Biotech’s Dark Promise: Involuntary Cannibalism for All


Biotech's Dark Promise: Involuntary Cannabilism for All

” Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.” ~ Albert Einstein

Whereas the quote above could easily be dismissed as the ‘progress-denying’ sentiment of a disgruntled anti-GMO activist, the fact is that it came from a scientist representing the very epitome of Western rationality and accomplishment.

Perhaps Einstein was reflecting on the inevitable existential consequences of the so-called technological imperative”–whatever can be done, will be done.  Fundamentally amoral and irrational economic and political forces drive technology’s feverish pace, infusing a certain arbitrary cruelty and disequilibrium into everything it touches.

In our continual drive to ‘improve upon Nature’ in the name of much-hyped, ‘life-saving’ biotechnological innovations, the line between humane and inhumane eventually is crossed, and there seems no going back.  Biopollution from defective or dangerous GMO genes, for example, is virtually impossible to undo once unreleased into the biosphere; you can’t “recall” a defective gene like you can an automobile. Nor can we remove from our bodies the surreptitious viruses (e.g. simian virus #40 (SV40)) that contaminated millions of first-generation polio vaccines. In many ways our moral fiber suffers from the same susceptibilities. Once we have crossed a certain line – be it theft, lying, or worse, etc., – it is difficult, if not impossible to ‘go back’ and regain our innocence. Such is the human condition. And this is why we must carefully consider the medico-ethical implications of new technologies, whose developments we must first be aware of in order to guide, regulate and sometimes terminate.

The Scientific Community Moves To Embrace Embryo Cloning for Medical Purposes

For example, few are aware that the cloning of human embryos for ‘therapeutic purposes’ was made legal in the UK in January, 2001 through an amendment to the Human Embryology Act.[i]  Not long after, in August 2004, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) approved the first license for cloning human embryos in the UK.  Media reports at the time alleged the legal changes would result in the use of cloned human embryos to create “spare body parts.”

In an article published in 2000 titled, “Biotech Cannabalism,”[ii] C. Ben Mitchell, PhD reflects on the pro-cloning movement by quoting a proponent’s justification: “If you could use tissue from human embryos to save hundreds of lives, there must be a moral imperative to do it.” Mitchell disagrees, countering: “[C]reating a human being for the purposes of killing that person for another human being’s health, sounds an awfully lot like cannibalism, only worse.”

Calling Vaccines From Aborted Fetuses What They Are: Cannibalistic

Whereas cannibalism is considered by most modern societies to be the ultimate expression of uncivilized or barbaric behavior, it is intrinsic to many of the Western world’s most prized biotechnological and medical innovations. Probably the most ‘taken for granted’ example of this is the use of live, aborted fetus cell lines from induced abortions to produce vaccines. Known as diploid cell vaccines (diploid cells have two (di-) sets of chromosomes inherited from human mother and father), they are non-continuous (unlike cancer cells), and therefore must be continually replaced, i.e. new aborted, live fetal tissue must be harvested periodically.  A good portion of the CDC’s immunization schedule requires the use of these human fetus-originated vaccines, and these include: rubella, measles, mumps, rabies, polio, smallpox, hepatitis A, chickenpox, and herpes zoster. Additionally, so-called “abortion tainted vaccines” cultivated on transformed fetal cells (293, PER.C6) are in the developmental pipeline, including: “flu, Respiratory Syncytial and parainfluenza viruses, HIV, West Nile virus, Ebola, Marburg and Lassa, hepatitis B and C, foot and mouth disease, Japanese encephalitis, dengue, tuberculosis, anthrax, plague, tetanus and malaria.” [iii]

Unfortunately, to millions who find injecting the biological derivatives of living aborted fetal cells into their bodies, or their children’s, morally objectionable, an increasingly Draconian biomedical establishment is either pressuring, coercing or mandating this to occur, using the faulty concept of “herd immunity” and concomitant biosafety concerns to override an individual’s right to refuse them. And most are completely unaware that aborted cells are used and being injected into their bodies, because the medical ethical principle of informed consent remains just that: a principle, not practiced regularly. Furthermore, beyond the obvious moral/ /religious/philosophical reasons to reject aborted fetal cell derived vaccines, there are real health concerns associated with the introduction of this type of biological material into the human body that are largely considered taboo to discuss.

Biopharming: The End of Choice for Those Who Do Not Want to Ingest Human Proteins

Another way in which the dark specter of cannibalism is resurfacing in our lives is through biotech’s intense investment in biopharming technologies. Also known as molecular farming, biopharming involves creating “drug-producing” GMOs by inserting a gene that code for useful pharmaceuticals or biological products (e.g. antibodies, lactoferrin) into host plants, insects or animals that do not naturally express those genes.

Concerns over the unintended, adverse effects of this technology are growing, primarily because once the genes are inserted into laboratory- or field-trialed organisms, their escape into the biosphere is not just possible, but a statistical inevitability. As we have seen with GMO crops, contamination is a default business strategy for biotech stakeholders, whose GM plants pollinate (some say “biorape“) organic or wild plants rendering them also GMOs. This means that — short of using ‘terminator technology‘ which renders the plants incapable of reproduction – foolproof GM containment is impossible. Eventually we will all be exposed to these GMO plants, insects and animals in some form or other.

There is intense work being done today to create biopharmed “edible vaccines,” which contain deadly viral or bacterial vectors. Obviously, the biopollution created by inserting these genes into plants traditionally used for human consumption and which could find their way into the human food supply could cause life-threatening health problems.  But edible vaccines are only a subset of biopharmed products in the developmental pipeline. There are a broad range of human proteins being ‘pharmed’ using genetically modified animals expressing human genes as ‘bioreactors.’

Below is a small sample of biopharmed organisms in development that could at some point in the future result in the inadvertent ingestion of human proteins (technically, cannibalism):

  • GMO Bulls expressing human lactoferrin in their tissues, intended for human consumption.[iv]
  • GMO Mice expressing a human granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor under control of a goat gene (goat alpha-S1-casein gene).[v]
  • GMO Cattle milk expressing the human breastmilk proteins human α-lactalbumin (TC-LA), lactoferrin (TC-LF) or lysozyme (TC-LZ).[vi]
  • GMO Pigs designed to express human α-galactosidase.[vii]
  • GMO Chickens designed to express human urokinase-type plasminogen activator.[viii]
  • GMO Chickens designed to express human parathormone.[ix]
  • GMO Flies expressing human taste receptor genes.[x]
  • GMO Silkworm cells expressing human glycoproteins.[xi]
  • GMO Tomatoes expressing a human brain protein (humanβ-secretase).[xii]
  • GMO Tobacco expressing human erythropoietin intended to be used to treat tissue injury.[xiii]
  • GMO Tobacco expressing human interferon alpha intended for medical use.[xiv]
  • GMO Yeast expressing human Apolipoprotein A-II intended for study.[xv]
  • GMO Lettuce and chicory expressing human interferon alpha intended for medical use.[xvi]
  • GMO Rapeseed expressing human interferon alpha intended for medical use.[xvii]
  • GMO Rice expressing human serum albumin (blood protein) intended for medical purposes.[xviii]
  • GMO Rice expressing human lactoferrin intended for medical use.[xix]
  • GMO Rice expressing human CYP1A1 enzyme (found in placenta and liver) intended to help remediate pesticides in soil.[xx]
  • GMO Rice expressing human amyloidβ-peptide ‘Alzheimer‘s brain protein‘ intended as an oral vaccine producing plant.[xxi]

With biotech weaving into the web of life arbitrarily placed human genes and their biological products, cannibalism (human consumption of human proteins) will become an inevitably in the future.  The question is, will we stand for this reworking of the very molecular and genetic infrastructure of life, or pretend like it won’t also result in the genetic modification of our own bodies.


[i] BBCNews.com, Scientists given cloning go-ahead, 11 August, 2004

[ii] The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, Biotech Cannabalism, 4 April, 2000

[iii] José Luís Redondo Calderón. [Vaccines, biotechnology and their connection with induced abortion]. Cuad Bioet. 2008 May-Aug;19(66):321-53. PMID: 18611078

[iv] Jie Zhao, Jianxiang Xu, Jianwu Wang, Ning Li. Nutritional composition analysis of meat from human lactoferrin transgenic bulls.

[v] GMI-Cite:

I A Burkov, I A Serova, N R Battulin, A V Smirnov, I V Babkin, L E Andreeva, G A Dvoryanchikov, O L Serov. Expression of the human granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (hGM-CSF) gene under control of the 5′-regulatory sequence of the goat alpha-S1-casein gene with and without a MAR element in transgenic mice.

[vi] Ran Zhang, Chengdong Guo, Shunchao Sui, Tian Yu, Jianwu Wang, Ning Li. Comprehensive assessment of milk composition in transgenic cloned cattle.

[vii] J Zeyland, B Gawrońska, W Juzwa, J Jura, A Nowak, R Słomski, Z Smorąg, M Szalata, A Woźniak, D Lipiński. Transgenic pigs designed to express humanα-galactosidase to avoid humoral xenograft rejection.

[viii] Sung Ho Lee, Mukesh Kumar Gupta, Young Tae Ho, Teoan Kim, Hoon Taek Lee. Transgenic chickens expressing human urokinase-type plasminogen activator.

[ix] S H Lee, M K Gupta, D W Han, S Y Han, S J Uhm, T Kim, H T Lee. Development of transgenic chickens expressing human parathormone under the control of a ubiquitous promoter by using a retrovirus vector system.

[x] Ryota Adachi, Yuko Sasaki, Hiromi Morita, Michio Komai, Hitoshi Shirakawa, Tomoko Goto, Akira Furuyama, Kunio Isono. Behavioral analysis of Drosophila transformants expressing human taste receptor genes in the gustatory receptor neurons.

[xi] Jia-Biao Hu, Peng Zhang, Mei-Xian Wang, Fang Zhou, Yan-Shan Niu, Yun-Gen Miao. A transgenic Bm cell line of piggyBac transposon-derived targeting expression of humanized glycoproteins through N-glycosylation.

[xii] H-S Kim, J-W Youm, K-B Moon, J-H Ha, Y-H Kim, H Joung, J-H Jeon. Expression analysis of humanβ-secretase in transgenic tomato fruits.

[xiii] Farooqahmed S Kittur, Mamudou Bah, Stephanie Archer-Hartmann, Chiu-Yueh Hung, Parastoo Azadi, Mayumi Ishihara, David C Sane, Jiahua Xie. Cytoprotective Effect of Recombinant Human Erythropoietin Produced in Transgenic Tobacco Plants.

[xiv] I M Gerasymenko, L O Sakhno, M G Mazur, Y V Sheludko. Multiplex pcr assay for detection of human interferon alpha2b gene in transgenic plants.

[xv] Manman Su, Yitian Qi, Mingxing Wang, Weiqin Chang, Shuang Peng, Tianmin Xu, Dingding Wang. Expression and Purification of Recombinant Human Apolipoprotein A-II in Pichia pastoris.

[xvi] N A Matveeva, Iu I Kudriavets, A A Likhova, A M Shakhovskiĭ, N A Bezdenezhnykh, E Iu Kvasko. [Antiviral activity of extracts of transgenic cichory and lettuce plants with the human interferon alpha-2b gene].

[xvii] L O Sakhno, O Y Kvasko, Z M Olevinska, M Y Spivak, M V Kuchuk. Creation of transgenic Brassica napus L. plants expressing human alpha 2b interferon gene.

[xviii] Qing Zhang, Hui Yu, Feng-Zhen Zhang, Zhi-Cheng Shen. Expression and purification of recombinant human serum albumin from selectively terminable transgenic rice.

[xix] Chaoyang Lin, Peng Nie, Wei Lu, Qing Zhang, Jing Li, Zhicheng Shen. A selectively terminable transgenic rice line expressing human lactoferrin.

[xx] Hiroyuki Kawahigashi, Sakiko Hirose, Hideo Ohkawa, Yasunobu Ohkawa. Transgenic rice plants expressing human CYP1A1 remediate the triazine herbicides atrazine and simazine. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Nov 2;53(22):8557-64. PMID: 16248553

[xxi] Taiji Yoshida, Eiichi Kimura, Setsuo Koike, Jun Nojima, Eugene Futai, Noboru Sasagawa, Yuichiro Watanabe, Shoichi Ishiura. Transgenic rice expressing amyloidβ-peptide for oral immunization. Int J Biol Sci. 2011;7(3):301-7. Epub 2011 Mar 25. PMID: 21448341

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The Hidden Dangers of of Soylent “Meal Replacement”


I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S WORSE: a product full of GMOs and chemically-derived additives that proudly lauds its healthfulness and humanitarian benefits, or, a manufacturer that blatantly hides the fact they are using GMO ingredients by keeping them off the label?

In the case of Soylent, a meal replacement drink made with GMO soy and other genetically-modified ingredients, the makers want you to know how proud they are to use GMOs in their product. Reading like a Monsanto ad, the post on Soylent’s website spouts a litany of pseudo-scientific propaganda about the safety of GMOs that GreenMedInfo has spent the last ten years debunking.

Putting the issue of GMOs to the side for a moment, Soylent’s suitability as a meal replacement still has the insurmountable problem of its use of synthetic chemicals as nutritional additives. Ingredients such as sucralose (aka Splenda), petrochemically-derived vitamin E, and known substances possessing carcinogenicity such as manganese sulfate, chromium chloride, sodium molybdate, and sodium selenite, deliver the “nutrients.” Although these industrial byproducts have been approved for use in both human and animal foods, it is an indefensible position that these toxic compounds fulfill daily nutritional requirements. As GreenMedInfo’s research database shows, the scientific evidence warning against the use of mass-market vitamins, whether in pill or liquid form, is too substantial to ignore.

The Lie of Synthetic Vitamins

According to Rosa Foods, the brand’s manufacturer, “Soylent meets all nutritional requirements for an average adult” and can replace any meal. The nutrition label betrays Soylent’s lack of actual food ingredients, and shows a remarkable similarity to commercial multivitamin supplements that are known to be toxic. Research into mass-market vitamins has shown that these synthetically-derived substitutes deliver none of the nutritional benefits of real food, and can even increase mortality rates and incidences of prostate and gastrointestinal cancer.

Looking at the specific vitamin and mineral ingredients in Soylent reads like a “Who’s Who” of toxicants to avoid. Manganese sulfate is classified by the EU Index as “Harmful” and “Dangerous for the environment”[1] despite being allowed in meal replacement drinks and even infant formulas. Dl-alpha-tocopheryl acetate, a synthetic and inferior form of vitamin E, conveys little-to-none of the benefits of food-derived vitamin E. Studies show that it aggravates health problems related to smoking, including increased risk of stroke and pneumonia, and may contribute to DNA damage in the liver. Consumption of sodium selenite, the inorganic, toxic form of the trace element selenium, is associated with a sobering list of potential health risks, including fetal abnormalities in animal studies, and the potential to damage DNA and chromosomes. And sucralose, the synthetic sweetener used to wash it all down, has been shown to seriously compromise delicate gut flora, inducing glucose intolerance and contributing to metabolic and thyroid dysfunction, in addition to being cancer-causing.

The fact that Soylent is marketed to consumers as a healthy nutritional option when in reality it conceals a host of horrors, bears an ironic resemblance to how Soylent got its name. Taken from the 1970’s film, Soylent Green, Soylent is the name of a healthy food product supposedly made from ocean plankton, that later turns out to be made from human beings. The movie’s popular catchphrase, “Soylent green is people!” was meant to alert the unsuspecting public to the horrific reality of what they were actually consuming. In a world where truth is stranger than fiction, we at GreenMedInfo are sharing this article with the same intent. Ironically, Soylent’s intellectually unsophisticated pro-gmo stance is actually (true to its brand name’s origins) pro-cannabalism: “Biotech’s Dark Promise: Involuntary Cannibalism for All.”

Marketed to young, ecologically-minded consumers, Soylent is positioned as a plant-based, ‘low-carbon’ footprint alternative to animal foods, and a healthier convenience option than “microwave burritos.” Because “food wastes more than just your time,” Soylent’s year-long shelf life is touted as a profound benefit over “throwing away” costly fruits and vegetables because, who has time for eating? Soylent doesn’t require refrigeration, and you don’t even have to stop what you’re doing to consume it. Is this really the nutritional breakthrough we’ve been searching for?

In yet another parallel to the horror film, which explored a futuristic world where climate change and overpopulation create a food shortage, the makers of Soylent espouse to be creating a better world through easy access to “complete nutrition.” By taking eating “off your plate” and simultaneously reducing the carbon emissions associated with industrial animal farming, Soylent claims to be addressing the problem of feeding the planet in a time when, in their view, growing enough real food has become economically and ecologically unviable. We’ve already debunked Soylent’s nutritional claim that synthetic vitamins can take the place of real, organic food. Now, let’s unpack their claims regarding the environmental superiority of Soylent’s namesake ingredient: GMO soy.

The Harsh Reality of GMOs

Despite more than twenty years of claims by the federal government that GMOs are safe for human consumption, the food-buying public has never swallowed the bait. Consumers worldwide have demanded honest labeling laws, much to the consternation of the Big Agra lobby, who have argued that GMOs are “substantially equivalent” to their organic counterparts and therefore require no such disclosures. Monsanto has even gone to great lengths to hide its GMO products from consumers. And while most mainstream media outlets continue to seed the belief that GMOs have been proven safe in a trillion studies, there is good reason to suspect financial and political motivations behind the pro-GMO party line. Agribusiness lobbyists and chemical manufacturers like Monsanto pour hundreds of millions of dollars into American politics every year,[2] proposing legislation to enact laws in their favor. They draft press releases and write speeches for scientists to deliver on the wonders of GMO food production, meanwhile, the science tells a different story.

A study published in December 2016 in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports exposed the genetic differences in a strain of Roundup-tolerant corn called NK603 (doesn’t it make your mouth water?!).[3] According to the report, “Analysis found over 150 different proteins whose levels were different between the GMO NK603 and its non-GMO counterpart. More than 50 small molecule metabolites were also significantly different in their amounts.” These changes in gene expression, specifically proteins and glutathione—an important antioxidant—were indicative of increased oxidative stress in the plant. This led researchers to conclude that the GMO corn was not substantially equivalent to non-GMO corn, a finding that has been matched by multiple studies on glyphosate-tolerant soybeans,[4],[5],[6] along with other GMO crops. Meanwhile, the toxic effects of glyphosate, aka Roundup, continue to be exposed, not the least of which is that exceedingly low concentrations of it, even within the infinitesmal parts per trillion range, exhibit carcinogenic, endocrine-disruptive properties — disproving that ‘the dose makes the poison.’

A second study from late-2016 revealed that mice exposed to glyphosate “at environmentally relevant levels” developed non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a chronic condition that affects up to 40% of Americans, and up to 90% of obese individuals.[7] NAFLD, if left untreated, is often a precursor to adult-onset diabetes, and increased risks for cardiovascular disease and liver cancer. Perhaps the most shocking revelation in this study was that the threshold of glyphosate exposure, those “environmentally relevant levels,” were thousands of times lower than currently allowable limits set by governmental standards. Repeated exposure to an ultra-low dose of Roundup herbicide was enough to effect NAFLD in the mice in this study.[8] Chronic, low-dose exposure, such as the kind we get when we consume multiple servings of glyphosate-spliced GMO foods each day?

The myth of the “environmentally friendly” GMO crop has feeble roots. While it’s true that some farmers require less pesticide spray when raising GMO crops, it’s because the pesticide is already IN the crop! This defense is like playing a shell game, designed to make you lose sight of the prize—and human digestive systems pay the price.

In the case of soybeans, the key ingredient in Soylent, the claims of environmental advantages due to less toxic farming practices are patently false. In the largest-ever study on the environmental impacts of genetically modified crops, researchers from the University of Virginia determined that “widespread adoption of genetically modified crops has…increased the use of weed-killing herbicides as weeds become more resistant.” Soybeans are among the worst offenders. With data gathered from more than 5,000 soybean farmers between 1998-2011, soybean crops saw a significant increase in herbicide use, with GMO crops using 28% more herbicides than non-GMO crops.[9] Researchers determined that “continued growth in herbicide use poses a significant environmental problem,” and the adoption of GMO soybeans correlated with a negative impact on the environment due to increased contamination of local ecosystems (air and water).

Glyphosate contamination is affecting groundwater all over the agricultural world, and is so prevalent in the United States that it was found in 60-100% of air and water samples taken in this 2011 study. This is a far cry from the healthful, low-impact farming practices that Soylent’s manufacturers are touting. In addition to the negative environmental impact, GMO soybeans themselves bear the inevitable scars of genetic manipulation. GreenMedInfo previously reported on a July 2015 study that showed the process of genetically-modifying soybeans creates so much stress within the plant that it causes a build-up of cancer-causing formaldehyde. Bt toxin, the same one built into Monsanto’s GMO soy crops, is a biopesticide that is known to be highly toxic and potentially deadly at levels above 270 milligrams per kilogram. Further condemnation of the crop comes via a 2013 study which showed that Bt toxin is cytotoxic, or deadly to cells, particularly to mammalian red blood cells.

When a singular product claims to be a suitable replacement for real food, warning flags should start waving wildly. When that same product has key ingredients that are toxic for the human body, as well as bad for the environment, is there any need to field-test it for yourself? Soylent, like the film that inspired its name, is a frightening harbinger of what could come if we decide to outsource personal health and food integrity to big corporations. Also, please keep abreast of the new save of GMOs based on RNA interference technology that could be even more devastating to the health and well being of both humans and the planet by reading: The GMO Agenda Takes a Menacing Leap Forward with EPA’s Silent.

 

For additional research on the dangerous chemicals mentioned in this article, visit the GreenMedInfo Toxic Ingredient database. 


References

[1] https://www.jostchemical.com/documentation/SDS/EU/Manganese%20Sulfate%20Monohydrate%20-%20EU_EN.pdf

[2] https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/indus.php?id=A

[3] Robin Mesnage, Sarah Z. Agapito-Tenfen, Vinicius Vilperte, George Renney, Malcolm Ward, Gilles-Eric Séralini, Rubens O. Nodari & Michael N. Antoniou. An integrated multi-omics analysis of the NK603 Roundup-tolerant GM maize reveals metabolism disturbances caused by the transformation process. Scientific Reports volume 6, Article number: 37855 (2016) doi:10.1038/srep37855

[4] Brandao, A. R., Barbosa, H. S. & Arruda, M. A. Image analysis of two-dimensional gel electrophoresis for comparative proteomics of transgenic and non-transgenic soybean seeds. J Proteomics 73, 1433–1440 (2010).

[5] Barbosa, H. S., Arruda, S. C., Azevedo, R. A. & Arruda, M. A. New insights on proteomics of transgenic soybean seeds: evaluation of differential expressions of enzymes and proteins. Anal Bioanal Chem 402, 299–314 (2012).

[6] Arruda, S. C., Barbosa, H. S., Azevedo, R. A. & Arruda, M. A. Comparative studies focusing on transgenic through cp4EPSPS gene and non-transgenic soybean plants: an analysis of protein species and enzymes. J Proteomics 93, 107–116 (2013).

[7] https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/nafld-nash/definition-facts

[8] Robin Mesnage, George Renney, Gilles-Eric Séralini, Malcolm Ward & Michael N. Antoniou. Multiomics reveal non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats following chronic exposure to an ultra-low dose of Roundup herbicide. Scientific Reports volume 7, Article number: 39328 (2017). doi:10.1038/srep39328

[9] E. D. Perry et al. Genetically engineered crops and pesticide use in U.S. maize and soybeans, Science Advances (2016). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600850

‘Mind over matter’: Stephen Hawking – obituary by Roger Penrose


Theoretical physicist who made revolutionary contributions to our understanding of the nature of the universe.

 

Stephen Hawking at his office at the department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics at Cambridge University in 2005.
Stephen Hawking at his office at the department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics at Cambridge University in 2005.

The image of Stephen Hawking – who has died aged 76 – in his motorised wheelchair, with head contorted slightly to one side and hands crossed over to work the controls, caught the public imagination, as a true symbol of the triumph of mind over matter. As with the Delphic oracle of ancient Greece, physical impairment seemed compensated by almost supernatural gifts, which allowed his mind to roam the universe freely, upon occasion enigmatically revealing some of its secrets hidden from ordinary mortal view.

Of course, such a romanticised image can represent but a partial truth. Those who knew Hawking would clearly appreciate the dominating presence of a real human being, with an enormous zest for life, great humour, and tremendous determination, yet with normal human weaknesses, as well as his more obvious strengths. It seems clear that he took great delight in his commonly perceived role as “the No 1 celebrity scientist”; huge audiences would attend his public lectures, perhaps not always just for scientific edification.

The scientific community might well form a more sober assessment. He was extremely highly regarded, in view of his many greatly impressive, sometimes revolutionary, contributions to the understanding of the physics and the geometry of the universe.

Hawking had been diagnosed shortly after his 21st birthday as suffering from an unspecified incurable disease, which was then identified as the fatal degenerative motor neurone disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Soon afterwards, rather than succumbing to depression, as others might have done, he began to set his sights on some of the most fundamental questions concerning the physical nature of the universe. In due course, he would achieve extraordinary successes against the severest physical disabilities. Defying established medical opinion, he managed to live another 55 years.

His background was academic, though not directly in mathematics or physics. His father, Frank, was an expert in tropical diseases and his mother, Isobel (nee Walker), was a free-thinking radical who had a great influence on him. He was born in Oxford and moved to St Albans, Hertfordshire, at eight. Educated at St Albans school, he won a scholarship to study physics at University College, Oxford. He was recognised as unusually capable by his tutors, but did not take his work altogether seriously. Although he obtained a first-class degree in 1962, it was not a particularly outstanding one.

He decided to continue his career in physics at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, proposing to study under the distinguished cosmologist Fred Hoyle. He was disappointed to find that Hoyle was unable to take him, the person available in that area being Dennis Sciama, unknown to Hawking at the time. In fact, this proved fortuitous, for Sciama was becoming an outstandingly stimulating figure in British cosmology, and would supervise several students who were to make impressive names for themselves in later years (including the future astronomer royal Lord Rees of Ludlow).

Sciama seemed to know everything that was going on in physics at the time, especially in cosmology, and he conveyed an infectious excitement to all who encountered him. He was also very effective in bringing together people who might have things of significance to communicate with one another.

When Hawking was in his second year of research at Cambridge, I (at Birkbeck College in London) had established a certain mathematical theorem of relevance. This showed, on the basis of a few plausible assumptions (by the use of global/topological techniques largely unfamiliar to physicists at the time) that a collapsing over-massive star would result in a singularity in space-time – a place where it would be expected that densities and space-time curvatures would become infinite – giving us the picture of what we now refer to as a “black hole”. Such a space-time singularity would lie deep within a “horizon”, through which no signal or material body can escape. (This picture had been put forward by J Robert Oppenheimer and Hartland Snyder in 1939, but only in the special circumstance where exact spherical symmetry was assumed. The purpose of this new theorem was to obviate such unrealistic symmetry assumptions.) At this central singularity, Einstein’s classical theory of general relativity would have reached its limits.

Meanwhile, Hawking had also been thinking about this kind of problem with George Ellis, who was working on a PhD at St John’s College, Cambridge. The two men had been working on a more limited type of “singularity theorem” that required an unreasonably restrictive assumption. Sciama made a point of bringing Hawking and me together, and it did not take Hawking long to find a way to use my theorem in an unexpected way, so that it could be applied (in a time-reversed form) in a cosmological setting, to show that the space-time singularity referred to as the “big bang” was also a feature not just of the standard highly symmetrical cosmological models, but also of any qualitatively similar but asymmetrical model.

Some of the assumptions in my original theorem seem less natural in the cosmological setting than they do for collapse to a black hole. In order to generalise the mathematical result so as to remove such assumptions, Hawking embarked on a study of new mathematical techniques that appeared relevant to the problem.

A powerful body of mathematical work known as Morse theory had been part of the machinery of mathematicians active in the global (topological) study of Riemannian spaces. However, the spaces that are used in Einstein’s theory are really pseudo-Riemannian and the relevant Morse theory differs in subtle but important ways. Hawking developed the necessary theory for himself (aided, in certain respects, by Charles Misner, Robert Geroch and Brandon Carter) and was able to use it to produce new theorems of a more powerful nature, in which the assumptions of my theorem could be considerably weakened, showing that a big-bang-type singularity was a necessary implication of Einstein’s general relativity in broad circumstances.

A few years later (in a paper published by the Royal Society in 1970, by which time Hawking had become a fellow “for distinction in science” of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge), he and I joined forces to publish an even more powerful theorem which subsumed almost all the work in this area that had gone before.

In 1967, Werner Israel published a remarkable paper that had the implication that non-rotating black holes, when they had finally settled down to become stationary, would necessarily become completely spherically symmetrical. Subsequent results by Carter, David Robinson and others generalised this to include rotating black holes, the implication being that the final space-time geometry must necessarily accord with an explicit family of solutions of Einstein’s equations found by Roy Kerr in 1963. A key ingredient to the full argument was that if there is any rotation present, then there must be complete axial symmetry. This ingredient was basically supplied by Hawking in 1972.

The very remarkable conclusion of all this is that the black holes that we expect to find in nature have to conform to this Kerr geometry. As the great theoretical astrophysicist Subramanyan Chandrasekhar subsequently commented, black holes are the most perfect macroscopic objects in the universe, being constructed just out of space and time; moreover, they are the simplest as well, since they can be exactly described by an explicitly known geometry (that of Kerr).

Following his work in this area, Hawking established a number of important results about black holes, such as an argument for its event horizon (its bounding surface) having to have the topology of a sphere. In collaboration with Carter and James Bardeen, in work published in 1973, he established some remarkable analogies between the behaviour of black holes and the basic laws of thermodynamics, where the horizon’s surface area and its surface gravity were shown to be analogous, respectively, to the thermodynamic quantities of entropy and temperature. It would be fair to say that in his highly active period leading up to this work, Hawking’s research in classical general relativity was the best anywhere in the world at that time.

Hawking, Bardeen and Carter took their “thermodynamic” behaviour of black holes to be little more than just an analogy, with no literal physical content. A year or so earlier, Jacob Bekenstein had shown that the demands of physical consistency imply – in the context of quantum mechanics – that a black hole must indeed have an actual physical entropy (“entropy” being a physicist’s measure of “disorder”) that is proportional to its horizon’s surface area, but he was unable to establish the proportionality factor precisely. Yet it had seemed, on the other hand, that the physical temperature of a black hole must be exactly zero, inconsistently with this analogy, since no form of energy could escape from it, which is why Hawking and his colleagues were not prepared to take their analogy completely seriously.

Hawking had then turned his attention to quantum effects in relation to black holes, and he embarked on a calculation to determine whether tiny rotating black holes that might perhaps be created in the big bang would radiate away their rotational energy. He was startled to find that irrespective of any rotation they would radiate away their energy – which, by Einstein’s E=mc2, means their mass. Accordingly, any black hole actually has a non-zero temperature, agreeing precisely with the Bardeen-Carter-Hawking analogy. Moreover, Hawking was able to supply the precise value “one quarter” for the entropy proportionality constant that Bekenstein had been unable to determine.

This radiation coming from black holes that Hawking predicted is now, very appropriately, referred to as Hawking radiation. For any black hole that is expected to arise in normal astrophysical processes, however, the Hawking radiation would be exceedingly tiny, and certainly unobservable directly by any techniques known today. But he argued that very tiny black holes could have been produced in the big bang itself, and the Hawking radiation from such holes would build up into a final explosion that might be observed. There appears to be no evidence for such explosions, showing that the big bang was not so accommodating as Hawking wished, and this was a great disappointment to him.

These achievements were certainly important on the theoretical side. They established the theory of black-hole thermodynamics: by combining the procedures of quantum (field) theory with those of general relativity, Hawking established that it is necessary also to bring in a third subject, thermodynamics. They are generally regarded as Hawking’s greatest contributions. That they have deep implications for future theories of fundamental physics is undeniable, but the detailed nature of these implications is still a matter of much heated debate.

Hawking himself was able to conclude from all this (though not with universal acceptance by particle physicists) that those fundamental constituents of ordinary matter – the protons – must ultimately disintegrate, although with a decay rate that is beyond present-day techniques for observing it. He also provided reasons for suspecting that the very rules of quantum mechanics might need modification, a viewpoint that he seemed originally to favour. But later (unfortunately, in my own opinion) he came to a different view, and at the Dublin international conference on gravity in July 2004, he publicly announced a change of mind (thereby conceding a bet with the Caltech physicist John Preskill) concerning his originally predicted “information loss” inside black holes.

Following his black-hole work, Hawking turned his attentions to the problem of quantum gravity, developing ingenious ideas for resolving some of the basic issues. Quantum gravity, which involves correctly imposing the quantum procedures of particle physics on to the very structure of space-time, is generally regarded as the most fundamental unsolved foundational issue in physics. One of its stated aims is to find a physical theory that is powerful enough to deal with the space-time singularities of classical general relativity in black holes and the big bang.

Hawking’s work, up to this point, although it had involved the procedures of quantum mechanics in the curved space-time setting of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, did not provide a quantum gravity theory. That would require the “quantisation” procedures to be applied to Einstein’s curved space-time itself, not just to physical fields within curved space-time.

With James Hartle, Hawking developed a quantum procedure for handling the big-bang singularity. This is referred to as the “no-boundary” idea, whereby the singularity is replaced by a smooth “cap”, this being likened to what happens at the north pole of the Earth, where the concept of longitude loses meaning (becomes singular) while the north pole itself has a perfectly good geometry.

To make sense of this idea, Hawking needed to invoke his notion of “imaginary time” (or “Euclideanisation”), which has the effect of converting the “pseudo-Riemannian” geometry of Einstein’s space-time into a more standard Riemannian one. Despite the ingenuity of many of these ideas, grave difficulties remain (one of these being how similar procedures could be applied to the singularities inside black holes, which is fundamentally problematic).

There are many other approaches to quantum gravity being pursued worldwide, and Hawking’s procedures, though greatly respected and still investigated, are not the most popularly followed, although all others have their share of fundamental difficulties also.

To the end of his life, Hawking continued with his research into the quantum-gravity problem, and the related issues of cosmology. But concurrently with his strictly research interests, he became increasingly involved with the popularisation of science, and of his own ideas in particular. This began with the writing of his astoundingly successful book A Brief History of Time (1988), which was translated into some 40 languages and sold over 25m copies worldwide.

Undoubtedly, the brilliant title was a contributing factor to the book’s phenomenal success. Also, the subject matter is something that grips the public imagination. And there is a directness and clarity of style, which Hawking must have developed as a matter of necessity when trying to cope with the limitations imposed by his physical disabilities. Before needing to rely on his computerised speech, he could talk only with great difficulty and expenditure of effort, so he had to do what he could with short sentences that were directly to the point. In addition, it is hard to deny that his physical condition must itself have caught the public’s imagination.

Although the dissemination of science among a broader public was certainly one of Hawking’s aims in writing his book, he also had the serious purpose of making money. His financial needs were considerable, as his entourage of family, nurses, healthcare helpers and increasingly expensive equipment demanded. Some, but not all, of this was covered by grants.

To invite Hawking to a conference always involved the organisers in serious calculations. The travel and accommodation expenses would be enormous, not least because of the sheer number of people who would need to accompany him. But a popular lecture by him would always be a sell-out, and special arrangements would be needed to find a lecture hall that was big enough. An additional factor would be the ensuring that all entrances, stairways, lifts, and so on would be adequate for disabled people in general, and for his wheelchair in particular.

He clearly enjoyed his fame, taking many opportunities to travel and to have unusual experiences (such as going down a mine shaft, visiting the south pole and undergoing the zero-gravity of free fall), and to meet other distinguished people.

The presentational polish of his public lectures increased with the years. Originally, the visual material would be line drawings on transparencies, presented by a student. But in later years impressive computer-generated visuals were used. He controlled the verbal material, sentence by sentence, as it would be delivered by his computer-generated American-accented voice. High-quality pictures and computer-generated graphics also featured in his later popular books The Illustrated Brief History of Time (1996) and The Universe in a Nutshell (2001). With his daughter Lucy he wrote the expository children’s science book George’s Secret Key to the Universe (2007), and he served as an editor, co-author and commentator for many other works of popular science.

He received many high accolades and honours. In particular, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society at the remarkably early age of 32 and received its highest honour, the Copley medal, in 2006. In 1979, he became the 17th holder of the Lucasian chair of natural philosophy in Cambridge, some 310 years after Sir Isaac Newton became its second holder. He became a Companion of Honour in 1989. He made a guest appearance on the television programme Star Trek: The Next Generation, appeared in cartoon form on The Simpsons and was portrayed in the movie The Theory of Everything (2014).

It is clear that he owed a great deal to his first wife, Jane Wilde, whom he married in 1965, and with whom he had three children, Robert, Lucy and Timothy. Jane was exceptionally supportive of him in many ways. One of the most important of these may well have been in allowing him to do things for himself to an unusual extent.

He was an extraordinarily determined person. He would insist that he should do things for himself. This, in turn, perhaps kept his muscles active in a way that delayed their atrophy, thereby slowing the progress of the disease. Nevertheless, his condition continued to deteriorate, until he had almost no movement left, and his speech could barely be made out at all except by a very few who knew him well.

He contracted pneumonia while in Switzerland in 1985, and a tracheotomy was necessary to save his life. Strangely, after this brush with death, the progress of his degenerative disease seemed to slow to a virtual halt. His tracheotomy prevented any form of speech, however, so that acquiring a computerised speech synthesiser came as a necessity at that time.

In the aftermath of his encounter with pneumonia, the Hawkings’ home was almost taken over by nurses and medical attendants, and he and Jane drifted apart. They were divorced in 1995. In the same year, Hawking married Elaine Mason, who had been one of his nurses. Her support took a different form from Jane’s. In his far weaker physical state, the love, care and attention that she provided sustained him in all his activities. Yet this relationship also came to an end, and he and Elaine were divorced in 2007.

Despite his terrible physical circumstance, he almost always remained positive about life. He enjoyed his work, the company of other scientists, the arts, the fruits of his fame, his travels. He took great pleasure in children, sometimes entertaining them by swivelling around in his motorised wheelchair. Social issues concerned him. He promoted scientific understanding. He could be generous and was very often witty. On occasion he could display something of the arrogance that is not uncommon among physicists working at the cutting edge, and he had an autocratic streak. Yet he could also show a true humility that is the mark of greatness.

Hawking had many students, some of whom later made significant names for themselves. Yet being a student of his was not easy. He had been known to run his wheelchair over the foot of a student who caused him irritation. His pronouncements carried great authority, but his physical difficulties often caused them to be enigmatic in their brevity. An able colleague might be able to disentangle the intent behind them, but it would be a different matter for an inexperienced student.

To such a student, a meeting with Hawking could be a daunting experience. Hawking might ask the student to pursue some obscure route, the reason for which could seem deeply mysterious. Clarification was not available, and the student would be presented with what seemed indeed to be like the revelation of an oracle – something whose truth was not to be questioned, but which if correctly interpreted and developed would surely lead onwards to a profound truth. Perhaps we are all left with this impression now.

Hawking is survived by his children.

Stephen William Hawking, physicist, born 8 January 1942; died 14 March 2018, aged 76.

The fast-melting Arctic is already messing with the ocean’s circulation, scientists say


 

Between the Labrador and Irminger Seas: the southern tip of Greenland, photographed during a GEOMAR survey in 2016.

Scientists studying a remote and icy stretch of the North Atlantic have found new evidence that fresh water, likely melted from Greenland or Arctic sea ice, may already be altering a key process that helps drives the global circulation of the oceans.

In chilly waters on either side of Greenland, the ocean circulation “overturns,” as surface waters traveling northward become colder and more dense and eventually sink, traveling back southward toward Antarctica at extreme depths. This key sinking process is called convection. But too much fresh water at the surface could interfere with it, because with less salt, the water loses density and does not sink as easily.

In the new research, Marilena Oltmanns and two colleagues at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, found that following particularly warm summers in the remote Irminger Sea, convection tended to be more impaired in winter. In some cases, a layer of meltwater stayed atop the ocean into the next year, rather than vanishing into its depths as part of the overturning circulation, which has sometimes been likened to an ocean “conveyor belt.”

“Until now, models have predicted something for the future … but it was something that seemed very distant,” said Oltmanns, the lead scientist behind the research, which was published this week in Nature Climate Change.

“But now we saw with these observations that there is actually freshwater and that it is already affecting convection, and it delays convection quite a lot in some years,” she continued.

One caution is that this is an observational study, not a prediction for the future — and Oltmanns said “nobody really knows” how much freshwater is enough to significantly slow or shut down the circulation, which is technically called the “Atlantic meridional overturning circulation,” or AMOC. Still, it suggests that key processes that have raised long-standing concern are already happening.

To collect the data, Oltmanns and her team ventured by ship out into the Irminger Sea to the southeast of Greenland. There, they read data from ocean moorings that take measurements of the character of the waters in key regions of ocean convection. The researchers now have a 13-year record to draw upon from this area.

In winter, cold air chills the northward-flowing surface water in this region enough to cause it to become denser and sink. But meltwater interferes with and delays this process because, lacking salinity, it is less dense and less prone to sink.

In the high meltwater years, the ocean is also just warmer overall, the study found. That also delays the onset of convection, because it is harder for the ocean surface layer to lose enough heat to sink, Oltmanns said.

Either way, these processes create a situation in which meltwater may not sink entirely below the surface — instead, it can linger. This then creates the possibility that, lasting through the winter, it could join with even more meltwater the following summer.

The study found that in one year, 2010, 40 percent of fresh meltwater managed to linger in the Irminger Sea over winter and into the next year.

“It means that if there is less time for convection, there is less time to remove the freshwater from the upper layer,” Oltmanns said. “And in spring, the new freshwater comes. And it is possible that there is a threshold, that if there is a lot of freshwater that stays at the surface, and mixes with the new freshwater from the new summer, it suddenly doubles, or increases a lot, and the next winter, it’s a lot more difficult to break through.”

Again, it’s important to underscore that there are no predictions in this study about when these processes would reach such a threshold or cause a major switch to a new regime. Climate change simulations have generally found that while global warming should indeed weaken the Atlantic overturning circulation, that should play out gradually — but scientists acknowledge that these simulations are not necessarily complete.

That’s why data gathering, as in the current study, also matters a great deal.

“As we explore the crucial impact of freshwater discharge from Greenland and other venues on the ocean circulation, this paper represents an important piece in the puzzle,” said Marco Tedesco, a Greenland expert at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, who was not involved in the study.

The research highlights the growing attention being paid to the crucial ocean circulation in question, which is responsible for bringing warm ocean water northward and, therefore, warming higher latitudes and Europe, in particular. It has long been considered a potential weak spot in the climate system because of the possibility that a change here could trigger dramatic changes in a short time.

Scientists have reported the circulation is in a weakened state and has been since 2008. The reduction in strength has been by about 15 percent, David Smeed, a scientist who studies the strength of the circulation at Britain’s National Oceanography Center in Southampton, told The Washington Post this year.

But what’s behind changes this region is less clear, with some scientists saying that we’re already seeing the role of climate change, others saying that what’s going on in the North Atlantic is mainly the reflection of a cyclical phenomenon affecting the oceans and atmosphere — and many suggesting it’s a combination.

“These decadal variations are likely superimposed on a longer declining trend related to increasing greenhouse gases,” said Tom Delworth, an expert on the North Atlantic with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in an email to The Post this year. “However, in terms of explaining AMOC behavior over the coming decades, the relative role of increasing greenhouse gases may well increase relative to natural variability.”

That sounds pretty gradual — but the new study is saying the change doesn’t necessarily have to be.

“There might be a threshold that is crossed, and it’s harder to get back to where we were before,” Oltmanns said. “It’s possible.”

Real Food Is a Potent Ally Against Depression


Story at-a-glance,

  • Depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide, affecting an estimated 322 million people globally, including more than 16 million Americans, 6 million of whom are seniors
  • Research shows nutrition is a crucial factor in depression, and researchers have suggested diet is an important yet overlooked aspect of psychiatry
  • Recent research found seniors who followed the DASH diet were 11 percent less likely to develop depression over the following six years, whereas those following a standard Western diet had the highest rates of depression
  • Other studies have shown that unprocessed foods, especially fermented foods, help optimize your gut microbiome, thereby supporting optimal mental health, whereas sugar, wheat (gluten) and processed foods have been linked to a greater risk for depression, anxiety and even suicide
  • Your gut communicates to your brain via your vagus nerve and the stress pathway in your endocrine system, and by producing mood-boosting neurotransmitters. These links help explain why your gut health has such a significant impact on your mental health

By Dr. Mercola

According to the World Health Organization, depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide,1,2 affecting an estimated 322 million people globally, including more than 16 million Americans, 6 million of which are seniors.3 Statistics also reveal we’re not being particularly effective when it comes to prevention and treatment. Worldwide, rates of depression increased by 18 percent between 2005 and 2015.4

If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or some other mental health problem, remember that your diet is a foundational aspect that must not be overlooked. As noted in a 2015 study5 published in the medical journal Lancet:

“Although the determinants of mental health are complex, the emerging and compelling evidence for nutrition as a crucial factor in the high prevalence and incidence of mental disorders, suggests that diet is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology and gastroenterology.”

The Compelling Link Between Food and Mood

Recent research6,7,8 looking at the effects of the antihypertensive DASH diet on mental health concluded this kind of dietary pattern, which is low in sugar and high in fresh fruits and vegetables, can help reduce the risk of depression in seniors. Overall, people who followed the DASH diet were 11 percent less likely to develop depression over the following six years, whereas those following a standard Western diet, high in red meat and low in fruits and vegetables, had the highest rates of depression.

It’s worth noting that while many conventional experts recommend the DASH diet, it is not necessarily ideal for optimal health, as it also promotes whole grains and low-fat foods, including low-fat dairy. Healthy fats, including saturated animal and plant fats and animal-based omega-3, are quite crucial for optimal brain health. I believe the reason the DASH diet produces many beneficial results is because it is low in sugar and high in unprocessed foods — not because it’s low in fat.

Other studies have shown that unprocessed foods, especially fermented foods, help optimize your gut microbiome, thereby supporting optimal mental health,9,10 whereas sugar, wheat (gluten) and processed foods have been linked to a greater risk for depression, anxiety and even suicide. The primary information highway between your gut and your brain is your vagus nerve, which connects the two organs.11

Your gut also communicates to your brain via the endocrine system in the stress pathway (the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal axis), and by producing mood-boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA. These communication links help explain why your gut health has such a significant impact on your mental health.

The Strong Link Between Sugar and Depression

A number of food ingredients can cause or aggravate depression, but one of the most significant is sugar, particularly refined sugar and processed fructose.12 For example, in one study, men consuming more than 67 grams of sugar per day were 23 percent more likely to develop anxiety or depression over the course of five years compared to those whose sugar consumption was less than 40 grams per day (which is still far higher than the 25 grams per day recommended for optimal health).13

This held true even after accounting for other contributing factors, such as socioeconomic status, exercise, alcohol use, smoking, other eating habits, body weight and general physical health. Lead author Anika Knüppel,14 a research student in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, commented on the findings, saying:15

“Sweet food has been found to induce positive feelings in the short-term. People experiencing low mood may eat sugary foods in the hope of alleviating negative feelings. Our study suggests a high intake of sugary foods is more likely to have the opposite effect on mental health in the long-term.”

Research16 published in 2002, which correlated per capita consumption of sugar with prevalence of major depression in six countries, also found “a highly significant correlation between sugar consumption and the annual rate of depression.” A Spanish study17 published in 2011 linked depression specifically to consumption of baked goods.

Those who ate the most baked goods had a 38 percent higher risk of depression than those who ate the least. This makes sense when you consider baked goods contain both processed grains and added sugars.

How Sugar Wreaks Havoc on Your Mood and Mental Health

Sugar has been shown to trigger depression and other mental health problems through a number of different mechanisms, including the following:

Feeding pathogens in your gut, allowing them to overtake more beneficial bacteria.
Suppressing activity of a key growth hormone in your brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF levels are critically low in both depression and schizophrenia, and animal models suggest this may actually be a causative factor.
Triggering a cascade of chemical reactions in your body that promote chronic inflammation, which over the long term disrupts the normal functioning of your immune system and wreaks havoc on your brain.
Contributing to insulin and leptin resistance, which also plays a significant role in your mental health.
Affecting dopamine, a neurotransmitter that fuels your brain’s reward system18 (hence sugar’s addictive potential19,20,21) and is known to play a role in mood disorders.22
Damaging your mitochondria, which can have bodywide effects. Your mitochondria generate the vast majority of the energy (adenosine triphosphate or ATP) in your body.

When sugar is your primary fuel, excessive reactive oxygen species (ROS) and secondary free radicals are created, which damage cellular mitochondrial membranes and DNA. As your mitochondria are damaged, the energy currency in your body declines and your brain will struggle to work properly.

Healthy dietary fats, on the other hand, create far fewer ROS and free radicals. Fats are also critical for the health of cellular membranes and many other biological functions, including and especially the functioning of your brain.

Among the most important fats for brain function and mental health are the long-chained animal-based omega-3 fats DHA and EPA. Not only are they anti-inflammatory, but DHA is actually a component in every cell of your body, and 90 percent of the omega-3 fat found in brain tissue is DHA.

Eating Real Food Is Key

A paper23 published in Nutritional Neuroscience last year looked at evidence from laboratory, population research and clinical trials to create “a set of practical dietary recommendations for the prevention of depression, based on the best available current evidence.” According to this paper, the published evidence reveals five key dietary recommendations for the prevention of depression:

  • Following a “traditional” dietary pattern such as the Mediterranean, Norwegian or Japanese diet
  • Increasing consumption of antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrain cereals, nuts and seeds (note that autoimmune diseases are rampant and whole grains and legumes are loaded with lectins and best avoided. See my interview with Dr. Steven Gundry for more details)
  • Eating plenty of omega-3-rich foods
  • Replacing unhealthy processed foods with real, wholesome nutritious foods
  • Avoiding processed foods, fast food, commercial baked goods and sweets

Processed Foods Are Problematic in More Ways Than One

Three brain- and mood-wrecking culprits you’ll automatically avoid when avoiding processed foods are added sugars, artificial sweeteners24 and processed vegetable oils — harmful fats known to clog your arteries and cause mitochondrial dysfunction. Gluten also appears to be particularly problematic for many. If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, you’d be well-advised to experiment with a gluten-free diet.

Certain types of lectins, especially wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), are also known for their psychiatric side effects. WGA can cross your blood brain barrier25 through a process called “adsorptive endocytosis,” pulling other substances with it. WGA may attach to your myelin sheath26 and is capable of inhibiting nerve growth factor,27 which is important for the growth, maintenance and survival of certain target neurons.

Processed foods are also a significant source of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients and toxic herbicides like Roundup. In addition to being toxic and potentially carcinogenic, glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has been shown to preferentially decimate beneficial gut microbes. Many grains need to dry in the field before being harvested, and to speed that process, the fields are doused with glyphosate a couple of weeks before harvest.

As a result of this practice, called desiccation, grain-based products tend to contain rather substantial amounts of glyphosate. This reason alone is enough to warrant a grain-free diet, but if you do choose to eat whole grain products, make sure it’s organic to avoid glyphosate contamination.

Your beverage choices may also need an overhaul, as most people drink very little pure water, relying on sugary beverages like sodas, fruit juices, sports drinks, energy drinks and flavored water for their hydration needs. None of those alternatives will do your mental health any favors.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Protects and Supports Good Mental Health

As mentioned above, one of the mechanisms by which good nutrition bolsters mental health is by cutting down inflammation in your body, and a high-sugar diet is exceptionally inflammatory. A number of studies have linked depression with chronic inflammation.28,29

For example, a study30 published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in 2016 concluded that depressed patients had 46 percent higher levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein in their blood. Interestingly, they also had 16 percent lower levels of low fractional exhaled nitric oxide, which adds further support for doing exercises that boost nitric oxide cycling, such as the Nitric Oxide Dump exercise. As explained in the study:

“Nitric oxide (NO), in addition to being an inflammatory mediator, is also a neurotransmitter at the neuron synapses. It modulates norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine and glutamate and thus is speculated to play a role in the pathogenesis of depression. Nitric oxide is also currently seen as a marker of airway inflammation and can be measured during exhalation.

Fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) may represent both constitutive and inducible NO. Small studies suggest that subjects with depressed mood have low levels of FeNO … Subjects with depression also have low levels of plasma and platelet NO. The low systemic levels of NO have been postulated to be responsible for the increased risk of cardiovascular events observed in subjects with depression, as NO produces vasodilatation …

In summary, this large population-based study found that depression is associated with high levels of CRP and low levels of FeNO. These findings corroborate the premise that inflammation could play a role in the pathophysiology of major depression and that major depression may be seen as a psychoneuroimmunological disorder.”

Four Powerful Dietary Interventions

In addition to transitioning from a diet of processed fare to real food, consider:

Implementing a cyclical ketogenic diet, high in healthy fats, low in net carbs with moderate amounts of protein. This kind of diet will optimize your mitochondrial function, which has significant implications for mental health. In fact, one noticeable effect of nutritional ketosis is mental clarity and a sense of calm. The reason for this welcome side effect has to do with the fact that when your body is able to burn fat for fuel, ketones are created, which is the preferred fuel for your brain.

Intermittent fasting will also help optimize your brain function and prevent neurological problems by activating your body’s fat-burning mode, preventing insulin resistance and reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, the latter of which has been identified as a causative factor in depression.31,32

While you may achieve some of the benefits from intermittent fasting simply by respecting the time boundaries, regardless of the foods you consume, it is far better if you consume high-quality unprocessed food.

Since you’ll be eating less, it’s vitally important that you get proper nutrition. Healthy fats are essential because intermittent fasting pushes your body to switch over to fat-burning mode. Particularly if you begin to feel tired and sluggish, it may be a sign that you need to increase the amount of healthy fat in your diet.

Water fasting. Once you’re starting to burn fat for fuel, gradually increase the length of your daily intermittent fasting to 20 hours per day. After a month of 20-hour daily fasting, you’re likely in good metabolic shape and able to burn fat as fuel. At that point, you can try a four or five-day water-only fast.

I now do a quarterly five-day fast, as I believe this is one of the most powerful metabolic health interventions out there. A five-day fast will effectively clean out senescent cells that have stopped duplicating due to aging or oxidative damage, which would otherwise clog up your optimal biologic function by causing and increasing inflammation.

Exercise and get regular movement throughout your day. Exercise is one of the most effective antidepressant strategies out there, beating most medical interventions for depression.

Electromagnetic Field Exposures Could Be Wreaking Havoc With Your Mental Health

Another foundational strategy to prevent or treat depression and anxiety is to limit exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Studies have linked excessive EMF exposure to an increased risk of both depression and suicide.33 Addiction to or “high engagement” with mobile devices can also trigger depression and anxiety, according to recent research from the University of Illinois.34

Research35 by Martin Pall, Ph.D., reveals a previously unknown mechanism of biological harm from microwaves emitted by cellphones and other wireless technologies, which helps explain why these technologies can have such a potent impact on your mental health. Embedded in your cell membranes are voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs), which are activated by microwaves. When activated, a cascade of biochemical effects occurs that result in the creation of extremely destructive hydroxyl free radicals.

Hydroxyl free radicals decimate mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, their membranes and proteins. The end result is mitochondrial dysfunction, which we now know is at the heart of most chronic disease. The tissues with the highest density of VGCCs are your brain, the pacemaker in your heart and male testes. Hence, health problems such as Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression, autism, cardiac arrhythmias and infertility can be directly linked to excessive microwave exposure.

So, if you struggle with anxiety or depression, be sure to limit your exposure to wireless technologies, in addition to addressing your diet and exercise. Simple measures include turning your Wi-Fi off at night, not carrying your cellphone on your body and not keeping portable phones, cellphones and other electric devices in your bedroom. The electric wiring inside your bedroom walls is probably the most important source to address.

Your best bet here is to turn off the power to your bedroom at night. This will work if there are no adjacent rooms. If there are, you may need to shut those rooms off also. The only way to know would be to measure the electric fields. For additional lifestyle guidelines that can help prevent and/or treat depression, see the nondrug solutions section at the end of this previous article on depression.

Supercharge Your Insulin Sensitivity Naturally with These 5 Proven Daily Routines


 

Insulin sensitivity refers to the biological response of target tissues such as muscle to the actions of insulin. In other words, insulin sensitivity refers to how well insulin performs its role of transporting and storing fuels in specific cells in the body, particularly glucose.

Insulin sensitivity varies between individuals and is reduced in people with diabetes.

Medication aside, lifestyle plays an important role in helping boost insulin sensitivity and prevent impaired tissue responses (insulin resistance), which, in turn, supports blood glucose disposal and improves diabetes management.

Lifestyle choices do this in a number of ways:

  • Strength training increases muscle mass which serves as a major storage house for glucose.
  • Walking and other forms of low-intensity exercise can reduce blood glucose.
  • Stress management including meditation and a good quality sleep pattern help control excess production of counterregulatory stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which increase blood glucose levels.

All of the above help improve the action of diabetes medication and whatever is left of natural insulin production. Obviously, the effects of each lifestyle factor will vary depending on how often they are conducted, their intensity and, of course, inter-individual physiology and genetics.

Treat this article like an accountability checklist.

If you live with diabetes and aren’t following any of the five lifestyle behaviors listed, you might be missing a few tricks for improving health, managing your diabetes, and building that body you always wanted.

Daily Routine #1 – Perform at Least 20-45 Minutes of Anaerobic Exercise Every Single Day

Anaerobic exercise is defined as physical exercise that is intense enough to generate lactate.

You know you have generated lactate when you start feeling a burning sensation in your muscles. High rep squats and sprint intervals get you burning pretty quick. Strength training and high-intensity interval training are prime examples of anaerobic exercise.

The human body responds differently when trained with anaerobic exercise compared to aerobic exercise. The adaptions that occur to the muscle energy systems are of particular interest and benefit to people with diabetes.

Anaerobic training increases insulin sensitivity and stimulates skeletal muscle tissue to absorb glucose from the bloodstream independently of insulin. This is achieved through the stimulation of specific glucose transporters called GLUT-4. The more anaerobic work a muscle fiber has to contend with, the greater number of GLUT-4 rise to the surface of a muscle cell for the purpose of glucose extraction. Once glucose is absorbed from the bloodstream it is stored as muscle glycogen.

Increased insulin sensitivity is just one of the many benefits of anaerobic exercise. There are plenty more, which I will cover another time.

How often and how much anaerobic training should I perform?

Perform anaerobic training at least 3 times per week in the form of:

  • 20-60 minutes of strength training – whole body, body part splits, etc.
  • 10-20 minutes high-intensity interval training – skipping, spinning, battle ropes, sprints etc.

All of these training bouts will improve glucose uptake and improve blood glucose management in people living with diabetes.

Daily Routine #2 – Get and Stay Lean

It is well-established that high levels of body fat result from living in a calorie surplus for a prolonged amount of time. Excess body fat accumulation is not only unsightly, but highly inflammatory and detrimental to the effectiveness of your insulin.

Also proven is the fact that the biological response of target tissues to the actions of insulin (insulin sensitivity) are majorly affected by adiposity, or the amount of body fat one carries. 1

The leaner you are, the better your insulin will work. Period.

5 top tips for getting lean with diabetes:

  • Create a calorie deficit by sensibly increasing your physical activity and reducing food intake in a controlled way.
  • Strength train at least 4-5 times per week.
  • Manage your diabetes.
  • Achieve at least 7 hours sleep each night.
  • Aim to lose between 0.5-1% of your body weight each week.

Daily Routine #3 – Have a Toolbox of De-Stressing Activities

In today’s modern day age, we are increasingly exposed to more chronic stress than ever before: mobile phones, social media, traffic, bills, etc.

Stress stimulates a flight or fight response within the body, a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. The body responds to stress by activating the sympathetic branch of the central nervous system. Stress increases muscle tone, constricts blood vessels, and increases the production of counterregulatory stress hormones which increase blood glucose.

In small doses stress is healthy. It can save your life.

However, excessive stress is unhealthy and works against diabetes management.2

The greater and more prolonged the stress, the more insulin is required to balance blood glucose. It is well established that stress can influence whole-body glucose metabolism and promote insulin resistance. 2,3

Any forms of stress management, like meditation, massage, yoga, breathing exercises, or personal development, are worthwhile if they help reduce stress. Reducing your daily stress is a surefire way to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce incidents of high blood glucose.

Even Apple have cottoned on to this with their new “take a minute to breathe” reminder on their Apple Watch.

Daily Routine #4 – Have a Structured Sleeping Plan

Sleep could also be considered a form of stress management, especially for individuals who are highly active and live with diabetes.

I hate to tell you the obvious, but sleep is essential for good health and diabetes management.

Many laboratory and epidemiological studies suggest that sleep loss may play a role in the increased prevalence of insulin resistance and diabetes.4,5,6,7

One of the best pieces of advice is to set a fixed bedtime and wake time. Not only does this provide structure for your day, but it ensures you get enough restorative sleep for health and optimal diabetes management.

Again, the major tech company Apple and their recent focus on health tech apps have included a set wake/bedtime function in their alarm clock.

At Diabetic Muscle and Fitness, we take sleep seriously. We even developed a 3.5+ hour video module on sleep optimization for improving hormone profiles and body composition.

Daily Routine #5 – Perform Aerobic Exercise Daily

Aerobic exercise such as a light jogging or a brisk walk can increase glucose disposal and lower blood glucose levels – independently of insulin.

One of the main reasons aerobic exercise lowers blood glucose levels so well is due to the fact that there is little to no counterregulatory hormone response like that which occurs during high-intensity anaerobic exercise.

Please bear in mind, it is important to monitor insulin intake around aerobic exercise in order to avoid hypoglycemia.

I highly recommend buying an activity monitor like a Fitbit, Apple Watch, or Garmin. These are awesome for building the habit of doing more aerobic exercise throughout your day.

Take Home

Each and every daily routine I’ve shared in this article will improve insulin action and help your body clear glucose easier. Each and every one of these routines is a prerequisite for a great looking body and high levels of mental and physical performance.

Identify which areas you need to work on and get to it!

References

  1. Wilcox G. Insulin and insulin resistance. Clin Biochem Rev. 2005 May; 26(2):19-39.
  2. Li L et al. Acute psychological stress results in the rapid development of insulin resistance. J Endocrinol. 2013 Apr 15;217(2):175-84.
  3. Nolan et al. Insulin Resistance as a Physiological Defense Against Metabolic Stress: Implications for the Management of Subsets of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Mar 2015, 64 (3) 673-686;
  4. Kripke DF, Garfinkel L, Wingard DL, Klauber MR, Marler MR. Mortality associated with sleep duration and insomnia. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2002;59:131–6.
  5. Ayas NT, White DP, Manson JE, et al. A prospective study of sleep duration and coronary heart disease in women. Arch Intern Med. 2003;163:205–9.
  6. Ip MS, Lam B, Ng MM, Lam WK, Tsang KW, Lam KS. Obstructive sleep apnea is independently associated with insulin resistance. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2002;165:670–6.
  7. Punjabi NM, Shahar E, Redline S, Gottlieb DJ, Givelber R, Resnick HE. Sleep-disordered breathing, glucose intolerance, and insulin resistance: the Sleep Heart Health Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2004;160:521–30.

The 17 Healthiest Chinese Food Takeout Options, According to Registered Dietitians


Yes, you would like to place an order for pick-up, please and thank you.
15+ Chinese Takeout Orders That Are R.D.-Approved

Ordering Chinese takeout is easy. Ordering healthy Chinese takeout takes a little more thought. But finding the healthiest food from your favorite Chinese restaurant shouldn’t be hard—hi, that defeats the whole purpose of ordering in—so we’ve put together something of a healthy Chinese food options cheat sheet for you. We asked registered dietitians how they navigate the menu when there’s just no way they’re cooking tonight. The themes we heard over and over again? Watch out for sauces that go overboard on the sodium, steamed is healthier than fried (duh), and load up on veggies.

What if your favorite dish doesn’t make this list? Well, there are a couple ways to think about it. If you’re ordering out of sheer convenience and determined to make the healthiest choices possible, use this advice as a guide to meet this goal. If you’re ordering because you’re seriously craving something in particular…order it, enjoy the hell out of it, and don’t waste your time feeling guilty about it.

These 17 healthy Chinese food options are what registered dietitians order for themselves, and we have to admit, we’re getting hungry just looking at them. Let this list inspire your next takeout order. Who knows, you might even discover a new favorite.

1. Shrimp and Vegetables With Black Bean Sauce

“You get lean protein from the shrimp, and lots of antioxidants, fiber, and even a bit of water from the veggies,” says Keri Glassman, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., and founder of Nutritious Life in NYC. She always orders her sauce on the side, so you can control how much is on there.

TheCrimsonMonkey / Getty

2. Beef and Broccoli

This classic dish gets a thumbs-up for its filling power. “I like beef and broccoli with brown rice,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D. “You don’t need too much beef to feel full.” Chicken and broccoli is a good option, too.

3. Mixed Vegetables

You’re probably not surprised that vegetables made the list. Patricia Bannan, M.S., R.D., recommends ordering steamed or even lightly stir-fried veggies on the side—the more, the better.

4. Extra Vegetables

Rather than ordering a separate dish, see if the restaurant will bulk up your current order with extra veg. “Ask for extra broccoli, carrots, or snow peas in any dish,” suggests Sarah-Jane Bedwell, R.D., L.D.N. “These are three veggies that Asian restaurants typically have on hand.” This tactic is one of her favorites for filling up her plate.

Daniel Frauchiger, Switzerland / Getty

5. Moo Shu Vegetables

Maxine C. Yeung, a registered dietitian, personal trainer, and wellness coach, and owner of The Wellness Whisk, likes to order this dish, which is typically served with hoisin sauce and thin pancakes for wrapping. “This dish is majority vegetables—a mix of diced egg and vegetables, such as cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and sometimes cashews, flavored with scallions, ginger and garlic,” she says, adding, “It’s low in carbohydrates if you limit the number of pancakes or substitute with lettuces for wraps.”

6. Moo Shu Chicken

Glassman goes for the chicken version for the lean protein it provides. “But make sure to ask for light sauce,” she says. “It’s most likely high in sodium and (unhealthy!) fat.” Yeung also points out that the hoisin adds unnecessary sugar.

7. Steamed Anything

“I usually ask for my dish steamed with the sauce on the side,” says Scritchfield. “Steamed helps to reduce the oil in the dish, making it lighter in calories and possibly a bit easier to digest. You can get most any dish steamed.” This works for veggies, lean protein, rice, you name it.

Karen Beard / Getty

8. A Small Soup

Eating a broth-based soup first can help you eat less later on, explains Alissa Rumsey, R.D. She prefers hot and sour soup, while Bedwell goes for wonton. Keri Gans, R.D., always orders egg drop soup. “A one cup serving is only 66 calories, so even though your serving from a restaurant is larger, the calories are still in check. It also provides around 3 grams of protein and 1 gram of fiber per one cup serving.” It’s high in sodium, thought, which is something to keep in mind if you’re trying to watch your intake.

9. Moo Goo Gai Pan

Entrees that come with plenty of veg are always good options, says Rumsey. “Moo Goo Gai Pan typically consists of stir-fried chicken with mushrooms and other vegetables, providing a balanced meal with just a light sauce. It comes with a lot of vegetables, so they are the main part of the meal, not just an afterthought.” This is a favorite of Bedwell’s, too: “It’s flavorful and lean with chicken, mushrooms, and other mixed veggies and is not as high in sugars and fats as many other dishes.”

10. Chinese Eggplant With Garlic Sauce

“I like Chinese eggplant in spicy garlic sauce because it’s all vegetable! In addition to the eggplant, it usually comes with broccoli too,” says Scritchfield.

Victoria Pearson / Getty

11. Steamed Dumplings

“If you want an appetizer, [go for] a vegetable dumpling that is steamed and not fried,” says Gans. You might also recognize these as potstickers—either way, they get top marks when they haven’t been fried in oil and they’re filled with veggies.

12. Brown Rice With a Scrambled Egg

Scritchfield has a simple, healthier swap for fried rice: Order brown rice and ask for a scrambled egg on the side. “Most takeouts have eggs for the fried rice, and they are willing to do this for you,” she explains. “Brown rice has a lower glycemic index as compared to white rice, which helps reduce insulin spikes.”

Richard Jung / Getty

13. Shrimp or Tofu Entrées

While Gans herself typically prefers broccoli and garlic sauce, “If it is a higher-end restaurant I might opt for some shrimp,” she says. Bedwell adds that steamed shrimp is a great way too add lean protein to your meal—if you’re a vegetarian, she recommends grilled tofu instead.

14. Kung Pao Chicken

Bring on the spice. Order Kung Pao chicken instead of sweet-and-sour chicken, sesame chicken, and General Tso’s chicken, says Bedwell. “It comes with abundant vegetables, sans the fried chicken!”

15. Buddha’s Delight

“If I want to do a vegetarian meal, I’ll go for Buddah’s Delight since it is a flavorful dish that is primarily steamed veggies with a little tofu for protein,” says Bedwell. This is a personal favorite of Rumsey’s, too.

16. Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Glassman calls this “an obvious choice to get veggies and protein all in one.” Plus, they’re fun to make and eat.

17. Sauce on the Side

This tip came up again and again. “By getting it on the side you can better control the amount you eat,” says Rumsey. “Often I take two or three tablespoons of the original sauce and mix it with low-sodium soy sauce.” Bannan adds, “For comparison, one tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce has 22 percent of your days’ worth of sodium and one tablespoon of regular soy sauce has about 38 percent of your days’ worth of sodium.”

The Billionaire Philanthropist


Longreads

Jacob Silverman | Longreads | March 2018 | 9 minutes (2,268 words)

During the political chaos of the last year, one American institution has emerged stronger than ever. As its revenues soared, Amazon’s stock price has steadily ascended, cresting $1,500 and beyond. Jeff Bezos, the company’s founder and CEO, has experienced what The New York Times described as “what could be the most rapid personal-wealth surge in history.” His net worth hovers somewhere around $130 billion. His 400,000 acres in land holdings — much of it in west Texas, where Blue Origin, his space company, is based — makes him the 28th largest landowner in the country, according to the magazine The Land Report. By any standard, Bezos is one of the richest people to have ever lived, while Amazon exerts an impossible-to-overstate influence on a range of fields, from retail to publishing to cloud computing. As part…

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Stephen Hawking’s 5 Predictions About the Future


Visionary physicist Stephen Hawking died early Wednesday at the age of 76. An intellectual leader in the study of black holes, quantum mechanics, and physical cosmology, Hawking also found a degree of beloved celebrity that evades most scientists. The best-selling author was a mainstay in the public eye, using his computer-based communication system to explain the wonders of the universe.

In turn, his numerous appearances on television, radio, and the stage gave us an archive of Hawking’s advice for the future. Not one to shy away from the apocalyptic, Hawking was passionate about protecting humanity, which he predicted would face an onslaught of challenges in the years to come.

See also: “Eddie Redmayne Remembers Stephen Hawking in One Surprising Way”

Here’s a sampling of his scientific soothsaying.

Stephen Hawking is headlining the Starmus Festival.
Stephen Hawking died Wednesday at the age of 76.

Hawking Predicted A.I. May Be “The Worst Thing” for Humans

In November, Hawking warned at a technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal, that artificial intelligence could be “the worst thing ever to happen to humanity.” Because what an A.I. can learn is infinite, Hawking reasoned that it could eventually catch up to the limits of the human brain and surpass us.

“Success in creating effective A.I. could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization or the worst,” Hawking said at Web Summit last year. “We cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by A.I. or ignored by it and sidelined or conceivably destroyed by it.”

Hawking also told Wired in November that he feared A.I. would “replace humans altogether,” a concern he had in common with Elon Musk. Accordingly, the two men endorsed a list of 23 principles they feel should steer A.I. development in February 2017.

Hawking Predicted Meeting Aliens Will Be Bad News

It was Hawking’s belief that when humans inevitably meet aliens, we should run. That dread came less from an idea that aliens will be inherently bad, and more from his observations of humans. Much like Christopher Columbus triggered chaos in his coming to the Americas, colonizing aliens would also bring turmoil to our proverbial shores.

“We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet,” Hawking told the Times of London in 2010. “I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all of the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens should perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach.”

But He Also Predicted We Probably Won’t Encounter Aliens Soon

Despite his concerns about a hostile alien civilization, Hawking never said this alien invasion would happen anytime soon. In April 2016, he explained at a conference for the space exploration project Breakthrough Starshot that the next 20 years, at least, will likely be alien free.

“The probability [of finding alien life] is low — probably,” Hawking told the crowd. “But the discoveries from the Kepler mission suggest that there are billions of habitable planets in our galaxy alone. There are at least 100 billion galaxies in the visible universe, so it seems likely that there are others out there.”

Stephen Hawking, Big Bang
Stephen Hawking: not a fan of aliens.

Hawking Predicted Our Time on Earth Would End

During his work with Breakthrough Starshot, Hawking asserted that within the next thousand or 10 thousand years, humans living on interstellar colonies would be absolute certainty. This would be, in Hawking’s opinion, for the best. Earth, he predicted, was in danger of experiencing astronomical events like asteroids and supernovas. To survive as a species, he declared in April 2016, “we must ultimately spread to the stars.”

This wasn’t a one-time prediction from Hawking. At the Starmus Festival in June 2017, he declared that humans needed to prepare for an exodus off this planet sometime within the next 200 to 500 years because of our own damage to Earth.

“We are running out of space, and the only place we can go to are other worlds,” Hawking told a crowd in Trondheim, Norway. “It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves.”

Hawking Predicted Climate Change Could Ravage Earth

Hawking joined many scientists in his assertion that climate change could spell out the end for our planet, but it’s on this topic that he struck a (relatively) more hopeful tone. Sure, climate change could kill us all, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen.

“We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible,” Hawking told BBC News in July. “Climate change is one of the great dangers we face, and it’s one we can prevent if we act now.”

To move away from this tipping point, Hawking argued, world leaders like President Donald Trump (of whom he was no fan) would need to stick to the rules laid out by the Paris Agreement. According to Hawking, we aren’t at doomsday yet — and it’s up to our actions and ingenuity to keep it that way.

Stephen Hawking’s Warning on Robot Automation is More Relevant than Ever


Stephen Hawking was concerned with how the rise in robot automation could drive income inequality. The British physicist, who died Wednesday in his Cambridge home at the age of 76, warned that the combination of artificial intelligence and employment shifts could lead to a dramatic shift in power in both the short and long term.

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In a Reddit Ask Me Anything session in October 2015, a user asked about “the possibility of technological unemployment” in the face of robot automation, comparing it to the 19th century Luddite movement, whose members feared — often correctly — that the Industrial Revolution would cost them their jobs. In response, Hawking said:

If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.

Hawking’s Reddit comment, the last one posted via his account “Prof-Stephen-Hawking,” was shared on a number of subreddits Wednesday morning, including the socialism subreddit, where it received nearly 7,000 upvotes.

It wasn’t the only time that Hawking warned about these coming changes. In a December 2016 column in The Guardian, he said “the automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.”

It’s a sentiment shared by others in the tech world. Brad Wardell, CEO of software developer Stardock, published a blog in September 2016 that warned the accumulation of wealth through automation could represent a catastrophic shift in power.

Figures like Virgin’s Richard Branson and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman have called for a basic income to alleviate the worst changes from these shifts. A PriceWaterhouseCoopers report found in March 2017 that 38 percent of U.S. jobs could be lost to automation over the coming 13 years.

Beyond mass unemployment, Hawking repeatedly warned that the A.I. underpinning large-scale robot automation could itself be a catastrophic risk. Much like Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s warnings that A.I. could pose “a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization,” Hawking expressed fears that “A.I. may replace humans altogether” in a November 2017 interview.

“Artificial intelligence could be a real danger in the not too distant future,” Hawking told John Oliver in an episode of Last Week Tonight aired in June 2014. “It could design improvements to itself and outsmart us all.”

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