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« _+3=5+7=_: it depends what 'equals' equals | Main | here, listen to this while I'm away »


This was a great article -- thanks! I continue to be amazed at what can be done with pharmacology. Did you see the article in the NY Times this week about using Ecstasy (MDMA) to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Was it really "Feed your head"? I always heard "Keep your head". That would be the end result of remembering what it was that the dormouse said, seeing as the Mad Hatter is condemned to beheading at the end of the trial. The implication being that if he had remembered he might have been spared. But sadly all that analysis must now be jettisoned.

The lyrics of White Rabbit say, "Remember what the dormouse said."

That's without cheating. I was all grown up and a highly responsible member of the Young Republicans in 1969, so I am able to remember everything. Like the rest of the song, this line is a reference to Alice in Wonderland.

As you mentioned,the dormouse never said "Feed your head" in the story. Only Grace Slick said that. And perhaps it was you who installed a colon after "Remember what the dormouse said."

In my interpretation, when she sings "remember what the dormouse said" she was referring to this segment of the story (yes, I figured this out long ago, on an acid trip with my friend Kevin, who supplied the drugs and made me take them)

“I wish you wouldn’t squeeze so,” said the Dormouse, who was sitting next to her. “I can hardly breathe.”

“I can’t help it,” said Alice very meekly: “I’m growing.”

“You’ve no right to grow here,” said the Dormouse.

I think this was a cautionary about what could be expected from "The System" as a result of out-of-step behavior, folllowed by personal, GraceSlickian advice to "feed your head."

Loved your website!

Best to you,


Great post, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate reading a post about LSD, psilocybin (and Dali) that not only avoids spreading the common misinformation but actively debunks lots of it! Still though, the line "I was more about exploring and experiencing reality than escaping it" bothered me, as I know from personal experience that interest in these substances does not have to go together with "escaping from reality". Sometimes it helps to see the knowledge you think you have around the world from a fresh perspective (or as close as you can get in this world), which can aid in re-evaluating the things you take for granted. I'm not implying that it's necessary or even positive for everyone to have experiences of this sort, but there are lots of us that claim to have had them and gained immensely from it, while still being productive members of society that puts no one (including ourselves) in any kind of danger.

But everyone to vis own, you and everyone who does not wish to use certain mind-altering substances (including psilocybin, caffeine and theobromine, which is present in chocolate) are certainly free not to. Don't get me started on the hypocrisy of the current legislature though, that forbids certain substances based on fear and ignorance when there are drugs of much higher toxicity (both acute and long-term) sold everywhere - alcohol comes to mind.

I tend to believe drug use is more about coping with reality, and most of those I know who have used drugs did so because the drugs made them feel great and helped them get things done. The avoiders tend to stick with the legal drugs like alcohol, for whatever reason.

The psychedelics are more for experimenting with alternative views of reality. You can get the same effect by not sleeping for several days. A psychotic state is pretty much guaranteed after a week or so without sleeping.

Dali may have been a great draftsman and artist, but, by
all accounts was a miserable human specimen
See Orwell's essay-

Oh, I agree Dali was a miserable human being... that's got nothing to do with his artistry. I don't confuse the artist with the man.

As for the comments on escaping reality and such, I think we can all cite anecdotal evidence for both sides of the equation. Truth is, not all of us need to take mind-altering drugs to gain a fresh perspective; others find it helpful; for still others, it's an escape, and ends up hurting them in the long run. Depends on the individual. I was very careful not to make moral judgments in my post, because as mind-altering substances go, LSD doesn't strike me as any better or worse than pot, alcohol, nicotine, etc. I have always had zero interest in taking drugs because that's just not my style, not out of any sense of misguided "morality." Know thyself, and be true to that self...

Great post, very interesting stuff. I really hope that there are more studies about the effects psilocybin on cluster headaches. I knew someone a while back who suffered from it, and to hear him describe it, it sounded like pretty much the worst pain imaginable. I imagine that this could be very controversial, much like medical marijuana, but I hope it happens anyway. Those kind of moral objections always seemed very odd to me, since the drugs would only be prescribed by licensed physicians who deal with drugs far more dangerous and addictive than LSD and marijuana, and if there is a genuine medical need, what's the problem? (I guess this isn't like a wholly original viewpoint amongst science-people and might seem like a superfluous comment, I just thought I'd throw that out there).

Too bad you didn't get to see all of that Dali-exhibit, I can't get enough of the crazy dude. Anyway, I hope you get well soon! (your illness wasn't by any chance some really obscure syndrome from the jungles of Peru only transmitted by the ground-up bones of a panther, or something? 'Cause I would love to read a blog-post about that!)

"Hofmann" has one F.

This post was a bit of a "flashback" for me (heh heh) -- back when I was doing a whole bunch of Wikipedia work, I put some time into overhauling their LSD article. The stuff about Methergine, the poor kid who saw "Salvador-Dali-type faces", cluster headaches. . . I wrote those!

(Of course, anything I wrote the spring before last has probably been overhauled since, but it's still pretty freaky.)

I've had some wicked hallucinations from sleep deprivation, particularly when I'd been staying awake to write science fiction. The brain is a remarkable thing. There's even a physics connection: Jack Cowan (U. Chicago) and his colleagues have cooked up a "toy model" of the visual cortex which uses statistical-physics techniques to predict what kinds of shapes people see in drug- or migraine-induced hallucinations.

Oh, yes, you should ask your Spousal Unit about that:

I recall reading that Ergot poisoning was cited as a possible reason for the beliefs in lycanthropy and witchcraft as mass hallucination. Any incite anyone?

I recognized the art on the blotter acid right away. That's from the dream sequence in the Disney film Dumbo. Probably inspired by psychedelics, although in the movie it was just champagne.

I too always heard "Keep your head"

While ergot poisoning was, indeed, likely the source of many such "hallucinatory beliefs" in lycanthropy, I'm starting to believe more and more that it was likely episodic cluster headaches that gave birth to that particular legend. Please don't get me wrong - ergot and other alkaloids played their part in plenty of those beliefs.

It's really a fairly well-known (or well-suppositioned) "fact" that that the legend of witches "riding brooms" is borne of the application of a heavily-alkalyzed paste (most likely a belladonna/rendered animal fat product)to, errr, ummm......more sensitive and absobant parts of the female anatomy.

As to lycanthropy, however, I've suffered from cluster headaches for years and I can certainly see where the two cross paths in some crucial areas:

Firstly, the biggest seasonal onset of ECH for many seems to be in the months of Oct and Nov.......which also seems to correspond with the Luna di Cacciatore, or "Hunter's Moon".

The second largest contributing factor, I believe, is the nature of the affliction and its onset in the average sufferer. Anything that can take you from no pain to unbearable pain in less than five minutes and then disappear in exactly the same manner would have likely been viewed as as "transformation" by dark-age humanity.

Lastly (for now), is the fact that the symptoms of ECH mimic those of clinical and traditional lycanthropy......I, personally, look like a deranged animal, have trouble making sense to people, snarl, growl, howl, scream and destroy anything in sight. If I were near a chicken, rabbit, or some other small animal, I have no doubt I may very well break its neck, take a bite out of it or least at the height of a cycle.............oh, wait - cycle. Hmmmm. The connection deepens.

It's "feed your head", but the author is correct - the doormouse never actually said that.

He muttered something, but I killed and ate the little f***er.

Some years ago, my old chum Bonzo received an envelope bearing his address and containing a small quantity of mescalin...and the note within, apart from identifying the contents, simply said "Enjoy!". This left him with a very large problem, as he had no idea of the correct dosage level - and the interweb wasn't even a mote of an idea in the mind of Tim Berners-Lee. His quandary was that, if he took, say half of it and it had no effect, he would have wasted it, he took the lot. In one hit. He ended up in the park having conversations with squirrels...and to this day, he still hasn't been able to be sure whether this was an illusion , or if the substance truly enabled interspecies conversations.....

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
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      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
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      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.