The Border of Death

A human skull

This article is dedicated to the memory of Victor Mikecz (6-20-1926 – 4-13-2018), who passed away during the writing of this article.

Death seems like a black and white subject. There is not much middle ground between alive and dead. Or is there? The law has strictly defined definitions of death that are used during examinations and in making medical decisions for those kept alive by external life support. However, the border between life and death has many shades of gray. For those in states of persistent unconsciousness, life becomes a condition ranging from hope for full recovery to death only being a matter of time. For healthy individuals going through cardiac arrest, they may have “near-death experiences” with previously unexplained “lights.” New research in these subjects is giving humanity greater insight into both conditions of unconsciousness and the electrical nature of near death experience. Though death is defined legally, our understanding of human conditions near the border of death continues to grow with advances in brain research and electrical technology.

Background, The UDDA Death Document

In the United States, death is defined by the Uniform Determination of Death Act. The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws wrote the document in 1980 for adoption across all 50 states, and is currently adopted by 37 US states, Washington D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The American Medical Association (AMA), the American Bar Association (ABA), and President’s Commission on Medical Ethics all approved this document. The document was necessary because medical methods throughout the 1970s were clashing with out-of-date legal standards of death. Simply put, at that time death was still defined by common law as the cessation of the cardiorespiratory system. The UDDA builds on the old common law by extending the definition of death to include complete not only heart and lung failure, but termination of all brain function, including the brain stem.

This is an important point, because the brain stem is a very tough little bugger,

The brain stem of a human brain
The three parts of the human brain stem.

and will continue to function under harsh circumstances. It is the most primitive part of the human brain. It handles some very core aspects of human functioning. Among other things, the brain stem controls the cardiovascular system, respiratory function, alertness, and consciousness. Therefore, loss of brain stem function is the end of the road for a human being. This total loss of function in the brain is a brain death.

Hello…? Any controversy in there?

Where exactly is the issue? The difference between between brain death and persistent vegetative states is critical in understanding how the US defines death and how patients are treated in each condition. Think of the term “brain-dead,” and the type of person it is used to describe—someone in a coma, someone unresponsive. This layman’s word is similar to brain-death but does not mean the same thing. Well, what many think is a brain death could be a persistent vegetative state (PVS). In a persistent vegetative state, medical care usually consists of nothing more than a feeding tube. People who have suffered severe brain trauma typically are the ones who suffer with persistent vegetative states. The condition is one in which the patient retains some function of consciousness. They exhibit sleep-wake cycles, and often can use some motor function such as use of their eye-lids. What is the difference, exactly between PVS, a brain death and a coma? The key difference is that people in PVS still retain function of their brain stem, whereas in a brain death, the brain stem has lost all function and the patient has to be supported by external equipment. Lastly, in a coma, the patient has lost all consciousness, and will not respond at all to touch, speech, or any other form of contact.

The Electric Brain

Advances in medical instrumentation now help determine the cognitive functioning of patients in PVS states. For example, in a recent article published in New England Journal of Medicine, researchers used fMRI to ask questions to a patient, and then measure the response using fMRI equipment. The article called Willful Modulation of Brain Activity in Disorders also states that

“…a small proportion of patients in a vegetative or minimally
conscious state have brain activation reflecting some awareness and cognition.”
-Martin Monti et. al,, New England Journal of Medicine
fMRI of brain
fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) allows doctors to view brain activity in real time.

The article states that scientists could ask questions and patients responded “yes” or “no” via measurement with fMRI. These researchers also state that new methods are required to make diagnoses of conditions of consciousness such as comas and persistent vegetative states. The article states that 40% of these conditions are misdiagnosed!

fMRI of yes/no answer
Actual “yes” and “no” responses of patients correspond with similar brain activity of control patients. Source: New England Journal of Medicine

Despite these scans appearing promising for all PVS patients, it is important to note that only a minority of PVS patients in this study exhibited this ability to “communicate” via fMRI in this study. Specifically, five of fifty-four patients (~9%) could do so. This is important to note, as fMRI is by no means a miraculous means of communicating, but can be effective for investigating the state of a patient’s conscious state.

On that same token, vegetative states encompass a wide range of conditions. The definition of the state is rather broad in most contexts. The Royal College of Physicians defines vegetative states as “A state of wakefulness without awareness in which there is preserved capacity for spontaneous or stimulus-induced arousal, evidenced by sleep–wake cycles and a range of reflexive and spontaneous behaviours.” In plain English, aside from sleep-wake cycles and some motor movement, vegetative states can be applied to a very broad range of states of consciousness after a traumatic brain injury. This is probably why fMRI communication does not work with all patients, some simply have more damage than others and are in lowered states of consciousness.

Life After Death for a Healthy Brain

Aside from other states of consciousness that linger near death, healthy human brains actually exhibit strange electrical activity after death. In a article published in PNAS called “Surge of neurophysiological coherence and connectivity in the dying brain,” researchers at the University of Michigan state that their research partially explains why many cardiac-arrest patients have “near-death experiences.” Their research shows that when rats clinically die, and blood flow stops to the brain, the brain actually exhibits electrical activity similar to that in conscious perception.

Jimo Borjigin
Jimo Borjigin
“High-frequency neurophysiological activity in
the near-death state exceeded levels found during the conscious
waking state. These data demonstrate that the mammalian brain
can, albeit paradoxically, generate neural correlates of heightened
conscious processing at near-death.”

Jimo Borjigin, et al., University of Michigan

The quote above paints a picture different from what researchers expected. After a clinical death, they expected brain activity to slow down to a halt. However, what they saw was quite different. Researchers found that the brain activity actually increased for a period after the death, resulting in a heightened state of consciousness processing. The brain scientists state that this electrical activity could account for the “lights” that people experience during near-death experiences of cardiac arrest patients.

Looking Deeper

The human brain is a miraculous work. Lingering states before death can be confusing for all involved, and education is critical to making decisions regarding loved ones. Currently, the US law has very specific rules for handling patients in comatose, PVS, and brain-death conditions. Current law also accounts for legal statements made before the patient fell into their condition.

Advances in fMRI technology are allowing doctors to make more accurate decisions in diagnosis. Physicians achieve this by comparing fMRI imagery of patients with severe brain trauma with control patients. Are some PVS patients capable of even more communication beyond yes or no questions? Will the use of this technology change our medical procedures and law? It is hard to say, but the future looks promising for using more advanced communications methods with brain damaged patients on the border of death.

Our understanding of near-death experience continues to give credence to reports of cardiac arrest patients. How will this body of research continue to grow? If electrical activity in the brain really is responsible for the “lights” experienced in death, can we officially include this experience in medical texts? Readers are encouraged to continue to push the boundaries of our current understanding of death. Doing so will not only increase our understanding of the ultimate commonality among creatures, but can bring feelings of peace when we or a loved one has to face it.

Legal Docs

UDDA Document

Scientific Articles

Monti, Martin, et al. “Willful Modulation of Brain Activity in Disorders of Consciousness | NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine,

Borjigin, Jimo, et al. “Surge of Neurophysiological Coherence and Connectivity in the Dying Brain.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 27 Aug. 2013,


Top Skull Photo – Title: Memento Mori!, Author: Milan Nykodym, from Kutna Hora, Czech Republic,

fMRI (first)- John Graner, Neuroimaging Department, National Intrepid Center of Excellence, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, 8901 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20889, USA

fMRI (second) – Photo sourced from “Willful Modulation…” by Monti, Martin et. al.


Recently most of my time has been dominated by both my work and by writing articles for Both of these endeavours are going pretty well in my opinion. Thunderbolts has published two articles now, and my work at Spin Group is really engaging.

However, I would like to take some time to reflect on my own perspectives and progress outside of my work. The reason is that often I am having to make compromises in my writing in order to make things fit, and I am often working on projects that are more or less handed to me. This is not bad, but I would like to take time to re-affirm my own reasons for learning web development.

First and foremost, I want to state what a fun technical challenge it can be. Solving the puzzles of building websites takes use of special tools and processes, and it can be a joy to solve in itself.

Secondly, it is a career path with promising outlooks. This does not exactly go without saying, as many technical fields are ephemeral. There are niches within web development (like the use of HubSpot) that will continue to grow, and the field of front-end web development still has a large market for new developers.

Third, it has a creative bend to it. Unlike the engineering field I left behind, web development is a creative field. I use photoshop, I make style changes, I use different typefaces/fonts to convey different messages. In this sense, I am able to use some creative force in my work instead of strictly making calculations and charts.

Prepare an Excel file as ODBC source for Data Advisor ...
This was a lot of what engineering was. Data science is cool, but an endless stream of *.xls BS gets old fast man.

Lastly, I have had more practice doing copywriting. The only regret with copywriting is that I am saying things that are for other people most of the time, in some way squashing my own voice. That is part of the reason I am writing this post, is to simply exercise my own voice and say what I really think.

Cymatics: Vibrating plates to the Hydrogen Electron Shell

I say that when a table is struck in different places, the dust that is upon it is reduced to various shapes of mounds and tiny hillocks …

― Leonardo Da Vinci,  early “cymatic” research.

Double Hexagon Cymatic Image, made with CymaScope, an advanced cymatic research instrument.

Cymatics is the study of acoustically generated modal vibrations—standing wave systems. Examples of cymatic research include subjecting water, sand, or other semi-solid media to sound frequencies or music and observing the pattern in the media. Depending on the media used and the frequency applied, the patterns that emerge assume a variety of forms. This fascinating field of acoustic research has yielded a myriad of scientific and mathematical breakthroughs. Cymatic research continues to reveal more insights into the nature of our electric universe by aiding scientists understanding of wave phenomena. Though cymatic research crosses over into many scientific fields, this article takes a brief look into one discovery born from cymatic research—the Schrödinger equation. Mathematical models born out of cymatics lead to our current understanding of the electron shells of atoms, thereby increasing our understanding of the nature of electricity itself.

What Is Cymatics?


cymatic image at 1760 hz
Cymatic image produced with 1760hz vibration

Cymatic research is the study of visual and mathematical patterns in standing wave systems. Look at the image above and notice the enigmatic pattern that is produced with nothing more than a tone generator, metal plate, and some sand. What exactly creates these visual forms? The “pictures” or patterns that emerge are the result of standing waves. When a tone is applied to a plate or other media, the media resonates and produces an up and down motion on fixed places on the plate. These waves occur between stationary nodes.

Standing wave image.
This disc is an excellent example of a standing wave. Notice how the waves do not travel longitudinally, they only oscillate up and down.

When media such as sand is added to one of these vibrating plates, it arranges itself along the stationary nodes of the standing wave. Similarly, patterns emerge from media like water because the vibrations can be easily viewed in the water itself and there is no need for any other additional media. The vibrating metal plate is a very popular means of producing cymatic images. These metal plates that are subjected to vibration with either tone generators or other means attached are called Chladni Plates, after 19th century acoustician and physicist Ernst Chladni. View the video below to see a Chladni plate vibrated with a violin bow string.

More advanced instrumentation has recently been developed to produce cymatic imagery. One instrument is the Cymascope. This instrument uses ultra-pure water to produce standing-wave imagery. The reason ultra-pure water is used is because of the surface-tension properties. According to it’s developers, the water’s high flexibility and fast-response to vibration make it well suited for vibrational research. The cymascope was used to capture the first image of the article, as well as the one below.

Cymascope image
Another example of a cymatic image captured with a cymascope.

Cymatic Research Leads to 2D Wave Model

At first glance, cymatic research usually appears curious but with no obvious applications. However, Ernst Chladni recognized the potential mathematical implications of two-dimensional standing waves.  Eventually, later mathematicians pushed these solutions to three dimensions.

The story begins with the acoustician named Ernst Chladni, who experimented with cymatic plates, as mentioned earlier. He thought that the wave forms that were produced must have some mathematical relationship to the vibrational tone he applied. He came up with approximate solutions to model the cymatic image shape but never solved the 2D wave function completely.

cymatic data from Chladni in german
In a publicly available lecture from Yale University, Dr. James McBride shows Chladni’s original cymatic data

After the Math was Solved, Schrödinger could model the electron shell

Despite Chladni being unable to solve the puzzling mathematical problem posed by his plates, others eventually did. Chladni’s 2D mathematical problems attracted a lot of eminent mathematicians like Leonhard Euler, Daniel Bernoulli, and Joseph-Louis LaGrange. Building upon the rough approximations between frequency and nodes that Chladni described, these mathematicians pushed the mathematics to the point of solving both 2D and 3D wave functions. Later, other mathematicians like Edmond LaGuerre and Adrien-Marie Legendre continued to perfect wave function mathematics. Professor McBride of Yale University explains how cymatic disks were used to help solve wave functions in this YouTube video.

In this way, cymatic research was the impetus for mathematicians to study the field of 3D waveform research, and this research was used by Schrödinger to write his famous wave equation.


“The solutions we get involve what are called spherical harmonics, and they’re 3D analogues of Chladni’s 2D figures….[Speaking of 3D wave functions] Schrödinger didn’t find these, he just looked them up. These guys had already done it from acoustics.”

-Professor John Mcbride, Yale University

Are current electron models accurate?

It should be clear by now that cymatics has lead to accurate generalized mathematical formulas for 2D and 3D waves. Whether or not these equations are being applied correctly is open to debate. Mainstream science is confident that the hydrogen electron shell can be modeled by a 3D wave equation. Alternatively, other scientists like Edwin Kaal believe that atoms take on geometric forms. In his view, the electron “shell” would not exist at all, and the modeling of electron shells with 3D wave models would not be accurate whatsoever.

Bearing this in mind, are there any scientific problems that the 3D wave model could explain? Our current understanding of light could be better explained with wave models. This topic falls outside the scope of this article in particular, which serves to lay a foundation for our understanding of 2D and 3D standing waves born out of cymatic research.


Cymatics Will Continue to Open Doors

Cymatics is a curious subject. Many have been enchanted by it’s ability to produce novel forms. In fact, many find the Chladni plate images and forms so mystifying that they find no need to research deeper. However, the more scientifically inclined researchers have taken the 2D waveforms and produced brilliant mathematical formulas with it. It is clear that cymatic research played a critical role in the development of the Schrödinger equation. The 2D waveforms produced on Chladni plates were the first rough-sketch of the formulas that embody our current models of both 2D and 3D waves. Where does the story end? Cymatics may be applicable in another field, light research.

In the next article, we will look at other standing wave phenomena, and plausible explanations for wave-particle duality. Specifically, we will see how scientists are using particle-wave behavior to create life-size analogues of some quantum behavior. This research takes a remarkable look at one of the most puzzling “quantum weirdness” phenomena to date: the double slit experiment.

Readers are encouraged to send comments, questions, or inaccuracies to the author.


Violin bow Chladni plate video – A demonstration of sand forming cymatic patterns on a metal plate. From the film Inner Worlds Outer Worlds. Author: SpiritFilms

Video from Yale Open Courses – Chladni Figures and One-Electron Atoms, Professor James McBride, 2009

John Stuart Reid Quote -sourced from

“The Hum” Research video released by ThunderboltsProject

Hello! Some “The Hum” research really caught on with, a non-profit dedicated to electric universe theory research. The producers there made a video out of my article. Please view it on YouTube or

It turned out nice. Talbott Productions did a great job building off of the article and using scientific journal articles throughout. I hope to work with them again.

First 3rd Party Blog Published!

“The Mysterious Hum”

Susan Schirott at Thunderbolts Project has just published my first blog! Do not mistake this for the third first-party blog published.

So, I’m excited to be working for T-bolts — they produce a lot of great content.

This article covers a phenomena called “The Hum.” This was a required topic which I thought was interesting. I did not come up with this idea myself but was very happy to get my foot in the door with this blog.

The Mysterious Hum

Finally, read the article!

Second Website Launched!! Seeking Further Employment!!

Three, two, one…PSHSHSSSSSHHSHSH!!!

Okay. It’s actually already in orbit so that sound was a while ago.

Anyhow, I am happy to announce that the first website I co-created has been launched. has partnered with Spin Group Milwaukee to produce a new website for our client. This website was also co-created with The Weaponry. It can be viewed here. Edit 3/9/18: Sorry! I am not allowed to disclose the client’s name.


If you are interested in hiring Jim, owner of, please send an email to

Current skillsets includes:

-HTML5, CSS (bootstrap), Javascript,

-HubSpot Integrated Marketing Tools

-Copy editing, verbiage modification

-Search Engine Optimization survey generation

-Fully Responsive Design (mobile friendly)

-Custom Template Design