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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Denial of Aging

As one of the first baby-boomers, I will begin collecting Social Security cheques this coming November, after turning 62 in September. So, it was with much interest that I recently picked up the book " The Denial of Aging-Perpetual Youth, Eternal Life, and Other Dangerous Fantasies"--Muriel R. Gillick, M.D. (2006).

A review on the back cover noted, " Finally, a book that tells the truth about aging, starting with the fact that eating right and exercising will not prevent it. Dr. Gillick provides a fascinating guide for the journey into old age, and shows us how to make the best of it. Boomers (and most other grown-ups) will find her book right on target."-- Marcia Angell, former Editor in Chief, New England Journal of Medicine, and author of "The Truth about the Drug Companies."

The following are excerpts from Dr. Gillick's chapter entitled "The Lure of Immortality",

'...Today's reality entails treating, and trying to cure, one disease at a time, which just props up failing bodies. Pro-longevists are fully cognizant of the limitations of this approach to aging. Proponents of a view known as the unitary theory of aging...see...the right approach to controlling aging is to shut off the process altogether. This theory, which holds that there is an on/off switch, implies that finding the switch and learning how to control it will lead to the simultaneous preservation of the function of all bodily systems. The result, according to Richard Miller, a reputable pro-longevity scientist, will be an increase in the average lifespan to 112 years and in the maximum lifespan to 140 years.'

'Scientists are hot on the trail of the switch...'

'...It is possible that scientists will discover indirect ways of influencing the switch, even if they can't figure out precisely how to turn it off. One possible strategy, in vogue in the 1990's, is to manipulate telomeres. All chromosomes have mysterious repeating sequences of DNA at their tips, known as telomeres. As cells divide and age, the telomeres become shorter and shorter until, at some critical length, the cells can no longer divide. The enzyme telomerase prevents telomeres from shortening, in principle conferring immortality on cells, allowing them to multiply indefinitely. Michael West, a colorful, charismatic, and controversial scientist, was one of the early believers in telomeres as the key to aging. 10 West--erstwhile fundamentalist Christian born again as a physician and then anew as a molecular biologist--started with a company he called Geron to isolate the gene for telomerase. The gene was found and sequenced by scientists under contract to Geron, but the leap from a DNA sequence to a pill for immortality has proved as great as the leap from C. elegans [a one- millimeter worm popular among biologists who study aging] to human beings. West himself has moved onto other strategies for life extension, principally centered on therapeutic cloning, or the use of stem cells to make new body parts to replace worn-out old ones. He continues to believe that death is the enemy, commenting that "the life cycle [is] completely unacceptable."...

MrKen wholeheartedly agrees with that last quote!

Footnote '10' An excellent book about the scientific pursuit of life extension, which features an engaging and extensive account of the activities and antics of Michael West, is Stephen Hall's Merchants of Immortality: Chasing the Dream of Human Life Extension (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003).

Links to a review of this book:

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Earth-Like Planet Discovered in Libra


Earth-Like Planet Discovered in Libra

Listen to this story... by

Astronomers have discovered the most Earth-like planet yet in another solar system. It is the first planet outside of our solar system that could be home to liquid water. Above is an artist's illustration of the planet, which scientists think is either rocky, or covered with oceans. ESO

The Earth-like planet orbits Gliese 581 — a red dwarf located 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra. Red dwarf stars are too faint to be seen from Earth with the naked eye. Digital Sky Survey

Morning Edition, April 25, 2007 · Scientists have discovered a new planet in the constellation Libra. The small, rocky planet is special because it appears to have mild temperatures, like Earth. Researchers believe it looks like the first planet outside of our solar system that could be home to liquid water, and maybe even life.

Our solar system has only eight planets — nine if you count Pluto. But outside of our solar system, around other stars, scientists have found dozens and dozens of planets.

"We have discovered more than 100 planets, here in Geneva," says Michel Mayor, a planet hunter at the University of Geneva.

Almost all of these known "extrasolar" planets are giant balls of gas, much like Jupiter or Saturn. Such massive planets are relatively easy to find. They have a gravitational pull that makes their stars wobble, and when scientists see that wobble, they know there is a planet. Small, rocky planets cause less of a wobble, making them harder to find.

Still, Mayor and his colleagues have had some luck using the European Southern Observatory's big telescope at La Silla, Chile. They recently pointed it at a nearby star called Gliese 581, in the constellation Libra.

"It's one of our closest neighbors in the galaxy," Mayor says.

His team has found three planets around this star, and one of them is particularly interesting. They think the planet is a little bigger than Earth, with about five times the Earth's mass. It orbits very close to its star, going all the way around in just 13 days. The planet isn't super hot though, because Gliese 581 is a red dwarf, which is much dimmer and cooler than our sun.

Scientists calculate that average temperatures on the surface of the planet should be around 32 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Mayor says that is a friendly environment for liquid water and maybe even life.

Curtesy of NPR-- for the complete story, please follow this link:

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Manny Ramirez Asks Red Sox If He Can Work At Home

Manny Ramirez Asks Red Sox If He Can Work From Home

The Onion

Manny Ramirez Asks Red Sox If He Can Work From Home

BOSTON—Claiming that a relaxed atmosphere and a chance to create his own schedule would greatly benefit his productivity, Red Sox...

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Bill Moyers Interviews Jon Stewart

Last Friday, April 27th on Bill Moyers Journal, Bill Moyers talked with Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART, about how faking the news can reveal more of the truth than all of the Sunday-morning talk shows put together.

MrKen was impressed at Jon Stewart's discussion of the 'surge'-- tied to the Bush Administration's careful avoidance of reinstituting a draft. This policy would seem to fly in the face of the undeniable fact that the armed forces of the U.S. are known to be severely strained. But Mr. Stewart knows that our Imperial government does not want to wake up the citizenry. Here is an excerpt from this fascinating interview:

BILL MOYERS: Well, what is your thinking about why it is as-- the war enters its fifth year, and the President has announced - an extension of tours to 15 months, and they're going to call up the National Guard. And April was the bloodiest month so far since the war started, and there was one day in April that was the bloodiest day. That people have seen they have no way to get the guys in Washington, and Condoleezza Rice, to listen to them. That there seems a detachment emotionally, and politically in this country from what is happening.

JON STEWART: It's very hard to feel the difficulties that the military goes through. It's very hard to feel the difficulties of military families, unless you're in that environment. And sometimes you have to force yourself to try and put yourself in other people's sort of shoes and environment to get the sense of that.

JON STEWART: You know, one of the things that I do think government counts on is that people are busy. And it's very difficult to mobilize a busy and relatively affluent country, unless it's over really crucial-- you know, foundational issues. That come sort of sort of a tipping point.


JON STEWART: But war that hasn't affected us here, in the way that you would imagine a five-year war would affect a country. I think that's why they're so really — here's the disconnect. It's sort of this odd and I've always had this problem with the rationality of it. That the President says, "We are in the fight for a way of life. This is the greatest battle of our generation, and of the generations to come. "And, so what I'm going to do is you know, Iraq has to be won, or our way of life ends, and our children and our children's children all suffer. So, what I'm gonna do is send 10,000 more troops to Baghdad."

So, there's a disconnect there between — you're telling me this is fight of our generation, and you're going to increase troops by 10 percent. And that's gonna do it. I'm sure what he would like to do is send 400,000 more troops there, but he can't, because he doesn't have them. And the way to get that would be to institute a draft. And the minute you do that, suddenly the country's not so damn busy anymore. And then they really fight back, and then the whole thing falls apart. So, they have a really delicate balance to walk between keeping us relatively fearful, but not so fearful that we stop what we're doing and really examine how it is that they've been waging this.

(Italics, coloring by MrKen).

For the full interview, please follow this link:

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