detect and measure, more is known of daily -or circadian (Latin for ‘about a day') - rhythms than other types. The most obvious daily rhythm is the sleep / wake cycle. But there are other daily cycles as well: temperature, blood pressure, hormone levels. Amid these and the body's other changing rhythms, you are simply a different person at 9 a.m. than you are at 3 p.m. How you feel, how well you work, your level of alertness, your sensitivity to taste and smell, the degree with which you enjoy food or take pleasure in music - all are changing throughout the day. Most of us seem to reach our peak of alertness


noon. Soon after that, alertness declines, and sleepiness may set in by mid-afternoon.

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Your short-term memory is best during the morning - in fact, about 15 per cent more efficient than at any other time of day. So, students, take heed: when faced with a morning exam, it really does pay to review your notes right before the test is given.

Long-term memory is different. Afternoon is the best time for learning material that you want to recall days, weeks or months later. Politicians, business executives or others who must learn speeches would be smart to do their memorizing during that time of day. If you are a student, it would be better for you to schedule your more difficult classes in the afternoon, rather than in the morning. You should also try to do most of your studying in the afternoon, rather than late at night. Many students believe they memorize better while burning the mid-night oil because their short-term recall is better during the wee hours of the morning than in the afternoon. But short-term memory won't help them much several days later, when they face the exam.



Over the past several years, researchers have dug deep into Atlantic sea-floor sediments and Greenland glaciers to study the chemistry of ancient mud and ice, and they are increasingly convinced that climate change is anything but smooth. "The transition from warm to frigid can come in a decade or two - a geological snap of the fingers", says Gerard Bond, a geophysicist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Observatory: "The data have been coming out of Greenland for maybe two or three decades. But the first results were really so suprising that people weren't ready to believe them."

There is a growing


standing as well that ice ages are not uniformly icy, nor interglacial periods, i.e., periods between ice ages, unchangingly warm. About 40,000 years ago,

for example

, right in the middle of the last ice age, the world warmed briefly, forcing glaciers to retreat. And while the current interglacial period has been stably temperate, the



according to

at least one study, was evidently interrupted by frigid spells lasting hundreds of years. If that period was more typical than the present one, humanity's invention of agriculture, and


civilization, may have been possible only because of a highly unusual period of stable temperature - a fluke.

Just 150 years ago, the notion that much of the Northern Hemisphere had once been covered by thick sheets of ice was both new and highly controversial. Within a few decades, though, most scientists were convinced and began looking for explanations. Several suggested that astronomical cycles were involved, and by the 1930's the Yugoslav astronomer Milutin Milankovitch had constructed a coherent theory. The ice ages, he argued, were triggered by changes in the shape of the earth's slightly oval orbit


the sun and in the planet's axis of rotation. Studies of the chemical composition of ocean-floor sediments, which

depend on

climatic conditions when the material was laid down, more or less supported Milankovitch's glaciation.

predicted schedule of global

According to

Milankovitch's cycles, an ice age could start sometime within the next 1,000 or 2,000 years. But geophysicists have realized for. years that while the cycles are real and influence climate, they alone cannot explain ice ages. For one thing, Milankovitch's timing of glaciation may be broadly correct, but major glacial episodes happen when his cycles call for minor ones, and vice versa4


Just as last week's tremors were destroying highways, buildings and lives in Southern California, an even deadlier natural disaster was advancing slowly but inexorably south from Canada into the U.S. By midweek a huge mass of frigid arctic air had practically paralyzed much of the Midwest and East. Temperatures in dozens of U.S. cities dropped to all-time lows: -300C in Pittsburgh; -320C in Akron, Ohio, and Clarksburg; -330C in Indianapolis. Chicago schools closed because of cold weather for the first time in history, Federal Government offices shut down in Washington, and East Coast cities narrowly escaped widespread power cuts

due to

the overuse of electric utilities to keep homes heated. Hundreds of motorists in New Jersey had to be rescued by snowmobile from an impassably icy highway, and thousands of homeless crammed into New York City's shelters to avoid freezing. By week's end, the unprecedented cold wave had killed

more than

130 people.


happened to global warming? Scientists have issued apocalyptic warnings for years, claiming that gases from cars, power plants and factories are creating a greenhouse effect that will boost the temperature dangerously over the next 75 years or so. But if last week is any indication of winters to come, it might be more to the point to start worrying about the next Ice Age


. After all, human-induced warming is still largely theoretical, while ice ages are an established part of the planet's history. The last one ended about 10,000 years ago; the next one - for there will be a next one - could start tens of thousands of years from now. Or tens of years. Or it may have




Does a drink a day keep heart attacks away? Over the past 20 years, numerous studies have found that moderate alcohol consumption -say, one or two beers, glasses of wine or cocktails daily helps to prevent coronary heart disease. Last week a report in the New England Journal of Medicine added strong new evidence in support of that theory. More importantly, the work provided the first solid indication of how alcohol works to protect the heart.

In the study, researchers from Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospitals and Harvard Medical School compared the drinking habits of 340 men and women who had suffered recent heart attacks with those of healthy people of the same age and sex. The scientists found that people who sip one to three drinks a day are about half as


to suffer heart attacks as nondrinkers are. The apparent source of the protection: those who drank alcohol had higher blood levels of high-density lipoproteins, or HDL's, the so-called good cholesterol, which is known to ward off heart disease.

As evidence has mounted, some doctors have begun recommending a daily drink for cardiac patients. But most physicians are not ready to recommend a ritual happy hour for


. The risks of teetotaling are nothing compared with the dangers of too much alcohol, including high blood pressure, strokes and cirrhosis of the liver - not to mention violent behaviour and traffic accidents. Moreover, some studies suggest that even moderate drinking may


the incidence of breast and colon cancer.


there is evidence that the benefits of a daily dose of alcohol outweigh the risks, most people won't be able to take a doctor's prescription to the neighbourhood bar or liquor store.




Contrary to

the impression that grandmothers are delighted to help their grown daughters and care for their grandchildren, a study of multi-generational families indicates that many older women resent the frequent impositions of the younger generations on their time and energy.

“Young women with children are


a lot of pressure these days, and they expect their mothers to help them pick up the pieces," noted Dr. Bertram Je Cohier, a behavioral scientist at the University of Chicago. "This is often the strongest source of resentment on the part of Grandmother, who has finished with child-caring and now has her own life to live. Grandmothers like to see their children and grandchildren, but in their own time.

Dr. Cohler is the director of a study, supported by the National Institute of Aging, of 150 working-class families that live in a Midwestern suburb. He and a collaborator, Dr. Henry U. Grunebaum of Harvard Medical School, have


completed an intensive investigation of four such families in New England, summarizing their findings in a book, Mothers, Grandmothers and Daughters, published recently by Wiley-Interscience for professional audiences.

Dr. Cohler tells of a middle-aged Boston woman who works as a seamstress all week and for her church on Sundays1 Every Saturday (her only day off) her daughter and family visit, expecting Mother to make lunch, shop and visit. "That's not how she wants to grow old," said Dr. Cohler, who was told by the older woman: "My daughter would never speak to me if she knew how mad I get."

In all the four New England families studied, the older women resented the numerous phone calls and visits from their grown daughters, who often turned to their mothers for advice, physical resources, affection and companionship as well as baby-sitting services. "American society keeps piling on the burdens for older people, particularly those in their 50's and 60's," Dr. Cohier said in an interview here. "They are still working and taking care of their grown children and maybe also their aged parents. Sometimes life gets to be too much. That's one reason many of them move far away, to Florida or Sun City (Arizona). Older people need more space and fime to attend to their own affairs and friends. Young people don't


stand this, and that's part of what creates tension between generations.”

He has found that,

Contrary to

what the younger generations may

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think, older people have an enormous amount to do. "

More than

half of working-class grandmothers still work, and if theytre retired they have activities in the community that keep them occupied," he said. "Each generation has got to appreciate the unique needs of the other," Dr. Cohler went on. "The younger generation has to realize that grandparents have busy, active lives and that they need privacy and more space for themselves. Moreover, the older generation has to realize that continuing to be pan of the family is important to the younger generation and that they need help and support.”



Learning a language at home via a home study course is often the most convenient, though not necessarily the most efficient. You can go at your own pace and needn't adjust your schedule to accommodate a regular class. Sets of recorded lessons are


at book and record stores or by mail order. They


cover only the more common languages, and most do not go beyond the needs of the casual tourist. The tapes and records consist of groups of phrases and conversations you learn by repetition. A set of four to six tapes and accompanying workbook might cost about $125.

Taped lessons used by the Foreign Service Institute's School of Language Studies to train diplomats are more complete and cover a wider range of languages. The State Department does not market these tapes directly, but they are


by writing to Order Section, National Audio-Visual Center, General Services' Administration, Washington, D.C. 20409. The price for a basic course of about 20 cassette tapes and a text is $100 or so; the more cassettes, the higher the price. Delivery generally takes four to six weeks after receipt of your order.

If you want to earn credits


a degree or prepare yourself to read foreign literature, consider a university correspondence course. A one semester course generally costs about $135 for beginners, postage not included. Any audio materials used may involve extra cost. Course quality is comparable to on-campus offerings. All assignments are reviewed by a professor or instructor and then returned,


within a week.

Language courses are included among the 12,000 courses listed in The Guide to independent Study Through Correspondence instruction, prepared by the National University Continuing Education Association. It is


in libraries or from Peterson's Guides, P.O. Box 2123, Princeton, N.J. 08540, for $4.50 plus $1.25 for postage and handling.

One caveat about university correspondence courses: if your object is to achieve minimal conversational skills, either for business or pleasure, you may not be willing to expend the effort required for these courses,

according to

Dr. Robert Batchellor, associated with the NUCEA guide. Self-instruction requires a commitment of at least ten hours per week.

The National Association of Self-Instructional Language Programs (NASILP) assists schools in designing and operating self-instruction programs based on tape learning supplemented by text and tutorials and eligible for college credit. NASILP keeps up with all of the options,

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including commercial programs, and will help you find a course to fit your specifications, whether or not it is a NASWP product.



No doubt the greatest single leap in human prehistory was the one we made from being


prey to becoming formidable predators (animals which hunt and eat others) of other living creatures, including,


, the ones with claws and fangs. This is the theme that is acted out over and over, obsessively, in the initiation rites of tribal cultures. In the drama of initiation, the young (


men) are first humiliated and sometimes tortured, only to be 'reborn' as hunters and warriors. Very often the initial torment includes the threat of being eaten by costumed humans or actual beasts. Orokaiva children in Papua New Guinea are told they will be devoured like pigs; among Indians of the Pacific Northwest, the initiates were kidnapped or menaced by wolves; young Norwegian men, at least in the sagas, had to tackle bears single-handedly.

As a species, we've been fabulously successful at predation. We have enslaved the wild ungulates, turning them into our cattle and sheep, pushing them into ever narrower habitats. We have tamed some of the wolves and big cats, trivializing them as household pets. We can dine on shark or alligator fillets if we want, and the only bears we're


to know are the ones whose name is teddy. In fact, horror movies wouldn't be much fun if real monsters lurked


our cinemas. We can enjoy screaming at the alien or the monster or the blob because we know, historically speaking, it was our side that won.

But the defeat of the animal predators was not a clear-cut victory for us. With the big land carnivores out of the way, humans decided that the only worthwhile enemies were others like themselves - 'enemy'


s or tribes or nations or ethnic groups. The criminal stalking his victim, the

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soldiers roaring into battle, are enacting an archaic drama in which the other player was originally non-human, something either to eat or be eaten by. For millenniums now, the earth's scariest predator has been



In our arrogance, we have tended to forget that our own most formidable enemies may still be of the non-human kind.


of hungry tigers or fresh-cloned dinosaurs, we face equally deadly microscopic life forms. It will take a whole new set of skills and attitudes to defeat HIV or the TB bacterium - not the raging charge on the field of battle, but the cunning ambush of the lab.



The so-called jungle' of popular imagination, the tropical rain forest belt stretching


our planet at the Equator, has taken some 60 million years to evolve to its present state. It is, quite simply, the most complex, most important ecosystem on Earth.

Homo Faber, Man the Builder, has tragically always seen the jungle as something alien, an environment to be vanquished, replaced with his own constructions. In the past twenty years, the rate of pillage has


d alarmingly and huge tracts of verdant, beautiful forest - an irreplaceable treasure house of living things - has often given way to wasteland. The evidence is that Man will redouble his destructive efforts


the forest ‘system’ is smashed, and the jungle will function no more.

Many experts gloomily predict that the tropical rain forests will finally vanish


the end of our century. Well done, 20th century!

What are the burning reasons that drive men to destroy our monumental inheritance?

Man seldom does anything for


rational reasons;


, the less rational his 'reasons’, the more he defends them with short-term economic arguments1 That is one of the modern lessons in ecology1

"We need the land for people," runs the argument. Well, many people


inhabit the tropical forest belt. There, native tribes have their own ‘low-impact' life style, hunting, trapping, practising a little cultivation. Perhaps not idyllic, it is, nevertheless, a life style that does not endanger the forest ecosystem.

We stress a little cultivation because, paradoxically, the forest soil is often infertile; trees and green plants thrive on the compost of their fallen foliage, which is


broken down and recycled as nutrients. So, when the jungle is cleared to plant crops, there is no means of putting fertility back into the soil. Many governments spend much time 'resettling' people in deforested areas as part of so-called forward-looking development projects, but the crop yield is meagre, and brief: the soil soon makes its point. Erosion and flooding also tend to follow deforestation.

"We need the timber," continues the argument. Well, the forests have always been generous with their riches - so far as they are able. They are not limitless. They are being exhausted at ever increasing speed. Forest ecology, wisdom in planning and less greed could keep Man and the delicate rain forest relationship in balance indefinitely. This is our last great store house, our last wonderland.



The fact is that the energy crisis has been with us for a long time now, and will be with us for an even longer time. Whether Arab oil flows freely or not, it is clear to


that world industry cannot be allowed to

depend on

so fragile a base. The supply of oil can be shut off at whim at any time, and in any case, the oil wells will all run dry in thirty years or so at the present rate of use.

New sources of energy must be found, and this will take time, but it is not


to result in any situation that will ever restore that sense of cheap and copious energy we have had

In time

s past. We will never again dare indulge in indiscriminate growth. For an indefinite period from here on in, mankind is going to advance cautiously, and consider itself lucky that it can advance

at all


To make the situation worse, there is as


no sign that any slowing of the world's population is in sight.


the birthrate has dropped in some nations, including the United States, the population of the world seems sure to pass six billion and perhaps even seven billion as the twenty-first century opens. The food supply will not


nearly enough to match this, which means that we are heading into a crisis in the matter of producing and marketing food.

Taking all this into account, what might we


estimate supermarkets to be like in the year 2001? To begin with, the world food supply is going to become steadily tighter over the next thirty years - even here in the United States. By 2001, the population of the United States will be at least two hundred and fifty million and possibly two hundred and seventy million, and the nation will be hard put to expand food production to fill the additional mouths. This will be particularly true since the energy pinch will make it difficult to continue using the high-energy method of agriculture they makes it possible to combine few farmers with high yields.

It seems


certain that by 2001 the United States will no longer be a great food-exporting nation and that, if necessity forces the exporting of food, it will be at the price of belt-tightening at home.

This means, for one thing, that we can look forward to an end to the 'natural food' trend. It is not a wave of the future. All the unnatural' things we do to food are required to produce more of the food in the first place, and to make it last longer afterward. It is for that reason that we need and use chemical fertilizers and pesticides

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while the food is growing, and add preservatives afterward.

In fact, as food items will tend to decline in quality and decrease in variety, there is very


to be increasing use of flavouring additives.


such time as mankind has the sense to lower its population to the point where the planet can provide a comfortable support for all, people will have to accept more artificiality.


Birute Galdikas remembers the scene very well. She was in a cluttered London flat, anxious and awestruck, with her two heroes: Dian Fossey, the strong-willed American studying the mountain gorillas in Africa, and the elegant Briton Jane Goodall, famous for her discoveries about chimpanzees' humanlike abilities. Presiding was their common mentor, the paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey. He was preparing Galdikas, then a bookish young graduate student at the University of California, for the wilds of Borneo and life among the great apes. As Leakey jotted down campfire recipes, Galdikas turned to Goodall and asked, "What will I do when I get there?" Replied Goodall: "You'll go out and find orangutans."

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