Recent Reads

Frank Swain, How to Make a Zombie: The Real Life (and Death) Science of Reanimation and Mind Control (2013) – The search for the means to control the bodies and minds of our fellow humans has been underway for millennia, from the sleep-inducing honeycombs that felled Pompey’s army to the famous voodoo potions of Haiti. But recently, science has taken up the quest. Science punk Frank Swain digs into the reality of zombies: dog heads brought back to life without their bodies; secret agents dosing targets with zombie drugs; parasites that push their hosts to suicide or sex changes; bulls and rats commanded by remote control; city streets designed to quell violent thoughts; interrogation techniques used by the military; and viruses that take over the body and won’t let go. Packed with untold stories moldering in the corners of archives and labs, How to Make a Zombie is a mind-bending, entertaining excavation of incredible science.

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Emily Anthes, Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts (2014) – Medicine-producing goats, a glowing beagle, and remote-controlled rats seem like science fiction, but not only are they scientifically possible, they’re already here. Welcome to the weird world of animal biotechnology presented by journalist Anthes. Genetic alteration has allowed us to change animals in ways never before possible. The book is a quick, often surprising review of current advances, giving accessible treatment to a weighty subject and employing clear descriptions of complex science. Anthes not only explores what is being done but also asks why and if it should be done. Along the way, the book reveals much about humans and our connections to animals and the world we all inhabit. These animals are not just in labs. Glowing fish and steerable cockroaches are being sold, and a cloned cat has been accepted into a home after her research days were finished. Cyborg beetles and much more are a reality today, and their existence prompts us to wonder where our responsibility lies when pursuing our ever-growing power to play with the animal kingdom.
– Bridget Thoreson, Booklist, The New York Times

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Bob Rybarczyk, Acoustic Kitty: A Novel (2007)

When an isolated but brilliant CIA engineer is asked to help turn cats into surveillance devices, he soon learns that his new co-workers are even more bizarre than his new assignment. Which, naturally, is why he begins spying on them.

Order “The Spy with a Cold Nose” on VHS

Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, The Spy with a Cold Nose (1966)

Entertaining spy spoof stars Harvey as a playboy veterinarian called upon by the British government to implant a transmitter inside the stomach of an English bulldog, to be presented to the Soviet Prime Minister as a gift. The plan works, but Harvey and agent Jeffries are forced to go to Russia when the dog becomes sick, for fear the transmitter would be discovered if a Russian veterinarian were to inspect him. Played for laughs, with numerous pokes at the “James Bond” series. – TV Guide

Backyard Brains - Neuroscience for Everyone!
Neuroscience for Everyone!

José M.R. Delgado, M.D., Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psychocivilized Society (1969) – This is a book for the hardcore materialist atheist in the family. Jose Delgado, M.D. was Professor of Physiology at Yale University when this was written. Like all the Darwinists he evidently was a fan of Aristotle. He quotes Aristotle’s principle that “nothing is in the intellect which was not first in the senses” and agrees with Aristotle that the newborn mind is a blank tablet.

Delgado reckons that consciousness is “a rather expensive luxury in terms of time and effort”. People do things like stopping at a red light, he says, without thinking. The mind is only born when the infant “recognises objects and persons associated with positive and negative reinforcement”.

After some tiresome preamble, Delgado cuts to the chase with Chapter 14: Hell and Heaven Within the Brain: The Systems for Punishment and Reward. Delgado was one of the people responsible for Electronic Stimulation of the Brain, via a stimoceiver. Depending where electrodes are inserted in the brain, different results happen when the electricity is cranked up.

 
 
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Backyard Brains on Amazon.com
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Scientists these days just generally experiment on animals. Delgado worked on monkeys, chimps, cats, crickets, roosters, dolphins and “brave bulls”. He also worked on humans. By a twist of a dial he could increase or decrease a woman’s anxiety. He also made a patient throw aside a guitar and attack a wall. A usually reserved patient suddenly kissing her therapist’s hands. A male patient suddenly said he wanted to marry his interviewer and then declared, “I’d like to be a girl”. When the ESB was turned off, people were shocked at the change that had come over them. “I don’t know what came over me. I felt like an animal,” was one comment.

Delgado states the advantage of ESB over psychoanalysis: “Psychoanalysis requires a long time and a person can easily withdraw co-operation and refuse to express intimate thoughts.” ESB however “can set a determined behavioral tone”. He says it can be used for “habitual criminal conduct”. In addition, a two way radio communication system between brain and computer can be set up. The person being monitored can be administered “specific inhibition structures” at the onset of emotions such as anxiety, rage or depression, he says. Direct knowledge will be gained about the “cerebral basis for human behavior”. He reckons that “genes determine reaction or response”.

Much of the book concerns details of unpleasant looking experiments on monkeys, chimps and cats, including lots of distressing photos of animals with implants stuck on their heads. I was unsure of Delgado’s grasp on reality, as accompanying photos of a contorted cat, he writes that while the cat was administered 1.8 milliamps of electricity, it was “alert and friendly as usual, rubbing its head against the experimenter, seeking to be petted, and purring.” Yeah, right! He says that the cat was made to jump from one table to another while being given 2 milliamps and that this made the cat uncoordinated and that it fell and landed badly. Another photo shows a cat reaching out to a paddle on a wall, that Delgado was conditioning it to do to stop the pain administered by ECB.

As vile as this book is, at least Delgado is honest about the means of how science will affect people’s behavior/human values. The book is called Physical Control of the Mind, after all. Chapter 15, Hallucinations, Recollections and Illusions in Man mentions how implants can induce effects that could be interpreted as symptoms of schizophrenia, including the induction of complex hallucinations, illusions, emotions, vivid dream like experiences and “forced thinking (sterotyped thoughts crowding into the mind)”. Monkeys are made to fall asleep instantly. A chimp is made to avoid a banana. A bull is made to abandon a charge at Delgado and instead circles him, lifting its leg and turning its head. Delgado also states how ESB was used to disrupt the mother-infant relationship of two monkeys and caused the mother to self-harm. He doesn’t say whether his intention is for this application of ESB to be used on human mothers and babies.

I regard this book as a potent warning on the potential risk to society posed by scientists apparently acting as variants of Dr. Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s novel. There’s more on Dr. Delgado in The Mind Manipulators, which is well worth tracking down.
– Johns, “The Application of Science to Determine Human Values”

Cyborgs
Able to “play” monkeys and cats like “little electronic toys” that
yawn, hide, fight, play, mate and go to sleep on command

Alan W. Scheflin and Edward M. Opton, The Mind Manipulators (1978) – The mind manipulators : Warns of the threats to personal freedom and individuality posed by armies, intelligence agencies, psychiatrists, prison officials, and others who use mind-control techniques. – openbooke.com

The book looks at cases of mind control including “brainwashing” and psychiatric coercion, emphasizing especially the role of individuals in the government who have sought to control the masses through these methods. The book also shows the use of mind manipulation among individuals deemed “efficiency experts”, for police surveillance, and in the prison system. – New Age of Barbarism

Harry Ferguson, Spy: A Handbook (2004) – This book ties in strongly with the UK show “Spy” in which eight candidates went through a spy school and learned the fundamentals of espionage. Harry Ferguson, the author, was one of the tutors.

The book relates what occurred on the television show, but gives considerable theoretical background as to the reasons why the tutors staged each exercise and what its goals were as well as the reasons why the candidates succeeded or failed.

It is a very interesting book and can be enjoyed thoroughly both in isolation from, or conjunction with, the show.
– David Williams, “Insightful reality show gives espionage insights”

Spy
Inside several of the kettles and irons they found WiFi chips and microprocessors

Robert Wallace, H. Keith Melton, and Henry R. Schlessingerm, Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA’s Spytechs, from Communism to Al-Qaeda (2009) – Today’s CIA is regularly criticized for emphasizing technology at the expense of human intelligence. In this history of the agency’s Office of Technical Services, Wallace, its former head, and academic specialist Melton (Ultimate Spy) refute the charge with exciting content and slam-bang style. The book’s chief value is its perspective on the synergy of technology and tradecraft. From WWII through the Cold War and up to the present, the authors say, technical equipment—for clandestine audio surveillance, for example—has been an essential element of agent operations. In the post–Cold War information society, technology plays an even more significant role in fighting terrorism. Agents remain important, along with their traditional skills. Increasingly, however, they support clandestine technical operations, especially infiltrating and compromising computer networks. The authors persuasively argue that employing and defending against sophisticated digital technology is the primary challenge facing U.S. intelligence in the 21st century. Their position invites challenge, but it cannot be dismissed. 32 pages of photos, over 100 b&w illus. throughout. – Publishers Weekly

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Jeffrey T. Richelson, The Wizards Of Langley: Inside The Cia’s Directorate Of Science And Technology (2002) – In this, the first full-length study of the Directorate of Science and Technology, Jeffrey T. Richelson walks us down the corridors of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and through the four decades of science, scientists, and managers that produced the CIA we have today. He tells a story of amazing technological innovation in service of intelligence gathering, of bitter bureaucratic infighting, and sometimes, as in the case of its “mind-control” adventure, of stunning moral failure. Based on original interviews and extensive archival research, The Wizards of Langley turns a piercing lamp on many of the agency’s activities, many never before made public.

ESP
The platypus’ duckbill is a supersensory organ ladened with thousands of cells
responsive to the electric fields generated by all living things

Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (2008) – Is the Central Intelligence Agency a bulwark of freedom against dangerous foes, or a malevolent conspiracy to spread American imperialism? A little of both, according to this absorbing study, but, the author concludes, it is mainly a reservoir of incompetence and delusions that serves no one’s interests well. Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times correspondent Weiner musters extensive archival research and interviews with top-ranking insiders, including former CIA chiefs Richard Helms and Stansfield Turner, to present the agency’s saga as an exercise in trying to change the world without bothering to understand it. Hypnotized by covert action and pressured by presidents, the CIA, he claims, wasted its resources fomenting coups, assassinations and insurgencies, rigging foreign elections and bribing political leaders, while its rare successes inspired fiascoes like the Bay of Pigs and the Iran-Contra affair. Meanwhile, Weiner contends, its proper function of gathering accurate intelligence languished. With its operations easily penetrated by enemy spies, the CIA was blind to events in adversarial countries like Russia, Cuba and Iraq and tragically wrong about the crucial developments under its purview, from the Iranian revolution and the fall of communism to the absence of Iraqi WMDs. Many of the misadventures Weiner covers, at times sketchily, are familiar, but his comprehensive survey brings out the persistent problems that plague the agency. The result is a credible and damning indictment of American intelligence policy. – Publishers Weekly

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Tim Weiner, multiple Pulitzer Prize winner, longtime New York Times reporter, and the author of Betrayal: The Story of Aldrich Ames, an American Spy (1995) and Blank Check: The Pentagon’s Black Budget (1991) hits his marks in Legacy of Ashes. Drawing on more than 50,000 documents and 300 on-the-record interviews with key players (10 of them former directors of the agency; all of the book’s many notes and quotations are attributed), Weiner treats his subject with a ruthless, journalistic eye, skewering Republican and Democratic administrations alike for the CIA’s slide into mediocrity. One critic finds a weakness in Weiner’s exuberant dismantling of the old guard at the expense of more contemporary analysis. Still, this is an important book that will capture the attention of anyone interested in the CIA’s checkered history.
– Bookmarks Magazine

Philip Agee, Inside the Company CIA Diary (1976) – Philip Agee’s INSIDE THE COMPANY: A CIA DIARY, is a classic example of a work written by an idealistic, well-intentioned man which tragically undercut the very thing he wanted to achieve: the success of mid-nineteen-seventies Congressional hearings into the crimes of the CIA. Agee was an intelligence officer from 1957 to 1969, working in Latin America. His book gives us vital “insider” knowledge of the CIA, for instance the meaning of CIA cryptograms– and presents a picture of a man who was genuinely concerned for the welfare of the people of the region he was assigned to. His disillusionment came when he realized that the clandestine operations of the CIA, all aimed at repressing Leftist opposition to right-wing governments in Latin America, were doing nothing to better the basic living conditions of the people. He sees clearly that such methods could well be brought home, as they were to some extent in his time and even more so today, in order to undermine American democracy (pp. 578, 650). But he fails in the end to grasp the terrible structural change that the CIA has brought in the system of government designed by the Founding Fathers, eliminating checks and balances and replacing government by elected officials by a government of unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats. By failing to see that the CIA’s worst offense was not against social justice but DEMOCRACY, he lost his moral edge and undermined the Congressional fight against it. It would be understandable if someone reading Agee’s book came away thinking that eliminating the CIA would mean more governments like that of Fidel Casto, which gives people social justice but no freedom. In order to eliminate the CIA and its legacy, we must strip of its mask as defender of freedom and expose it for what it has always been: the foremost defender of totalitarianism in the world.
– Cheri Montagu, “A Well-Intentioned Blunder”


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