Mental function is immensely complicated and our understanding of it still in its relative infancy; in Ireland our first psychiatric institutions date back only to the early eighteenth century. Could it be that it is the human brain or mind, and not space, that is the final frontier?
In the eighty-million-year time span from the mid-Permian to the mid-Jurassic periods, two massive extinctions occurred, as well as four of lesser magnitude. In the biggest of these, 250 million years ago, ninety-five per cent of existing plant and animal life perished.
Dubliner Dionysius Lardner couldn’t wangle a job at Trinity despite his remarkable gifts of clarity and exposition, but he was nevertheless a successful publisher in England and criss-crossed America, addressing huge audiences as one of the great scientific popularisers of his era.
Many patients with a debilitating terminal disease might, one would think, be glad to hear their time is short. Still, ignoring the statistics, oncologists will offer ‘hope’ and more treatment. Why, asks the old doctors’ joke, do coffins have nails? To keep the oncologists out.