quantifying ways to live forever

One thing I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere is a quantified list of longevity tips. I mean a table of techniques for living that is ordered by the increase in life that each item can effect.

As an example, smoking subtracts 6.8 years from the average life, while 150 minutes of moderate exercise adds 3.4 years to your life.

I think a table spelling out clearly and quantitatively what is good and what is bad would be a very valuable tool in the effort to lengthen life, so I’m going to start working on it.

When I have enough gathered together, this will make a great chapter in my book, How to Live Forever – I mean, a list of does and don’ts really doesn’t get more instructional!

Converting hazard ratio (HR) to years is difficult, and not really all that useful, so I’m recording the list using the HRs as originally calculated. HR is the ratio of risk of certain behaviours, vs a baseline behavior.

The list is here: http://bit.ly/liveforevertable. If copying, please retain the link back to this website. I will be updating the table as I learn more.

I’ve only got six items on the list so far. Here you go – ordered by healthy behaviour at the top to unhealthy behaviour at the bottom:

Activity Hazard Ratio Source Notes
running 51-80 minutes per week vs not running 0.65 ref
drink a cup of coffee a day 0.91 ref HR is 0.88 for men, 0.93 for women. averaged to 0.905
BMI of 26.2 (vs BMI of 23) 1.04 ref
heavy drinking 1.31 ref 4 drinks a day
binge drinking 1.54 ref
smoking 1.80 ref

Alternative medicine

Alternative medicine, like alternative facts, is the exact opposite of its noun. Medicine is something which has been tested and shown to be beneficial to health. Alternative medicine, on the other hand, has not been tested or has been shown to not be beneficial to health.

When something that is in the list of “alternative” medicines is found to actually be good for you, it becomes medicine and is no longer “alternative”. Therefore, by using “alternative medicine”, you are intentionally gambling with your life.

Even if an alternative medicine appears to be harmless, it may still cause death when the patient decides to use the alternative medicine instead of real medicine. Research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed in a study of 840 people that people were nearly 6 times more likely to die of their cancer if they chose to use alternative medicine instead of real medicine.

Homeopathy is a common form of alternative medicine. It was invented in the late 18th century by a doctor, Samuel Hahnemann, who was distressed at the state of medicine at the time, which included leeches, blood-letting, and purges, and wanted to provide something that was less invasive. The philosophy behind his belief was a “law of similars”, which suggested that you can cure a disease by treating with something “similar”. There was no science in this. He just liked the idea. Remember that this was the 18th century – medicine really hadn’t got much science behind it at all. Bacteria had not been discovered, even diseases were thought to be just an “imbalance of humours”, so homeopathy was just as sensible at that time as any other “medicine”.

However, time has moved on, and we know a lot more about how people’s bodies actually work, and one thing we are certain of, as proven over and over by people that actually test these things, is that homeopathy does not work.

People die from homeopathy when they start believing that it is more powerful than medicine. They stop taking the medicine which is designed to cure their illness, and they start drinking water, which is just water. They then die. For example, a man campaigning for a political party died because he stopped using his prescribed heart medication and used homeopathy instead. A nine-month-old child died of malnutrition because her homeopath father decided to treat her with his homeopathic remedies instead of bringing her to the doctor. In an ironic twist of karma, a high-profile homeopath from the Netherlands proclaimed on Twitter that his homeopathy can cure cancer – he then died of cancer.

Because homeopathy is not medicine, the manufacturers of homeopathic remedies do not bother proving that their products are safe. Instead, they just assume they are, and sell them. This results in deaths. In 2016, a homeopathic producer was investigated for the deaths of 10 children, and adverse effects in 400 other children. These are products that were on sale in pharmacies. Pharmacies should know better than to sell non-medically-tested products that claim to do medical things.

Chiropractic practitioners claim that by manipulating the spine and limbs, they can cure various illnesses, including asthma and irritable bowel syndrome. There is absolutely no evidence for this. Chiropractic has been tested in clinical trials, and the only benefit ever shown to actually exist is that it can relieve some back pain. That is all. People who practice chiropractic and claim that it is medical in nature run the risk of practicing medicine without a licence. In fact, the inventor, D D Palmer, was himself jailed for exactly that. The only benefit ever proven from chiropractic is that it can relieve some back pain, but it has been known to kill people, including babies.

A number of strokes have been caused directly by chiropractic manipulation of the spine. An article reporting on the mechanism pointed out that the vertebral artery can be “dissected” by manipulation of the neck, leading to stroke and damage to the brain-stem.

Acupuncture involves people sticking needles into other people, thinking that they are “tuning” the body by doing this. Clinical trials of acupuncture show that there is no difference at all in the patient between a trained acupuncturist placing needles into precise locations designed to cure ailments, and a researcher placing needles into a random location.

Deaths directly caused by acupuncture tend to be because of organ perforation, infection from unsterile needles, or in some cases needles breaking off inside the body. Professor Edzard Ernst wrote a paper documenting 86 deaths caused by acupuncture.

I think the main thing you should understand from all of the above is that alternative medicine does not heal people. At the best, it works as a placebo. At its worst, though, alternative medicine will either kill you directly, or kill you indirectly by encouraging you to avoid real medical help.

When will we be able to live forever

Based on the rate at which medicine is evolving, the answer to this question is a resounding “Now!”

Almost every disease has a cure or a cure-in-testing, and aging is just one of those diseases.

In the book How To Live Forever, I wrote four sections on ways that we already know to slow or even reverse aging, including telomere extension, senolytics such as FOXO4-DRI or UBX0101, calorie restriction, and increasing NAD+.

Of the four, three of them are in human trial at the moment, and the fourth has already been shown to reduce the incidence of tumours in humans.

Telomere extension has already been shown by Elizabeth Parrish to increase telomere length by 9%. This equates to about 10-15 years of life extension. This year, it was shown that telomere extension treatment in progeria sufferers results in decreased inflammation and decreased β-galactosidase almost immediately after treatment. Because humans live so long, it is hard to know for sure if live extension works. Progeria is basically a disease that increases the speed of aging in humans – if you can slow or cure progeria, there’s a good chance you’ve also made huge steps towards curing aging itself.

Senolytics are drugs that kill senescent cells – cells that have stopped replicating and producing new young cells, but which also refuse to die. Instead, they stick around spewing out inflammation proteins and causing other nearby cells to also go senescent, resulting in more and more of your cell population becoming old and useless. Senolytics such as FOXO4-DRI or UBX0101 work by covering the part of the FOXO4 gene which is stopping the cell from dying, thus forcing the cell into apoptosis (cell death), making room for new young cells.

Calorie restriction is shown in lab animals to reduce the incidence of tumours (cancers), and leading to longer (up to 50% longer!) lives as a consequence.

And finally, NAD+ is a catalyst which helps the mitochondria of your cells to work with oxygen to produce energy. In older people, the amount of NAD+ in your cells reduces, making it harder for the cell to produce energy, and sometimes resulting in DNA-replication errors. To increase NAD+ in your cells, you can either inject NAD+ directly, or ingest NMN (a precursor molecule that turns into NAD+ in the body).

There are a lot of other methods of living forever, but these are the big four at the moment.

A short history of vaccines

This is for a new chapter in the book How to Live Forever (available on Amazon as eBook or print copy).

Before vaccination was invented, a method of immunising a person from smallpox was to take small samples of the disease, directly infect the person, and hope that the body learned to cure itself before the infection learned to kill the person.

In China, the method used was slightly smarter, but more uninviting. They would take the scabs of a person infected with the disease, dry the scabs, grind them up, then blow the dust up the nostril of the person to be variolated.

In a way, this is like the primitive method a lot of people still use today, where when a parent’s child has chickenpox, they will hold a party for the child and invite the neighbours around, the thought being that if the child catches chickenpox early, then when it is cured, they will never catch it again, and will be inoculated against more dangerous diseases such as shingles.

In 1796, doctor Edward Jenner performed an experiment which caught public opinion. In a procedure that would have people up in arms today, he took some pus from a cowpox pustule on a milk-maid and inserted it into his gardener’s son’s arm through a small cut, deliberately trying to infect the 8-year-old boy with a dying cowpox virus (pus is the immune system basically drowning an invading particle), the idea being that a dying or dead virus might be just as good as the living thing for training purposes, and will be heavily weakened already.

Over the next few days and weeks, he subjected the boy to increasing challenges from various poxes, none of which took hold.

In celebration of the success of the experiment, the cow from which the cowpox was gotten was killed, skinned, and the skin was hung on the wall of the St George’s Medical School Library, where it still hangs.

By experimentation he was able to show that cowpox and smallpox can both be vaccinated against from the same vaccination, and more importantly that the vaccination does not need to come directly from the source (the cow), but can be grown in a lab.

10 years later, he was given a grant of £10,000 from the king (worth £918,403.60 in 2017), and 5 years later, another £20,000 (worth £1,836,807.21 in 2017) after vaccination was confirmed by the Royal College of Physicians to really work.

Smallpox has existed since at least 10,000 BCE. During the 18th century, it was responsible for about 400,000 deaths every year, and for a full third of all blindnesses. It has been estimated that about 500,000,000 people died of smallpox during the 20th century.

But, because of Edward Jenner’s experiment, we no longer die of smallpox. The disease was completely wiped out in 1979. Vaccinations work.

How To Live Forever published on Amazon

I was going to wait for another few months before publishing, but as I haven’t made a lot of changes to the book in the last few months, I thought I’d better just release it.

So, I’ve published the book, “How to Live Forever – through science, medicine, and philosophy” on Amazon’s Kindle store. I prefer Google’s PlayBooks for my own reading, but when I went to upload the book there, Google apparently don’t want any new authors or something – there was a message saying that no new “partners” could submit their work.

To prepare the book, I wrote a script that takes the website database and converts it into one long HTML file, and imported that through Calibre to create an ePub file, which Amazon accepted for the eBook version.

I’m still working my way through the requirements for the print version. When that’s done, I’m sure there will be updates to push back to the eBook version!

Progress on the workshop/lab

I mentioned last month that I’m starting work building a lab for (eventually!) protein synthesis of FOXO4-DRI to reduce senescent cell build-up and NMN to promote NAD+ production in cells, etc. There’s no point writing a book on how to live forever if you’re not going to get working on the answers yourself!

Because I’m working completely on my own, and have no experience in construction, this is taking longer than I thought!

I have the foundation 95% completed now. The structural parts (the load-bearing bits) are completed. I just need to fill in some gaps in the foundation wall, then add some plastic damp proof coursing between the wall and the wood of the workshop floor, then I can start on the frame of the thing.

The plan with this is to start off with some simple things – a 3D printer and some electronics, and use those as a base from which to build up a proper lab, one tool at a time, building as many as possible from scratch.

Critics might say (and they do…) that the only way to do good work is with good tools, but they appear to forget that everything we see today was built from the ground up using nothing much more than a rock hitting another rock. You use bad tools to make better tools. I am doing the same.

I was asked why I didn’t just get some people in to do the building for me. Partly, it’s cost, but it’s mostly because I want the satisfaction of knowing exactly where every nail and knothole is, and I want to design every aspect of the building to my own specifications.

I have had to learn a lot along the way so far – how to do mortaring, how to drain an accidental pool (siphoning through a hose. muddy water doesn’t taste nice 😉 ), how water travels through concrete.

I’m still learning some things, like how to connect two pieces of wood together. Nails and nail plates appear to be the solution.

This weekend, I start on the frame of the build. I think that will go up very quickly.

Releasing the book on PlayStore

My book (How to Live Forever) has been sitting on the front end of the website for months now, The original plan was to try pull people in to see if I could figure out from their behaviour what chapters need fleshing out or rewriting.

I’ve actually avoided adding new chapters (a chapter on vaccination, for example) because I was waiting for readership data.

A recap for those that don’t know the book: it’s an overview of what we know about what kills us, along with bleeding-edge solutions to those problems. I cover information such as using the surface based body shape index to calculate ideal weight and waist size (here’s my SBSI calculator), FOXO4-DRI for killing senescent cells, and even philosophical solutions such as the mathematical universe and quantum immortality.

I think I’m going to kickstart this by releasing the book on the Google Playstore for about €1. If I put it up there for free, people might download it, but won’t feel tempted to read it, but if they have to actually pay for it, they may feel the need to justify that payment by actually reading it.

I will include links in the book back to the website, so people can look for more uptodate versions of each chapter (medicine evolves!).

To get started on this, I’ve been looking for automated HTML to book-format PDF or eBook translation scripts. I could simply copy/paste the entire book into an eBook editor and clean up the formatting by hand, but I want to eventually be able to provide bi-monthly updates to the Playstore version, so it needs to be automated.

Luckily, I’ve been planning for this since the beginning, so the book is written in a logical format that can easily be extracted from the database.

There are actually very few books called “how to live forever” which literally are about how to live forever. Most of those I’ve found online are novels or religious diatribes. I feel like there will be little competition here.

The cover – I’m not an arty person, so I think I’ll do something plain. I like the cover of Yuval Noah Harari’s “Homo Deus”, which is plain black with red wording. I might go for something similar but with a textured background.

Telomere lengthening as a treatment for Progeria

Telomeres are end-caps that keep your DNA from fraying. Over the years, they get smaller and smaller, until they’re so small the cells go into senescence mode and stop splitting.

When a cell is in senescence mode, it refuses to die, and instead just hangs around giving out inflammation-inducing proteins. Senescent cells are useful for helping healing wounds, but other than that, they’re a nuisance.

A study by John P. Cooke and associates found that telomeres in progeria sufferers tend to shorten much quicker than usual. This leads to very quick aging of the body, and usually death by age 15 or so.

In normal cells, telomeres cause death by aging by about age 120 (the Hayflick limit). The observation that telomere shortening is highly linked to aging in progeria makes that all the more obvious.

There has been speculation that telomere lengthening would help improve life-span, but very little evidence in humans, because we live so long compared to lab animals.

In 2015, Elizabeth Parrish, head of the company Bioviva, became the first person to undergo a telomere-lengthening treatment, and follow-up tests showed that she had indeed lengthened them by 9%, but there was nothing noticeable to show that the treatment had any positive effect.

The study done by Cooke showed that extending telomeres in progeria sufferers has an almost immediate effect, with a decrease in senescence-related beta-galactosidase staining, and reduced secretion of inflammatory cytokines. In Elizabeth’s case, it is possible she just had not reached the age where those would be measurable.

Telomere extension is one of the most important treatments that we will need to get into local clinics. It’s great to see it making some proper traction!

is the universe a mathematical structure?

Quantum physics can predict the behaviour of particles and energy to an extraordinary degree. Quantum Electrodynamics, for example, predicts a value for the electromagnetic fine structure constant which is so accurate that we have not been able to find a difference between the predicted value and the real value despite measuring to 14 decimal points (the measurements are difficult!)

The point of this is that the result of the most precise measurements we have ever made can be predicted using some math, without needing to do the actual measurement.

This is because the universe is mathematical in nature. There is nothing in the universe which we don’t have a formula for.

A co-worker retorted “what about the soul?” Treating that like the serious question she intended it to be, even thoughts and so-called “free will” can be predicted using math. Thoughts are determined by processes in the brain involving chemistry and electricity; both of which are well understood and predictable.

We have artificial neural networks which work similar to the brain. While they sometimes do things that we don’t immediately understand and which look like thought, we can examine the weights and synapses of the network and break every thought and decision right down to the 1s and 0s that they’re made of.

Just because we don’t understand how something works, doesn’t mean that it’s magic. The brain is not magic. Each tiny part of the brain works in very precise and predictable ways, and the thoughts and decisions that we call “free will” emerge from the billions of neural firings that happen every second (13 billion per second! There are 86,000,000,000 neurons in the brain, and they all fire on average about .15 times per second).

Everything that happens in the universe is predictable by math.

Even the universe itself, devoid of all matter and energy, is still a mathematical structure. Why are there exactly three space dimensions? An answer can be found in a theory called “Causal Dynamic Triangulation“, which describes how exactly three dimensions of space can arise from a set of mathematical rules involving triangles. The theory is more accepted than the alternative highly-regarded “loop quantum gravity” theory, because it produces exact measurements between points (impossible in LQG), and because it describes space both for Planck-scale measurements (the smallest possible), and for astronomical scales as well.

The fact that everything in the universe is predictable with math, even space itself, allows the possibility that you can create a single equation that predicts absolutely everything that can happen.

And if you run that calculation? You would be able to pick a precise date and time, and tell exactly what the state of the universe is on that time (or at least, you would know the most likely layout – quantum mechanics is very precise but also fuzzy).

This is regardless of so-called “free will”. Everything is predictable, including thoughts, if you have enough starting information.

It gets weird now: if everything, including thoughts, can be predicted using a single (probably very complex) formula or algorithm, then how do you know that you are real?

I mean, if everything you do is simply a result of an algorithm following its steps one by one, as physics shows us, then are you anything more than just a bunch of variables in that algorithm?

And if so, then is there a difference between the algorithm running for real in some super-computer somewhere, as people like Elon Musk suggest, or running in potential simply because every mathematical algorithm that can exist must have results whether the algorithm is run or not?

Personally, I’m in the latter camp for a number of reasons:
1. If the universe is running in a super-computer somewhere, is the super computer real or running inside a simulation of its own?
2. The eternal question “why is there something rather than nothing” is solved forever if there really is nothing and everything we see is simply a shared simulation running in potential but not in “reality”.
3. It also helps explain another related issue – is there exactly one universe? No, there are infinite universes, for each possible result of this universal algorithm, and every single one of them “exists” is a result, even if they are not “real”.
4. What is reality? When he heard the idea that nothing is “real” and that reality is subjective (immaterialism), Samuel Johnson famously kicked a rock hard and shouted “I refute it thus!”. However, that’s not a refutation – in a universe where you and I share a hallucination, everything in that hallucination is real to us, whether the objects are objectively real or not.

A very welcome bonus to the idea that the universe is mathematical in nature, is the possibility that it leads to personal immortality, through the idea of quantum immortality.

sunscreen as a Multiple Sclerosis cure

I wrote recently about Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and how a British scientist, Dr Su Metcalfe of LifNano, had come up with method that can potentially cure it completely.

Another scientist, Hector DeLuca in the US, has discovered that two ingredients of sunscreen, homosalate and octisalate, can halt MS in its tracks

MS is a disease which is prevalent in countries which are far from the equator, leading scientists to believe that it is related to vitamin D deficiency, so it is counter-intuitive that a substance that is intended to prevent sunlight (in particular, ultraviolet rays) from hitting the skin, should turn out to be beneficial.

He and his colleagues were studying the effect of ultraviolet light on mice which had a rodent version of MS. In particular, light at 300-315 nanometres. The experiment was designed such that light was shone onto the backs of mice that had been shaved to allow the light to reach the skin easier. Some of the mice had sunscreen applied to lessen the effect. Some mice had neither light nor sunscreen, and some mice had sunscreen but no light.

It was expected that the ultraviolet light would help lessen the MS. But it was found instead that the greatest effect was visible in mice that had the sunscreen applied, even if no ultraviolet light was applied to them.

After experimentation, it was found that the ingredients causing the effect were homosalate and octisalate.

Dr DeLuca suspects that the reason the drugs work is that they suppress the creation of cyclooxygenase, which is found in MS lesions.

Read more about cures for MS in my book, How To Live Forever.