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Can someone who has a damaged larynx, which does not allow them to talk, still create a tune when they whistle?
I know that the larynx is what allows a person to manipulate their pitch and volume, but whistling sounds are just air making a noise as they are through the lips.
Would a person with a damaged larynx be able to whistle physically, but it would just be a toneless noise?
If this is so, is there any situation where a human would not be able to talk, but could still whistle with a tune and understand the speech of others perfectly? (i.e. having not suffered brain damage or are deaf)
Sounds such as certain phonemes are made merely with the use of air flow and movement of the lips or tongue, without the need for action of the vocal chords. Think of 'f', 's', 't', k in the English language. These are called unvoiced phonemes in phoniatrics (see the phonemic chart). Also, clicking sounds and whistling can be made without use of the vocal chords.
Yes, as long as the person is able to blow air and 'shape' it using their tongue+lips, a person can whistle; even if it means this person lacks the ability to create the vibrational patterns necessary to talk.
Did COVID-19 Leak from a Wuhan Lab?
In March, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called into question the organization's report on the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The stage-managed investigation didn't take place until a year after the pandemic started, and reckoned that it's most likely that the virus jumped to humans from animal species, deeming the lab leak hypothesis extremely unlikely. Tedros observed, "Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy."
"I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough. Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions," he added, noting that "all hypotheses remain on the table." For his troubles, Chinese officials are suggesting that Tedros' comments are being used by "some forces with ulterior motives [that] are challenging the authority of and science behind the joint report." But if the Chinese government has nothing to hide, why has it stymied investigations into the origin of the virus from the very beginning of the pandemic?
In an extensive analysis at The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published last week, science journalist Nicholas Wade evaluates the likelihood that the virus has a natural origin versus the possibility that it escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Noting that ultimately "neither the natural emergence nor the lab escape hypothesis can yet be ruled out," Wade nevertheless concludes that the "proponents of lab escape can explain all the available facts about SARS2 [COVID-19 virus] considerably more easily than can those who favor natural emergence."
As evidence, Wade notes that while researchers have identified a very similar RaTG13 virus in horseshoe bats, they have not so far found a likely progenitor of the COVID-19 coronavirus in any wild or domesticated species. Initially, it was suggested that a local Wuhan wet market where wild animals were sold for food may have been the source of the initial outbreak. That was later discounted when further testing found that many of the first cases had no link to that market.
Wade argues that circumstantial evidence strongly supports the idea that the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. First, the lab has been collecting and doing research on bat coronaviruses for years and, perhaps not so coincidentally, the outbreak begin in Wuhan and nowhere else. Second, he claims that the initial uniformity of the strain of virus at the outset of the pandemic suggests that it was a gain-of-function variant experimentally adapted to be especially good at infecting human cells. Gain-of-function research seeks to improve the ability of a pathogen to cause disease. Wade also puts great evidentiary weight on the fact that the virus supposedly has an unusual furin cleavage site (a specific protein that the virus uses to enter human cells). Wade believes that its presence in the COVID-19 virus suggests lab manipulation.
Wade is particularly suspicious of EcoHealth Alliance researcher Peter Daszak who oversaw a National Institutes of Health grant used to fund research on coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. He notes that Daszak was involved in organizing an open letter published in The Lancet in March 2020 that decried "rumours and misinformation" suggesting that the COVID-19 virus did not have a natural origin. The letter did reference nine different early studies that concluded that the virus most likely had a natural origin. It is, however, notable that Daszak was a member of the WHO investigatory team that went to China in January. Daszak's longtime association with the Wuhan Institute of Virology certainly does have a conflict of interest whiff about it.
Wade asserts that the NIH grant was used to fund gain-of-function research on coronaviruses. Reading the abstract suggests that the funded research was actually focused on collecting viruses from the wild and developing predictive models to assess the risks of spillover into humans. On the other hand, in a video interview just days before the outbreak was identified, Daszak could be alluding to some gain-of-function research in Wuhan. In any case, even if Daszak is honest in his denials that doesn't mean that NIH funding might not have been diverted to gain-of-function research by lab leaders in Wuhan. Yesterday at a Senate hearing, Anthony Fauci, member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, strongly denied that the NIH had ever funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan laboratory.
Wade claims that "no known SARS-related beta-coronavirus, the class to which SARS2 belongs, possesses a furin cleavage site." Therefore it seems most likely to him that the furin cleavage site was added through gain-of-function experimentation in Wuhan. Certainly some research supports this contention, whereas other researchers report, "Furin cleavage sites in spike proteins naturally occurred independently for multiple times in coronaviruses. Such feature of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is not necessarily a product of manual intervention, though our observation does not rule out the lab-engineered scenario." More research and analysis will be required to sort these claims out.*
Wade also asserts that if the virus "jumped from bats to people in a single leap and hasn't changed much since, it should still be good at infecting bats. And it seems it isn't." Actually, according to some non-peer-reviewed research, some bat species are susceptible to COVID-19 infections. Among these are the common bent-wing bats (Miniopterus schreibersii) that are also found in the Yunnan caves from which the Wuhan virus researchers collected coronavirus samples. But have Chinese researchers sought to (re)test for the presence of a virus similar to the COVID-19 virus among that species of bat in Yunnan? The Chinese government still has plenty for which they ought to answer.
However, Wade is correct when he observes, "The records of the Wuhan Institute of Virology certainly hold much relevant information. But Chinese authorities seem unlikely to release them given the substantial chance that they incriminate the regime in the creation of the pandemic."
It is notable that on September 12, 2019, the main database of samples and viral sequences of the Wuhan Institute of Virology was taken offline. Institute researchers claim that that was done to prevent hacking. There is, however, no reason WHO or other investigators cannot now be given access to it.
"Absent the efforts of some courageous Chinese whistle-blower, we may already have at hand just about all of the relevant information we are likely to get for a while," Wade concludes.
The WHO investigation was pitifully inadequate. On March 4, a group of skeptical researchers issued an open letter questioning the WHO report and calling for an independent "forensic investigation" into the origins of COVID-19. If the Chinese government has nothing to hide concerning the origins of the COVID-19 virus, then it should welcome such an inquiry. If not, then Chinese researchers and officials should expect continued—and increased—skepticism about their assertions that the COVID-19 virus was not introduced to the world via a lab leak.
*Update: On the question of whether the furin cleavage site indicates lab manipulation see: "Is This a COVID-19 'Smoking Gun,' or Is it a Damp Squib?"
A 1973 report mentions a university study of fifty cases of people complaining about a "low throbbing background noise" that others were unable to hear. The sound, always peaking between 30 and 40 Hz, was found to only be heard during cool weather with a light breeze, and often early in the morning. These noises were often confined to a 10-kilometre (6.2 mi) wide area. 
A study into the Taos Hum in the early 1990s indicated that at least two percent could hear it each hearer at a different frequency between 32 Hz and 80 Hz, modulated from 0.5 to 2 Hz.  Similar results have been found in an earlier British study.  It seems to be possible for hearers to move away from it, with one hearer of the Taos Hum reporting its range was 30 miles (48 km).  There are approximately equal percentages of male and female hearers.   Age does appear to be a factor, with middle aged people being more likely to hear it.  : 43
In 2006, Tom Moir, then of Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand, believed he has made several recordings of the Auckland Hum.   His previous research using simulated sounds had indicated that the hum was around 56 hertz. 
There is skepticism as to whether the hum exists as a physical sound. In 2009, the head of audiology at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, David Baguley, said he believed people's problems with the hum were based on the physical world about one-third of the time, and stemmed from people focusing too keenly on innocuous background sounds the other two-thirds of the time. His research focuses on using psychology and relaxation techniques to minimise distress, which can lead to a quieting or even removal of the noise. 
Geoff Leventhall, a noise and vibration expert, has suggested cognitive behavioral therapy may be effective in helping those affected.  "It's a question of whether you tense up to the noise or are relaxed about it. The CBT was shown to work, by helping people to take a different attitude to it." 
Mechanical devices Edit
Although an obvious candidate, given the common description of the hum as sounding like a diesel engine, the majority of reported hums have not been traced to a specific mechanical source. 
In the case of Kokomo, Indiana, a city with heavy industry, the origin of the hum was thought to have been traced to two sources. The first was a 36-hertz tone from a cooling tower at the local DaimlerChrysler casting plant and the second was a 10-hertz tone from an air compressor intake at the Haynes International plant.  After those devices were corrected, however, reports of the hum persisted. 
Three hums have been linked to mechanical sources. The West Seattle Hum was traced to a vacuum pump used by CalPortland to offload cargo from ships. After CalPortland replaced the silencers on the machine, reports of the hum ceased.  Likewise, the Wellington Hum is thought to have been due to the diesel generator on a visiting ship.   A 35 Hz hum in Windsor, Ontario, is thought to have originated from a steelworks on the industrial zone of Zug Island near Detroit,  with reports of the noise ceasing after the U.S. Steel plant there ceased operations in April 2020. 
One hum in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina was suspected of originating at a Santee Cooper substation almost 2 miles away from the home of a couple who first reported it. The substation is home to the largest transformer in the state. One local couple sued the power company for the disruption the hum was causing them.  The hum was louder inside their house than out, in part, they believed, because their house vibrated in resonance to the 60 Hz hum. The volume of the hum was measured at up to 64.1 dB in the couple's home. 
Some sources claim that very low frequency radio waves or extremely low frequency radio waves that are used to communicate with submarines might be the source for the hum. 
A suggested diagnosis of tinnitus, a self-reported disturbance of the auditory system, is used by some physicians in response to complaints about the Hum.  Tinnitus is generated internally by the auditory and nervous systems, with no external stimulus. 
While the Hum is hypothesized by some to be a form of low frequency tinnitus  such as the venous hum, some report it is not internal, being worse inside their homes than outside. However, others insist that it is equally bad indoors and outdoors. Some people notice the Hum only at home, while others hear it everywhere they go. Some sufferers report that it is made worse by soundproofing (e.g., double glazing), which serves only to decrease other environmental noise, thus making the Hum more apparent. 
Spontaneous otoacoustic emissions Edit
Human ears generate their own noises, called spontaneous otoacoustic emissions (SOAE). Various studies have shown that 38–60% of adults with normal hearing have them, although the majority are unaware of these sounds.  The people who do hear these sounds typically hear a faint hissing (cicada insect like sound), buzzing or ringing, especially if they are otherwise in complete silence. 
Researchers who looked at the Taos Hum considered otoacoustic emissions as a possibility. 
Jet stream Edit
Philip Dickinson suggested at an Institute of Biology conference in 1973 that the 30 to 40 Hz hum could be a result of the jet stream shearing against slower-moving air and possibly being amplified by power line posts, some of which were shown to vibrate, or by rooms which had a corresponding resonant frequency.  Geoff Leventhall of the Chelsea College Acoustics Group dismissed this suggestion as "absolute nonsense". 
One of the many possible causes of the West Seattle Hum considered was that it was related to the midshipman fish, also known as a toadfish.  A previous hum in Sausalito, California, also on the west coast of the United States, was determined to be the mating call of the male midshipman.  However, in that case the hum was resonating through houseboat hulls and affecting the people living on those boats. In the West Seattle case, the University of Washington researcher determined that it would be impossible for any resonating hum, transmitted via tanker or boat hulls, to be transmitted very far inland certainly not far enough to account for the reports. 
The Scottish Association for Marine Science hypothesised that the nocturnal humming sound heard in Hythe, Hampshire in the UK could be produced by a similar "sonic" fish.  The council believed this to be unlikely because such fish are not commonly found in inshore waters of the UK.  As of February 2014, the source had not been located, although the sound has now been recorded. 
The Taos Hum was featured on the TV show Unsolved Mysteries.  It was also featured in LiveScience's "Top Ten Unexplained Phenomena", where it took tenth place. 
BBC Radio 4 in the UK featured an investigation of the Hum phenomena in their Punt PI fact-based comedy programme.  
Hums have recently been reported in both Frankfurt & Darmstadt, Germany. 
The Human Kazoo
The pitch of your voice comes from your larynx (sometimes called the voice box). It’s a collection of cartilage, muscle and membrane that sits in your throat, conveniently located between your lungs and mouth.
When air passes between a pair of membranes in the larynx, they vibrate like a comb and wax-paper kazoo. Just like the kazoo, when these membranes are stretched, they make a higher pitch, and when they are relaxed, they make a lower pitch.
Try holding your Adam’s apple and saying “zzzzz.” Did you feel something? To make the “sssss” sound you swing these membranes out of the way so they don’t vibrate any more. Try it, no more vibration, right?
But the voice has a disadvantage. The larynx is controlled by a complicated and interconnected set of muscles. Whether one muscle raises or lowers the pitch of your voice can depend on what the other muscles are doing.
Also, these are muscles! They get tired if you use them too much. They change as we grow, learn and age.
Instruments, on the other hand, are professional tools that get regular tuning.
6 Things About Blow Jobs That No One Talks About
Putting a penis in one's mouth is not as simple an endeavor as one might assume it is. Learning how to give a blowjob is a complicated process that can be a source of anxiety, fear, and unexpectedly deep soul searching. While the person being fellated might not be aware, the person on the other end is being bombarded with a lot of blowjob-related mind garbage. But no one ever talks about these little nagging things that have to do with giving head. It's difficult enough to bring up blowjobs around the water cooler or at a dinner party, so getting into the dirty little details can be tough. Obviously, not so for me, since I'm broaching them right now.
Generally, conversations about blowjobs center around who can deep throat, how easy/difficult it is to get a penis in your mouth hole, and whether or not you should kiss after completion. But there are far more mundane factors at play, and all of them far more important than these racier questions. I don't know why we don't talk more about the minutiae of giving head. What I do know is that there are certain things I can guarantee most women are thinking when we go down on someone. Such universal thoughts deserve to be shared and commiserated over. Here are six things about blowjobs that no one ever talks about, but which I'm forcing you to listen to me talk about right now:
1. How terrifying they are
Blowjobs are scary - not because of what happens to you when you're giving them, but what you might inadvertently do to the person you're giving them to. For instance: suddenly, reflexively biting down for some reason. There are a lot of things I'd like to go through life never having experienced. Orally castrating someone is certainly one of them.
2. How distracted you get by the smallest things
I envy anyone who can give a blowjob and retain sexy thoughts in their brain. For most of us, we're just trying not to choke on the chunk of our own hair that keeps slipping into our mouths. We're also thinking about the sweat smell of balls, making eye contact, the giant drip of our own spit smeared across our face, not biting down, etc.
3. How hard it is to not vomit
Again, I have much envy for the sucker who has no gag reflex. Because for everyone else, when a penis hits the back of your throat, its all we can do to stop from vomiting. Add "vomiting on someone's penis" to the list of things I would like to go through life without ever doing. It doesn't exactly scream "sexy" - unless you're one of those fetishists I once saw on Jerry Springer (I'm aware that a Jerry Springer reference reveals my age, and I don't even care).
4. How much it hurts your thighs
Look, I don't want to brag but, like, I work out. Even still, there's no workout quite like kneeling with no hands for support (one's on the shaft, the other's on the balls) while angling your face downward and bobbing your head up and down. There's no amount of yoga that will prepare your core for the exercise of giving head. It's a full-body experience that requires poise, concentration, balance, and abs and thighs of steel.
5. How each blowjob is unique
No matter how many blowjobs you've given, nothing can prepare you for giving your first one to a new person. Every penis is unique, and no two blowjobs are the same. The same can be said for all sex acts, but there's something particularly intimate about having someone's penis in your mouth. The whole experience can be quite discombobulating, what with all the balls you have to juggle (pun intended) with a new person.
6. The anxiety when he completes
It doesn't matter whether you're an established spitter or swallower, or how many times you've had a man cum in your mouth. There's always an intense anxiety when you feel him come close to orgasm. What is going to happen? Even though you know, you're still scared. For instance, every time it comes to that point, I start worrying that so much semen is going to squirt out so hard and fast that I will choke on it. This has literally never happened to me. But as soon as a guy starts clenching, I fill with fear. Even the most seasoned fellator has anxiety when it comes to finishing the job. Snap decisions have to be made, fast and in the heat of the moment, which can lead to embarrassing situations, like naked runs to the bathroom to spit up.
Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.
From our June 2016 issue
Check out the full table of contents and find your next story to read.
Carol Batie watched the entire segment, rapt. As soon as it ended, she e-mailed KHOU 11. “My son is named Josiah Sutton,” she began, “and he has been falsely accused of a crime.” Four years earlier, Batie explained, Josiah, then 16, and his neighbor Gregory Adams, 19, had been arrested for the rape of a 41-year-old Houston woman, who told police that two young men had abducted her from the parking lot of her apartment complex and taken turns assaulting her as they drove around the city in her Ford Expedition.
A few days after reporting the crime, the woman spotted Sutton and Adams walking down a street in southwest Houston. She flagged down a passing patrol car and told the officers inside that she had seen her rapists. Police detained the boys and brought them to a nearby station for questioning. From the beginning, Sutton and Adams denied any involvement. They both had alibis, and neither of them matched the profile from the victim’s original account: She’d described her assailants as short and skinny. Adams was 5 foot 11 and 180 pounds. Sutton was three inches taller and 25 pounds heavier, the captain of his high-school football team.
The DNA evidence was harder to refute. Having seen enough prime-time TV to believe that a DNA test would vindicate them, Sutton and Adams had agreed, while in custody, to provide the police with blood samples. The blood had been sent to the Houston crime lab, where an analyst named Christy Kim extracted and amplified DNA from the samples until the distinct genetic markers that swim in every human cell were visible, on test strips, as a staggered line of blue dots.
Josiah Sutton with his mother in 2003, a week after his release from prison. Sutton served four years for sexual assault before he was exonerated on the basis of faulty DNA evidence. (Michael Stravato / AP)
Kim then compared those results with DNA obtained from the victim’s body and clothing and from a semen stain found in the back of the Expedition. A vaginal swab contained a complex mixture of genetic material from at least three contributors, including the victim herself. Kim had to determine whether Sutton’s or Adams’s genetic markers could be found anywhere in the pattern of dots. Her report, delivered to police and prosecutors, didn’t implicate Adams, but concluded that Sutton’s DNA was “consistent” with the mixture from the vaginal swab.
In 1999, a jury found Sutton guilty of aggravated kidnapping and sexual assault. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. “I knew Josiah was innocent,” Batie told me. “Knew in my heart. But what could I do?” She wrote to the governor and to state representatives, but no one proved willing to help. She also wrote to lawyers at the Innocence Project in New York, who told her that, as a rule, they didn’t take cases where a definitive DNA match had been established.
Batie was starting to think her son would never be freed. But the KHOU 11 segment, the first of a multipart investigative series on the Houston crime lab, encouraged her. Shortly after e‑mailing the station, she received a call from David Raziq, a veteran television producer in charge of KHOU 11’s investigative unit. In the course of their work on the series, Raziq and his team had uncovered a couple of close calls with wrongful conviction—in one case, a man had been falsely accused, on the basis of improperly analyzed DNA evidence, of raping his stepdaughter. But in those instances, attorneys had managed to demonstrate the problems before their clients were sent to prison.
Batie hand-delivered the files from her son’s case to Raziq, who forwarded them on to William Thompson, the UC Irvine professor. Thompson had been studying forensic science for decades. He’d begun writing about DNA evidence from a critical perspective in the mid-1980s, as a doctoral candidate at Stanford, and had staked out what he describes as a “lonely” position as a forensic-DNA skeptic. “The technology had been accepted by the public as a silver bullet,” Thompson told me this winter. “I happened to believe that it wasn’t.”
Together with his wife, also an attorney, Thompson unpacked the two boxes containing the files from Sutton’s trial and spread them out across their kitchen table. His wife took the transcripts, and Thompson took the DNA tests. Almost immediately, he found an obvious error: In creating a DNA profile for the victim, Kim had typed three separate samples, two from blood and another from saliva. The resulting DNA profiles, which should have been identical, varied substantially. This alone was cause for serious concern—if the tech couldn’t be trusted to get a consistent DNA profile from a single person, how could she be expected to make sense of a complex mixture like the one from the vaginal swab?
Much more distressing were Kim’s conclusions about the crime-scene evidence. Examining photocopies of the test strips, Thompson saw that Kim had failed to reckon with the fact that Sutton’s DNA didn’t match the semen sample from the backseat of the Expedition. If the semen came from one of the attackers—as was almost certain, based on the victim’s account—then Kim should have been able to subtract those genetic markers, along with the victim’s own, from the vaginal-swab mixture. The markers that remained did not match Sutton’s profile.
“It was exculpatory evidence,” Thompson told me. “And the jury never heard it.”
KHOU 11 flew a reporter out to Irvine and taped a new interview with Thompson. Sutton’s case was taken up by Robert Wicoff, a defense attorney in Houston, who persuaded a Texas judge to have the DNA evidence reprocessed by a private testing facility. As Thompson had predicted, the results confirmed that Sutton was not a match. In the spring of 2003, more than four years after his arrest, Sutton was released from prison. His mother was waiting for him at the gates, her eyes bright with tears. “Going to prison, for me, was like seeing my death before it happens,” Sutton later told a local newspaper reporter.
In 2006, a cold hit in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, or codis , would lead police to Donnie Lamon Young, a convicted felon. Young confessed that in 1998, he and an accomplice had raped a Houston woman in her Ford Expedition. In January 2007, Young pleaded guilty to the crime.
Christy Kim was fired from the Houston crime lab, but reinstated after her lawyer argued that her errors—which ranged from how she had separated out the complex mixture to how she had reported the odds of a random match—were a product of systemic failures that included inadequate supervision. (Kim could not be reached for comment.) Sutton’s case became one of the central pillars of a public inquiry into practices at the lab. “The system failed at multiple points,” the head of the inquiry, Michael Bromwich, concluded.
Thompson was gratified by the overturning of Sutton’s conviction: The dangers he’d been warning about were obviously real. “For me, there was a shift of emphasis after Josiah,” Thompson told me. “It was no longer a question of whether errors are possible. It was a question of how many, and what exactly we’re going to do about it.” But as technological advances have made DNA evidence at once more trusted and farther-reaching, the answer has only become more elusive.
M odern forensic science is in the midst of a great reckoning. Since a series of high-profile legal challenges in the 1990s increased scrutiny of forensic evidence, a range of long-standing crime-lab methods have been deflated or outright debunked. Bite-mark analysis—a kind of dental fingerprinting that dates back to the Salem witch trials—is now widely considered unreliable the “uniqueness and reproducibility” of ballistics testing has been called into question by the National Research Council. In 2004, the FBI was forced to issue an apology after it incorrectly connected an Oregon attorney named Brandon Mayfield to that spring’s train bombings in Madrid, on the basis of a “100 percent” match to partial fingerprints found on plastic bags containing detonator devices. Last year, the bureau admitted that it had reviewed testimony by its microscopic-hair-comparison analysts and found errors in at least 90 percent of the cases. A thorough investigation is now under way.
DNA typing has long been held up as the exception to the rule—an infallible technique rooted in unassailable science. Unlike most other forensic techniques, developed or commissioned by police departments, this one arose from an academic discipline, and has been studied and validated by researchers around the world. The method was pioneered by a British geneticist named Alec Jeffreys, who stumbled onto it in the autumn of 1984, in the course of his research on genetic sequencing, and soon put it to use in the field, helping police crack a pair of previously unsolved murders in the British Midlands. That case, and Jeffreys’s invention, made front-page news around the globe. “It was said that Dr. Alec Jeffreys had done a disservice to crime writers the world over, whose stories often center around doubtful identity and uncertain parentage,” the former detective Joseph Wambaugh wrote in The Blooding, his book on the Midlands murders.
A new era of forensics was being ushered in, one based not on intrinsically imperfect intuition or inherently subjective techniques that seemed like science, but on human genetics. Several private companies in the U.S. and the U.K., sensing a commercial opportunity, opened their own forensic-DNA labs. “Conclusive results in only one test!” read an advertisement for Cellmark Diagnostics, one of the first companies to market DNA-typing technology stateside. “That’s all it takes.”
As Jay Aronson, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, notes in Genetic Witness, his history of what came to be known as the “DNA wars,” the technology’s introduction to the American legal system was by no means smooth. Defense attorneys protested that DNA typing did not pass the Frye Test, a legal standard that requires scientific evidence to have earned widespread acceptance in its field many prominent academics complained that testing firms were not being adequately transparent about their techniques. And in 1995, during the murder trial of O. J. Simpson, members of his so-called Dream Team famously used the specter of DNA-sample contamination—at the point of collection, and in the crime lab—to invalidate evidence linking Simpson to the crimes.
Alec Jeffreys in 1987, a few years after developing the technique of DNA typing (Terry Smith / LIFE Images Collection / Getty)
But gradually, testing standards improved. Crime labs pledged a new degree of thoroughness and discipline, with added training for their employees. Analysts got better at guarding against contamination. Extraction techniques were refined. The FBI created its codis database for storing DNA profiles of convicted criminals and arrestees, along with an accreditation process for contributing laboratories, in an attempt to standardize how samples were collected and stored. “There was a sense,” Aronson told me recently, “that the issues raised in the DNA wars had been satisfactorily addressed. And a lot of people were ready to move on.”
Among them were Dream Team members Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, who had founded the Innocence Project in 1992. Now convinced that DNA analysis, provided the evidence was collected cleanly, could expose the racism and prejudice endemic to the criminal-justice system, the two attorneys set about applying it to dozens of questionable felony convictions. They have since won 178 exonerations using DNA testing in the majority of the cases, the wrongfully convicted were black. “Defense lawyers sleep. Prosecutors lie. DNA testing is to justice what the telescope is for the stars … a way to see things as they really are,” Scheck and Neufeld wrote in a 2000 book, Actual Innocence, co-authored by the journalist Jim Dwyer.
While helping to overturn wrongful convictions, DNA was also becoming more integral to establishing guilt. The number of state and local crime labs started to multiply, as did the number of cases involving DNA evidence. In 2000, the year after Sutton was convicted, the FBI’s database contained fewer than 500,000 DNA profiles, and had aided in some 1,600 criminal investigations in its first two years of existence. The database has since grown to include more than 15 million profiles, which contributed to tens of thousands of investigations last year alone.
As recognition of DNA’s revelatory power seeped into popular culture, courtroom experts started talking about a “CSI effect,” whereby juries, schooled by television police procedurals, needed only to hear those three magic letters—DNA—to arrive at a guilty verdict. In 2008, Donald E. Shelton, a felony trial judge in Michigan, published a study in which 1,027 randomly summoned jurors in the city of Ann Arbor were polled on what they expected prosecutors to present during a criminal trial. Three-quarters of the jurors said they expected DNA evidence in rape cases, and nearly half said they expected it in murder or attempted-murder cases 22 percent said they expected DNA evidence in every criminal case. Shelton quotes one district attorney as saying, “They expect us to have the most advanced technology possible, and they expect it to look like it does on television.”
Shelton found that jurors’ expectations had little effect on their willingness to convict, but other research has shown DNA to be a powerful propellant in the courtroom. A researcher in Australia recently found that sexual-assault cases involving DNA evidence there were twice as likely to reach trial and 33 times as likely to result in a guilty verdict homicide cases were 14 times as likely to reach trial and 23 times as likely to end in a guilty verdict. As the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, in the United Kingdom, pointed out in a major study on forensic evidence, even the knowledge that the prosecution intends to introduce a DNA match could be enough to get a defendant to capitulate.
“You reached a point where the questions about collection and analysis and storage had largely stopped,” says Bicka Barlow, an attorney in San Francisco who has been handling cases involving DNA evidence for two decades. “DNA evidence was entrenched. And in a lot of situations, for a lot of lawyers, it was now too costly and time-intensive to fight.”
D NA analysis has risen above all other forensic techniques for good reason: “No [other] forensic method has been rigorously shown able to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source,” the National Research Council wrote in an influential 2009 report calling out inadequate methods and stating the need for stricter standards throughout the forensic sciences.
The problem, as a growing number of academics see it, is that science is only as reliable as the manner in which we use it—and in the case of DNA, the manner in which we use it is evolving rapidly. Consider the following hypothetical scenario: Detectives find a pool of blood on the floor of an apartment where a man has just been murdered. A technician, following proper anticontamination protocol, takes the blood to the local crime lab for processing. Blood-typing shows that the sample did not come from the victim most likely, it belongs to the perpetrator. A day later, the detectives arrest a suspect. The suspect agrees to provide blood for testing. A pair of well-trained crime-lab analysts, double-checking each other’s work, establish a match between the two samples. The detectives can now place the suspect at the scene of the crime.
When Alec Jeffreys devised his DNA-typing technique, in the mid-1980s, this was as far as the science extended: side-by-side comparison tests. Sizable sample against sizable sample. The state of technology at the time mandated it—you couldn’t test the DNA unless you had plenty of biological material (blood, semen, mucus) to work with.
But today, most large labs have access to cutting-edge extraction kits capable of obtaining usable DNA from the smallest of samples, like so-called touch DNA (a smeared thumbprint on a window or a speck of spit invisible to the eye), and of identifying individual DNA profiles in complex mixtures, which include genetic material from multiple contributors, as was the case with the vaginal swab in the Sutton case.
These advances have greatly expanded the universe of forensic evidence. But they’ve also made the forensic analyst’s job more difficult. To understand how complex mixtures are analyzed—and how easily those analyses can go wrong—it may be helpful to recall a little bit of high-school biology: We share 99.9 percent of our genes with every other human on the planet. However, in specific locations along each strand of our DNA, the genetic code repeats itself in ways that vary from one individual to the next. Each of those variations, or alleles, is shared with a relatively small portion of the global population. The best way to determine whether a drop of blood belongs to a serial killer or to the president of the United States is to compare alleles at as many locations as possible.
Think of it this way: There are many thousands of paintings with blue backgrounds, but fewer with blue backgrounds and yellow flowers, and fewer still with blue backgrounds, yellow flowers, and a mounted knight in the foreground. When a forensic analyst compares alleles at 13 locations—the standard for most labs—the odds of two unrelated people matching at all of them are less than one in 1 billion.
With mixtures, the math gets a lot more complicated: The number of alleles in a sample doubles in the case of two contributors, and triples in the case of three. Now, rather than a painting, the DNA profile is like a stack of transparency films. The analyst must determine how many contributors are involved, and which alleles belong to whom. If the sample is very small or degraded—the two often go hand in hand—alleles might drop out in some locations, or appear to exist where they do not. Suddenly, we are dealing not so much with an objective science as an interpretive art.
A groundbreaking study by Itiel Dror, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London, and Greg Hampikian, a biology and criminal-justice professor at Boise State University, illustrates exactly how subjective the reading of complex mixtures can be. In 2010, Dror and Hampikian obtained paperwork from a 2002 Georgia rape trial that hinged on DNA typing: The main evidence implicating the defendant was the accusation of a co-defendant who was testifying in exchange for a reduced sentence. Two forensic scientists had concluded that the defendant could not be excluded as a contributor to the mixture of sperm from inside the victim, meaning his DNA was a possible match the defendant was found guilty.
Dror and Hampikian gave the DNA evidence to 17 lab technicians for examination, withholding context about the case to ensure unbiased results. All of the techs were experienced, with an average of nine years in the field. Dror and Hampikian asked them to determine whether the mixture included DNA from the defendant.
In 2011, the results of the experiment were made public: Only one of the 17 lab technicians concurred that the defendant could not be excluded as a contributor. Twelve told Dror and Hampikian that the DNA was exclusionary, and four said that it was inconclusive. In other words, had any one of those 16 scientists been responsible for the original DNA analysis, the rape trial could have played out in a radically different way. Toward the end of the study, Dror and Hampikian quote the early DNA-testing pioneer Peter Gill, who once noted, “If you show 10 colleagues a mixture, you will probably end up with 10 different answers” as to the identity of the contributor. (The study findings are now at the center of the defendant’s motion for a new trial.)
“Ironically, you have a technology that was meant to help eliminate subjectivity in forensics,” Erin Murphy, a law professor at NYU, told me recently. “But when you start to drill down deeper into the way crime laboratories operate today, you see that the subjectivity is still there: Standards vary, training levels vary, quality varies.”
Last year, Murphy published a book called Inside the Cell: The Dark Side of Forensic DNA, which recounts dozens of cases of DNA typing gone terribly wrong. Some veer close to farce, such as the 15-year hunt for the Phantom of Heilbronn, whose DNA had been found at more than 40 crime scenes in Europe in the 1990s and early 2000s. The DNA in question turned out to belong not to a serial killer, but to an Austrian factory worker who made testing swabs used by police throughout the region. And some are tragic, like the tale of Dwayne Jackson, an African American teenager who pleaded guilty to robbery in 2003 after being presented with damning DNA evidence, and was exonerated years later, in 2011, after a police department in Nevada admitted that its lab had accidentally swapped Jackson’s DNA with the real culprit’s.
Most troubling, Murphy details how quickly even a trace of DNA can now become the foundation of a case. In 2012, police in California arrested Lukis Anderson, a homeless man with a rap sheet of nonviolent crimes, on charges of murdering the millionaire Raveesh Kumra at his mansion in the foothills outside San Jose. The case against Anderson started when police matched biological matter found under Kumra’s fingernails to Anderson’s DNA in a database. Anderson was held in jail for five months before his lawyer was able to produce records showing that Anderson had been in detox at a local hospital at the time of the killing it turned out that the same paramedics who responded to the distress call from Kumra’s mansion had treated Anderson earlier that night, and inadvertently transferred his DNA to the crime scene via an oxygen-monitoring device placed on Kumra’s hand.
To Murphy, Anderson’s case demonstrates a formidable problem. Contamination is an obvious hazard when it comes to DNA analysis. But at least contamination can be prevented with care and proper technique. DNA transfer—the migration of cells from person to person, and between people and objects—is inevitable when we touch, speak, do the laundry. A 1996 study showed that sperm cells from a single stain on one item of clothing made their way onto every other item of clothing in the washer. And because we all shed different amounts of cells, the strongest DNA profile on an object doesn’t always correspond to the person who most recently touched it. I could pick up a knife at 10 in the morning, but an analyst testing the handle that day might find a stronger and more complete DNA profile from my wife, who was using it four nights earlier. Or the analyst might find a profile of someone who never touched the knife at all. One recent study asked participants to shake hands with a partner for two minutes and then hold a knife when the DNA on the knives was analyzed, the partner was identified as a contributor in 85 percent of cases, and in 20 percent as the main or sole contributor.
Given rates of transfer, the mere presence of DNA at a crime scene shouldn’t be enough for a prosecutor to obtain a conviction. Context is needed. What worries experts like Murphy is that advancements in DNA testing are enabling ever more emphasis on ever less substantial evidence. A new technique known as low-copy-number analysis can derive a full DNA profile from as little as 10 trillionths of a gram of genetic material, by copying DNA fragments into a sample large enough for testing. The technique not only carries a higher risk of sample contamination and allele dropout, but could also implicate someone who never came close to the crime scene. Given the growing reliance on the codis database—which allows police to use DNA samples to search for possible suspects, rather than just to verify the involvement of existing suspects—the need to consider exculpatory evidence is greater than ever.
But Bicka Barlow, the San Francisco attorney, argues that the justice system now allows little room for caution. Techs at many state-funded crime labs have cops and prosecutors breathing down their necks for results—cops and prosecutors who may work in the same building. The threat of bias is everywhere. “An analyst might be told, ‘Okay, we have a suspect. Here’s the DNA. Look at the vaginal swab, and compare it to the suspect,’ ” Barlow says. “And they do, but they’re also being told all sorts of totally irrelevant things: The victim was 6 years old, the victim was traumatized, it was a hideous crime.”
Indeed, some analysts are incentivized to produce inculpatory forensic evidence: A recent study in the journal Criminal Justice Ethics notes that in North Carolina, state and local law-enforcement agencies operating crime labs are compensated $600 for DNA analysis that results in a conviction.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out that DNA evidence is being used in a system that’s had horrible problems with evidentiary reliability,” Murphy, who worked for several years as a public defender, told me. No dependable estimates exist for how many people have been falsely accused or imprisoned on the basis of faulty DNA evidence. But in Inside the Cell, she hints at the stakes: “The same broken criminal-justice system that created mass incarceration,” she writes, “and that has processed millions through its machinery without catching even egregious instances of wrongful conviction, now has a new and powerful weapon in its arsenal.”
T he growing potential for mistakes in DNA testing has inspired a solution fitting for the digital age: automation, or the “complete removal of the human being from doing any subjective decision making,” as Mark Perlin, the CEO of the DNA-testing firm Cybergenetics, put it to me recently.
Perlin grew interested in DNA-typing techniques in the 1990s, while working as a researcher on genome technology at Carnegie Mellon, and spent some time reviewing recent papers on forensic usage. He was “really disappointed” by what he found, he told me: Faced with complex DNA mixtures, analysts too frequently arrived at flawed conclusions. An experienced coder, he set about designing software that could take some of the guesswork out of DNA profiling. It could also process results much faster. In 1996, Perlin waved goodbye to his post at Carnegie Mellon, and together with his wife, Ria David, and a small cadre of employees, focused on developing a program they dubbed TrueAllele.
At the core of TrueAllele is an algorithm: Data from DNA test strips are uploaded to a computer and run through an array of probability models until the software spits out a likelihood ratio—the probability, weighed against coincidence, that sample X is a match with sample Y. The idea, Perlin told me when I visited Cybergenetics headquarters, in Pittsburgh, was to correctly differentiate individual DNA profiles found at the scene of a crime. He gave me an example: A lab submits data from a complex DNA mixture found on a knife used in a homicide. The TrueAllele system might conclude that a match between the knife and a suspect is “5 trillion times more probable than coincidence,” and thus that the suspect almost certainly touched the knife. No more analysts squinting at their equipment, trying to correspond alleles with contributors. “Our program,” Perlin told me proudly, “is able to do all that for you, more accurately.”
Around us, half a dozen analysts and coders sat hunched over computer screens. The office was windowless and devoid of any kind of decoration, save for a whiteboard laced with equations—the vibe was more bootstrapped start-up than CSI. “I think visitors are surprised not to see bubbling vials and lab equipment,” Perlin acknowledged. “But that’s not us.”
He led me down the hallway and into a storage room. Row upon row of Cybergenetics-branded Apple desktop computers lined the shelves: ready-made TrueAllele kits. Perlin could not tell me exactly how many software units he sells each year, but he allowed that TrueAllele had been purchased by crime labs in Oman, Australia, and 11 U.S. states last year, Cybergenetics hired its first full-time salesman.
Four years ago, in one of its more high-profile tests to date, the software was used to connect an extremely small trace of DNA at a murder scene in Schenectady, New York, to the killer, an acquaintance of the victim. A similarly reliable match, Perlin told me, would have been very difficult to obtain by more analog means.
And the software’s potential is only starting to be mined, he added. TrueAllele’s ability to pull matches from microscopic or muddled traces of DNA is helping crack cold cases, by reprocessing evidence once dismissed as inconclusive. “You hear the word inconclusive, you naturally think, Okay. It’s done,” Perlin told me, his eyes widening. “But it’s not! It just means [the lab technicians] can’t interpret it. Let me ask you: What’s the societal impact of half a crime lab’s evidence being called inconclusive and prosecutors and police and defenders mistakenly believing that this means it’s uninformative data?”
His critics have a darker view. William Thompson points out that Perlin has declined to make public the algorithm that drives the program. “You do have a black-box situation happening here,” Thompson told me. “The data go in, and out comes the solution, and we’re not fully informed of what happened in between.”
Last year, at a murder trial in Pennsylvania where TrueAllele evidence had been introduced, defense attorneys demanded that Perlin turn over the source code for his software, noting that “without it, [the defendant] will be unable to determine if TrueAllele does what Dr. Perlin claims it does.” The judge denied the request.
But TrueAllele is just one of a number of “probabilistic genotyping” programs developed in recent years—and as the technology has become more prominent, so too have concerns that it could be replicating the problems it aims to solve. The Legal Aid Society of New York recently challenged a comparable software program, the Forensic Statistical Tool, which was developed in-house by the city’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The FST had been used to test evidence in hundreds of cases in the state, including an attempted-murder charge against a client of Jessica Goldthwaite, a Legal Aid attorney.
Goldthwaite knew little about DNA typing, but one of her colleagues at the time, Susan Friedman, had earned a master’s degree in biomedical science another, Clinton Hughes, had been involved in several DNA cases. The three attorneys decided to educate themselves about the technology, and questioned half a dozen scientists. The responses were emphatic: “One population geneticist we consulted said what the [medical examiner] had made public about the FST read more like an ad than a scientific paper,” Hughes told me. Another called it a “random number generator.”
In 2011, Legal Aid requested a hearing to question whether the software met the Frye standard of acceptance by the larger scientific community. To Goldthwaite and her team, it seemed at least plausible that a relatively untested tool, especially in analyzing very small and degraded samples (the FST, like TrueAllele, is sometimes used to analyze low-copy-number evidence), could be turning up allele matches where there were none, or missing others that might have led technicians to an entirely different conclusion. And because the source code was kept secret, jurors couldn’t know the actual likelihood of a false match.
At the hearing, bolstered by a range of expert testimony, Goldthwaite and her colleagues argued that the FST, far from being established science, was an unknown quantity. (The medical examiner’s office refused to provide Legal Aid with the details of its code in the end, the team was compelled to reverse-engineer the algorithm to show its flaws.)
Judge Mark Dwyer agreed. “Judges are, far and away, not the people best qualified to explain science,” he began his decision. Still, he added, efforts to legitimize the methods “must continue, if they are to persuade.” The FST evidence was ruled inadmissible.
Dwyer’s ruling did not have the weight of precedent: Other courts are free to accept evidence analyzed by probabilistic software—more and more of which is likely to enter the courtroom in the coming years—as they see fit. Still, Goldthwaite told me, the fact that one judge had been willing to question the new science suggested that others might too, and she and her team continue to file legal challenges.
When I interviewed Perlin at Cybergenetics headquarters, I raised the matter of transparency. He was visibly annoyed. He noted that he’d published detailed papers on the theory behind TrueAllele, and filed patent applications, too: “We have disclosed not the trade secrets of the source code or the engineering details, but the basic math.”
To Perlin, much of the criticism is a case of sour grapes. “In any new development in forensic science, there’s been incredible resistance to the idea that you’re going to rely on a validated machine to give you an accurate answer instead of relying on yourself and your expertise,” he told me.
In 2012, shortly after Legal Aid filed its challenge to the FST, two developers in the Netherlands, Hinda Haned and Jeroen de Jong, released LRmix Studio, free and open-source DNA-profiling software—the code is publicly available for other users to explore and improve.
Erin Murphy, of NYU, has argued that if probabilistic DNA typing is to be widely accepted by the legal community—and she believes that one day it should be—it will need to move in this direction: toward transparency.
“The problem with all DNA profiling is that there isn’t skepticism,” she told me. “There isn’t the necessary pressure. Is there increasing recognition of the shortcomings of old-school technology? Absolutely. Is there trepidation about the newer technology? Yes. But just because we’re moving forward doesn’t mean mistakes aren’t still being made.”
Mark Perlin, the CEO of Cybergenetics, at the company’s headquarters in Pittsburgh, April 18, 2016 (Jeff Swensen)
O n April 3 , 2014, the City of Houston shut down its old crime lab and transferred all DNA-testing operations to a new entity known as the Houston Forensic Science Center. Unlike its predecessor, which was overseen by the police department, the Forensic Science Center is intended to be an autonomous organization, with a firewall between it and other branches of law enforcement. “I think it’s important for the forensic side to have that independence, so we can narrow it down without worrying about which side is going to benefit or profit from it, just narrowing it down to what we think is the accurate information,” Daniel Garner, the center’s head, told a local reporter.
And yet Houston has been hard-pressed to leave its troubled history with forensic DNA behind. In June 2014, the Houston Chronicle reported that a former analyst at the old crime lab, Peter Lentz, had resigned after a Houston Police Department internal investigation found evidence of misconduct, including improper procedure, lying, and tampering with an official record. A representative from the county district attorney’s office told the Chronicle that her office was looking into all of the nearly 200 cases—including 51 murder cases—that Lentz had worked on during his time at the lab. (A grand jury declined to indict Lentz for any wrongdoing he could not be reached for comment.)
“It’s almost 20 years later, and we’re still dealing with the repercussions,” Josiah Sutton’s mother, Carol Batie, told me earlier this year. “They say things are getting better, and maybe they are, but I always respond that it wasn’t fast enough to save Josiah.”
Before entering prison, Batie said, Sutton had been a promising football player, with a college career ahead of him. After his exoneration, he seemed stuck in a state of suspended animation. He was angry and resentful of authority. He drifted from job to job. He received an initial lump-sum payment from the city, as compensation for his wrongful conviction and the time he spent in prison, along with a much smaller monthly payout. But the lump-sum payment quickly vanished. He fathered five kids with five different women.
Batie called the city to ask about counseling for her son, but was told no such service was available. “I did my best to put myself in his shoes,” Batie said. “I was annoyed, but I knew he felt like the world was against him. Everyone had always given up on him. I couldn’t give up on him too.”
Last summer, Sutton was arrested for allegedly assaulting an acquaintance of his then-girlfriend. He spent the better part of a year in lockup before posting bail and is now awaiting trial. (Sutton denies the charges.) Batie believes that her son’s problems are a direct result of his incarceration in 1999. “He had his childhood stolen from him,” she told me. “No prom, no dating, no high-school graduation. Nothing. And he never recovered.”
I wondered whether Batie blamed DNA. She laughed. “Oh, no, honey,” she said. “DNA is science. You can’t blame DNA. You can only blame the people who used it wrong.”
What does it mean when someone doesn’t make eye contact with you, and what does it hide?
- It can be due to a bigger psychological problem, a neurological condition. Think about autism, social anxieties, etc.
- It can be due to low self-esteem.
- In their mind (at least on a subconscious level they feel they are “better” than you. They feel socially superior, but they may be unaware of this. With that said, it can also be conscious. More on this in a bit.
- They are in a bad mood and are hiding anger or in a mode of avoidance.
- They are attracted to you (or you like or are attracted to someone else), and you are avoiding eye contact. Yeah, you are all that and a bag of chips.
- They feel exposed. If they feel they are caught by surprise, unprepared, shame can cause someone to avoid eye contact.
- They don’t like the way you look. Ouch!
- They are avoiding connection. Think about couples that are fighting or angry people. I have a whole article devoted to why people avoid eye contact when they are angry.
Let’s take each one of these and elaborate a bit more. When do they happen, and what can you do about it if you find yourself in a situation where one of these scenarios is playing out.
Let’s say you are in a conversation with someone and notice that the eye contact is off.
Tree language is a totally obvious concept to ecologist Suzanne Simard, who has spent 30 years studying forests. In June 2016, she gave a Ted Talk (which now has nearly 2.5 million views), called “How Trees Talk to Each Other.”
Simard grew up in the forests of British Columbia in Canada, studied forestry, and worked in the logging industry. She felt conflicted about cutting down trees, and decided to return to school to study the science of tree communication. Now, Simard teaches ecology at the University of British Columbia-Vancouver and researches “below-ground fungal networks that connect trees and facilitate underground inter-tree communication and interaction,” she says. As she explained to her Ted Talk audience:
I want to change the way you think about forests. You see, underground there is this other world, a world of infinite biological pathways that connect trees and allow them to communicate and allow the forest to behave as though it’s a single organism. It might remind you of a sort of intelligence.
Trees exchange chemicals with fungus, and send seeds—essentially information packets—with wind, birds, bats, and other visitors for delivery around the world. Simard specializes in the underground relationships of trees. Her research shows that below the earth are vast networks of roots working with fungi to move water, carbon, and nutrients among trees of all species. These complex, symbiotic networks mimic human neural and social networks. They even have mother trees at various centers, managing information flow, and the interconnectedness helps a slew of live things fight disease and survive together.
Simard argues that this exchange is communication, albeit in a language alien to us. And there’s a lesson to be learned from how forests relate, she says. There’s a lot of cooperation, rather than just competition among and between species as was previously believed.
Peter Wohlleben came to a similar realization while working his job managing an ancient birch forest in Germany. He told the Guardian he started noticing trees had complex social lives after stumbling upon an old stump still living after about 500 years, with no leaves. “Every living being needs nutrition,” Wohlleben said. “The only explanation was that it was supported by the neighbor trees via the roots with a sugar solution. As a forester, I learned that trees are competitors that struggle against each other, for light, for space, and there I saw that it’s just [the opposite]. Trees are very interested in keeping every member of this community alive.” He believes that they, like humans, have family lives in addition to relationships with other species. The discovery led him to write a book, The Hidden Life of Trees.
By being aware of all living things’ inter-reliance, Simard argues, humans can be wiser about maintaining mother trees who pass on wisdom from one tree generation to the next. She believes it could lead to a more sustainable commercial-wood industry: in a forest, a mother tree is connected to hundreds of other trees, sending excess carbon through delicate networks to seeds below ground, ensuring much greater seedling survival rates.
Types of Dissociative Disorders
Some people experience long-lasting or recurring bouts of disconnect. When this happens, it might signal a dissociative disorder. The current "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM-5) identifies three types of dissociative disorders:
- : This dissociative disorder is characterized by persistent or recurring episodes of depersonalization, derealization, or both. It's often described as feeling as if you're observing yourself as a character in a movie. : Formerly known as "multiple personality disorder," DID is a controversial disorder characterized by a person fragmenting into at least two distinct identities, or personality states.
- Dissociative amnesia: A condition characterized by retrospectively reported memory gaps. These gaps involve the inability to recall personal information, usually related to a traumatic experience.
Other Associated Conditions
Dissociation is more than just a symptom of dissociative disorders. In actuality, dissociation can accompany almost every psychiatric condition, some of the most common being:
When to Call the Doctor
When should wheezing be treated by a healthcare provider?
See your healthcare provider if your wheezing is new, if it keeps coming back, or if it’s accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest tightness or chest pain.
- Rapid breathing.
- Unexplained swelling of your feet or legs.
- Loss of voice.
- Swelling of the lips or tongue.
- A bluish tinge around your skin, mouth or nails.
When should I go to the Emergency Room?
If your skin, mouth or nails are turning blue, then you aren’t getting enough air into your lungs. This is a medical emergency and you should have a family member or friend take you to the nearest urgent care or emergency room. If you’re alone, call 911 and describe your breathing.
If you suddenly start wheezing after a bee sting, after you take a new medication or eat a new food, that could indicate an allergic reaction and you should go to the emergency room immediately.
Whatever the cause of your wheezing, there are things you can do to get relief. Follow your healthcare provider’s directions, don’t smoke, take all medications as prescribed and run a vaporizer or humidifier to moisten the air. Doing all of these things will help you breathe easier.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/24/2020.
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- Merck Manual. Wheezing. Accessed 9/14/2020.
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- Gong H JR. Wheezing and Asthma. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths 1990. Chapter 37. Accessed 9/14/2020.
- APA Carter, Kerri MD, FAAP Moskowitz, William MD, FAAP, FACC, FSCAI. Cardiac Asthma: Old Disease, New Considerations. Clinical Pulmonary Medicine. 2014. 214:173-180. Accessed 9/14/2020.
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Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy