MB Reed

Author and mathematician


Footnotes for Chapters 3-4

Hospital Diary III

  1. An old black-and-white film: The film was Prisoner of War (1954). Army Captain Webb Sloane (Ronald Reagan) is parachuted into North Korea to infiltrate the PoW camps where American GIs were being subjected to brutal interrogation and brainwashing techniques.

  2. A war with Argentina: The Argentine armed forces invaded the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982. Britain sent a naval task force to retake them three days later. British forces recaptured Port Stanley, ending the war, on 11 June 1982.

  3. A speech to the Houses of Parliament: President Ronald Reagan arrived on a state visit to Britain on 7 June, and gave a speech to both Houses of Parliament the following day. The quotations are adapted from his 1982 ‘Westminster Address’.

  4. Female protesters being arrested: Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp was a peace camp established to protest at nuclear weapons being sited at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire. The camp began in September 1981 to protest against the decision of the British government to allow cruise missiles to be based there. The first blockade of the base occurred in May 1982 with 250 women protesting, during which 34 arrests were made. The camp was disbanded in 2000.

  5. Pershing missile deployment: For the deployment of Pershing II missiles in Western Europe, see the Wikipedia entry on the Able Archer 83 war-game exercise, which almost led to nuclear Armageddon.

  6. The Commodore PET has a Wikipedia page.

  7. “Psychiatry has moved on a bit”: Freud’s Studies in Hysteria was published in 1895. He ascribed hysteria to a mental disturbance rather than the long-standing explanation: a displaced uterus (which is the origin of the word), which was treated by the removal of both ovaries. See the Wikipedia page for ‘wandering womb’, and also the webpage [“Women and Psychiatry”] (http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/themes/menalhealthandillness/womanandpsychiatry).

  8. “All our memories are fictitious, to some extent”: New memories are laid down in the hippocampus, by synapses firing between neurons to create stable connections: the electrochemical mechanism has been dubbed long-term potentiation. As the storage capacity of the hippocampus is limited, during sleep some memories are transferred to other parts of the brain for storage. Thus, memories are not preserved intact like books in a library. When we recall a memory, it is re-formed in the hippocampus, and after being examined by our consciousness it has to be stored again. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of proteins are involved at each stage, and the memory itself is inevitably modified by the process, which can be disrupted by Alzheimer’s, PTSD or sensory overload. This research received the Brain Prize for neuroscience in 2016.

  9. “there’s a famous psychology experiment”: The false-memory experiment involving a traffic accident film was conducted by Dr Elizabeth Loftus.
  10. Narocanalysis: A combination of hypnosis and drug therapy, to recover suppressed memories.

  11. “some sort of brainwashing”: The CIA’s MKULTRA programme tried to achieve mind control and brainwashing through the use of hallucinogenic drugs. These were administered to the CIA’s own operatives, to volunteers – and to unsuspecting members of the public.

Chapter 3: Debriefing

  1. Wotan-14 astronauts: The Apollo-14 mission landed on the Moon on 5 February 1971. After the 1969 Moon landing, Wernher von Braun predicted in an interview that Man would travel to Mars and beyond within fifteen years.

  2. Century House at 100 Westminster Bridge Road was the London headquarters of MI6 from 1964.

  3. “Bomb Outrage in Dublin”: On 1st December 1972 two car bombs exploded in the centre of Dublin; there were two fatalities. A telephone warning was given a few minutes earlier by a man with a “distinctly English accent”. The men who had hired the cars were respectable, well-dressed and also spoke with cultured English accents. The Irish Dail was debating an amendment strengthening the Offences against the State Act that same evening. No organisation claimed responsibility, and no-one was ever arrested. Click here for more details.

  4. “What about the bugging?”: The descriptions of MI5/MI6 bugging operations in the 1970’s are taken from “Spycatcher”, by Peter Wright (1987, Viking Penguin Inc, USA).

Chapter 4: Auntie

  1. Julian and Sandy were a pair of camp homosexual characters on the BBC radio comedy programme Round the Horne from 1965 to 1968 and were played by Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams. See Wikipedia.

  2. Unity Valkyrie Freeman-Mitford (8 August 1914 – 28 May 1948) was a British socialite, known for her relationship with Adolf Hitler. Following the declaration of World War II, Mitford attempted suicide in Munich, and was officially allowed safe passage back to England in her invalid condition, but never recovered.Her sister Diana was married to Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists.

  3. An act of gross indecency: The Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminalised consensual homosexual acts, but they had to be consensual, between adults (over 21) and in private. The courts interpreted ‘in private’ very strictly. Acts in a private house, hotel or brothel where one or more other people (especially if under 21) are in the building, even if not in the same room, were successfully prosecuted. Acts of buggery and the catch-all ‘gross indecency’ were still criminal offences, punishable by up to life imprisonment, though this could be avoided by agreeing to chemical castration (as happened to Alan Turing).

  4. Spatio-temporal perception in mice: This is based on research at UCL in 1970, under John O’Keefe, who was awarded a Nobel Prize for this work in 2014. His team discovered that the hippocampus stores locations as well as events, using a sort of grid. His main paper, published in 1971, is The hippocampus as a spatial map. Preliminary evidence from unit activity in the freely-moving rat.

  5. Dr Jones’ theory is backed up by recent research in neuroscience. Consider our sense of vision: we never really see anything – it’s just a stream of electrochemical signals which pass from the eye to the thalamus in our brain, which sends it to the visual cortex for decoding. It is now known that the visual cortex receives the input – but sends six times as much data back to the thalamus. It adjusts the raw sensory input to match the Internal Model of reality, and feeds it back. This is called cross-referencing: it is the basis of all those optical illusions, about one line being longer than another, and so on. Thus, what we see – and remember – is affected by the context, the ‘reality’ within which we see it.