Archive for January, 2012


Some words of wisdom

Tuesday, 24 January, 2012

I’ve written about mitochondrial transplants for human embryos before (especially how it isn’t new, having been first done in 1998), but it still is getting a lot of press as a “three-parent IVF” method. But fortunately the Wellcome Trust has an article to set them all straight on the science of it. I like this part:

1 + 1 + 0.00001 ≠ 3

Also, in an article to The Times the Wellcome Trust’s director, Sir Mark Walport, wrote this very pithy sentence:

 If a child with donated mitochondria can be said to have three parents, then the recipient of a heart transplant could be said to have four.

Damn straight!


The five enhancements you can do today!

Monday, 23 January, 2012

All the enhancements I write about are usually quite a ways off in the future. But you can enhance yourself today. Not by enhancing your genes, not yet, but by optimising your environment to be precisely what your genes evolved to inhabit. You won’t get to superhuman, but you can be better than you were yesterday. Who knows, maybe you will increase your chances of living long enough to see, and perhaps gain, some of the more radical human enhancements that are coming in the future.



(image via Flickr by endofmorose)

Be friendly

Social interaction is vital for mental and physical health (Holt-Lunstad et al, 2009). Being isolated is just as bad for you as smoking or drinking. Humans evolved in small groups, with families and friends close almost all the time. So it’s good for you to be friendly. Talk to your family, make new friends and catch up with the old. You will be happier and healthier with more friends and family.




If you’re reading this when you should be asleep, go to sleep and read this post in the morning. People who consistently sleep only 5 hours rather than the recommended 7+ hours are 70% more likely to die (Ferrie et al, 2007). Humans evolved with only fire and moonlight as lights at night, so make sure your bedroom is dark at night and if you do have to use a light, use a fire-coloured light because orange/red won’t wake you up as much (Brainard et al, 2001).



Eat healthy

You are what you eat, and if you want to be healthy and balanced you need to eat healthy and balanced. The human species first appeared 200,000 years ago, and humans would have fed themselves on whatever animals they could catch and whatever plants were in season. Only as recently as 10,000 years ago, humans started farming. But agriculture was not an enhancement, as evidence from skeletal remains indicate that human height declined by about 15cm due to an over-reliance on grain-based foods for nutrition. So for dietary advice, I say eat a variety of natural foods like vegetables, fruits and fish/meat. (Side note: humans have been eating saturated animal fat and fruit sugars for a lot longer than we’ve been eating wholegrain bread, don’t be afraid of including them in a balanced diet)



(image from motivationforfitness)


For now, the only way to increase your strength, endurance, flexibility and even intelligence (exercise increases brain stem cells) is to keep your body and mind active. Like a diet, a variety of exercise is the key. Humans evolved in an environment where they’d spend a lot of time walking, but sometimes they’d run and swim and climb trees and lift heavy objects. So to be fit and healthy, you have to provide your body with this same variety of stimuli that your body has evolved to expect. A lot of time walking, some time running and some time lifting heavy objects. (Side note: for my female readers, note that the differences between the male and female body is determined by hormones and not by exercise routines. Working out ‘like a man’ will NOT make you look like a man)

(image from Flickr, by a.drian)

See your health care professional

People who visit the doctor for checkups live longer and are healthier than people who don’t (Hozawa et al, 2010). Even if you’re young and healthy, you still should have a checkup with your doctor, dentist and optometrist every 2 years (more frequently if you’re older or have a health issue). Furthermore, health care professionals can provide you with all the other enhancements you can get: contraceptives, vaccines, corrective eyeglasses/surgery, orthodontics and various pharmaceuticals.

Years from now, you will wish you did these things when I told you to.