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While the World Watched (2011)

While the World Watched:
A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age during the Civil Rights Movement, Carolyn Maull McKinstry and Denise George (2011)($9, amazon.com link)

Young Emmett Till might as well have been a dog struck by a car on the highway, its carcass left on the roadside to rot and decay, then picked up and shipped in a box back to its owner. What did this horrifying event say to me, even as a child? That black life is irrelevant, insignificant, worthless. The loss of black life is of no consequence.

Here’s a good book on the racism that occurred during the early days of the Civil Rights movement. After knowing Earl R. and his opinions on MLK being a great speaker and figure for the movement, but not an orchestrator – that role going to A. Phillip Randolph – I believe Carolyn speaks too highly of MLK Jr., and not highly enough of others. Still, she’s only doing this because from her view – like that of most of us – MLK was the leader.

I do disagree with her belief that there’s a spirituality lacking from our modern world, especially with the advent of science. [2017 thoughts: I understand better now. Some scientists do not lack this spirituality, knowing that after physics and mathematics one comes again to philosophy and spirituality, although many others do. But among the general public, what she writes is true: we lack spirit, conviction, ethics, brotherhood…]

But I agree with the bulk of the book, and that “Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.” I also like the Birmingham Pledge:

  • I believe that every person has worth as an individual.

  • I believe that every person is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of race or color.

  • I believe that every thought and every act of racial prejudice is harmful; if it is my thought or act, then it is harmful to me as well as to others.

  • Therefore, from this day forward I will strive daily to eliminate racial prejudice from my thoughts and actions.

  • I will discourage racial prejudice by others at every opportunity.

  • I will treat all people with dignity and respect; and I will strive daily to honor this pledge, knowing that the world will be a better place because of my effort.

  • In signing this document, people are pledging to believe in the worth of every person God created and to treat people with respect and dignity. It is also an acknowledgment that racial discrimination—every thought and every cruel action—is harmful, both to the offender and to the recipient. So basic, so simple, and yet so life honoring.

It is good to remember, from time to time, the way the spirits of many passionate and just Americans were crushed by the early events in the Civil Rights movement, and by the three high profile assassinations in five years. My generation cannot imagine it.

They close:

I’m concerned about a better world. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.

Quantum Nutrition: A Short Introduction

In 2013, in my first semester of graduate school, I had an idea:

“What if we could trace the effects of a single nutrient from physics/chemistry/geology up through biology, past neuroscience and behavior, through all other areas of the university, from economics and art history to geopolitics and beyond?”

Not until 2017 did I realize this is what the true scientific study of “nutrition” attempts to do. It simply lacks an adequate theory to make testable predictions and unify other related scientific fields.

 


Table of Contents


Current Definition and Problems

 

Archaic definitions

Here are a few conventional definitions of the word “nutrition” from the web:

Websters’:

the act or process of nourishing or being nourished; specifically : the sum of the processes by which an animal or plant takes in and utilizes food substances. / foods that are necessary for human nutrition

Cambridge:

the process by which the body takes in and uses food, esp. food that it needs to stay healthy, or the scientific study of this process

 

There are several major problems with these and other standard definitions of the word nutrition:

  • They use the word “food” or “nourish,” which itself, being from the Latin nutrire, centers around the idea of “food.” This may be useful for those with more philosophical conceptions of the word “food.” Unfortunately, in modern America and conventional “nutrition science,” the word food is usually conceptually disconnected from the concepts of air and water, even more necessary to nourish life. Modern “nutrition science” essentially ignores air, water, and their nourishment.
  • They often refer anthropomorphically to the human body, as opposed to the biological concept of the cell (or another accepted model) or the concept of any multicellular organism.
  • They fail to account for essential subatomic particles and processes.

 


From “Vitamins and Minerals” to “Minerals and Molecules”

Worse, the term “vitamin” has no good scientific definition, and the archaic “vitamin and mineral” model is outdated and nearly useless. Here are three reasons:

  1. “Vitamin D” (cholecalciferol) has been well known for decades, scientifically, to be a hormone. It is not an essential dietary nutrient; rather, it is an essential hormone synthesized by human skin when cellular processes use light to convert the molecule 7-Dehydrocholesterol to “previtamin D3” and later cholecalciferol itself. However, the subatomic particle known as a photon (at 290-315 nm) is a necessary nutrient, absorbed in humans by the skin and used as noted.
  2. Most “vitamins” are actually groups of molecules, such as the A group, the B group, the E group, and the K group. To my knowledge, only “vitamin C” refers a single individual molecule: ascorbic acid.
  3. With each passing year, it appears that there are other “essential molecules,” such as the so-called pseudovitamins and phytonutrients, potentially known molecules like caffeine, nicotine, or DMT, and many others. Given the complexity and ability of the various micro-biomes to evolve and synthesize molecules based on other nutritional inputs, some humans may have bacterial synthesis of essential dietary molecules whereas others do not, so the word “essential” is quite problematic. However, there are certainly undocumented essential molecules (just as there are undocumented essential elements).

We must therefore move towards a better categorization of nutrients.

While subatomic particles must be technically included (below), the phrases “atoms and molecules” or “elements and molecules” are scientifically accurate phrases to replace “vitamin and mineral.” However, I suggest the phrase “minerals and molecules” for the public, using the periodic table for the former, and reminding the public that a molecule is simple an individual arrangement of bonded atoms. The term “mineral” from “minerals and molecules” would be technically inaccurate, since elements on the periodic table like Carbon and Nitrogen are not minerals per se, but “minerals and molecules” serves as a better phrase for public adoption to promote education and awareness. (Unless the public forgets that for humans, the photon is also an essential subatomic nutrient.)

While these are good starting points to inform public opinion, we still need acceptable scientific definitions in order to make testable hypotheses, to carry nutrition into the modern century, and to prepare it for the next.


A New Theory

 

What is the definition of nutrition?

Nutrition is the study of nutrients and their effects.

What is the definition of a nutrient?

A nutrient is a particle without which an acid-based (amino acid, nucleic acid, etc.) function or reaction cannot occur. For the public: a nutrient is a particle (subatomic, atomic, or molecular) used in a biochemical reaction.

 

How can we categorize nutrients?

Nutrients should be categorized based on standard models from the physical sciences:

  • subatomic particles (photons, electrons, protons, etc.),
  • atoms (lithium, oxygen, sodium, sulfur, etc.),
  • molecules (ascorbic acid, α-Linolenic acid, etc.),
  • and even (optionally) whole cellular organelles and/or organisms.
    • Note: It does not seem likely that whole organelles or cells are used as “nutrients” without being broken down into component macro-molecules and smaller particles first. However, from another perspective, it not only seems likely, it seems a historical biological fact: the “first” mitochondrion was likely an independent cellular entity, consumed or assimilated, in a sense, as a mutually-beneficial symbiotic “nutrient.” Perspective indeed!

 

Naming a Theory

Quantum or quanta may have a few varying definitions in the physical sciences. While the word comes from the Latin quantus, meaning “how great,” in the early 1900s it came to signify the smallest measurable unit. This is especially true of the electromagnetic force, as quantum came to signify the smallest relevant particles: a single electron, a “fermion” with mass; or the photon, a type of “boson,” the massless force-carrier of the electromagnetic force. Quantum often now refers to both indivisible sub-atomic particles and the unpredictable nature of studying these particles.

Quantum is thus a perfect, relevant word for a unifying physical theory of nutrition, although it need not be used only to refer to the electron, photon, and other subatomic particles. Here, the word quantum can be used in a general sense: the smallest useful subatomic, atomic, or molecular unit of nutrition. This is critical, because these three divisions must form the foundation of the future study of nutrition; for example: an electron or photon, versus a single lithium or sodium ion, versus molecular oxygen or caffeine. While larger molecular elements — long chain fatty acids and peptides — are obviously nutrients, they work well under the third molecular division, studied individually or collectively.

As such, a unifying theory of nutrition should be called quantum nutrition or quantum nutrition theory.

 

Questions

This presents numerous questions (thousands, actually). For example:

  • How can we define and differentiate an “essential” or “beneficial” nutrient?
  • What is the difference between a nutrient and a drug?
  • How can we organize nutritional molecules into useful categories?
  • Might there be an organizational approach similar to the standard model or periodic table for these molecules?
  • How can we account for modern, unique, synthesized molecules, which often have negative effects on whole organisms?
  • How can we define “life” and account for entropic decay?
  • What individual diseases, cultural adaptations, and societal challenges are predicted?

 


 

The Future: Unifying the Scientific Disciplines

From physical vs. social sciences towards a unified concept of the sciences

Because nutrients influence all known biochemical processes, nutrition connects physics, chemistry, and other physical sciences to biology, psychology, and all associated scientific disciplines, such as economics, culture, religion, and philosophy. An effective model of nutrition bridges the “gap” between the so-called natural vs. social sciences, allowing, at long last, us to retire the concept of “social sciences.” At some point this century, an effective model of nutrition will allow us to make predictions based on the effects of nutritional photon intake on economic decision making in northern latitudes; or, if all else could be controlled for, nutrition could make predictions on how varying soil levels of magnesium in Northwest vs. Southeast African populations affects leadership styles of elected politicians. This may take decades, of course, but the basic ideas already exist.

We need only connect the dots.

Where to begin?

 

Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari  (2015)

Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari  (2015) ($15, amazon.com link)

“The brain is the best algorithm,” Fisher argues.

Having read a number of relationship books before it, Modern Romance wasn’t groundbreaking, and I wasn’t surprised all that much by data or original thoughts. Nonetheless, it was worth my time – especially if I return to the dating world [2015].

The authors start with a brief history of older marriages and relationships from the US: we used to be satisfied with companion love, having had only a few options in a partner. Today, we suffer from dozens – or millions – of options, and we know from psychological research that in human decision making, more is certainly not always better.

Thus we have created internet-based technological services to help us find a partner. And since the world, and our beliefs, have changed, this technology is good. However, it has its consequences. It has turned some below-average guys into acting like charming, perfect studs; it has overwhelmed many females, and even males, to the point of apathy; and it continues to delude:

“No compelling evidence supports matching sites’ claims that mathematical algorithms work,” they wrote.

…and as such, these sites should be used as introductory services! “Have faith in your ability to size someone up in person.” Ansari says in his final paragraphs. It’s easy for me to say, “Duh!” but hard for many teenage- and early twenty-something’s to internalize.

Unfortunately, the concept of “a perfect soul mate” is likely to do more harm to anyone trying to find this elusive partner than it will help anyone actually be happier. As I’ve read before, happiness is largely about managing expectations. The problem is the idea of the ideal:

That’s the thing about the Internet: It doesn’t simply help us find the best thing out there; it has helped to produce the idea that there is a best thing and, if we search hard enough, we can find it. And in turn there are a whole bunch of inferior things that we’d be foolish to choose.

Notably, everyone (anecdotally, but still!) says they prefer honesty in rejection…yet nobody is actually honest when they reject another person. Ansari’s explanation seems perfect:

If we’re honest with ourselves, we realize that, however bizarre, we actually prefer to be lied to. If someone lies and says they are dating someone or they are moving to another town soon, you don’t feel rejected, because it’s no longer about you. This way, our feelings aren’t hurt and we aren’t left confused or frustrated by silence or “pretend to be busy” issues. So I guess what I’m saying is the next time someone asks you out and you aren’t interested, the nicest thing you can do is write back: “Sorry, can’t do dinner tomorrow. I’m leaving on a secret mission with the space program! When I return to earth, I will have barely aged at all, but you’ll be seventy-eight years old. I just don’t think it’s a good time for me.”

A similar area of psychology Ansari discusses is that we do not know what we really want in a partner. I suppose an algorithm or service that took data cross-referencing personality data on couples, time together, and overall happiness just might have a shot at finding correlations, but unfortunately it seems like we’re a long way from that.

They also write about another psychological point: cheating and being faithful. Technology makes it easier to cheat, some on Reddit argue, but it doesn’t make it more difficult to be faithful. Likewise, we should understand that a single fuck or blowjob shouldn’t ruin a years-long relationship. I’m excited to see how American culture changes over the next few decades – and even more excited to be part of changing it.

In early sections, the authors give some good advice on how to craft an ideal profile picture, some minor suggestions for profile information (and the better suggestion to not waste too much time on the text parts of profiles and communication), and how to message prospects. He presents great psychology on why we play the I’ll-text-you-back-in-twice-the-time-you-waited-to-text-me-back games!

The authors later spend a little time in Japan, Argentina, and France (I think?), writing about a few of the differences, and on topics like snooping, sexting, and the like.

He also hits on Sherry Turkle’s argument, that kids – college kids especially – are “losing their ability to have spontaneous conversation,” not using those parts of their brains, and opting instead to craft perfect text messages and emails. The human species is in a sad state, and I hope this generation has its leaders who rebel against these alarming trends, remaining human!

The best relationship tips were to continue doing exciting things – exactly those to help make first dates seem more exciting and increase attraction between couples. But the book wasn’t much on information on retaining relationships. As such, Strauss’ The Truth will almost certainly be the next related book I read – if not the next nonfiction book I read.

Stilll, for this “modern” “snowflake” generation, this might be the best book to start with, because a) it gets them reading, and b) it’s comedic.

My full highlights (34p) are worth reviewing every year or so.

Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser

Fast Food Nation:
The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, Eric Schlosser ($10, amazon.com link)

…”the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) later fined National Beef for its negligence. The fine was $480 for each man’s death.

This book was released in 2001, I read it in 2013, and I’m writing this report in 2015. I believe it had an afterward from the ten year release of the book, but despite this fact, since most of my highlights are from the bulk of the book — which is basically fifteen years old — I’m going to write this based mostly on the information in the original version, then close based on the afterward and what’s changed.

Eric gives a bit of the history of McDonald’s, and thus how not only this franchise was born, but the overall history of franchising itself. But then he discusses the problems of the system, both its effects on the country and planet, workers, and risks for consumers and the end product.

“The real price never appears on the menu.”

That includes the price of the subsidies we directly pay to the government, which pays to farmers (great?) and industry (not so much?), the taxes we pay for roads and other indirect public services which contribute to this industry, and worse, the price we pay for our poor health. And we cannot forget that healthcare’s rising percentage of GDP is one of the most dangerous threats to western civilizations…

Themes explored in the book:

  • Bringing junk food, especially beverages, into schools, and how these companies pay for schools; how basically our public schools have whored themselves out.
  • Restaurant franchises, their high turnover of employees, how they purchase satellite imagery and are really in the real-estate business!
  • A brief bit on flavors and food scientists, how they concoct the perfect smelling (especially) foods.
  • Ranchers: how the traits that we Americans love in our ideal rancher — independence, a little rebellion, an ideal to work the land — lead this lifestyle to die and large companies to take over.
  • A brief on ConAgra and how a massive corporation — which nobody has ever even heard of — will sell food under scores or dozens of brands!
  • The horrors of meatpackers, how dangerous the life is, and how dangerous the meat it produces really is. And this isn’t simply because of the crap the animals are fed, but because of the way they and the workers are treated, their conditions, and the desire for speed and efficiency.

“A single fast food hamburger now contains meat from dozens or even hundreds of different cattle.”

“The medical literature on the causes of food poisoning is full of euphemisms and dry scientific terms: coliform levels, aerobic plate counts, sorbitol, MacConkey agar, and so on. Behind them lies a simple explanation for why eating a hamburger can now make you seriously ill: There is shit in the meat”.

And what has changed? Our country is learning; there is hope: we are buying more from farmer’s markets, more grass-fed food, more locally. And while it’s debatable whether this is too little, too late for America – especially when we consider the arguments in The Third Plate, that we cannot let customers (or chefs) decide what to eat – it’s still good progress for our country. Parents are fighting back against crap served in schools, against corporate interests and influence; eating fast food is seen as cheap and well known to be poor for health. Without seeing the data on junk or fast food consumption in our country, or seeing if obesity rates have peaked, I am hopeful: you can feel it in the air, at least in the areas I’ve lived. Once the American south starts changing its eating habits, I feel our renaissance will really pick up speed.

“Instead of importing food, they import entire systems of agricultural production.”

Still, elsewhere in the world, especially in more “developing nations,” I have less hope and more caution. It is disgusting that eating fast food is a status symbol in these nations. Our food system may be changing in America because of pressure by books like this one, but that food system is likely the same in these countries, because it’s cheap and the people remain ignorant. What is proven to make money will spread more quickly than what (is almost never really) proven to be healthier, more sustainable, more environmentally respectful…

Eric’s afterword nicely summarizes what we can do, and what we have done to change our country successfully. But little matter: our country will stand or fall with the rest of the Earth, our fate is tied to it. By exporting our ideas, we have exported our problems; we can only hope — and act — to also export the solutions (responsible, ethical leadership) before it is too late:

“The market is a tool, and a useful one. But the worship of this tool is a hollow faith. Far more important than any tool is what you make with it. “

Nobody in the United States is forced to buy fast food. The first step toward meaningful change is by far the easiest: stop buying it. The executives who run the fast food industry are not bad men. They are businessmen. They will sell free-range, organic, grass-fed hamburgers if you demand it. They will sell whatever sells at a profit. The usefulness of the market, its effectiveness as a tool, cuts both ways.”

I hope we change course before the rest of the world — or planet earth itself — kicks our asses for the destruction we are causing.

 

The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman (1995)

The Five Love Languages Gift Edition:
How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, Gary D. Chapman, 1995
(Read 2012, reviewed 2015/2017)(amazon.com link)

 

“In the context of marriage, if we do not feel loved, our differences are magnified. We come to view each other as a threat to our happiness. We fight for self-worth and significance, and marriage becomes a battlefield rather than a haven.”

 

While some may call this a Christian book, the ideas are for almost everyone. Is it the best book for a healthy marriage or relationship? Likely not, but it’s a powerful enough compliment to any short list of books on romantic relationships.

I will never forget the sadness of asking my mom if she’d heard about this book, to which she replied “Oooh yeah, we read that book decades ago!” with an arrogance about the statement. Read, but never practiced.

Like the “love” graph from the other book, Chapman notes that the average “in love” experience lasts about two years. That makes sense to me more and more from a scientific/biological perspective. Twenty-four consecutive menstrual cycles for monogamous couple without a child developing? Of course after 9-18+ such “unsuccessful” menstrual cycles the “chemistry” between any such heterosexual couple would begin to weaken. There may not have been strong evolutionary pressure for this apathy to develop, but it certainly is logical.

 

 

Tools:

The “love tank” concept as how “full” the person’s love “meter” or “tank” is. How close to empty (serious argument in the relationship) or full (contentment, peace, and reciprocity) is the other person? And this written in a book decades before the “gamification” of life we see today!

Chapman suggests a “tank-check” game, where a few times a week we ask our partners “from 0-10, how ‘full’ is your love tank?” Good advice.

He also suggests, if one is completely ignorant of the others’ love language, that we test one language a week for five weeks, knowing that we’ll see significant differences when we’re “speaking” that person’s language.

 

How to figure out our languages

I have suggested three ways to discover your own primary love language:

  1. What does your spouse do or fail to do that hurts you most deeply?The opposite of what hurts you most is probably your love languag
  2. What have you most often requested of your spouse?The thing you have most often requested is likely the thing that would make you feel most love
  3. In what way do you regularly express love to your spouse?Your method of expressing love may be an indication that that would also make you feel loved.

 

 

I do strongly disagree with one statement:

In fact, true love cannot begin until the in-love experience has run its course.

That “biological” or MHC or “matched-opposite” match in a partner can form rapidly, and I totally disagree that the couple must take years and pass through the ‘infatuation’ phase of love first. Me and my partner knew there might be something deeper from the night we met: both ending long relationships shortly before we met each other, and both joking within a few weeks about who would be the heart-beaker versus the heartbroken if/when our relationship ended. I knew consciously before she did, but she knew subconsciously, too, that our relationship would be one for decades and generations. And all this took place far before the infatuation/in-love experience switched over to long-term/companion/”true” love. Chapman is wrong indeed.

But I wonder if he himself still even believes what he wrote.

 

The five languages are:

  1. Words of Affirmation

Compliments. Do more, and not back-handed insults masked as compliments! This may not be either of our strongest love language, but it is the easiest to give and can really pay dividends more than the others!

Make requests rather than demands. The latter treats the other person like a child.

 

  1. Quality Time (aka Quality Conversation)

Funny, in 2017 this “clicks,” but I missed it completely in the past: quality time often (if not always) means quality conversation. A good, stimulating conversation while walking in the park can be better than a short vacation to a distant expensive destination! Makes perfect sense to me now. And even in new “experiences” together, which almost always means unique forms of visual — or sometimes visual + auditory/sensory — stimulation, more knowledge of neuroscience and male/female differences only helps me appreciate these novel experiences more. I am so thrilled to be on a media fast this year.

We must be willing to give advice but only when it is requested and never in a condescending manner.

That’s an excellent life lesson. Only give advice when requested, and never condescendingly. I recall it from How to Win Friends and Influence People, among other books. Good listening is hard work. I look forward to having teenagers to test my patience and listening skills!

 

  1. Gifts

Where do you begin? Make a list of all the gifts your spouse has expressed excitement about receiving through the years. They may be gifts you have given or gifts given by other family members or friends. The list will give you an idea of the kind of gifts your spouse would enjoy receiving. If you have little or no knowledge about selecting the kinds of gifts on your list, recruit the help of family members who know your spouse. [and more]

Both of us have gifts as our weakest “language,” but more and more she enjoys giving (and would likely enjoy receiving) small but potent food gifts: small dark chocolates, cheeses, surprising fruits when there are no more in the house, etc. It isn’t urgent or a priority, but I should improve, and love the “bocadito” concept.

 

  1. Acts of Service

First, they illustrate clearly that what we do for each other before marriage is no indication of what we will do after marriage. Before marriage, we are carried along by the force of the in-love obsession. After marriage, we revert to being the people we were before we fell in love.

That’s perhaps one of the best reasons to find a strong, true, “matched-opposite” love and go for it full force: the continual growth of one self. Permanent change, rather than reversion to one’s “old” self.

Still, I don’t think it’s that simple, and I think that mature young adults (regardless of age) who are truly biologically matched can easily overcome this trap and continue growing both together and independently.

 

  1. Physical Touch

Wives often assume that their husbands love language is physical touch.

Indeed, though I’d change the words to women/men in general. Following that sentence, he notes how the miscommunication regarding physical touch spirals downwards leading to sadness for both.

Plus, what exactly physical touch means will change. Having corrected a /lithium deficiency and noting a better sense of smell, I notice mine changing subtlety with her cycles. And I look forward greatly to my hormones changing dramatically (though not to the order of magnitude as hers’!) when she’s pregnant and we’re young parents. All parts of life, but modern Americans must understand that physical touch means more than simply orgasm, and sometimes it means more than even sex in general.

 

 

Be Here Now, 1971, Ram Dass

Be Here Now (1971/2012, read 2012) ($6, amazon.com link)

Ram Dass

 

After writing reports on Sam Harris’ Waking Up and Ekhart Toller’s The Power of Now, I see that this book is the same message mystics and philosophers have said for millennia. But I read it before my own “waking up” experience in 2013, void of drugs or hallucinogenic molecules from the outside, and it makes so much more sense now (2015/2017). I may not ever revisit the entire original book, with its mystical drawings and flowery language in parts, but I don’t think I need to. I must simply remind myself of these truths regularly, and continue to develop my practices.

 


 

I’d get to a point with my colleagues when I couldn’t explain any further, because it came down to “To him who has had the experience no explanation is necessary, to him who has not, none is possible.”

He’s describing experiences with certain high doses of drugs (LSD, I believe), but the quote is just as relevant to all types of wisdom. I will do my best to communicate with you, but unless you have had the same experience as me, you’re never going to really understand my perspective. As I’ve always told my sister, “If you had had her experiences and thoughts, you would be her.” In other words, if we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, we would be that other person: it’s a good reminder for us all to live with a little more compassion.

 


 

Here’s a nice reminder to me to change the way I use the word “meditate” to refer to everything I do:

At first you “do” sadhana (work on the spiritual path) within certain time and space boundaries, such as going to church on Sunday mornings, or getting high on Saturday nights, or meditating each morning. Eventually, it turns out that SADHANA IS EVERYTHING YOU DO.

 


 

And this nugget:

We function under the fallacy (cogito ergo sum) that we are our thoughts and therefore must attend to them in order for them to be realized.

In a sense, that’s a sucker punch to Descartes’ idea: we are our breath, not our thoughts. Our thoughts get in the way. However, I’m not certain the two truly are saying different things. Descartes’ MIGHT have been saying that we have possessive/language ‘thoughts’ and ideas, therefore we exist, but he also may have been saying, “I am, therefore I am,” in the same way that Jesus did. It’s hard to tell without a) looking into it more, and b) learning their respective languages (French and Aramaic/Hebrew).

 


 

Several highlights of mine explain that we are not to drop out of society – and indeed, I see a new rationality in this book that I do not remember when I read it. It’s the same as Harris’ recent Waking Up, granted, without the science, but he’s saying the same thing: understand that once you free yourself, internally, from association and being imprisoned by a sense of self, then we are free. But we do this without dropping out of society, per se.

The following three quotes speak to this. As a young boy, I realized some Christians are quite poor at communicating this concept, saying silly things like “don’t live in the world,” or “don’t be of the world,” without really explaining the idea philosophically. And the idea is simple: we must live in the world (if we are human), but that we can do so without being completely attached to the specific roles we may play each day or each decade. Buddhism says it better: desire and attachment are problems to be minimized. Indeed, the downfall of Christianity in America is likely to be the bubble-effect: too much isolation from those “hell-bound” non-Christians.

Well said:

You must see that all beings are just beings . . . and that all the wrappings of personality and role and body are the coverings. Your attachments are only to the coverings, and as long as you are attached to someone else’s covering you are stuck, and you keep them stuck, in that attachment. Only when you can see the essence, can see God, in each human being do you free yourself and those about you. It’s hard work when you have spent years building a fixed model of who someone else is to abandon it, but until that model is superceded by a compassionate model, you are still stuck.

 

Just because you are seeing divine light, experiencing waves of bliss, or conversing with Gods and Goddesses is no reason to not know your zip code. Keeping it together means keeping conscious at all levels—all planes—with no attachment to any of them.

 

To think that working on oneself requires “dropping-out” of society is to miss the point. Certainly you must drop out . . . but the drop-out is internal, not external. One drops out of one’s attachments; one drops out of one’s identification with the illusion of separateness [the ego, like Sam Harris or Ryan Holiday describes].

 


 

On getting out of your own ego:

In order to perform karma yoga, there is a simple general principle to keep in mind: bring a third component into every action. If, for example, you are digging a ditch, there is you who is digging the ditch, and the ditch which is being dug. Now add a third focus: say, a disinterested person who is seeing you dig the ditch. Now run the entire action through his head while you are digging. It’s as simple as that. Through this method you would ultimately free yourself from identifying with him who is digging the ditch. You would merely see a ditch being dug.

This is very similar to Jocko and other effective SEALs who “step out” of their own bodies in order to see the work being done, and to help with decision making. Imagining some other “self” looking at your body and your decisions is a pretty effective method for accepting what you’re doing and past/present/future decisions of what to do.

How did I randomly do this, when, at Robins AFB, I was emptying the garbage with alcohol and rotten food and vomit? How did I jump to my 80-year old self reflecting back at his life when deciding to join the military or not? Moreover, why have I naturally done this, when it seems so few other humans regularly do? (And of course, how is the nutrition of my mother in the islands, genetics, birth order, first twenty years of life, and environment responsible? At what point do “I” become responsible, if ever?)

Also, considering the poison that mirrors are in our spiritual lives, it’s one of the reasons this spiritual disconnect (or connection) is so much harder for American females than for males: too much time in front of a false self-image (the 50/50 flip in the mirror) and their own ego in general (the image).

Moreover, it’s the same concept as Sam Harriss talks about that “I have no head.”

Powerful stuff.

 


 

And another way to talk about what the words spirit/spiritual mean:

Spirit is a Latin word meaning breath. It’s like breathing out and breathing in, NO THING-yup, no thing. And this no thing is basic for our life. Breathe spirit, this spirit which sustains and maintains, without which we die to this form.

 


 

Two quotes I’ve included from Autobiography of a Yogi:

“Why be elated by material profit?” Father replied. “The one who pursues a goal of evenmindedness is neither jubilant with gain nor depressed by loss. He knows that man arrives penniless in this world, and departs without a single rupee.”

 

He had often written to those of his disciples who were over-anxious to see him: “Why come to view my bones and flesh, when I am ever within range of your kutastha (spiritual sight)?”

 


 

I’ll close with a reminder that we can move mountains, indeed, but that if our power, connectedness, (or, the word Jesus used: faith) was the size of a mustard seed, we’d be satisfied with the mountain exactly where it is:

The cosmic humor is that if you desire to move mountains and you continue to purify yourself, ultimately you will arrive at the place where you are able to move mountains. But in order to arrive at this position of power you will have had to give up being he-who-wanted-to-move-mountains so that you can be he-who-put-the-mountain-there-in-the-first-place. The humor is that finally when you have the power to move the mountain, you are the person who placed it there—so there the mountain stays.

 

Question: do you think lithium specifically affects athletic performance?

A few months ago, a member of my gym asked, “You recommend lithium for everyone, but do you think lithium specifically affects athletic performance?

Yes, yes I do.

Like much about biology — and everything about lithium — we don’t understand the exact mechanisms very well. But here’s why lithium affects athletic performance.


 

Table of Contents

 


 

Overview

 

Question: do you think lithium specifically affects athletic performance?

The incorrect assumption in the question is that athletic performance — or more precisely, muscular activity — exists in isolation from the rest of the body.

That’s silly.

Disconnect those muscles from the blood that fuels them, the neurons that control them, the liver that provides their short-term glucose or micronutrients, the fat cells that provide their fat-soluble micronutrients (and fat!), the kidneys that filter the blood, the lungs that provide the most important energy source (oxygen), the heart that moves the blood, the skin that protects those muscles from the millions of types of external cells that would eat them alive if possible, and other organs…. and those muscles wouldn’t work at all.

Exercise: A Single Rep Without Air

Blow out all air in the lungs and hold your breath.

You’ll be able to do a few repetitions before you pass out or breathe, and more with training (Wim Hoff method, for example), but not much. Few can go over a minute, I’d doubt anyone in the world can do more than a few minutes of significant muscular work without oxygen. But let’s start there: you can do a minute of “athletic performance” without oxygen. So let’s only note the major organs involved: the muscles and the nervous system (brain and rest of CNS/PNS).

Since lithium is involved in neuronal development, it’s already highly important in physical activity. But let’s continue with this line of thinking.

Now let’s exercise for more than a superman-minute-breath-hold, and breathe during repetitions or during rests…

Exercise: Breathe!

Now we’ve involved more than just the stored glycogen in the muscles…we’ve involved new organs: the lungs, the heart, and the whole cardiovascular system, including the kidneys to clean the blood and the bladder to store the waste. Don’t forget testosterone, which means basically the whole reproductive system (of both sexes) is involved. So those are necessary for “athletic performance,” and by extension, every micronutrient (magnesium and zinc are each involved in hundreds of enzymatic reactions all over the damn body!) that has anything to do with any of those organs is going to be involved with athletic performance! 

So micronutrients are important for athletic performance!

But let’s go beyond just one simple breath and let’s do a longer workout that includes a few pauses/rests.

Exercise: An Entire Workout

These rests might be:

  1. long, comfortable rests between a power lifter’s squat sets,
  2. voluntary rests during a RFT/AMRAP/etc., or
  3. regular rests at intervals, like EMOM/Tabata or similar interval programming (most importantly, I’d argue, because these rests tap into the body’s rhythms).

Anyway, now our workout is over a minute or two and we’re breathing. What organs are involved now? Basically everything. Blood is flowing quickly, the body is heating up, and we’re sweating, so that’s the skin. All sorts of internal organs are changing (kidneys and reproductive system above), but now it’s even more complex. Digestion slows, so you could arguably include every cell in the whole body. Certain individual muscle cells might have “consumed” all or most of a certain micronutrient (B-12 or Li+, pick one at random, it doesn’t matter) for a certain reaction during the exercise, so those cells send a signal of some sort that they need more of that micronutrient: the liver is probably the recipient, which increases output of said stored nutrient.

That’s a bit inexact, because I’m not an exercise physiologist and it’s not worth the time to look for exact examples in metabolism, but the point is: if we’re breathing more than a few breaths, the liver is involved, and we can ignore individual micronutrients like lithium, because the entire body is involved. The liver needs to start breaking down glycogen and releasing more glucose into the bloodstream for those muscles to re-stock their own glycogen stores. This is what great burst/HIIT/etc. athletes get good at during regular rest intervals: often closing eyes and resting as completely as possible during breaks to prepare the muscles as much as possible before the next round. (Maybe it’s actually better to jump rope/walk to stimulate lymph flow: I have no idea.) But anyway, the liver is involved now, digestion is slowed, so all micronutrients that affect those organs are going to impact athletic performance.

And we didn’t even talk about the most abundant minerals stored in bone: calcium, magnesium, etc. For example, bone constantly sequesters/releases calcium as necessary to maintain the right level in the blood. Calcium? Nerve conduction. See http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v477/n7366/images/477546a-f1.2.jpg if you need a refresher.

But remember that pretty graphics of biological, cellular systems are a joke: biology is a warm, disgusting mess of atoms, molecules, enzymes and more bumping into each other… often at random! There are many sorts of ions (magnesium, lithium, sodium, etc.) flowing into and out of all sorts of cells all over the place. Biology is a mess.

Any workout (longer than the time it takes to pass out if you’re holding your breath) involves the whole body. Evolution produces pretty efficient systems, and we’re no exception: it’s all connected.

Life Without Skin

You could theoretically exercise without the skin, without dying, for a number of minutes… But the pain would stop you from actually moving, so it’s only theoretical. Well, I can’t speak for others; perhaps you could push through the pain and bend down and touch the barbell or reach up and touch the bar. But me? I would be on the ground screaming in agony… all while the viruses and cells from the floor and air entered my bloodstream and began to quickly overwhelm the lymphatic system, eating me alive.

Ah: life without skin. Fun thought.

Alright, so hopefully I’ve addressed that issue: micronutrients are important for athletic performance, because everything in the body is connected to everything else.

Conclusion: Back to Micronutrients, Including Lithium

Now: lithium is involved in neuronal development. Most of the research I’m seeing (consuming all the information I can is one of my most important goals for this year) is related to neurons. This is why lithium at extreme doses is such an effective drug: it’s a nutrient involved in neurons everywhere. We are basically walking bags of neurons (a brain) along with everything necessary to run them effectively.

Moreover, there’s a key aspect of fitness that many uneducated “athletes” don’t realize: athletic performance isn’t so much about having a ton of muscle tissue as it is, more importantly, about accessing as much muscle tissue as you can, on command.

The first is simply bludgeoning through the competition by having the most muscle tissue: want to win a squat competition? If your competitor has X amount of muscle tissue and can lift weight Y, you simply build up X+1 amount of muscle in order to lift Y+1. This also works very well for bodybuilding/photo competitions. The smaller the size of the population in the competition, the more this is likely to work. Spend more time training, lift heavier weights, eat more food, build more muscle, win! It’s simple, and at smaller scales like local competitions, it often works. Moreover, since most of us never care to become professional competition athletes, it’s all most of us think about.

The second is far more useful for large region or worldwide competitions — especially those in CrossFit. Accessing/controlling more muscle tissue is entirely neuronal, right? Sure: the brain sends a signal down a particular network of neurons, and those last few neurons “innervate” the muscle tissue at the neuromuscular junction. Anecdotally, we all “know” when we’re weaker or stronger in the gym from week to week, based on how well we can access the full power of our muscles. That’s simply “accessing,” if you will, a certain “percentage” of our power. This is where all the different aspects of true athletic performance come into play: low-repetition neurological training, sleep, diet, sex, social life, stress and calm, intellectual accomplishments, and more. This is where the whole body concept for athletes, including every single micronutrient in the body, comes into play. (I pity the athletes who think they can win with processed foods and enough supplements. Some win a few competitions, but most are simply sacrificing their long-term health and longevity for short-term physical performance. Sadly, even the “healthiest” of competitors these days will need to do this to some extent, which is one reason I’ve never been interested in being a professional athlete. My main opponent is myself, thank you.)

Anyway, since lithium isn’t yet a recognized nutrient by the FDA/WHO, it won’t even be adequately tracked in foods for many years. (I’ll add a food section to the /lithium page later this year, but still recommend supplementation.) Thus, the question is, are we getting enough lithium in our diets? Like magnesium (/pills), most of us probably aren’t.

Here’s to your health — and competitions!

 

Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology, Johnjoe McFadden, 2015

Life on the Edge:
The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology, Johnjoe McFadden

Dig deeper and you will always find quantum mechanics lurking at the heart of our familiar reality.”

Remember this.

This is probably the most intellectually challenging book I’ve ever read, but it was worth it, and I’m as excited to review it – intellectually – as I was while reading it in parts. I felt as engaged as when I read The Moral Animal before entering the military. Perhaps more surprisingly, I felt some connection to my childhood brain: a child that used the word “All” to describe something greater than his parentally-indoctrinated concept of God; a child that found joy in thinking; a child that felt that there must be physical ripples from every action to every other point in the universe. No other book has made me feel like this before…so the question is, of course, “What do I do about it?”

I am thirty-one. If I pursued a Ph.D., I would likely not complete it until around forty. Granted, I could aim high and apply to great schools; attempt to earn money before and on the side, start a family while earning the degree; and it’s helpful to remember that chronological age means nothing. Still, these thoughts say nothing in response to the pressing question, “Why the hell get a Ph.D.?

 


 

I’ve come across the two-slit experiment perhaps ten times in my life, but I’ve never understood it so well. Lesson learned: books beat YouTube videos watched only once! The authors dedicated a substantial portion of a chapter to the experiment, and it’s worth reviewing for an excellent scientific lesson, which “according to Richard Feynman, “has in it the heart of quantum mechanics.””

“Asking what is really going on between observations is like asking whether your fridge light is on before you open the fridge door: you can never know because as soon as you peek you change the system.”

Two or three times, the authors call “bullshit” on quantum claims about telepathy or anything related.

However, in their final chapter they also mention that when the chaos of the classical world overwhelms the ability of cells and organisms to maintain this “link” to the quantum world, this might be a good way to look at or even define death. I think that’s as good a theory (or explanation) as I’ve ever heard elsewhere!

I still do not believe I truly understand oxidation. How I have a master’s and have read a dozen books in these areas is a testament to how ignorance only grows faster than does knowledge! To understand oxidation, the photosynthetic capture of exitons, and other details, this report is worth reviewing and revising in the future.

They bring up Feynman’s quote, “What I cannot create, I do not understand” several times. As such, they note, we haven’t made – and thus do not understand! – the following: a cell, an enzyme, or even a simple self-replicator. What more profound pillars of biology are there? We really have no clue about biology, and this field is going to change profoundly in the next century. We certainly understand basic physics and chemistry more than biology, but sadly, this likely means we also understand some of the “social” sciences more than biology, as well! Unbelievable, but likely true!

 


 

[Note: In the interests of not over-quoting or citing the text in this web post, I’ve eliminated the bulk of my highlights from the book here.]

To start, why is quantum anything important?

  • “In fact, it has been estimated that over one-third of the gross domestic product of the developed world depends on applications that would simply not exist without our understanding of the mechanics of the quantum world.”

  • “Still, the quantum world appears very strange to us and it is often claimed that this strangeness is a symptom of a fundamental split between the world we see around us and its quantum underpinnings. But in reality there is only a single set of laws that govern the way the world behaves: quantum laws.*8 The familiar statistical laws and Newtonian laws are, ultimately, quantum laws that have been filtered through a decoherence lens that screens out the weird stuff (which is why quantum phenomena appear weird to us). Dig deeper and you will always find quantum mechanics lurking at the heart of our familiar reality.”

 

Okay, but why, specifically, is quantum biology relevant?

(Why do we have to look to the quantum world for biological explanations, rather than simply using classical physics? Of course quantum mechanics underlies all physical processes, but can’t we ignore these strange and counter-intuitive effects at the biological level?)

  • “So isn’t everything, including us and other living creatures, just physics when you really get down to the fundamentals? This is indeed the argument of many scientists who accept that quantum mechanics must, at a deep level, be involved in biology; but they insist that its role is trivial. What they mean by this is that since the rules of quantum mechanics govern the behavior of atoms, and biology ultimately involves the interaction of atoms, then the rules of the quantum world must also operate at the tiniest scales within biology—but only at those scales, with the result that they will have little or no effect on the scaled-up processes important to life.”

  • “So the claim that delicately arranged quantum entangled states could survive in the warm and complex interior of living cells was thought by many to be an outlandish idea, verging on madness.”

  • “Much of the skepticism Schrödinger’s claim attracted at the time was rooted in the general belief that delicate quantum states couldn’t possibly survive in the warm, wet and busy molecular environments inside living organisms.”

 

Why, then, do big objects do not have quantum properties?

  • “This is why big objects, such as footballs, do not quantum tunnel: they are made up of trillions of atoms that cannot behave in a coordinated coherent wave-like fashion.”

  • “The answer on one level is very simple: the bigger and more massive a body is, the smaller will its wave-like nature be, and something the size and mass of a human, or indeed anything large enough to be visible with the naked eye, will have a quantum wavelength so tiny as to have no measurable effect. But more deeply, you can think of each atom in your body as being observed, or measured, by all the other atoms around it, so that any delicate quantum properties it might have are very quickly destroyed.

 

What areas of quantum biology are described?

  • Enzymes.
    • Essentially, quantum properties allow enzymes to perform reactions much faster than classical physics would predict. And as the authors note, since “About one-third of all enzyme reactions involve moving a hydrogen atom from one place to another,”(if this is true), quantum mechanics plays an enormously important role in all of biology, from the ground up!
  • Respiration and the electron chain:
    • Human systems to capture light are notoriously inefficient…yet plants successfully capture nearby 100% of the energy that hits their chlorophyll to the reaction center. How do they do this? Classical physics can’t explain it, a random walk would be terribly inefficient. They are capturing the wave-based nature of light, allowing the exitons to travel as a quantum wave, permitting nearly perfect efficiency of those that reach the reaction center! Amazing:
      • “but the real action of photosynthesis takes place in the reaction center itself. Here the fragile energy of excitons is converted into the stable chemical energy of the electron carrier molecule that plants or microbes use to do lots of useful work, like building more plants and microbes.

      • “Photosystems, enzymes, respiratory chains and genes are structured right down to the position of individual particles, and their quantum motions do indeed make a difference to the respiration that keeps us alive, the enzymes that build our bodies or the photosynthesis that makes nearly all the biomass on our planet.”

    • Navigation by magnetic compasses:
      • I agree with their decision to put this topic, with which they opened, in the middle of the book, as we needed to be convinced first about the quantum world. Then, the most substantial argument certainly belongs here. A block of granite over on its edge is a good analogy for how the ridiculously sensitive (and previously-thought-to-be-of-insignificant-importance) fast triplet reaction can influence the chemical products created in these reactions, their molecules created, and how ultimately the magnetic field could have an influence on the behavior of a bird (or other organism).
        • magnetoreception, particularly in robins, has become the poster child of quantum biology.”

      • (6) Smell:
        • Here the authors describe the lock-in-key, conventional model, easy for anyone with introductory biological knowledge to understand; and also the various quantum models. It’s convincing that quantum mechanics is involved in smell reception, but they end by noting that the best theory is likely a combinatory model: both the physical shape of molecules/receptors, and the vibrations of odors likely play a role.
      • (7) Quantum genes:
        • This was a good chapter, but it took some time for me to accept, especially because they’re claiming something I’ve studied so much – MCB, Genetics, Central Dogma, etc. – is so intimately tied to the quantum world. But when I now think about how many decades ago these ideas were proposed, well… I am incredibly disappointed in my education for not bringing up these ideas to me! It makes sense in hindsight: since a quantum measurement is made of the hydrogen bonds (protons, acting quantum mechanically), each time a section of DNA is “read,” as it were, there is a chance the DNA will revert to its tautomeric form, causing a mutation. This chance is small of course, but it exists, and more importantly (surprise!), this makes mutations more likely in overly-expressed genes!
        • (Here’s basically the base argument for periodically eating a ketogenic diet to prevent cancer! Overall, reading equally from diverse genes will minimize chances of cancer…)
      • (8) Consciousness:
        • This was an unimpressive chapter for me, gives an explanation of the “binding problem”, and discusses how the brain’s EM field may be equally important. I agree that it is from the E=mc2 perspective, but that doesn’t mean the EM field is equally as important as the physical reactions…
      • (9) The primordial replicator:
        • Here, they summarize an absolutely beautiful theory for how this first replicator might have been born. I’d heard of the RNA hypothesis, of course, which makes sense because of the higher variability and properties of RNA, but they shut the idea down quickly that this could happen with classical physics alone. It simply isn’t likely given the numbers we know – there aren’t enough particles or time in the universe to create even a simple self replicator by chance. But if quantum physics is invoked (search for “64” within the highlights below), it could happen. However, I’m disappointed they didn’t provide theoretical information on the time required. I’d love to see this hypothesis tested in the lab!
          • “Haldane and Oparin proposed that the emergence of this primordial replicator was the key event that led to the origin of life as we know it.”

        • 10, How cells keep decoherance at bay to use quantum effects:
          • The final analogy of “a ship whose narrow keel…” helps us understand how the cell navigates the rough waters of classical physics in such a warm, wet environment while maintaining its ability to use quantum mechanical laws. The ship with a good captain (the cell) is compared to an engineer who wants to sail the ship in a cold environment depleted of air or water and their associated randomly-driven molecular movements. This chapter also describes how the authors propose to test the effects of the quantum world on life: we’d need to build a cell (or at least a replicator) using only classical physical properties, and one using the quantum world…
            • “The noise essentially acts as a kind of continuous measurement.”

 

Great quotes about science in general:

  • “Mysteries, however small, are fascinating because there’s always the possibility that their solution may lead to a fundamental shift in our understanding of the world.”

  • “And no one has yet found a way of determining the structure of proteins while they remain embedded in cell membranes.”

  • “As he talked freely about his idea, Schulten developed a reputation at the Max Planck Institute for being regarded as somewhat crazy. His problem was that he was a theoretical physicist who worked with paper, pen and computers, not a chemist; and certainly not an experimental chemist capable of donning a lab coat and performing the kind of experiment that would prove his ideas. Thus he was in the position of many theoreticians who come up with a neat idea but have then to find a friendly experimentalist willing to take time out of their busy lab schedule to test a theory that, more often than not, will prove to be wrong.”

 

Themes and analogies to help understand them, highlighted throughout my file in green:

  • Measurement, ocean waves
  • Billiard table
  • Violin as a classical, warm wet biological instrument, guitar as a quantum incremental instrument
  • Behavior of a tiny balloon will be quantum, and unpredictable — gas laws can’t help us.
  • Decoherance (search)
  • The oxidation of water
  • Cycling postmen to illustrate …