Saturday, December 06, 2008

HOW ORSON BEAN FOUND GOD


Orson Bean's career spans five decades. In addition to being a successful actor and award-winning director, he is an acclaimed storyteller. He starred on Broadway for twenty years and appeared regularly as a panelist on To Tell the Truth and other game shows as well as a guest and guest host on the Tonight Show.

In a long and varied show business career, Bean has always remained his own man. Blacklisted in Hollywood as a Communist in the 1950's, he survived and came around sufficiently to face the new blacklist to which Hollywood conservatives are subject. I believe he says the new blacklist is tougher than the old one.

Andrew Breitbart explored part of Bean's experience with the blacklist in his column "Blacklist then and now." Orson recalled for Andrew: "Aside from the inconvenience of having a career ruined, being blacklisted in the '50s was kind of cool."

Orson has long been on a quest for personal fulfillment. In his 1972 memoir Me and the Orgone, he recounted an early version of his quest.

He also drank and snorted drugs "and DID inhale." But, he says, he was never quite happy -- until he sniffed around, became a recovering alcoholic, and discovered faith. This is the story he tells in his new book -- M@il for Mikey -- aimed at those seeking faith or recovery, but suspicious.

Andrew Breitbart is Orson's son-in-law. When I met Andrew in the summer of 2007, I asked him to convey our invitation to Orson to write something for Power Line. In response to our standing invitation, Orson has provided the following account of "why I wrote this book" for Power Line readers.

For most of my life I didn't believe in God. Who had time? I was too busy with things of this world: getting ahead, getting laid, becoming famous. For most of my adult life I've been at least somewhat famous. Not so famous that I had to wear dark glasses to walk down the street, but famous enough that head waiters would give me a good table.

I didn't want to be famous for its own sake. I wanted to be famous so as to be happy. My earliest memory, as a little kid, was deciding to be happy. I did my childhood in Cambridge Massachusetts in a rented apartment near Harvard Square. My father was a yard cop at the University. He was also a member of Mensa. An odd combination: an intellectual yard cop. My mother was a beautiful drunk. She was Calvin Coolidge's second cousin and spent some time in the White House when Cousin Cal was president. Her parents, staunch Vermont Republicans, were not thrilled when their daughter took up with a New Deal Democrat who barely made a living.

Life was chaotic in our apartment in Cambridge: fights and drinking and affairs. I'd been sent from Central Casting to play the small but important role of the only child. One day I will be happy, I told myself.

When I grew up, I did become famous: first as a stand-up comic on television, then as an actor on Broadway, then as a fine game show panelist: a modest skill, like being a virtuoso of the kazoo.

The fame made me happy. It got me laid and made me money and it was fun. I wanted more, so I graduated to drugs and booze. They worked, too, for a while (quite a long while, actually). But when they finally stopped working, when my wife left and the game shows stopped calling, I realized that it was time for a change. I enrolled in a twelve step program.

They kept talking about a Higher Power. It could be anything: a tree, the ocean, whatever. And you were supposed to turn your life over to it. It could be God, of course, but they didn't want to make you nervous. As long as it wasn't you, they said, it worked.

There were speakers at the meetings, former drunks who were supposed to explain it all. One guy impressed the hell out of me. I heard him a few times. Bobby was his name. That's how he always introduced himself and we'd yell back, "Hi, Bobby."

Bobby was one tough bugger. Scars and tattoos. He'd done time in the pen. Hard time. The last time he was arrested, he was taken off the roof of a building in downtown L.A. by a SWAT team: helicopters, the whole shebang. They sent him away for fifteen years for something pretty violent, I'm sure; he didn't say. It was his third conviction but this was before three strikes so he didn't get life.

Well, while he was up the river, he started going to meetings; to break up the monotony, I suppose. And somehow or other, he got the message and his whole life changed. While he was still there in the jug. He began helping other cons and staying out of trouble and they knocked some time off his sentence. By the time I ran across him, he was out, of course, working at a regular job and "sponsoring" a number of young guys. "My babies," he called them.

I decided I would ask him for advice. He was standing on the sidewalk in front of the meeting where he'd spoken and some cute young thing was bending his ear. There were a few of us hanging around wanting to talk to him but of course we all understood that if a good looking girl was praising him, probably flirting with him, common sense and good manners dictated that we wait our turns.

The girl finished and started to leave, but before any of us could get a shot at him, something strange happened. An LAPD motorcycle cop sped by on his big, black Harley, spotted Bobby, jammed on the brakes, jumped off the bike, ran over and grabbed hold of him.

"Holy God," we all thought, "He's done something bad again and they've come to get him." But instead of arresting him, the cop gave him a big hug. Then he got back on the Harley and blasted off. Bobby turned to the little group of us there on the sidewalk.

"One of my babies," he explained, and started off down the street. I decided to be a pain in the neck and hustled on after him. I caught up and introduced myself. I told him about how I had a few months clean and sober and about my reluctance to think about my higher power as God. What advice did he have, I asked?

"Get down on your knees," he told me, " and thank God every morning. Then, do it again at night."

"But I don't think I believe in God."

"It doesn't matter," he said. "Just do it."

"Why do I have to get down on my knees?"

"He likes it," said Bobby. And that's all he said to me. He stood there looking at me for a minute and then I said OK and thanked him and he took off.

I was living, in those days, in a little joint in Venice with a Murphy bed. That night, when it was time for me to go to sleep, I got down on my knees beside the Murphy bed, feeling like a complete fool, and spoke out loud.

"If there's anybody there," I said, "thank you for the day." I had finally decided, I suppose, that since all else had failed, I would follow the instructions. That night, I slept like a log and in the morning I got down on my knees again and said, "If there's anybody there, thank you for my night's sleep."

I kept doing this, day after day, and without my even being aware of it, it stopped feeling foolish to me. It started to feel good, in fact. After a while, I began to sense that my prayers were being heard. I didn't know by who or what, but it was a good feeling. Then, before I knew it, I felt as if there was Something or Someone there who knew me and cared about me. Actually loved me.

"Alright," I told myself. "I'll call it God. Thank you, God" And I really meant it. That's how it began for me and my life has kept on getting better ever since. Truly better. So finally, I thought I'd write a little book about it, to tell people how simple it is.

I don't know anyone who doesn't have an empty spot at the center of him, which must be filled in order to be really happy. That spot, like it or not, is reserved for God, and if you decide you are going to be lastingly happy, M@IL FOR MIKEY, my little instruction manual, could give you a jump start.


Universe's Dark Matter 
"Just Right" 
For Life


From the New Scientist:


IT'S not just the nature of dark matter that's a mystery - even its abundance is inexplicable. But if our universe is just one of many possible universes, at least this conundrum can be explained.

The total amount of dark matter - the unseen stuff thought to make up most of the mass of the universe - is five to six times that of normal matter. This difference sounds pretty significant, but it could have been much greater, because the two types of matter probably formed via radically different processes shortly after the big bang. The fact that the ratio is so conducive to a life-bearing universe "looks like a tremendous coincidence", says Raphael Bousso at the University of California, Berkeley.

Ben Freivogel, also at UCB, wondered if the ratio can be explained using the anthropic principle which, loosely stated, says that the properties of the universe must be suitable for the emergence of life, otherwise we wouldn't be here asking questions about it. In order to avoid questions about how these properties became so finely tuned, the anthropic principle is combined with the idea that our universe is part of a multiverse, in which each universe has randomly determined properties.

Freivogel focused on one of the favoured candidate-particles for dark matter, the axion. Axions have the right characteristics to be dark matter, but for one problem: a certain property called its "misalignment angle", which would have affected the amount of dark matter produced in the early universe. If this property is randomly determined, in most cases it would result in a severe overabundance of dark matter, leading to a universe without the large-scale structure of clusters of galaxies. To result in our universe, it has to be just the right value.

In a multiverse, each universe will have a random value for the axion's misalignment angle, giving some universes the right amount of dark matter needed to give rise to galaxies, stars, planets and life as we know it.

Freivogel combined the cosmological models of large-scale structure formation with the physics of axions to predict the most likely value for the ratio of dark matter to normal matter that would allow observers like us to emerge. He assumed that the number of observers in a universe is proportional to the number of galaxies within it.

In Freivogel's model, changing the ratio of matter type impacts the formation of galaxies, and hence observers; for example, too little dark matter would prevent the formation of galaxies and stars. His calculations show that of all the observers that might exist across the many universes, most would live in a universe with the dark matter abundance found in ours. In other words, we would be less likely to be here if our abundance of dark matter were different (www.arxiv.org/abs/0810.0703).



Wednesday, December 03, 2008

DNA Found to Have 

"Impossible" 

Telepathic Properties


Dna47_3_2DNA has been found to have a bizarre ability to put itself together, even at a distance, when according to known science it shouldn't be able to. Explanation: None, at least not yet.

Scientists are reporting evidence that contrary to our current beliefs about what is possible, intact double-stranded DNA has the “amazing” ability to recognize similarities in other DNA strands from a distance. Somehow they are able to identify one another, and the tiny bits of genetic material tend to congregate with similar DNA. The recognition of similar sequences in DNA’s chemical subunits, occurs in a way unrecognized by science. There is no known reason why the DNA is able to combine the way it does, and from a current theoretical standpoint this feat should be chemically impossible.

Even so, the research published in ACS’ Journal of Physical Chemistry B, shows very clearly that homology recognition between sequences of several hundred nucleotides occurs without physical contact or presence of proteins. Double helixes of DNA can recognize matching molecules from a distance and then gather together, all seemingly without help from any other molecules or chemical signals.

In the study, scientists observed the behavior of fluorescently tagged DNA strands placed in water that contained no proteins or other material that could interfere with the experiment. Strands with identical nucleotide sequences were about twice as likely to gather together as DNA strands with different sequences. No one knows how individual DNA strands could possibly be communicating in this way, yet somehow they do. The “telepathic” effect is a source of wonder and amazement for scientists.

“Amazingly, the forces responsible for the sequence recognition can reach across more than one nanometer of water separating the surfaces of the nearest neighbor DNA,” said the authors Geoff S. Baldwin, Sergey Leikin, John M. Seddon, and Alexei A. Kornyshev and colleagues.

This recognition effect may help increase the accuracy and efficiency of the homologous recombination of genes, which is a process responsible for DNA repair, evolution, and genetic diversity. The new findings may also shed light on ways to avoid recombination errors, which are factors in cancer, aging, and other health issues.


Immortal 
Invaders 
From 
The 
Mysterious 
Deep



The rock star mantra of "live fast, die young" works in reverse too - you can trade off enjoyment for endurance.  Don't smoke, drink or eat meat and you can extend your life by decades, though what you're going to do with all that time is another question.  Now it seems that an animal has taken this to the logical extreme, and can live forever - the only drawback being it lives forever as a small clump of jelly.

The Hydrozoan, a small predatory sea creature like a jellyfish but without all their well known exciting higher functions, can achieve the dream of millions and become a child again.  When adverse environmental conditions threaten death it can collapse into a rugged blob of cells to survive.  When it re-emerges, it does so as a child - literally building itself up all over again.  Since this isn't just a shell to hide in, but a complete structural restart, it seems possible that it could keep this up forever.

Since one of these adverse environmental conditions is "getting sucked into the ballast tanks of a freighter", the hardy hitchhiker has spread all over the globe.  

It possesses stingers and eats things, which are definitely qualities you don't want in something that's unkillable and spreading worldwide, but if you're larger than a shrimp you're still safe.  If you are currently smaller than a shrimp, get Rick Moranis to block the laser and try to be in a better comedy next time.

We aren't in any immediate danger of knock-on effects either, as the jetsetting jellyfish-ettes seem to be integrating quite harmlessly into their new homes (though some shrimp might disagree).  The rather damp phoenix-stylings of the hydrozoan have obviously made them a hot topic in genetics, but don't expect to buy your immortality pills just yet - this is one life extension option that isn't even remotely applicable to humans.