Conscious Choice cover

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

The effect of weightlessness on the spine

New observations of astronauts before and after four to seven month long missions to ISS has found the back pain many astronauts experience appears to be caused by significant muscle atrophy.

The MRI scans indicated significant atrophy of the paraspinal lean muscle mass —which plays a critical role in spinal support and movement—during the astronauts’ time in space. The lean muscle, or “functional,” cross-sectional area of the lumbar paraspinal muscles decreased by an average of 19 percent from preflight to immediate postflight scans. A month or two later, only about two-thirds of the reduction had recovered. There was an even more dramatic reduction in the functional cross-sectional area of the paraspinal muscles relative to total paraspinal cross-sectional area. The ratio of lean muscle decreased from 86 percent preflight to 72 percent immediately postflight. At follow-up, the ratio recovered to 81 percent, but was still less than the preflight value.

In contrast, there was no consistent change in the height of the spinal intervertebral discs. Dr. Chang and coauthors write, “These measurements run counter to previous hypotheses about the effects of microgravity on disc swelling.” Further studies will be needed to clarify the effects on disc height, and whether they contribute to the increase in body height during space missions, and to the increased risk of herniated disc disease.

These results are very encouraging, because they indicate that the back problems seen are mostly attributable to weakened muscles, not actual spinal damage, and can therefore be more easily mitigated by new exercises while in orbit.


I must unfortunately ask you for your financial support because I do not depend on ads and rely entirely on the generosity of readers to keep Behind the Black running. You can either make a one time donation for whatever amount you wish, or you sign up for a monthly subscription ranging from $2 to $15 through Paypal or $3 to $50 through Patreon.

Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

Your support is even more essential to me because I not only keep this site free from advertisements, I do not use the corrupt social media companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook to promote my work. I depend wholly on the direct support of my readers.

You can provide that support to Behind The Black with a contribution via Patreon or PayPal. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. For PayPal click one of the following buttons:


Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Patreon or Paypal don't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to

Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Or you can donate by using Zelle through your bank. You will need to give my name and email address (found at the bottom of the "About" page). The best part of this electronic option is that no fees will be deducted! What you donate will be what I receive.


  • BSJ

    I had to deal with atrophy of my Infra & Supraspinatus muscles on my left shoulder blade because of pinched nerves in my neck. MAN O’ MAN talk about painful! There is also peculiar feeling of the muscle actually rotting away that goes along with it…

    It got to the point to where I had near zero strength in those muscles before I got decompression surgery to relive the pressure on the nerves. I have most of the strength back, but they said the best I could hope for is about 80% return. Strength and mass.

    I could see Astronauts ending up where they never returned to their full strength as well. No matter how much they exercised in space.

  • Gealon

    There’s a sure fire way to fix this problem without having to resort to time-consuming exercise regimes and vitamin cocktails. Get there faster.

    All of this research into how the body reacts to weightlessness is just a stop gap measure because we refuse to invest in the technologies that would render it obsolete. If we had properly embraced NTR technology in the 60’s and 70’s, we wouldn’t be talking about multi year trips in weightlessness to get to Mars and back, it would be weeks to months.

    And right along with Get there faster is Get there better. When will there ever be a serious effort into building a spacecraft that rotates? Short of aliens dropping by and giving us artificial gravity and FTL technologies, this is going to be the only way to get around for a while so what really is the holdup? I’ll answer that myself. The combination of a rotating spacecraft and NTR propulsion would make space travel both faster and less demanding on the human body, but there would be room for pork like the ISS. Yes it is supposed to be a prototype interplanetary spacecraft, but that’s not what it is. What it is is a political tool through which money is funneled and politicians can pat each other on the back and say “Look how cooperative we all are with our international partners.” Meanwhile humanity is still stuck on Earth.

    Apologies if this wandered into ranting territory. I’m just annoyed how biology and pork always gets the front seats when existing and existing technology would solve the problems they are still failing to address.

  • wodun

    A rotating space station would need to allow for walking and not the rotating bed theory that some have proposed. Bed rest in artificial gravity wouldn’t solve this spinal muscle atrophy problem.

    Getting there faster could help but you also need to slow down.

  • Edward

    wodun wrote: “Getting there faster could help but you also need to slow down.

    If the destination planet (or moon) has an atmosphere, aerobraking could reduce the amount of fuel needed to get into orbit. However, this also requires a more streamlined spacecraft; be careful of those solar arrays and antennas. A heavy manned craft may not slow very much in the curvature of Mars’s thin atmosphere.

  • Dave Williams

    Gene manipulation may provide an answer, at least in part.

  • Localfluff

    A centrifuge must be used standing up vertically, I cannot imagine anything else. Sleeping horizontally in a centrifuge might maybe help the body normalize internal fluid pressures, but I don’t see how that could help the spine muscles from deteriorating. So an efficient neutralization of this problem requires a very large spaceship, larger than what Elon Musk suggest, spinning while people walk and work in them.

    Luckily, Mars is close enough that human trips there don’t need any yet unproven microgravity mitigation measures. Gravity is actually the back worst enemy! How many thousands of backs doesn’t gravity break every day? In the future spending time in microgravity might be prescribed to back injured patients.

    Microgravity isn’t more dangerous than 1g. It is just different.

  • Tom Billings

    BSJ said:

    “I could see Astronauts ending up where they never returned to their full strength as well. No matter how much they exercised in space.”

    This may soon be a past problem. Atrophy of the muscles is caused mostly by the evolutionary trick of the body reducing muscle mass when it is not needed, to compensate for famine, by dropping the amount of calorie consuming muscle cells. Famine was a common enough occurrence for most populations before the industrial revolution began.

    What triggers muscle atrophy is the myostatin pathway. There is belief that an anti-myostatin vaccine will be allowed into human testing within 12 months. If it works as well in humans as in test animals, then it may become a norm for spaceflight that you get your myostatin shot before leaving.

    Note that this will only affect muscle mass, and *not* bone mass. Indeed, even though exercise helps calcium phosphate deposition in the large bones, there are the ossicles of the middle ear. Whether they are threatened by freefall is still being worked out.

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *