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Rahman Bey

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  • Roger Anderton
    An interesting article by J B S Haldane FRS written in 1939 in book Science and Everyday Life, revealing that the general public of his day knew little about
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2003
      An interesting article by J B S Haldane FRS written in 1939 in book Science and Everyday Life, revealing that the general public of his day knew little about science, hence believed fiction, which the Media was only too happy to peddle to them. (Sounds like much the same as today.) :


      "In several daily newspapers of July 1st, 1938, there was a story of an Egyptian called Rahman Bey, who threw himself into a trance, and stayed for an hour at the bottom of a swimming bath in a metal tank. 'My peculiar gift was discovered by a Yogi priest when I was a child,' he is reported to have said. And the whole thing is put across to the British public as a sample of the mysterious gifts of Orientals, who, of course, are so unlike us!

      "Now there are two funny things about this story, before we come to the tank at all. The name Rahman Bey means Colonel Merciful, which strikes me as funny. And as the Yogi philosophy is a product of India, it is remarkable that its adherents should experiment on Egyptian children.

      "The Daily Herald gave a photograph of the tank, which measures 8 feet by 1 ½ feet by 2 feet, according to one of my colleagues, and rather less according to me. So it holds 20 to 25 cubic feet. An average man occupies 2 ½ cubic feet, so Rahman Bey had about 20 cubic feet of air. Now a man doing light work uses about 24 cubic feet of oxygen in 24 hours. If he lies still, this is reduced to about half.

      "So Colonel Merciful used about half a cubic foot of oxygen in an hour. As 20 cubic feet of air contain just over 4 cubic feet of oxygen, he had plenty to spare at the end of the hour, and could have gone on for another two hours. After this time he would have been very short of breath, and would have panted so much that the remaining oxygen would have been used up more quickly. And when he came out after three hours he would have had a nasty headache. For besides using oxygen, a man makes a slightly smaller amount of carbon dioxide; and after breathing air containing anything over 6 per cent of this gas for an hour, one has a short but violent headache, and I for one sometimes vomit. (So do others, as the experiments on the International Brigaders in connection with the loss of the Thetis showed.)

      "Before being shut up in the tank, Rahman Bey 'shook like a pneumatic drill and flung himself violently into unconsciousness.' I should have lain down quietly. But if Rahman Bey was unconscious he saved himself an hour of boredom. However, if I can borrow a tank, I am perfectly willing to spend an hour at the bottom of a swimming bath for a suitable fee to be paid to the International Brigade Dependants' Fund. [[[Unfortunately this challenge was not taken up]]]

      "Many readers will say 'What does all this matter?' It matters quite a lot. The physiology of human breathing is involved in questions of mine and factory ventilation, and of protection against poison gas, when to-day concerns everybody. [[[[This article written during WWII when there was fear of poison gas attacks]]]] And if we are not educated in the matter, we take the Government's statements on gas defence as seriously as the journalists took Rahman Bey.

      "I recently had an airtight tank with a glass window made in which a child could be shut for several hours during a gas attack. I stayed in it for an hour myself, and got rather warm, whereas Rahman Bey was doubtless cool at the bottom of his swimming bath. But I had to try three mothers before any of them would allow their baby to stay in it for even half an hour.

      "There are no gas masks for babies, [[[[a lot later after this article, there were gas masks available for babies]]]] and a tank of this kind would give protection for some hours at any rate. But because we are not taught some elementary facts about ourselves as how much oxygen a man uses per hour, a good many babies are going to die if gas is used against civilians in a future war.

      "You may call me a crass materialist, but it seems to me more important that children should be taught such facts as this than that they should know how often King Henry VIII married or who won the Battle of Agincourt.

      "There are a great many strange stories about the wonderful powers displayed by various Asiastics and Africans. When they are investigated they generally turn out either to be untrue or to be based on elementary facts of human physiology which are known to certain groups in India, but not yet generally known in Europe.

      "For example, I have pushed a red-hot cigarette end against the finger of a hypnotised Englishman without causing either pain or blistering. If he had been an Indian, it would have made a story for the daily Press.

      "These stories are useful for imperialists, because they help to spread the idea that the human races are very different. If people in England believe the myth that members of coloured races have powers which Europeans do not possess, they will be ready to believe another myth - namely, that they do not possess the power of looking after their own affairs.

      "It is time that we realised that scientific investigation has shown that people of different races are remarkably alike, and that it is only prejudice and the self -interest of exploiters which prevent them from being brothers."

      ME - Interesting- in the last paragraph he concludes that science shows the different peoples of the human race to be alike, but in Nazi Germany at the same time the Nazi scientists were reaching a completely different conclusion and promoting Holocaust, instead of the brotherly love that he proposed. In this regard, what he considers as myth had become the science of the Nazis, and it was still the myth that the British Media of the 1930s-40s was promoting instead of science. The Media hasn't changed much since then, and carries on in its same old way of promoting stories that attract interest in a way that the public finds interesting; i.e. totally disregard any science issues. Given the amount of time this has been going on, total corruption of science can occur.

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