Comments From Cornwall
by John de Rivaz
This file contains the text of a monthly column that appeared in The Immortalist, a magazine published by The Immortalist Society <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wherever possible source information has been given, and no additional information is usually available if you write in.
Our scene this month was from the dry valleys of Antarctica, the possible site for future permafrost burials.
Superlative Site for Permafrost Burial
In the television series Life in the Freezer about Antarctica, Sir Richard Attenborough described a first class site for permafrost burial.
Hidden in the mountains near Mt Erebus there are dry valleys. These are the driest places on Earth. The air is so dry that any snow falling immediately sublimes, and a seal was shown that was perfectly preserved lying on the surface for 3,000 years. In winter the temperature falls to -52 C and the ground is permanently frozen to a depth of half a mile. The conditions are so extreme that they resemble those on the surface of Mars (except the atmosphere) and the valley was used for testing the Mars Rover. Winds that scream down off the ice cap are so dry that they instantly absorb any moisture in the air and by doing so they will desiccate and preserve organic tissues. The mummified crab eater seal 70 miles from the sea had probably been lying there for 3,000 years or more. The only life present was a lichen that grows a millimetre below the surface of light porous sandstone.
An article in New Scientist of 11 December described research performed under great secrecy by the US army on non-lethal weapons. The research is intended for use in peace keeping activities, such as in Somalia, where the need is to subdue both sides of a conflict.
However the degree of secrecy is classified as "special access", which is above "top secret". According to the magazine, the reasons for this are the professional "rule books" of the researchers. Each group is working in isolation on various projects, and they fear that other groups are working along the same lines. If the projects were declassified, then many parallel projects would be cancelled and the researchers lose their salary or fee income.
Police forces are interested in the technology for dealing with sieges, such as Waco, and yet are denied access to it by the government.
And also there is continuing debate on gun law. If people could be given a non lethal but equally effective weapon of self defence, then restriction of gun ownership would be a lot more acceptable.
It is not easy to produce a weapon that can stop a man as quickly as a gun but not kill him. However such a weapon could greatly reduce the loss of innocent lives in law enforcement and personal protection. What price is therefore being paid in lives for the job security of weapons researchers in the US army?
These cuttings were obtained by my ex-companion, Karen Griffin, from the daily papers she buys:
The Sunday Express on 21 November carried a full page feature on Aspirin and its preventative properties. The lowest does pills were Beechams 75mg which cost just under a pound for 30.
The article described the history of the product, dating from the time of Hippocrates who prescribed a brew of willow leaves to ease labour pains. Salicylic acid was eventually isolated and refined by chemists and Aspirin was introduced in 1899. However it was only a comparatively few years ago that scientists discovered how it works, by inhibiting prostaglandins. It also stops blood platelets from clotting, and therefore is useful as a stroke preventative. It is also, the paper says, reduces the risk of colon cancer and may prevent complications of diabetes and cataracts.
Yet the ideal preventative does is still unknown, and readers are advised to contact their physicians for the best does to suit themselves.
It is also important to select a product that is just aspirin, if taking it for preventative purposes. Many pain relievers now contain a veritable brew of other substances, such as cyclizine hydrochloride, codeine and ibuprofen. These are fine for their intended purpose, but not as regular preventative supplements.
Recently, National Health Service Doctors have been rationing treatment according to time and materials available. People who abuse themselves, for example by smoking their lungs, over eating, or misusing hallucinogenic drugs are kept at the back of the queue.
The Daily Express in its editorial of 8 November thinks this is unwise. The editor admits that limiting resources to those most likely to benefit makes economic sense, but feels that it is at variance with the Hippocratic oath. He speculates as to whether one day we will have to carry medical cards stating that we live clean lives, in order to get emergency treatment.
Unfortunately they do not suggest any solution to the problem of limited resources, and I am afraid the cruel truth is that treating people at random is going to help a fewer number people overall than selecting those that can best benefit.
Human Embryo Cloned into Twins
Again in the Daily Express, this time of 25 October, Dr Jerry Hall of Washington University was reported to have cloned human embryos by splitting them into identical twins or triplets. He would not comment on the ethical aspects of the work.
However the newspaper speculated that a twin could be kept frozen and then used as a source of spare parts for the elder baby. I do not think that the public will accept this proposal. However there should be no objection if one can find ways of freezing the instructions for making individual organs which can be grown separately as needed. There may be advantages of doing this from embryonic material as opposed to a culture of cells taken from a sick person needing an auto- transplant. For further reading on this idea see Dr Paul Segall's book, Living Longer Growing Younger.
In the 18 November edition, the paper also reported on an Argentinean practise of using poor people who are unfortunate enough to end up in hospital as organ donors. The parents of a 14 year old paraplegic boy were told he had run away, but his body was discovered in a sewer with its eyes gouged out. The paper reports that in some hospitals a fifth of mental patients die or disappear every year. In every case their organs are stolen. An appendicitis victim was left to die so that doctors could take the organs for spares.
The Sunday Express of 14 November also carried a similar story that street urchins in Moscow were being kidnapped and killed for their body parts, which were sold to hospitals in the west. Fears are growing that children in city centres could face a similar threat in the UK unless safeguards were introduced into the international trade in organs. A BBC television programme has claimed that surgeons are making corrupt profits out of providing these parts at inflated prices to rich patients. It has also been claimed that US medical insurance companies have received faxes offering human organs for sale, for example at $80,000 each for kidneys. "A top transplant surgeon" was reported to have forged documents for the export of organs to Israel and set up a commercial agreement with a German firm to arrange transplants, paid for in hard currency. [An unnamed person suggests that the story could be pure fantasy, but nevertheless, it could be true.]
Certainly if the exist such transplant surgeons would be deadly to any potential cryonics patient who may cross their path.
So that is the other side of the coin. Research should continue so that organs can be grown form material taken from the patient requiring them, or from embryonic material produced at birth. Provided this embryonic material does not grow into a person, there can be no ethical objection.
The path to a successful conclusion of this research must pass through work such as that performed by Dr Hall, and it can only be hoped that this research is not slowed by professional and misplaced ethical interests.
Marine Cure for Melanoma
A sea sponge only found off New Zealand's South Island has been found to yield a powerful chemical extract which can cure melanomas and ovarian cancers in mice. The research was carried out at America's National Cancer Institute, according to The Daily Express of 29 October. The sponge, Lissendendoryx, is also know locally as "yellow slimy".
Presumably if it is that useful it could be bred elsewhere.
Flavonoids Good for Heart
On 22 October The Daily Mail carried a report on the work of the National Institute of Public Health in Bilthoven, Holland. They report that four cups of tea a day could halve the risk of a heart attack. This is because tea contains flavonoids, natural chemical ingredients which have a beneficial effect on blood fats and circulation.
At study of 800 Dutch men aged between 65 and 84 revealed that the higher the flavonoid intake, the lower the risk of coronary heart disease and having a first heart attack. One apple per day also halved the risk, and onions are also useful. In the UK, doctors are said not to be forceful enough in warning patients with blood pressure of the additional risks they run by smoking their lungs. Nicotine is such a fast acting drug (which is why people like it) that every puff of a cigarette momentarily constricts the arteries, putting a strain on weak points in the circulatory system and the heart itself.
It is quite literally correct to say that every puff on a cigarette could be a smoker's last breath.
Minsky Downloads into Evening Standard
Marvin Minsky, the artificial intelligence expert and downloading enthusiast, was the subject of an article in The Evening Standard on 27 October. He is reported to have said that the mystery of consciousness is trivial, and if people listened to him they wouldn't need to consider it further.
Consciousness involves one part of the mind monitoring the behaviour of the other parts. This function requires little more than short term memory. Some computer programs already allow their processing steps to be retraced, and by this definition are "extremely conscious".
He is also reported as saying that a mind can be built from many little parts, each mindless by itself. He says that he is wary of contaminating his mind with destructive experiences such as religion, but he may consider it if he could make a backup copy first. He also mentioned his concept of saving the mind in a computer after death, which the paper described as "bizarre".
[1997: Minsky is now signed for cryppreservation with Alcor.]
Poor Communication Blamed for Doctor Complaints
Complaints against doctors are at record levels, and disciplinary bodies are facing a backlog of hearings. The number of cases has risen 60% over two years.
Poor communication, rudeness are the main culprits, with clinical error only being third on the list. But nevertheless, clinical error is often combined with a refusal to listen to what the patient is saying.
Doctors may be experts on medicine, but only the patient can be an expert on their own bodies. Doctors should aim at making their expert knowledge available to the patient so that a combined result should be achieved which is greater than a simple addition of the two levels of expertise.
Changing Attitude to Age
Middle aged people are now fitter, hold themselves better and move more briskly than the previous generation, says Professor John Grimley Evans, head of clinical gerontology at Oxford University.
The report in The Daily Express of 2 November said that more people are seeking medical treatment to remove the signs of old age, such as facial wrinkles. However the underlying mental and self image effects of this surgery is proving to be beneficial.
Dr Raj Persaud, a lecturer of psychiatry at the University of London says that the effects of ageing lead to low self esteem and depression. (Well, that was what God intended wasn't it?!!!) Dr David Weekes, a chartered clinical psychologist of Edinburgh said people who look younger are less anxious and have more energy. (Although is he confusing cause and effect?) He said that the ages between 40 and 50 often set how youthful people will be in old age.
Fatalism can be Fatal
A massive study of half a million deaths by Stanford University, California, showed that fatalism and belief in predestiny, astrology etc can seriously shorten life.
Belief that certain organs are weak (because for example of parent's death) can lead to psychosomatic illness developing into real illness.
For example, Chinese astrologers believe that people who are born in metal years (years whose number ends on 0 or 1) are prone to bronchitis or asthma. Those born in a year ending in two or three tend to develop kidney disease. Four or five leads to liver disease, Six or seven, heart disease, and eight or nine cancer. Sociologist Dr David Philips said "When a person contracts a disease associated with the phase of his birth year, he may be more likely than others who contract the disease to feel hopeless and stoic."
He also said "We have shown that if you have a discouraged point of view, you will die earlier than if you don't. Fatalistic beliefs can certainly play an important part in health." [Sunday Express 14 November.]
Popularity of Childbearing on the Wane
Sixty years ago, only 3% of women were child free by their 40s by choice. Now the figure is 15%. As to the next generation, 60% have no children by 25. If the trend continues up to 30% of the next generation will remain child free.
The report, in The Daily Express of 4 November, carried a couple of case histories, one with a picture with a caption Selfish: Linda Sutton can indulge herself. (That's what you get for agreeing to talk to journalists about a sensitive subject, I suppose.) She said that she had lived and worked with the same partner for 17 years and never saw any reason to have children. Another interviewee, Sharon Hastings, said that she just had never felt the need to breed, and felt it would be more interesting to have an article on why people do have children. She said she made her choice very clear to her husband before they got married. She said that once one had a child one's life was set. You could change your job, home, even husband, but you couldn't change the fact that you had had a child. What a sensible attitude.
In The Daily Express of 25 November, an article by a divorced woman suggested that no one could marry because of the legal situation. She had never sponged off anyone else, and bought her house through her own hard work. However she was stupid enough to get married and divorced twice. So now lawyers have made her take on a previous husband's debt of £100,000 and pay a pension to another husband who had failed to make his national insurance contributions.
Until lawyers can be forced to accept that slavery (people owning people) in unacceptable, then this sort of situation will continue.
Periastron Defines Life and Medicine, and Covers Life Extension Pharmaceuticals
The November issue of Periastron had an editorial in which a person is defined as being alive if the information required to restore them to fully conscious activity remains. Unlike current medicine, we do not require that the restoration be done by current methods. Medicine is any technology capable of changing a person in directions wanted by that person.
The lead story in the issue is a report from the Fifth Congress of the International Association of Biomedical Gerontology. There was news of Deprenyl, Centrophenoxine, Melatonin, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Alpha Glycero Phospho-Choline. The article also reported an improvement in the attitude of scientists studying ageing.
Other subjects included brain mechanisms and chemicals and nanotechnology including new methods of manipulation.
Periastron PO Box 2365, Sunnyvale, California 94087. Subscriptions cost $2.50 per issue. If you pay for many issues in advance, you avoid any possible price rises. If the newsletter does not continue for any reason, unused subscriptions will be refunded with interest!
Immortality not Limited by Age of the Universe
That the universe may one day collapse and die is not a reason any sensible person would give for forgoing cryonic suspension, but nevertheless the end of the universe could be the end of the most persistent immortalists.
However an article in New Scientist dated 18 December suggests that the universe will expand for ever. John Mulchaey of the Space telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, has discovered some hot gas in the NGC2300 group of galaxies. From the properties of the gas, Mulchaely's group deduced that the total mass in the group was twenty time that of the gas and the galaxies.
If that ratio is the same through the rest of the universe, then there is sufficient matter for the universe to collapse at some time in the future.
However Mark Henriksen of the University of Alabama and Huy Mamon of the Observatory of Paris- Meudon in France reached the opposite conclusion after using more sophisticated models to analyse the same data. Their work will be reported in the 1 February issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters,. It says that the mass is only four times that of the gas and the galaxies.
No doubt there will be many more announcements on this topic before we know for sure whether the universe will ever contract to a big crunch. But even if it does, then maybe intrepid immortalists will discover a way to escape. After all, they will have a very long time to work it out.
Protein Putty Mends Broken Bones and Teeth
A company called Creative BioMolecules, (NASDQ symbol CBMI, about $7½) of Hopkinson, MA, has been testing the bone healing properties of a genetically engineered protein. It is called OP- 1, and is a natural human protein that appears to trigger the regrowth of tissue in injuries called non-union fractures.
The trial involves tens of patients, who receive the protein mixed with biodegradable connective tissue from cattle. It is ground into a powder which is made into a putty with saline solution. This is worked into the gap between the fractured bones. After a few days, cells from the bloodstream accumulate in the putty and form into cartilage tissue, which calcifies into bone marrow cells. In monkey trials, researchers found that the new tissue was indistinguishable for original bone tissue.
The same compound will encourage the regrowth of dentine in teeth, and if the process can be perfected it will see an end to root canal fillings and the use of pulp caps. US dental surgeons drill 4.2 million root canals and fit more than a million caps each year.
New Scientist Starts New Consciousness Series
The issue of New Scientist dated 8 January 1994 starts a new series on consciousness. They are covering topics such as Are animals conscious? Do emotions hold the key? How might the human mind be dissected? To start with Nicholas Humphrey suggests how consciousness may have evolved. Initially there was a direct path between sensory input and response, and later a conscious brain evolved as a more efficient alternative to giving needless responses.
Generating an Interest in Science
An article in New Scientist of 15 January says that television series like Star Trek generate more interest in science than school lessons in the subject. A survey of 30,000 American school children by researchers at Purdue University, Indiana, said that Star Trek's characters were "cultural heroes". The show set students wondering how various gadgets work. Those surveyed also cited X-Man, Spiderman, Mr Wizard, and Spielburg and Lucas films.
This reinforces the notion that to promote cryonics to the public we need really good fiction and TV shows about cryonics to get the public thinking about it.
Chiller and the recent novel Host are far too negative. It would not be difficult to conceive a series about a world where relatively few people from the twentieth century are revived, and although the future is a wonderful place to live in there are one or two problems that yield to a particularly 20th century attitude of mind.
Maybe it would be worth approaching Mr Spielburg or Mr Lucas and offer them a free suspension in exchange for producing such a series? Or maybe that's been tried already.
Baby Boom Funerals
In Funeral Service Journal dated January 1994 it was stated that Chicago Corporation vice president and analyst Stephen Salzman said "When the first baby boomer turns 65 in 2010, this will initiate the golden era of the death care industry".
Mr Salzman said that the large quoted companies in funeral industry will still grow through acquisition of small firms.
In The Immortalist February 1994 page 38 there was an item on prostate cancer. This covered screening at length, but there was no mention made of possible preventative measures.
In Life Extension Update dated December 1993, the Life Extension Foundation's Prostate Cancer Program was outlined.
They point out that there is enough evidence in scientific literature to suggest that prostate cancer and enlargement is caused by a breakdown product of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone. In response to this evidence, the National Cancer Institute is sponsoring a double blind study where 9,000 men receive the dihydrotestosterone blocking drug Proscar, whereas another 9,000 men receive a placebo. They plan to count the number of cancer cases amongst those receiving the placebo.
In response to this, the Life Extension Foundation Buyer's Club is offering members the chance of taking herbal dihydrotestosterone blocking agents, that will reduce the chances of contracting prostate cancer. For information on how to join the club, please write to the Life Extension Foundation PO Box 229120 Hollywood Florida 33022-9120.
In the November 1993 issue of Life Extension Report there is a review of various causes of sleep disorders and some advanced therapies. The article pointed out that if you improve the efficiency of your sleep so that you can reduce your sleep time, half an hour each night is equivalent to a whole week of extra time per year. Also sleep problems were said to be a leading cause of mortality amongst elderly subjects.
The use of various pharmaceutical products and nutritional supplements was discussed. However with some of them the amount required was critical, too much or too little and the results were ineffective.
For more information about Life Extension Report write to the Life Extension Foundation, PO Box 229120, Hollywood, Florida 33022- 9120.
Also see The Life Dxtension Foundation's web pages, click on banner below for the index page.
In that same issue there was also an item on the new FDA Holocaust Museum which will highlight lives lost through the regulatory process. It will be opening early in 1994 at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The article reproduced from Nature in The Immortalist of February 1994 on page 47 was really making points about quantum mechanics, but it was dressed up as being about Teleportation.
Actually, a sort of teleportation is not that impossible using present day technology. This is how it is done.
The initial or basic offering of the equipment will be relatively crude and consist of a transmitter and receiver that can be plugged into telephone sockets anywhere. The receiver will be a virtual reality helmet,1 with stereo headphones and two video displays with arrangements to focus them as a stereo pair to the viewer. It will be connected to a box that decodes the video and audio data from the fractal compression2 system used to send it down the telephone system. The transmitter will be a head sized object with binaural microphones and a pair of television cameras, and the data will be fed via a fractal compression unit to the telephone line. It will probably be sold at high prices to business users so that, for example, someone can be shown round an office or factory in order to decide whether they are sufficiently interested in buying it to visit it in person.
Being shown round with this set up would be a bit like a quadriplegic being wheeled around in a wheelchair. Although you would have the feel of being there, you would have to look where your head was pointed.
The next development would be to arrange for the receiver to send to the transmitter signals representing the azimuth and bearing of the "head", so that the viewer could turn his head around and look where he wants. But the head's location would still be moved by the people the other end. This would be more like a paraplegic being wheeled around in a wheelchair.
The stage on from this would be to mount the "head" on a small airship type flying machine, and set its computer to keep it at head height. Then directional signals could also be sent to it from the receiving person. I suggest that a flying machine would be easier and cheaper to make than a walking machine. The buoyancy could still be obtained by a cylinder, held vertically by its flight control system, equal in volume to a body and legs and it only need float a few inches above the ground. It may look a bit like a Dalek or animated dustbin, but it would do the job and should be easy enough to mass produce.
However as it stands people would not be able to use this product to visit each other, as the person receiving the visit would still see the "animated dustbin" or whatever the transmitter looks like where his friend was supposed to be. But a simple trick could be used to get over this. A camera at the terminal of the subscriber making the virtual visit would record his appearance, and the person being visited could also wear a virtual reality helmet. However his helmet would display his home image, except instead of the "animated dustbin" it would display the image of the person making the visit. It could not be impossible to edit out the VR helmets the two people would be wearing, so each would see the other as if they were a real person.
Of course there will be naysayers who will suggest that this can never replace travel and it would be bad for the soul and so on. However I can see no technical reason why it would not happen, and in reality it could well have uses to enhance travel rather than suppress it. Never again could the travel agent suppress the fact that the hotel is between the crematorium and the abattoir, if his customers expect a quick VR tour before laying out their money for the tickets!
1 Division Group, 19, Apex Court, Woodlands, Almondsbury, Bristol BS12 4JT
2 Iterated Systems Ltd., Wyvols Court, Swallowfield, Reading, Berks RG7 1PY
For computer programs, books, equipment and videos on virtual reality, also contact Media Magic PO Box 598 Nicaso CA 94946 tel 415-662-2426.
Legal Expenses Hide Improvement at Alpha One
Alpha One Biomedicals published its third quarter report on 30 December, 1993.
In common with all research companies, Alpha One Biomedicals shows a small loss every year, but each year this has been falling, and losses hit a new low of £1.2M, or 14 cents/share for the third quarter 1993. However the performance is more spectacular when one realises that legal expenses increased by a quarter of a million dollars for that quarter. This was due to litigation and patent expenses.
In the meantime, approvals are coming in for Thymosin Alpha One for various uses, and bulk sales are expected to have started by the end of 1993. Maybe 1994 will be the year that the company moves into profit and the share price moves up to reflect this change.
Deathist Film Shown on TV
The film Donor was shown on British television in January 1994. The film, reminiscent of the horror movies of the 1930s which has heart transplant surgeons as homicidal maniacs, concerned experiments to create an anti ageing vaccine.
Extracts from the pituitary gland of a progeria patient were injected into the pituitaries of middle aged subjects, usually street bums. The subjects aged rapidly and died, but whilst they were doing this their bodies produced antibodies which were used to make the anti ageing vaccine. The doctors working on the project murdered anyone who tried to stop them but were outwitted at the last minute by an attractive female doctor and an undercover FDA agent.
However the US government took charge of the vaccine that had been made and the film suggested that it would still be used.
The problem with this film was that it was out and out propaganda in favour of deathist ideas. I cannot really image real life extension people murdering so callously and with so little reason as this lot. In any case no life extension work that I know of involves a process where people are made to die in order to create products.
Killing A so that B lives is not really something that individualists get involved in - it is more a behaviour trait of governments. They kill one lot of citizens (eg by conscription) so another lot may live. Some deathists think it is a good idea to kill off elderly people (group A) by refusing them access to life enhancing products or refusing to allow research that may extend their lives. Their reason is that they do it in favour of the next generation, (group B).
The only possible logic that might suggest a life extension process that requires killing of victims is for an individual (such as Count Dracula) to use it to preserve his own life at the expense of others. However logic (and the plots of Dracula films and their imitators) suggests that this process cannot continue for ever as the victims eventually rebel, so why bother to start it in the first place.
Fortunately we know that life extension by taking other people's lives is a silly concept, but regretfully films like Donor only reenforce the hostile gut reaction that many "right thinking law abiding sound citizens" have against people who want to extend their lives.
New Brain Theory Based on Evolution Processing
The BBC, in their Horizon series, broadcast a programme on 24 January that expounded the theory of Gerald Edelman that the brain works as a neural network using evolutionary processing.
Evolutionary processing is a computing method in which alternative solutions to problems compete until the best results appear.
It is not likely that the brain works like a digital computer, although neural networks and evolutionary processing can be simulated on a computer.
A computer has a program that someone has written, and it also has great difficulty in recognising objects in the same way a brain does.
Edelman observed that the body can make antibodies that can recognise viruses that have never existed before. No one could have taught them to do it. The immune system works by a process of natural selection.
Natural selection is also used by the developing infant in how they learn to coordinate their movements. Babies produce random movements, but every now and then a value system produces a signal that a series of movements is good, and this strengthens a pattern of connections between neurons. The value system relates more to emotion rather than logic!
Computers can use these principles to achieve objectives. The programs showed experiments where robots learned tasks without being programmed to do them.
A result of this approach is the idea that each individual is a product of his own history. You don't get this sort of result by programming a computer.
The BBC publish a booklet, which is available for £3 from Horizon: The Man who Made Up His Mind, PO Box 7 London W3 6XJ.
Battle for ICN Continues
The cost of a contested takeover battle is always damaging for a company, but usually the bidder is offering money. In the bizarre case of Rafi Kahn and ICN Pharmaceuticals, Mr Kahn and his supporters have relatively few shares and just seek to be voted onto the board instead of the company's founders.
A new twist to the battle is the revelation that Kahn is wanted for an alleged criminal offence in the United Kingdom, involving the conversion of British Gas from a company privately owned by the government to a public company. (A process perversely known as "privatisation".)
In these issues, the Government sells its shares to the public at a slight discount on their value, in order to ensure that they are all bought. Usually the discount is deep enough to ensure a scramble for the shares and therefore an instant profit for anyone who gets them. In order that as many different people may be able to participate in this profit, the government limits the number of shares issued to any one individual, usually to two or three hundred pounds worth. It therefore made it a criminal offence for a single individual to apply many times for the shares. Otherwise someone could apply several hundred times for their two or three hundred pounds worth and end up with thousands of pounds worth, which they can sell for an instant profit.
It is alleged by the fraud squad of Scotland Yard, the headquarters of Britain's biggest police force, that Mr Kahn involved himself in a scheme to apply for and take profits on more British Gas shares than he was entitled to by law.
This revelation was sufficient for ICN to obtain a court order in the United States disqualifying any votes Mr Kahn may have obtained to take control of the company. However there is nothing to stop him from attempting to gather a new set of votes as long as he discloses the case against him. This he appears to be doing.
All this activity gives considerable volatility to ICN's share price. However this does give some buying opportunities on any weakness. The company has had a 25% compound growth in its earnings per share since 1986, and this should be reflected in the long term share price.
Here is another communication from the company.
1993 was a challenging and noteworthy year for ICN Pharmaceuticals. We made great strides in our goal of creating a world-class enterprise on the cutting edge of drug development and global distribution. We expanded. and strengthened our already top-notch team of managers and scientists. We added a Nobel Prize-winning scientist to our Board. And we moved ahead prudently in the approval process for promising new applications of our antiviral Virazole (ribavirin). We enter 1994 well positioned for sustained growth in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.
We are proud of these accomplishments. But the hard work is only just beginning. Now is the time to put the distractions of a long proxy contest behind us and to invest all our energies into realizing ICN's true potential. Delivering shareholder value over the long term is our highest priority, and we believe we have the vision, the resources, and the leadership to succeed.
Over the past few months we have spoken to many of our shareholders in person and by telephone. We have welcomed the chance to hear their interests and concerns, and consider both the communications process and the substance of these discussions to have been invaluable. We would like to take this opportunity to address some of the questions.
How did ICN's stock perform this year?
ICN's common stock performed exceedingly well in 1993, but still does not yet reflect the Company's true value or long-term growth potential. We pledge to continue our efforts to create a better understanding among the investment community of our Company's significant prospects and progress.
Against the backdrop of our desire to enhance shareholder value even further, we are delighted that the stock outperformed four major stock market indices in 1993, including the Dow Jones pharmaceutical industry group and the New York Stock Exchange index. In addition, the common stocks of the companies in which ICN holds significant equity positions - SPi Pharmaceuticals, Viratek, and ICN Biomedicals - also beat the Dow Jones pharmaceutical industry group index as well as the American Stock Exchange and Standard & Poor's 500 averages.
What is the status of ICN's efforts to make ribavirin available for treatment of hepatitis G?
Ribavirin is making positive and steady progress through the testing and regulatory approval process. Virazole (ribavirin) is a product of ICN's pioneering work with nucleic acid research. It is authorized in over 40 countries for at least one of eight indications. Three years ago we initiated development of Virazole for hepatitis C, just as the virus was being clearly identified. After tests in small pilot experiments and independent Phase II studies, the drug is now undergoing intensive Phase III clinical trials. These trials are nearing completion, and we plan to submit a New Drug Application in the early part of 1994 to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and in major pharmaceutical markets elsewhere in the world.
Our regulatory staff has been working diligently to manage the approval process with care. We are encouraged by the sound clinical results to date. The market for hepatitis C medication is potentially quite large, and there are still only a handful of antivirals available today. With ICN's increasingly global and sophisticated distribution network, we believe our prospects for expanding ribavirin to new applications and new markets are excellent.
Why is ICN investing so much of the Company's resources in Eastern Europe?
We believe Eastern Europe offers outstanding potential for growth. It is a large, under-developed market eager for new capital and strong partners, and our early activity and hands-on experience give us an important leadership position. Over the past few years, we have been aggressively expanding our manufacturing and distribution channels around the world, and Eastern Europe is one of the most important pharmaceutical markets we have targeted for growth.
Our success to date in Eastern Europe is notable. ICN Galenika, our Yugoslav venture, has made a model transition from socialist to capitalist management despite the turmoil of civil war, and has performed remarkably well under the most adverse of circumstances, including economic sanctions. Its has also begun a substantial building and modernization program using local currency which will enable it to expand operations quickly once the sanctions are lifted.
Our pioneering venture with one of Russia's largest pharmaceutical companies, Oktyabr, is nearing start-up the first privatization of a major pharmaceutical company in Russia. We are modernizing the company, which manufactures 225 pharmaceutical products, and building a new manufacturing facility in St. Petersburg.
In early January we announced an agreement with the government of Hungary to acquire a 30 percent ownership in Alkaloida, a major Hungarian pharmaceutical manufacturer with annual sales of about $90 million. Alkaloida is one of only five facilities worldwide for the production of medicinal morphine. We intend to increase our percentage ownership in Alkaloida to a controlling interest of over 50 percent.
Is ICN pursuing other drug research and development?
We have begun an ambitious program in antisense technology, capitalizing on ICN's long-standing strength in nucleotide chemistry. This is a multimillion dollar effort to develop therapies tailored to block production of genetic materials in cancer, viral infections, and psoriasis. We believe this can lead to the in-house development of important new antiviral, anticancer, and dermatological drugs.
Are you planning on strengthening your Board of Directors?
Yes. In fact, ICN has already enhanced the Board with the election of Nobel Laureate Dr. Roger Guillemin last October. We will continue the process and we are committed to maintaining a truly independent Board of Directors, drawn from the disciplines of business, science, finance, and government. The Board formally adopted a set of corporate governance principles in December which it intends to use as a guide in being more responsive to shareholders. The Board is currently reviewing its composition, with a goal of adding at least two additional independent directors over the next six months.
Do you intend to link executive compensation practices with company performance?
Yes. In order to emphasize the importance we place on this issue, we have reconstituted our compensation committee so that it will be completely comprised of independent directors, who will set management pay using well defined, objective standards. These standards now include the market performance of ICN stock as well as more traditional measures of operating earnings growth and earnings per share growth. Incentives will be pegged to meaningful goals and are designed to benefit all shareholders by creating a more valuable enterprise.
What are ICN's priorities for 1994?
The nuts and bolts of good management: capitalizing on new opportunities while controlling costs, improving margins, and reducing debt. We believe ICN is well positioned to benefit from the tremendous changes taking place in the pharmaceutical industry today. Our global presence, new drug opportunities, and strong management team provide a strong foundation for future growth.
(end of report)
Over the next five years, the following factors will be good for the company's shares:
Approval of Ribavirin for the treatment of hepatitis C.
Peace in Yugoslavia (ICN has a subsidiary there)
Resolution of the Clinton healthcare reforms.
At the time of writing (January) the stock price is only $9, at the lower end of its trading range. As this range is a swing of over 2:1 over the rising trend line, whether you make a profit or not depends very much on whether you buy at the top or bottom of the swing. If you get it wrong, it can be several years before underlying growth shows a profit.
However dipping in and out of a stock to generate profits can cause capital tax and brokerage charges, which considerably weaken the risk/reward ratio of this activity. It is likely that if any the three factors above resolve in ICN's favour then there will be a sudden and irreversible movement in the stock, and if you happen to be "out" at the time, it will cost money to get back in.
[1997: anyone buying the stock then would now be very happy.]
Politicians Laugh SETI Out
According to Bioastronomy News NASA's search for extra terrestrial radio signals has been deprived of all its funding because of the "giggle factor" in political debates on the subject. The only work continuing in this field is a search privately funded by the Planetary Society.
The search for extra-terrestrial life is (partially anyway) based on the possibility of intercepting signals between aliens.
However if one looks at advances in communications between humans, one sees an increasing use of encryption systems, even if only to maintain intellectual property "rights" for the broadcasters of trash. Admittedly one may still be able to deduce that a Videocrypt signal is artificial, (although whether you have a decoder or not, it is debatable whether the signal is intelligent).
However one must also consider bandwidth reduction.
I have conjectured that the best bandwidth compression system will produce a signal that is indistinguishable from random noise, except, of course, by someone with the correct decoder. This is on the basis that thermodynamics states that the final condition of all systems is that of the highest entropy, or greatest disorder. The best present day compression system is by fractal transformations, but this produces a signal that is not random, therefore we still have some way to go in producing an ideal system.
Maybe a study of bandwidth compression systems that produce a noise-like output would be of value to people studying the possibility of eavesdropping on extra terrestrial signals. There are plenty of signals from the sky that appear to be noise ...
It has been argued by immortalists that the first thing ET will want to tell us is how to be immortal, because that way they will suppress humanity's urges to make war.
Science, DNA and Lawyers
An article in The Financial Times of 5 February detailed problems in the way lawyers think and the way scientists think. The legal system evolved at a time when people believed in absolute values, and developed an adversarial process to discover the truth about a defendant's guilt or innocence.
Science, on the other hand, is essentially cooperative. Researchers are used to working with probabilities rather than absolutes. When a breakthrough is made, it is because the scientists involved are "standing on the shoulders of giants". Indeed, the greatest legacy that everyone receives is the sum total of the scientific progress made by previous generations. (Lawyers and politicians have found no way to tax it either!)
The problems are arising because lawyers are trying to use scientific evidence to determine cases which are otherwise managed by their more primitive system of absolutes. To make matters worse, they have a way of making evidence "admissible" or "inadmissible" due to arbitrary rules. Rules of evidence are quite different to "rules of nature" in science.
An example of the application of arbitrary rules in science shows how misleading they can be. Hitler failed to develop the atom bomb because he regarded all Jewish science as inadmissible. This is clearly ridiculous - the universe is as it is, regardless of whether certain bits were first discovered or described by people of certain races. A very similar example is how cryobiologists are refusing to accept results from scientific experiments performed by cryonicists. More recently, riots were caused when a court ruled that something everyone had seen on television did not happen in law. (Police beating up a car driver in Los Angeles.)
A particular flash point now is DNA testing, the procedure where processed DNA is made to produce what looks like a bar chart. This chart differs for each individual. However it is not a read out of the genetic code and it is not infallible.
An example was given in the article, suppose 100,000 people are screened at random, and one person's DNA profile matched the evidence at the scene of the crime. There would be a 10% chance that the person was innocent.
The article says that lawyers sometime misrepresent this probability in order to get a suspect released. People are not usually tested at random. Courts are asked to consider DNA evidence on top of other evidence. A number of suspects who are suspected for other reasons are tested, and here the probability that the one selected is far higher.
The article concludes that DNA testing is a powerful tool in determining the truth. But lawyers will have to understand probability and scientific method to be able to use it properly.
British Government Accused of Running Protection Rackets
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph of 30 January, Mr Christopher Booker said that the British Civil Service has lost touch with the real world and has become a giant protection racket. It is oiled by deception and self-deception. Its main purpose is to serve the financial interests of the officials themselves.
When they are removed from office, officials who have been found responsible for serious offences are often re-employed at highly paid government posts elsewhere.
The article points out a factor that I have referred to before - the deliberate misuse of language. Often these protection rackets say they are "delivering" a "service". In fact the service is unwanted but compelled by force of law, and the time of delivery increases year by year.
An example was given of a firm who manufacture body armour. He was made to wait three weeks for an export license to send even a sample abroad. But with last year's "liberalising" of trade between European Community members, the need for a license still arises, and the wait has doubled to six weeks. After which time, the article says, his foreign customers have probably bought their goods from a free country!
A catalogue of how officials are raping British enterprise was given. A hotel was made to place notices on its fire doors at a cost of £2,000. On two subsequent cases they were forced to replace them with notices with more up to date design. On the last occasion, the hotel's workshop burned down whilst the handyman was fitting the notices to the doors.
Lawyers made themselves a quarter of a million pounds in deciding whether pipe cleaners, of which 260 million have been sold over the past 13 years, could be included in model making kits. Officials claimed that children using the kits could poke the pip cleaners into their eyes. They forced the vendors to pay them thousands of pounds to poke the cleaners into the eyes of a dead pig to support their case.
A river authority made a company pay them £4,800 a year to let the roof of their factory drain into a canal. (Bear in mind if the factory wasn't there, the land would drain into the canal in any case.)
A butcher's shop was made to build a refrigerated tunnel between its supplying slaughterhouse and the shop. The butcher was also prohibited from having a door between his living accommodation and the shop. The protection racketeers require him to walk into the street and then back into the shop. Also, he has to build a shower and rest room for delivery drivers, all of which come from premises not more than five miles away.
Funeral directors who repatriate remains of UK residents who die in Spain and want to be burned in the UK have to remove them from Spanish coffins and put them into coffins made in the UK. This is because Spanish coffins are deemed unsuitable for burning in UK crematoria, on grounds of EC regulations on air pollution. These regulations are not obeyed in Spain, also an EC member.
An amusing post script to this is that the UK funeral directors dispose of the used Spanish coffins by burning on a bonfire, which is perfectly legal. [With acknowledgement to my father, Mr Gerald de Rivaz, who provided the newspaper cutting.]
Is it a Violent World?
I must say that considering how violent our society is supposed to be, I wouldn't dare have the job of the officials running the protection rackets mentioned in the previous item. Maybe the fact that they get away with it is really proof that violence is extremely rare.
I know that the news media are full of stories about violence, but it is hardly surprising as even if it is rare there is still a lot to report from such a large population. For example more people die in Ireland through road accidents than through criminal violence (which is used a lot in that country to make political statements).
Even if violence is rare, it is certainly true that as a species we are obsessed by it. As stated, the news media report every incident of it, and as entertainment a large portion of films, video games and live sports employ it. It is perhaps this obsession that is dangerous and requires psychological analysis.
Neurocryobiology Needs Papers
The January issue of Periastron, Dr Thomas Donaldson's newsletter of fact. hypothesis and speculation re cryonics and immortalism, contained more news about The Institute for Neural Cryobiology and its journal Neurocryobiology.
The journal has had only one article submitted for publication!
The purpose of this journal is to publish scientific works not allowed in cryobiological journals for political/racial/religious and other unscientific reasons.
The problem is, of course, that there is a world of difference between rattling off a column like this as opposed to preparing a fully referenced scientific paper. Indeed, I have come up with ideas in this column such as the cryostat using an expensive higher boiling temperature gas refluxed in using cheap liquid nitrogen. But to present this idea as a full worked paper, with experimental results and references, would be quite another matter. It would take some months of full time work to do properly, and requiring substantial expenditure on experimental equipment. If the person doing it was not fully conversant with cryogenic procedures, he would also have to take time learning them.
Maybe to get Neurocryobiology off the ground organisations with money available for research will have to order research projects from Russian laboratories and take advantage of the cheap professional labour and equipment left over from Communist scientific programmes. I understand from Venturist Monthly News and The Immortalist that there are large groups of immortalists working in Russia and they may well be able to help with such a project.
Unfortunately the only organisation I know of that was funding life extension research on a regular basis was the Life Extension Foundation of Florida, but its program was halted some years ago as a result of the need to pay lawyers in its ongoing battle with the FDA and other government bureaucrats.
Other topics covered in Periastron of January 1994 were Gott's conclusion on the Copernican Hypothesis, how neurons connect, tracing nerve connections to the heart, memory, nitric oxide and nerve growth, synapses, and rejoining severed nerves.
Periastron PO Box 2365, Sunnyvale, California 94087. Subscriptions cost $2.50 per issue. If you pay for many issues in advance, you avoid any possible price rises. If the newsletter does not continue for any reason, unused subscriptions will be refunded with interest!
The Funeral Service Journal dated February 1994 brings this these snippets of professional undertakers:
The Utah based company Summum reports having 137 people signed up for its Egyptian style mummification process, which is more expensive than cryonics.
Sicilians fear death in hospital, as their tradition requires them to die at home and lie in state there. Italian lawyers say that when a patient dies in hospital he should remain there until buried. To get round the law, many Sicilian families get the hospital to delay death certificates so that they can take the deceased home whilst legally alive. When someone is close to death a hospital porter alerts the family who collect the patient in a vehicle disguised as an ambulance, and drips are left connected so as to confuse the gate guards.
According to the article, a shoot out occurred last year when two "ambulances" from rival funeral companies arrived for the same body.
And in Copenhagen, an undertaker is being sued because his cut-price coffins fell part during the burial service. In Toronto an undertaker admitted professional misconduct as he regularly worked under the influence of marijuana, hashish and alcohol.
In another section of the magazine, an article described how an English clergyman, who died in 1783, had his body left lying on his bed, inside his summerhouse as a sort of mausoleum. He ordered that the summerhouse was to be surrounded with evergreen trees and these surrounded by an iron fence painted blue. He left the local council 30 acres of land for the maintenance of the summerhouse. However a hundred years later it was noted that the fence and the trees had disappeared, and the building lay in ruins. The report added that some years earlier workmen had gained access through the roof, to find that the bed had rotted away and the body lay mummified on the floor.
In more recent times, Daventry District Council confirmed the story and said that the summerhouse containing the body still exists.
Pharmaceutical Industry Fights Generic Move
An article in The Financial Times of 19 February reports that UK pharmaceutical companies are fighting government proposals to encourage doctors to prescribe cheaper generic medicines as opposed to brand name products.
The manufacturers said that if generic substitution was introduced the industry would lose £500 million a year and cause companies to cease research and investment. They point out that Canada introduced a generic substitution programme 30 years ago, and very quickly it went from a nett exporter of pharmaceuticals to a nett importer.
I have said before that a sensible way of funding pharmaceutical research must be found. At the moment it is funded out of the profits of supplying successful products, ie by market forces. But this could be presented as taxing the sick. We all know that organised schemes fail in the long run. If research was funded by a government grants, there would be no place for the outsiders who sometimes come up with amazing products. Mediocracy would rule the day.
Until a sensible alternative to market forces can be found, this is the best way of promoting research. This also involves protecting successful products so that they can pay for the large numbers of potential medicines that never make it to the market place.
Too Many Genes
In the same issue of the paper, Michael Thompson-Noel philosophises on his reading of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World Revisited whilst travelling in India.
He said that the Indian situation suggests to him a time-trip into the future when overpopulation really starts to hit. In the book, Huxley points out that by allowing unlimited reproduction, coupled with a social programme that permits genetically impaired children to be raised to bear children themselves, we are weakening the human gene pool. Thompson-Noel says that these ideas are brushed under the carpet these days, and that people are too frightened to discuss them.
He doesn't mention the facts that developed countries report falling birth rates as people have more to do with their free time, and the fact that AIDS is exterminating large parts of the human population in some third world countries.
But if he is right, then cryonics may also be performing a useful function to the human race as a whole by preserving not just individuals, but their genes as well.
Progress and Innovation
The entire cryonics movement is based on future progress, and it is almost an article of faith that this progress will continue, not just in the medical and pharmaceutical fields, but in all the backup industries that these require.
There are always "doomsayers" and their works. They say that science has discovered everything there is to know, or that progress is in some way approaching an asymptote. I suppose that faltering of the US space programme after the first few Apollo landings much have been a disappointment to many, and may have fuelled the idea that vast engineering projects are simply not possible on economic grounds.
There is always folklore in this country, and probably the US, of poor misunderstood inventors who cannot get backing for their projects. In fact a recent study (and I am afraid I have lost the reference) says that in reality there are not that many new inventions proposed, and it is a myth that thousands of super ideas are turned down each year.
This myth may have arisen because it is not actually that unusual or difficult to have an idea. Putting it into operation, especially if it relies on others for money or engineering assistance, is the really difficult bit.
Also ideas breed on ideas, and if someone has a good one it can go to waste if not published.
There must be many good ideas that go to waste simply because the originator has no inclination to develop them further. I have therefore started a new newsletter Inventors Report. At the moment the concept has only been sent to a few innovative people in the hope that I can get together enough material for a charter issue impressive enough for the project to gain momentum. Promotion will then be through computer and science magazines.
Contributors will be people with ideas who haven't the time, money or inclination to go through the patent process and then do the rounds of industrialists to find a firm willing to buy the patent. By contributing to Inventors Report they will put their name to the idea. By doing so they will have, however, lost the right to patent it and also prevented anyone else from so doing.
But nevertheless, if an inventor gets several ideas in the newsletter which are taken up, companies may take more notice of him if he approaches them later with an additional new invention. It will be hard luck on the inventor who produces only one or two worthwhile projects in his life, but the inventive mind is seldom this limited.
Another feature of Inventors Report will be a "Quickies" section where ideas can be expressed in just a few words. This will be of particular benefit to the time oppressed!
This project is not directly immortalist. However its putting of new ideas into the public domain will enhance progress by removal of a stage of bureaucracy, and who knows, some innovative and thinking people may be introduced into the immortalist movement if the project gets under way.
Inventors' Report never got started, but there is an Internet version.
A review of dental products by Douglas Skrecky in Longevity Report 44 comprised a scientific literature search that shows that some products put in toothpastes are not very effective. However others are worthwhile, particularly those containing sodium fluoride, triclosan, potassium citrate, and quaternary ammonium compounds.
Xylitol also received the accolade, and it is a great pity that companies such as Life Plus and Nature's Best have ceased including it with their zinc lozenges, otherwise sold for destroying some respiratory viruses.
I wrote to Twin Labs in the USA asking whether they still offered zinc lozenges flavoured with xylitol, but they didn't even bother to reply. If any reader knows where you can get zinc gluconate with xylitol lozenges, please let me know!
Calcium Lactate was also given a positive comment, but as yet no commercial products contains this substance. The article concludes with an impressive list of references which should be taken up by anyone wishing to apply these substances to their own teeth. Further articles are promised.
I have also been told about a French toothpaste containing Phenytoin. Phenytoin is an anticonvulsant used by epileptics for some decades. It was later discovered to be a powerful antidepressant in some cases, and in the early days of life extension it was said to have some life extension properties. There has been little mention of it of late, presumably because of more powerful alternatives.
One of the side effects of phenytoin was overgrowth of gum tissue. This was taken up in 1972 (and only just brought to my attention) by a French company who sell the product in a paste to be used by people with receding gums. It helps rebuild collagen and promotes regeneration of the epithelium.
The paste was originally sold in 40 gram tubes, and in 1984 in 60 gram tubes.
Called Pyoredol, it is a paste containing 1% by weight of phenytoin mixed with usual toothpaste compounds. Users are advised to brush their teeth with a normal toothpaste, and then apply this paste with a soft brush twice a day, and leave in place. Treatment should be for a minimum of one month. [Laboratoires Roussel 97,rue de Vaugiral 75279 Paris France] The price of 60 gram tube is FF30 (approx $5), and it is not allowed as a free prescription for French people receiving state aid for medical treatment. [Acknowledgements to Steve Gallant who found the item, and Chrissie Loveday for translation from the French.]
It appears that the French have a number of products for pharmacologically treating gingivitis that do not appear in British directories. It is even more astonishing that Pyoredol has been sold since 1972. Looking through the UK directory MIMMS (Feb 1994) the only products sold are various antiseptic and antifungal mouthwashes and pastes. There is absolutely nothing being offered to correct or reverse the problem of receding gums and loose teeth.
There are two possible conclusions:
1. None of these remedies actually work.
2. Surgical treatment of these conditions has a strong lobby that suppresses alternatives.
I would like to repeat once again the advice of dental surgeon Dr R.O. Nara - with 100% effective oral hygiene, dental disease can be stopped in its tracks. He recommends including the Teledyne WaterPik in your oral hygiene programme, and I can confirm that it is very effective, especially if used after every meal. In the USA they are relatively inexpensive at a little under $40, although internationally profiteers have cornered the market, for example setting the UK trade price at an equivalent of $90!
Where is the World Going?
When I see films and other material relating to the last world war, I often wonder what it was like for Germans as National Socialism grew in their country. Could we today be faced with a similar "cancer of government" without really knowing it?
We read of FDA raids on perfectly respectable businesses, carried out in a manner no different to the National Socialists' secret police. Here in the UK, there are various government agencies that have sweeping powers, often in excess of those offered to the ordinary police. In addition, officers of these agencies don't have the training and traditions of the British police.
I recently heard of a case involving a financial professional who offered some form of investment in good faith from a U.S. company that turned out to be fraudulent. He was expelled from his professional cartel, yet attempted to remain in business on his own account.
He was then offered another deal by another American which appeared to be perfectly honest, but after executing it he was arrested and detained under conditions resembling those in occupied Europe (no proper food, imprisonment in a cell with no chair or bedding, long interrogations etc.). His office was raided by nine plain clothes men described by staff as "thugs" who took away equipment and papers, and his family were intimidated by the local police. The other parties to the deal turned out to be government entrapment agents. He was later released under habeas corpus, but was told (in March) he would have to wait until August before he would be told whether prosecution would result. I do not know what he could be prosecuted for, but I speculate that it could be for trading without belonging to the cartel.
What we are seeing here is governments behaving like gangsters.
A television programme on 15 March revealed how the British Government colluded with foreign national airlines to destroy Sir Freddy Laker's SkyTrain independent airline. They even prevented anti-trust litigation coming to the American courts. At the moment this sort of exposé is still being shown, but how long will it be before it is stifled?
One of the first things the Nazis did when occupying a county was to confiscate printing machines, radios and other instruments of mass communication. Will we see laws suppressing computers, photocopiers, fax machines and the like? Probably not blatantly, but maybe trouble makers will find their machines are seized in the middle of the night on various obscure legalities. Already the British are enacting a law saying that computers suspected of offering a telephone service of pornographic pictures by modem can be seized without notice or warrant. That means anyone with a modem runs the risk of seizure, thereby destroying their business. Of course eventually they would be found innocent of pornography (unless it was planted) but by that time their business would be as dead as Sir Freddie Laker's.
Jesus Christ may not have personally risen from his grave, but his ideas have lasted two millennia at least. Adolf Hitler made no promises about rising from the grave, although he did predict a thousand years of his form of government. The memes that Hitler generated, government by secret police and fear, are still with us and are very ready to surface even in our so called democracies.
Modem Power Conservation
Still on the subject of computer bulletin boards, a British company has offered a novel system of conserving power and prolonging the life of equipment designed to be accessed by computers over the telephone. As the Cryonics Institute is proposing to install such equipment, this item may be of use and interest.
Previously computers that offer fax or data services by telephone had to be left running continuously, consuming 200W or so of power and wearing out the bearings on their hard disks. Now Nighthawk Electronics [Saffron Walden Essex CB11 3BR UK (freepost for letters posted in UK)] offer a unit that is connected in the mains lead to the computer and also connects to the telephone line. When the 'phone rings, the computer is powered up and the 'phone is answered as soon as the computer is ready to use.
This is a very simple idea, and presumably it will be emulated by other companies around the world to suit their local telephone and mains supplies.
Fungus Survives 5,000 Years in Glacial Permafrost
The man recovered from an Austrian glacier in 1991 has been given the name Otzi the hunter. When Kurt Haselwandter and Michael Ebner of the University of Innsbruck examined samples of hay in his boots (used as insulation) they discovered two species of microscopic fungi Absidia carymbifera and Chaetomium globosum. The fungi had survived as dormant spores, and reanimated when the hay was placed on a nutrient agar. (FEMS Microbiology Letters, vol 116, p 189).
Contamination after thawing has been discarded as a hypothesis, and it is hoped to compare the genes of the fungi with modern versions of the same species to see if evolution can be observed. But Haselwandter is not sure whether 5,000 years is enough to observe a change.
Liver Parasite Danger
An article in New Scientist of 18 March said that the dangers of parasites living in people's livers has been grossly underestimated. 40 million people are said to be contaminated with food born flukes. Of these, 21 million carry Paragonimus which can cause lung and brain diseases. A further 17 million carry Clonorchis and Opsithorchis flukes, which cause liver diseases including cancer. Paragonimus contaminates 50% of Ecuador's rural population, and causes lung disease which mimics tuberculosis. 60% of TB patients were found to be receiving the wrong treatment, at a great cost to the country's health services.
France holds the European record for human cases of fascioliasis, although a health ministry spokeswoman in Paris said it wasn't a public health problem there. It causes a previously incurable liver disease, but latterly trials with triclabendazole in Iran, Bolivia, Chile, Cuba and Ecuador have proved promising, and the drug may be registered for general use with a few years. [Ciba-Geigy]
People become contaminated with the flukes mainly through food, such as uncooked shellfish, or freshwater fish such as carp or through eating water cultivated raw vegetables such as watercress.
Infestations are most serious in countries such as the old USSR, parts of central Africa, and the Far East. But importation of exotic foods and international travel make them a upcoming serious threat in developed world.
Office of Fair Trading Investigates Pre-mortem Finance of FuneralsIn the UK, in the early part of this century, people were encouraged to pay into life insurance type policies to pay for their funerals. Young people paid a few shillings a week, which were calculated to pay for their funeral at the cost of a few tens of pounds. Inflation made these policies pretty sick when they paid out, typically sums such as £60 against funerals costing some £600.
This created a scandal, as over the years the more long lived clients had paid far more in premiums than they received for their funeral expenses.
More recently, the funeral industry had produced a different product to fulfil the same need. Instead of paying out a sum of money, the scheme guarantees a specific funeral.
However the Office of Fair Trading is now concerned as to whether the promise can be delivered. Director Sir Brian Carsberg said "People need to be assured that a service which, in extreme cases, may have been purchased and paid for decades before, will actually be delivered."
It has been estimated that 100,000 plans, costing some £100,000,000 have been sold in Britain. [Funeral Service Journal March 1994]
Cardboard Coffins Save the Environment
Also in Funeral Service Journal, was a short item on PBUK. A newly-formed company of Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, is marketing an "environmentally friendly" cardboard coffin. It has a simulated woodgrain finish and is made from recycled paper products. When rotted or burned, the coffins are claimed to give off only a quarter of the pollution caused by conventional caskets.
Who Owns Your Body?
As society is presently constituted, those opting for cryonic suspension are placing themselves very much in a minority. It is acceptable to consume the bulk of medical resources used over an entire lifetime in the last few months in order to gain a short reprise from death. However spending a smaller amount in order to gain a chance of revival in good health is seen as eccentric no matter what logic dictates.
Just as with other frontiers of science, legislators are now seeing the growth of cryonics as a chance to make money or make a name for themselves, and this has started in Canada.1,2 The province of British Columbia has enacted laws which prohibit the marketing and selling of cryonics services. The Cryonics Society of Canada, and also Alcor Suspension Services Manager Tanya Jones have written to the British Columbia Minister of Labour and Consumer Services appealing that the law be withdrawn. Minister Moe Sihota made a defensive reply and refused to reconsider the law.
The Canadian government (in common with most others) also refuses its citizens the freedom to end their suffering in terminal cases. The case of Sue Rodruigez attracted much publicity in the country. Suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, she asked a parliamentary committee, "If I cannot give consent to my own death, then whose body is this?". In September 1993 her request for an end to her suffering by voluntary euthanasia was denied by judges and lawyers in a 5-4 decision in the Canadian Supreme Court. In February 1994 her physician assisted her to die, and the death was witnessed by sympathetic MP Svend Robinson. The government may take action against him. However the Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Cretien, has now agreed to a debate on the issues.
The last paragraph is most interesting inasmuch as it appears that a government may be going to attack one of its own MPs over this matter, and it brings into focus some important philosophical issues as to exactly what are individuals and what are governments. One can consider a government to be a living entity that uses individual people as its cells, or possibly one could say as neurons or even just thoughts in its "brain".3,4 If a thought is an anathema to the overall personality of this entity, then it is thrown out, just as with the processes within an individual's brain.
Therefore we as individuals share the planet with entities which not only threaten us but also use us as "cells" or units within them. At the time of writing there is a lot of debate as to various government agencies that are springing up, who have powers sometimes in excess of those of the Police. The Child Support Agency was introduced by the government in order to chase fathers who would not support their children after divorce or separation. Instead of doing this, they are alleged to be attacking those that are supporting their children and increasing the penalties levied on them after fair trials in the courts. Despite media attention, no effort has been made to remedy the situation. A television programme on BBC2 alleged that the British Government and the world's state run airlines conspired to destroy Laker Airways, even managing to prevent an anti-trust case being heard in the US courts. In the past these entities or governments have even exterminated individuals within their curtilage. The most famous example was the National Socialists in Germany, but conscription to any war can be seen in this light.
Most humans consider themselves to be at the top of the food chain, ie nothing will farm them and eat them. Of course they can get eaten if they stray into wild areas where there are dangerous animals, but this is of academic importance only to most people. Assuming for a moment that cryonics is proven to work, governments that either forbid it directly or indirectly by insisting on autopsy could be regarding as feeding on their citizens. They would argue that autopsies are desirable as they increase scientific knowledge and more importantly organisational knowledge. (The cause of death could be illegal: murder, suicide, recreational-drug induced etc.) Therefore they feed on the knowledge that is obtained. Remember that governments are pure thought entities. They can die suddenly or violently (such as Communism or National Socialism), or wither away (such, possibly, as Liberalism in the UK). However there is no set age of three score years and ten or whatever. Hitler's 1,000 years of National Socialism wasn't unreasonable on that score. Humans won't eat animals or plants unless they are "ready" or "ripe". Government won't usually eat humans unless they are ready, ie dead. Exceptions are conscription etc as aforementioned, but such governments are unsuccessful in the evolution of government, and therefore tend to fail.
Ultimately the success of cryonic suspension may not depend on matters such as whether people can afford it or whether future science can revive the clients into good health. It will depend on whether allowing it is a successful trait in the evolution of governments.
We have already looked at how cryonics can be unsuccessful. Governments that allow it will receive less information on their citizens from autopsy. Individuals who form part of governments will not be able to make financial or political capital out of attacking it. Individuals need to benefit themselves from being members of governments (ie assisting them), otherwise governments die through lack of officers.
But are there traits that will make cryonics desirable, ie governments allowing it, even promoting it, will be stronger than those that don't? I think that there are plenty.
Governments use up resources in educating individuals. Cryonics preserves that education. (If it works)
Cryonics encourages savings and investments, not consumption. (Whether it works or not!)
Cryonics encourages people to lead lawful and responsible lives. (Whether it works or not!) (If you are going to live for ever, sooner or later any wrongdoing will be found out. Even if you only live a long time, the chances of being caught are much higher.)
If an individual's government has supported cryonics, that individual is likely to support that style of government when revived, thus adding longevity to it. (If cryonics works.)
Unfortunately although you can write to MPs, the Sue Rodruigez case tells us that you cannot actually communicate at all with governments as entities. No one can tell governments that cryonics is beneficial (or indeed that it isn't). Only the sum total of actions of individuals, promoted either by personal greed or personal survival, will make up governments' thought processes. Both greed and survival are very strong drives. People with long time horizons are more likely to be survivalists, and those with short term goals will see the other options. It will be some years before we know whether governments "decide" that cryonics is a beneficial evolutionary trait.
Notes for further reading:
1 Canadian Cryonics News 23. [$14/yr quarterly from PO Box 788 Station A Toronto Ontario M5W 1G3 Canada ($10 Canada)]
2 Funeral Service Journal October 1991, page 59 [£20 per year sterling cheques or Eurocheques only: 112, London Road Knebworth Herts SG3 6EX UK (£13 UK)]
3 The Selfish Gene Richard Dawkins, Oxford, 1989, ISBN 0-19-217773-7.
(particularly chapter 11 in 1989 edition.)
4 Engines of Creation Eric Drexler, Doubleday, 1986, ISBN 0-385-19972-4
particularly chapter 13, 1986 edition.
Drexler writes "In the organism known as a democracy the conscious level roughly corresponds to debate in the mass media." Interesting. Note that
(a) Those in authority are known by psychologists to have a high sex drive,
(b) Debate in the mass media at least at the moment seems to concentrate on the sex lives of politicians and those in authority.
(c) Sexual reproduction is an important part of evolutionary theory. However, on the analogy proposed here, we are referring to the sex lives of the "cells" making up the body politic. Could it be that by attacking the sexuality of the cells of the government, individualism is attacking the lifeblood of collectivism. Now we have two "isms". Things are getting quite chaotic!
Pharmaceutical Companies Take on the Clintons in Their Annual Reports
As previously stated in these columns, the annual reports of pharmaceutical companies are large glossy magazines, some perfect bound and in full colour.
Schering-Plough has this to say on the front cover of their 1993 report:On the first page inside they say that the physician's credo if First, do no harm. They call upon the government to do likewise in health reform. The government would be ill advised to stifle the pharmaceutical industry with any more controls or arbitrary measures. By trying to guarantee stability, they kill the incentive to risk. Without risk, there is no progress.
For example, Schering Plough have introduced Eulexin (flutamide) which offers tremendous potential to improve the life quality of people with advanced prostate cancer.
Pharmaceuticals avoid surgical procedures that were mandatory only a few years ago, with a substantial saving to the health care budget. Whereas the overall US health care budget has risen from 6% of GNP in 1965 to 14% of GDP at present, spending on pharmaceuticals has remained at only 1% of GDP. To put it another way, surgery and related care has increased in volume from 5% of GDP to 13% of GDP.
Therefore I comment as follows: health care reformers should be supporting pharmaceutical research and manufacture, and instead investigating and regulating surgery and related services. Alright, pharmaceuticals are expensive just as pills or powders, but it is what they do that is valuable.
Effective cures for many untreatable diseases are in sight - but only after further substantial expenditure. If the government stifles innovation in the industry, it will be condemning millions of people to agonizing deaths from diseases such as "AIDS, Alzheimer's Disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis,, arthritis, hear disease, kidney disease, emphysema, lupus, Gaucher's disease, epilepsy, Lou Gehrig's disease, cystic fibrosis and other genetic disorders." [list taken from company report.]
If the Clintons introduce more authoritarian measures into the pharmaceuticals market, they could well join the ranks of the mass murderers of history!
Warner Lambert's annual reports echoed similar sentiments. In a section entitled Heath Care in the Next Century it said that artificial viruses, designed to have a beneficial rather than harmful effect, and gene-switching will play prominent roles. They expect to be reporting dramatic strides within the next few decades.
Xerox Linked With Nanotechnology
An article in The Financial Times of 24 March on research at Xerox Parc, in California's Silicon Valley, mentioned that the company was interested in nanotechnology, using and defining that word. The usual superlatives ... computers no larger than a sugar cube being as powerful as all the world's computers combined ... were included, but such advances are a long way off. No mention was made of the effects of assemblers, replicators and manipulators, though.
(These are two miscellaneous items that also appeared):
Nice Guys Finish First by Richard Dawkins
Talk of laughing all the way to the bank reminds me of a delightful line from Shakespeare:
The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.
In what are called civil "disputes"' there is often in fact great scope for cooperation. What looks like a zero sum confrontation can, with a little goodwill, be transformed into a mutually beneficial nonzero sum game. Consider divorce. A good marriage is obviously a nonzero sum game, brimming with mutual cooperation. But even when it breaks down there are all sorts of reasons why a couple could benefit by continuing to cooperate, and treating their divorce, too, as nonzero sum. As if child welfare were not a sufficient reason, the fees of two lawyers will make a nasty dent in the family finances. So obviously a sensible and civilized couple begin by going together to see one lawyer, don't they?
Well, actually no. At least in England and, until recently, in all fifty states of the USA, the law, or more strictly - and significantly - the lawyers' own professional code, doesn't allow them to. Lawyers must accept only one member of a couple as a client. The other person is turned from the door, and either has no legal advice at all or is forced to go to another lawyer. And that is when the fun begins. In separate chambers but with one voice, the two lawyers immediately start referring to "us" and "them". "Us", you understand, doesn't mean me and my wife. It means me and my lawyer against her and her lawyer. When the case comes to court, it is actually listed as "Smith versus Smith". It is assumed to be adversarial, whether the couple feel adversarial or not, whether or not they have specifically agreed that they want to be sensibly amicable. And who benefits from treating it as an "I win, you lose" tussle? The chances are, only the lawyers.
The hapless couple have been dragged into a zero sum game. For the lawyers, however, the case of Smith v. Smith is a nice fat non-zero sum game, with the Smiths providing the payoffs and the two professionals milking their clients' joint account in elaborately coded cooperation. One way in which they cooperate is to make proposals that they both know the other side will not accept. The other side makes counter proposals that, again, both know is unacceptable. And so it goes on. Every letter, every telephone call exchanged between the cooperating "adversaries" adds another wad to the bill. With luck, this procedure can be dragged out for months or even years, with costs mounting in parallel. The lawyers don't get together to work all this out. On the contrary, it is ironically their scrupulous separateness that is the chief instrument of their cooperation at the expense of the clients. The lawyers may not even be aware of what they are doing. Like the vampire bats that we shall meet in a moment, they are playing to well-ritualized rules. The system works without any conscious overseeing or organizing. It is all geared to forcing us into zero sum games. Zero sum for the clients, but very much nonzero sum for the lawyers.
What is to be done? The Shakespeare option is messy. It would be cleaner to get the law changed. But most parliamentarians are drawn from the legal profession, and have a zero sum mentality. It is hard to imagine a more adversarial atmosphere than the British House of Commons. (The law courts at least preserve the decencies of debate. As well they might, since "my learned friend and I" are cooperating very nicely all the way to the bank.) Perhaps well-meaning legislators and, indeed, contrite lawyers should be taught a little game theory. It is only fair to add that some lawyers play exactly the opposite role, persuading clients who are itching for a zero sum fight that they would do better to reach a nonzero sum settlement out of court.
From The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins (Oxford University Press, 1989, £17.50)
The Good Old Days
by Polly Toynbee, from The Radio Times dated 4 december 1993.
Many people deriding cryonic suspension say that life is not as nice as it was in the good old days, and they would hate to see things continue getting even worse in the future. This article from The Radio Times about a programme on medicine puts this argument right down where it belongs - in the rubbish bin.
It's the sort of platitude we used to shrug off when our grandparents said it, but sometimes (is it a sign of middle age?) something from the past strikes so forcefully that the words leap to mind: "Count your blessings". A programme made by Real Radio for Radio 4, called Taking the Medicine, should provide one those moments of revelation for many listeners, especially all those brought up to take the British National Health Service and good health for granted.
In a brief 45 minutes, it puts into perspective all those minor wrangles about how the British National Health Service should be run, who would run it best and whether it is adequately funded. In the splendid tradition of the BBC oral history unit in Bristol, it simply listens to the stories old people have to tell about health and sickness in their own childhoods and in the upbringing of their children. Death stalked at every turn. Without penicillin or vaccinations, with a multitude of diseases now virtually extinct or easily curable, childhood was dangerous, and motherhood frightening. Mothers talk here of children dying, without a doctor to assist, for lack of money to pay a doctor's fees. Not, perhaps, that doctors would often have made much difference, their armoury was so puny, but imagine the horror of not being able to do what little might be done.
Diphtheria, pneumonia, tuberculosis, scarlet fever and, sometimes, measles often killed. But even when they didn't, children were put through extra horrors in the treatment prescribed. People recall being sent as young children to fever hospitals, where no visits were permitted and their teddy bears burned for fear of infection. Parents had scant knowledge of how their children were doing, in some faraway place they couldn't visit even if they'd been allowed. Each child had a number and, once a week, the local paper would list the children's numbers under the categories "No change", "Some Improvement" or "Worse". One woman, taken away aged 4 for months of TB treatment, tells movingly how it broke for ever the bond between herself and her mother. She thought she'd been sent away because she'd been a bad girl. She didn't understand why her mother never visited.
For weak, undernourished children, there were open-air schools, run along military lines, where the children froze in open air classrooms through the winter, were drilled and fed with fortifying food, and slept in the middle of the day on outdoor camp beds in neat rows.
There seems to have been no thought for the emotional effect these regimes would have on the children. It is the same mentality that ordered mass evacuation of poor children during the war. The middle classes seem to regard parenting among the poor as an irrelevance, or even removal of children from their parents as the best solution to a variety of problems. Only recently have hospital regimes changed to allow parents to stay in with their children. Just 20 years ago, there were plenty of matrons and doctors who said visits from mothers upset children, when what they meant was visits upset their rigid regimes and mothers interfered with the smooth running of desolate paediatric wards.
Things have changed so much, even from my own upbringing in the 50s. Illness was a major part of childhood. In the winter, a sizeable chunk of every class at school would be away ill for two or more weeks at a time, with bronchitis, flu and children's diseases that seemed more serious then. If we weren't ill we were often in quarantine, a vanished concept. Childhood included so many dismal weeks in bed, hours under a hot towel breathing in the foul fumes of Friars Balsam, piercing earaches, desultory jigsaw puzzles, days of incomparable boredom. For most children, such days are virtually unknown now. Antibiotics seem to have driven out a host of minor complaints as well as life threatening ones. Although there has been an alarming increase in asthma in children, by and large most children enjoy quite remarkable health.
And then there was polio. Several children in my school, older than me, had leg irons. As young children, every time we had a fever, the general physician would ask if there was any stiffness in the limbs. Everyone was terrified of this dreaded disease until the vaccine came. Scarlet fever was less virulent, but I remember children returning to school with shaven heads after a long and dangerous bout of it.
This huge social change has come upon us remarkably rapidly. In this programme, mothers in their 70s and 80s are talking of an era that seems unimaginably far away, yet still so real to those remembering. They make you want to reach out to any older parent around you and pump them for their history, before it's too late.
The following comes from some cuttings provided by Karen Griffin from The Daily Express on various days in the middle of February.
Many foods can behave as medicines. In all cases, the specific pharmacological activity of foods noted here has been reported by scientific studies.
Antibiotics: Commercial penicillin used today is derived from a strain picked up on a mouldy cantaloupe melon. Foods with anti-bacterial activity are garlic, onion, apple, banana, beetroot, cabbage, carrot, celery, chilli pepper, chives, coconut, coffee. cranberry. ginger, honey, horseradish, liquorice, lime, black mustard seed, olive, papaya. plum, tea, wine and yoghurt.
Anti cancer Agents: Concentrated in fruits and vegetables, vitamin C is a potent weapon against disease. Foods include garlic, cabbage, liquorice, soya bean, ginger, umbelliferous vegetables (carrot, celery, parsnip), citrus fruits, brown rice, vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), cucumber, seafood, olive oil.
Anti-coagulants: Aspirin, one of our great "blood thinning" drugs, came from the bark of a willow tree. Foods with anti-coagulant activity include cinnamon, cumin, fish oil, grape, melon, mushroom, onion, tea and red wine.
Anti-depressant foods seem to manipulate mood by affecting serotonin. Foods with anti-depressant activity are caffeine, ginger, honey and sage.
Anti-diarrhoeal agents Some foods effectively fight diarrhoea because they contain astringents. These include dried blueberries, cinnamon, fenugreek seeds, garlic, ginger. liquorice, nutmeg, rice, tea, turmeric.
Anti-hypertensives Some foods can lower blood pressure by dilating blood vessels and suppressing production of stress hormones. These include celery, fenugreek, fish oil. garlic. grapefruit, olive oil, onion and garlic.
Anti-lnflammatory agents: Foods useful in fighting diseases like arthritis and asthma are apple, blackcurrant, fish oil, garlic, ginger, onion, pineapple, sage.
Anti-oxidants These are thought to help deflect virtually all chronic diseases. Foods with high concentrations of anti-oxidants include avocado, asparagus, basil, cherries, broccoli. Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, chilli pepper, fish, garlic, ginger, liquorice, onion, orange, peanut, sage, spinach, sweet potato, tomato, water-melon,
Anti-thrombotic agents Can lower fibrinogen, which forms the basis of blood clots. Foods include chill pepper, fish oil, garlic, ginger, grape juice, onion, red wine,
Anti-ulcerants Foods can strengthen the stomach lining, Examples include banana, cabbage and other vegetables, fenugreek seed, fig, ginger, liquorice, tea.
Anti-viral agents Help beat viruses with apples, apple juice, barley, blackcurrants, blueberries, chives, coffee, ginger, garlic, grapes, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, orange juice, peaches, plums, sage, red wine.
Carminatives Herbs and spices have long been used to help expel gas and for relieving flatulence, Foods with carminative activity are anise, basil, dill, fennel seed, garlic, peppermint. sage.
Cholesterol modifiers Food can lower bad LDL (low-density lipo-protein) cholesterol, raise good HDL (high-density lipo-protein) cholesterol and help prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol which is more destructive to arteries, Foods that can lower LDL cholesterol include almond, apple, avocado, barley. carrot, olive oil, shiitake, mushrooms and walnuts. Foods that may keep LDL cholesterol from becoming toxic include foods high in vitamins C and F and beta carotene and foods high in polyunsaturated fat.
Diuretics. Plant diuretics stimulate only the loss of water, not sodium. Foods include anise, celery, coffee, aubergine, chicory, garlic, lemon, liquorice. nutmeg, onion, parsley, peppermint. tea.
Decongestants: Hot, spicy foods can clear the lungs and breathing passages by thinning mucus. These are chilli pepper, curry, garlic, horseradish, mustard, onion, black pepper, thyme.
Immune Stimulants: Eating yoghurt stimulates at least two vital components of immunity natural killer cells and gamma interferon. Other foods are garlic and shiitake mushrooms.
Pain killers: for years people have put hot pepper extract on their gums to cure toothache. Caffeine, too, has recently been found to be a mild pain killer. Others are cloves, garlic, ginger, liquorice, onion, peppermint and sugar.
Sedatives: Some natural sedatives act like morphine by attaching to opiate receptors in the brain. Others stimulate this activity in the levels of neurotransmitters, like serotonin, that calm the brain. Foods with calming properties include olive, cumin, ginger, honey, onion, orange peel, sage and sugar. Additionally, any foods high in carbohydrates, sugar and starches can have sedative effects.
Colds, Flu, Bronchitis: foods to help combat the common infections of colds, flu and bronchitis include chicken soup, garlic, horse-radish, hot chilli peppers, hot curry spices, food rich in vitamin C and yoghurt. Sufferers of these ailments may find milk harmful.
It seems almost eerie that age-old food remedies passed down for centuries by medical sages and grandmothers have stood the test of scientific inquiry when it comes to colds and flu. The foods they prescribed are very similar to the drugs we now use - they thin out the lung's secretions and help move them so they do not clog air passages and can be coughed up or naturally expelled. Reigning kings of the food pharmacy for respiratory diseases are the chilli pepper and other hot, pungent foods. Eating spicy foods, such as mustard and hot peppers. can actually speed up metabolism, burning off calories. Ginger may also rev-up the metabolism. Even Hippocrates prescribed vinegar and pepper to relieve respiratory infections. Chicken soup is good because chicken contains cysteine, similar to the prescribed drug for bronchitis and respiratory problems, acetylcysteine. Drink lots of liquids, because keeping airways moist discourages viruses. Hot fluids are better than cold. ago old remedies are now being justified on scientific grounds.
Breathe easy: Garlic. Here are some hot tips for breathing problems from Irwin Ziment, MD: Sprinkle 10 to 20 drops of Tabasco sauce in a glass of water and drink or gargle with it. Chew on a chilli pepper. Eat a spicy Mexican meal. Do so three times a week if breathing problems are chronic. Add whole, peeled garlic cloves to your soup.
Sleep remedy: One of food's best sleeping pills is something sweet or starchy. Honey has long been used in folk medicine as a soporific, so if falling asleep or staying asleep is a problem, try eating 1 oz or so of sweet stuff about half-an-hour before going to bed. Scientists are still arguing over whether milk is a help or a hindrance so the latest advice is: if milk helps you sleep, use it. Experts do agree, however, that caffeine is the biggest dietary antagonist to sleep.
Everybody has an upset stomach occasionally - acid stomach, nausea, motion sickness or intestinal parasites. The pain and discomfort are usually short-lived and not serious.
Since stomach complaints are so common, folk medicine has a long list of soothing cures, dating back to ancient China and Babylonia. Their Number One cure for nausea was ginger - still tops today. For non-ulcer dyspepsia or "sensitive stomach", munch on bananas and go easy on the coffee, with or without caffeine, which can bring on the condition.
Danger foods: researchers have found that healthy people were most likely to suffer stomach ache as a reaction to eating mayonnaise, cabbage, dried and salted foods. Those with dyspepsia (without ulcers) suffered stomach pain from coffee, meat, fried foods, carbonated beverages and fruit juices. Those diagnosed with ulcers had the most painful reactions to coffee, carbonated beverages, mayonnaise and fruit juice. If you have an acid stomach, try 3.5 ozs of cooked rice as an antacid. Rice is a complex carbohydrate that ties up excess stomach acid and is particularly easy on the stomach. Dried beans, particularly white and red varieties, as well as corn and tofu (soya bean curd) help combat stomach acid. But avoid beer, wine, milk, coffee, tea with caffeine, 7-Up and cola drinks.
What you eat can determine how energetic you are, how good your memory and concentration are, whether you are depressed or anxious, how aggressive you are, whether your brain waves are abnormal and perhaps whether you are vulnerable to certain mental illnesses.
Carbohydrates, proteins, fats and caffeine may have a profound and almost immediate impact on your mental energy. Carbohydrates, notably sugar, are downers. When you want to stay mentally sharp do not load up on sweets, cake, sugary cereals, rice or pasta. Instead, eat protein-rich foods low-fat seafood, turkey breast, skimmed milk. low-fat yoghurt and lean beef. Fat is also a downer because it takes so long to digest, making brain functioning sluggish. Other foods, such as green leafy vegetables, appear to be neutral.
Coffee was initially considered to be so powerful and hazardous to mental sensibilities that only physicians could dispense it. It suppresses "down" brain chemicals and can even counteract the mental slump you ordinarily get after eating. But if you use caffeine in coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate as a brain pick-me-up, you are quite likely to become addicted.
Get your daily quota of thiamin, riboflavin, carotene and iron (? JdeR). Slight deficits of these may also slow down thinking and memory in older people.
If your memory is sagging and attention lagging, you may not be getting quite enough zinc. You can get the memory-boosting amount by eating seafood, such as oysters and fish, legumes, cereals, whole grains and dark-meat turkey. A mere 1 oz of raw oysters supplies more than the recommended dietary allowance.
I would comment to all this that the vitamin content of foods depends enormously on the cooking and preparation they have received, and also the storage time between harvesting and consumption. Vitamins appear in foods not to nourish us, but to protect the material from antioxidants. When, for example, a fruit is picked the vitamins start to get used up to stop the fruit from going bad. If the fruit is not bad, the vitamins may still be all but consumed. Alternatively, if you eat an orange straight off the tree it should be full of vitamins.
Having said that, it is also likely that there are substances in foods that we know nothing about. Some will do us good, others harm. If, down the ages, people have found that on balance certain foods help with certain afflictions, then there is certainly much to be gained from using the foods in this way. However one has much more control by taking vitamin pills. For example, one would have to eat an impractical amount of oranges to get the same supplementation with vitamin C as recommended by life extension people.
Chrissie Loveday comments that some of the advice in the paper is questionable. Does brown rice really contain vitamin C? Garlic seems to be a general cure-all. In fact I deleted one block of information as she said it could be dangerously misleading.
Periastron and Nanotechnology
The leader in March 1994's Periastron discusses why there has been so little nanotechnology in the newsletter. Although it is now 10 years since the subject was mere speculation, none of what has been done so far has any direct relevance to repairing cryonics patients, and in particular brains where cracking as occurred. Cracking is on a scale larger than that of nanotechnology, although big enough machines could be composed of nanotechnological parts.
The leader also says that to repair brains we must first of all understand them. Therefore most of the articles appearing in Periastron concern the latest thinking in that respect. "Neural Darwinism" is one of the subjects covered in this issue, as is neurotransmitters, synapses and LTP. The concept of fuzzy learning is also discussed.
Periastron PO Box 2365, Sunnyvale, California 94087. Subscriptions cost $2.50 per issue. If you pay for many issues in advance, you avoid any possible price rises. If the newsletter does not continue for any reason, unused subscriptions will be refunded with interest!
The British news media hailed the FDA's climb-down over Tacrine, the Alzheimer's Disease treatment, as a major breakthrough for science. No one mention the fact that the Life Extension Foundation had been going on about it for years!!! French citizens are also to receive the freedom to get prescriptions to the drug from their doctors soon, however this has not been extended to the UK. An article in The Guardian on 7 April warned British people hoping to import the drug from the USA that is isn't a cure-all and doesn't work for all patients. In those it does work for, the effects are more of a stay of execution.
Medical supervision is vital, as side effects can include nausea and vomiting and liver damage. Monitoring of the correct dosage is essential. However even if the drug helps only one in ten patients it is worthwhile using it until something better comes along.
E-Number Preservatives May Inhibit Cancer
Also in The Guardian, an old news story to life extensionists was given an airing on 7 April. Professor Richard Wolf has "discovered" that natural and synthetic E-number food preservatives boost the body's defence mechanisms against cancer. He is head of the biomedical research centre at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee. He calls for clinical trials, giving large doses to people whose family histories indicate a high cancer risk.
The work is financed by the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and Dundee University, and is studying the interaction between the environment and genetic make-up in causing cancers. Much of the research concentrates on chemoprotection. A nice word that. A pity the Life Extension Foundation didn't think of it first!
An article in The Financial Times on 21 April said that people who spend too much time trying to measure the volume of smoke end up being consumed by the flames that caused it. It was drawing a comparison with the fact that the concept of an audit, or check-up, was spreading from the accounting profession across all walks of life.
The procedures required for audit are consuming more and more of people's time, resulting in less time being spent on the purpose of their job, whether it be handling money, processing data, offering medical services or providing education. There are apparently also such things as stress audits and democracy audits!
Michael Power, an academic of the London School of Economics, has written a booklet published for £5.95 (Demos 9, Bridewell Place London EC4V 6AP UK) examining this phenomena. He says that the encroachments of audits has reduced the amount of trust placed with people doing jobs and placed it with quantitative systems that may not work.
Mr Power says that in the sphere of finance auditing was not particularly successful in the cases of Robert Maxwell or the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. However the failure leads to what he calls particularising. This makes audits invulnerable to their own failure. Instead, a failure results in a call for more rules designed to deal with events that have already happened. Failures do not trigger a more general analysis of the limitations of the whole concept of auditing.
"Auditing has become a dominant influence with little scrutiny, and scant discussion on the unintended side effects such as executive stress, a breakdown in trust and organisational loyalty, and a risk that it may be addressing the wrong issues", the article says.
Terra Libra Advances
In his third progress report, Mr Frederick Mann, founder of Terra Libra, said the organisation has become "spectacularly successful". Started about a year ago with $250 (and promoted by the Society for Venturism) it had grown to a $20,000 a month business selling information on how to maximise personal freedom, quite legally. According to my calculation, they must be recruiting members at a rate of about 2,500 people per month.
Terra Libra will be staging its first conference on 16-18 June at the University Park Holiday Inn, Fort Collins, Colorado. [If this is published in time and anyone wants to go, tel (602) 234-3532 for information.] Amongst the topics covered, will be Superhealth and the possibility of biological immortality. Alternatives now and in the future. Living a high energy, high production life. "Brain food" and exercise.
Terra Libra quotes Lowell H. Becraft, Jr, Attorney at Law of Huntsville Alabama as follows:
"The American people possess the lothesome and deplorable custom of blind obedience and servility to those in power or stationed in high office. History demonstrates that we should distrust politicians, not worship them. I have received and briefly reviewed your manuscripts and find them well written and full of information. I congratulate you on your work. I hope that your works get wide circulation because they look excellent."
The next stage in the development of Terra Libra is a monthly newsletter Terra Libra News. I consider this to be an important event for the immoralist movement. It is apparent that a large number of individualists have joined Terra Libra - far more than have been recruited by all the cryonics groups combined. The originators of Terra Libra are clearly immortalist orientated, and therefore they are likely to consider immortalist material for Terra Libra News. Therefore the newsletter could become an important means of educating more people as the values of immortalism.
It is known that most people don't take on board the concepts of immortalism immediately. It can take years, and this costs money the cryonics societies haven't got. Terra Libra will recruit people who are at least not collective- orientated, and if they are offered immortalist material in a non-coercive manner month after month they may eventually take the step of active support. If the recruitment rate of 2,500 people/month is maintained, then this could be a substantial outlet for immortalism.
Terra Libra already has many strange concepts, such as calling itself an information-country. It also promotes ideas of investment that seem really weird. Only time will tell whether they are successful for the investors, or whether like so many similar schemes they blow up like a bubble and burst. Therefore the unconventional concepts of immortalism will not seem out of place in Terra Libra News.
Comment on Bauge Citizenship
One of the complaints of the rest of the world against South Africa's old style of government was that they would not let their citizens move about their country freely without permission. If invaders from Mars took over the Earth and prevented human from moving around their planet, then there would be similar complaint.
Yet as far as the individual is concerned, all the world's governments are "the authorities". Therefore collectively the world's governments are doing just what was considered reprehensible in South Africa - they are preventing the world's citizens moving to where they want to be.
Think about it - think of the outrage if a law was passed in the UK such that someone living in the UK had to get permission to move from one county to another, such permission not necessarily being granted. The UK would be immediately ostracised amongst nations, and forced to repeal the law.
God's Big Bang
An article in New Scientist of 7 May 1994 entitled In the Beginning was the Bang by Colin Price suggests that the singularity theory of the start of the universe is strangely in accordance with the legend in Genesis. Price goes on to say that the fact that science accepts the hypothesis although it is against cause-and-effect is very good science, as it does not reject an unpalatable answer.
However the singularity may be more of a phenomenum of humanity's preception of time rather than a suggestion of the reality of a creator god. We perceive the three directions of space in a certain way, and regard time as a fourth direction. Fine. However we perceive this direction in a very limited way, and indeed if it is a direction similar to the other three were are very constrained in it. The restriction pervades and limits our lives.
Maybe what we perceive as a singularity is merely a flaw in our physics and mathematics. After all, when people believed that the Earth was the centre of the universe, the orbits of the planets produced all sorts of peculiar shapes.
If the universe is an object in multi- directional space of more than three directions, then our limited perception of more than three directions is likely to produce a very distorted view.
Computers, however, don't have this problem. They can "perceive" or at least manipulate spaces of any number of directions. A mathematical process can involve say five variables or quantities (also properly known as dimensions) and be "plotted" in a five directional space.
An example of this is a new process to visualise the human genome. In Frontiers of Scientific Visualisation [Pickover & Tewksbury (editors)], there is a chapter on visualising DNA sequences. DNA is organised as a sequence of four different chemicals, or nucleotides, (A,G,C,T), therefore it can be represented in a space of five directions one for each of the chemicals and one for position along the chain. The writers of this chapter propose a visualisation model as a curve in five dimensions, a,b,c,d,e. If the first nucleotide is an A we move along the a- axis by one unit. In order to increment the position, we move along the e axis by one unit. Thus the point is 1,0,0,0,1. If the next nucleotide is T we move along the d axis by one unit and the e axis by another unit and the next point is 1,0,0,1,2. The curve can then be projected into two dimensions by the computer. As a wiggly line the result is hardly stunning graphics, but they do claim it to be of value.
I would suggest that the field is still wide open for other visualisation techniques to be discovered!
As with all books edited by Dr Pickover, Frontiers of Scientific Visualisation gives you plenty to think about. It may give you less to do on your own computer than some of his others, but that will vary with the ability and perseverance of the reader. It is published by John Wiley and Sons Inc 1 Wiley Drive Somerset New Jersey 08875-1272 USA at $34.95, ISBN 0-471-30972-9.
If as beings we are imprisoned in a universe where we are shackled to time, eventually, by merging our minds with computers, we may one day understand it sufficiently to escape the bonds.
In Computer Shopper, June 1994 it was stated that several companies are working on thought controlled computing. Advanced Neurologies in Colorado have already introduced Brainlink an interface capable of detecting brain waves using sensors worn on a headband.
Researchers have shown that whilst the operator is thinking words the system can identify them by analysing electric currents received from the device. This could be one small step towards humans being able to understand spaces with more than three directions, and hence solve the puzzle of time and the universe.
Chewing the Piss Out of Tooth decay
The Sunday Express of 17 April carried an offer for a product called Endecay, a chewing gum containing urea B.P. If used after meals it is said to increase saliva production and neutralise mouth acids that give rise to decay.
Although present in urine, urea is an industrial chemical which has many uses both in engineering plastics and medicine. I am not sure really whether this is the active ingredient in Endecay or whether in fact the gum contains xylitol, which is beneficial to teeth as previously stated in this column.
Regular readers may recall that I have been trying to get zinc gluconate lozenges tableted with xylitol rather than sucrose. I wrote to Twin Lab who did not have the courtesy to reply, at least before my last press date. Since then, they did reply, referring me to their UK agent. However he has not replied to my letter. The address of Twin Lab is Twinlab Ronkonkoma New York 11779 USA. Any reader interested who lives in the USA is invited to write to them suggesting that xylitol zinc gluconate lozenges are also beneficial to teeth (as well as attacking cold and flu viruses) and asking whether they plan to re-introduce them.
Sent June 1994:
Is This Version of Earth a Simulation?
This point was raised in the Extropian section of The Immortalist of June 1994. I had mentioned this some while back in a discussion of how a person undergoing reanimation from cryonic suspension may best be dealt with.
One proposal that I made was that such people would be reanimated into a virtual world where their life appears not to have ended, and they do not carry the memory of their death. However this world is specially designed to rectify any psychological harm they may have acquired during their first life and then ease them into the sort of world they will experience when reanimated into reality. This idea was also discussed in a Lifequest story.
This does, of course, raise the question as to whether that are any experiments an individual could do to determine whether he is in a simulation or the real world. I would guess probably not, or more accurately such experiments would involve self destructive behaviour, or anti-social behaviour which would not be excusable on the grounds "Sorry, Judge, I was just testing the nature of reality."
Alternatively there may be passive observations that one could make. A therapeutic virtual world is likely to exhibit rapid change, but how rapid is rapid? Would the fall of Communism and Apartheid qualify? Or would the change be on a more personal level?
However, if you are in a virtual world designed for your therapeutic benefit, it may be self destructive to even attempt to test it.
Comment on Ribavirin
An anecdote published in The Immortalist (June, 1994) suggested that Ribavirin sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. I would like to suggest that this is because the symptoms we call "a cold" actually indicate many different sorts of disease process. It could be an allergy, or it could be a virus, or it could be a bacterial infection.
The problem is how to tell which it is. Most people are aware of what allergic reactions they get, so that leaves the choice between viral or bacterial contamination as the cause. It ought to be possible to perform a home test to tell which it is, but at the time of writing I don't know what this is. If it involves incubating a sample of nasal excretion ("snot") for 24 hours in a Petri dish it may take too long, as early application of Ribavirin is more likely to be successful if the contamination is viral.
It is tempting to suggest that one could take both an antiviral and an antibiotic, on the basis that one or other will be appropriate and your cold will go. However I am against this course of action on the grounds that it is likely to hasten the evolution in your body of pathogens immune to both classes of drug. Both classes of drug should only be used sparingly. Often less dramatic cold cures will work, for example large doses of vitamin C and zinc gluconate lozenges. (I have still not found any zinc gluconate lozenges with xylitol.) These should be tried first.
Another "Soviet Miracle" Story
Funeral Service Journal, May 1994, carried a translation from a recent report in a German newspaper about a Soviet invention that increased life expectancy by 50 years. I must say that I rather suspect that the editor of Funeral Service Journal is an April Fool in printing this item, which probably appeared in the German paper on 1 April 1994.
The invention consists of a tablet 30 mm long and 10mm thick that contains a microprocessor powered by a silver platinum battery. Once the tablet is swallowed, it passes down the intestine where "electro-impulses" (whatever they are) imitate "human stimulants" which are directed to the hypothalamus from where organs are steered into reactivation to work properly once more. All rubbish accumulated in the body is excreted. The pill is claimed to prevent hardening of the arteries, a frequent cause of ill health amongst the elderly. After a day or so the pill is defecated, although its effects remain for some months afterwards.
It is claimed that leading communist politicians were given the treatment, although their ages and condition at death were not a good advertisement for it. It was kept secret until 1991, when the pills are said to be on sale at $500 each. Funeral Service Journal asks how it will affect the funeral trade!
I would suggest that if people try and swallow objects 10mm in diameter 30 mm long, it will do the trade quite a lot of good!
Don't talk about it - it's not nice
A survey in Funeral Service Journal of May 1994 by Gallup revealed that 90% of people in Britain do not discuss funeral arrangements with their next of kin. In a separate sample of recently bereaved people, 57% of the deceased had made no prior arrangements. The majority of funerals are ordered by the children or spouse of the deceased.
86% of people do not worry whether there will be funds available to pay for their funeral. (This I would regard as rational. If you are annihilated, why worry about what happens afterwards?) AT present the general inflation rate is about 3% per year, but the costs of funerals are rising by 15% a year. A Basic funeral as defined by the office of fair trading comprises:
Removal of body to a chapel of rest.
Supply one simple coffin.
Rental of Hearse and Limousine.
Additional expenses for the majority of funerals include:
Fees for minister of religion
Fees for Doctor to provide death certificate
Fees for crematorium or burial plot, gravediggers etc
Fees for obituaries, flowers and headstone.
And, of course, the government adds 17.5% to all that in "value" "added" tax, although what value has been added to what I can't imagine.
The total costs are very dependant on the area. For a burial, in Manchester it was £587, whereas in Hampstead it was £2,745. For a cremation, Lincoln was the cheapest at £522, whereas in Glasgow it was £1,385.
The relevance of this to cryonics is that if people are so hung up about death that they won't even discuss their funerals, then it is hard to get them to discuss cryonics seriously. Discussing cryonics makes people think about issues that they would rather not think about. This is a terrible shame, as presumably people won't discuss death because they don't like the idea, yet that very reticence prevents them considering cryonics which offers a chance of escape from death. Personally I don't expect everyone to accept that cryonics is right for them, but I find it hard to accept people who reject it without even giving it the time to think seriously about it, especially in cases where it is easily affordable.
More Refusal to Think
The following letter appeared in Longevity Report 45, June 1994:
People will never cease to amaze me, and with regards to cryonics, if that is their comfort then good luck to them. The idea seems very untidy to me, and the thought that anybody could be remotely interested in reviving millions upon millions of frozen people to put back into a world of millions upon millions of unfrozen people, is beyond even my imagination. I'm sorry, words fail me. Let's now drop the subject. I am leaving my body for transplants, hopefully via an "exit pill", hoping someone might be pleased and that I can be of some use to people in my death. I have left instructions that a funeral is unnecessary, and the hospital to dispose of the remainder after they have the bits they want..
(The writer is a regular reader interested in healthy living and who has been taking vitamins of various sorts far longer than I have!)
Comment: A similar letter appeared in Omni, April 1994. At the moment the cryonics movement is hardly leaving millions of frozen people for future science to deal with. But I regard the reason why people will be revived is the same reason that huge budgets are spent on public health care today.
Certainly cryonics revivals make more sense than spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on giving an elderly person surgery to prolong their life a few more months with some prosthesis to replace whatever organ or limb was removed. People will not be revived if they cannot be made perfectly healthy - I would agree that it would be irrational to introduce them to society as a class of disabled people requiring constant care. Of course re-education of healthy people is another matter entirely. Even today we have adult education.
Modern Healthcare Delivery
The Financial Times of 28 May carried a short item which said that a sizeable minority - 41% - were interested in user friendly methods of delivery health care, even if they had to pay.
The methods considered included mail order pharmaceuticals and advice from pharmaceutical companies for an annual fee. In addition, the fee would cover individual treatment from a doctor if required, and a telephone help line.
Another time saving system proposed was health care centres at work, for large employers. This would replace hospital visits for tests and even surgery.
People also said that they would like to be able to get doctors' prescriptions filled by mail rather than by visits to pharmacies.
The Little Things the Good Lord Put on this Earth
In H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds it was suggested that germs - viruses and bacteria - were put on the world by God as a team of immigration police to stop beings moving from one world to another. (Disease finally put paid to the Martian invaders.)
We now know that the rest of the solar system is uninhabited, and this apology by religionists for disease is invalid.
However these "little things" created a wave of real-life horror in the news in the UK at the end of May. Headlines in the popular press like "Killer bug ate my face" and "Eaten alive" appeared. On the television, pictures of a man who had all the flesh around his abdomen flayed off were shown, and another who had consented to having both legs and all his fingers cut off. The victims of this disease were usually (but not exclusively) people who were receiving in patient treatment in hospital.
The reasons for these headlines and this "heroic surgery" were enzymes made by streptococcus bacteria. These enzymes dissolve flesh and muscle tissue, and contaminated areas grow at a rate of 1" per hour. The medical profession believe that the only hope of saving the patient is to cut away the infected areas and give massive doses of antibiotics. The disease is known as "nectrotising fascitis", and the best popular description is "galloping gangrene".
Streptococcus bacteria are very common, one person in ten being contaminated at any given time. In fact necrotising fascitis is a rare complication of "Strep A". According to the UK public health laboratory there are about 10 cases a year, and the reason for this is unknown. They are usually unlinked.
Alarm bells started ringing when doctors noted an apparent cluster of cases around Gloucester, giving rise to the possibility that the disease had become more contagious. However tests have shown that the Gloucester cases were caused by bacteria with slight genetic differences, suggesting that they are not related.
The publicity, meanwhile, caused more cases to be reported, and it transpires that there have been 11 cases in the UK already this year (ie more than the previous annual total). Australia reports 10 to 15 cases/yr, and Germany 30 to 40 cases/yr. But the disease is not officially notifiable anywhere, and the general consensus of opinion is that lethal streptococcus infections are becoming more commonplace worldwide.
Scientists believe that specialised bacteria-infecting viruses called phages play an important role in bacterial evolution, carrying genes for virulence and toxin production between different strains and even different species. The force driving the process remains a mystery, however.
This gives me the thought that artificial phages could be designed to exterminate hostile bacteria altogether. As each would have to be designed for a specific bacterium, there would be no risk of useful bacteria being destroyed as with antibiotics.
The Financial Times (28 May) says that staphylococcus bacteria kill far more people and have developed twice the resistance to bugs. The most serious threat to world health will probably be a highly infectious influenza virus causing a pandemic of pneumonia. It would not eat flesh, but it would cause millions of people to drown in their own body fluids.
Deprenyl Companies out of Favour
The Deprenyl companies are out of favour in the stock markets despite progress being made at each. Possibly the personality of Dr Morton Schulman attracted a lot of the interest that saw the share prices at ten times what they are today, but the present levels may provide investment opportunities for the far sighted and patient.
Dr Morton Schulman used the funds he raised initially to buy stock market investments, the idea being that the companies would live off the profits to develop their own products. This approach was controversial amongst financial professionals. They preferred investment companies to be just that, and not do their own research. Unfortunately the stock markets have not been that profitable over the recent short term, and therefore the present management have adopted a policy of a planned withdrawal from the markets and storing their surplus funds in T-bills (fixed interest, subject to inflation.) As this policy is being implemented at a time of market decline, losses have been incurred of nearly $2.5 million as against profits in the previous two years of $2.7m and $1.8m respectively.
The justification for this policy is that the work being carried out by the companies to bring their products to the market is not seriously affected by inflation. However I am not sure that I agree that this is justification to throw money away by swapping stocks for cash at a time of market decline!
On the practical side, the news is better. Deprenyl Research has announced a whole range of products, and alliances with well known pharmaceutical leaders. Its management structure has been streamlined and the spending on research and development has been enhanced.
This latter statement suggests that patience amongst shareholders will be rewarded, although obviously trading with hindsight holding the shares over the past years has not been rewarding.
Deprenyl Animal Health still has some way to go before it starts providing animal feeds that will extend the lifespan of pets. At present it is perusing approvals for the use of Deprenyl for specific canine diseases, and its program is continuing according to plan. However the low share price obviously reflects the market's opinion on the ability of the company to complete the programme of burdensome regulatory obligations with the funds available.
There is no longer any mention in company reports about the general use of Deprenyl for animal life extension. Whether this indicates that the direction of the company has changed, or whether this is merely to reduce the "scoff factor" I don't know. Originally I had hoped that the early application of Deprenyl technology to the extension of dogs' lifespans would educate the public to believe that lifespan could be increased within about 20 years, and create a political demand for similar efforts to be made for humans. Now I am less sure that this event will take place. But we shall see!
written July 1994:
Asteroid Risk Higher Than Imagined
An article in The Financial Times of 5 June suggested that the risk of death through asteroidal or meteoric impact is higher than most people imagine.
According to statistics, the chances are equal with dying in an air crash.
However, the article goes on to say, one needs to be aware of how the statistics are worked out. The apparent high risk from the sky is due to the fact that large numbers of people would be annihilated by such an event.
However this relief is short lived. The article also says that "Dark Age" legends of people being killed by fire from heaven may record actual events. Astronomers now suggest that large meteors and asteroids may travel in swarms, and periodically the Earth passes through such swarms, resulting in a number of impacts. A small swarm may have encountered our planet around the fifth century AD.
Cited as an example, writing in The Chronicle of St Germanus, St Germanus says that the fortress of the heathen king Vortigan was suddenly destroyed by fire from heaven.
However 21st century science may have the ability to deflect asteroids and other matter away from the earth using nuclear weapons. But, the article says, Dr Carl Sagan is against the idea because the same technology could also be mis-used to direct an asteroid to hit parts of the Earth in time of war, or possibly on the orders of a lunatic religious dictator. He says that there is no known other way in which just a few nuclear weapons could destroy civilisation.
The article also contained a table of risks, conveniently for most readers of The Immortalist, based on people living in the United States.
Chances of dying:
Event One in
Car Travel Accident 100
Firearms accident 2500
Asteroid or Comet Impact 20000
Aircraft Travel Accident 20000
Venomous bite or sting 100000
Fireworks Accident 1000000
Food Poisoning by Botulism 3000000
These figures would obviously be different for Europe and the UK, where less people travel by air, road speeds are higher, there are fewer venomous animals, fewer firearms and more fireworks.
I do not know whether different places on the Earth's surface actually have different risks of cometary impact. Maybe someone with astronomical knowledge can write in with details on this. (Obviously the side effects of impact affect the whole planet.)
Reprieve for "Slash, Burn, and Poison" Cancer Therapies
In a book review of Tamoxifen and Breast Cancer Cathy Read referred to conventional treatment in this explicit manner. (New Scientist 11 June.) However she expressed caution in the trials at present taking place of a process known as Chemoprevention and previously mentioned in these columns. The trials involve treating women without the disease but susceptible to it with Tamoxifen with a view to reducing the risk. However there may be other risks in using the drug.
The article goes on to quantify these from statistics obtained from patients treated with it who have the disease. But will healthy people react the same way? Not mentioned in the article, is the possibility that the preventative effect can be obtained by a smaller dose than for therapeutic purposes. In the case of many life extensionists taking pharmaceuticals, they take much smaller doses than the therapeutic dose, thereby reducing the risks, sometimes by an order of magnitude. Maybe the study ought to have various groups taking different doses to measure these effects.
The book, written by Michael W. de Gregio and Valerie J. Wiebe and published by Yale at $10 paperback, is said to give a balanced argument to the benefits and risks of chemoprevention. (No ISBN was given)
Limits to Progress:
The US Patent System
In a letter to New Scientist of 11 June, Mr Paul Leonard, of the Chemical Industries Association, complained that the US patent system is against individuals and small companies.
He favours a first-to-file rather than a first-to-invent system, as is used in the USA. It is easy to prove who was the first to file, whereas the first to invent is a minefield for the inventor and a goldmine for the lawyers. As lawyers charge so much more for their time than most other professions, individuals and small companies can be bullied into relinquishing their rights by large organisations who can afford lawyers' fees, says Mr Leonard. "We both know you invented it, but can you prove it in a court of law?"
He finishes his letter by claiming that the damage this causes to US industry if permitted to continue because of the power of the legal profession.
Of course he is wrong in one point. Anywhere in the world the individual who cannot afford to patent his invention can claim the glory (if not the financial reward) by publishing it in a newspaper or magazine. The invention then becomes public property. This course of action is open to any US citizen with an invention. Such a person may well have other inventions, and if he has established a personal reputation by publishing a worthwhile invention, he should have no difficulty in obtaining corporate help to patent further inventions. Corporations will not want to defraud him because they would obviously lose any future fruits of his labour by so doing.
Life Insurance Gets Another Rap
The Financial Times of 19 June carried another batch of items criticising the institution of life insurance. In the letters column, a letter from an individual criticised the fact that the industry sells "products" that are so unsuitable for the public that people attempt to cancel the contracts after only two years, with substantial financial loss. A letter from a firm of insurance consultants bemoaned the "few" fraudsters in their midst, and suggested that they should have long prison sentences.
One the latter, I would say that prison is inappropriate punishment and is very expensive for the taxpayer. Severe constraints on future earning capacity and employment prospects may be more of a deterrent and a lot cheaper for the government (ie taxpayer).
The front page headline for the issue said that the Office of Fair Trading had criticised the life insurance "industry" for poor surrender values. Some customers would have been better off holding cash, said the study.
Religion - Are we Better off Without it?
Also in The Financial Times of 19 June, an article by Professor John Postgate of Sussex University suggests that science imposes a strict morality better than that offered by religion.
Although there have been some abuses of science, notably experiments performed by National Socialist scientists on racial matters, the abuses of religion are far more serious.
Never have scientists conscripted and armed thousands of people and persuaded them to kill each other over some version of "truth", as have politicians and religious leaders.
C60 to Enhance Photocopiers
Buckminsterfullerine, "buckyballs", the spherical arrangement of 60 carbon atoms, is to be used by Xerox to increase the quality of photocopies. A toner using the product would theoretically give a thousandfold increase in resolution, although there may be other limits in the optics and mechanics. At the present time such toner would be prohibitively expensive, at £100 per gram, but mass production would bring the price down to a commercially acceptable level. Presumably it could also be used to improve laser printer quality by a similar amount, although machine would be more expensive as they would need more RAM.
This could be regarded as a nanotechnological event, as the molecular structure of the compound is engineered to give the required effects.
Prostate Screening Doubts
Which Way to Health? the consumer health magazine, expressed doubts as to the value of screening for prostate cancer. When men who have died from other causes are dissected in the autopsy room, at least a third are found to have prostate cancer. They didn't know about it when alive, it didn't bother them and it didn't kill them, the article says.
Sophisticated modern tests mean many more men are finding out that they have prostate cancer. The blood test for prostate specific antigens (PSA) is much more sensitive than the doctor sticking his finger up the anus to feel the prostate, and also it is not so embarrassing for either doctor or patient (unless they are gay!), and neither is it likely to spread other diseases.
The magazine gives a case history of a man aged 81 whose urinary problems were been cured by the drug Hypovase. This is an adjunct in the symptomatic treatment of urinary obstruction caused by benign prostatic hypertrophy. It contains the selective 1 blocker, Prazosin hydrochloride. This particular patient was then subjected to a prostate specific antigen test followed by a nerve-racking wait to see if he had cancer. Which Way to Health? commented that at 81 he was for more likely to die of other causes, such as heart attack or stroke, even if he has prostate cancer. Some might argue, the article says, that he is being made to worry for nothing. The magazine did not report on the result of the test or subsequent treatment. Probably his wait was longer than their press deadline! They also gave the case history of another man who said he did not mind the worry caused by the delay.
I would comment generally that it cannot be beyond modern technology to provide fast results to medical tests. Making people wait is counterproductive to good health apart from being inhumane.
It was not long ago that the opticians' profession made everyone believe that you had to wait a week to a fortnight for new glasses, but now technology makes it possible in most cases to get them in an hour. In the UK it took an Act of Parliament to make the profession use the new equipment. To be precise, the Act forced the profession to accept market conditions rather than run solely under a rule book written for the benefit of the profession. Once market conditions had applied, a few firms of opticians introduced the new equipment to enhance their business, and the rest are following gradually. I know of cases where this was upsetting to old hands at the profession, but in the long run a better service is becoming available to the public.
I would expect that the dental profession will follow this lead and introduce methods for the manufacture of permanent crowns with the patients in the surgery, rather than fit temporary ones that have to be removed and replaced a few weeks later. Nobody really benefits from the present method except possibly the surgeon who gets more work. However in reality there must be plenty of other dental work to be done if the crowning process can be made more efficient. Also more people will be able to afford it, increasing the crowning work available. (Or it will reduce costs to the taxpayer in countries which subsidise dental restorative surgery.)
Terra Libra News to Publish Cryonics Column
Terra Libra News, the monthly newspaper of Terra Libra, is to publish a monthly column on cryonic suspension. The first three months will be an overview of cryonics from the standpoint of the typical Terra Libran, and following this there will be a Terra Libran slant on general cryonics news.
It is hoped that this column, and the resulting feedback, will address the problem that cryonics attracts individualists yet the required disciplines turn them away. In addition, it will address an individualistic audience that it likely to be pre-disposed to the ideas of cryonic suspension. Computer disk versions of the column will be available on an accumulating basis following the first year of publication.
Terra Libra is the payline type of multi level scheme offering information on how to maximise personal freedom within the law. It has an immortalist content, and part of its initial promotion included an article in Venturist Monthly News, the newsletter of the pro-cryonics society organised legally as a religion. Anyone requiring further information on Terra Libra is invited to write to me for a leaflet, which will be sent without obligation.
Pharmacists not Checking Sales of OTC "P" Medicines
According to Which?, the consumer magazine, pharmacists should check that P grade medicines (pharmacy sales only) are correct for the intended use. This involves questioning the customer to assess symptoms, advising a visit to the doctor if it may be necessary. Their researchers found that very few customers were getting this advice when buying these medicines.
Pharmacists said that the existing rules involved many silly rituals, and that new rules should be drafted to suit the modern environment.
The Financial Times of 25 June carried a news item that a man had received a liver, kidney, stomach, duodenum, small bowel and a pancreas in a rare multiple transplant operation at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge. He suffered from Gardner's Syndrome, a condition that causes tumours in the bowel and duodenum.
Those who think that society won't allow cryonics patients to be restored to good health, because of the resources used, must give careful consideration to the reasons behind offering individuals transplants. I would suggest that the same reasons would also apply to cryonics restorations, once they become possible.
Periastron Gives Cryonicists Advantage Over Cryobiologists
In the May issue of Periastron Dr Thomas Donaldson said that "A true understanding of memory would give cryonicists an advantage over most cryobiologists".
A person is only dead when there is no longer sufficient information available to restore the program and data in the brain. Therefore freezing brains is different to freezing kidneys, for example. In the latter case you are doing it in order to get that specific kidney working again. In the former case you have succeeded as long as the program and data can be extracted from the frozen brain.
Apart from the usual brain articles, there are also items on nanotechnology in the form of molecular switches and conducting rods and genetic engineering.
Periastron PO Box 2365, Sunnyvale, California 94087, USA. (email email@example.com) Subscriptions cost $3.00 per issue. Articles are welcome on computer media. If you pay for many issues in advance, you avoid any possible price rises. If the newsletter does not continue for any reason, unused subscriptions will be refunded with interest!
I'd like to pick up a point mentioned in the reprint on page 35 of the June issue of The Immortalist. It was of an article in Science where an experimenter was assessing chimpanzee's ability to count. One particular experiment was found to be overridden by a biological imperative to get more food. On being re-arranged, the experiment produced the looked for result.
This gives rise to the possibility of biological imperatives in humans governing action, and whether it is biological imperatives that influence people to kneel to the axeman rather than consider cryonics.
Equities or Fixed Interest?
With reference to Timing the Bear in The Immortalist, July page 44 I would comment that it may be difficult to be accurate with these conclusions as there are so many other variables involved. The 1940, 50s and 60s were much more influenced by war than the present time. Now we have the "peace dividend" to encourage greater stock growth, but will the world recrystallise into other power groups threatening war?
I know that there are people who would disagree with me, but I still hold the view that the rise in power of the legal profession is influencing world progress in a very negative way. If this is true it must put a heavy downward pressure on the markets that wasn't present in earlier times.
The article didn't mention whether inflation had been taken into consideration. It may be that the investor who with negative hindsight invested in stocks just before a prolonged bear market suffered so badly with inflation and tax thereon that he would have been wiped out whether he remained in stocks or moved to fixed interest. (ie investment was pointless either way.)
Another problem with fixed interest: Whoever borrows the money must be making money somehow at a greater rate than the interest he is paying out. Therefore couldn't the investor put his money directly where the fixed interest manager is placing it?
The stock markets have been falling for about three months now. It is inevitable that doom and gloom articles will appear. It is usually also a sign that the markets are about to turn when such articles appear! (Similarly when gung ho "stocks will rise for ever" articles appear in a rising market, it is a good time to sell, tax considerations apart.)
If one looks at the figures for the M & G General Trust fund, (A UK equivalent of a general mutual fund), £100 invested in 1951 would be worth £13,730.70 "now". [In 1993, when the book from which I got the figures was published]. This is equivalent to a compound growth of 12.6%. The same amount invested in a building society (high fixed interest, 5.8% compound) would be worth £1,032.50, assuming that you didn't take out any of the interest to pay income tax thereon, ie you found the tax from other income. The UK inflation index would have required your investment to have risen to £1,586 to break even.
This suggests that the article Timing the Bear is plain wrong, at least in the long term. Over the short term, investing in the M & G General in 1959 with £260 would only have seen a return of £320 in 1974 - a decidedly poor result. But those investing £320 in 1974 would have got their £13,707 by 1993.
With hindsight, you could have invested £100 in M & G General in 1951, taken out £260 in 1959 and put it in the Building Society, paid from other sources your income taxes on the income re-invested over the 15 years, and taken out £605.70 in 1974 and put it back in M & G General to yield a total of £25,944.78 at the present time. Presumably this is the sort of thing the article is suggesting, but I think investing with hindsight is a pretty pointless exercise.
People without hindsight are still better off putting their money in equities rather than fixed interest, as the difference between £1,586 and £13,730.70 shows!
(In case someone points it out, M & G's speculative Recovery Fund would show more spectacular figures, but it would be unfair on the original article to introduce a successful speculative element.)
Think, if someone had put £200 ($300) into M & G General in 1951 they would now be able to afford a paid up Cryonics Institute suspension. This is why I advise people to use term insurance coupled with regular saving payments into a mutual fund rather than whole life insurance to fund cryonics. (Or take the risk themselves if they can't afford term insurance.)
More Life Insurance Criticism
The Financial Times of 9 July 1994 said that the UK's Office of Fair Trading had named life insurance companies whose policies offer zero first year surrender value. Although the surrender value of some of these policies in subsequent years is better than some of their competitors, the information about the industry as a whole suggests that more people stop paying their premiums in the first year than in any later year.
One of the companies named, MGM, said that 11% of its policies were abandoned within the first year. Allied Dunbar and Midland both said that their dropout rate in the first year was less than 10%.
In their weekend supplement, the paper says that next January all UK life insurance companies will be required to disclose their commissions. Unit Trust salesmen expect to get a large chunk of life insurance savings business as a result.
Permafrost Revivals in Canada
An article in New Scientist of 16 July 1994 revealed that microorganisms found frozen approximately 3,500 and 7,100 years ago have been revived.
This was part of a programme of research into the evolution of life at Laval University, Staine-Foy, Quebec, Canada. Martin Handfield recovered the frozen organisms from a 130 metre long core drilled from the top of the ice sheet to the bedrock on Ellesmere Island. They were a yeast type organism, four gram-negative bacteria, and one yet to be identified. They were found between 109 and 120 metres below the surface, where the temperature is a constant -200C. "They had survived the millennia in a state of suspended animation, neither metabolising nor reproducing," the article said.
They were found near the centre of the core. The outside was sterilised with ultra violet light to prevent contamination with modern microorganisms. When they were warmed, a small fraction revived. Handfield believes that they survived by associating themselves with protective particles, such as pollen or dust grains.
The scientists are interested in the evolution of antibiotic resistant genes. If they are present in these ancient specimens, it will indicate that the current appearance of antibiotic resistant "germs" is nothing new.
Maggots Help with Autopsies
Cryonicists often have a dim view of pathologists and autopsies, and indeed in times of stress and emotion may refer to pathologists as maggots.
Also in the 16 July issue of New Scientist was an item that described how maggots are used in autopsies. When a person is found dead, the number of maggots in the corpse gives an indication as to how long ago he died. Now pathologists have discovered that you can determine whether the person died of a drug overdose, by a new technique that measures how intoxicated the maggots are.
Science to be Basis of Drug Choice for NHS
Britain's National Health Service is perpetually under financial pressure, as is any centrally organised state supported enterprise. If the payment for goods or services is so isolated from consumption that there is no feedback, then inefficiency always results. In an attempt to overcome the wastage of drugs, a new scheme is proposed where all new drugs are admitted to the service, but they undergo a five year science based efficacy study. If after that period a particular drug is found to be ineffective, then it is removed from the list, and patients cannot obtain it on free prescription. [Financial Times, 21 July 1994]
The problem with this is, of course, that such studies will be based on overall results. Pharmacists know that if a drug achieves the desired result in say 30% of patients that is quite good - one cannot get something that is anywhere near 100% effective, as each person has an individual response.
There could be isolated cases where a particular drug is ideal for a specific patient, but if it achieves a low score overall it may still be withdrawn. Which just goes to show how one can not manage anything by rigid application of a rule book.
Life Insurance Company Drops Agents' Commissions
Norwich Union, one of the UK's largest life insurers, switched its sales agents from commissions to salaries at the end of July. This follows major altercations with the authorities over the company's selling methods. However the switch isn't complete, the agents' salaries will be £12,000 per year ($18,000) plus smaller commissions.
However, the article, in The Financial Times of 28 July, said that most insurance companies will still be paying their salesmen entirely by commission in two years' time.
Causes of Asthma
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph of 24 July 1994 Matt Ridley summarised the present viewpoint that car emissions are causing the rise in the numbers of sufferers of asthma and related diseases, such as hay fever. He mentions a theory that concentrating children in schools causes them to receive an unnaturally large number of colds, that could predispose those genetically inclined to the condition. An opposing theory says that we now live in such a biologically clean environment that the immune system looks for parasites that are no longer there. However experiments on potentially asthmatic mice look set to prove it one way or the other. Unfortunately there was no scientific reference to the test, but no doubt we will be hearing about it sometime.
It is possible that the pollution triggers it off in some people who may otherwise not get it, ie the person has to be genetically receptive in the first instance.
Antioxidants Praised in Medical Journal
A physician in New Zealand who reads Longevity Report sent in a clipping from an unnamed medical journal that refers to work done at the Southern Methodist University by Rajindar Sohal and William Orr. They produced genetically engineered fruit flies so that they produce more free radical scavenger enzymes than normal. Their lifespans were, on average, increased from 71 to 93 days. The artificial fruit flies also produced less carbonyl, a free radical byproduct, and walk 10 to 20% faster.
These cuttings were obtained by my ex-companion, Karen Griffin, from the daily papers she buys:
More People Live Past 100 Years
A record 2,000 Britons celebrated their 100th birthdays in 1993, 758 more than in 1988. All but 311 were female. [The Sun 17 May 1994]
Cannabis Used for Arthritis
According to The Daily Express of 13 June 1994 old age pensioners are turning to the illegal hallucinogen cannabis to help relieve the pain of rheumatism and arthritis. The charity Arthritis Case is quoted as saying "Cannabis is a good pain-killer for people who've got long term, incessant pain."
A survey found that 75% of physicians favoured the use of cannabis to ease suffering. However lawyers and politicians banned its medical use in 1971.
The problem is that it is the criminal element that are profiting from the legal ban on the drug. The more people who are arrested for supplying it, the higher the profits for those who escape detection. Therefore the criminal side of the trade, as a whole, actually benefits from the pruning of some of its individuals. It is rather like an old tree or shrub actually benefits from having its branches pruned. An old gardener's saying is "wood follows the knife." Of course the legal and custodial professions also benefit from the ban as a large amount of crime is drug-related.
Citizens in general are suffering though, as more and more people become the victims of crime, and victim or not if you buy house or car insurance the premiums are substantially higher as a direct result of the drug ban.
Problems with Promotion
Usually pharmaceutical companies have no problem in getting a celebrity to promote one of their products. AIDS, Cancer, Alzheimer's and many other disease have been the object of promotions for cures or research lead by Hollywood film people.
But Upjohn have a problem with a drug known as Luvox. It is for people with obsessive compulsion disorder. These are people who, for example, spend hours washing their hands or picking specks of dirt from their clothes. The drug is effective, but the company cannot find a celebrity who admits to having the disease or to having had it and been cured.[Sunday Express 1.5.94]
More on Homoeopathy
Homoeopathy is a form of medicine where symptoms are treated with very dilute solutions of drugs that would cause the same symptoms in a healthy person. However the level of dilution is so high that according to the scientific establishment not even one molecule of the drug would be present in the final liquid.
Dr Jacques Benveniste carried out some experiments in 1988 and claimed to have shown that Homoeopathy does work under laboratory conditions, but this work was later scorned and is said to have been disproved. However Dr Benveniste has continued his experiments and claims now to have found out the reason why Homoeopathy works, according to The Sunday Express of 3 July 1994.
His theory is that water has magnetic properties that record something from the molecules previously present before the extremes of dilution. Furthermore, he claims to have been able to receive this as an electro-magnetic signal and send it down a wire to "potentiate" other water. Each sample of water had the same effect when placed on a laboratory preparation of cells from the hearts of rats. The paper did not say whether there was a third group of cells treated with the same water but which had not been "potentiated" either by being used for excessive dilution or by being subjected to the signal down the wire.
Dr Benveniste is said to have claimed 1,500 succeeded with transmitting "biological activity" down wires.
I would comment that if he can do this, then he could also record it on tape or in a computer. A digital to analogue convertor on one of a computer's ports could then be hooked up to a beaker of water that could be "potentiated" to suit the disease typed in at the keyboard. It would certainly save keeping loads of different homoeopathic medicines! One could even go further and type in the symptoms, get the computer to diagnose the disease, and "potentiate" the water accordingly.
Liquorice May Contain Anti-Virals and Anti-Carcinogens
In the usual "years of research before it is available" story, The Daily Mirror of 4 June said that a new drug extracted from liquorice extract prevented up to 90% of induced tumours in rats. In Japan, it also stopped the AIDS virus in laboratory experiments, and it also attacked dental plaque.
Liquorice manufacturers are expecting a boom in their products. However you may need to eat an awful lot of the stuff to get enough of the desired extract!
More Good News for Green Tea
Green tea, which is from time to time promoted by the Life Extension Foundation, received another accolade in The Daily Mirror of 30 May. The article said that growing evidence that it helps to prevent heart disease, gastric and bladder cancer.
Scientists in Holland have linked 4 cups/day of ordinary tea with halving of the risk of a heart attack. Also green tea has been found to help reduce wrinkles, so it may be appearing in face creams.
The culprit for all this benevolence in the beverage is probably that group of chemicals known as flavonoids, which mop up free radicals.
Fat Free Controversy
The Sunday Express of 8 May 1994 included an article on fat free foods. The idea is that the fat content of foods can be replaced with something harmless, so we can eat what we like but not get ill or become disgustingly obese as a result. Opinions as to whether this is a good idea vary though. Some say that fat free foods will lead to a general reduction in fat consumption that will show through in due time as an overall improvement in health. Others say that it is unnatural, and one should control oneself to eat a reasonable amount of wholesome natural foods. One critic implied that the "fat free" labels were seductive but not worthy of consumers' faith.
The argument was not reported on a scientific basis, more as a slanging match between both sides.
Also it should be pointed out that some say that there are essential fatty acids for growth (that never actually stops), and fat soluble vitamins, which should be included in diet. However it is doubtful that anyone would seriously give up all fat intake. These new products could be used to cut it down.
Now is the Time to Get Einstein's Brain for Morphostasis
The Daily Express of 8 May said that Einstein's brain was cut into 200 cubic pieces and pickled in two jars of formaldehyde. It is owned by a Dr Thomas Harvey who autopsied the scientist, but as he is himself getting old he wanted to see that the brain has a good home. However no museum seems to want it, according to the paper, even the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
It is doubtful in the extreme whether sufficient information exists in the 200 pieces to recover the program and data (once) therein, but the thought strikes me that it would be reasonable for one of the cryonics organisations to take on the job of storing them, especially if no one else wants to. As they are already pickled, presumably all that they would need to do is to ensure that the jars are kept in a safe place.
The paper says that the poet Walt Whitman's brain was kept in a similar manner, but one day someone dropped the jar which broke spilling its contents over a wide area, and the remains of the brain had to be thrown out.
After a lot of persuasion from various people, it was at this time that I entered Cyberspace.
Anyone interested in cryonics has two basic choices. One is to encourage a local service to form around them, and the other is to move their lives to an existing facility.
The second choice is impossible for most people. It is unlikely that you could move your parents, friends and adult children with you, and if you did they would be faced with similar problems with regards to their friends etc. Some loners may relocate, but the rest of us have to make do with forming local associations to link with one of the existing organisations.
There are now cryonics organisations in many countries, but actual storage is only performed in the USA.
The United Kingdom is fortunate in that its citizens have a choice. Both Alcor and the Cryonics Institute are represented here. Alcor is represented by Alcor UK Ltd who perform preparation and transport, and the CI is represented by Barry Albin, a London Funeral director. Both have their advantages, Alcor of being specialists in cryonics, and Albin's as being experts in the legal jungle concerning intercontinental transport of "remains". In addition, Barry Albin has experience of preventing autopsy in cases of people whose religious belief precludes this. Unlike the USA, the UK has no absolute right of refusal.
However distances in the UK are not the same as similar distances in the USA. The roads are choked with cars and lorries, so in spite of a maximum speed limit of 70 mi/hr instead of 55 mi/hr many journeys that would be considered a day trip in the US involve an overnight stay in the UK. Therefore it would benefit cryonics people who live some distance from London to encourage local membership so as to form a local group.
I have been very fortunate in that my (relatively) new companion, Chrissie Loveday, has had some broadcasting experience and has been willing to act as "publicity monitor" as she calls it and appear on local radio and television.
As the local radio reporter actually came here to make the recording, I was persuaded to say a few words, and here is the result in transcript:
The presenter was Sarah Maunder
A Cornish couple are spending (pause) about £40,000 in an attempt to live again after they die. Chrissie Loveday and John de Rivaz who live in Portreath (sic, note-1) are investing in cryonic suspension. This is a process where people are frozen when declared dead with a view to being brought back to life again at a later date.
Chrissie Loveday (against computer noises)
... That article is alright in that particular issue?
John de Rivaz
It adds a human touch to what otherwise is a fairly heavy magazine about cryonic suspension and life extension ...
Well, I don't know many long words do I ...
Chrissie and John met just over two years ago when she applied to advert in a dating magazine. It read "Man interested in using technology to prolong life seeks mate." In the ad, John is referring to cryonic suspension. This process involves freezing the body the moment death is declared with a view to restoring it again to an active healthy life in the future, when science has advanced to a stage when freezing and ageing damage and the cause of death can be rectified. The Cornish couple have signed up with the Cryonics Institute in Michigan. Chrissie describes what will be done with her body when she dies.
When a person dies - ceases to live - the body is placed in a Dewar, a sort of enormous tank, which contains liquid nitrogen and is frozen. The body obviously has to be cooled down first and there are various processes that take place to actually make sure that the body isn't going to be damaged, or at least to minimalise the damage, should I say. It is stored until such time as anyone decides to thaw us.
Within hours of death they will be flown to America to rest in tanks until such time as the Cryonics Institute has developed and perfected the technology of revival. John de Rivaz says there is no reason to believe this won't be achieved.
John de Rivaz
I think it will work, yes. Obviously in this world nothing is perfectly safe. I think the main objections to cryonics working are organisational, political or legal or something like that. One has to look at other scientific things that were never supposed to work, like powered flight for example. Somebody said it wouldn't work because of calculations based on steam engines. They ignored the possibility of internal combustion engines.
As for how it will work, Chrissie describes the reanimation process.
Its a sort of technology called nanotechnology. Basically it is something like a machine the size of a cell that will be put into the body and will cause cells to reproduce (note 2)
To enure that her body and brain will be fit to go through the process of freezing and reanimation, Chrissie carries a special whole body donor card. But the price of preparing for this life after death isn't cheap.
First of all you have to sign up, and that is $1250, probably about £800. The actual suspension fee is $28,000, and then the transport fees - they are going to be on top of that, as we have to get to America obviously; and because the process relies on fairly swift action, we have even organised an undertaker who has prepared to prepare the body, chill it and so on and carry that out.
But as John says, if all this doesn't work, they won't have lost a thing.
John de Rivaz
Cryonics may not work, but if it doesn't work you have not really lost anything by using it, as you can't take the money with you and the alternatives of rotting or burning (burial or cremation in polite society) offer nothing in return except total annihilation.
The couple are convinced this is the best way to go. As Chrissie says, it will save the grief and expense of a funeral.
Tamsin Thomas (main presenter)
I wonder whether you would chose their option after having heard their arguments for going for it and deciding to be frozen after death. Perhaps you would like to talk about it with Jo Hallam. The lines are open on 0872 222222.
We listened to the afternoon phone in, and the subject was not raised. This was probably just as well, as the way the programme was presented opened us to abuse over matters such as "Why are you spending all that money like this when you could give it to the poor, or starving people in Africa etc., (or even to me. I have 27 children and I can't afford ...)" In fact when interviewed Chrissie had gone to a great deal of trouble to counter this possible objection, and drew comparison between the modest costs of the Cryonics Institute when compared to a lifetime spent smoking, eating out, holidaying, or other general and acceptable hobbies.
We live in Porthtowan, not Portreath. Whether Sarah realised that we didn't want an exact location given (I had given the address the post man can find but which is virtually unlocatable for anyone else) or whether it was a mistake - her next job was interviewing holidaymakers on Portreath beach.
I know this a bit wrong, but I think it gives the idea possibly better than attempting a detailed exposition that may have been cut.
The interviewer spent some hours recording things, yet the completed program was only three minutes long.
This was followed by a recording for and an appearance on West Country television, in which I made the decision, for the good of cryonics, not to participate. This video has been sent to the cryonics Institute, and no doubt will be available to any member wishing to view it. After the program, which lasted just over four minutes, there is a recording of the making of the television programme, in which all the questions and answers are recorded.
First trailer announcement:
(over pictures of Chrissie Loveday exercising her dogs in one of the clifftop fields)
We'll be talking to a Cornish woman who wants her body frozen in liquid nitrogen when she dies. Her story later in the program.
Second trailer announcement:
(over mist scenes)
The Mystery of life. Most of us expect to be buried or cremated when we die, but have you ever though of having your body frozen after you die.
(over picture of Chrissie Loveday)
We'll be meeting a Cornish woman who plans to do just that.
I think I am basically a very curious person. I am interested in people in things and technology. I think I'll carry on if possible.
That's life after death in a few minutes.
Americans have paid ten thousand dollars to be buried near the grave of their idol Marilyn Monroe. An even more eccentric few have put aside £80,000 to be frozen rock solid in a vat of liquid nitrogen. They hope that one day we'll have the technology to defrost them and bring them back to life. A Cornish woman has joined the bandwagon and is saving her pennies so that on the instant of her death she can be despatched in a frozen coffin to America. Tonight we ask "Is there life in the freezer".
(Over scenes of misty trees)
Facing up to the inevitability of death means that each of us to decide in what manner we wish to be "laid to rest". For most of us this means burial or cremation, but in Britain 113 people have opted for a third choice. On pronouncement of death they wish to be frozen. Some people believe that if a body is frozen to about 200 degrees below zero, at some stage in the future we'll have the technology to bring people back to life. This process is called cryonics. It is a science that effectively strives to make humans immortal.
(Scenes of dog walking in fields)
Chrissie Loveday is one of only two people in the west country who have signed up to a cryonics programme.
£22,000 has bought her a frozen coffin and a one way ticket to a vat of liquid nitrogen in America.
I have always rather fancied the idea of time travel, and I think this is possibly one of the nearest things that could ever happen, at least in my lifetime. I am a bit of a sci-fi freak I suppose, so I quite like the idea of seeing what is going on then. I think I am basically a very curious person. I am interested in people, in things, in technology and I think I'll probably carry on in my next life as well if possible.
Then they played the Alcor film that has been sold to many broadcasters making similar programs. That was followed by some scenes from recent science fiction films such as Demolition Man.
Gavin Grey finished by saying:
But sceptics believe that the idea of reanimating dead bodies is simply ludicrous.
Doctor Bill Morgan, of Exeter, was hired as an "expert opinion" and he started by laughing, saying:
Well I have to say that I consider it to be the best con that I wish I had invented, because I would become exceptionally rich in circumstances where I knew there would be no comeback whatsoever, because its nonsense.
(over more film scenes)
Mammoths were frozen, and have been frozen at temperatures that were pretty low and have been removed from the Siberian deserts and they have been eaten. But then that's just deep freezing, isn't it. If you want to deep freeze your head, then you are perfectly entitled to. But it will be a dead head.
Gavin Grey: (Over more cliff side field dog walks)
Chrissie realises that the chances of another life are fairly slim. She has taken a gamble that might make her the only Cornish woman able to tell her great great great grandchildren what Cornwall was like in the good old days.
When I am reanimated, I think it would be rather nice to wake up in a world quite similar to my bit of the world in which I live at the moment. I love living in Cornwall, and I'd probably want to return to Cornwall and I would like to be able to travel around more easily. We all know the hassle of today's travel. I don't mind driving, but it would be quite nice to have some means of teleporting to different places. It would be great to go to different countries for breakfast and teleport back for lunch. (Over trick photography showing this) But basically it would be nice to have some sunny little spot of Cornwall that I can call my own.
During the filming of the interview, some 45 minutes of recording were made, about half of this of the outside scenes.
The following subjects were covered, Chrissie's answers being recorded on the tape that has been sent to the Cryonics Institute. It started with a brief description of what cryonics is to the uninitiated. The question of wishful thinking was considered, and Chrissie raised the matter of how in the past professional experts had ridiculed the telephone and flying, for example. The time travel conversation followed this. She said that science fiction gives a bad view of the future, but really when you look at the "good old days" things are better now. Therefore in the future things should be better. The morality of this was discussed, with mention that life expectation changes and increases. All the time people try for longer life. Even in pre-history, people were looking for the elixir of life. An now we are achieving it. Fear of death as a reason for cryonics was dismissed, and cryonics shows the way to continue life and build on existing experience seeing new things. She didn't see why it shouldn't be possible, raising and commenting on the beefburger/cow argument used by the establishment. The brain as the most important part followed, and mention was made of the poor chance of a further life after burial or cremation. Neuro vs whole body was mentioned, and the cost, which was compared to every day acceptable activities such as smoking. Here the figure of £22,000 for the CI was brought up.
The interview was finished by the sound byte on living in Cornwall and teleporting elsewhere, that was televised.
I do not suppose that this publicity will bring masses of people out into the open who say they are keen on the idea of cryonics. In fact I would be surprised if it produced even one. But what it will do is to sow seeds of discontent about the present views of life and death, and maybe some time in the future some of these people who have seen or heard these programs will come forward and join the cryonics movement.
People often use, as a rationalisation of the gut reaction they get about cryonics, the complaint that the money could better be spent elsewhere. Maybe they would favour the cost of a virtual wedding, estimated to be $50,000 to $100,000. According to The Financial Times of 20 August 1994 Monika Liston and Hugh Jo exchanged vows in Atlantis, in a mythical palace. The high cost was due to the special software for the virtual reality experience.
In this particular case the couple did not pay, as they were employees of Cybermind, who hope to market the service to the general public at the fees mentioned for a specially designed setting. But existing settings should be available for people at less cost. The article did not say whether settings remain the copyright of the company or the people who pay for them to be programmed.
More on Libertarians
Ronald Selkovitch commented on the Cryonet about cryonics and libertarians, raising the point that the problem with recruiting them is that they tend to encourage schism within the movement.
I have long held the view that cryonics attracts people with libertarian attitudes, and this provides problems:
1. It is difficult to get people to join, because they have to regiment and order their lives to the directions of cryonics organisations (provision of funding in specified ways, execution of legal documents etc) and/or life insurance institutions (eg physicals, prohibition of activities, for example flying other than as a fare paying passenger of an airline recognised by the ins.co.)
2. This individualism makes it difficult to form and maintain consistent organisations. Both BACS (remember them?) and Alcor have split. Only organisations that have a very simple structure and make little demands on their members have any chance of long term survival in the same state. [cf RISC microprocessors as against CISC]. Of course we now that the problem in that an organisation that makes little demands on its members suffers greater risk of failure through legal adventuring, financial shortages and technical failures through lack of preparedness.
"Private" people often don't want to admit (sometimes even to themselves) why they are not joining in with cryonics, and actually come up with spurious arguments, eg population, pessimistic views of the future, becoming the fodder for medical research etc., "duty" to next generation, the country, the church or whatever.
The present organisations are being worked upon by evolutionary pressures, and in time these pressures should cause a cryonics organisation to form which has ideal characteristics to succeed. It has to achieve a balance between the individualism of the clients and the practical necessities of interfacing cryonics with the requirements of society as a whole.
I have suggested many years ago the possibility of cryonics futures being offered for sale as a means of allowing people to interface rising suspension costs with static sums insured, or sums insured rising at a lower rate. [At present the prices of the Cryonics Institute have remained constant at $28k for signed up members, or $35k for others, but being reasonable people, they can't guarantee that this will always be so.]
Futures in for example pork bellies, coffee, sugar etc are regularly traded for a very similar purpose. The commodity markets are not there to help rich people gamble. They are there to smooth out differences in the supply and demand of commodities with volatile prices, so producers and consumers can control their finances.
If you are a consumer of pork bellies, for example, and you fear that the price may go up but you want to stabilise the price of pork pies on your supermarket shelves, you can buy the right to buy pork bellies at a specified amount up to a specified date in the future. That right becomes a tradeable item, so if a seller of pork bellies decides that there may be a glut and the price may fall, he will be very happy to sell the right to buy at a specific price. If the price of pork falls, then he will have received the cash for the right he has sold, which will partly compensate him for the price he actually gets for the physical commodity.
There rights are paper items, and are traded on a market. Every possible combination you can think of is available. You can even take a view that the price will remain stable, and "bet" on that. Unlike bets on race horses, they can be bought and sold. Therefore, if you take the view that the price of coffee will rise before a certain date and buy a position, and it goes the wrong way, you can cut your losses by selling before the position is out of time. Alternatively if you take a position where the price will rise to your advantage, and it rises quickly, you may sell and take a profit rather than risk that it will fall before the period is out.
There are many rich people gambling on this market, but they are providing the funds for the real purpose, stabilising the prices for serious suppliers and consumers of the commodities.
If a cryonics futures market could be developed (and I would suggest that it could require rather more interest in cryonics than there is at present to make a genuine market) then it could go a long way to removing some of the difficulties faced by people funding their suspensions from life insurance or indeed any fixed return investment.
Insurance Medicals and an In House Cryonics Insurance Service:
The subject of cryonics organisations providing an in house insurance service, thus recouping the large profits made by insurance companies, has been very well debated on the Cryonet in August.
One factor that seems to have been missed in the discussion is the question of doctor-patient relationship in the matter of insurance physical examinations. Cryonics organisations ought to present to the public an image of a caring institution, ie one where you can tell them all your troubles and they will do their best to help (within the financial constraints of the contract).
The relationship between a person and his doctor is the most intimate one the patient will experience except that with his sexual partner. This is accepted on the basis that the doctor is there to help the patient, and any intimate activity has this end in view. Indeed, the word "patient" expresses submission. In the case of a life insurance physical examination, the aim of the doctor is quite different. He is looking for weaknesses in the patient that will make his life more difficult if found. (ie his insurance will be more expensive or even refused altogether.) The patient is in a confrontational situation, but he can't fight back.
Personally, I think that if cryonics organisations set themselves up as insurers and then start refusing people after medical examinations on the grounds that they may need suspension soon, they will be attacked and even destroyed by the press and public media. Someone who has got themselves into the state of mind that they want to be suspended, and are then told they can't but they will be annihilated very soon, would be a very dangerous enemy - one who has nothing to lose whatever he does. At the moment, such anger would be directed at another party - the insurance companies. I think it is better that it should stay that way.
The Meaning of Life
I always like Canadian Cryonics News, a quarterly newsletter of around 30 pages corner stapled. For me the highlights of the Summer issue were Ben Best's article reprint from Mensa Canada Communications entitled Why Life Extension or Why Live At All? In it, he compared trying to convince someone sceptical about life extension or cryonics to suicide counselling. He also addressed problems of population growth and the ethics of spending money on cryonics as compared to houses, cars, vacations, smoking etc.
Also in the same issue was a letter from Douglas Skrecky in which he explained why he was not signed for cryonics but was exploring alternatives. He said that he was trying to avoid name calling in any discussion, and would disregard anyone who did not meet this standard, which seems good advice.
In editorial comment, Ben Best mentioned the fact that if most people believe something this doesn't make it true. This even applies to cryonics doubters, who are unarguably in the majority!
I urge readers of The Immortalist to support this newsletter. The cost is very reasonable concerning the value of its contents, in fact I cannot offhand recall a newsletter with the same content for anything near the price. Also in this issue was a long article on the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
[Canadian Cryonics News, $10/yr or $14/yr overseas. PO Box 788 Station A Toronto Ontario Canada M5W 1G3]
The July 1994 issue discusses which research is of relevance to cryonicists, and suggests avenues for people of various scientific disciplines to add to the knowledge base.
It also looks at brain ischemia, memory and neural networks as electronic simulations of the human brain.
Periastron PO Box 2365, Sunnyvale, California 94087, USA. (email firstname.lastname@example.org or CompuServe 73647,1215) Subscriptions cost $3.00 per issue. Articles are welcome on computer media or via e-mail. If you pay for many issues in advance, you avoid any possible price rises. If the newsletter does not continue for any reason, unused subscriptions will be refunded with interest!
Good Old Days
Chrissie and I visited a local historic manor open to the public recently. What was of particular interest was the large number of rooms dedicated to the preparation of food. The results would probably be similar to what the average person can buy in supermarket today. In addition, the hygiene in the old manor would certainly have failed the requirements for food preparation today.
Therefore ordinary people today take for granted a standard of living that only very few would have experienced in "the good old days".
Those who reject cryonics on the ground that the world is getting worse should reflect that in terms of food, in the "good old days" most people would have had a very monotonous, unhealthy and unappetising diet. This is in contrast to what they perceive of these times, because all their knowledge comes from the writings of people who were relatively high in social status. They had to be, otherwise they couldn't write and certainly they couldn't get published!
On the same theme, an item on television news on 24 August discussed the state handouts made to the poor. It was suggested that these were insufficient giving as an example that it was a major disaster if the washing machine went wrong!
If people officially regarded as being in a state of poverty have washing machines, then the good old days when they washed at the banks of a smelly river or canal are hardly something to be eulogised over.
When we revive from cryonics, it is likely that things today taken for granted by the rich will be regarded as essentials for people with no money. Indeed, it is probable that things which are today only dreams for the rich will be easily available for everyone.
Peter James informs me that the paperback version of his novel Host about computers and cryonics will be published by Penguin under ISBN 014 088376. For more information contact Penguin on 071-416-3000.
Even for those with no interest in cryonics, the computer side of this story will make it enthralling reading and it contains masses of interesting ideas presented in fictional form.
An article in Electronics World and Wireless World dated September 1994 (p713) outlined the reality behind much of the fiction of Host. Mike Lamming and his team at the Rank Xerox Cambridge EuroParc are reported to be working on a project to design a human memory prosthesis. The group are studying how various different research projects could be linked to create a system that records every place we go, everyone we speak to, what we say and what we do.
This is not for people suffering from memory deficiency diseases, or for political manipulation. The purpose is to ease the problem of finding files, papers and notes, recalling names of people and places, procedures and lists and remembering to perform tasks in the office environment.
The equipment will prompt users when they enter particular locations or encounter particular people. It will help him recall events that he didn't even know he needed to remember.
However the article concluded that there could be strong political opposition to the use of such a system, because although the user may be quite happy with it, people all around him would also be recorded without their knowledge or consent.
I have the following comment: If an individual has an excellent memory and access algorithm, then he naturally records all the aforesaid information around him and can recall it when required. Such people are usually the most successful in our civilisation, and amass great wealth and power.
Human progress would certainly benefit if more of us could be like this. However taken as a class, those who already have this gift would have to share their wealth and power more widely if their number becomes larger. Indeed, if everyone has this gift, then those exceptional people would not longer be exceptional, and other talents that still could not be augmented by "prostheses" would become the tickets to success.
Therefore those people who already have this gift, who are already in positions of power, are likely to use every means at their disposal to suppress its introduction. Civil liberties windgeing about privacy is likely to be their main weapon. They will probably introduce licensing, and try and cripple introduction of the prostheses by license fees and taxes. Government agencies will be formed which have powers vastly in excess of the normal police to enforce these license conditions and payment of fees.
In the long run such methods probably will not work. After all, logarithms, slide rules, mechanical and electronic calculators had to run a similar gauntlet, yet are now commonly accepted. These devices aided arithmetic, a branch of mathematics which is easier for people with disciplined memories (for holding carry sums). At present databases and PCs are running this gauntlet, and no doubt other products that allow people to increase their productivity and hence earning capacity will follow.
Thrombosis Patients Need to Stay Alive for Ten Years to be Cured
An article in The Financial Times of 25 August 1994 summarised a report in Nature of similar date that scientists have taken an important step towards finding a drug to control thrombosis, unwanted blood clotting. This causes heart attacks, strokes and other fatal and disabling diseases. Professor Edward Tuddenham, of the Medical Research Council, Harrow, is reported to have said: "More than half the premature deaths in the western world are thrombosis related."
Thrombosis is triggered when tissue factor combines with factor VII, another blood protein. This starts a chain reaction leading to the formation of a solid clots that blocks a blood vessel. At each step in the process the number of molecules involved increases a millionfold, therefore the earlier it can be checked the better.
A scientist at Glaxo, Dr Hamish Humphray, is reported to have said: "Solving the structure of tissue factor represents a very important step towards the discovery of new drugs." These will block the interaction of tissue factor with factor VII. Some compounds are already being tested, but the details of the structure of tissue factor will enable the search to be more closely focused on likely candidates.
However regulatory delays will mean that it could be ten years before the results could be legally marketed. There are already a number of drugs available for this condition, but they act much later in the process, when a substantial number of molecules are involved in a potentially fatal clot.
Sent 1 November 1994:
Compulsory Old Age Insurance
An article in The Financial Times of 10 September 1994 said that the UK's Family Policy Studies Centre and the Centre for Policies on Ageing had published a report A Crisis in Care. It calls for people to be forced to buy insurance to pay for the possibility that they may require residential terminal care. It predicted a possible 40% increase in senile dementia cases by 2020.
Germany have already introduced such a policy, with employers and staff sharing a 1% tax on gross earnings to pay for long-term care. In the UK, the National Health no longer covers the costs of terminal care. Anyone with assets over £8,000 is required to realise them to pay fees and value added tax thereon, (and pay income and capital taxes on such realisations) until the assets have been reduced to this figure.
Private insurance to pay for long term care has been available for several years, but only a few thousand people have bought policies. The paper suggests that the cost may be a deterrent (premiums £117 per month for a man aged 65) However they also say (but incorrectly don't suggest it as a reason for poor sales) that the policies only pay a fixed return should a claim be made, in the example given of £300/week.
Fees for such a service intensive industry as terminal care are likely to rise by double digit inflation each year, and the man aged 65 may not require care until he is 85, say, when the £300/week would be totally inadequate. With only 10% inflation, he would require over £2,000 a week if he required care twenty years after starting the policy. Inflation rates in such areas could well approach double this - 20%, and in the odd year may be as high as 30%. British people can remember the years of Mr Callaghan and Mr Heath as Prime Ministers, when general inflation reached these levels. It is therefore likely that anyone who could afford £120 a month or so will realise that such insurance would be a futile gesture.
New Test May Lead to Preventative Mastectomies
A new genetic test, said in an article in The Financial Times to be available within two years, will tell women whether they have a gene that leads to breast cancer. The gene, known as BRCA1, is responsible for 3 to 5% of breast cancers. It was discovered by US scientists Dr Mark Scolnik at the University of Utah. UK scientists at the Institute for Cancer Research are well on the way to finding BRCA2.
The article says that when perfected tests will enable women with a family history of breast cancer to either know that they are free of these genes, or have the opportunity for a preventative mastectomy.
A more promising note was also given in the article when it was suggested that knowledge of how these genes are designed to work may enable pharmacologists to develop new drugs, both as preventatives and as treatment.
Not mentioned in the article, but also a possibility I should have thought, is genetic engineering to remove these genes from people at risk. This seems more sensible than cutting off their breasts, although do gooders against genetic engineering may not think so. They may prefer individuals to suffer for the common good of preserving a "natural" or god-given gene pool for humanity.
Zantac to be Freely Available
An article in The Financial Times of 17 September 1994 suggests that Glaxo are trying to obtain clearance to market its best selling POM against stomach ulcers, Zantac, over the counter. The drug is thought to exterminate bacteria that trigger or cause stomach ulcers. The company also plans to market new methods of administering asthma drugs.
Nanotechnology Proposed for Star Trip
An article in New Scientist 24 September 1994 suggests that nanotechnology will be used to make a 100 gram space craft that will be accelerated to a third of light speed by an Earth orbiting particle beam generator. The space craft would take 13 years to get to Alpha Centauri, where it would look for planets and radio its findings back to Earth.
Parallel Worlds Theory Gives Rise to New Computing Method
The Parallel Worlds Theory of Quantum Mechanics suggests that there are an infinite number of similar universes, each occurring at quantum units of time representing every possible outcome of every quantum event. This theory, which has never been disproved, has now been put to use in a new form of computing, which uses single electrons captured in cages of atoms. These electrons can be switched between "ground" states and excited states by shining a laser on them.
The ground state represents a 0 and the excited state a 1. It can therefore be used as a register, and a NOT gate, because a laser pulse turns a 1 into a 0 or visa versa. This device is known as a quantum dot. Pairs of them can be used to make controlled-NOT gates. here, one bit is flipped by the laser light only if the other bit has been previously set.
The laser light has to be exactly the right frequency and the pulse has to be of the right duration. If you send half the amount of laser light, the electron is placed into what is termed "a superposition of states", ie parallel universes are accessible where in one the dot is at ground state and in the other at the excited state.
An article in New Scientist of 24 September suggests that several computational elements can be made using these results. Because of the multiple universe theory, instead of just putting one number into a register, you can put several in at once and perform parallel calculations on them. The article doesn't make it clear to me how this is done, but presumably it is clear to some people.
Hitachi are said to be working on quantum dots, initially as a form of memory for ordinary computers.
Assuming all this is realistic, obviously it gives further promise to the ideas of nanotechnological computers of very small size performing the tasks necessary for cryonic revivals.
Pyorédol, A Toothpaste for Receding Gums.
(The following is for information only. If you want someone else to be responsible for your health, then consult a registered and qualified medical practitioner.)
Phenytoin is a substance used to treat epilepsy for nearly half a century, and is known to have few side effects. One of these side effects has been "overgrowth of the gums".
Dental physicians in France have put this side effect to good use when treating people who have gingivitis or periodontal disease. Once the disease has been cured, it is necessary to repair the gum tissue. Conventional wisdom in many countries has it that this is impossible, but if phenytoin has a side effect of overgrowth of the gums, then this could be put to good use.
Pyorédol is a toothpaste containing 1g of phenytoin per 100 grams of toothpaste. It is indicated for the effects left by periodontal disease. Contra-Indications are only for nursing or expectant mothers. Application is by brush or finger, after brushing the teeth with a conventional toothpaste, and preferably also after pressure-washing with a Teledyne Water Pik or similar oral irrigator. The makers recommend two treatments per day, and to leave the paste in place for as long as possible afterwards.
Pyorédol is a prescription only medicine, so you have to get your dentist or hygienist to prescribe it. If it is not available in your own country, you may have to import it. It is best to send the prescription to the supplier so that they can post it back with the goods so that the customs authorities can see that you are entitled to it. In some countries is it permitted to import prescription only medicines without a prescription for your own use or the use of someone in your household. Check with your local customs if you are not sure.
Pyorédol is manufactured by Laboratoires Roussel 97, rue de Vangard 75279, Paris France. Tel 45-55-91-55, but they are unlikely to supply direct. However there are a number of mail order pharmacies throughout the world. See advertisements in Omni's Longevity, a magazine that is available in newsagents around the world, or Life Extension Report.
Terra Libra Conference Cassettes Review
Cassettes have been published of Terra Libra's first conference (not the one previously mentioned this month). The set costs slightly under $200, but if you had bought before the conference you would have paid half this. For your money, you get a book styled case containing 24 C60s and a manual. The audio quality of each cassette is to a very high standard. Each cassette starts with a short fanfare and a notice that Terra Libra threatens no legitimate government and its members obey all known laws, and that the contents are provided under the right to free speech. No investment advice is intended.
Personally I found some of the earlier introductory cassettes a bit of a struggle to listen to, but as I was printing and collating Longevity Report and Fractal Report at the time, it was no real hardship. Some of the concepts could have been put across in a much shorter time and then we could have had more of the very entertaining Doug Casey, the author of The International Man. I am not quite sure how serious he was, but his proposal for putting an entire third world country into publicly owned companies ("privatisation") sounded very plausible and very beneficial for the citizens thereof.
The sections on trusts and financial privacy were long on ideas and short on practicalities. One Alcor member in the audience asked how much it would cost and got no answer.
There was one cassette on life extension, and quite a lot of mention was made of Saul Kent's Life Extension Foundation. This I find surprising as he has not (at the time of writing) circulated his members with Terra Libra flyers. It was very clear that the Terra Libra members who attended (about 90 I think, including people from England and Australia), were well disposed to ideas about immortalism, including cryonic suspension. I would recommend a lecturer from a cryonics organisation address a future Terra Libra conference, and as they are a commercial organisation I would anticipate that they pay fees and expenses.
There was much at the conference about freedom through owning one's own business, and Douglas Casey described how words failed him when someone he proposed some deal to said he couldn't oblige because he couldn't get two weeks off work to do it. Terra Libra is not for people who are wage slaves or who gravitate to organisations who have the begging bowl out. You shouldn't have to beg for freedom, they say. You can buy and sell "freedom technology" for profit!
If some of the financial institutions that are being designed and built by these people prosper they will be valuable tools for financing cryonic suspension. The conference heard about a gold based banking system. Each account holder manages their account through a computer program connected by a modem to the system. Special twin-key encryption methods are used to ensure safety. A feature of the system is that bounced checks are impossible. There is no reporting to governments, and presumably no probate rubbish. The people running the system do not hold the gold that underpins it. This is held by conventional investment companies based in reliable countries with no or little government regulation.
I failed to understand how Chuck Estes' micropublishing system would work. His idea is based on the premise that if you really like a book you read you will want to buy copies to give to your friends. He proposes to give books away with details of how you can buy copies in bulk at various discounts. 10 books (minimum quantity) cost $50, whereas 1000 books cost $2,480 and pro rata in between. His idea is that once you buy the book and like it, you order 10 copies and give to your friends. If three of your friends do the same, then they order 30 copies from you. As you pay less than $50/10 you make a profit. If three of their friends order, then the order still passes though you and you can order 90 copies at a greater discount and so on. This scheme was presented and discussed at the conference, and may well be improved upon before it is finalised. If it can be worked into a worthwhile scheme, it may be a method to promote cryonics or immortalist material. After all, what is a greater compliment to give anyone but information on how they can live longer?
Ostrich Farming is an enterprise that can make substantial profits, and the meat is believed to be lean and healthy. A presentation was given on how a Terra Libra member has converted his business in this and other fields into a Terra Libra Trust Company, and how others can participate in this without making anything that can be legally defined as an investment or be subject to probate or taxation.
Priced at $200 after the event or $100 before (both prices less 1 cent!) the seminar tapes are expensive. However the presentation is lavish and the quality good. If the conferences are to be a regular event, maybe some technology can be developed to make them available more cheaply. One idea that comes to mind is a device that enables many audio channels to be recorded on video cassettes. A box would be connected to the output of a VCR to replay the tapes. However the many TV standards in the world would make this difficult unless special decks were used, which would not be cost effective. Any other ideas to cheaply distribute 24 hrs of audio would be of interest. [1997: I do not know whether these are still available]
Pearson and Shaw Speak at Terra Libra Conference
Life Extension veterans Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw spoke at the second Terra Libra conference. Their lecture was on two subjects, Learned Helplessness - How to Overcome Despair in the Face of the Government Monolith ... Overnight! and Control Your Brain Chemistry - The Ultimate in Self-Determinism.
The conference was at the Irvine Marriott Hotel, half a mile from the Orange County/John Wayne airport, California, on October 8, 9, and 10, 1994. Speakers also included Dr I William Lane, the Shark Cartilage advocate. Attendance cost $249, and an audio cassette set $199, but the cassettes could have been ordered for $99 before September 30. There were other purchase options, including one where you get to attend and are left with three sets of cassettes to sell that yield an overall profit. As one of the lectures is Neurolinguistic Marketing - How to open closed minds, Marketing and sales and another is Why is Freedom so Difficult to Market?, maybe you could get your money back for the latter option if you can't sell the cassettes!
Link with Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease and Meat Eating
How much risk is acceptable? A disease that destroys the brain is clearly a greater worry for cryonicists compared with the population in general, so our perception of risk may be different.
An article in The Financial Times of 9 October said that the link between meat eating and CJD suggested by a recent UK government report is "apparent". The report is an annual report prepared by the CJD Surveillance unit in Edinburgh. Indeed the researchers had said that the link shown by their study could be a statistical freak. However CJD victims were more likely than matched control subjects to have been regular eaters of meat, particularly veal. Dr Robert Will, the unit's director, attributed this finding to "recall bias". The only way of learning about victim's diet was to ask their relatives, who could inadvertently exaggerate the amount of meat eaten because of the intuitive (rather than scientific) link between the two. An apparent increase in CJD since the 1970s is claimed to be due to improved diagnosis rather than an increase in sufferers.
[1997: this was, of course, the first stirrings of the BSE crisis.]
Lawyers Frighten Off the Bionic Man
An article in The Financial Times of 8 October 1994 said that many firms were pulling out of the development and manufacture of materials for artificial prostheses because of the potential costs and risks of litigation.
The article celebrated the introduction of many new surgical products, including the artificial heart. It points out, however, that none of these provided the superhuman abilities of the "Bionic Man" and they were all inferior to the real thing. Developments were getting nearer, though, with the problems being better understood. The silicon implant litigation, though, had made many firms pull out of the field. Some companies which failed through litigation have re-started in other jurisdictions, as their owners are so confident that the problems can eventually be solved.
It is my view that these products will all disappear when a fuller understanding of the human genome coupled with nanotechnology makes it possible to create exact replicas out of the same materials used by the human body. Nevertheless, we do need something to fill the gap until then. It is a delicate balance that has to be followed between the rights of the individual to have effective and pain free surgery and the freedom of developers to find the right solutions to problems. If at the first sign of trouble all developers' assets fall to the legal profession, then no further progress can be possible.
I suggest as a solution that people undergoing operations should be made aware of the risks and a set scale of no fault compensations, within the means of the surgeons and their suppliers, be worked into the contract between surgeon and patient. In theory this should push the cost of surgery no higher, as insurance has to be included anyway as at present. The savings of time and costs of litigation could be passed to further research or possibly to reduction of costs to the patient.
Proteus: Rising Hopes for Arthritis Treatment
Proteus International, the UK based biotechnology company, has high hopes for Adjuvant, an immune system booster for Arthritis patients.
Mr Jurek Sikorski has recently been appointed to chief executive just five months after joining the company. He had previously worked at Smith and Nephew and is expected to use his experience to form collaborative ventures with pharmaceutical companies. Proteus is discussing Adjuvant with nine pharmaceutical companies. Executive chairman Mr Kevin Gilmore said that Mr Sikorski, a one time professional footballer(!), was ideally placed to push the company's products forward. [The Financial Times 20 October 1994]
Nanotechnology Used in New Disk Drive
According to New Scientist of 29 October 1994, Matsushita is to introduce a new computer read only disk drive that can hold one terabit (1012 bytes) of data. It will use an atomic force microscope, a device similar in principle to the scanning tunnelling microscope, to read the data. Not true nanotechnology in terms of replicating assemblers, certainly, but nevertheless it may well be the first application of technology on this scale to a mass market product. However it may be some years before it actually appears on the market, say the manufacturers.
Matsushita have, however, introduced a drive that will read existing CD ROMS and also record on special disks that will sell for £7. This drive will sell for £700, and runs at four times the speed of a conventional CD ROM drive. The new drive will be called the PD ("Par Disk") and is said to be available in November 1994. It does, of course, join an already bewilderingly large and diverse market of high capacity removable media storage devices for the PC.
Choose the wrong one, and in a few years you will be unable to buy media and you will find you have to buy another drive (ie the one that wins the race) to read everyone else's programs and data.
[1997: these prices seem a bit quaint as they have no fallen so much. The price of blankCD recordable disks has made a CD recorder at about £200 seem the best bet.]
sent at the end of November 1994:
Being Brutal With Mealtimes Can Extend Your Life
According to an article in Readers Digest October 1994, (lifted from Consumer Reports on Health, undated) French people have a low rate of heart disease despite a national penchant for rich food and smoking their lungs.
Many explanations have been offered, but new work indicates a fresh theory. Researchers (unfortunately unnamed) in America and France kept records and found that the French consumed 60% of their calories before 2pm, whereas Americans consume less than 40%.
The researchers concluded that eating your main meal midday and allowing plenty of time between meals should improve fat metabolism, insulin production and perhaps the fluidity of the blood.
Personally I have always felt better when not eating a big meal at night. Therefore I refuse to eat a big meal at night - which is seen as eccentric. However it is now apparent that this is a life extending habit. Therefore I recommend that other serious Immortalists are quite brutal when offered big meals at night - say "No".
Quantum Chips with Everything in 2015
An article in The Financial Times of 29 October 1994 suggests that a new form of integrated circuit "the quantum chip" will appear early in the next century. It will use only 100 electrons to store a bit of data, and be fabricated by x-ray lithography. Special techniques will have to be used to eliminate quantum uncertainty at so small a scale.
As electronics are so much smaller than atoms, this seems to be going past nanotechnology, but it may well turn out that nanotechnology is needed to build the cells to contain the groups of 100 electrons and make them behave predictably. The article suggests that "scanning probe microscopes" could be needed to fabricate the chips.
The article also suggests that this technology will give rise to computer applications which cannot be conceived with present day technology.
In the same issue, a further article outlined the applications of nanotechnology to writing letters in atoms, and progressed it further to quality checking of computer chips. It then hinted at future advances in using nanotechnology to develop computer science into the future. However it then said it would be decades away before any products appear.
Glaxo Maintains Patent Rights on Zantac
Glaxo has fended off attacks by lawyers representing Novopharm over its best selling ulcer drug, Zantac. However good news this has been for the beleaguered share price, consumers will not benefit from Novopharm's products that would have sold for between 30 and 50% less, according to The Financial Times in early November.
Manuka Honey - a preventative for ulcers and stomach cancer?
Further to recent articles and broadcasts to the effect that stomach ulcers and stomach cancer may be triggered by a commonly present bacterium called Helicobacter pylori, it is now suggested that Manuka Honey, a natural product form New Zealand, will exterminate the bacterium.
In addition, tests are available to see whether an individual harbours the bacterium and whether it has been eliminated after treatment.
At present researchers have found that the honey will kill the bacteria in quite low concentrations, 20g per 75ml water. This is about the same as the fluid content of the stomach between meals. However there is a difficulty in that fluids taken by mouth pass through quite quickly, and the honey may not be present long enough to do its work. A method needs to be found to keep the honey present for the required time.
The problem has so far not been completely resolved, but clinical trials are in progress, according to an article in Food Processing November 1994. [Acknowledgement to Paul Michaels for faxing the article.]
An amusing side to all this is that the millions of dollars probably spent on the Novo/Glaxo case are probably irrelevant if such a simple treatment is suitable for ulcers.
Sales of Zantac will fall unless it has other uses.
Post Offices to Have Internet Links
An article in New Scientist of 12 November 1994 said that Internet terminals are to be placed in post offices and government buildings in the United States for public access. Initially 112 will be sited for test purposes.
This will be of value to people without Internet facilities who want to read the CryoNet, Longevity, Smart and other relevant Immortalist material.
Also on the subject, The Financial Times said that an Amsterdam based company is experimenting with DigiCash, a new form of payment for services on the Internet. 10,000 volunteers are sought to receive $100 of DigiCash to spend on services bought on the Internet. After one week 1,000 people had signed on for the experiment. (By the time this appears in print it will probably be fully subscribed. In any case, no information was given as to how to apply.)
The system would be totally secure from any form of snooping, governmental or otherwise.
This is very similar to proposals made by Terra Libra for a free enterprise cash economy.
Terra Libra's Rivals
As people find out my interest in Terra Libra, they have been sending in details of rival organisations.
One is International Planning Concepts. [PO Box 107, Douglas Isle of Man British Isles]. They publish a quarterly newsletter for £16 per year, covering how to avoid lawyers, taxes etc just like Terra Libra.
Here is the text of part of the editorial for the first issue:
Descent into another Dark Age?
Excluding catastrophe, a Dark Age descends on a civilisation quite slowly. So slowly that few people notice. It is not a decline in the quantity of information available or in the level of scientific achievement which causes a Dark Age. It is a subtle decline in collective wisdom accompanied by a change in social priorities. The last Dark Age for European civilisation was attended by considerable technological advances, especially in warfare (e.g. cavalry technology), seamanship (e.g. Viking dragon ships) and agriculture (e.g. the use of the heavy plough). That Dark Age was the direct result of the economic decline of the Roman Empire which was, in turn, due to a long-term degradation of collective wisdom and social priorities.
Why should an economy decline when information and technological achievement are soaring? The answer lies not in the quantity of information or technology available to the few, but in the quantity which is usable by the many. It is the latter which governs the long-term prosperity of the economy and hence the affordable quality of civilisation. The trend towards a Dark Age starts with prosperity and ample production. More people leave productive industry and go into so-called service industry. The principal service industries are financial services and (government) regulatory services. Both these service industries become increasingly disengaged from real production and services of intrinsic worth. Because of the high and relatively easy profitability associated with these service industries (and note that government services can be highly profitable for privileged suppliers) they suck in the bulk of the economy's financial resources, thus tending to starve productive industries of their capital needs. In this process more and more people become involved with the processes of distributing and handling financial resources and regulating economic and social activity. Fewer and fewer people have anything to do with the processes of production and the creation of real prosperity. Students spend long years studying the complicated intricacies of rules and regulations and of social/political/educational theories. Few are gaining practical skills for the survival and prosperity of the civilisation as a whole. The result is a cumulative decline in the amount of information and technology usable by the general population and, consequently, a long-term decline in the capacity of the civilisation to replace depleting real economic resources.
If the productive capacity of one generation is just 10% less than that of the previous generation, those who still care about long-term trends will notice the inevitability of the Dark Age before 2 or 3 generations have passed. Nevertheless, apparent prosperity may still increase during this time as an economy's capital resources are spent on buying consumer goods and services from other economies which may be in a different economic cycle (perhaps heading out of their last Dark Age).
"Age-ism" and Unemployment
Have you noticed that there is an increasing tendency for the unemployed to be skilled or professionally qualified people, especially older ones? Here are some thoughts on the matter. Feel free to challenge them. Are employees generally likely to be selected on the basis of being the best man or woman for the job, or is it more likely they are selected on the basis of how they will fit the corporate structure (i.e. will suit the personal priorities of the individuals responsible for selection)? With the modem cult of the whiz-kid, where people trained in finance or management can reach senior executive positions at relatively young ages, many of the persons responsible for selecting employees will be quite young. Have these people yet built the confidence to feel comfortable employing those who are older (and perhaps wiser) than themselves? Have these people enough experience to recognise that greater age may give rise to greater knowledge and experience? Is there too much emphasis even among older employers on trying to present a "young" and "dynamic" image to the public.
Ironically, the worst effects of age-ism will fall on today's youth. They have little to look forward to when they become too old. Nor do they have the full benefit of the experience of today's older people who have been able to learn from the experience of their elders. Today's unemployed older workers may be having a rough time, but how badly will the older workers of the future fare?
[Rights to reproduce the above are only given if subscription information and the address is given as above. Please don't reproduce further without including this information.]
[Acknowledgement to Mr Clive Wilkinson for introducing me to this group.]
Another Terra Libra like group is Taipan-UK, £49/yr [IBC House Brooklands Industrial Park Weybridge KT13 0BR UK] They concentrate more on what companies to invest in to avoid the bureaucratic holocaust, and topics like how to make money on the Internet or from Virtual Reality etc etc.
More on Age-ism Chrissie Loveday writes:
In the public sector where salary scales are rigidly set, many years of experience have earned a place near the top. Experience means a higher cost. The excuse for not appointing an experienced older person is based on more recent raining and hence newer information. It is well known that the self managed budgets means that you can get two beginners for the price of one experienced teacher. Many see this is being better value for money.
News Release Alpha 1 Biomedicals Inc.
For Immediate Release
Vincent F. Simmon, Ph.D. Michael L. Berman, Ph.D.
President and CEO Vice President, Development
Alpha 1 Biomedicals, Inc. Alpha 1 Biomedicals, Inc.
301 564 4400 301 564 4400
Novel Actin-sequestering Peptide to Be Developed by Alpha 1 Biomedicals, Inc.
BETHESDA, MARYLAND, October 7, 1994 -- Alpha 1 Biomedicals, Inc. (NASDAQ: ALBM) today announced that it is developing a proprietary peptide that has shown significant promise in animal testing and in laboratory studies. The compound, Thymosin beta 4 (T4), is a chemically synthesized copy of a natural hormone-like peptide originally isolated from thymus glands. Tß4 is found in high concentrations in blood platelets, white blood cells, and a number of other tissues and appears to be a component of the immune regulatory system. Recently it has been discovered that T4 is one of the key actin-binding molecules in the human body, and functions to regulate the activity of actin within living cells. Actin makes up 10-20% of the protein in living cells, and exists in two forms: a small monomeric form called G-actin and a long polymeric form known as F-actin. F-actin is the "muscle" of cells, and controls the ability of cells to move, divide, and respond to external stimulation.
The discovery that T4 controls the ability of actin to polymerize may provide a number of potential clinical uses of T4 in diseases where excess F-actin (the polymerized form) is associated with pathology. "These indications include sepsis, adult respiratory distress syndrome, chronic bronchitis, asthma, and cystic fibrosis", said Dr. Allan L. Goldstein, Chairman of the Board and Professor and Chairman, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at The George Washington University Medical Centre. G-actin monomers are released into the blood in large quantities in certain disease conditions and when there is acute tissue injury or infection. The actin is believed to overwhelm the natural actin binding systems in the blood, quickly polymerizing and clogging small capillaries in the lungs and elsewhere. T4 and other actin-sequestering molecules are present in the blood where they can prevent G-actin from forming large capillary-clogging filaments. In laboratory animal experiments, T4 has been shown to significantly reduce the toxicity of chemotherapy; to reduce the severity of septic shock and endotoxin-induced death; and to down-regulate a number of inflammatory cytokines.
Over the next few months, Alpha 1 plans to determine which of the above potential clinical applications can be rapidly developed, and to begin pre-clinical toxicology and pharmacology studies. Alpha I is also reviewing potential collaborations to develop other pharmaceutical products.
Alpha 1 Biomedicals has recently completed the licensing of its first product, Thymosin alpha 1 to SciClone Pharmaceuticals. Thymosin alpha 1 is currently in clinical trials in a number of countries in the US, Europe and Asia for the treatment of hepatitis B, C, and AIDS. Alpha 1 Biomedicals is also developing a p17 core-based vaccine for AIDS through its joint venture with Cel-Sci Corporation.
Two Democracy Centre. 6903 Rockledge Drive 1 Suite 12001 Bethesda, Maryland 20817. 301/564-4400, Fax 301 /564-4424
More Positive Press for Vitamins
Also in Reader's Digest of October 1994 is an article on vitamins. It says that sales of vitamins C and E and beta carotene have risen by 60% since 1990. Despite the fact that politicians and lawyers don't allow people to make claims about large doses of vitamins, most doctors and pharmacologists now find the evidence overwhelming, and take them themselves.
But not everyone agrees, and there is no definitive proof that very large doses of vitamins have beneficial effects. The article says that definitive trials are underway, but it will be years before the results are in.
Of course, as we know, by the time the results are in, the present generation will be dead. We do know that taking large doses of vitamins C and E and beta carotene are not going to do any harm, and there is a lot of evidence that they do good, despite insufficient definitive proof to satisfy the professional groups mentioned. So there is a gamble in taking them, but it is financial rather than anything else.
Book Review: Obsessional Thoughts and Behaviour Frederick Toates, D. Phil, D.Sc; Thorsons, $11 paperback, 1990, ISBN 0 7725 2195 2
I am reviewing this book because a friend of the author offered him a copy of The Prospect of Immortality, and he rejected its content. Considering a lot of Obsessional Thoughts and Behaviour is about fear of death, I find this interesting. Hopefully others in the Immortalist Society will obtain this book and give their views.
The book is in two parts. The first one is autobiographical, with emphasis on the author's own psychological problems. The second is a learned treatise on the subject, but written in a style that is easily readable by the lay person.
The early section includes details of the author's upbringing and life to date, including girl friends and general activities etc as well as his academic career. Mentioned at length is his interaction with religion and its attitudes and teachings about death. There is a lot about perception of risk.
The second section includes some comments on the lives of famous people believed to have phobic problems. Included were Woody Allen and Howard Hughes, both of whom are of interest to the cryonic community for their apparently irrationally inconsistent rejection of making arrangements for themselves. (Hughes is of course now annihilated.)
I would urge anyone in the Immortalist Society with psychological education to study Dr Toates's book - it may shed some light on why so many people reject cryonics. Unfortunately more knowledge is needed than I have to take it much further, but here are my own observations:
On page 68 Dr Toates relates the importance of feeling that you are the master of what is going on, and this theme also appears elsewhere. The way I view cryonics is that although it is not guaranteed to work, it does mean that you have at least done your best to avoid annihilation, and you can't do more than your best can you? I should have thought that cryonics arrangements viewed in this light would be of great benefit to people with psychological problems with death.
I believe that I have read elsewhere that it is often young adult people that have obsessive thoughts about death, and this age group can get life insurance quite cheaply to fund cryonics. The cost is of the order of £30/month and the money is not lost because should the patient decide to withdraw from the cryonics program later in life and apply the policy to something else he can.
I can think of some objections phobics can have to cryonics. One is that obtaining life insurance involves some surrender of control. However a term policy can be bought, and if the person is young and in good health this is usually just a matter of paying the premiums. This is cheaper than whole life, and the difference can be used to invest in a trust to pay for the suspension. This approach will work out more efficient economically also.
Another surrender of control is to the cryonics company. The incorrect comparison is made between being alive and healthy and being in cryonic suspension. However this is a false choice. The true choice is between being in cryonic suspension some time in the future with a loss of funds to your estate or being burned or rotted sometime in the future with a loss of funds to your estate. The first choice offers a chance of recovery, and second none.
Another misconception many people have about cryonics is that you are revived old and/or ill merely to face more surgery and suffering. The facts are that a technology capable of restoring the freezing damage will also be capable of restoring the patients to a youthful apparent age and a fully healthy condition.
On page 175 Dr Toates suggested that phobias can be overcome easily if the goal is much desired. He said that a flight phobia is less apparent if the woman of his dreams is at the end of it. Surely this is common sense. If you are taking a risk (and you can't do anything without taking a risk - nothing is perfectly safe) there has to be a compensating reward. Again I have read elsewhere that everything you do is a balance and if you don't do what you really want to do then that is a definition of being mad.
It would seem to me that fears of risks of various activities are usually indications that what you are proposing to do is near the balance point of whether you really want to do it or not. Some people seem to dither on this balance point and spend an inordinate amount of time ruminating on "shall I shan't I" when spurious risk considerations then present themselves as reasons not to proceed. People ought to be allowed to say "I don't want to" or "I prefer not to" without qualifying it. I don't see why every person should find the same experience enjoyable. (Personally I don't travel and stick to my guns, so to speak. I don't believe that I am influenced by risk considerations, as I have used every common means of travel in local trips without undue concern. Of course I find risk interesting as an engineering consideration - so do a lot of other people, such as car designers, not considered as phobic.) It is after all acceptable that every person doesn't like the same food, for example. If someone's friends and colleagues don't allow them to take this attitude then tough - they should get new friends and colleagues.
Another point from engineering: A lot of mechanisms make "decisions". Usually an electric switch is either on or off. If the switch is halfway, it arcs and burns out, so switches are designed to toggle between the extremes. Those that don't are faulty and are either repaired or replaced. Computers often make decisions from more than two inputs, but if the results can be ambiguous a random element would have to be included to produce a definite decision.
I would suggest that the program in most people's brains contains an anti-dither algorithm that prevents an excessive amount of attention to detail in reaching decisions. If this algorithm is faulty, this could cause the ruminations about risk etc which are seen as phobias.
CI suspension member Chrissie Loveday has written her first humorous novel, Do It Tomorrow and although it is nothing to do with cryonics, some of you may find it amusing:
from the publisher's notes:
Tasmin is large, pushy and likes to get her own way; Melvin is something of a softy who is more than a little workshy. So when Tas rescues him from a dead-end doorman's job, he has no objections; at least not until she 'employs' him as her partner and accomplice in an endless succession of money-making schemes, all of which are doomed to failure.
A highly entertaining and amusing read, Do It Tomorrow is written in a refreshingly engaging style. It is a light-hearted and witty look at an odd but likeable couple.
Chrissie Loveday was born in Stoke-on-Trent and has travelled extensively, most notably in South America and Malaysia. Now living in Cornwall, she lectures part-time at Cornwall College in the Special Needs Department. [New Millenium, ISBN 1 85845 021 7, paperback]
If you would like a signed copy, then please send a £UK cheque for 9.50 (Europe £9), payable on a UK bank, to Ms C. M. Loveday West Towan House Porthtowan Truro Cornwall TR4 8AX UK , which price includes airmail postage and packing. [If you have no £UK account, then send a check for $US payable on a US bank for $15 payable to J. de Rivaz.] email: email@example.com
Sent Dec 94
Surgeons Don't Give Up Prostate Market
An item in The Financial Times of 3 December 1994 described a new prostate operation, approved by the FDA. At present, surgeons whose patients haven't been told about pharmaceutical treatments for prostate enlargement ream the gland out in an operation requiring a hospital stay.
An alternative procedure has now been developed by Minneapolis company Uroligix Inc., backed by $15m of venture capital. A microwave aerial is inserted into the penis and up into the prostate under local anaesthetic. This is then energised and it causes third degree burns to the urethra as it passes through the prostate, with the effect that the burned cells are absorbed into the body over the next two or three months. To keep the effect within the required area, iced water circulates through the catheter carrying the antenna. A balloon thermometer is inserted into the anus and passed into the rectum right next to the prostate to check that it isn't being overcooked.
The procedure is said to have results similar to or better than the conventional surgery, but it can be performed in 90 minutes on outpatients rather than overnight patients. There is a substantial saving in cost. Patients have been back at work in two weeks and well on the way to recovery in six, says the article.
The journalist who wrote the article described the procedure as unpleasant, and had a complication - prostatic ulcers.
Meanwhile, health food stores around the UK are selling saw palmetto tablets in ever increasing quantities. I shall not be buying Urologix shares!
Prostate Screening Counter Productive for Patients
An article in the December 1994's Which Way to Health? said that screening apparently healthy 50-70 year old men for prostate cancer is counterproductive. It was quoting an article in Journal of the American Medical Association, 14 September 1994, page 773. The test involved the doctor inserting his finger into the anus to examine the prostate gland which can be felt through the walls of the rectum. A more elaborate test includes ultrasound and prostate specific antigen (PSA) measurement. On average, the tests could extend lifespan by two days. The magazine says that the tests are unpleasant and any treatment for any cancer found will also have unpleasant side effects. When symptoms are not present, men usually do not die of their prostate cancer. The report in the JAMA concluded that screening of the healthy population should not be introduced unless randomised clinical trials prove it to be effective.
Again, the report failed to mention Saw Palmetto.
The Disagreeable Executors
In the same issue of The Financial Times in the legal questions and answers column, a firm of funeral directors wrote in to ask the legal position in a recent case. The deceased had requested that his body be unceremoniously burned to ashes which were to be scattered near his brothers'. However his executors instead ordered a church funeral. The funeral director carried it out, but was dubious about the legal position and sought clarification in case a similar case should present itself in the future.
The reply (under English law) was that executors should not alter the wishes of the deceased, and the funeral director was advised to consult a solicitor (surprise surprise! the columnist is a solicitor) if a similar case appeared again, and decline it if so advised.
Of course in most cases there is no one who is likely to object if a church funeral is substituted for a simple cremation with no ceremony. However in cryonics cases, there are a lot of fellow cryonicists who would and should object if one of their number's wishes are disregarded.
Lawyers and Surgeons
In The Bulletin of Medical Ethics September 1994 it was stated that Reginald Dixon, a Midlands gynaecologist, appears to hold the gloomy distinction of being the first British doctor to be charged with a criminal offence for carrying out an abortion. He is alleged to have carried out an abortion on a 35 year old woman during a hysterectomy. She did not know she was pregnant. She reported him to the police because she had been trying to have a family for years. Dixon was charged under the 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act. (The year is not a misprint. - article supplied by Paul Michaels)
Regular Saving - the Figures
In the Autumn 1994 issue of Money Manager, a newsletter reprinted for private investment advisors to add their name and heading, some interesting figures were given about saving plans, which are very interesting to prospective Cryonics Institute members. For many years I have been advising people who have no capital beind them to use term insurance coupled with a separate savings plan as opposed to whole like insurance. Or indeed you can take the risk yourself (of not being suspended) and simply use a savings plan. If you are young, a personal accident policy plus savings plan makes good sense. Most sudden deaths amongst the young are by personal accidents now! This newsletter had some figures: Over the 15 years to June 1994, a regular savings of £50 per month into a general Unit Trust (in USA, Mutual Fund) would now yield a fund worth £29,370 ($42,500) - this is far more than that required by the Cryonics Institute, even including transport from overseas. This is an annual return way ahead of inflation and fixed interest deposits.
£50 per month is not an unreasonable sum, especially bearing in mind that you are only paying over a relatively short term. Whole life insurance means that you pay every month until you die! Left in the Mutual Fund, the sums accumulated will continue to grow. People easily spend more than £50/month on eating out, travel and many popular and acceptable interests. So why not cryonics?
The article goes on to say that when the stock markets are falling, continuing to invest a regular sum each month buys more units, so the cyclical movements are averaged out. Many people think the only way to get a large sum of money is to win at gambling or by inheritance. But regular savings can produce a useful sum in a small enough fraction of a lifetime.
Price War Ends AIDS Profiteering in Life Insurance
The same newsletter also carried a critical article about term insurance. It said that the companies had been increasing their profits from term policies using AIDS as an excuse, but a recent price war amongst the companies was ending this. The companies are claiming that the death rate from AIDS is less than expected, and this is the reason for the price cuts. But the magazine is sceptical of this as a valid reason. The cost of term insurance has dropped by 20% over the recent months in the UK. Another reason for the price war is that more freedom to sell insurance due to the integration of the UK in the EC has meant that there is increased competition from cheaper continental companies.
Readers who had recently taken out policies were advised to change their policies, because even though they will have aged a couple of years or so the new policy would be at a lower rate.
Ward Dean to Appear at Terra Libra Conference
Ward Dean, M.D., (former Flight Surgeon, Delta Force; co author of Smart drugs and Nutrients) is billed to appear at Terra Libra's next conference in Atlanta, GA, Jan 20-22, 1995. He will be speaking as a leading proponent of free market competition in health care.
Nancy Lord, the successful defending attorney in the Sless case, is also scheduled to appear as is Dr Win Wenger, an expert in intelligence increase.
Frederick Mann, founder of Terra Libra, will be addressing the 1995 Ohio Libertarian Party State Convention on May 12-14, 1995.
Church of England faces financial collapse
The Church of England was founded by St Augustine in 597, according to an article in The Financial Times of 17 December. (I must say that I had always thought it to originate from the time of Henry VIII who founded it when the Pope refused him a divorce.) It made a lot of its money from property (real estate) speculation, and when the market collapsed after changes in mortgage tax relief and local taxation in the late 1980, it ran into financial difficulties. The present situation is that it may default on its pension provisions for its staff.
The paper says that the main problem is not so much the disastrous foray into the real estate market, but the ill conceived structure of its pension commitments. This problem is faced by many other organisation and even whole governments. The Church of England faces falling congregations and is selling off its ecclesiastical premises. However the retired clergymen have paid into pension schemes and will go on expecting their repayments well into the next century. Although its name suggests that it is a national institution, only 3% of the country are members and attend regularly. Various solutions are suggested that involve this small number of people parting with money.
I do not expect that present cryonics organisations will need to endure for 1,400 years or so - low hundreds are more probable estimates. Once revival is possible and provable, the service will be as available as is any common medical procedure. Nevertheless, the dying church is a sobering lesson to anyone who plans something that will last for an indeterminate and long period.
New Toothbrush Does Three Jobs at Once
Investment magazine Taipan-UK (December 1994) carried an item that may be of interest. Most people only spend two minutes twice a day on dental hygiene, which make dental surgeons rich on filling cavities and operating on gum disease. To give them their due, dentists try and get their patients to clean their teeth more diligently, but after two or three days, time takes control again and a quick brush up is all they get.
Dr Michael Klupt, DDS, of Maryland, decided that the solution was to develop a cleaning system that does three tasks at once - brushing, flossing and washing. It comprises an electric toothbrush with bristle heads that move up and down through a 45 degree angle and can spin on their axes. Specially formulated cleaning fluid squirts out of ports in the centre of each bristle tuft.
The toothbrush contains a reservoir of the cleaning fluid and a battery, both of which are charged when it is in its stand. The system has provision for the dental surgeon to test the patient for oral bacteria, and prescribe specific cleaning fluids to suit specific conditions. In addition, there is provision for orthodontists to design special brush heads for patients with dental appliances permanently in place.
At present Dr Klupt has patented his device and is looking for a manufacturer to buy a license to make the product. If such a person is reading this, then the address to write to is Managed Care Technologies Inc. 7, Thistledell Court Iwings Mills MD 21117 USA. Tel & Fax 410 363 6236.
The magazine says that market pressures will force a price of about $70 on the product, to compete with existing electric toothbrushes. However dental surgeons can recoup the profits that they make from filling cavities by selling the system and taking repeat orders of brush heads and the cleaning fluid. As previously mentioned, they can even specify special designs of head and formulations of fluid. The magazine suggests that if the makers work with dentists in this way instead of competing against them there will be no conflicting profit interests, and dental practices will benefit from getting the funds that would otherwise go to mass advertising and marketing. Apparently Interplak used this method to launch their products, although they also now sell by conventional means as well, in order to reach the 50% of the population who never go to the dentist.
More on the Internet
I can now receive email as firstname.lastname@example.org. I have opened an account at this firm as they offer unlimited mail for 11.75 pounds/month instead of charging per message, which was proving expensive on CompuServe. I can also get on the World Wide Web, which may prove useful in the future. [1997: Indeed it did, which is why you are reading this!]
Speaking of the future, there is an ideas futures market on the WWW which has an item about cryonics. This has been mentioned previously in The Immortalist, but I do hope that it will spread. It is only a game, but it does manage to focus ideas about predicting the future.
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