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 I found it; all 21 grams of it!!
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 03/15/2006 :  05:33:28  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message
It took a little creative digging because I couldn't remember the guy's name, only his experiments. And then, as might be expected of someone slipping in and out of delirium tremens like clockwork, I couldn't remember what thread I wanted to add it to.

So whaddafork, it's interesting enough to rate a thread of it's own, thinks I. Thus, with no further a', I present Dr. Duncan MacDougall, Seeker of Souls.
quote:
Duncan MacDougall
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Dr. Duncan MacDougall was an early 20th century doctor in Haverhill, Massachusetts who sought to measure the weight purportedly lost by a human body when the soul departed the body upon death.

In the early 1900s, MacDougall weighed dying patients in an attempt to prove that the soul was material and measurable. In March 1907, accounts of MacDougall's experiments were published in the New York Times and the medical journal American Medicine.

Although generally regarded either as meaningless or considered to have had little if any scientific merit, MacDougall's finding that the human soul weighed 21 grams has become a meme in the public consciousness, and lent itself to the title of the mainstream film 21 Grams.

Snopes has a more complete description if his experiments and their results:
quote:
The patient's comfort was looked after in every way, although he was practically moribund when placed upon the bed. He lost weight slowly at the rate of one ounce per hour due to evaporation of moisture in respiration and evaporation of sweat.

During all three hours and forty minutes I kept the beam end slightly above balance near the upper limiting bar in order to make the test more decisive if it should come.

At the end of three hours and forty minutes he expired and suddenly coincident with death the beam end dropped with an audible stroke hitting against the lower limiting bar and remaining there with no rebound. The loss was ascertained to be three-fourths of an ounce.

This loss of weight could not be due to evaporation of respiratory moisture and sweat, because that had already been determined to go on, in his case, at the rate of one sixtieth of an ounce per minute, whereas this loss was sudden and large, three-fourths of an ounce in a few seconds. The bowels did not move; if they had moved the weight would still have remained upon the bed except for a slow loss by the evaporation of moisture depending, of course, upon the fluidity of the feces. The bladder evacuated one or two drams of urine. This remained upon the bed and could only have influenced the weight by slow gradual evaporation and therefore in no way could account for the sudden loss.

There remained but one more channel of loss to explore, the expiration of all but the residual air in the lungs. Getting upon the bed myself, my colleague put the beam at actual balance. Inspiration and expiration of air as forcibly as possible by me had no effect upon the beam. My colleague got upon the bed and I placed the beam at balance. Forcible inspiration and expiration of air on his part had no effect. In this case we certainly have an inexplicable loss of weight of three-fourths of an ounce. Is it the soul substance? How other shall we explain it?2

Of course, this quickly set off a debate:
quote:
In March 1907 accounts of MacDougall's experiments were published in the The New York Times and the medical journal American Medicine, prompting what Mary Roach described as an "acrid debate" in the latter's letters column:

Fellow Massachusetts doctor Augustus P. Clarke took MacDougall to task for having failed to take into account the sudden rise in body temperature at death when the blood stops being air-cooled via its circulation through the lungs. Clarke posited that the sweating and moisture evaporation caused by this rise in body temperature would account both for the drop in the men's weight and the dogs' failure to register one. (Dogs cool themselves by panting, not sweating.) MacDougall rebutted that without circulation, no blood can be brought to the surface of the skin and thus no surface cooling occurs. The debate went on from the May issue all the way through December . . .3

With the resulting non-conclusion:
quote:
Dr. MacDougall admitted in his journal article that his experiments would have to repeated many times with similar results before any conclusions could be drawn from them:

If it is definitely proved that there is in the human being a loss of substance at death not accounted for by known channels of loss, and that such loss of substance does not occur in the dog as my experiments would seem to show, then we have here a physiological difference between the human and the canine at least and probably between the human and all other forms of animal life.

I am aware that a large number of experiments would require to be made before the matter can be proved beyond any possibility of error, but if further and sufficient experimentation proves that there is a loss of substance occurring at death and not accounted for by known channels of loss, the establishment of such a truth cannot fail to be of the utmost importance.2

Here, we have the good doctor's tests:

quote:
"[S]uddenly coincident with death . . . the loss was ascertained to be three-fourths of an ounce."

"The weight lost was found to be half an ounce. Then my colleague auscultated the heart and and found it stopped. I tried again and the loss was one ounce and a half and fifty grains."

"My third case showed a weight of half an ounce lost, coincident with death, and an additional loss of one ounce a few minutes later."

"In the fourth case unfortunately our scales were not finely adjusted and there was a good deal of interference by people opposed to our work . . . I regard this test as of no value."

"My fifth case showed a distinct drop in the beam requiring about three-eighths of an ounce which could not be accounted for. This occurred exactly simultaneously with death but peculiarly on bringing the beam up again with weights and later removing them, the beam did not sink back to stay for fully fifteen minutes."

"My sixth and last case was not a fair test. The patient died almost within five minutes after being placed upon the bed and died while I was adjusting the beam."




There we have it; The Weighing of the Souls.






"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


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Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

trogdor
Skeptic Friend

198 Posts

Posted - 03/15/2006 :  19:30:02   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send trogdor a Private Message
Fantastic detective work, filthy.

I wish I had the time to research things that interested me, but I have too much other useless crap to do. Well, at least I can come here to get good information.

all eyes were on Ford Prefect. some of them were on stalks.
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