TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Showing posts with label Fountain of Youth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fountain of Youth. Show all posts

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The People Who Want to Microchip People


Image Source: CBS News.

In an earlier post, I noted how the BBC is promoting human microchipping as well as larger tech-body implants. Their poster boy for this cause, colour blind guy, Neil Harbisson, merits a special 'cyborg' passport status.

Image Source: NYT.

Image Source: Munsell Color.

The subcutaneous chip was first developed by Siemens in the United States. The human microchip implant was invented by Kevin Warwick: "He is known for his studies on direct interfaces between computer systems and the human nervous system, and has also done research concerning robotics." You can read backgrounders on human microchip technology, here and here.

If this practice becomes widely accepted, it will become an automatic, mainstream practice, and children will be microchipped at birth. There are already brain chips which can affect moods and behaviour. Let this go further, and subcutaneous implants will become an organic user interface. They will also constitute an assault on the integrity of the bodies and minds of individuals both as individuals, and as members of society. Soon, it won't be necessary to talk about human rights and freedoms, because the preconditions for them will be medically removed and technically absent. For a disturbing, unconfirmed original sources on this endgame, see here.

The BBC promoting microchipping for Humans (29 January 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

The Body, Colonized

China Behavior Rating System V/S Sweden Microchip implants | Must watch technology (18 June 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

Of course, rhetoric which promotes rights and freedoms will remain. The political speeches will continue, but rights and freedoms will be erased in reality. Lip service will be paid to these archaic constructions until it is no longer necessary to do so, and people have forgotten them, or been reprogrammed. Expect whatever slavery that follows to be labeled as a new type of freedom. The Chinese have a saying about manipulation and the acquisition of power: point to a deer, and call it a horse.

Human microchipping is part of a new field called 'biointerfaced nano-engineering.' Another catch-all term is 'wearables,' created by firms like Proteus and MC10. This is not the path to convenience, progress or enlightenment. It is the path to slavery. Although it seems that the human body must become the next technological platform, it is not inevitable. Do not do it. Do not accept it.

This post is not a Luddite screed. It is a plea to save the best potentials of technology and keep them on a course that will not destroy us. We are entering a new stage in the Tech Revolution, in which we have to learn to take responsibility for progress and innovation. Thus far, citizens have been accepting actors on the receiving end of research projects released via big tech companies. These were experimental prototypes, presented as exciting consumer goods. Electronic goods were marketed with various political and socio-economic messages to make them palatable in the capitalist endeavour to build self-identity from the outside in.

Image Source: Go into the Story.

We were entranced in the first decades of the Tech Revolution by the gadgets and rapid software upgrades. Most people believed in the opening act that they acted as consumers inside the pre-existing capitalist model. They did not understand that that old system had already been effectively outdated and internally destroyed; only an illusory shell of that model persists as a form of mass behavioural control.

We can all be forgiven for assuming that consumerism was how tech was introduced into our reality. But it never was.

Although glitzy, futuristic marketing campaigns created the illusion that technology turned people into empowered, connected consumers, each new level of hardware and software between the 1980s and the 2010s blinded technophiles to the fact that they were never consumers at all. They were increasingly-conditioned lab rats, running through monitored environments, inside the biggest human behavioural study ever conducted.

Now, things must change. It is time to wake up. It is time to grow up. We can be forgiven for trusting those big corporations, helmed by intelligence agencies and Promethean research groups, as benevolent guides in the opening act of the Tech Revolution.

Image Source: Film Connection.

But we cannot be forgiven if we sleepwalk into Act Two, and deliver our children into immersive slavery. In transhumanism, the commodity is not the microchip or its successor technologies. The commodity will be a new type of interbody imperialism and colonization, developed under the banner of building safer, more efficient societies. This will be a coercive, predictable, micro-legalized system, based on live feed maps of humankind's biological processes, mass consciousness, and psychological and physical reactions as a collective of living beings.

There has to be a moment when we recognize that the integrity of our bodies and souls is worth more than a few everyday conveniences. We are not meant to become 'the Borg.' Planting a gadget in your body is not a form of self-improvement that is good for the environment. To believe this reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the body as an environment in itself, and of the body as an organism functioning within the larger natural environment.

I suspect that what will happen is that humankind will split into two camps. One group will absorb technology fully into the mind and body with erotic abandon. They will love the quasi-sexual interface, and will mistake the enhanced experience for an authentic upgrade.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2017: Psychic Vampires and Ambrosia's Blood Elixirs


Image Source: Etsy.

There is a disturbing subculture on social media which is devoted to teaching people how to siphon off the life force of others in order to gain power and control in society. Immersed in the dark occult, these self-proclaimed 'psychic feeders' and 'psychic vampires' like to go to public areas, workplaces, or social gatherings to drain the positive energy from young families, the negative energy from sick people, and everything in between. They use holiday periods such as Christmas to exploit the prana'chi' or 'qi' of others. They regard this ability as a honed skill. Even if you don't believe in any of this, there are people who do, and they are worth avoiding.

Image Source: Humans are Free.

You may not recognize them. Psychic vampires intentionally steal life energy from sexual interactions and will feign love or sympathy for people in order to partake of others' spiritual forces. They 'store' this energy inside themselves, or inside crystals and objects, so they may direct these forces later at other people. They are so malevolent that I will not embed their how-to videos, or link directly to their material, on this blog. However, you can see searches for their videos, with typical results, here and here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Fountain of Youth 21: Life-Giving Elixirs



The newspaper advertisement below for life-giving mineral water comes from the fourth page of The Markdale Standard, 23 October 1890. You can click the image below to enlarge. The ad comes from a time when sparkling water was considered an elixir of life, a source of rejuvenation and renewed health. From this time period, mineral water also became a fancy little signal of wealth.


Markdale is an old community north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. That is, it is old by Canadian standards. In 1890, the town was only forty-four years old, and the newspaper had been running for eleven years. The newspaper declared the attitude of local colonial residents with its motto: "Hew to the line, let the chips fall where they may."





Images from Grey Highlands, Ontario, Canada. The last image shows a typical Ontario red brick building, built in Queen Anne Revival style, from the turn of the last century. Images Sources: Municipality of Grey Highlands, Royal Le Page Real Estate, Janet H. Becerra.

Markdale was located in the historic municipality, Artemesia Township, Grey County. Now called the Grey Highlands, the area is close to the town of Orillia, which author Stephen Leacock (1869-1944) depicted as the quintessential Canadian community, fictionalized as Mariposa. Some consider Ontario and Quebec to be the old heartland provinces of Canada, and this is the heart of the heartland of Ontario. This is cottage country.

In two books of mirrored short stories, Leacock portrayed Canada and America during the Gilded Age, to show how the two countries developed alongside each other and how they differed. The stories about Canada focus on Mariposa in the collection, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912). You can read it online here.

One of the stories, "The Candidacy of Mr. Smith," describes the election campaign of the town's illiterate hotel owner, Josh Smith, who runs for the Conservatives and appeals to the royalist sympathies of Ontario Tories:
"Boys," said Mr. Smith to the two hostlers, stepping out on to the sidewalk in front of the hotel,—"hoist that there British Jack over the place and hoist her up good."

Then he stood and watched the flag fluttering in the wind.

"Billy," he said to the desk clerk, "get a couple more and put them up on the roof of the caff behind the hotel. Wire down to the city and get a quotation on a hundred of them. Take them signs 'American Drinks' out of the bar. Put up noo ones with 'British Beer at all Hours'; clear out the rye whiskey and order in Scotch and Irish, and then go up to the printing office and get me them placards."

Then another thought struck Mr. Smith.

"Say, Billy," he said, "wire to the city for fifty pictures of King George. Get 'em good, and get 'em coloured. It don't matter what they cost."

"All right, sir," said Billy.

"And Billy," called Mr. Smith, as still another thought struck him (indeed, the moment Mr. Smith went into politics you could see these thoughts strike him like waves), "get fifty pictures of his father, old King Albert."

"All right, sir."

"And say, I tell you, while you're at it, get some of the old queen, Victorina, if you can. Get 'em in mourning, with a harp and one of them lions and a three-pointed prong."
The election depicted here resembles Canada's 1911 federal election, which turned on the economics of free trade; in 1911, Canadian voters rejected the Liberals' free trade platform and voted Conservative. This election outcome dictated Canada's stance toward trade with the United States until 1988:
"I suppose there was no place in the whole Dominion where the trade question—the Reciprocity question—was threshed out quite so thoroughly and in quite such a national patriotic spirit as in Mariposa. For a month, at least, people talked of nothing else. A man would stop another in the street and tell him that he had read last night that the average price of an egg in New York was decimal ought one more than the price of an egg in Mariposa, and the other man would stop the first one later in the day and tell him that the average price of a hog in Idaho was point six of a cent per pound less (or more,—he couldn't remember which for the moment) than the average price of beef in Mariposa.

People lived on figures of this sort, and the man who could remember most of them stood out as a born leader. ..."
In the election, it looks like the independent will win in an upset:
"I suppose that may have been why it was that in Mariposa the results came out at first in such a conflicting way. Perhaps that was how it was that the first reports showed that Edward Drone the Independent candidate was certain to win. You should have seen how the excitement grew upon the streets when the news was circulated. In the big rallies and meetings of the Liberals and Conservatives, everybody had pretty well forgotten all about Drone, and when the news got round at about four o'clock that the Drone vote was carrying the poll, the people were simply astounded. Not that they were not pleased. On the contrary. They were delighted. Everybody came up to Drone and shook hands and congratulated him and told him that they had known all along that what the country wanted was a straight, honest, non-partisan representation. The Conservatives said openly that they were sick of party, utterly done with it, and the Liberals said that they hated it. Already three or four of them had taken Drone aside and explained that what was needed in the town was a straight, clean, non-partisan post-office, built on a piece of ground of a strictly non-partisan character, and constructed under contracts that were not tainted and smirched with party affiliation. Two or three men were willing to show to Drone just where a piece of ground of this character could be bought. They told him too that in the matter of the postmastership itself they had nothing against Trelawney, the present postmaster, in any personal sense, and would say nothing against him except merely that he was utterly and hopelessly unfit for his job and that if Drone believed, as he had said he did, in a purified civil service, he ought to begin by purifying Trelawney.

Already Edward Drone was beginning to feel something of what it meant to hold office and there was creeping into his manner the quiet self-importance which is the first sign of conscious power."
But in the last moment, the hotelier Smith wins for the Conservatives by declaring his victory in the press before he actually wins; this swings the undecided voters for him, and everyone forgets how Liberal they were before the election:
"It was that last hour that did it. Just as soon as the big posters went up in the windows of the Mariposa Newspacket with the telegraphic despatch that Josh Smith was reported in the city to be elected, and was followed by the messages from all over the county, the voters hesitated no longer. They had waited, most of them, all through the day, not wanting to make any error in their vote, but when they saw the Smith men crowding into the polls and heard the news from the outside, they went solid in one great stampede, and by the time the poll was declared closed at five o'clock there was no shadow of doubt that the county was saved and that Josh Smith was elected for Missinaba.

I wish you could have witnessed the scene in Mariposa that evening. It would have done your heart good,—such joy, such public rejoicing as you never saw. It turned out that there wasn't really a Liberal in the whole town and that there never had been. They were all Conservatives and had been for years and years. Men who had voted, with pain and sorrow in their hearts, for the Liberal party for twenty years, came out that evening and owned up straight that they were Conservatives. They said they could stand the strain no longer and simply had to confess. Whatever the sacrifice might mean, they were prepared to make it."

Recent interiors of the Chicago Club (established 1869) and the University Club of Chicago (established 1887). Images Sources: Chicago Club, Prague Days Chicago.

Leacock's book which describes America, Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich (1914), centres on an unnamed metropolis - probably Chicago - and its exclusive Plutoria Avenue and Mausoleum Club (previously mentioned in this post). As for the inspiration for the Mausoleum Club, you can see a list of traditional gentlemen's clubs in Illinois, here. You can read Arcadian Adventures online here.


Recent interiors of Chicago's Casino Club (founded 1914). Images Sources: LK Events Chicago, Victoria Sprung Photography.

Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich opens with a reference to mineral water as well, as a symbol of America's breath-taking, heart-stopping wealth from this period:
"The Mausoleum Club stands on the quietest corner of the best residential street in the City. It is a Grecian building of white stone. About it are great elm trees with birds – the most expensive kind of birds – singing in the branches.

The street in the softer hours of the morning has an almost reverential quiet. Great motors move drowsily along it, with solitary chauffeurs returning at 10.30 after conveying the earlier of the millionaires to their down-town offices. The sunlight flickers through the elm trees, illuminating expensive nursemaids wheeling valuable children in little perambulators. Some of the children are worth millions and millions. In Europe, no doubt, you may see in the Unter den Linden avenue or the Champs Elysées a little prince or princess go past with a clattering military guard to do honour. But that is nothing. It is not half so impressive, in the real sense, as what you may observe every morning on Plutoria Avenue beside the Mausoleum Club in the quietest part of the city. Here you may see a little toddling princess in a rabbit suit who owns fifty distilleries in her own right. There, in a lacquered perambulator, sails past a little hooded head that controls from its cradle an entire New Jersey corporation. The United States attorney-general is suing her as she sits, in a vain attempt to make her dissolve herself into constituent companies. Near by is a child of four, in a khaki suit, who represents the merger of two trunk line railways. You may meet in the flickered sunlight any number of little princes and princesses far more real than the poor survivals of Europe. Incalculable infants wave their fifty-dollar ivory rattles in an inarticulate greeting to one another. A million dollars of preferred stock laughs merrily in recognition of a majority control going past in a go-cart drawn by an imported nurse. And through it all the sunlight falls through the elm-trees, and the birds sing and the motors hum, so that the whole world as seen from the boulevard of Plutoria Avenue is the very pleasantest place imaginable.

Just below Plutoria Avenue, and parallel with it, the trees die out and the brick and stone of the City begins in earnest. Even from the Avenue you see the tops of the sky-scraping buildings in the big commercial streets, and can hear or almost hear the roar of the elevated railway, earning dividends. And beyond that again the City sinks lower, and is choked and crowded with the tangled streets and little houses of the slums.

In fact, if you were to mount to the roof of the Mausoleum Club itself on Plutoria Avenue you could almost see the slums from there. But why should you? And on the other hand, if you never went up on the roof, but only dined inside among the palm-trees, you would never know that the slums existed – which is much better.

There are broad steps leading up to the club, so broad and so agreeably covered with matting that the physical exertion of lifting oneself from one’s motor to the door of the club is reduced to the smallest compass. The richer members are not ashamed to take the steps one at a time, first one foot and then the other; and at tight money periods, when there is a black cloud hanging over the Stock Exchange, you may see each and every one of the members of the Mausoleum Club dragging himself up the steps after this fashion, his restless eyes filled with the dumb pathos of a man wondering where he can put his hand on half a million dollars.

But at gayer times, when there are gala receptions at the club, its steps are all buried under expensive carpet, soft as moss and covered over with a long pavilion of red and white awning to catch the snowflakes; and beautiful ladies are poured into the club by the motorful. Then indeed it is turned into a veritable Arcadia; and for a beautiful pastoral scene, such as would have gladdened the heart of a poet who understood the cost of things, commend me to the Mausoleum Club on just such an evening. Its broad corridors and deep recesses are filled with shepherdesses such as you never saw, dressed in beautiful shimmering gowns, and wearing feathers in their hair that droop off sideways at every angle known to trigonometry. And there are shepherds too with broad white waistcoats and little patent leather shoes and heavy faces and congested cheeks. And there is dancing and conversation among the shepherds and shepherdesses, with such brilliant flashes of wit and repartee about the rise in Wabash and the fall in Cement that the soul of Louis Quatorze would leap to hear it. And later there is supper at little tables, when the shepherds and shepherdesses consume preferred stocks and gold-interest bonds in the shape of chilled champagne and iced asparagus, and great platefuls of dividends and special quarterly bonuses are carried to and fro in silver dishes by Chinese philosophers dressed up to look like waiters.

But on ordinary days there are no ladies in the club, but only the shepherds. You may see them sitting about in little groups of two and three under the palm-trees drinking whiskey and soda; though of course the more temperate among them drink nothing but whiskey and Lithia water, and those who have important business to do in the afternoon limit themselves to whiskey and Radnor, or whiskey and Magi water. There are as many kinds of bubbling, gurgling, mineral waters in the caverns of the Mausoleum Club as ever sparkled from the rocks of Homeric Greece. And when you have once grown used to them, it is as impossible to go back to plain water as it is to live again in the forgotten house in a side street that you inhabited long before you became a member."
In his satire of America before World War I, Leacock was undoubtedly influenced by Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929), under whom he studied graduate economics at the University of Chicago.

The library at the Union League Club of Chicago (founded 1879). Image Source: Union League Club of Chicago.

Veblen's critique of capitalism was summarized by his invention of the phrase, "conspicuous consumption" in his book, The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions (1899); you can read it online here. See my previous mention of Veblen in the post, Bitcoin: Economy of the Eternal Now, and my earlier post contrasting Canada and America in Twelve by Twelve Hours in Two Countries.

Penguin ed. of Veblen's work (1995). Image Source: booktopia.

Image Source: Princeton UP.

On 7 September 2016, one of my favourite American blogs, The Art of Manliness, pondered the values of the American election by citing a speech by Theodore Roosevelt. President Roosevelt spoke on 3 April 1903 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on the ideals of American citizenship, beyond conspicuous consumption and money-making:
"No matter how honest a man may be, if he is timid, there is but little chance of his being useful to the body politic. In addition to honesty you must have strength and courage. We live in a rough world, and good work in it can be done only by those who are not afraid to step down into the hurly burly to do their part in the dust and smoke of the arena. The man who is a good man, but who stays at home in his own parlor, is of small use. It is easy enough to be good, if you lead the cloistered life, which is absolutely free from temptation to do evil because there is no chance to do it.

In addition to honesty and decency you need courage and strength. You need not only the virtues that teach you to refrain from wrong doing, but the virtues that teach you positively and aggressively to do right. You have to have those, too. And if you have got them, still it is not enough. You are valueless without them; you are valueless as a citizen unless you are both honest and brave, but if, in addition to that, you are a natural born fool, may the Lord be with you.

We need courage and we need honesty, and finally we need the saving grace of common sense. And we shall get good results from good citizenship exactly in proportion as the average citizen is developed along the three lines that I have indicated; for that is the man who will have high ideals, and yet will be able to realize them in practical fashion."
See all my posts on the Fountain of Youth.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Fountain of Youth 20: Alzheimer's Drug Reverses Ageing


Researchers Antonio Currais and David Schubert. Image Source: Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Gizmag is reporting that a scientific journal article published on 12 November 2015 demonstrates that a new Alzheimer's drug reverses ageing. The authors of the article hypothesized that since Alzheimer's was caused by ageing symptoms, then reversing those symptoms would prevent or treat Alzheimer's. Gizmag:
The Salk research is looking to tackle the disease from a new angle. It expands upon a previous study conducted back in 2013, working with a potent memory-enhancing and neurotrophic drug called J147. Unlike most medicines designed to combat the disease, J147 was synthesized after looking at age-associated brain toxicities, and looks to tackle the major risk factor for the disease – old age itself.

The older research looked at the effect of J147 on mice with an inherited form of Alzheimer's, finding that it was able to prevent and even reverse memory loss in subjects. While that was promising, inherited Alzheimer's is far less common than cases of the disease triggered by old age.

The new study looked to discover whether the experimental drug is as effective at fighting Alzheimer's caused by old age, which is responsible for 99 percent of cases. Once the results were in, things were looking very positive, with the researchers surprised by how effective it had proved.

"We did not predict we'd see this sort of anti-aging effect," says lead author Antonio Currais. "But J147 made old mice look like they were young, based upon a number of physiological parameters."
Salk Institute for Biological Studies: Press Release, 12 November 2015.

Research report: "A comprehensive multiomics approach toward understanding the relationship between aging and dementia" in Aging, vol. 7/11 (November 2015), pp. 1-19.

Abstract: Because age is the greatest risk factor for sporadic Alzheimer’s disease (AD), phenotypic screens based upon old age‐associated brain toxicities were used to develop the potent neurotrophic drug J147. Since certain aspects of aging may be primary cause of AD, we hypothesized that J147 would be effective against AD‐associated pathology in rapidly aging SAMP8 mice and could be used to identify some of the molecular contributions of aging to AD. An inclusive and integrative multiomics approach was used to investigate protein and gene expression, metabolite levels, and cognition in old and young SAMP8 mice. J147 reduced cognitive deficits in old SAMP8 mice, while restoring multiple molecular markers associated with human AD, vascular pathology, impaired synaptic function, and inflammation to those approaching the young phenotype. The extensive assays used in this study identified a subset of molecular changes associated with aging that may be necessary for the development of AD.  

See all my posts on the Fountain of Youth.
See posts related to Alzheimer's, Memory and Anti-Ageing.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Saturation Point


Image Source: Business2Community.

Singularity experts regard ageing as a complex set of biological mechanisms which can be decoded, rebooted with stem cells, rejigged genetically, medicated, contained, redirected and even reversed. This is a literal-minded over-rationalization. Gurus like Ray Kurzweil set a date for the onset of the Singularity (the year 2045!), the way wild-eyed prophets used to arrive out of the desert to predict the end of the world. The end of the world was often a year that was almost, but not quite, over the horizon.

Perhaps ageing can be conquered by downloading human consciousness into a computer, or eased by engaging with the arts and material culture. However you choose to attack the problem, once you are out of the goldilocks zone of ages 18 to 35 - the period when the world weighs your juvenile potential and considers you to be naturally synchronized with material dynamics - the ageing process asks you one simple question about psychological agility: how much change can you take? Can you bear the emotional burden of the Singularity? What is your saturation point?

In Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, the scientific unlocking of ageing biology and related diseases is fairly easily accomplished. The real challenge comes when the ultra-aged face prolonged mental distress as their brains are expected to survive beyond a normal human lifespan. After the Singularity, Robinson predicted, the eternally young will go mad. Only the most resilient will learn how to survive, and the results will not be pretty.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fountain of Youth 19: Professional Lifespans


Still from the film, Valhalla (2013), which explored the mountain culture of Nelson, British Columbia, Canada. Image Source: Sweetgrass Productions via under solen.

Your job can determine how long you live. It may even be the most important decision you ever make with respect to your mortality. Pacific Standard: "Burn brilliantly, or burn long: The choice is yours." In fact, it looks like you can do both, as long as you are willing to change career paths more than once in your life.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Charm of Early Faith and Everlasting Life


Image Source: ReJesus.

Mysterious Universe reports on the discovery this September of a sacred charm, which demonstrates the earliest known use of magic in the Christian religion. (Hat tip: Graham Hancock). The spell is written in Greek on a 1,500 year old papyrus and dates between 574 CE and 660 CE. It was uncovered by researcher Roberta Mazza among other papyrii in the archives of the Library at the John Rylands Research Institute in Manchester, UK. Mazza assumed that folds in the papyrus indicate that the charm was likely worn inside a locket for protection. She remarked:
"The almost illegible text says that it was  released in the village of Tertembuthis (modern el-Ashmunein [in Egypt]) and is a receipt for the payment of grain tax which was certified by the tax collector from the village. Therefore we may reasonably guess that the person who re-used the back for writing the amulet was from that same village or the region nearby, although we cannot exclude other hypotheses. ... The amulet maker would have cut a piece of the receipt, written the charm on the other side and then he would have folded the papyrus to be kept in a locket or pendant. It is for this reason the tax receipt on the exterior was damaged and faded away."
Earliest known Christian magical spell refers to the bread at the Last Supper as manna from heaven. Image Source: Capital OTC.

The amulet links the Jewish Old Testament idea of manna, or food from heaven created at twilight on the sixth day of Creation, to the sacred bread eaten at the Last Supper, as described in the New Testament. This connection suggests that manna was the bread at the Last Supper, and it granted everlasting life to those who consumed it because it came from a celestial and sacred source. Manna is a curious symbol which bridges the physical and the metaphysical. As a charm, the papyrus embodies and coveys to its bearer some of that transitional power:
Whether or not it is overtly acknowledged as such, modern Christianity certainly maintains many of the primary components that could allow us to make such comparisons; namely that of prayer, and belief in its healing power as wrought by a merciful creator of all existence. And although it is aged by some 1500 years, the papyrus charm newly rediscovered at John Rylands Research Institute in the UK signifies the earliest known instance of such superstitions being observed in conjunction with a physical token of some kind.
The charm's text combines words from Psalm 78:23-24, Matthew 26:28-30 and other Biblical passages and reads:

“Fear you all who rule over the earth.
Know you nations and peoples that Christ is our God.
For he spoke and they came to being, he commanded and they were created; he put everything under our feet and delivered us from the wish of our enemies.
Our God prepared a sacred table in the desert for the people and gave manna of the new covenant to eat, the Lord’s immortal body and the blood of Christ poured for us in remission of sins.”


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Entropy and Immortality: An Interview with Miguel Coelho


Dr. Coelho at the Murray Lab, Harvard University. Image Source.

Today, Histories of Things to Come is very pleased to interview biochemist Dr. Miguel Costa Coelho, a Postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, who has done ground-breaking research in the field of ageing. He is based at the Lab of Professor Andrew W. Murray and the FAS Center for Systems Biology at Harvard; and he is also affiliated with the Human Frontier Science Program.

Coelho's doctoral research at the Max Planck Institute in Germany traced the way a type of yeast actually gets younger as it ages. He found that when a stressed mother cell divided, it passed on all cellular junk associated with accumulated damage (the process we know as ageing) to one daughter cell, which died shortly thereafter. This left the other daughter cell pristine. Normally, both daughter cells would inherit cellular junk, allowing damage to accumulate in both over time. Coelho likened the outcome in this study to "the eternally young and beautiful Dorian Gray, and his corrupt and damaged portrait in the attic" (public access here; the full article is here).

There we have it, published 17 June 2014: under certain conditions, these yeast cells can grow toward immortality via compartmentalization, segregation and consequent elimination of progressive cellular damage as they divide over time. This finding was widely reported in the international press.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Beauty, A Measure of Time


The Venus de Milo (130-100 BCE). Image Source: Milos Island.

Except for the Golden Ratio, there is no template for beauty. But you would never know its infinite variety if you looked at the world's movie and media industries. Roughly every half decade, western popular culture has held up an iconic feminine type. The same is true of men. For example, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire shared similar fame and features in the early-to-mid 2000s.

Does a beautiful woman determine the fashion - or do designers set the trend by promoting a particular look? This is a chicken-egg question. I would argue that fashion, movie and media designers do not entirely decide the trends. For a brief window of time, a small bevy of beautiful women somehow channel the aspirations and desires of the Zeitgeist - and then their style becomes a fashion. The ladies who rise to prominence often resemble each other - or they are made up to resemble one another. Below the jump, see a few examples from 1980 to 2000.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Crunching the Dataset of Immortality


The smaller Google barge. Image Source: Portland Tugboat LLC via Business Insider.

Google's expansions show how different aspects of the tech revolution and globalization can combine with radical results. In this case, an investment opportunity arises from a mash-up of social networking, genetics and data processing. The MSM focussed recently on Google barges off the coasts of California and Maine. These are supposedly luxury Google Glass showrooms made out of shipping containers.

But Google is preoccupied with more than gadgets. It has recently set up camp at the crossroads of data-crunching and life itself with its new venture, Calico. Researchers at Calico aim to extend the normal human lifespan by 20 to 100 years. An innovation like that would be worth a lot of money to the company which successfully develops it. Time comments that in 2012, "the regenerative medicine industry was estimated at $1.6 billion. Scientia Advisers, a life sciences consulting firm, estimates that the industry could reach $15 billion to $20 billion over the next 15 years."

With Calico, Google will combine all the bits of private information accumulated from a person's life with, according to Mashable
each person's genome — a partial genome can be mapped today for $99 via 23andMe (another Google investment), but many are hoping a full genome will cost as much in the next few years. Daniel Kraft, medicine and neuroscience chair of Singularity University, affirms that this will require people to relinquish some privacy, in hopes of helping others and themselves, but predicts it to be something many will do. "Lot of folks will be happy to share elements of health history," he says.
From Techland:
Calico ... will be run by Arthur Levinson, former CEO of biotech pioneer Genentech, who will also be an investor. Levinson, who began his career as a scientist and has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, plans to remain in his current roles as the chairman of the board of directors for both Genentech and Apple, a position he took over after its co-founder Steve Jobs died in 2011. In other words, the company behind YouTube and Google+ is gearing up to seriously attempt to extend the human life span. ...

Apple may have set the standard for surprise unveilings, but excepting a major new product every few years, these mostly qualify as short term. Google’s modus operandi, in comparison, is gonzo airdrops into deep “Wait, really?” territory. Last week Apple announced a new iPhone; what did you do this week, Google? Oh, we founded a company that might one day defeat death itself. ...
It’s a lot easier to take Google’s venture seriously if you live under the invisible dome over Silicon Valley, home to a worldview whereby, broadly speaking, there is no problem that can’t be addressed by the application of liberal amounts of technology and everything is solvable if you reduce it to data and then throw enough processing power at it.

The twist is that the technophiles are right, at least up to a point. Medicine is well on its way to becoming an information science: doctors and researchers are now able to harvest and mine massive quantities of data from patients. And Google is very, very good with large data sets.
Like China's one child policy, this project will undoubtedly suffer from unintended and unforeseen consequences.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Scientists Killed Oldest Known Animal In Order to Find Its Age


Image Source: Breitbart

From Breitbart, via The Mirror, there is a report that scientists killed the oldest known animal - a clam - in order to determine its age:
In 2006, climate change experts from Bangor University in north Wales found a very special clam while dredging the seabeds of Iceland. At that time scientists counted the rings on the inside shell to determine that the clam was the ripe old age of 405. Unfortunately, by opening the clam which scientists refer to as "Ming," they killed it instantly.
Cut to 2013, researchers have determined that the original calculations of Ming's age were wrong, and that the now deceased clam was actually 102 years older than originally thought. Ming was 507 years old at the time of its demise.
According to the Mirror, Ocean scientist Paul Butler from Bangor University said: “We got it wrong the first time and maybe we were a bit hasty publishing our findings back then. But we are absolutely certain that we've got the right age now.The nice thing about these shells is that they have distinct annual growth lines, so we can accurately date the shell material. That’s just the same as what archaeologists do when they use tree rings in dead wood to work out the dates of old buildings.”
The 507-year-old clam shattered the previous unofficial title holder for world's oldest creature held by a 374-year-old Icelandic clam in a German museum.
See other reports, here and here. Related: see my earlier post on Rachel Sussman's work on The Oldest Living Things in the World.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cells That Reverse the Arrow of Evolutionary Time


Fission yeast aka Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Image Source: University of Tübingen.
 
Catastrophic failure or progressive decline? These are alternatives in cellular degeneration. For example, some cells, such as cancer cells, do not age. One commenter at Naked Science Forum notes: "some mutations which cause cancer are not actually causing excessive cell division but a mutation upon the gene which controls programmed cell death... so they don't die when they should and you thus end up with accumulation."

Similarly, researchers have found a type of yeast that does not age (that is, it does not show cellular damage and wear as cells divide over time), but rather, it gets younger as its cells divide. These particular yeast cells do die, but as a result of sudden, catastrophic failure at any given moment, rather than through a progressive decline.
Under favorable conditions, the microbe, a species of yeast called S. pombe, does not age the way other microbes do, the researchers said.

Typically, when single-celled organisms divide in half, one half acquires the majority of older, often damaged cell material, while the other half acquires mostly new cell material.

But in the new study, researchers found that under favorable, nonstressful growing conditions, S. pombe (a single-celled organism) divided in such a way that both halves acquired about equal parts of old cell material. "As both cells get only half of the damaged material, they are both younger than before," study researcher Iva Tolic-Nørrelykke, of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Germany, said in a statement.

What's more, previous research has shown that when cells divide and continuously pass on old cell material, the cells that get the old material start to divide more slowly — a sign of aging. This has been seen in microorganisms such E. coli and the yeast S. cerevisiae.

But in the new study, S. pombe cells showed no increase in the time it took for them to divide, the researchers said.

That's not to say that S. pombe cells don't die. Some cells did die in the study, but the deaths occurred suddenly, as a result of a catastrophic failure of a cellular process, rather than aging, the researchers said.

The researchers said they are not arguing that any given component of S. pombe cells are immortal. If a particular component of a cell is followed for a long enough time, the researchers believe the cell that harbors this component will eventually die. But "the probability of this death will be constant rather than increasing over time," the researchers wrote in the Sept. 12 issue of the journal Current Biology.

During unfavorable, stressful conditions, S. pombe cells distribute old cell material unevenly, and the cells that inherited the old material eventually died, the study found. Also, during stressful conditions, S. pombe showed an increase in division time.

Although there's no way to know for sure why the researchers did not detect aging in S. pombe under favorable conditions, one likely explanation is that the cellular damage is being repaired at the same rate that it's being formed, said Eric Stewart, a microbiologist at Northeastern University in Boston, who was not involved in the study.

But just because the study researchers did not detect aging in favorable conditions doesn't meant that it's not occurring. "They're trying to show the absence of something," in this case, aging, Stewart said. "Showing the absence of something is a nearly impossible challenge," he said.

S. pombe growth under favorable conditions could potentially serve as a model of nonaging cell types, such as cancer cells, the researchers said.
On the logic of non-ageing cancer cells, I have seen reports that cancer cells are resistant to radiation. Researchers ask: did this condition arise in reaction to radioactive treatments? Or does cancer's radioresistance precede radiation treatments? The conventional wisdom is that cancer involves a genetic predisposition that is triggered by an external factor. Is cancer a body's misguided reaction against radiation, other pollutants in the environment, or viruses? I have seen reports that cancer cells burn sugar, unlike normal cells, which burn oxygen - which is an argument to stop eating sugar if I ever saw one. Is the way cancer works - or the way other non-ageing cells work - the grim key to immortality?

Researcher Paul Davies - author of The Goldilocks Enigma - wrote a 2012 report for The Guardian to ask if cancer is actually a way that a multi-cellular organism can regress to the single-celled organism model, where cells do not seem to age. Thus, he postulates, cancer essentially reverses the normal course of evolution from single cell to multicellular organism, even as the disease reverses the clock on cell death processes. But the question remains: why does cancer do this? What purpose is an evolutionary reversal trying to serve? Davies and an Australian physicist, Charles Lineweaver, maintain that cancer de-evolves a sufferer of the disease at the cellular level. The disease serves to activate increasingly archaic genes in a body as it spreads. Lineweaver claims that cancer is a "default cellular safe mode." From The Guardian report:
In the frantic search for an elusive "cure", few researchers stand back and ask a very basic question: why does cancer exist? What is its place in the grand story of life? Astonishingly, in spite of decades of research, there is no agreed theory of cancer, no explanation for why, inside almost all healthy cells, there lurks a highly efficient cancer subroutine that can be activated by a variety of agents – radiation, chemicals, inflammation and infection.
Cancer, it seems, is embedded in the basic machinery of life, a type of default state that can be triggered by some kind of insult. That suggests it is not a modern aberration but has deep evolutionary roots, a suspicion confirmed by the fact that it is not confined to humans but is widespread among mammals, fish, reptiles and even plants. Scientists have identified genes implicated in cancer that are thought to be hundreds of millions of years old. Clearly, we will fully understand cancer only in the context of biological history.
Two relevant evolutionary transitions stand out. The first occurred over 2 billion years ago, when large, complex cells emerged containing mitochondria – tiny factories that supply energy to the cell. Biologists think mitochondria are the remnants of ancient bacteria. Tellingly, they undergo systematic changes as cancer develops, profoundly altering their chemical and physical properties.
For most of Earth's history, life was confined to single-celled organisms. Over time, however, a new possibility arose. Earth's atmosphere became polluted by a highly toxic and reactive chemical – oxygen – created as a waste product of photosynthesis. Cells evolved ingenious strategies to either avoid the accumulating oxygen or to combat oxidative damage in their innards. But some organisms turned a vice into a virtue and found a way to exploit oxygen as a potent new source of energy. In modern organisms, it is mitochondria that harness this dangerous substance to power the cell.
With the appearance of energised oxygen-guzzling cells, the way lay open for the second major transition relevant to cancer – the emergence of multicellular organisms. This required a drastic change in the basic logic of life. Single cells have one imperative – to go on replicating. In that sense, they are immortal. But in multicelled organisms, ordinary cells have outsourced their immortality to specialised germ cells – sperm and eggs – whose job is to carry genes into future generations. The price that the ordinary cells pay for this contract is death; most replicate for a while, but all are programmed to commit suicide when their use-by date is up, a process known as apoptosis. And apoptosis is also managed by mitochondria.
Cancer involves a breakdown of the covenant between germ cells and the rest. Malignant cells disable apoptosis and make a bid for their own immortality, forming tumours as they start to overpopulate their niches. In this sense, cancer has long been recognised as a throwback to a "selfish cell" era. But recent advances in research permit us to embellish this picture. For example, cancer cells thrive in low-oxygen (even zero-oxygen) conditions, reverting to an earlier, albeit less efficient, form of metabolism known as fermentation.
Biologists are familiar with the fact that organisms may harbour ancient traits that reflect their ancestral past, such as the atavistic tails or supernumerary nipples some people are born with. Evolution necessarily builds on earlier genomes. Sometimes older genetic pathways are not discarded, just silenced. Atavisms result when something disrupts the silencing mechanism.
Charles Lineweaver, of the Australian National University, and I have proposed a theory of cancer based on its ancient evolutionary roots. We think that as cancer progresses in the body it reverses, in a speeded-up manner, the arrow of evolutionary time. Increasing deregulation prompts cancer cells to revert to ever earlier genetic pathways that recapitulate successively earlier ancestral life styles. We predict that the various hallmarks of cancer progression will systematically correlate with the activation of progressively older ancestral genes. The most advanced and malignant cancers recreate aspects of life on Earth before a billion years ago.
Ancient genes remain functional only if they continue to fulfill a biological purpose. In early-stage embryo development, when the basic body plan is laid down (also in low-oxygen conditions, incidentally) ancestral genes help guide developmental processes before being switched off. Every human, for example, possesses tails and gills for a time in the womb. Significantly, researchers have recently identified examples of early-stage embryonic genes being reawakened in cancer.
The deep links between evolutionary biology, developmental biology and cancer have huge implications for therapy, and also provide an unexpected reason to study cancer. By unravelling the details of cancer initiation and progression, scientists can open a window on the past through which we can gain tantalising glimpses of life in a bygone age.
You can see a further article for online from Lineweaver in Physics World at http://www.physicsworld.com/cws/download/jul2013. This is a special issue made free to the public, which deals with the physics of cancer.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fountain of Youth 18: Harvard Scientists Reverse Ageing - At A Price


Image Source: Guardian.

Harvard scientists have successfully reversed ageing in mice and are now turning to apply the treatment to humans. The only problem is that their approach involves turning off the mechanism in our bodies that prevents cancer. Remember, though, this post, which outlined a potential cure for cancer through the Smallpox vaccine? It's all connected. The Guardian:
The Harvard group focused on a process called telomere shortening. Most cells in the body contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, which carry our DNA. At the ends of each chromosome is a protective cap called a telomere. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres are snipped shorter, until eventually they stop working and the cell dies or goes into a suspended state called "senescence". The process is behind much of the wear and tear associated with ageing.

At Harvard, they bred genetically manipulated mice that lacked an enzyme called telomerase that stops telomeres getting shorter. Without the enzyme, the mice aged prematurely and suffered ailments, including a poor sense of smell, smaller brain size, infertility and damaged intestines and spleens. But when DePinho gave the mice injections to reactivate the enzyme, it repaired the damaged tissues and reversed the signs of ageing.

"These were severely aged animals, but after a month of treatment they showed a substantial restoration, including the growth of new neurons in their brains," said DePinho.

Repeating the trick in humans will be more difficult. Mice make telomerase throughout their lives, but the enzyme is switched off in adult humans, an evolutionary compromise that stops cells growing out of control and turning into cancer. Raising levels of telomerase in people might slow the ageing process, but it makes the risk of cancer soar.

DePinho said the treatment might be safe in humans if it were given periodically and only to younger people who do not have tiny clumps of cancer cells already living, unnoticed, in their bodies.

David Kipling, who studies ageing at Cardiff University, said: "The goal for human tissue 'rejuvenation' would be to remove senescent cells, or else compensate for the deleterious effects they have on tissues and organs. Although this is a fascinating study, it must be remembered that mice are not little men, particularly with regard to their telomeres, and it remains unclear whether a similar telomerase reactivation in adult humans would lead to the removal of senescent cells."

Lynne Cox, a biochemist at Oxford University, said the study was "extremely important" and "provides proof of principle that short-term treatment to restore telomerase in adults already showing age-related tissue degeneration can rejuvenate aged tissues and restore physiological function."

DePinho said none of Harvard's mice developed cancer after the treatment. The team is now investigating whether it extends the lifespan of mice or enables them to live healthier lives into old age.



Monday, June 24, 2013

Fountain of Youth 17: A Dream of Ageing

Poster for Arrugas (2011). Image Source: Wiki.

Today, see a clip from the Spanish animated film Arrugas (Wrinkles; 2011), based on the comic book of the same name by Paco Roca. The clip offers a touching vignette of the dreams which surround ageing. You can see the film trailer here. See the clip below the jump. (Hat tip: Gina theou.)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Zero Scrap Value

One Horse Shay. Image Source: Wiki.

We all have to die one day. Since the '60s in the west, death has no longer been considered a part of the social contract, so people don't talk about death and dying the way they used to. Instead, they talk about not dying, about cheating the Reaper - as though anti-ageing and potentially not dying at all somehow is the next stage after your retirement package. They do this rather than face mortality with dignity.

This blog sometimes explores anti-ageing from the perspective of the most high profile Baby Boomers who are interested in the topic. They are ever in search of the Fountain of Youth. For a different point of view, I asked my dad and his friend, both tough old septuagenarian Silent Generation fellows, about death. They liked Dennis Hopper's ad for retirement planning, pulled after his death from cancer in 2010, where Hopper sits at a crossroads and says, "Ya gotta have a plan."

The Ameriprise financial planning ad, aimed at Boomers, runs:
"So here you are, a little confused. Did you think the road to retirement was an expressway? Come on, this isn't some random road trip. Your dreams are out there somewhere. You can't start this journey without knowin' where you're goin'. You my friend, you need a plan." 
 You can see it here on Youtube. You can see other Ameriprise ads aimed at Boomers, here and below.

Friday, May 24, 2013

3D Print Your Future



Image Source: Wired.

3D printing is about to become very big indeed. Yesterday's post covered a report on 3D printed food. Above, a CT scan of an anesthetized rat was sent to a 3D printer to produce a three-dimensional skeleton, with obvious wide applications in medicine and education.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fountain of Youth 16: A Case of Mistaken Identity

Corinne Griffith. Image Source: Find a Grave.

Today, I continue with occasional remarks on Hollywood. On finishing Kenneth Anger's trashy Hollywood Babylon, I came across a remarkable passage about ageing in relation to one of the greatest stars of the silent era, Corinne Griffith (1894-1979). Wiki comments that she is "widely considered the most beautiful actress of the silent screen." You can see news articles about her from that period here.

Perhaps given her memories of the Roaring Twenties, she might be forgiven for the wildest lie about her age ever formally made by a woman, in Hollywood, or anywhere else. Anger writes (pp. 402-403 Dell paperback ed., 1975):
In 1966 ... Corinne Griffith, the famed actress who married actor Danny Scholl on Valentine's Day 1965, asked for an annulment on the grounds the marriage was never consummated. ... [T]he highlight came when Corinne Griffith (who indisputably was Corinne Griffith) said that she had been merely a stand-in and had assumed the identity of Corinne Griffith when Corinne Griffith had died. In 1966 Corinne Griffith was seventy-one years old and her non-consummated mate was forty-four. The "stand-in" said she was "approximately fifty-one." The insanity of this case, in which inveterate lying-about-age became destruction of identity, has never been equalled.
Wiki notes that her testimony contradicted testimonies on her identity and her age from Betty Blythe and Claire Windsor, contemporary actresses who had both known her since the 1920s: "In 1974, Adele Whitely Fletcher, editor of Photoplay, said Griffith was still claiming that she was her own younger sister."

See all my posts on the Fountain of Youth.