SF recommendations for newbies

On my books blog this week, I posted a list of science fiction recommendations for people who don’t read science fiction. The list includes several science fiction novels by authors not normally known for writing in the genre, following by a similar title from a more unabashedly SF writer.

Good books to read aloud

If you have very young children, or know someone who is in that unfortunate position, you might want to check out my list of good books to read aloud to very young children, on my books blog. I suggest some books you won’t mind reading over and over, and I sure could use some additional suggestions from you guys.

On the science of near-death experiences…

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the...
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The unexplained phenomenon of the near-death experience is the source of many cliches about death and the afterlife. The term near-death experience (NDE) was coined by Dr. Raymond Moody in his 1975 book, Life After Life. However, reports of such experiences have occurred throughout history. For example, Plato’s Republic describes an NDE.

In a typical NDE, a person who is pronounced dead or is very close to death leaves their body and floats toward the ceiling. The person typically reports seeing a bright light or moving down a tunnel toward a light. Sometimes the person sees angels or dead loved ones. Sometimes their life flashes before their eyes, or a spiritual being tells them it is not their time yet and sends them back to their bodies.

Just as we can never know for sure what happens to us after death, we will probably never know whether the NDE is real, hallucination or some combination of both. However, a recent study has posited that excess carbon dioxide may cause typical NDE hallucinations. In a study of 52 heart attack victims, 11 reported NDEs, and their carbon dioxide levels were all significantly higher than those who didn’t have NDEs. Other people who have inhaled excess carbon dioxide have reported similar experiences as the typical NDE. But this study is the first to find a direct link between carbon dioxide in the blood and NDEs.

A person having an NDE often feels calm and at peace or experiences a feeling of unconditional love. These feelings may correspond to the sense of detachment, lack of emotion and calm that many people feel during traumatic events. In a defense mechanism, the brain releases large amounts of endorphins, which can produce these sensations.

Still, many people who have NDEs afterward feel a renewed appreciation for life, a sense of compassion toward others and a lack of fear about death. I just wish more of us could experience these things without having to almost die first. Well, perhaps we can. A stiff dose of ketamine, a horse tranquilizer, can produce remarkably similar hallucinations. Maybe when we start feeling depressed about life or our fellow human beings, the prescription should be a dose of ketamine and its accompanying NDE.

As always, when we want to understand anything, it is a good idea to turn to writers for insight. Here are some novels on the subject:

  • The Matt Zander Journals by Gary Denne
  • Passage by Connie Willis
  • Fearless by Rafael Yglesias

For more…

Near-Death Experiences Explained? (National Geographic)
How Near-Death Experiences Work (How Stuff Works)
Can Science Explain Heaven (Newsweek)
Patients Draw Life-After-Death Experiences (Newsweek)