Element 238 - The Search for Truth - Episode 1

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The Court thus upheld death by shooting, so far as appears, solely on the ground that it was a common method of execution. As Wilkerson v. Utah suggests, when a severe punishment is inflicted "in the great majority of cases" in which it is legally available, there is little likelihood that the State is inflicting it arbitrarily. If, however, the infliction of a severe punishment is "something different from that which is generally done" in such cases, Trop v. This principle is especially important today. There is scant danger, given the political processes "in an enlightened democracy such as ours," id.

The more significant function of the Clause, therefore, is to protect against the danger of their arbitrary infliction.


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A third principle inherent in the Clause is that a severe punishment must not be unacceptable to contemporary society. Rejection by society, of course, is a strong indication that a severe punishment doe not comport with human dignity. In applying this principle, however, we must make certain that the judicial determination is as objective as possible.

Thus, for example, Weems v. Utah, supra, suggests that another factor to be considered is the historic usage of the punishment. In Robinson v. The question under this principle, then, is whether there are objective indicators from which a court can conclude that contemporary society considers a severe punishment unacceptable. Accordingly, the judicial. Legislative authorization, of course, does not establish acceptance.

The acceptability of a severe punishment is measured not by its availability, for it might become so offensive to society as never to be inflicted, but by its use. The final principle inherent in the Clause is that a severe punishment must not be excessive. A punishment is excessive under this principle if it is unnecessary: the infliction of a severe punishment by the State cannot comport with human dignity when it is nothing more than the pointless infliction of suffering. If there is a significantly less severe punishment adequate to achieve the purposes for which the punishment is inflicted, cf.

California, supra, at U. This principle first appeared in our cases in Mr. Justice Field's dissent in O'Neil v. The whole inhibition is against that which is excessive either in the bail required, or fine imposed, or punishment inflicted. This view of the principle was explicitly recognized by the Court in Weems v. United States, supra. There the Court, reviewing a severe punishment inflicted for the falsification of an official record, found that. Stating that "this contrast shows more than different exercises of legislative judgment," the Court concluded that the punishment was unnecessarily severe in view of the purposes for which it was imposed.

See also Trop v. There are, then, four principles by which we may determine whether a particular punishment is "cruel and unusual. The paradigm violation of this principle would be the infliction of a torturous punishment of the type that the Clause has always prohibited. Yet "[i]t is unlikely that any State at this moment in history," Robinson v. Indeed, no such punishment has ever been before this Court. The same may be said of the other principles. It is unlikely that this Court will confront a severe punishment that is obviously inflicted in wholly arbitrary fashion; no State would engage in a reign of blind terror.

Nor is it likely that this Court will be called upon to review a severe punishment that is clearly and totally rejected throughout society; no legislature would be able even to authorize the infliction of such a punishment. Nor, finally, is it likely that this Court will have to consider a severe punishment that is patently unnecessary; no State today would inflict a severe punishment knowing that there was no reason whatever for doing so.

In short, we are unlikely to have occasion to determine that a punishment is fatally offensive under any one principle. Since the Bill of Rights was adopted, this Court has adjudged only three punishments to be within the prohibition of the Clause. Each punishment, of course, was degrading to human dignity, but of none could it be said conclusively that it was fatally offensive under one or the other of the principles. Rather, these "cruel and unusual punishments" seriously implicated several of the principles, and it was the application of the principles in combination that supported the judgment.

That, indeed, is not surprising. The function of these principles, after all, is simply to provide means by which a court can determine whether a challenged punishment comports with human dignity. They are, therefore, interrelated, and, in most cases, it will be their convergence that will justify the conclusion that a punishment is "cruel and unusual.

The punishment challenged in these cases is death. Death, of course, is a "traditional" punishment, Trop v. There is, first, a textual consideration raised by the Bill of Rights itself. The Fifth Amendment declares that if a particular crime is punishable by death, a person charged with that crime is entitled to certain procedural protections. We cannot, however, make the further inference that they intended to exempt this particular punishment from the express prohibition of the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause.

If anything, the indication is to the contrary, for Livermore specifically mentioned death as a candidate for future proscription under the Clause. See supra at U. Finally, it does not advance analysis to insist that the Framers did not believe that adoption. There is also the consideration that this Court has decided three cases involving constitutional challenges to particular methods of inflicting this punishment. In Wilkerson v. In Wilkerson, the Court concluded that shooting was a common method of execution, see supra at U.

Resweber, supra, the Court approved a second attempt at electrocution after the first had failed. It was said that "[t]he Fourteenth [Amendment] would prohibit by its due process clause execution by a state in a cruel manner," U. The constitutionality of death itself under the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause is before this Court for the first time; we cannot avoid the question by recalling past cases that never directly considered it. The question, then, is whether the deliberate infliction of death is today consistent with the command of the Clause that the State may not inflict punishments that do not comport with human dignity.

I will analyze the punishment of death in terms of the principles. Under these principles and this test, death is today a "cruel and unusual" punishment. Death is a unique punishment in the United States. In a society that so strongly affirms the sanctity of life, not surprisingly, the common view is that death is the ultimate sanction. This natural human feeling appears all about us. There has been no national debate about punishment, in general or by imprisonment comparable to the debate about the punishment of death.

No other punishment has been so continuously restricted, see infra at U. And those States that still inflict death reserve it for the most heinous crimes. Juries, of course, have always treated death cases differently, as have governors exercising their commutation powers. Criminal defendants are of the same view. Griffin v. Illinois, U. Some legislatures have required particular procedures, such as two-stage trials and automatic appeals, applicable only in death cases.

See Williams v. This Court, too, almost. The only explanation for the uniqueness of death is its extreme severity. Death is today an unusually severe punishment, unusual in its pain, in its finality, and in its enormity. No other existing punishment is comparable to death in terms of physical and mental suffering.

Although our information is not conclusive, it appears that there is no method available that guarantees an immediate and painless death.


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Bishop, F. In addition, we know that mental pain is an inseparable part of our practice of punishing criminals by death, for the prospect of pending execution exacts a frightful toll during the inevitable long wait between the imposition of sentence and the actual infliction of death. As the California Supreme Court pointed out, "the process of carrying out a verdict of death is often so degrading and brutalizing to the human spirit as to constitute psychological torture.

Anderson, 6 Cal. Justice Frankfurter noted, "the onset of insanity while awaiting. Balkcom, U. The "fate of ever-increasing fear and distress" to which the expatriate is subjected, Trop v. The unusual severity of death is manifested most clearly in its finality and enormity. Death, in these respects, is in a class by itself.

Expatriation, for example, is a punishment that "destroys for the individual the political existence that was centuries in the development," that "strips the citizen of his status in the national and international political community," and that puts "[h]is very existence" in jeopardy.

Expatriation thus inherently entails "the total destruction of the individual's status in organized society. Yet, demonstrably, expatriation is not "a fate worse than death. Death is truly an awesome punishment. The calculated killing of a human being by the State involves, by its very nature, a denial of the executed person's humanity. The contrast with the plight of a person punished by imprisonment is evident. An individual in prison does not lose "the right to have rights. A prisoner remains a member of the human family.

Moreover, he retains the right of access to the courts. His punishment is not irrevocable. Apart from the common charge, grounded upon the recognition of human fallibility, that the punishment of death must inevitably be inflicted upon innocent men, we know that death has been the lot of men whose convictions were unconstitutionally secured in view of later, retroactively applied, holdings of this Court. The punishment itself may have been unconstitutionally inflicted, see Witherspoon v.

An executed person has indeed "lost the right to have rights. His execution is a way of saying, 'You are not fit for this world, take your chance elsewhere. In comparison to all other punishments today, then, the deliberate extinguishment of human life by the State is uniquely degrading to human dignity. I would not hesitate to hold, on that ground alone, that death is today a "cruel and unusual" punishment, were it not that death is a punishment of longstanding usage and acceptance in this country. I therefore turn to the second principle -- that the State may not arbitrarily inflict an unusually severe punishment.

The outstanding characteristic of our present practice of punishing criminals by death is the infrequency with which we resort to it. The evidence is conclusive that death is not the ordinary punishment for any crime. There has been a steady decline in the infliction of this punishment in every decade since the 's, the earliest period for which accurate statistics are available. In the 's, executions averaged per year; in the 's, the average was ; in the 's, it was 72; and in the years , it was There have been a total of 46 executions since then, 36 of them in The contemporary rarity of the infliction of this punishment is thus the end result of a long-continued decline.

That rarity is plainly revealed by an examination of the years , the last year period for which statistics are available. During that time, an average of death sentences. In fact, of course, far fewer were executed. Even before the moratorium on executions began in , executions totaled only 42 in and 47 in , an average of less than one per week; the number dwindled to 21 in , to 15 in , and to seven in ; in , there was one execution, and in , there were two.

When a country of over million people inflicts an unusually severe punishment no more than 50 times a year, the inference is strong that the punishment is not being regularly and fairly applied. To dispel it would indeed require a clear showing of nonarbitrary infliction. Although there are no exact figures available, we know that thousands of murders and rapes are committed annually in States where death is an authorized punishment for those crimes.

However the rate of infliction is characterized -- as "freakishly" or "spectacularly" rare, or simply as rare -- it would take the purest sophistry to deny that death is inflicted in only a minute fraction of these cases. How much rarer, after all, could the infliction of death be? When the punishment of death is inflicted in a trivial number of the cases in which it is legally available, the conclusion is virtually inescapable that it is being inflicted arbitrarily.

Indeed, it smacks of little more than a lottery system. The States claim, however, that this rarity is evidence not of arbitrariness, but of informed selectivity: death is inflicted, they say, only in "extreme" cases. Informed selectivity, of course, is a value not to be denigrated. Yet presumably the States could make precisely the same claim if there were 10 executions per.

That there may be as many as 50 per year does not strengthen the claim. When the rate of infliction is at this low level, it is highly implausible that only the worst criminals or the criminals who commit the worst crimes are selected for this punishment. No one has yet suggested a rational basis that could differentiate in those terms the few who die from the many who go to prison. Crimes and criminals simply do not admit of a distinction that can be drawn so finely as to explain, on that ground, the execution of such a tiny sample of those eligible.

Certainly the laws that provide for this punishment do not attempt to draw that distinction; all cases to which the laws apply are necessarily "extreme. If, for example, petitioner Furman or his crime illustrates the "extreme," then nearly all murderers and their murders are also "extreme. For this Court has held that juries may, as they do, make the decision whether to impose a death sentence wholly unguided by standards governing that decision.

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In other words, our procedures are not constructed to guard against the totally capricious selection of criminals for the punishment of death. Although it is difficult to imagine what further facts would be necessary in order to prove that death is, as my Brother STEWART puts it, "wantonly and. I am not considering this punishment by the isolated light of one principle. The probability of arbitrariness is sufficiently substantial that it can be relied upon, in combination with the other principles, in reaching a judgment on the constitutionality of this punishment.

When there is a strong probability that an unusually severe and degrading punishment is being inflicted arbitrarily, we may well expect that society will disapprove of its infliction.

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I turn, therefore, to the third principle. An examination of the history and present operation of the American practice of punishing criminals by death reveals that this punishment has been almost totally rejected by contemporary society. I emphasize, however, one significant conclusion that emerges from that history. From the beginning of our Nation, the punishment of death has stirred acute public controversy.

Although pragmatic arguments for and against the punishment have been frequently advanced, this longstanding and heated controversy cannot be explained solely as the result of differences over the practical wisdom of a particular government policy. At bottom, the battle has been waged on moral grounds. The country has debated whether a society for which the dignity of the individual is the supreme value can, without a fundamental inconsistency, follow the practice of deliberately putting some of its members to death.

In the United States, as in other nations of the western world,. It is this essentially moral conflict that forms the backdrop for the past changes in, and the present operation of, our system of imposing death as a punishment for crime. Our practice of punishing criminals by death has changed greatly over the years. One significant change has been in our methods of inflicting death.

Although this country never embraced the more violent and repulsive methods employed in England, we did for a long time rely almost exclusively upon the gallows and the firing squad. Since the development of the supposedly. No longer does our society countenance the spectacle of public executions, once thought desirable as a deterrent to criminal behavior by others. Today we reject public executions as debasing and brutalizing to us all. Also significant is the drastic decrease in the crimes for which the punishment of death is actually inflicted.

As the Court noted in McGautha v. Not only was the distinction between degrees of murder confusing and uncertain in practice, but, even in clear cases of first-degree murder, juries continued to take the law into. The phenomenon of jury nullification thus remained to counteract the rigors of mandatory death sentences. Bowing to reality,. Instead, they adopted the method of forthrightly granting juries the discretion which they had been exercising in fact.

In consequence, virtually all death sentences today are discretionarily imposed. Thus, although "the death penalty has been employed throughout our history," Trop v. What was once a common punishment has become, in the context of a continuing moral debate, increasingly rare. The evolution of this punishment evidences not that it is an inevitable part of the American scene, but that it has proved progressively more troublesome to the national conscience. The result of this movement is our current system of administering the punishment, under which death sentences are rarely imposed and death is even more rarely inflicted.

It is, of course, "We, the People" who are responsible for the rarity both of the imposition and the carrying out of this punishment. Juries, "express[ing] the conscience of the community on the ultimate question of life or death," Witherspoon v. Governors, elected by and acting for us, have regularly commuted a substantial number of those sentences. And it is our society that insists upon due process of law to the end that no person will be unjustly put to death, thus ensuring that many more of those sentences will not be carried out.

In sum, we have made death a rare punishment today. The progressive decline in, and the current rarity of, the infliction of death demonstrate that our society seriously questions the appropriateness of this punishment today. The States point out that many legislatures authorize death as the punishment for certain crimes, and that substantial segments of the public, as reflected in opinion polls and referendum votes, continue to support it.

Yet the availability of this punishment through statutory authorization, as well as the polls and referenda,. When an unusually severe punishment is authorized for wide-scale application but not, because of society's refusal, inflicted save in a few instances, the inference is compelling that there is a deep-seated reluctance to inflict it. Indeed, the likelihood is great that the punishment is tolerated only because of its disuse. The objective indicator of society's view of an unusually severe punishment is what society does with it, and today society will inflict death upon only a small sample of the eligible criminals.

Rejection could hardly be more complete without becoming absolute. At the very least, I must conclude that contemporary society views this punishment with substantial doubt. The final principle to be considered is that an unusually severe and degrading punishment may not be excessive in view of the purposes for which it is inflicted. This principle, too, is related to the others. When there is a strong probability that the State is arbitrarily inflicting an unusually severe punishment that is subject to grave societal doubts, it is likely also that the punishment cannot be shown to be serving any penal purpose that could not be served equally well by some less severe punishment.

The States' primary claim is that death is a necessary punishment because it prevents the commission of capital crimes more effectively than any less severe punishment. The first part of this claim is that the infliction of death is necessary to stop the individuals executed from committing further crimes. The sufficient answer to this is that, if a criminal convicted of a capital crime poses a danger to society, effective administration of the State's pardon and parole laws can delay or deny his release from prison, and techniques of isolation can eliminate.

The more significant argument is that the threat of death prevents the commission of capital crimes because it deters potential criminals who would not be deterred by the threat of imprisonment. The argument is not based upon evidence that the threat of death is a superior deterrent. Indeed, as my Brother MARSHALL establishes, the available evidence uniformly indicates, although it does not conclusively prove, that the threat of death has no greater deterrent effect than the threat of imprisonment. The States argue, however, that they are entitled to rely upon common human experience, and that experience, they say, supports the conclusion that death must be a more effective deterrent than any less severe punishment.

Because people fear death the most, the argument runs, the threat of death must be the greatest deterrent. It is important to focus upon the precise import of this argument. It is not denied that many, and probably most, capital crimes cannot be deterred by the threat of punishment. Thus, the argument can apply only to those who think rationally about the commission of capital crimes. Particularly is that true when the potential criminal, under this argument, must not only consider the risk of punishment, but also distinguish between two possible punishments.

The concern, then, is with a particular type of potential criminal, the rational person who will commit a capital crime knowing that the punishment is long-term imprisonment, which may well be for the rest of his life, but will not commit the crime knowing that the punishment is death. On the face of it, the assumption that such persons exist is implausible. In any event, this argument cannot be appraised in the abstract. We are not presented with the theoretical question whether, under any imaginable circumstances, the. We are concerned with the practice of punishing criminals by death as it exists in the United States today.

Proponents of this argument necessarily admit that its validity depends upon the existence of a system in which the punishment of death is invariably and swiftly imposed. Our system, of course, satisfies neither condition. A rational person contemplating a murder or rape is confronted not with the certainty of a speedy death, but with the slightest possibility that he will be executed in the distant future. The risk of death is remote and improbable; in contrast, the risk of long-term imprisonment is near and great.

In short, whatever the speculative validity of the assumption that the threat of death is a superior deterrent, there is no reason to believe that, as currently administered, the punishment of death is necessary to deter the commission of capital crimes. Whatever might be the case were all or substantially all eligible criminals quickly put to death, unverifiable possibilities are an insufficient basis upon which to conclude that the threat of death today has any greater deterrent efficacy than the threat of imprisonment.

There is, however, another aspect to the argument that the punishment of death is necessary for the protection of society. The infliction of death, the States urge, serves to manifest the community's outrage at the commission of the crime. It is, they say, a concrete public expression of moral indignation that inculcates respect for the law and helps assure a more peaceful community. Moreover, we are told, not only does the punishment of death exert this widespread moralizing influence upon community values, it also satisfies the popular demand for grievous condemnation of abhorrent crimes, and thus prevents disorder, lynching, and attempts by private citizens to take the law into their own hands.

The question, however, is not whether death serves these supposed purposes of punishment, but whether death serves them more effectively than imprisonment. There is no evidence whatever that utilization of imprisonment, rather than death, encourages private blood feuds and other disorders. Surely if there were such a danger, the execution of a handful of criminals each year would not prevent it. The assertion that death alone is a sufficiently emphatic denunciation for capital crimes suffers from the same defect.

If capital crimes require the punishment of death in order to provide moral reinforcement for the basic values of the community, those values can only be undermined when death is so rarely inflicted upon the criminals who commit the crimes. Furthermore, it is certainly doubtful that the infliction of death by the State does, in fact, strengthen the community's moral code; if the deliberate extinguishment of human life has any effect at all, it more likely tends to lower our respect for life and brutalize our values.

That, after all, is why we no longer carry out public executions. In any event, this claim simply means that one purpose of punishment is to indicate social disapproval of crime. To serve that purpose, our. That purpose cannot justify any particular punishment as the upper limit of severity.

There is, then, no substantial reason to believe that the punishment of death, as currently administered, is necessary for the protection of society. The only other purpose suggested, one that is independent of protection for society, is retribution. Shortly stated, retribution in this context means that criminals are put to death because they deserve it. Although it is difficult to believe that any State today wishes to proclaim adherence to "naked vengeance," Trop v. In the past, judged by its statutory authorization, death was considered the only fit punishment for the crime of forgery, for the first federal criminal statute provided a mandatory death penalty for that crime.

Obviously, concepts of justice change; no immutable moral order requires death for murderers and rapists. The claim that death is a just punishment necessarily refers to the existence of certain public beliefs. The claim must be that, for capital crimes, death alone comports with society's notion of proper punishment. As administered today, however, the punishment of death cannot be justified as a necessary means of exacting retribution from criminals.

When the overwhelming number af criminals who commit capital crimes go to prison, it cannot be concluded that death serves the purpose of retribution more effectively than imprisonment. The asserted public belief that murderers and rapists deserve to die is flatly inconsistent with the execution of a random. As the history of the punishment of death in this country shows, our society wishes to prevent crime; we have no desire to kill criminals simply to get even with them.

In sum, the punishment of death is inconsistent with all four principles: death is an unusually severe and degrading punishment; there is a strong probability that it is inflicted arbitrarily; its rejection by contemporary society is virtually total; and there is no reason to believe that it serves any penal purpose more effectively than the less severe punishment of imprisonment.

The function of these principles is to enable a court to determine whether a punishment comports with human dignity. Death, quite simply, does not. When this country was founded, memories of the Stuart horrors were fresh and severe corporal punishments were common.

Death was not then a unique punishment. The practice of punishing criminals by death, moreover, was widespread and by and large acceptable to society. Indeed, without developed prison systems, there was frequently no workable alternative. Since that time, successive restrictions, imposed against the background of a continuing moral controversy, have drastically curtailed the use of this punishment. Today death is a uniquely and unusually severe punishment. When examined by the principles applicable under the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause, death stands condemned as fatally offensive to human dignity.

The punishment of death is therefore "cruel and unusual," and the States may no longer inflict it as a punishment for crimes. Rather than kill an arbitrary handful of criminals each year, the States will confine them in prison. The purpose of punishment is fulfilled, crime. Emphasis added. Wainwright, U. Hogan, U. Texas, U. They may introduce the practice of France, Spain, and Germany -- of torturing, to extort a confession of the crime.

They will say that they might as well draw examples from those countries as from Great Britain, and they will tell you that there is such a necessity of strengthening the arm of government that they must have a criminal equity, and extort confession by torture, in order to punish with still more relentless severity. We are then lost and undone. Although these remarks have been cited as evidence that the Framers considered only torturous punishments to be "cruel and unusual," it is obvious that Henry was referring to the use of torture for the purpose of eliciting confessions from suspected criminals.

Indeed, in the ensuing colloquy, see n. George Mason responded that the use of torture was prohibited by the right against self-incrimination contained in the Virginia Bill of Rights. It is significant that the response to Henry's plea, by George Nicholas, was simply that a Bill of Rights would be ineffective as a means of restraining the legislative power to prescribe punishments:. If we had no security against torture but our [Virginia] declaration of rights, we might be tortured tomorrow, for it has been repeatedly infringed and disregarded.

Elliot's Debates, supra, at George Mason misinterpreted Nicholas' response to Henry:. GEORGE MASON replied that the worthy gentleman was mistaken in his assertion that the [Virginia] bill of rights did not prohibit torture, for that one clause expressly provided that no man can give evidence against himself, and that the worthy gentleman must know that, in those countries where torture is used, evidence was extorted from the criminal himself. Another clause of the bill of rights provided that no cruel and unusual punishments shall be inflicted; therefore, torture was included in the prohibition.

NICHOLAS acknowledged the [Virginia] bill of rights to contain that prohibition, and that the gentleman was right with respect to the practice of extorting confession from the criminal in those countries where torture is used; but still he saw no security arising from the bill of rights as separate from the Constitution, for that it had been frequently violated with impunity. There was thus no denial that the legislative power should be restrained; the dispute was whether a Bill of Rights would provide a realistic restraint.

The Framers, obviously, believed it would. We have not been referred to any mention of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause in the debates of the state legislatures on ratification of the Bill of Rights. Since Livermore did not ask similar rhetorical questions about the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, it is unclear whether he included the Clause in his objection that the Eighth Amendment "seems to have no meaning in it.

Indeed, the first federal criminal statute, enacted by the First Congress, prescribed 39 lashes for larceny and for receiving stolen goods, and one hour in the pillory for perjury. Act of Apr. Many of the state courts, "feeling constrained thereto by the incidences of history," Weems v. One court. Other cases. The Court had earlier emphasized this point in In re Kemmler, U. So that, if the punishment prescribed for an offence against the laws of the State were manifestly cruel and unusual,.

And we think this equally true of the [Clause], in its application to Congress. Indeed, the Court in Weems refused even to comment upon some decisions from state courts because they were "based upon sentences of courts, not upon the constitutional validity of laws. He must bear a chain night and day. He is condemned to painful as well as hard labor. What painful labor may mean we have no exact measure. It must be something more than hard labor. It may be hard labor pressed to the point of pain.

He is forever kept under the shadow of his crime, forever kept within voice and view of the criminal magistrate, not being able to change his domicil without giving notice to the 'authority immediately in charge of his surveillance,' and without permission in writing. He may not seek, even in other scenes and among other people, to retrieve his fall from rectitude. Even that hope is taken from him, and he is subject to tormenting regulations that, if not so tangible as iron bars and stone walls, oppress as much by their continuity, and deprive of essential liberty.

It subjects the individual to a fate of ever-increasing fear and distress. He knows not what discriminations may be established against him, what proscriptions may be directed against him, and when and for what cause his existence in his native land may be terminated. He may be subject to banishment, a fate universally decried by civilized people. He is stateless, a condition deplored in the international community of democracies. It is no answer to suggest that all the disastrous consequences of this fate may not be brought to bear on a stateless person.

The threat makes the punishment obnoxious. Trop v. Indeed, in truth, he may live out his life with but minor inconvenience. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the impact of expatriation -- especially where statelessness is the upshot -- may be severe. Expatriation, in this respect, constitutes an especially demoralizing sanction.

The uncertainty, and the consequent psychological hurt, which must accompany one who becomes an outcast in his own land must be reckoned a substantial factor in the ultimate judgment. It is unusual in its character. Its punishments come under the condemnation of the bill of rights, both on account of their degree and kind. There is, instead, the total destruction of the individual's status in organized society. It is a form of punishment more primitive than torture, for it destroys for the individual the political existence that was centuries in the development. The punishment strips the citizen of his status in the national and international political community.

His very existence is at the sufferance of the country in which he happens to find himself. While any one country may accord him some rights, and presumably, as long as he remained in this country, he would enjoy the limited rights of an alien, no country need do so, because he is stateless. Furthermore, his enjoyment of even the limited rights of an alien might be subject to termination at any time by reason of deportation. In short, the expatriate has lost the right to have rights.

In the context of the Oates' case, 'cruel and unusual' seems to have meant a severe punishment unauthorized by statute and not within the jurisdiction of the court to impose. Thus, "[t]he irregularity and anomaly of Oates' treatment was extreme. Although the English provision was intended to restrain the judicial and executive power, see n.

In a case from the Philippine Territory, the Court struck down a punishment that "ha[d] no fellow in American legislation. After examining the punishments imposed, under both United States and Philippine law, for similar as well as more serious crimes, id. And in Trop v. Dulles, supra, in which a law of Congress punishing wartime desertion by expatriation was held unconstitutional, it was emphasized that "[t]he civilized nations of the world are in virtual unanimity that statelessness is not to be imposed as punishment for crime.

When a severe punishment is not inflicted elsewhere, or when more serious crimes are punished less severely, there is a strong inference that the State is exercising arbitrary, "unrestrained power. In Weems v. It was hence concluded that it was not forbidden by the Constitution of the United States as cruel or unusual. It was said in Trop v. If the word 'unusual' is to have any meaning apart from the word 'cruel,' however, the meaning should be the ordinary one, signifying something different from that which is generally done.

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There are other statements in prior cases indicating that the word "unusual" has a distinct meaning: "We perceive nothing. Milwaukee Social Democratic Pub. Burleson, U. What then is it, if it be not cruel, unusual and unlawful? The question, in any event, is of minor significance; this Court has never attempted to explicate the meaning of the Clause simply by parsing its words.

The danger of subjective judgment is acute if the question posed is whether a punishment "shocks the most fundamental instincts of civilized man," Louisiana ex rel. Resweber, supra, at U. Vermont, supra, at U. Justice Frankfurter's concurring opinion in Louisiana ex rel. Resweber, supra, is instructive. He warned "against finding in personal disapproval a reflection of more or less prevailing condemnation" and against. His conclusions were as follows:. I cannot say that it would be repugnant to the conscience of mankind. Yet nowhere in the opinion is there any explanation of how he arrived at those conclusions.

It may, in fact, have appeared earlier. In Pervear v. The object of the law was to protect the community against the manifold evils of intemperance. The mode adopted, of prohibiting under penalties the sale and keeping for sale of intoxicating liquors without license, is the usual mode adopted in many, perhaps, all of the States. It is wholly within the discretion of State legislatures. This discussion suggests that the Court viewed the punishment as reasonably related to the purposes for which it was inflicted. Justice Field apparently based his conclusion upon an intuitive sense that the punishment was disproportionate to the criminal's moral guilt, although he also observed that "the punishment was greatly beyond anything required by any humane law for the offences," O'Neil v.

The purpose of punishment is fulfilled, crime is repressed by penalties of just, not tormenting, severity, its repetition is prevented, and hope is given for the reformation of the criminal. The principle that a severe punishment must not be excessive does not, of course, mean that a severe punishment is constitutional merely because it is necessary.

A State could not now, for example, inflict a punishment condemned by history, for any such punishment, no matter how necessary, would be intolerably offensive to human dignity. The point is simply that the unnecessary infliction of suffering is also offensive to human dignity. No one, of course, now contends that the reference in the Fifth Amendment to "jeopardy of. But cf. It would be mere speculation and conjecture to ascribe to the framers an intent to exempt capital punishment from the compass of that provision solely because, at a time when the death penalty was commonly accepted, they provided elsewhere in the Constitution for special safeguards in its application.

It is inconceivable to me that the framers intended to end capital punishment by the [Clause]. Under this view, of course, any punishment that was in common use in is forever exempt from the Clause. The Court expressly noted that the constitutionality of the punishment itself was not challenged. Indeed, it may be that the only contention made was that, in the absence of statutory sanction, the sentencing "court possessed no authority to prescribe the mode of execution.

McElvaine v. Brush, U. It was also asserted that the Constitution prohibits "cruelty inherent in the method of punishment," but does not prohibit "the necessary suffering involved in any method employed to extinguish life humanely. No authority was cited for this assertion, and, in any event, the distinction drawn appears to be meaningless. In a non-death case, Trop v. Dulles, it was said that, "in a day when it is still widely accepted, [death] cannot be said to violate the constitutional concept of cruelty.

This statement, of course, left open the future constitutionality of the punishment. The difference between capital and non-capital offenses is the basis of differentiation in law in diverse ways in which the distinction becomes relevant. Williams v. Georgia, U. Stein v. New York, U. Justice Harlan expressed the point strongly:. The distinction is by no means novel,. Reid v. Covert, U. And, of course, for many years, this Court distinguished death cases from all others for purposes of the constitutional right to counsel.

See Powell v. Alabama, U. Brady, U. Teeters, New Horizons in Criminology 3d ed. Chessman, Trial by Ordeal ; M. Hirschberg, 88 Men and 2 Women ; B. Eshelman, Death Row Chaplain , , ; R. Hammer, Between Life and Death ; K. Lamott, Chronicles of San Quentin ; L. Bennett, Clinton T. Duffy, Robert G. Sarver, Harry C. Tinsley, and Lawrence E. Wilson Camus, Resistance, Rebellion, and Death , ; C.

Hirschberg, supra, at , ; Hammer, supra, at , , ; S. The State, of course, does not purposely impose the lengthy waiting period in order to inflict further suffering. The impact upon the individual is not the less severe on that account. It is no answer to assert that long delays exist only because condemned criminals avail themselves of their full panoply of legal rights. The right not to be subjected to inhuman treatment cannot, of course, be played off against the right to pursue due process of law, but, apart from that, the plain truth is that it is society that demands, even against the wishes of the criminal, that all legal avenues be explored before the execution is finally carried out.

It was recognized in Trop itself that expatriation is a "punishment short of death. Death, however, was distinguished on the ground that it was "still widely accepted. From to , , , , , , , , , From to 82, , 83, 62, 81, 76, 65, 65, 49, From to 56, 42, 47, 21, 15, 7, 1, 2. The last execution in the United States took place on June 2, Commutations averaged about 18 per year. Transfers to mental institutions averaged about three per year.

These four methods of disposition averaged about 44 per year.

Immunological and neuroimaging biomarkers of complicated grief

Specific figures are available starting with Resentences: -- 7; -- 18; -- 12; -- Grants of new trials and orders for resentencing: -- 31; -- 21; -- 13; -- 9. Dismissals of indictments and reversals of convictions: -- 12; -- 19; -- 33; -- Deaths by suicide and natural causes: -- 2; -- 1; -- 5; -- 2. National Prisoner Statistics No.

During that year period, 1, prisoners entered death row, including who were returned following new trials or treatment at mental institutions. There were dispositions other than by execution, leaving prisoners who might have been executed, of whom actually were. The victim surprised Furman in the act of burglarizing the victim's home in the middle of the night. While escaping, Furman killed the victim with one pistol shot fired through the closed kitchen door from the outside. At the trial, Furman gave his version of the killing:. I was coming out backwards and fell back and I didn't intend to kill nobody.

I didn't know they was behind the door. The gun went off and I didn't know nothing about no murder until they arrested me, and when the gun went off, I was down on the floor, and I got up and ran. That's all to it. Furman v. State, Ga. About Furman himself, the jury knew only that he was black and that, according to his statement at trial, he was 26 years old and worked at "Superior Upholstery.

It took the jury one hour and 35 minutes to return a verdict of guilt and a sentence of death. Eight States still employ hanging as the method of execution, and one, Utah, also employs shooting. National Prisoner Statistics, supra, n. In addition, the California Supreme Court held the punishment unconstitutional under the state counterpart of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause.

People v. Indeed, these five States might well be considered de facto abolition States. North Dakota and Rhode Island, which restricted the punishment in and , respectively, have not carried out an execution since at least , id. As of January 1, , none of the five States had even a single prisoner under sentence of death. In addition, six States, while retaining the punishment on the books in generally applicable form, have made virtually no use of it.

As of January 1, , these six States had a total of three prisoners under sentences of death. Hence, assuming 25 executions in 42 years, each State averaged about one execution every 10 years. There is also the more limited argument that death is a necessary punishment when criminals are already serving or subject to a sentence of life imprisonment. If the only punishment available is further imprisonment, it is said, those criminals will have nothing to lose by committing further crimes, and accordingly, the threat of death is the sole deterrent.

But "life" imprisonment is a misnomer today. Rarely, if ever, do crimes carry a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole. That possibility ensures that criminals do not reach the point where further crimes are free of consequences. Moreover, if this argument is simply an assertion that the threat of death is a more effective deterrent than the threat of increased imprisonment by denial of release on parole, then, as noted above, there is simply no evidence to support.

The penalty of death differs from all other forms of criminal punishment, not in degree, but in kind. It is unique in its total irrevocability. It is unique in its rejection of rehabilitation of the convict as a basic purpose of criminal justice. And it is unique, finally, in its absolute renunciation of all that is embodied in our concept of humanity.

For these and other reasons, at least two of my Brothers have concluded that the infliction of the death penalty is constitutionally impermissible in all circumstances under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Their case is a strong one. But I find it unnecessary to reach the ultimate question they would decide. See Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority, U. Legislatures -- state and federal -- have sometimes specified that the penalty of death shall be the mandatory punishment for every person convicted of engaging in certain designated criminal conduct.

Congress, for example, has provided that anyone convicted of acting as a spy for the enemy in time of war shall be put to death. If we were reviewing death sentences imposed under these or similar laws, we would be faced with the need to decide whether capital punishment is unconstitutional for all crimes and under all circumstances.

On that score I would say only that I cannot agree that retribution is a constitutionally impermissible ingredient in the imposition of punishment. The instinct for retribution is part of the nature of man, and channeling that instinct in the administration of criminal justice serves an important purpose in promoting the stability of a society governed by law.

When people begin to believe that organized society is unwilling or unable to impose upon criminal offenders the punishment they "deserve," then there are sown the seeds of anarchy -- of self-help, vigilante justice, and lynch law. Everything from here on over, including the bottom part, is all metals. Everything from here on over is non-metals. And down the middle are these, kind of, halfway in between things, which include, for example, semiconductors, like silicon.

I have to say many of these elements look the way you would think—gold looks like gold, silver looks like silver—but not all of them. The one I was looking at, in particular, was calcium. Most people probably think of calcium as white and chalky, you know? It's bone, it's chalk, it's, uh, it's milk. But this is a silver, shiny metal. This is when Theo's collection starts to get really interesting, when he pairs the pure elements with their more familiar forms.

This bowl, from the s, gets its orange color from uranium, and it's actually dangerously radioactive. Theo's table and his remarkable collection make a powerful point. From about 90 elements found on earth, nature and man have derived millions of different substances that make our world. But, to me, there's something even more amazing: the table organizes the elements by atomic number, that is, the number of protons in each atom, yet the table's creator—a 19th-century Russian chemistry professor, named Dmitri Mendeleev—knew nothing about protons or atomic numbers.

To understand how he cracked the code of the table, I've come to St. Petersburg, Russia, to the State University and to Mendeleev's apartment and office. In the late s, at this very desk, Mendeleev set out to discover the underlying order to the elements. In one often repeated story, Mendeleev is said to have created 63 cards, one for each of the elements known at the time. He distinguished them, not by atomic number, but by atomic weight.

So he didn't know about atoms, but isn't this the atomic weight? How does he know the weight, if he doesn't know about atoms? In the 19th century, they did it like this: they compared the weights of different elements to the lightest, hydrogen. So when they say oxygen is 16, that means 16 times the weight of hydrogen.

Imagine if you have two containers, one full of red marbles, one full of blue marbles. If both contain the same number of marbles, but the blue container weighs twice as much, you can infer that the blue marbles weigh twice as much as the red marbles, even if you can't see the marbles at all. Early chemists devised clever ways of calculating the weights of elements, even gases, relative to the lightest one: hydrogen. So the chemists knew that different elements have different weights.

But why, why not just one big line forever? You can see hydrogen sticking out, just as it does today. The families he knew are now arranged in columns. This one has the metals—lithium, sodium and potassium—that explode in water. Next door, calcium and magnesium, which also react with water. This big block in the middle are metals that are safe to handle, like nickel, iron, zinc and gold. As we go to the right, the elements become less metallic. These columns are headed by boron, carbon and nitrogen. In this neighborhood, some elements conduct electricity, some don't, and some can't make up their minds.

The table gets its shape from the properties of the elements, like relative weight, conductivity and reactivity. It's true today, as it was in Mendeleev's time. Though his chart displayed only the 63 elements known at the time, his understanding of the family properties was so strong he was able to leave gaps in his chart, bold predictions of elements yet to be discovered.

And when they were eventually found, they proved completely consistent with his descriptions. Mendeleev lived until , long enough to see three gaps filled by the discoveries of scandium, gallium and germanium. Since his death, dozens of new elements have been discovered, and incredibly, his chart perfectly accommodates all of them, including an entire group that fits neatly onto the end of the table: the noble gases.

Where does that term "noble gases" come from? Are they nobility? Do they rush to rescue maidens? They are like nobility in the sense that they don't mix with the riffraff. They don't like to react with any other elements. Oh, ho, ho, ho! The noble gases, like neon and argon, pose a problem for chemists who prefer their elements to join forces and react with each other.

You can run an electric current through them, excite their electrons and get pretty colors—which is how neon lights work—but the noble gases don't react. THEO GRAY: Being an inert gas, being unwilling to mix with the other elements, react with them, this is a very clear-cut distinction that sets apart this particular column from all the others in the periodic table. As it turns out, protons may determine the identity of an element, but electrons rule its reactivity. And reactivity is a shell game.

Imagine that these balls are electrons, and the target is an atom. Electrons don't just pile on around the nucleus. As with skee-ball, where you land, relative to the center counts. The electrons take up positions in what can be thought of as concentric shells. The first shell maxes out at just two electrons, the next holds eight, then it goes up to eighteen.

An atom with eight electrons in its outer shell makes one happy, satisfied atom. They are called the halogens.

The Fiery Mountains Under The Sea

They have an outer shell that needs just one more electron to be full. And they'll grab it any way they can. The group includes fluorine and bromine, but the most notorious is chlorine: 17 protons surrounded by 17 electrons, arranged in three shells of two, eight and seven, one short of being full. It's that extra electron chlorine will get any way it can, sometimes with violent results. That's why chlorine gas was used as a deadly poison in World War One.

This will take electrons from kittens. It'll go and steal an electron from off the water in your lungs and turn it to hydrochloric acid, because it really wants an electron. Each of them has full shells, plus one extra electron sitting in a new, outer shell.

They have familiar names like lithium, sodium and potassium. And they all want to get rid of that single, lonely electron, any way they can. So those on that end of the table all have one extra. This column all has one too few. I shudder to ask what happens if you put those two alone in a room. He's also got a deep love of chemical reactions and a very remote location where he's free to indulge it. And one of his favorite temperamental friends? Sodium: symbol Na; 11 protons and 11 electrons arranged in shells as two, eight and one. Sodium is an alkali metal. Like all the elements in this group, it's desperate to get rid of that extra electron.

Theo's offered to put on one of his favorite sodium demonstrations. What happens when the pure element dumps its outer electron in a violent altercation with ordinary water? What we're seeing is what happens when sodium's extra electron tears apart water molecules, releasing flammable hydrogen gas—the H in H2O—which explodes when it mixes with air. The next day, Theo takes it up a notch. As if sodium plus water weren't violent enough, now he wants to combine the same deadly sodium with another lethal element: chlorine, one of the halogens. I said that after they're combined, the result is perfectly safe.

The actual process of combining them is fraught with difficulties. First, a hunk of sodium in a dry metal bowl,then a jet of pure chlorine: surprisingly, no explosion. At the atomic level, sodium, an alkali metal, had an electron it didn't want, and chlorine, a halogen, wants desperately to grab an electron.

Once the handoff was complete, both atoms wound up with full shells, making them stable and able to join together to form a crystal compound we can't live without: sodium chloride, table salt. That is, it went in the popcorn. Theo's backyard reactions have given me a crucial insight: how elements come together to form compounds is all about electrons. Which brings me to one of the most notorious electron hounds on the table: oxygen; symbol O; eight protons, eight electrons; it wants eight electrons to complete its outer shell, but it has only six.

So it's always on the prowl for two more. And it's more determined than almost any other element on the table. To get a first-hand look at oxygen's lust for electrons, I've traveled to the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center at New Mexico Tech, where the business of violent reactions is booming. It's a deadly serious business for researchers who study improvised explosive devices, I. On a typical day, they might blow up a suicide vest, a few pipe bombs and a briefcase bomb.

Tim Collister's job is to train law enforcement and fire professionals how to deal with these dangerous weapons, but, today, I'm his only student. We're going to set off one of the most powerful off-the-shelf explosives there is. In the trunk of this car, pounds of ANFO, unassuming white pellets that contain enough oxygen, as well as nitrogen and hydrogen, to turn this car into a scrap heap. Basically, it's a fertilizer bomb. DAVID POGUE: Hundreds of pounds of solid explosive, transformed, in a millionth of a second, into an infernal ball of superheated gas, expanding at more than 10 times the speed of sound: a devastating chemical reaction, yet many times smaller than the most notorious ANFO bomb ever detonated.

In , over 4, pounds of ANFO, loaded into a rented truck, destroyed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing and injuring hundreds of people. It's incredibly destructive stuff. You know, we thought maybe the engine would become a projectile, to come hurtling out. The engine did not leave, but the entire car did: this whole front half. And the car used to be parked over there! I mean the car is totally decimated. We can do good work on finding out what caused this explosion with the magic swabs. What we're picking up is what the bomb was made with.

What you're going to find is, when we take these back to the lab, that we'll be able to tell what elements were present in the bomb. The ion chromatograph looks for positively or negatively charged molecules, called ions, in the residue, fragments of the original chemical explosive. Can you tell the State Department where the bomb came from?


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Christa tells me this spike indicates that oxygen is at work here, contained in molecules called nitrates. Nitrates consist of three oxygen atoms bound to a central nitrogen atom. To set off the bomb, an initial spark of heat breaks those bonds. Once set free, oxygen rushes away from the nitrogen to combine with the elements it prefers: carbon, hydrogen and even other oxygen atoms, leaving the nitrogen to pair up with each other.

Every time atoms form a new bond, the reaction releases energy. And that's what powers the explosion. Oxygen makes engines rev, rockets roar. And, in exactly the same way, oxygen reacts with the food we eat, releasing energy like countless tiny fires burning in our cells, keeping us alive. As a final demonstration, Christa wants to show me how chemists have learned to control the speed of combustion. She has arranged the use of a high-speed camera to record several different types of explosives.

The gunpowder contains its own oxygen. But it's in a mixture of powdered chemicals held far away from the carbon it needs to bond with. But when they finally find their partners, the new bonds they form release lots of energy. Gunpowder is a relatively slow explosive. That's why it's used in guns: it creates enough force to fire a projectile, but not enough to damage the barrel. Its main ingredient is ammonium nitrate, the same stuff that blew up the car.

A lot more oxygen and a lot of nitrogen packed very closely together in a liquid. This is a high explosive. It generates a shockwave that moves faster than the speed of sound. In this explosive, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen are so close together they lose no time finding new partners and making new bonds that release energy.

The final demonstration is one pound of C-4, a military-grade high explosive, which burns fast enough to cut steel. C-4 assembles oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and carbon in high concentration, close together, all on a big molecule, so the speed of reaction is blisteringly fast. And that gives me an idea: maybe C-4 can help me exorcise a personal demon. What can I say? I have issues. The oxygen that powers all those explosions makes up 21 percent of our atmosphere.

It's the most abundant element in the earth's crust. It's also a big part of us, which makes me wonder: what other elements make life possible? What, for example, is in me? What's in a David? Amazingly, I'm mostly made of just six elements, non-metals, mainly, from a small neighborhood on the periodic table: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, sulfur, or, as some prefer to call them, CHNOPS. These are the elements that form the basis of all living things, from the most primitive bacteria to the largest creatures on earth. Chemistry professor Christine Thomas, at Brandeis University, has agreed to help me understand what makes me tick.

Better than that, she's going to show me the actual elements, in the actual quantities that are in me, but I don't get how. You'll have to show me this. Where do you go to find the elements that make up a pound man? Isn't it a little weird that we're shopping for the elements of life at a hardware store? You'll see. We're going to get it right here, in water. In fact, we're going to get both hydrogen and oxygen all in one place. And fertilizer, as it turns out, has a lot of nitrogen in it, just like you.

You're probably going to need…mmm…probably all of the matches that they have here. There you go! Oh, that ought to do. How are you? Just a couple things. We're having a couple people over for a grill. Christine tells me we did pretty well, but we didn't quite nail it. We're still missing most of the phosphorous we need. Luckily, she knows where to get some, thanks to a discovery by a 17th-century alchemist named Hennig Brandt. Brandt was looking for precious gold, and he thought he might find it in a bodily fluid that looks golden indeed.

Turns out, the amount of phosphorous in my sample is microscopic. We're going to need a lot more, so back to the stable. Brandt's early process caused the phosphorous to rise as a vapor, which Christine directs safely into water, because phosphorous is dangerously reactive in the air. While that's underway, it's time to get the lowdown on the stuff we bought, starting with carbon: 6 protons, 6 electrons in two shells.

Carbon, in its elemental form, looks like this graphite here, like you'd find on the inside of a pencil. What charcoal is mostly is just left over, say, burnt wood. When wood burns, what's eventually left over looks an awful lot like this charcoal or this carbon. Virtually all long molecules in the body are built around carbon.

So fertilizer is made up of a very large percentage of nitrogen, because plants actually use nitrogen as food. You have these tiles stacked side by side: hydrogen and oxygen, H2O, in water, a twofer. The result is these tiny bubbles of hydrogen gas. Turns out, they're really quite volatile. What the electric current accomplished, by separating water into hydrogen and oxygen, a simple flame put back together again. Hydrogen is the lightest atom in the universe, so even though there are more hydrogen atoms in me than any other kind, it adds up to only about 18 pounds.

But as Christine has already demonstrated, it's not in me as a gas, it's in all that water. We've actually condensed it here as a nice chunky, white solid. Phosphorus is actually involved in something really important called A. Phosphorous was the first element isolated from a living creature, and it must have surprised Brandt. Exposed to air, it glows, creating what he described as "cold fire.

No wonder it's used to provide energy in our bodies…and to think where it came from. And so, whatever is left over in those different beings must be what differentiates one from the next. There's what's called the trace elements. And the person that would be better to talk to about those might be someone that's interested in maybe sports medicine or professional athletes. Who could tell us about sports, athletes and elements? Who could tell us?

I actually am very concerned with these things, too. In fact, every morning, I take supplements. I use organic elements; I make my own. Calcium, very important. Sometimes I, sometimes I'll mix it up, get a little chalk. It might look like soap to you, but it's a fine source of potassium. Iron, zinc, magnesium…I like to think of this as an excellent source of sodium. And this is it, every morning. You know, it doesn't taste fantastic, but, wow, is it good for me!

Am I going about this the right way? I'm curious to know how my body uses those trace elements, but, first, a battery of tests to determine what kind of shape I'm in. DAVID POGUE: …measured and scanned,—and by the way, in the real world, this costs some serious money—she puts me on a treadmill to measure my oxygen use, which could be impaired if I have an iron deficiency. And start. We'll get to a nice comfy walking pace. Fifteen seconds, we're going to increase the speed. He's at an Okay, 10 more seconds, hard as you can.

You can do it. Got any more left? Okay, okay. Go ahead and stretch. Go ahead and grab onto the railing. That's good, that's good.

Search For Truth Lesson 1

These patches will collect my sweat, which, in turn, will tell Lindsay how much of the trace elements I'm losing from my body. A little higher, a little higher, let's go. I'm going to start calling you names in a minute. Let's go. That was two. Third-grade girls can get Let's go, keep going. So the purpose of all this was to measure what electrolytes and salts and stuff were leaking out of my sweat, right? However, I would suggest dairy products to get your calcium instead of seashells. And my blood test showed I'm not iron deficient, so…. I may have been sweating a lot out on that field, but I sweat like a champ.

In total, the human body uses more than 25 elements in ways and quantities that are unique to us. Not every living thing does it the same way. Take oxygen: we love the stuff, can't live without it, but it wasn't always this way. When life began, conditions were very different on Earth. To begin with, there was no oxygen in the air. To learn what put the "o" in our at-mo-sphere, I've traveled to Yellowstone National Park.

I study microorganisms, and I'm particularly interested in how they evolved. That unusual geology creates hot, poisonous pools that Ward sees as a window into the past. You stay here, and I'll go on across. DAVID POGUE: Scientists think that in order to get the energy they needed to live, some of the earliest forms of life required extremely hot water, mixed with elements like hydrogen, sulfur and iron. But, as the planet cooled, another ancient microorganism evolved and changed everything.

They are called cyanobacteria, but we know them as blue-green algae. They found a way to get their energy from light and water, releasing oxygen as a byproduct, just like modern plants do. You can see this orange to brown transition. I use my high-tech soda straw. Just take aim and push the straw in, and just immerse it into the liquid nitrogen.

The thin greenish layer on the top is cyanobacteria, situated at the best spot to find light, water and carbon dioxide for growth. For a few hundred million years, oxygen simply reacted with the metals in the earth's crust, and the planet slowly rusted. But eventually the oxygen began to build up in the atmosphere. And those little bugs are still hard at work today. Let's start at the very beginning, with hydrogen: one proton and one electron. Around 90 percent of all the atoms in the universe are hydrogen, and they were all made by the Big Bang, more than 13 billion years ago.

The answer is in the stars like our own sun, a seething cauldron of hot gas, constantly turning hydrogen atoms into element number two: helium. And now, scientists at the National Ignition Facility in California are actually trying to recreate that solar process, here on Earth. If they can make it practical, and that's a big if, they could unlock a new source of limitless, clean energy. And his raw material is hydrogen, the smallest and the oldest element in the universe.

It sort of has an infinite life. So we, when we, you know, drink a glass of water, are sampling the Big Bang. And what happens is we turn mass into energy, just like Einstein told us. This fuses them into helium atoms and releases a million-degree pulse of energy. The goal is to create a sustained fusion reaction, but right now it lasts only a billionth of a second. Stars create helium throughout their long lives, but in their old age they run low on hydrogen and begin to fuse helium, creating larger and larger elements.

First you made helium; then you'll make lithium and beryllium and boron. It begins to collapse, and if it's massive enough, that collapse leads to a powerful explosion called a supernova. In that intense flash, the supernova creates elements heavier than iron, launching them all into the cosmos, creating the raw materials of planets and of life. And now we're using those raw materials to shape our civilization, with elements like silicon—14 protons, 14 electrons—the second most abundant element in the earth's rocky crust; a member of the one of the smallest neighborhoods on the table: the semiconductors.

When most people think of silicon, they think of computer chips and the information age, but its most familiar form is actually in this. Today, scientists are re-engineering this ancient material, atom by atom, here, at Corning, in upstate New York. They tell me it all starts with ordinary sand, which is made of a combination of silicon and oxygen. Glass is surprisingly strong. It can withstand a lot of crushing force, but it's also very brittle. Changing the five-thousand-year-old recipe for glass has led to a new form they call Gorilla Glass, and you can probably guess why they named it that.

With the glass…is in a frame, like we have a piece of Gorilla Glass in this. The glassmakers have learned how to precisely place minute amounts of metal atoms like sodium, potassium and aluminum among the silicon atoms. The result is hard, yet flexible and scratch-resistant. There is no such thing as an unbreakable glass. But silicon's work is not yet done, because underneath the glass, there's a lot more silicon in the guts of all those electronics.

Silicon is the standard bearer of the semiconductors, materials that change from free-flowing conductors to non-flowing insulators when we simply zap them with an electric current. Switches made out of semiconductors made computers possible, but lately when it comes to high tech, there's a new family on the block: the rare earths—fifteen elements located near the bottom of the table. And in my job as a technology writer, there's one rare earth that interests me more than any other, neodymium. It's the key ingredient in the world's strongest magnets.

They're critical to computers, cell phones, hybrid cars, wind turbines, even tiny ear buds. Without neodymium, we'd be sunk! So that raises a question: if they're in everything, how come they're called "rare" earths? The best place to find out is at the source. John Burba is the chief technology officer at Molycorp. He's overseeing a billion-dollar operation to bring this year-old mine into the 21st century. Seems like the fate of the free world could be riding on these rocks.

I'd better get some of my own while the getting is good. They are naturally occurring crystals that contain the elements. I like these two a lot. I can't decide. It's an either "ore" situation. Molycorp's facility is still under construction, so, to find out what's in my rocks, he suggests I take them to the world's premier rare earth research lab, in Ames, Iowa. We'll be there soon. I'm dying to know what I've got my hands on: a pinch of praseodymium, perhaps? A whole pound of holmium? A thimbleful of thulium? Or dare I hope, magnet-making neodymium? I didn't check it.

I didn't put it in the overhead. Oh, yeah, there we go. That's a good piece right there. That's all we're going to need for the chemical analysis, so the rest of this we'll just…. The truth is rare earths are not rare. They're just notoriously hard to separate. The problem is at an atomic level, the rare earth elements all look weirdly alike. Moving from element to element, along a row of the periodic table, adds a proton to the nucleus and an electron to the outer shell, but in the rare earths, the new electron disappears into an unfilled inner shell. The result? Fifteen atoms that all have identical outer electron shells, making them virtually indistinguishable chemically.

LARRY JONES: Okay, David, the ore that you brought us, the rocks that look like this, we analyzed those, and this is what we found: we found major components of cerium, lanthanum and praseodymium, but no neodymium. But there was some good news. The ore I brought in contained a whopping 20 percent rare earth oxide. This is actually neodymium, iron and boron. This is about grams of the world's highest purity neodymium. They're really iron magnets, with a pinch of neodymium added like a powerful spice to make them stronger, plus a few boron atoms to help hold everything in place.

These don't exist in nature. These are things that we have to combine and cook, in the same way that huevos rancheros doesn't exist in nature; it has to be put together.



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