As I prepared this column, the 40th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley was approaching. I’ve loved Elvis as long as I can remember, and his RCA 2-LP album from the early ’70s serves as the soundtrack for my childhood. (You can take the girl out of the Midwest, but you can’t take the Midwest out of the girl.)

So, it should come as no surprise that “Elvis Presley’s Death — What Really Killed the King?” from HuffPost grabbed my attention when originally published in 2016, or that I’ve occasionally returned to it. The author, Garry Rodgers, cites a study by Dr. Forest Torrent that puts forth his case for repeated traumatic brain injuries and a subsequent autoimmune disorder as the causes of Elvis’ decline. (You can read Dr. Torrent’s paper on www.practicalpainmanagement.com.) Certainly, no one can argue: the change from the 33-year-old Elvis in his 1968 television special to his health and appearance at the time of his death, at age 42, is striking.

In many ways, we cannot ever be sure that Dr. Torrent’s diagnosis — that repeated traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and resulting autoimmune disease contributed to Elvis’ death — is anything more than a theory. At the same time, we do know, thanks to research into the effects of TBIs on former National Football League players, that such injuries have been linked to cognitive disorders as well as radical changes in behavior for those suspected or known to be afflicted. While the research is continuing, already the NFL has made changes intended to improve player safety and protect them from unnecessary injury.

What lingers in my mind — for Elvis and the former NFL players suspected of having chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) due to TBIs — is if we had known then what we know now, could things have been different? The research into the effects of TBIs comes too late to help many football greats and the King of Rock and Roll, but perhaps the next generation will be safer.

The ’70s offers other lessons for today. One came to the forefront in “5 Considerations When Recycling Air and Material in Fluid-Bed Drying,” an article by Larry Stoma of Witte Co. Stoma notes that the energy crisis of the 1970s taught some hard lessons to manufacturers. Long used to abundant, low cost fuels, manufacturers gave little thought to energy efficiency or heat recovery from thermal processes. With the energy crisis, quickly rising energy costs drove many products’ manufacturing costs to levels that reduced profit or, at times, left no profit at all. Savvy process manufacturers responded by looking for ways to capture and reuse the thermal energy produced by the heat processing equipment as much as possible. As Stoma notes, “Energy efficiency, conservation, recycling and saving on energy costs became the new normal.”

While the equipment and general methods used for heat recovery — for instance, air preheating via heat exchangers — remain the same, the drivers for heat recovery and other process heating equipment have changed. Influencing factors include the desire of companies to be perceived as “green” in an energy-conscious era. Of course, federal, state and local rules and regulations also dictate the changes as well. Likewise, such rules and safety regulations dictate other thermal processing improvements such as burner-management systems. (For more on burner-management systems, check out “6 Benefits of Upgrading Your Process Heater” by Eve Hunter of ProFire Inc. in this issue.)

As safety standards such as NFPA 87 and NFPA 87 evolve, they drive the development of safer thermal processing equipment designs. Likely, there will come a day when others will look back on 2017 and think, if only they had known what we know now.

P.S.

In honor of the 40th anniversary, and in the spirit of our September issue, which is our annual tips issue, I have compiled my list of the 10 most influential Elvis songs. You can view it on our website at www.process-heating.com/Elvis40.