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    Suicide: Life Ends Six Meters Above The Ground
    By Sascha Vongehr | April 14th 2011 08:45 AM | 45 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sascha

    Dr. Sascha Vongehr [风洒沙] studied phil/math/chem/phys in Germany, obtained a BSc in theoretical physics (electro-mag) & MSc (stringtheory)...

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    The greatest hurdle before committing suicide is the fear of dying and death as well as the fear of hurting people we care about. In order to assist suicide, Suicidal Philosophy alleviates these fears rather than stoking them like traditional Philosophy of Suicide does. Suicidal Philosophy is much more science than philosophy, as the following outtake of a long article aimed at helping people in distress exemplifies. It explains why it is that if you jump out of a 20 story building, your life already ends peacefully more than six meters before impact with the ground:


    The fear of dying involves fearing pain and plainly fearing fear. Anybody who has ever endured a panic attack or so called horror trip will fear this ‘fear of fear’. There are drugs like Nembutal (pentobarbital) that circumvent such problems. There are also drug combinations involving dissociatives like Ketamine, or the often also for executions applied sequential injection of sodium thiopentalbarbiturate, pancuronium bromide muscle relaxant, and potassium chloride for cardiac arrest.


    Especially recommendable [1] is oxygen deprivation by breathing pure nitrogen or “balloon-time” helium. The hypercapnic alarm response due to elevated carbon dioxide blood levels is completely avoided. The patient is unconscious already after about twelve seconds and dies after a few minutes.


    What has to my knowledge never been argued is that the up to half a second delay dt between receptor activity and the onset of consciousness [2, 3] allows us to not experience the onset of dying at all even without the help of drugs.


    There are those who argue desperately against the presence of this time delay, because this delay yet further underlines the points made about us being to a large extend dead zombies anyway. Their misinterpretations have been well countered [4, 5] and anyways, this time delay is not impossibly long but surprisingly short:


    A signal travels about 20 milliseconds (ms = a thousands of one second) from a receptor to the brain. If the nerve wiring is used to pre-process data, like this occurs in the eye’s retina for example, the time goes up to 50 to 100 ms. Hardwired reflexes or trained responses like fast table tennis returns can be unconsciously dealt with in 200 to 300 ms. Taking into account how slow nerves transmit and how much calculation is involved to complete high level functions like conscious thought, a delay of 500 ms is an unexpectedly short and entirely necessary holdup.


    Nevertheless, it is long enough to be of some comfort to anyone committing suicide by jumping from an elevated structure. Selecting a 20th floor of a building ensures at least 60 meters height - a safe estimate employing only 3 meters per floor although office buildings have mostly around 3.5 meters per story. Falling down a height of sixty meters onto the deserted asphalt below gives one’s body a velocity of about 34 meters per second after 3.5 seconds [one hits the ground with v = (2 *60 m * 9.8 m/s2)1/2].



    Air resistance can be neglected, because it is proportional to the square of the velocity, and the terminal velocity of a falling human body is faster than 54 m/s even with fully outstretched limbs (considering air resistance, the result is 31 m/s after 3.6 s instead).


    Falls from a mere ten meters onto unyielding ground have already often deadly consequences, but 34 m/s, that are 76.2 mph or 122.4 km/h, are enough to immediately switch off and destroy one’s brain regardless of the body’s orientation at impact.


    Assume a cautiously conservative estimate employing a neural delay of only dt = 200 ms. Approaching the ground to about six meters above of it, then having a velocity of 32 m/s, one falls more than six meters (32 m/s * 0.2 s) during the time dt between the eyes receiving the light and the occurrence of the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) [6] of the seen situation.


    Resultantly, the conscious perception is that of a fast approaching ground, but this movie stops playing when the ground is still more than six meters away! One does never even come close to experiencing the impact, let alone having any pain because of it.


    A similar argument can be had for a correctly placed gun, for example resting with the nozzle inside the mouth, pointing up- and backward to deliver a higher caliber bullet through where the brain stem meets the hypothalamus.





    Of course, most people do just not feel well at large heights and many lack knowledge and skill to place a gun correctly. The gist should be that there are plenty of methods out there for you to find one that is right for you.


    -----------------------------------------

    [1] Humphry, Derek: Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying. Delta Trade Paperback,(1992), 3rd updated edition (2002)

    [2] Libet, B., Wright, E.W., Feinstein, B., and Pearl, D. K.: Subjective referral of the timing for a conscious sensory experience. Brain 102, 193-224 (1979)

    [3] Libet, B.: Are the mental experiences of will and self-control significant for the performance of a voluntary act? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 10, 783-786 (1987)

    [4] Libet, B.: The experimental evidence for subjective referral of a sensory experience backwards in time: reply to P. S. Churchland. Philosophy of Science 48, 182-97 (1981)

    [5] Libet, B.: The timing of a subjective experience. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 12, 183-185 (1989)

    [6] Reesl, G., Kreiman, G., Koch, C.: The Neural Correlates of Consciousness in Humans. Nature Reviews of Neurosciences 3, 261-270 (2002)

    Comments

    Gerhard Adam
    Most of his client was sitting quietly in a comfortable chair in front of the hi-fi.  The chair was placed in the optimal listening position-...

    He seemed generally to be casual and relaxed, with his legs crossed and a half-finished cup of coffee on the small table beside him.  Distressingly, though, his head was sitting neatly on the middle of the record which was revolving on the hi-fi turntable, with the tone arm snuggling up against the neck ...

    Gilks turned around, looked tired and cross, ... when he paused and watched the head revolving patiently on the heavy platter for a few seconds.

    "You know," he said at last, "these smart-alec show-off suicides really make me tired.  They only do it to annoy."


    From "The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul", Douglas Adams
    Mundus vult decipi
    There is I believe empirical evidence that contradicts the notion that everything goes "dark" before one hits the ground due to the time needed to process neural inputs.

    Suppose we stipulate that the time referenced above is 200-500 msecs.

    Consider the case of USAir Flight 427, which crashed just outside Pittsburgh International Airport in 1994. The airplane nosedived at a 40 degree angle into the ground at 134 meters/second, killing everyone aboard.

    According to the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the cockpit voice recorder, which was recovered from the crash site and operated right up until impact, contained conversation between the Captain and First Officer right up until five seconds before impact, followed by the Captain screaming in terror right up until the moment of impact.

    The transcript of the voice data recording is timestamped in one tenth of a second increments for each recorded utterance, and these utterances (the final one being the aforementioned screaming) continue until the impact stops the recording.

    Because the plane struck the ground nose first, the cockpit crew were impacted first, and at the aforementioned speed, I think one can discount any time involved for the telescoping cabin to cause the blunt force trauma that killed the crew. That time component would be perhaps 1-5 msecs at the speed of impact.

    So there was no "peaceful" end of life at all, but full awareness and abject terror right up to the instant of death.

    The NTSB Report on flight 427 is available on their web site.

    Gerhard Adam
    So there was no "peaceful" end of life at all, but full awareness and abject terror right up to the instant of death.
    I don't think you could've picked something more irrelevant if you'd planned it. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    And why might you think it is irrelevant?

    The point of the OP was that processing by the nervous sytem takes time X, and if one is hurtling toward a lethal impact such that the time to impact Y becomes less than X at time P, there will be no conscious experience between P and the time of the lethal impact - ie, there is a "blackout" because there is not enough time for the nervous system to process neural input before it is destroyed. And so, conscious experience ends (forever) with the blackout. Before impact.

    Now if one is screaming right up until the time of impact, there is obviously conscious awareness right up to the point of impact, and therefore the purported "blackout" does nor occur.

    That is what the evidence of flight 427 shows, in my view.

    Not only is it not irrelevant; it is a real world counter example.

    But if you think not, I am interested in why you do.

    Gerhard Adam
    You've demonstrated nothing of the sort.  There was no "black-out" being reported.

    The only thing your example illustrates is that panic can occur from the moment of realization, up until the moment of death.  It can say nothing more than that.  Your problem is that the screaming began before there was any pain, so for it to continue up to the point of impact tell us nothing about sensory awareness.  Since this scream would've occurred 500 msecs before impact, or 30 seconds before impact, or a 1 minute before impact.  The screaming had nothing to do with sensory input, and everything to do with psychological fear and panic.

    In other words, its as if your brain is on a time-delay circuit, so that everything experienced by the sensory organs is delayed by 200-500 msecs.  As a result, it is obvious that the brain cannot process the experience of an instantaneous death, because the signals would never arrive to the brain in time. 

    Mundus vult decipi
    "Blackout" is my term. Here is the relevant passage from the OP:

    Resultantly, the conscious perception is that of a fast approaching ground, but this movie stops playing when the ground is still more than six meters away! One does never even come close to experiencing the impact, let alone having any pain because of it.

    If the "movie" (conscious perception) stops playing before impact, why would one be screaming right up to the point of impact?

    Gerhard Adam
    Because the "movie" in your brain is on a time delay.  It takes time for the signals to be sent and processed.  Therefore when impact occurs, your brain is still processing what occurred 200-500 msecs ago.  That's why the "movie" stops.  It is processing the scene of being 6 meters above the ground, while the physical reality indicates that impact occurs.  It's a result of signal delay.

    It's no different than dealing with the fact that the sunlight you perceive is delayed because of propagation delays.  The speed of light is not infinite, and similarly nerve transmissions are not infinite.  There is a small but finite delay and this is what is being expressed here.  Your brain does NOT perceive the world in "real time".  Therefore you will impact the ground before your brain perceives that you've reached the ground.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I understand the point about signal delay. But the way I read the OP, at a point in time there are no additional signals received because the brain is destroyed before they can be processed. In that case, would there not be an end to conscious experience, or are you saying that the scene through the cockpit window would be "frozen"?

    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not sure I understand what you're saying.  Once the brain is destroyed then conscious experience ends.  If the last signal processed was the perception of being 6 meters above the ground (while in fact actually impacting the ground), then the last conscious thought processed in the brain was viewing an event that was still "in the past".

    Nothing is "frozen", any more than the signal from a TV is frozen when you pull the plug.  If there is a signal delay, then the last thing you'll have seen is the signal that was processed, and not simply the signals that had actually arrived (this can be demonstrated through DVR type devices where there is a slight propagation delay).
    Mundus vult decipi
    Thanks for the dialogue.

    Let me back up a bit.

    When I read the OP by Dr. Vongehr, I interpreted his argument such that the phrase "movie stops playing" means that all conscious experience of the external world stops, since all sensation (not just vision or pain) is presumably subject to the signal processing delay that is his central premise. That is why I referrred to a blackout.

    If one assumes that delay is, eg, 500 msecs, then my assumption was that for a full one half second, one would experience nothing. So if one experiences nothing, why would one scream?

    Just because there is a 500 msec lag between what one experiences and the original neural input, does not mean that conscious experience happens in 500 msec chunks. People can experience changes occuring over intervals even less than 500 msec easily.

    So, since there is no new input in the 500 msecs before impact, what then is the content of conscious experience during that time?

    Gerhard Adam
    If one assumes that delay is, eg, 500 msecs, then my assumption was that for a full one half second, one would experience nothing. So if one experiences nothing, why would one scream?
    Your assumption is incorrect.  You're assuming that the experience is occurring in "real-time" so that sensory data is processed instantaneously by the brain.  You are then presuming that the 500 msecs is a "black-out" period where no sensory data is being processed.

    You're experiencing everything ... it's just 500 msecs late.  If you look at what you are doing right now.  It takes 500 msecs for your brain to process when you just did.  Therefore whatever you're experiencing in the world is actually being processed and recognized by the brain 500 msecs after it has already occurred.  You are on a time delay. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    I think I finally understand this. The idea is that the person who jumps off the 20 story building, will, at the instance she hits the ground, have in her visual field the ground as seen from five meters above it.

    It's not that death actually occurs five meters up, but that one's experience at impact is the experience at five meters up. Instantaneously followed by death. And for the same reason that the person never experiences the ground at impact visually, she never experiences any pain at impact.

    Thanks for your patient explanations, Gerhard. You are obviously correct -- the flight 427 data I posted is not relevant to this point.

    Gerhard Adam
    You got it!   I knew you'd see it if you thought about it for a bit.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Does anyone know which building Francesca Woodman jumped from on Jan. 19, 1981?

    I agree that one would not feel the pain caused by the impact. However I think we are all aware that when things move really fast around us, our minds put together a picture of what is going on somewhat after the event. Normally we anticipate most of our sensory input because things in fact don't change that fast. I would suggest that the idea that consciousness follows perceptions after 500ms or so is not the whole story - consciousness (in the sense of constructing one's surroundings) is probably ahead of perception by the right amount so that the delay is not noticeable. Anomalies - unexpected sudden events - require rapid recalculation during which time one is typically disorientated. I seem to remember reading that some work had been done on this time-lag compensation as well as the lag itself.

    I would therefore suggest that all the horror of the impact is felt at the point of impact. Not pain caused by the injuries but the reaction to the expected unendurable agony which, of course, is the really bad part: the unhappiness, the panic, the loss of control, the urge to get out of the situation no matter what it takes - it is no exaggeration to call it temporary insanity.. 

    Never underestimate the power of Darwinian evolution to create survival mechanisms that really suck.



     

    vongehr
    consciousness (in the sense of constructing one's surroundings) is probably ahead of perception by the right amount so that the delay is not noticeable
    Not according to the research, and "that the delay is not noticeable" indicates missing the insight of that research. The delay is never noticed (there is no point in doing so), so it is completely decoupled from whether the inner construction is ten minutes ahead or lagging by a day after the outside physical time. There is no Cartesian observer in the theater anyway, certainly not one with a watch around his arm.

    What you are further talking about is plainly the fear of height that some feel even if they are 100% safe while looking out of a skyscraper. That issue I have addressed. That is why a gun inside the mouth is much better. As far as the research shows, the movie may stop even before you "consciously decide" to pull the trigger!
    Hah! I do believe you caught me out in a modality error there. Touche.

    I agree. The time-line of the inner construction is logically decoupled from physical time.

    However to have any survival value, actions are required in real-time and this requires anticipation. I was claiming that this leads us to experience the anticipated event before the sensory data arrives. This means that the experience of dying is already under way before the pain signals arrive.

    You say this is just "fear of heights" etc, which you have addressed. But no it is not. I am suggesting - and I feel pretty confident that this is true - that the inner contruction is provisional until corrected or confirmed by the senses. That's not a fear of the experience, but a large part of the experience itself. I see no reason to assume it will be anything except very unpleasant.

    I would hate to decieve people into thinking they "won't feel a thing" and for them to spend their last half second cursing me for the agony I've tricked them into inflicting on themselves.

    [Edited but saying much the same]
    Gerhard Adam
    However to have any survival value, actions are required in real-time and this requires anticipation. I was claiming that this leads us to experience the anticipated event before the sensory data arrives. This means that the experience of dying is already under way before the pain signals arrive.
    I'm not sure of your logic here.  Why would you assume that survival value is linked to sensory data?  If I'm under attack, then the body [and mind] want to mitigate the sensory data that might be related to pain, so that I'm capable of responding to either fight or escape.  This is precisely why adrenaline hides the sensory pain data, so anticipation of it would seem counter-productive, if true.

    In addition, if sensory data were essential for survival, then it's accuracy would be far more important than anticipation of something.  So again, I would argue that reaction times and responses are intended to avoid the distractions of sensory data and are only brought into play after some period of time has elapsed.  Invariably most anecdotal experience suggests that life-threatening events go virtually unnoticed, until some time later when the data can be used to try and reconstruct what actually occurred.

    It would be counter-productive to anticipate the pain of dying [and all the attendant distraction that would bring] if it could be avoided.  So, I have to disagree that your mind would anticipate such sensory data, since I can see no instance of where it would be beneficial information to possess.
    Mundus vult decipi
     Well, there's nothing magic about 4-(1-hydroxy-2-(methylamino)ethyl)benzene-1,2-diol to give it power to direct thoughts. :) What is rather strange is that the brain, having decoded a situation and issued a "secrete loads of adrenaline" message (presumably to muster resources to the most useful places) should then respond to its own message and shut down the higher functions. Why impose such a delay, when it could be done in an instant by a direct neural connection? Or maybe that's what really happens and the "adrenaline hides the sensory pain data" is an urban myth? People can have horrific injuries and not feel the pain but still say "Ouch" when the needle goes in. Does adrenaline say to itself that you can't do much about the mangled guts, but you could pull your arm away from the needle?

    Anyway, be that as it may, I quite agree that the conscious construction is only part of how the brain reacts to a situation and that in many cases it is blocked or overridden. A manual skill, for instance, is often not performed consciously at all - I don't know how fast you think, Gerhard, but I know I couldn't think "left hand down a bit" every time I steer the car or catch a ball. In fact, one of the pleasures of learning a difficult skill is that the conscious decisions do get off-loaded this way and "playing an F chord" on a guitar, which started off as a terrible fumble with lots of anxious checking of finger positions by eye, just becomes something you effortlessly "do" as a single decision. In fact even that soon disappears from consciousness too and you start to play an accompaniment as a single entity in your mind.  And then you decide chords are for wussies and never play one again. :)
    It would be counter-productive to anticipate the pain of dying
    I can see no instance of where it would be beneficial information to possess
    I didn't say "pain", I was talking about the distress. I don't think dying comes into it - expectation of injury would have a chance to be selected for, something that ends in death doesn't really get a chance. I'm presuming the anticipatory mechanism is there for most kinds of data but I don't agree with your assumption that we are a well-designed system.  Evolution just bodges things together. It's too complicated a system to make sweeping statements about what would or would not evolve. Quite obviously most of the human population do experience severe distress at times which is counter-productive.

    I'm just concerned that a very likely source of intense distress, albeit lasting only about a second, is being dismissed with models of consciousness that are, at best, naive wishful thinking and, at worst, downright illogical.

    Never underestimate the power of Darwinian evolution to create survival mechanisms that really suck.

     
    vongehr
    F chord - pffft. Sometimes I get a fast table tennis ball that deflected from the net, but still I react and smash that thing back perfectly into a corner where the opponent can't get it. The times of these balls (from net to my racket) are as low as 0.2 seconds (if I am close to the table)! Now subtract retina pre-calculation (edge cells and all that) and data compression (into visual nerve), signal propagation from eye to visual center in the back of the brain, analysis through the different layers of the visual center. Subtract also time to send coherent answer into motor cortex, signals down all the quite slow long back and limb nerves into the muscles, and do not forget that the body/arm has to actually be accelerated and move into the correct spot having the correct velocity at arrival during the same short 200ms.

    Where do you think consciousness, the most advanced and calculation intensive brain function, fits in here? Well it doesn't! It is perfectly clear that I do not play table tennis. I just watch my body play, what my body played about 300 to 500 ms ago! When I get tired, I sometimes see balls pass me while my body puts the racket into the wrong spot. I watch it, like in slomo, thinking "oh shit", but can't do nothing about it. Why? Because it is all long over and in the past at that point.

    We all are about half a second behind - it could not be any other way. Your life is a made up story after the fact, a rationalization of what happened.
    So what's new? I already said that a lot of tasks are offloaded out of consciousness. 
    Your life is a made up story after the fact, a rationalization of what happened.
    That has no bearing or whether a draft version is created and experienced before the sense data arrives. 
     
    vongehr
    "a lot of tasks are offloaded" is what you dream about. The hard reality is that higher order brain functions need a lot of time to calculate and are also otherwise extremely expensive (in terms of resources like ATP, having the capacity ready at all (those are the most energy consuming, vulnerable neurons), thus during evolution, etc.), so what you deem may be perhaps "offloaded" is simply impossible, period, was never loaded in the first place. To have a whole draft version experienced before sense data arrives is nonsense. Such makes only sense over long times, say daydreaming future scenarios, but not like you need it here to make your point. Neither is there enough time to have it at all, nor does consciousness have any use over such short timescales. It is waayyy too costly for something useless, so evolution simply cannot come up with such a configuration in the first place.

    Stop arguing from the point of view of how different it looks from the storyline we hallucinate. Start thinking from the science. If it is impossible, chances are it does not exist. Every driver needs to know! Beginners (less than two years daily driving) should never even reach the speed limit, regardless of how much they fool themselves to be in control. Accident reports usually mention "as if in slow motion", or "came out of nowhere", ... . Because we never see anything before half a second later! Never! What we experience is a highly censured story, a crafted fairytale fitting to our beliefs and all that. It evolved! Did you ever ask yourself why it evolved to tell us consistently the wrong time labels rather than letting us know we are lagging? Think about it. Evolution is not on your side - you are just a pawn to make more pawns.
    what you deem may be perhaps "offloaded" is simply impossible, period, was never loaded in the first place
    We do not have any disagreement here. You are just mistaking my use of the word "offload". I mean the skill becomes unconscious as we learn it. We develop an autopilot for playing a chord or returning a ball.
    To have a whole draft version experienced before sense data arrives is nonsense. Such makes only sense over long times, say daydreaming future scenarios, but not like you need it here to make your point.
    Again, who said anything about a whole draft version? Unlike publishers, who would object to big gaps in a story, there is no reason to think that reacting to the pain and horror of being smashed up requires detailed information about which bone has broken. 

    Think of a lucid dream where you read a page from a newspaper. In your dream you react to the fact you have just read it - the story-line says the text was real and you resolve to tell the waking world the exciting news that your brain can come up with a whole page of text in an instant. When you wake up you realize that there was no text (or none that you can remember) but the brain had created a story-line.
    nor does consciousness have any use over such short timescales. It is waayyy too costly for something useless, so evolution simply cannot come up with such a configuration in the first place.
    There is no need to suppose a new and dedicated mechanism for keeping a story-line as up-to-date as possible. Just that fact that we construct one at all and use it is enough. I don't see how you can say that half a second head start on working out a strategy is useless. As Dawkins says about the adaptive advantage of camouflage:

    Looking 5% like a turd can be better than nothing at all. In a population of other individuals who look nothing like a turd, resembling a turd a little bit may decrease the probability of being spotted and eaten by a predator. Any slight blending into the background or slight increase in resemblance to something inedible may increase the probability that a predator who is flying by quickly, or from some distance, or searching at twilight will miss the food item. If this is the case, then selection will favor those individuals because, on average, they have slightly better survival chances than other individuals in the population. Over time, the population will come to be characterized by such individuals. The key element is that although looking 5% like a turd is far worse than looking 100% like one, looking 5% like a turd is an improvement in a population looking nothing at all like turds.

    This is exactly analogous to having a provisional up-to-date model in your head as opposed to one which is always out of date.
     Accident reports usually mention "as if in slow motion", or "came out of nowhere", ... . Because we never see anything before half a second later!
    Of course we don't see something which we can't know about. That would be presentience or some such woowoo. The description "came out of nowhere" is obviously a case of the story-line being edited in response to unexpected sense data . No surprise there. I'm not even going to say it supports my thesis either as the exact point at which the story-line became "final version" (final version until the next revision, that is!) could be anywhere between the crash and the interview.

    Final reconstructions are completely irrelvant to whether the brain reacts emotionally to the conscious story-line before all the data is in.
    Did you ever ask yourself why it evolved to tell us consistently the wrong time labels rather than letting us know we are lagging? 
    Oh dear! Another modality error. Our story-teller does not lie, its job is to produce a story about the real time events. It is not a story about data, it is a story told by the data.
    Think about it. Evolution is not on your side - you are just a pawn to make more pawns.
    Exactly. You may have noticed that someone round here occasionally mentions:
    "Never underestimate the power of Darwinian evolution to create survival mechanisms that really suck."

    vongehr
    I guess we talk past each other again. Just one thing. The story teller actually lies in this case. We could be aware of having a delay, but we are actively fooled into thinking that we are online in real time. There is a reason for this lie! It is not a modality error. We actually feel like we are deciding and all that, and there is a reason for this lie.
    No disagreement there. The story about the external world is true. The story about "me" is bound to be somewhat fictitious.
     
    Gerhard Adam
    Our story-teller does not lie, its job is to produce a story about the real time events.
    Well, that's not true.  Our story-teller lies all the time, because the point is to produce a consistent story and facts don't need to be a part of it.  That's why eyewitness testimony is so notoriously unreliable.

    That's the whole point giving rise to belief systems, because the brain was always work with incomplete data, so it is quite proficient at making up anything to fill in the gaps.  If something doesn't match the desired state of its "map", then it will be adjusted to make it fit. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    ...there is no reason to think that reacting to the pain and horror of being smashed up requires detailed information about which bone has broken.
    But this doesn't match experience.  Other than small children, most adults may be apprehensive about things that can cause pain, but often they find that it is clearly better, or sometimes worse than expected.  Once again, this argues that the brain doesn't attempt to emulate the anticipated event, because then we would tend to find that our expectations, having already been anticipated, are what we experience.

    Certainly for events that extend into the longer term, then all manner of other factors come into play, not the least of which is something like the placebo effect.  However, I don't believe that such anticipation of events would ever lead to a story.  It's the anticipation that builds, not the story.

    After all, the only thing worse than being unprepared in an evolutionary sense, is to act based on the wrong data. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Look, you are going off the subject. The question was whether for the half second before impact, the brain fills in with a provisional experience. That's nothing to do with anticipating the event long before it happens. Neither has it anything to do with whether the story-line is a lie as per your previous post. It's the timing of the experience we're talking about.

    Furthermore, anything that persists afterward must, on any reading, be the updated version not the original - I would doubt whether the provisional experience is even laid down in memory.
     
    But again, I would remind you, I am not saying that such-and-such is certainly the case, I am saying that it is all speculation, there are many possibilities. It is extremely irresponsible to advise people who plan to kill themselves that science says it won't hurt when there's a definite possibility that it will be just as bad as any physical pain.

    Gerhard Adam
    I have to disagree.  The only way the idea of event anticipation makes any sense, is if there is sufficient time with which ideas can form.  Constructing a provisional experience could only occur in light of such anticipation.  This would work in situations like a fall from a high place, where there is certainly enough conscious time to register what is occurring. 

    In the case, of a gunshot, that simply isn't true, because it can't be anticipated. 

    The brain simply can't be in the business of constructing provisional experiences, because it would simply increase the lag before actual data could be processed.  Anything that was incorrect in the provisional memories would have to be deleted and corrected, which would result in even greater likelihood of memory errors.  It simply makes no sense to have a provisional experience, except within the context of where you are imagining a conclusion for an event that requires some anticipation [i.e. inevitable time lapse].
    It is extremely irresponsible to advise people who plan to kill themselves that science says it won't hurt when there's a definite possibility that it will be just as bad as any physical pain.
    There can be no pain to feel, unless the brain were to construct a "virtual version of it".  So to claim that it might be as bad as any physical pain is a pretty significant over-statement.  At absolute best, we've already considered that the brain could come up with a completely invented situation in anticipation, but nothing more than that could be claimed.

    Given the psychology around suicide, isn't it just as irresponsible to advice people that things will get better, when perhaps it's the opposite reaction and desire for pain that is at work here?  I don't want to get into all the psychological issues here, but it seems that the only way the brain could construct a painful end, is if one expects a painful end.  It can't occur because of actual sensory data.

    Therefore, the most responsible thing to do would be to ensure that people absolutely believe that they won't feel any pain, in which case, even feeling fear would ensure that their brain is psychologically prepared for the events happening and isn't likely to anticipate the pain [if it existed]. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    What is rather strange is that the brain, having decoded a situation and issued a "secrete loads of adrenaline" message (presumably to muster resources to the most useful places) should then respond to its own message and shut down the higher functions. Why impose such a delay, when it could be done in an instant by a direct neural connection? Or maybe that's what really happens and the "adrenaline hides the sensory pain data" is an urban myth?
    I certainly don't think it's an urban myth, since there seem to be too many reports of individuals suffering severe injuries, that indicate that pain is rarely a factor during the experience.  In many cases, the individual can't even reconstruct specifically what happened, which argues that the higher-order functions are indeed shut down and blocked.  So between adrenaline masking pain and/or dissociation distracting us from it, it seems that there is a real mechanism here which tries to keep the conscious mind out of the process.

    Perhaps the question isn't whether the brain "shuts down" the higher functions, but rather that it doesn't "turn them on".
    I was talking about the distress.

    Quite obviously most of the human population do experience severe distress at times which is counter-productive.
    Well, that gets into something entirely different than the process of falling off a building in an act of suicide.  Clearly humans are quite capable of experiencing distress in the absence of any real event beyond that invented in their own minds.  Similarly, some may experience the opposite effect if the distress is what drives them to suicide.
    http://janinafisher.com/pdfs/selfharm.pdf
    I'm just concerned that a very likely source of intense distress, albeit lasting only about a second, is being dismissed with models of consciousness that are, at best, naive wishful thinking and, at worst, downright illogical.
    Well, I don't think there can be much argument about the fact that the sensory signals will be delayed.  However, if you want to consider the role of anticipatory responses because of distress, then you'd have to consider the reasons why the individual was in the situation of falling towards the ground.  Was this something planned like a suicide?  Was it unexpected like a fall from a cliff?  Was it simply an untenable choice, like those that jumped rather than be burned in the Twin Towers? 
    People can have horrific injuries and not feel the pain but still say "Ouch" when the needle goes in. Does adrenaline say to itself that you can't do much about the mangled guts, but you could pull your arm away from the needle?
    Well, that's really a different question, isn't it.  If we measure the sensory data sent by the nerve, then we would expect to see something that indicates "pain".  However, what are we to make of the situation where no "pain" signal is sent [or perhaps can't be sent] and yet the individual says "ouch"?  This also occurs and is well documented in the cases of phantom limb pain, etc.

    So, on the one hand, we can certainly make the case that sensory data takes a certain amount of time to be propagated and interpreted.  We also know that data that is interpreted may not necessarily rise to conscious awareness.  We can even argue that sometimes the brain interprets events without sensory data being present at all. 

    In that respect, one can't necessarily claim that the reaction to a traumatic event is solely governed by sensory data.   
    Mundus vult decipi
    Yes it's a whole bunch of different scenarios. In a way, you pointing out where there are significant differences makes the same point as I am making: that the system is very complex and although it might work in a particular way that you think is reasonable, it also might not. It's more useful expressed negatively: if someone asserts that the brain wouldn't work that way, a counter-example from me indicates that there isn't a general rule so you'd have to investigate the specific case.
    So, on the one hand, we can certainly make the case that sensory data takes a certain amount of time to be propagated and interpreted. We also know that data that is interpreted may not necessarily rise to conscious awareness. We can even argue that sometimes the brain interprets events without sensory data being present at all.
    In that respect, one can't necessarily claim that the reaction to a traumatic event is solely governed by sensory data. 
    That sums it up. I certainly wouldn't claim that a coherent experience of being smashed to pieces definitely takes place, just that the delays don't rule it out. 
     

    Gerhard Adam
    Within the narrow definition we are considering then we can safely claim (which was part of the original point), that you can't experience any sensory pain because of signal delay.  However, this tells us nothing about what the brain may "make up" in transit.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Nor when it adds the emotions of horror and misery to the story :(
     
    Never underestimate the power of Darwinian evolution to create survival mechanisms that really suck.
    Gerhard Adam
    That's true, but it's also interesting to see how psychology does try to accommodate some of these situations (at least to varying degrees in some people).  It's not uncommon then when an individual is under severe physical stress (i.e. tired, etc.) that they may well adopt a psychological attitude of just "giving up".  Some people may simply try to slog through it, while others may well reach a kind of resolve that allows them to avoid those "emotions of horror and misery".

    It's like the individual that was trapped in the rocks while hiking that cuts off his own hand.  It is curious to think about how the brain psychologically resolved that situation. 
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/8233734/Aron-Ralstons-127-Hours-This-is-going-to-make-one-hell-of-a-story.-.-..html
    Mundus vult decipi
    Yes. I suspect he's a pretty unusual person though. I'm not sure how I'd cope. But it's not really analogous - coping with a chronic stress situation is a bit different from making the most of the half-second between an event and the sense data reaching consciousness.
    I came to this page following the suicide by jumping of a student on this campus a couple of weeks ago.

    Two basic things which I was curious about - the jump height, in her case about 50 ft (17m). More to the point, generally, what do people actually die of? I can accept the posit of 500ms delay in processing information, but my follow-up question is "so what?" Are you saying that the brain is rendered lifeless absolutely instantaneously on impact, that it no longer functions even half a second later? Or are you saying that it has already switched off before impact? Is this based on science? (I realise by their nature this isn't easy to determine, if even possible at all).

    I remain curious about cause of death. It's clearly wrong to say 'died from a fall' when a lot of people could fall from greater heights and not die, as documented here
    In any case, it is obviously hitting a hard surface which does it, rather ruling out the 'switching off before impact' idea.

    In fact I am curious about other causes of death too. If a person dies in a bomb blast, without actually being torn about, what does he actually die of?

    Gerhard Adam
    Cause of death is likely to be extreme trauma to critical organs, so that they immediately cease functioning.  We're not talking about a casual "shut-down" of organs, so there isn't going to be any partial functionality.  It's like a car hitting a wall.  It doesn't "kinda still drive".

    In other cases, you could experience rapid loss of blood volume resulting in hypo-volemic shock and unconsciousness.  Death might not occur immediately. 
    Or are you saying that it has already switched off before impact?
    The point here is that the brain is processing "old data" because of propagation delays, consequently the brain itself is unaware of the latest events that have just transpired.  Since the brain ceases functioning, there is no opportunity for processing to "catch up" and ever be aware of the event that actually lead to death.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I am sorry to hear of the student death.  My sympathies if she was someone you knew.

    All he's saying is that because of the 500ms processing delay, the brain cannot process actual pain signals - assuming the brain is rendered non-functional in less time than that. (pretty likely if it's actually crushed, sorry to be explicit). There's no suggestion that it switches off before impact, only that the last "factual" experience is one that incorporates sense information from 6m.  The title is very misleading but, as usual, Sascha is drawing attention to something a bit wierd - i.e. what we experience must be at least half a second out of date.
     
    In other words, this is not a new amazing discovery making it an "attractive" way of ending one's life. 
    vongehr
    John: At a mere 17 meters, she could have survived and may have spend a good few seconds or longer consciously on the ground dying (and this has nothing to do with the 500ms or the here correspondingly only 2 meters instead of the 6 meters referred to in the title due to the lower velocity). That may actually have been the best time of her life - who knows. I fell once similarly and I quite enjoyed the numb, happy feeling, watching people running around trying to help. There was no pain although I had to be put together in the hospital for a few weeks after that.
    In reply to what people died from in a fall , my son committed suicide by jumping from a seven story building. His death certificate listed the cause of death as lacerated heart.

    So you're saying immediate really means that? Exactly analogous to switching off the light? Not even half a second of decay?

    This Youtube news article at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3daW2RICzpg about a man called Mario who recently survived a fall from the 47th storey of a skyscraper onto concrete and is expected to make a full recovery, shows that this article is completely wrong about its scientific calculations regarding the ability of a person to register the impact of a fall from 20 storeys or any other level directly onto concrete.

    Gerhard Adam
    No, rather it simply indicates that it has nothing to say if someone survives the fall, since clearly their brain functions are still intact.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Why tell people that this is a painless form of suicide when this evidence proves that some people will survive the impact, even if only for a few seconds? There are many examples of people surviving free fall from great heights, probably because the maximum velocity they can reach in free fall is about 120 mph and some people do seem to be able to survive and therefore register this impact, even on to concrete. It will be interesting to hear an interview with Mario when he is well enough to talk to the press.

    Gerhard Adam
    Again, if your argument is that one might survive a fall from a height, then that's a different subject that arguing that the brain would process the sensory data in "real-time".   From your comments, it isn't the article's premise you have a problem with, but rather the idea that a fall from a height will result in death.

    As I said.  If you survive, then clearly your brain is still processing data so you would register the impact.  So what's the problem?
    ...some people do seem to be able to survive...
    Are you suggesting that because some people might survive a gunshot to the head, that guns don't routinely kill people in that fashion? 
    Mundus vult decipi