Damned Heretics

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Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

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Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

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Living till 150 – coming soon

ABC runs a Walters special on extending life

Eat less, walk more, marry, swim, attend church, socialize, explore novelty and stay cheerful

But why did Walford not last longer?

barbarawalters.jpgBarbara Walters graced us this evening on ABC with a special devoted to longevity and how to get it, with the promising title of Live Until 150: Can You Do It? Various oldsters were shown giving tips on how they managed to get to be old and thrive, albeit in varying degrees of decrepitude. A couple applying Roy Walford’s technique of starving themselves – “limiting calorie intake” – looked very alert in their sixties, but his hair was thinning more than one would hope. The wife’s fair skin looked quite wrinkle free on our screen, however, for what that is worth. Perhaps we should have paid more attention. What struck us most was how much healthier the happy optimists looked just by smiling cheerfully, even at 100.

tedturnerg.jpgA good example of this is Ted Turner, 69, who wasn’t featured by Barbara but appeared on 13 in Manhattan on Charlie Rose immediately afterwards, laughed uproariously, sang My Old Kentucky Home, and informed Charlie that he didn’t approve of CNN hiring “little chickies” nowadays out of a “cult of personality”, instead of keeping Judy Woodruff and his own policy of running domestic and international news which had “meaning which people could apply in their daily lives”.

Clearly a sanguine and social temperament, exercising, and a starvation diet of mostly vegetables are keys to lasting longer than average, as long as you keep the mind active. Barbara included a juggler who found that children and seniors learned to master his art in about the same time, a couple of days. And as Marian Diamond (see The Aging Brain)found out thirty years ago, the brain responds to exercise as well as any other muscle.

mariandiamond.jpgFew people in the world know more about the science of the brain than Diamond, distinguished professor of anatomy at U.C. Berkeley, former director of the Lawrence Hall of Science and recipient of the first Senior Scholar Award from the American Association of University Women. Her use-it-or-lose-it lecture, titled “An Optimistic View of the Aging Brain,” fascinated registrants at the 44th Annual Meeting of the American Society on Aging in San Francisco with a survey of the latest brain research. Diamond, one of the few scientists allowed to study tissue from Albert Einstein’s brain, burst myths about the brain’s inevitable decline with passing years.

THREE MYTHS

Population trends show that by 2050 there will be 30 million Americans age 85 or older, about as many as there are 65 or more today, Diamond noted. “Our challenge then is to learn ways to keep the brain functioning at an optimum level for a lifetime,” she said, adding that we need to “change our negative attitudes toward aging for ourselves and for others.”

She debunked three common myths about normal aging brains: that they “go downhill” after age 30, that they lose 100,000 nerve cells per day and that “you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.”

Following the brain’s most “explosive growth” period until the age of 10, Diamond explained, the human cortex, which handles our highest mental functions, can increase or decrease at any age, “depending on the level of stimulation….

Generally, Diamond added, the susceptibility of the hippocampus to reduced functionality when oxygen is diminished suggests that swimming and other oxygen-circulating activities may be especially beneficial to elders, because “as we get old our blood vessels become less efficient.”

paulnewmanbeard.jpgPaul Newman, 83, took Barbara, 78, for a 150 mph ride around a race circuit in a car from which she emerged laughing and excited as a school girl, and told her people still wanted him to take off his shades and show them his blue eyes. “I tell them I can’t,” he said, “because if I do my pants will fall down.”

The central issue in age that we intend to research is nutrition, starting with the question, why did Roy Walford die so young?

walford.jpgDr. Roy Walford, the free-spirited UCLA gerontologist who pioneered the idea of restricting food intake to extend life span and practiced the concept rigorously in an effort to live to 120, has died. He was 79.

Although he was an accomplished scientist with more than 330 scientific papers and eight books to his credit, Walford was probably better known for the two-year stint he spent with seven other adventurers in Biosphere-2, a self-contained human terrarium near Tucson, AZ.

Walford died Tuesday at UCLA/Santa Monica Hospital of respiratory failure and complications from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Although the causes of ALS are not completely known, Walford attributed his disease to environmental problems suffered during his confinement in Biosphere-2. He believed that his rigorous diet, on which he consumed only 1,600 calories per day, extended his survival after the symptoms of the disease appeared several years ago….

In a career that can only be described as colorful, Walford alternated years of intensive laboratory research on mice with yearlong sabbaticals in which he walked across India in a loincloth measuring the rectal temperatures of holy men, traversed the African continent on foot and lived in Biosphere 2, practicing what he called the Signpost Theory of Life.

“If you spend all your time in the laboratory, as most scientists do, you might spend 35 years in the lab and be very successful and win a Nobel Prize,” he told The Times in 2002. “But those 35 years will be just a blur. So I find it useful to punctuate time with dangerous and eccentric activities.” He shaved his head, sported a Salvador Dali mustache and rode a motorcycle, once breaking his leg while attempting a wheelie on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Of course, the economic and social repercussions of a long lived older generation are enormous – as the author of Freakonomics pointed out at the end, the youth challenged are going to be wealthy and politically powerful as a group, and while they may not pay for their grandchildren’s college so readily any more, they may finally gain respect at last in this ageist society, if they prove wise.

The issue of course is whether you would really want to live to 150, given the difficulty many people have in staying interested in life’s riches as they are put out to pasture by a work obsessed society. But given the fact that so many people are finding ways of making a living outside the corporate office in the Net mobile 21st Century this may soon be an obsolete issue.

Rosie Ross also keeps socially active as a lifelong musician, who still supports himself with his trumpet. At 102 years old, he is an institution at The Pine Cone Inn outside of Phoenix, Ariz., where he’s been playing most Friday nights for the last 50 years.

“As long as you want to hear Clyde McCoy’s ‘Sugar Blues,’ I’ll live to play it for you,” replies Ross when asked how he lives to be so old. For his first trip to New York for the interview, he bought a brand new $2,000 trumpet and a hip, black leather jacket to match.

Right on, Rosie. Just don’t let them give you an HIV test.

marriageboyproposing.jpgForty years younger than the centenarian trumpet player, Ted Turner told Rose the thing he regretted most was not making a success of marriage. Asked if he will get married again, Turner laughed and said “I don’t know!” with a gleeful grin.

As they shook hands at the end of the interview, it was Charlie, 66, who knocked over his coffee cup.

Turner has always had a certain off-the-leash air about him, and we would suggest that this is part of longevity too. It was certainly part of Roy Walford’s makeup. Thus the young Walford after graduation had a good idea of how to make money:

Upon graduation, what he later described as his periodic craziness took over, and he and Hibbs decided they wanted to sail around the world. Lacking money, a boat or the desire to earn the money working, they decided to try gambling. Analyzing roulette wheels, they found that each had its own idiosyncrasy, with certain numbers appearing more often than others. Armed with their observations and a borrowed $200, they tackled Las Vegas and Reno. They came away with $42,000, which allowed them to purchase the yacht of their dreams. A cover story in Life Magazine, as well as articles in Time and The Times, alerted the casinos, which began randomly moving roulette wheels around in the casinos to prevent others from following their example. Walford and Hibbs sailed the Caribbean for 18 months until their money ran out, at which point they resumed their professional careers.

Does marriage keep men living longer? The answer is Yes, by an average of ten years, three to five times the effect of regular exercise. But then, this benefit of marriage occurs probably for the same reason that membership of a church confers extra years: community of support.

6 Responses to “Living till 150 – coming soon”

  1. MacDonald Says:

    2 points worth making:

    1. What rubbish to suggest that exercise adds only 2-3 years of life? As compared to what?

    2.Duesberg is also a supporter of the fewer calories to slow down metabolism and thus the rate of potentially harmful mutations.

  2. Truthseeker Says:

    The 1 comes from the news report quoted at the end, Community support. The post just represents initial cursory research on top of the authoritative Walters ABC report, currently our gold standard 2 is a good one.

  3. MartinDKessler Says:

    Reality check: Our economy is not set up for anyone (other than the very wealthy) to live much past the age of 65 much less to 150. Think about it the age 80, 90 maybe even 120 would be come the new 50 or 60 or whatever. That late a retirement would be devasting to the workforce – the health care system already on the verge of collapse might be in serious jepeordy (did I spell that right?). Why does the government keep dangerous habit forming drugs like tobbacco and alcohol etc on the market – to keep people alive? The government would really like us to die at 65 or maybe 70 ie the moment they retire. I don’t think anyone would like to live a very long time after retirement in abject poverty and also with some chronic non lethal illness or debilitated in some way like in a wheelchair. Soylent Green anyone?

  4. Truthseeker Says:

    A rather sad program on PBS 13 in NYC tonight emphasizes your realistic point, which is well taken. It showed how much effort is being put into caring for the aged by their families these days, when they (the aging ones) fail in their duty to kick the bucket before they cant look after themselves.

    Possibly Ted Turner and a few others who have some native talent at keeping their energy past sixty – my lunch club, the renowned Dutch Treat Club for editors, writers, publishers, actors and others in the arts boasts a large number of these exceptional people, it is really quite impressive to see how well some people wear internally even as they fall apart externally – but the fact is Barbara was unable to conceal the decay of the skin and other parts of the body which attacks old people regardless, even if they keep up a judicious diet. The natural inclination we have to keep ourselves and everyone else we love alive even if they are falling apart or radically wounded or crippled in combat is something that seems unlikely to last for ever, given the gigantic costs that will attend the top heavy pyramid that is coming soon.

    So we are sympathetic to the government’s attitude, whether it is explicit or not, to extend euthanasia under the cloak of legal drink and tobacco. What would you suggest, otherwise? There is something quite mad about keeping people alive in a state of coma or total mental collapse due to age, which so often results in bankrupting their family, or taking all their inheritance, or using up the life of their sons or daughters who look after them, for no great benefit to the patients themselves, who often dont have any idea where they are.

    By the way abject poverty is not a very pleasant state but what about poverty? You could imagine that old people need very little other than good food, shelter, somewhere sunny to walk and some pursuit like chess or gardening to keep them very happy. One imagines that many people could become a lot more philosophical and content without great expenditures in their old age. It is illness that threatens to break the public bank.

    With a rich mental life fed by cable tv and a chess set an older rational man who didn’t fall ill could get by quite contentedly, surely, as long as he had some kind of social life and community when he needed it. The centenarians seemed very happy in Barbara’s documentary without yachts and airplanes, as far as one could see.

    One imagines in the future that as responsible citizens we will all keep suicide pills handy and take them before becoming a burden to others, and observe a duty to stay cheerful until that time.

  5. patrick moore Says:

    God forbid I ever live that long. What a fucking drag that would be on my tax-paying loved ones. They would murder me before anyway because of my loud orifice.

  6. Truthseeker Says:

    But Patrick, assuming you are serious, it sounds as if you are already a curmudgeon and proud of it, but wouldn’t that contravene the principle that you should at least stay cheerful? In our experience most little old ladies are very cheerful, along the lines of the delightful owner of the house where the bank robbing, fake string quintet hole up in The Ladykillers, whose original version is one of the priceless works of British cinema. She was the classic stereotype but there are many like her in real life. In fact, we have a friend who prefers little old ladies to younger ones because of their often angelic sweetness.

    Admittedly old men are often a good deal more cantankerous than when they were younger, and we recall that often at the old MOMA afternoon film showings two of them would suddenly battle it out over some imagined slight. The theater would be dark and the movie rolling and from the seats near the screen would come a loud “You are sitting in my wife’s seat!” or some such. Once there was a fearful racket in the Men’s Room as two such bull elephants went at each other verbally. Perhaps this only happens in Manhattan. But isn’t is true that in this advanced civilization we should keep as genial as ever as we enter senior years, rather than give in to whatever hormone or lack of it is creating the problem?

    Of course, as civilization advances we will all grow infinitely patient and sweet natured, but judging from New York City this will take a few more years, though on the whole it is remarkable these days how good humored even old men seem to be.
    Perhaps they have added something to the water.

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