The research created a new approach to health care. The techniques the study developed were so stunningly successful in promoting good health they could achieve no credibility. The institutions tasked with advancing medical science ignored the work.
The project objective was to gather physical information on human test subjects and use statistical analysis of the data to identify baseline measurements of good health, to identify precursors to pathologies and develop methods to continuously evaluate the effects of new treatments.
Dr. Goodman, a respected research scientist at MIT, secured a grant from the National Institute of Health to carry out his research. He selected his team of graduate and undergraduate students, not only for their expertise in biology, but for their skills in the development of complex databases, robotics design and development of innovative computer algorithms. Dr. Goodman had some unusual ideas about how statistical data analysis could change health care.
The first research task required developing a method to gather physical data on human subjects rapidly across the largest possible population. The next step was to develop a system to analyze the data identifying statistically significant commonalities and anomalies regarding the physical state of the test subjects. The final phase of the research required the project team to correlate the data with experimental procedures that augmented good health and aided in the diagnosis of disease.
The doctor realized from the outset that the data needed was not available in any existing medical records and so directed the team to devise an efficient method for gathering the needed data directly from a population of subjects. In order to process large numbers of subjects, the team decided to design a data gathering device that was as non-intrusive, efficient and effective as possible. No existing device suited their requirements. No one on the team even knew what data they should collect.
The device evolved through several prototypes. The final design resembled a shower stall. Connected to the shower stall, was a system to filter, warm, measure and move air. Another system collected air samples emitted by the first system and analyzed the sample. A third system consisted of an array of three dimensional contour scanners.
Connected to these systems was a powerful server on which a database would reside to store the data collected by the device.
Dr. Goodman published an advertisement on the school website and in the local newspaper asking for volunteers to undergo a completely safe medical test procedure requiring only 15 minutes of their time for which they would be paid twenty dollars cash. Subjects could return for additional tests once a week at their discretion. There were no other pre-requisites. A lot of people showed up for the test, and the database began to build.
Researchers asked each test subject to disrobe and step naked into the shower stall device. This was done in complete privacy. No one else was in the room. A speaker attached to the shower stall asked each test subject three questions requiring strictly yes or no answers.
“Do you feel healthy?”
“Are you happy?”
“Do you sleep well?”
The answers to these three questions were interpreted by speech recognition software and stored in the subject’s record in the database. The researchers did not have the resources to do the detailed physical examinations required to ascertain the actual physical condition of each test subject by traditional methods, so they determined that the test subject’s perception of their health would be sufficient to make that determination. The answers to the questions were, after all, used solely as parameters in a statistical analysis for the purpose of grouping and comparing test subjects.
The test subject was asked to place their feet in the center of two carbon fiber pads on the floor of the shower stall, and their hands within two carbon fiber pads on the sides of the shower stall. They were then asked to stand still until the test was complete.
During the duration of the test Mozart’s “Symphony Number Forty” played quietly over the audio system in the device. Dr. Goodman happened to like that piece of music and felt if someone was going to listen to the same piece over and over that piece was as good as any.
The test process consisted of the contour scanners inputting surface dimensional data acquired from the subjects body. From this, the computer constructed a very accurate three dimensional model of the test subject and recorded highly accurate dimensional data which was entered into the database.
At the same time the device acquired the dimensional data, ten cubic meters of ambient air was filtered, warmed to thirty five degrees Celsius, impelled downward from the top of the shower stall and simultaneously drawn out the through the floor. Test subjects reported the sensation was “like a warm shower of air.”
The device processed the air sample collected from the shower stall obtaining a detailed chemical analysis of its composition and entered the result into the database.
The air sample contained microscopic residual compounds from the test subject. Exhaled air, flakes of skin, fecal matter, hair, urine and sweat from the subject were detected and analyzed.
Based on the materials gathered in the sample, the device was able to sequence each subject’s DNA and enter it into the database.
In three minutes the test was over. The shower stall was then flushed with filtered air for fifteen minutes before the next test subject was invited to step into the device.
As one group of researchers gathered data, the doctor tasked another group with analyzing the data. The analysis team developed an algorithm designed to statistically compare every data value recorded and establish a baseline data set for all individuals grouped by their answers to the three test questions.
The team then identified data markers that were statistically consistent with the perception of good health and identified anomalous data markers that statistically correlated with “no” answers from the test subjects.
The team completely ignored variations in subject age, gender or health status, focusing solely on the statistically significant values in the data set that produced variations in the answers given to the test questions.
Within a year, the team had performed more than five thousand tests. Some individuals had been tested more than thirty times. When the money ran out to pay the subjects, it became apparent that people still wanted to take the test. There seemed to be a placebo effect by which people perceived the test itself as beneficial to their wellbeing even though they were never given any feedback regarding the results of their tests.
The team continued to collect data and the group of test subjects continued to grow.
After three years, there was a statistically significant set of key physical data markers supporting a perception of good health and the analysis team turned their attention to how this data could be put to use.
Dr. Goodman decided to determine if there was a way to bring subject populations with anomalous data markers into alignment with the data set that indicated a perception of good health. The team decided to focus on the chemical markers since those could be controlled more easily than markers such as physical dimensions or DNA sequence variations.
The team decided to administer a solution formulated to alter the chemical markers in the test data when consumed by the population of test subjects. They began to ask each test subject to drink one half liter of the formula after each test.
The team started with distilled water to which they added compounds key to the chemical data markers detected by the test. Repeated testing of the subjects enabled the team to statistically analyze the consequential effect of consuming the formula on test data results across the subject population.
Through tedious systematic variation of the formula they developed a solution of distilled water mixed with minute quantities of various chemical compounds, some mineral and some organic, that when consumed, produced the changes in the test results that trended toward the desired test parameters.
Though the formula was highly complex in its composition, it could be concocted with simple laboratory equipment using readily available ingredients.
The team continued to collect data and refine their test formula.
Five years passed from the time Dr. Goodman and his team began the research. Occasionally, he received letters or calls from test subjects describing remarkable recoveries from all manner of pathological conditions. Although he found this interesting, he made no claims for the process his team had developed.
The data for those individuals that were drinking the formula regularly began to modify in statistically significant ways. Not only did the chemical data markers trend toward a desirable range, the physical dimension markers did as well. Even more astounding was the indication that the DNA sequence markers also began to adjust into a desirable range. The team also noted the answers to the test questions gradually became more affirmative.
Dr. Goodman made no attempt at a theoretical explanation for the data. The team continued to collect data and refine the formula to increase its efficiency at modifying the data as desired.
At the end of the sixth year, Dr. Goodman decided to publish his results. He wrote a paper “Statistical Analysis and Directed Modification of Physical Data Collected from Human Subjects as It Relates to the Perception of Health.” No medical journals would publish it. The peer review harshly criticized the methodology utilized. The wrong data was gathered. There were no acceptable baseline measurements of the physical condition of the test subjects. The test device was useless for the design purpose. The use of subjective questions to support the test results was unscientific and invalid.
The university asked for his resignation and he obliged them. Before leaving, he set up an open website and posted the design specifications for the test device, the complete database and instructions for mixing the test formula. He wanted it available to anyone who found value in it.
A short time after leaving MIT, Dr. Goodman accepted an offer to set up a medical practice for a small Native American village in Northern New Mexico. He took his shower stall device with him when he moved to the village.
The doctor fell in love with the small village remotely located in a high mountain valley. The people there lived off the land. They had little use for money or the trappings of modern culture. They were a quiet, polite, and friendly people.
He set up his practice in a small brick building provided by the tribal council and began treating the local people. He didn’t use a stethoscope. He didn’t take blood pressures. He didn’t inoculate people with vaccines. Occasionally he had to set a broken bone, or stitch up a laceration, but mostly he asked each patient to take the shower stall test and drink the test formula. At first, some cooperated and some did not.
One day shortly after he set up his practice, an old man came into his office. He introduced himself simply as “el maestro.”
When the two men made eye contact, the old man’s eyes widened and he fixed his gaze without blinking. The doctor felt an unusual constriction in his abdomen and he nearly lost his balance. The feeling quickly passed and the doctor asked the old man what he could do for him.
The old man smiled at him and asked him for a checkup. Dr. Goodman, as was his habit, asked the man if he would like to participate in a simple experiment.
“It would be my pleasure,” responded the old man.
The old man took the shower stall test and afterward drank the strange tasting water he was offered by Dr. Goodman.
“You are clearly a man with the power to heal,” the old man remarked. “I would be pleased to come back from time to time to take the cleansing breath and drink the medicine water.” Upon making the declaration, the old man strode out of the doctor’s office without another word.
The next morning when the doctor arrived to open his office, a group of people were already there waiting for him.
“We want the cleansing breath and the medicine water,” said one of the waiting women.
Dr. Goodman gladly obliged them. From that day forward, Dr. Goodman spent the better part of each day administering the “cleansing breath,” followed by the “medicine water.” His database continued to grow.
Dr. Goodman came to understand that the old man he had befriended was highly regarded among his people as a teacher. Once he asked the old man what he taught his people.
“I teach them how to learn,” was the old man’s cryptic response.
From time to time, Dr. Goodman updated his online database and the instructions for making the test formula as he continued to make small adjustments to it. Usually, he noticed there were new records in the database that he did not put there. Sometimes the formula was slightly changed as well. This pleased him, as he knew that some of his former project team members were still at work on their own.
The doctor maintained subscriptions to various medical journals. He read with interest of the new drug therapies under development and new treatments for various disease conditions. None of these medical achievements had an impact on his practice or his patients. They didn’t get sick.
One evening, many years after the doctor arrived in the village, the old teacher came to visit him to say goodbye.
“I had a dream,” the old man remarked. “The spirit world calls to me. I have been in this world long enough. It’s time to move on.”
The doctor never saw the old man again.
When Dr. Goodman was in his ninety eighth year of life, a couple of graduate students from Albuquerque arrived at the village.
They interviewed many of the leaders of the community and busily took notes. Eventually they got around to visiting the doctor.
“Hi, said the red head. I’m Dora Codd, and this is Jo Thompson, “We are studying the people of this village.”
“Interesting,” said the doctor.
“Did you know that the children of this village excel in standardized test scores?” asked Dora.
“They have good teachers,” said the doctor.
“Did you also know that there is no crime and no evidence of alcoholism or drug addiction here?” continued Dora.
“Interesting,” said the doctor.
“Did you know that the infant mortality rate here is zero for the past twenty years?” asked Jo.
“Is that so?” asked the doctor.
“Did you know that we could not find a single death certificate with your signature on it even though you have been a doctor here for more than twenty years?” interjected Dora.
“People here regard death as a private matter,” remarked the doctor.
“There are no hospital medical records for anyone living here,” said Jo. “No one here has health insurance or draws any Federal or State benefits.”
“And did you know that the village population includes several of the oldest people in New Mexico? How do you explain these extraordinary statistics?” asked Jo.
“People here benefit from a clean, simple, low stress lifestyle,” was the doctor’s reply.
“Would either of you like to participate in a small experiment I’m conducting?” he inquired.