quantum immortality and old age

The idea behind quantum immortality is that there are infinite universes, and everything that can happen, happens in at least one of those universes. Thus, if you were to fall from a building, for example, then you would, in at least on of those universes, land in a bush or tree, or get blown onto a canopy, etc.

The scenarios described in quantum immortality usually only cover drastic events, though, where the “decision” between live and die is obvious. A gun fires, a bomb explodes, you fall from a building, etc.

But old age is not quite as obvious as that. It’s a lot more gradual.

Having said, that, though, maybe old age is the same?

When we say that someone died of old age, what comes to mind is that someone gradually declined until either they just stopped breathing, or their heart stopped.

Those are definitive moments that, if we’re talking about old age degeneration, and not something traumatic, has no obvious cause and is random in nature. Will the heart stop now, or in a minute? Will this be the last breath? It’s impossible to predict, making this ideal for quantum immortality.

You see, with quantum immortality, the fact that something is random means that it will happen in some universes, and won’t happen in others.

So, in many universes, the person that’s lying on the bed dies this hour. In some others, in a few hours, and in even rarer universes, the person lasts the day and is still hanging on tomorrow.

Quantum immortality relies on there being a universe for every possibility. Not just most. Every. So, if there is a random chance that the person will survive the day, even if the chance is one in billions, then it will definitely happen.

And because every death has some cause behind it, even if we don’t yet know what the cause is, the person that is dying on the bed just has to last long enough for the cause to be found and its cure applied.

Quantum immortality guarantees that the person will survive long enough, even if it’s tens (or hundreds!) of years. Luckily, though, we are living in very interesting times, and all causes of death are being discovered and cured, with new cures available almost every week.

With quantum immortality, old age is not to be feared – it just means you’ll be sick for a while until the cure for aging (*cough*senolytics*cough*) is found.

If you want to read more, read the chapters on Quantum Immortality in my “how to live forever” book.

longevity escape velocity

The main part of this website is the book, “how to live forever“, and even as it was written, I kept changing my mind about what the “thrust” of the thing was – is it simply a list of diseases? Is there a central premise? Does a step-by-step instruction set even exist?

I believe that I have the premise now (and will need to rewrite parts of the book now…), which is based around “longevity escape velocity” (note to self: good chapter name)

In the past hundred years, life expectancy at birth has increased in parts of the world from about 64.75 years in 1928, to 89.5 years today. The “life expectancy at birth” is the age at which actuarial calculations predict that humans will die, based on current conditions and past performance.

64.75 to 89.5 is an increase of about 25 years in one century. 25 extra years that a person might live.

While that sounds like a lot (25 years is almost half again of 60 years), it’s not enough to guarantee immortality.

Even if we repeat the trick this century, and tack on an extra 25.25 years to the expected 89.5 years (that a person in Monaco might expect to live), we still have an expected age at death of only 114.75.

As I pointed out in that previous post, though, life expectancy predictions are usually pessimistic, because they rely on the technology of the time, and cannot predict accurately what the future will bring.

The biggest change that we have made in the last few years is one that has not yet filtered down to the world’s clinics – instead of treating old age as a simple winding down and inevitable end to the body, we are now beginning to treat it as a disease that can be treated and cured.

The full “cure” for old age is not likely to appear for a very long time, but that does not matter, as we can concentrate on the more accessible “longevity escape velocity” as a near-term goal.

So what does “longevity escape velocity” mean?

Let’s say that every year, we discover how to let the average person live an extra half year, the current average age of death is 80, and you are 40. How long do you think it will be before you die (on average)? When you are 80 the average age of death will be 100. When you’re 100, the average age of death will be 110. When 110, 115. When 115, 117.5. On average, people will still die by 120, despite the progress.

This is because half a year is /less than/ one year.

But let’s say we discovered how to add on 1.5 years to the average lifespan every year, the current average age of death is 80, and you are 40.

When you are 80, the average expected age of death will be 120. When you are 120, it will be 210. Instead of being almost guaranteed dead at 120, you are now middle-aged!

Even if we have not discovered a total and final cure for old age, if you are 120 and have an extra 90 years to live /at that moment/, you are almost certain to find yet another way to push back that final curtain further, even if it’s not forever.

We are already discovering how to do these things.

The current accepted biological limit to human life is 126 years, because of something called the “Hayflick” limit, which is caused by telomeres shortening on DNA every time it replicates itself. But we have already found ways to lengthen this. Elizabeth Parrish, CEO of BioViva, became the first person to extend telomeres, extending her own by 9%, which equates to between 14 and 20 years extra, bringing her potential lifespan up to 140+ years.

It might even be possible to repeat the same treatment, so she has potentially worked around the Hayflick limit permanently.

This gives us all an extra few years of life to work on whatever the next issue is.

Aging is caused by a lot of different things happening to the cells of the body. Telomere shortening is just one.

Another is that your mitochondria lose the ability to absorb oxygen and convert it to energy as the years go on. By fixing this, we gain another few years. David Sinclair’s research with NAD+ addresses this issue.

Then there are senescent cells – cells which have reached their “end of life”, and yet stick around, taking up space that would be better used by younger cells, and giving out inflammation proteins. We can now selectively kill these cells with FOXO4-DRI and UBX0101 drugs.

All of these are treatments that add on multiple years to your life. And these have all been announced only in the last five years.

It might not be possible to predict the future accurately, but I’m fairly sure it will be a long one!

what is the maximum lifespan of the human body?

It’s amusing to watch people predict things and then see their predictions fall flat almost before the words leave their mouths.

In 1928, Louis Dublin used US life tables to predict an “ultimate figure of 64.75“, saying that it was impossible for a human to live longer than that without the intervention of “radical innovations or fantastic evolutionary change in our physiological make-up, such as we have no reason to assume”.

He was not aware that at that very moment, non-Māori women of New Zealand had a life expectancy of 74.9 years – more than 10 years more than Dublin thought was possible (see Life Expectancy table here).

8 years later, in 1936, Dublin worked with Alfred Lotka on a reassessment, taking New Zealand’s data into account, and predicted a new limit, 69.93. in 1941, only five years later, women in Iceland broke that limit

Undeterred, he tried again, predicting a life expectancy limit of 70.8 years in 1941. Only five years later it was reported that women were reaching into their 80s in Norway.

The error with this kind of prediction, which people keep on doing over and over, is that it is based on information available on how long we lived in the past, but doesn’t take into account that we are always discovering new ways to live longer.

In 1990, S. Jay Olshansky predicted that “it seems highly unlikely that life expectancy at birth will exceed the age of 85“. In 2002, the life expectancy of Japanese females at birth was 85.2 years.

The country with the current highest life expectancy at birth is Monaco, with an expected life expectancy of 89.5 years.

It should be noted that “life expectancy” is not a limit on mortality. It doesn’t state for a fact, that people will not live longer than that. All it says is that this is the age at which most people are expected to die. There will be outliers that live well beyond that, and accidents where people die before that.

But, the fact that the number keeps on increasing, no matter what the experts say, shows that the human race is (very) gradually winning the fight against mortality.

More recent limits are based not on the past indicators of how long people have lived, but on limitations imposed on the human body by biology itself.

A recent prediction is that the biological limit for human longevity is 126 years old, based on the Hayflick limit, which limits how long a human cell can keep replicating itself, because the telomeres at the end of the DNA shorten each time, until the cells stop replicating and go into senescent mode instead.

But, there is now a treatment that can lengthen telomeres, showing that yet again, the naysayers who put limits on what is possible, are consistently low-reaching. And even for those cells that have passed their Hayflick limits, we have senolytics designed for killing senescent cells.

The future is optimistic. We are pushing our mortality further and further into the future. Read more about how we are learning to solve these problems in my book on how to live forever.

Scurvy in the 21st century

Scurvy is a disease that we might have thought was gone long ago, since we all know that vitamin C cures scurvy, and we all know where to get vitamin C easily.

The cure for scurvy (fruits, and oranges in particular) has been discovered and rediscovered for thousands of years since at least 1500BCE, when scurvy was described in the Ebers papyrus in Egypt.

The actual vitamin C was not discovered until 1932, but it was proven in 1794 that lemon juice can prevent scurvy, when Commander Peter Rainier left on a voyage to India that took 23 weeks, in which not one person contracted scurvy. Another similar voyage only 50 years before that, led by George Anson, resulted in the loss of 1300 of 2000 crew mostly from scurvy.

To find that this disease is still visible today despite the cure being so readily available is surprising, and yet it is here.

An article in the Cornwall Alive newspaper describes increasing cases of scurvy, gout, and rickets among the population caused by the ease with which takeaway foods, which generally are not nutritionally good, can be bought.

Scurvy symptoms include fatigue, pain in the limbs, reddish-blue spots on the skin.

It doesn’t take a lot to avoid these problems. Just eat your fruits and vegetables, and go out into that sunlight every now and then.

selective destruction of SnCs in cartilage

Senescent cells (SnCs) have a role to play in the healing of wounds, but they tend to stick around afterwards, causing eventually more harm than they relieve.

A team of scientists led by Chaekyu Kim of the John Hopkins University School of Medicine used a senolytic drug, UBX0101, to clear out SnCs accumulating in the cartilage of mice that were recovering from cuts to the anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL – ligaments that cross over each other in an X shape behind the knees).

They chose this area to study because it has been noted that ACL injuries have a tendency to accumulate SnCs after injury, causing post-trauma osteoarthritis.

After the cuts, UBX0101 was injected into some mice.

The mice that received the injections did not suffer from osteoarthritis after healing from the cuts, and were able to regenerate cartilage lost during the injury.

Unity Biotechnology, who created UBX0101, received $116,000,000 in a round of investment last year, from investors such as Jeff Bezos, May Clinic Ventures, Venrock, and ARCH Venture Partners.

While this particular study was focused on osteoarthritis, SnCs can accumulate in all tissues in the body, so senolytic drugs (which trigger apoptosis in those cells to clear them) out can have a large range of uses.

workshop progress

I’m still working away at the foundations of the thing. Building things takes longer than I thought – especially if you’re doing it completely by hand, and only have an hour or two in the evenings!

I had some ideas on further things I want to dive into with the lab/workshop/shed once built.

One main reason for the entire project is so that I can work on projects that I simply can’t do within the house, such as working on electronics, etc. I can’t work in the house comfortably if I only have an hour or two each evening, only have a small area to work in (most of which is taken up already by my laptop), and I have to clear up whenever someone needs to use the table. By having a dedicated workshop, I can have a few projects going at the same time, and simply walk away after each session, knowing that I can pick up exactly where I left off the next day, without needing to go search for my bits and pieces.

The projects I already had in mind:
1. 3D printer to replace the old one that finally fell apart. first job: print a second new printer.
2. protein synthesis. far future plan. there are details online on how to automate protein synthesis.
3. vertical garden. I have a large plan for this, but basically, I want to be able to grow food using containers that I can store underground, lighting with LEDs, and feeding with nutrient baths.
4. calorimeters and other tools to measure nutritional content of food and plants.
5. food dispenser that is designed to output meals with very specific nutritional values.
6. spectrophotometer. should be simple enough. This is so I can measure protein in the protein synthesis project, and soil nutrient content for the vertical garden project

The idea for project 5 came about because of the month I spent eating Jimmy Joy (Joylent). While the prepackaged meal seemed like a perfect idea before I started, it soon became clear that it was designed for a person that is much more active than me, and I could not eat a reduced amount of it and yet keep 100% nutrition – so I designed and build a program that can use common off-the-shelf ingredients to generate customised nutritionally-balanced meals.

Of course, I’d like to know for sure that the meals actually do end up with the values that I calculate, so project 4 is for that.

And I’d like to grow my own source ingredients for the dispenser, so project 3 lets me do that.

how to live forever book

As you are probably aware, this blog is basically a portal into my book, which is a science-based approach to not dying.

I originally created this blog based on the idea that if I talked about the various topics in the book, then while talking about the topics, I may come up with better ways to explain the thoughts, and also come across new discoveries based on those topics.

A side-effect I had hoped would come about from the blog, was that people finding the website through Google would teach me what keywords they were searching for, and so I could expand on those topics to become more expert in them.

Mostly, this has not worked, because the book is about things that millions of people talk about every day, and so people that are far more informed and verbose than I am are writing better blogs than me.

What I found, though, is that niche information, such as on the FOXO4 DRI peptide, or on SBSI calculators, is not written about a lot online, so it’s easy to be found for those keywords.

I would be happy if there was a lot of information available about those so I could expand further into the topics, but I seem to have exhausted it!

The SBSI calculation research does not appear to be going any further than the original paper, so there’s not much more that can be written about it (if I’m wrong, please tell me!)

As for the FOXO4 DRI, it is still too expensive for me to afford so I can’t write anything from personal experience, there is still no information about human clinical trials, and those people that are self-testing don’t appear to be writing about it much either.

But, I will keep plugging away!

There are books out there already called similar names such as “how to live forever”, etc, but they are usually fiction and/or religious. It’s hard to explain to Google that when people search for “live forever”, what they’re really looking for is a non-fiction how-to; not a feel-good story or book of moral diatribe.

Diarrhoeal diseases symptoms

Diarrhoea is a sign that your body thinks you’ve eaten something you shouldn’t have, and it wants to get rid of it as quickly as possible.

image: some strains of E-coli can cause gastroenteritis

The most obvious symptom is obviously the diarrhoea itself – a sudden outpouring of watery excrement (stool, poo, whatever you want to call it).

Technically, doctors will only call this diarrhoea if it happens on three separate occasions in one day. Otherwise, it’s just a minor upset.

Diarrhoea is not a single disease, so there is no single group of symptoms to look out for.

There are a number of diseases that have diarrhoea as a side-effect, including lactose intolerance, cholera, coeliac disease, irritable bowel syndrome. Most likely if you have one of those diseases, the diarrhoea is not a surprise.

Diarrhoea is usually caused by a gastrointestinal infection (stomach bug – gastroenteritis), which can be bacterial, viral, or even parasitic in nature.

If there is blood in the stool, the diarrhoea is classed as dysentery, and can take up to 10 days to clear. Go see a doctor as soon as you can.

Diarrhoea is sometimes accompanied by symptoms such as stomach ache, stomach cramps, fever, bloating (your intestinal bacteria are working overtime and putting out gases that expand your body) and sometimes nausea.

In extreme cases (I’ve experienced this one – not nice), you can have strong diarrhoea and vomiting at the same time. It can feel exhausting afterwards.

Because of the amount of fluids that are being expelled by the body during an episode, it is important that you replenish as often as possible.

A person with diarrhoea can lose as much as a litre of water every hour, but it’s not just water that you lose, but salt and zinc.

Top up your zinc intake with supplements while you are affected, and regularly drink a mixture of water, sugar and salt (also known as ORS – oral rehydration solution) to stay hydrated.

While diarrhoea mostly clears up quickly in developed countries, it is still a very dangerous killer in less-developed countries, killing half a million children under five every single year.

Diarrhoea can mostly be avoided by following some very simple instructions:
1. keep your environment clean
2. keep your hands clean (and the rest of you , while you’re at it), with soap
3. don’t touch things or people that are dirty
4. make sure your water is clean (boil it if necessary)

using carbon nanotubes for neural prostheses

Carbon nanotubes are amazing things – they are electrically conductive, thermally conductive, so dark that materials made from them are blacker than whatever you think black looks like, and they are so strong that we may one day make elevators out of them that reach right out into space.

image: carbon nanofibers being spun into yarn

There have been fears circulating that nanotubes are biologically dangerous.

Every new thing has provoked fear-mongering – GMO, vaccines, the telephone, cars, the loom, but the more high-tech a new technology is, the harder it is to dissuade people of those fears, because it’s hard to explain high-tech in a way that’s easy for those fearful people to understand.

In the case of carbon nanotubes, the main fear is that because they are fibrous in nature (like fibre-glass and asbestos), they’re dangerous to the skin and lungs as an irritant, but because they are also so thin that they can penetrate biological cells (which fibreglass and asbestos can’t do), there is an added fear that they can disrupt the cell functions.

A study by researchers led by Laura Bellerini showed that not only do carbon nanotubes not interfere with the function of cells, but that they may be perfect for creating neural interfaces; something we will need for when we are coming up with ways to either speak directly to the brain, read directly from the brain.

The study also showed that when neurons are embedded in carbon nanotubes, they mature more quickly and grow new synapses (connections with other neurons).

While the potential for this goes well into sci-fi (uploading the brain, for example), the near-term uses are still phenomenal.

An example use in the near-term is to help create a link between an artificial hippocampal prosthesis, and the surrounding brain tissue.

The hippocampus is the simplest part of the brain to understand – data comes in one end, and goes out the other. A team of researchers spent ten years slicing a hippocampus up into tiny slices and measuring the electrical pathways, before recreating it in software, with an array of input probes, and another array of output probes. When the probes were placed in a rat’s brain (after cutting out its hippocampus), it was found that the prosthesis allowed the rat to make new memories. Human trials are currently underway.

Probably the hardest part of replacing the hippocampus is the reconnection, where the existing defunct hippocampus is removed, and the new artificial one is connected. The artifical device doesn’t need to go into the brain itself, but there must be a connection made between the brain and the device. This is currently done with an array of needles, but there is a limit to how fine those needles can get.

With carbon nanotubes, there is no such limit – because they are so much thinner than the thinnest metal needles, it should be possible to simply slide an entire array of them into place and have the carbon nanotubes automatically interface with neurons.

Mass Spectrophotometer

It’s Sunday. I had planned on getting the next part of my shed done (laying the concrete and bricks for the foundation), but forgot that shops don’t open Sundays. Damn.

The next time I’ll be free to work on this will be Wednesday, so I’m stuck here with nothing much to do but imagine.

I was trying to figure out which tools I need to build first once the lab is completed.

The end goal is to produce my own medicines/drugs, so I will need to develop a protein synthesis machine. I said yesterday that I thought it would be possible to do with home-built equipment. After reading up on it further, I am certain of that now.

But, there is no point starting off with that, yet. Even if I built a machine which could build proteins (using “solid state protein synthesis” – very simplified explanation here), I would have no way of being sure that it worked.

So, I need to build a measurement device first that can identify proteins.

The most common method used in a lab is by using a mass spectrometer. Those are quite expensive, even if you build them yourself.


Mass spectrophotometers, though, are cheap to build. The idea is simple – dissolve your sample in a solution, shine light of various colours through the solution, and measure the strength of the light that gets through the sample by using a light-dependent resistor. Here’s a video showing one in action. The diffraction grate is rotated a little at a time to change the frequency of light being inspected, and the voltage change is shown on screen.

The diffraction grate, by the way, is made from a piece of CD or DVD! If you shine light onto a DVD and look at the reflection, the light is broken apart into its various colours. This happens because of quantum mechanics. I thought I understood the mechanism (as described in Brian Cox’s book “The Quantum Universe”), but Wikipedia’s description is confusing.

Even while I’m building the protein synthesis machine, this will still be useful – I can use it to analyse the content of my garden’s soil to figure out the best crops to grow in it 😉

So, I now have a small shopping list of things to buy to build this spectrophotometer.

In fact, I might already have all the ingredients! I think I’m missing a light dependent resistor, but might not be…