Posted in Psychology & Medicine

The Three Christs Of Ypsilanti

On July 1, 1959, a social psychologist named Milton Rokeach began an experiment in Ypsilanti State Hospital in Michigan to explore the nature of delusions. He gathered three paranoid schizophrenics who each believed they were Jesus Christ and put them in one room. Technically, there can only be one Jesus Christ. So how did the three schizophrenics respond to each other’s claims that they were Jesus?

The experiment ran for two years, with the three patients meeting regularly with Rokeach (under the guise that it was a support group). The initial meetings were far from peaceful. One “Christ” would yell out that the other two were fakes, while another would decry that he would not worship the other Christ as he was the real Jesus. The third reasoned that there cannot be more than one Jesus, and that he was the Good Lord. The arguments escalated to the point of physical violence in many cases. No one would budge and accept that the other person could be Jesus, as they themselves were Jesus. It was the ultimate paradox and cognitive dissonance, as there can be only one Jesus.

Rokeach hoped that the patients would soon see the error of their delusions. He even went as far as sending each of them fake letters from the patient’s “wife” and “the hospital boss” to see if they would alter their routine as the letter advised. But instead of breaking down and accepting that they were deluded, the three patients each found an explanation to resolve the cognitive dissonance.

One patient declared that his fellow patients were actually dead but being controlled by “machines”, thus their arguments were not credible. The other two explained that the other patients were “crazy” people with mental health issues, thus they should not be believed.

This is not a surprising ending to the story, as the definition of a delusion is that it is a “fixed, false belief not amenable to reason”. By definition, a delusion cannot be “reasoned” or broken with logic. Even if you blatantly show the patient proof that their delusion is not real, the patient will not yield. Instead, they will find creative ways to work around the inconvenient truth. Ergo, no matter what evidence you put forward, those three patients would always, in their mind, be the one and only Jesus Christ.

Now let us assume that you met a doppelgänger who states that they are the real “you”, challenging your identity. How would you respond? Challenging one’s identity is the most vicious attack possible, as no person is secure enough with their own identity to be unaffected by the attack. Because people define themselves with a set identity, changing even a small portion of their identity causes extreme confusion and panic. To avoid such emotional turmoil, the brain does everything in its power to protect the identity it believes in. This is why people will respond with fury and anger when their identity is challenged.

People say that “I know myself the best”. But if we construct our identities around flimsy, false foundations, we would still cling to the idea that that is our true identity. If people were to suggest that we are not who we think we are, our brain would defend its identity at all costs. In that case, are our identities delusional? How do we know whether our identity is the real us, or a delusion our brain is clinging to?

Better yet, imagine that everyone around you claimed that you are a duck. Even though you know for sure that you are not a duck, everyone else sees you as a duck and defines you as a duck. An interesting thing about delusions is that the definition includes the phrase: “…and not in keeping with that person’s subculture”. This means that if everyone in your subculture were to say that your belief and your identity were wrong, you could be labelled “delusional”. In that case, are you crazy or is everyone else crazy?


Posted in Science & Nature

History Of The Earth

The Earth has been around for a good 4.6 billion years. Let us compress the long time from the Earth’s birth to today (2012) into one year to put everything in perspective.

The Earth’s history starts on January 1, 00:00:00. The Earth is a hard sphere, barren as any other planet. Incessant wind and rain erode away the barren mountains and tectonic forces create new ones. Nothing much happens for the next three months. Then, around the start of April, life begins in the form of bacteria. Over the course of the next few months, the bacteria divide and mutate, slowly forming new life forms that are multicellular. However, all life on Earth are still in the oceans.

Life on land only starts in the end of November, when plants begin to settle on land. Plants expertly take the abundant carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and convert it into oxygen. By early December, the oceans are teeming with fish, some of which adapt to living on land by developing lungs. These become the first amphibians. Insects also populate the land and become one of the most diverse types of life.

In December 12, reptiles evolve and the land is ruled by dinosaurs, but only for 9 days until they are wiped off the face of the Earth by a meteorite on December 20. Mammals quickly take the niche left by dinosaurs, populating the entire world. Even at this late time, there are no signs of humans.

December 31, humans have still not arrived on Earth. They only appear around 8pm, where the first hominids venture on to the plains of Africa. At 10pm, the Ice Age begins and the Earth is covered by a thick white sheet of ice. The ice comes and goes three more times. At 11:59pm, human civilisation begins as cities begin to rise. 22 seconds before the end of the year, the Egyptians build their pyramids. More monuments arise within seconds. At 11:59:47pm, Jesus teaches the people to love one another, until he is killed a millisecond later. In the last second of the year (about 150 years), humanity: has two major world wars, take to the skies, create the nuclear bomb that can wipe out all life on Earth and even step foot on the Moon.

We may like to think that we have made a significant impact in the history of the Earth, but we have only existed for an infinitesimally small fraction of the history. We are but a dot on the grand scheme of natural history.

Posted in Psychology & Medicine


In the New Testament of the Bible, there is a scene where Jesus resurrects a man by the name of Lazarus back four days after his death. This “miracle” is of course a fictitious event, but nonetheless, the name Lazarus has come to symbolise resurrection after death. For example, there are two actual medical conditions named after Lazarus, both related to death.

The first is called Lazarus phenomenon, where a person who is declared to be clinically dead spontaneously returns to life. This is an extremely rare event that has only been recorded in about 30 cases. In most of these cases, the patients had suffered a cardiac arrest, with all attempts at resuscitation (e.g. CPR, adrenaline) had failed. Sometime after the person was declared clinically dead (usually around 5~10 minutes), the person’s circulatory system would suddenly start on its own and the person would be “resurrected” (quite literally). In one case, a 61 year-old woman was declared officially dead after her heart stopped and her vitals did not return after continuous resuscitation. At the morgue, however, she was found to have a pulse and breathing on her own. She later sued the hospital for the neurological and physical injury caused by oxygen deprivation during her death. There is even a case report of a patient who returned to life two and a half hours after dying (although he died again 3 weeks later).

Of course, the Lazarus phenomenon is not a miracle. In most cases, it is hypothesised that when resuscitation is attempted then stopped, there is a rare chance of the relieving of pressure causing blood to fill the heart, causing a sudden expansion and kickstarting the electrical circuit. Other factors that may influence this is hyperkalaemia resulting from ischaemia and high doses of adrenaline given to the patient during resuscitation having a delayed effect.
Because of this rare “complication” of death, doctors are advised to observe the patient for about 10 minutes after declaring them dead. Just in case.

The second is called Lazarus sign and it occurs not in dead patients, but brain-dead patients. Brain-dead patients are immobile as their higher functions such as cognition and motor functions are destroyed. However, there are rare cases where the brainstem is somehow stimulated, triggering a reflex arc from the spinal cord. This reflex is seen as the patient suddenly raising their arms and dropping them on their chest in a crossed position, much like Egyptian mummies. As the spinal cord is not usually damaged in brain-dead patients, this reflex arc is possible, similar to a knee jerk reflex. The Lazarus sign should not be misinterpreted as a sign that a brain-dead patient is conscious, as it is an involuntary movement. However, it has been mistaken for the resuscitation of a patient, or in some cases, as a miracle.


Posted in History & Literature

The Lamb And The Tyger

The creator made the Lamb, but he also made the Tyger.
In this world, there is no light without darkness. No good without evil. No life without death. The Lamb represents innocence, Christ and aesthetic beauty, while the Tyger represents evil, the Devil and primal ferocity.
An all-powerful deity that created the world; if he exists, then all rules of this universe were devised by his design. So why did he – the supposedly loving, benevolent maker – create these dualities? What god would make such a monstrosity, as beautiful as it is, that is the Tyger?
And how is it that we are both a Lamb and a Tyger at the same time?

(Both The Lamb and The Tyger by William Blake after the break)

The Lamb

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and he is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb.
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!

~ William Blake

The Tyger

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies,
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

~ William Blake

Posted in Psychology & Medicine

Open Hand

90% of human communication is non-verbal. This shows how facial expressions and body language have a powerful effect on our subconscious. Even the position of the hand can send a clear signal.

An open hand suggests peace, love and openness. Because of this, if the other person has his or her palm showing, you will feel more comfortable talking with them and view them in a more positive light. Jesus is often pictured in a pose with his arms stretched and palms showing, sending the message: “I would like to embrace you”. The same signal is used to initiate a hug.

On the other hand, a closed hand sends a cold message of strictness and professionalism. Therefore, people who are debating or negotiating often have their hands flat on a table or their lap to symbolise their resolution and defiance.

From this analysis, we can tell that an open hand is a good way to gain the affection of another person. Furthermore, this body language can manipulate the other person’s subconscious.

From my experiments, I found that when given the choice between a closed fist facing up and another fist facing down, the subject would choose the fist with the palms facing up about 90% of the time. Although it is a crude test, it definitely beat the 50:50 statistics that is expected.
This experiment was probably affected by other factors. Especially because people will usually choose the unusual choice due to curiosity (as when told to pick a hand, the person will usually have both fists facing down) and due to the psychology of “the unusual fist will probably contain something more interesting”. Also, most people who chose the downward-facing fist later said that they “deliberately chose the other fist because they felt they were supposed to choose the upwards-facing fist”. Thus, they too were first attracted to the unusual fist.

This test must be done suddenly to bypass the logical conscious mind and have an effect on the subconscious mind. If you take too long to explain the test, the results become skewed. 
Bypassing the conscious mind to suggest an acceptable choice to the subconscious mind – this test shows the basic principles of hypnosis.

Posted in History & Literature


The unicorn is pictured as a white stallion with a single, prominent horn on its forehead. It is still loved and is one of the most well-known mythical creatures. As with any mythical beasts, there are interesting stories related to the unicorn.

The horn is the source of the unicorn’s strength – the infinite fountain of magical power that grants the unicorn unmatched strength and speed. If it meets an enemy it either sprints and disappears, or uses its large weapon to impale even the hardest armour. This makes it extremely hard to capture.

Medieval people believed the horn of the unicorn to be a highly valuable magic ingredient, with extremely potent cleansing properties that could purify even lakes and seas. But as the only way to attain the horn is to capture a unicorn, it was an extremely rare commodity.
To catch a unicorn, one must know its most important (yet not well-known in the modern age) trait. Although they are wild beasts with a savage temper, they calm down like lamb in front of one group of people – virgin maidens. If it detects even the faintest scent of a virgin, it rushes towards her and places its head on her lap, soundly falling asleep. Due to this characteristic, it is often portrayed as a symbol of purity and chastity, and also Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.
According to notes written by Leonardo Da Vinci himself, hunters used this trick to capture unicorns that would fall asleep on a virgin’s lap (whom they brought with them to aide in the hunt). Even a mighty beast has a weakness that can be exploited.

On a side note, it is also written that if the unicorn senses that the maiden is not a virgin, it would instantly use its large weapon to impale her until death.

Posted in History & Literature


Christmas (also called X-mas), on the 25th of December, is the religious celebration day of Jesus Christ’s birth. It is a beloved holiday that is usually the biggest in the year for many countries. Every year on Christmas Eve (24th), children put out cookies and milk, and with a resolution that they will not sleep they await Christmas’ undying star, Santa Claus.
But as soon as they fall asleep, Santa arrives in a sleigh pulled by reindeers, comes down the chimney and unloads many presents (only to “nice” kids) under an already-decorated tree. When the 25th comes around, children run to open their presents and celebrate. On this day, most stores close to go into a festive mood. In the evening, the whole family gathers for a feast and celebrates this joyous day.

As with most holidays, Christmas has many interesting stories tied to it.

Firstly, is the 25th of December really Jesus’ birthday? This question has plagued scholars since the 18th century, as the Bible has no record of this. In fact, historic records (old texts, the Bible etc.), scientific data (astronomy etc.) and logic all show that there is a lack of evidence for Christmas actually being the day Jesus was born. Instead, it is suggested that Jesus was born in spring, more specifically the 25th of March. Interestingly, this is celebrated as Annunciation in Christianity, the day when Jesus was allegedly conceived by the Virgin Mary. So which story is correct? This may be linked to the next story.

Secondly, the 25th of December is the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. Because of this, many Pagan holidays coincide around this time. For example, ancient Romans celebrated Saturnalia between the 17th and 23rd, to honour the god of agriculture, Saturn (a fun fact is that there is a tradition where they brought a tree inside the house for this day, which is the roots of the modern Christmas tree). Also, later in Rome’s history, the official sun god, Sol Invictus, was honoured on the 25th of December. Many historians hypothesise that when Christianity first developed, it absorbed many of its preceding religions’ holidays, thus giving birth to Christmas.

Lastly, a story about Santa Claus. Santa Claus is based on the Dutch Saint Nicholas, but is also influenced by many other traditional holiday figures, such as Odin from Norse mythologies (who gave gifts to children who put out treats for his eight-legged horse on Christmas day). What is peculiar is the reason Santa wears red. Many people believe that the “red and white outfit” was a product of Coca-Cola’s advertising in the early 20th century, making Santa wear the company colours. However, this theory has some errors. Most importantly, there are many illustrations from before 1925 (when Santa first featured in Coke advertisements) where Santa is portrayed in his plump, bearded form clad in red clothes with a large belt, exactly like the modern Santa. But as there were many other portrayals of Santa back then (e.g. green clothes, skinny etc.), it can be safely said that Coca-Cola’s aggressive advertising and explosive popularity played a vital role in cementing the image of the Santa that we know and love now.

Santa is also known as children’s last innocence. This is because it is something that can only be found in the hearts of children who pray every Christmas to this mythical man to receive a present. Unfortunately, as they grow and learn science and facts (about their parents being the provider) their innocent beliefs turn to ashes. Because of this, some parents like to dress up as Santa to deepen the children’s faith in him, while some never allow the faith to be born in the first place. What is amusing is that in some European countries such as Poland, the idea of Santa Claus is taken quite seriously. Every adult (especially adults and teachers) take strict care not to crush this dream until the age of 4 or 5, almost religiously.

As a final note, some people note that there are some strange connections between Santa and communism: red, large beard, providing only to “nice children”, working the elves in a factory… may whoever reads this decide that fact for themselves.