Mobius: where time becomes a loop


Mobius tattoo

I have been thinking about Mobius Strips lately.   These tricky little mathematical shapes are described in Wikipedia as:


The Möbius strip or Möbius band (UK /ˈmɜrbiəs/ or US /ˈmoʊbiəs/; German: [ˈmøːbi̯ʊs]), also Mobius or Moebius, is a surface with only one side and only one boundary component. The Möbius strip has the mathematical property of being non-orientable. It can be realized as a ruled surface. It was discovered independently by the German mathematicians August Ferdinand Möbius and Johann Benedict Listing in 1858.


(Hmmmmm.  So it really could have been called “The Listing Strip” and then we all wouldn’t have to feel bad about not having umlauts on our keyboards.)


But a written description can’t possibly give you the full strip experience, so those of you who have never actually made one yourself, here is a video that will have you running for a piece of paper, tape and scissors (no, please don’t run with the scissors!)  so you can prove to yourself that there really is an object that has only one side…and dazzle others who may be uninitiated.


I first encountered this phenomenon, when I was in high school although Mobius Strips were not in any curriculum of my formal education at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School in Port Jefferson, New York.  No, it was when I was doing a little part time work for a famous sociologist, Dr. Benjamin Nelson, who at the time was on the faculty of the New York State University at Stony Brook.  My mother, Rose, worked for him in his home office as his secretary.  She was soon joined by her very dear friend Elsie in support of Dr. Nelson’s accounting, and over the years I, my sister Barbara, and my soul-siblings, twins Carol and Jim Winkler, who are Elsie’s children, all found ourselves in the Nelson home office, editing, organizing, filing, and having lunch with Dr. Nelson.  He was a fascinating person, professor, social science researcher, author and mentor.  I still clearly remember him telling me one day over dessert that there was blood in my tea which was pretty horrifying to my naïve self as he drew the longitudinal connection between my teabag and tyranny in developing countries. So, then there was an article he asked me to edit (by this time I might actually have been in college at Stony Brook,) for the Journal of  the American Psychiatric Association called ”The Onion and the Mobius Strip” (I am sure they had an umlaut.)  I have realized that there are limits to our searches on the Internet because although I have found many other journal articles and books by and about Dr. Nelson, I have yet to mine this one.  I do believe the article was about two conflicting models of personality studies, but it has been a pretty long time.  I, however, clearly remember looking up Mobius Strip in his (you won’t believe this but it is true) Encyclopedia Britannica.  (Just to give you a time reference on all of this Dr. Nelson died in 1977, in his sleep on a train in Italy.)


So why have I particularly had Mobius Strips on my mind?  It’s the US government shut down.  Here’s how that is going:


(If you want to read the most current details, here’s an article in Forbes )

In short, because the Democrats support President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the Republicans are refusing to approve the United States budget which expired on September 30.  And the Democrats won’t negotiate. Since the budget isn’t approved, federal employees who are considered “non-essential” are out of work and some of them actually would be providing health care but can’t because the agencies they work for are shut down.  Here are a couple of examples from an article in the Washington Post


Health: The National Institutes of Health will stop accepting new patients for clinical research and stop answering hotline calls about medical questions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will stop its seasonal flu program and have a “significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations.”


Women, Infants, and Children: The Department of Agriculture will cut off support for the Women, Infants and Children program, which helps pregnant women and new moms buy healthy food and provides nutritional information and health care referrals. The program reaches some 9 million Americans. The USDA estimates most states have funds to continue their programs for “a week or so,” but they’ll “likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period” — emergency funds may run out by the end of October.


So here’s the Mobius loop of the Affordable Care Act based on people needing health care looping back on itself to people needing health care while our government fights with itself.


I am aware of another more local Mobius Strip health loop.  Flu season is almost upon us and the New York State Department of Health has mandated that all health care providers receive the flu vaccine (or wear a mask in the presence of patients and other health providers.)  There are some health providers, the lowest paid who provide direct care but don’t have health benefits themselves from their employers.  Their employers will not pay for the vaccinations so they have to pay for the vaccine themselves.  If they can’t afford it they will be removed from their jobs and then they really won’t be able to afford the vaccinations and won’t be able to go back to work…well at least not until flu season is over.  And they may very well get sick and require the health care they can’t afford because they are out of work.  Dr.  Mobius, I presume.


And here is a more personal health Mobius.  A friend of mine works for a health care company.  She is required to work long days often into the evenings and on many weekends.  She has been very stressed and not feeling well and so has been seeing her doctor and a therapist who both have advised her to work shorter  (normal) hours and have some time for her health care, recreation and relaxation.  She however, can’t do this because of the requirements of her job.  And she often misses the therapy because she has to stay late at work, making her more stressed.  Here’s the Mobius one sided one edge shape: the health care company she works for is also her health insurance provider paying for her health care.  So, it’s a one-sided shape, the deterioration of her health is being caused and paid for by the same company!  Loop de loop.


None of this should be so complicated, convoluted and twisty.  In spite of all of this the health exchanges sites are so busy with people registering and buying affordable health care insurance that there were some crashes the first day.  There is a clear straight line between health care and the health and well being of individuals, communities, populations, the people of the United States.  The Affordable Care Act is a pretty simple straight line.


Getting back to the government shut down, a twist in the fabric of space where time becomes a loop.  It does seem that this isn’t quite a Mobius Strip, after all there are two sides, the Democrats and the Republicans.  But actually as the strip loops around, until these two sides get it together, there really is only one side to this situation:  everyone is losing.


If you need some cheering up after that, watch this and have a healthy, happy heart:


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