list of scientists that embrace creationism

I’ve been arguing on Facebook with some people that seem convinced that by showing a list of scientists that are also creationists, they somehow “prove” that there is a controversy over evolution.

The list can be seen here, and contains 214 entries at the moment.

Of that list, only 35 of them are biologists. The rest really don’t matter. Who cares if a food scientist doesn’t believe in evolution?

So, the list of remaining biologists:

Dr Kimberly Berrine Microbiology & Immunology does not appear to exist
Prof. Vladimir Betina Microbiology, Biochemistry & Biology Does not appear to have ever mentioned his opinion either way
Dr Raymond G. Bohlin Biology Biased: leads a religious ministry.
Dr Andrew Bosanquet Biology, Microbiology No evidence he supports creationism. A number of published articles on evolution of the p53 protein [1] [2]
Dr Robert W. Carter Marine Biology Biased: works for Creation Ministries.
Prof. Chung-Il Cho Biology Education No evidence he is a creationist. Has written articles providing evidence for evolution. [1] [2]
Dr Ken Cumming Biology Biased: dean of the Institution of Creation Research.
Dr David A. DeWitt Biology, Biochemistry, Neuroscience Biased: Associate Director of the Center for Creation Studies at Liberty University.
Prof. Carl B. Fliermans Professor of Biology Biased: member of the technical board for the Institute for Creation Research, teaches biblical studies
Prof. Robert H. Franks Associate Professor of Biology Does not appear to exist. The only references I can find to him are in this list, or here (which makes him about 80 and probably dead).
Dr Pierre Jerlström Molecular Biology Biased: staff scientist at Creation Ministries International, and editorial co-ordinator of Journal of Creation [1].
Dr Arthur Jones Biology Biased: works for the Christian Schools’ Trust. Taught religion at two UK schools.
Dr Dean Kenyon Biology Biased: fellow of the Discovery Institute [1]. No longer a professor. Witness for the losing side of two important evolution/creationism court cases. [2].
Prof. Gi-Tai Kim Biology Does not appear to have published an opinion for or against evolution [1].
Dr John W. Klotz Biology Has been dead for nearly twenty years.
Dr Leonid Korochkin M.D., Genetics, Molecular Biology, Neurobiology is NOT a creationist. One of his articles [1] says he is an “adherent of the macromutation evolution”.
Dr Wolfgang Kuhn biology researcher and lecturer This guy has been dead more than ten years.
Dr Heather Kuruvilla Plant Physiology, Senior Professor of Biology, Cedarville University Does not appear to have ever given an opinion on evolution or creationism
Dr John G. Leslie biochemistry, molecular biology, medicine, biblical archaeology has no biology education [1]
Prof. Lane P. Lester Biology, Genetics Biased: on the board of directors of the Creation Research Society.
Dr Ian Macreadie Molecular Biology and Microbiology appears to be professionally unbiased but blinkered. reading through one of his articles [1], I can see signs of him simply discarding evolutionary ideas, instead of exploring them.
Dr John Marcus Molecular Biology does not appear to exist [1]
Professor Douglas Oliver Professor of Biology Biased: associate director of Center for Creation Studies.
Prof. Chris D. Osborne Assistant Professor of Biology Biased: works for Logos Research Associates. Hasn’t published in over 20 years.
Dr Gary E. Parker Biology, Cognate in Geology (Paleontology) Biased: founder of Creation Adventures Museum.
Dr Terry Phipps Professor of Biology, Cedarville University Biased: Cedarville University is a biblical school, not an unbiased school.
Dr Jung-Goo Roe Biology Does not appear to exist outside this list [1]
Dr Ariel A. Roth Biology has stated that “creation science” is not a science [1].
Dr Alicia (Lisa) Schaffner Associate Professor of Biology, Cedarville University Biased: teaches at a christian school [1].
Dr Timothy G. Standish Biology Biased: works for the Geoscience Research Institute.
Dr Dennis Sullivan Biology, surgery, chemistry, Professor of Biology, Cedarville University Biased: Cedarville University is a biblical school.
Dr Larry Thaete Molecular and Cellular Biology and Pathobiology He’s a gynaecologist and obstetrician. doesn’t study anything to do with evolution [1].
Dr Joachim Vetter Biology German. Dead. [1]
Dr Sung-Hee Yoon Biology Does not appear to exist [1]
Dr Henry Zuill Biology Retired professor. Does not appear to have ever written a peer-reviewed article.

Of the above 35,

  • 16 are biased – they get paid to promote a creationist viewpoint.
  • 4 don’t appear to exist. I could find no reference to these people outside this list.
  • 3 are dead.
  • the rest appear to have no opinion either way on evolution, or don’t have any professional link to evolution.

In short: this list is rubbish.

Gardenbot 2014

Every year, I start a new Gardenbot project, and it rarely gets any further than a wish list. This year is different. I have a fully-functional robot that is battery-powered and can be controlled remotely via WiFi.

IMAG0838

Getting this far has not been easy, so I’ll write up what I can remember so you can do the same (or so I can do the same again next year after I forget!)

The biggest problem was the computer itself. I’m using a Raspberry Pi, but powering it was tricky.

The Pi takes a 5V input, but I couldn’t find any ready-made 5V batteries, and didn’t want to use battery packs as I wanted to easily recharge individual batteries.

In the past, my experience with using batteries in series with each other was that one battery would discharge fully way before any others, leaving an apparently dead pack. To solve that, I’m using li-ion batteries scavenged from phones; each with at least 2800mAh in them. I link them in parallel, and “boost” the voltage using some regulators.

There are currently two voltage boosters in the system. The first one powers the Pi, and the second powers the USB hub. You can’t power the USB hub directly off the Pi as the Pi uses 700mA, and there’s not enough left over to power anything useful. So, for anything external, such as the WiFi and the camera on the robot, you need to use a powered hub.

To save space, I stuck the voltage boosters for the USB hub and the Pi inside the Pi case, as you can see in this photo. They’re the rectangular circuits with the large capacitors on them.

IMAG0839

The capacitors are there to help stop fluctuations in power supply as various bits and pieces are turned on. There’s nothing quite as annoying as turning on a motor only to find that you have lost WiFi because of it and now have no way to turn off the motor.

The robot chassis is a hand-built case made from two perspex sides, a wooden base, and a wooden front. I didn’t measure anything – it was all done by trial/error.

The tracks are from Tamiya (example store). The box comes with enough for a larger base, but I didn’t need it all.

The claw at the front doesn’t work perfectly yet. The one I currently have is one I bought a few years back. It never seems to work properly for me. I think I need either a stronger servo, or just replace the claw completely.

The servo cable has three wires – ground, power in, and signal. The ground and power in can be plugged directly into the batteries. The signal, I hooked to GPIO 1 on the Pi (using this wiring guide for the main GPIO connector), which is then controlled using pulse width modulation (PWM) through the pin.

The motors for the treads are scavenged from the legs of a Robosapien bot I got for Christmas a few years back. These are standard DC motors, probably for up to 5V, but I’m running them off 3V and happy with them.

To control the motors, I was initially planning to create my own motor controller using some PNP and NPN transistors, but found a motor controller circuit from an old Cybot that handily does exactly what I need.

IMAG0840

The camera is a standard web-cam, with the cables shortened.

Turning the machine on is done by simply connecting the little red cable between the battery-side and the “other stuff” side of the breadboard as you can see in the image above.

To charge the battery, I simply hook in a Li-ion charger directly into the left of the board (below). The charging circuit will happily charge multiple Li-ion batteries.

IMAG0841

Hardware-wise, I’m almost happy. I want to replace the claw soon, but apart from that, I’m ready to work on software.

I already have code written for controlling the motors, which I’ll upload into Github over the next few days. I’m looking into SLAM now for creating maps via the camera system. I might have to write the solution myself, though, as the code I’ve found so far is written in academicese and I don’t understand it.

Funny, that, as I’m certain I can write the bloody code, but can’t understand the words that the academics use!

Salting Passwords

The simplest way to store a password in a database is as a plain string

insert into users set email="kae@kvsites.ie", password="password";
["kae@kvsites.ie", "password"]

But, if someone hacks into the server, or you have a malicious admin, then those passwords can be stolen. This is a big security risk as passwords tend to be re-used by people for other purposes, such as PayPal, etc.

So, the next stage is to encrypt the password using a hash such as MD5:

insert into users set email="kae@kvsites.ie", password=md5("password");
["kae@kvsites.ie", "5f4dcc3b5aa765d61d8327deb882cf99"]

That /looks/ secure, but there are huge databases on the Internet with MD5 translations of all words, so it is trivial to hack these.
https://www.google.ie/search?q=5f4dcc3b5aa765d61d8327deb882cf99

The next stage is to “salt” the password by adding a prefix to it before hashing. For example, let’s use “123ghjzxc” as the salt key.

insert into users set email="kae@kvsites.ie", password=md5(concat("123ghjzxc", "password"));
["kae@kvsites.ie", "9f400bac0b5a9b3d66c9c98aae09fab5"]

This is much more secure now. A search for the MD5 hash will not return any results at all (well, this page… but you know what I mean).
https://www.google.ie/search?q=9f400bac0b5a9b3d66c9c98aae09fab5

Another method is to hash the password before prefixing it with the salt, then hashing again. This may be a bit more secure again.

insert into users set email="kae@kvsites.ie", password=md5(concat("123ghjzxc", md5("password")));
["kae@kvsites.ie", "d1dddda63a6dde54fb1740dffe3faa27"];

As an extra step, do all the MD5ing outside the database, so the password is not sent over the wire to the database.

CSRF

CSRF (cross-site request forgery) are hacks where a user on one system is tricked into doing something on that system while browsing another system.

Example

Let’s say you are logged into http://yoursite.example.com/ as an admin, and you can easily delete an object by clicking a link that sends a request to http://yoursite.example.com/a/delete.php?object=1.

You take a break and go read some websites.

Now, let’s say that one of those websites has had a little piece of code attached

<img src="http://yoursite.example.com/a/delete.php?object=1" style="display:none"/>

Other readers of the same site will not notice anything – they’re not logged into your site, and so have no delete rights. But, you are!

This vulnerability is called “CSRF” because the hack happens on a different website than your own, taking advantage of the fact that you are logged in, to delete stuff (or move money, etc).

Solution

On the server, you should create a CSRF token, send it to the client, and make sure that all actions that are requested include that token.

To set the token, just create a random string and save it to your session:

<?php
if (!isset($_SESSION['csrf'])) {
  $_SESSION['csrf']=md5(mt_rand().time());
}

Then, whenever an action is performed, make sure that the request includes that token before the action is performed.

<?php
if (!((isset($_REQUEST['_csrf']) && $_REQUEST['_csrf']==$_SESSION['csrf'])
  || apache_request_headers()['X-CSRF']==$_SESSION['csrf'])
) {
  header('Content-type: text/json');
  echo json_encode(array(
    'error'=>'CSRF violation'
  ));
  exit;
}

Note that my code above allows two ways to send the CSRF – as a request variable (GET/PUT/POST), or as a header.

For HTML forms, make sure that each form includes the CSRF token:

<input name="_csrf" value="<?=$_SESSION['csrf'];?>"/>

And finally, for AJAX, make sure that the token is included by default. Personally I use jQuery, so this does that:

  $.ajaxSetup({
    'beforeSend': function(xhr) {
      xhr.setRequestHeader('X-CSRF', window.csrf);
    }
  });

(make sure that window.csrf is set as inline javascript in the page)

Conclusion

Now what happens is that each time a request is made to the server, the CSRF token that’s sent is checked against the session’s CSRF token, and if they don’t match (or no token is sent), then the action is ignored.

It is not possible for any website to guess your CSRF token (we set it to a random MD5), so you are safe.

idea for music recognition, conversion and composition using artificial neural networks

I had this idea while walking the kids to school. Starting from a simple network that can classify music styles as rock/metal/classical/folk/etc, I think that it would be possible to adapt the same algorithm to convert a music file from one style to another, and even write music from scratch in whatever style you want. And if I’m right, I think it would be very simple to write.

Recognition

This is the simplest task. To recognise the style of a music file, all you need is a feed-forward network with a few thousand inputs, at least one hidden layer, and one output for each style you want to recognise.

A standard data rate for recorded music is 160kbps. That means that every second, there are 10,240 separate wave heights (160*1024/16) that need to be examined. Of course, you can recognise music using lower bps values, but let’s use the same setting for the whole process (160 will be wanted for later parts).

So, the input layer would need 10,240*n inputs, where n is the number of seconds you want the network to sample in order to determine the style. In some cases (metal/classical), you may get away with sampling just a single second, but for better results, you might want a larger value. I’ll be setting n to 300, so it samples the entire song in most cases. This makes it easier to be accurate about the result, but will also be useful in a later stage.

The output layer needs to have one node per tag you want to measure. For example, you might have an output that measures how “rock” a song is, and another that measures how “baroque” it is. You could use output nodes that return a simple Yes/No result, but there is a good reason to return a more linear certainty instead (which we’ll get to).

The hidden network needs at least one neuron, obviously, but I don’t think there is any way to say exactly how many it needs, so it would be better to use a network model which grows automatically as it learns (I don’t know the technical term – I just build the things!).

After building the network, you need to train it. This is the easiest part – you just need a large database of music, and tags for every one of those tunes.

One handy idea: if you’re training a 5 second network (for example), then a 3 minute song has at least 36 completely separate training sets for you to sample – all you need to do is start linking to the inputs at second 0, 1, 2, .5, etc, and the network will see what it thinks (initially) is a completely different data set.

After training this for a while, you should be able to run a few seconds of a song through the network and have fairly accurate results of how “funk” or “jazz” a song is.

Conversion

After figuring out the above, I started thinking of alternative uses for the idea, and one surprising idea took hold.

Let’s say that you have a “folk” song played on guitar and violin. How would you go about making it “metal”? You could start by fuzzing the violin and distorting the guitar, and maybe adding some drums in.

I think it would be possible to write a program which lets you convert a song from one style to another literally at the click of a button.

Remember I mentioned that the output neurons should say how metal/classical/etc a song is, not just that it is or is not.

If the network is written with enough precision, then adjusting one or more of the input values should give a different value in the outputs.

As an example, let’s say you have a folk tune that you want to convert to neo-punk. Adjusting the inputs such that the sounds are more distorted (clipping high values, for example), or faster (shifting later inputs to the left, maybe) might change the tune’s “neo-punk” output from 0.00024 to 0.00025.

If you repeat this over and over (automatically, obviously), discarding changes that reduce the output and repeating changes that increase the output, until the “neo-punk” output reaches an acceptable threshold such as .9, then you have just created an automatic way to convert a tune from one style to another.

I think this has a lot of applications. For example, let’s say you want to convert a piano tune to guitar? You train your network to recognise what piano and guitar tunes sound like, and then simply convert as above!

Composition

This may be the simplest of the lot.

After creating the above programs, try inputting a sound sample of pure static into the conversion program, and tell it to convert the static to piano. I think it would come up with some interesting tunes. Maybe not completely accurate tunes, but they would be interesting.

I think the network would automatically learn rules about harmony and rhythm, but don’t think it would learn about structure. For example, you could train a network to recognise a 3/4 rhythm, but I don’t know if you could write something that recognises a fugue.

Simple geo-ip based links

simple geoip based links, for when you need to link to different files depending on the client’s country. requires PHP, jQuery.

in the head of the document, have this:

<script>window.geoip_data='<?php echo file_get_contents('http://freegeoip.net/json/'.$_SERVER['REMOTE_ADDR']); ?>'</script>

for the HTML links, write the default link target into the HTML, with alternatives written in for each country. here’s an example for the UK and Ireland:

<a href="/link.html" class="geo" data-link-UK="/link-uk.html" data-link-IE="ie.html">click here</a>

now in the JavaScript, process all .geo links:

$(function() {
    var country=geoip_data.country_code.substring(0,1)
    +geoip_data.country_code.substring(1,2).toLowerCase();
  $('a.geo').each(function() { 
    var $this=$(this), dataName='link'+country;
    if ($this.data(dataName)) { 
      $this.attr('href', $this.data(dataName));
    } 
  });
});

Done!

unwatermarking images

I’ve started a website where I intend to sell thousands of products from a number of distributors through drop-shipping (the products go directly to the customer).

For reasons that I don’t understand, the distributors have watermarked their images, and don’t provide unwatermarked versions unless you’re an already well-established customer of theirs.

For the purpose of this demo, a watermark is a constant-colour “stamp” which is given opacity and pasted into the original image.

As I intend to be a good customer, I figured it would be okay for me to simply “unwatermark” the images.

There are a number of instructions online which show how to /fake/ an unwatermaking – by basically smudging the area where the watermark is.

However, as most watermarking appears to follow a single method, it is actually possible to simply reverse the process and remove the watermark, after a little trial and error.

Let’s consider an example. Here is an image, a stamp, and the merge of the two:

(original is here)

  • demo1
  • demo2
  • demo3

To reverse this, you need to know what algorithm was used to create the watermark, and what the original watermark was.

Most people use a fairly simple method to watermark their images:

The stamp is one single colour, usually gray (#808080 in RGB) which will be visible on images which are both light and dark.

The stamp is then given an opacity (30% in my case above), and pasted directly over the original image.

The formula for any particular colour channel (R, G and B) on any pixel is: C3=(1-p)C1+pC2, where p is opacity (0 to 1), C1 is the colour value for the original image, C2 is the stamp’s colour value, and C3 is the resulting image’s colour value.

To reverse the watermarking, you need to convert the formula to see what it is in respect to C1: C1=(C3-pC2)/(1-p).

As most stamps will be using a middle gray (#808080), you just have to guess at the opacity. .3 is a good start.

For some reason I’m not yet sure of, the code I came up with did unwatermark the image, but too much… the points where the watermark were, ended up being too bright. So I needed to add a darkening aspect, reducing the brightness of the result of the above calculation.

I’m not going to hold your hand if you can’t make this work, but here’s the code I ended up with (assumes the images are exactly 400×400 in size). The original should be ‘original.jpg’, and the stamp should be ‘stamp.png’ (with white where transparent pixels should be).

$p=.3; // opacity

$f1=imagecreatefrompng('stamp.png');
imagepalettetotruecolor($f1);
$f2=imagecreatetruecolor(400, 400);
$f3=imagecreatefromjpeg('original.jpg');
imagepalettetotruecolor($f3);

for ($x=0;$x<400; ++$x) {
  for ($y=0; $y<400; ++$y) {
    $rgb1=imagecolorat($f1, $x, $y);
    $rgb3=imagecolorat($f3, $x, $y);
    $r3 = ($rgb3 >> 16) & 0xFF;
    $g3 = ($rgb3 >> 8) & 0xFF;
    $b3 = $rgb3 & 0xFF;
    if ($rgb1==16777215) { // white. just copy
      $c=imagecolorallocate($f2, $r3, $g3, $b3);
      imagesetpixel($f2, $x, $y, $c);
      continue;
    }
    $r1 = ($rgb1 >> 16) & 0xFF;
    $g1 = ($rgb1 >> 8) & 0xFF;
    $b1 = $rgb1 & 0xFF;
    $r2=c($r1, $r3, $p);
    $g2=c($g1, $g3, $p);
    $b2=c($b1, $b3, $p);
    $c=imagecolorallocate($f2, $r2, $g2, $b2);
    imagesetpixel($f2, $x, $y, $c);
  }
}
imagejpeg($f2, 'unwatermarked.jpg');

function c($c1, $c2, $p) {
  $c=c1($c1, $c2, $p);
  $c3=$c-(255-$c)*.2;
  return $c3<0?0:(int)$c3; 
} 
function c1($c2, $c3, $p) {
  $c=($c3-$c2*$p)/(1-$p);
  return $c>255?255:(int)$c;
}

Quantum Immortality – Organ Transplants

Organ Transplants

The human body evolved to reproduce, and then last just a while longer to help to raise the young after that. The fact that we live so long these days raises problems, because our bodies are not “designed” to do so!

There is no good evolutionary reason for a body to last very long after the reproductive age has been reached, yet we try our best to stave off death a while, by replacing the aging and dying parts of our bodies with younger, healthier parts.

A short history

The first successful transplant was in 1905, and was the cornea of an eye.

Nothing much happened after that for almost fifty years, and then after a stuttering start, medical research started producing wonder after wonder.

If you count the number of new transplant types that have been completed in each decade, the curve is unmistakable – we are fast on our way to being able to transplant virtually anything at all from one person to another. [1]

Donor shortfall

While organ transplantation is becoming easier over time, there is a problem with supply.

In order for you to receive a new kidney (for example), someone else must donate one of theirs. This involves finding someone with a similar body chemistry to yours, so the organ isn’t rejected, and also hoping that the person is willing to donate the kidney.

If no live donor is available, then you need to hope that someone dies to provide you with their kidney. This is a tragic thing to hope for.

A kidney is a best-case scenario, as humans have two each, so the donor can survive without it.

But if you need a heart, then the donor will most likely be dead before you get it. And you’d better hope that the donor didn’t die of heart disease!

The problem that there are simply not enough donors for each needed organ is a huge one. [2]

There is also a problem that organs can only survive so long outside the body, so once a donor has provided its organs, the organs must be transplanted nearly immediately, or they will die.

The current way to transport organs to the transplanting hospital is by freezing them so that decay is minimal. But even this can cause cell damage as ice crystals form and break apart the cells.

Luckily, these problems are also being solved.

Only this week, as I write, there is news of a liver-preserving machine which you can hook a liver up to. This device will then keep the liver alive, by emulating a living body. In essence, the liver does not know that it is no longer in a body, and continues functioning. [3]

Now that this has been done for livers, it can be expected that similar news will be announced in the next few years for almost every other organ.

Artificial Organs

The shortfall problem, that there are simply not enough donors per required organ, can be fixed with artificial organs.

Organs are generally very difficult to replace, as they do quite a number of different things. But some of the simpler organs have already been successfully replicated.

An obvious example is the heart. The first successful artificial hearts (not a pacemaker, but an actual pump) were created in the 1982. While their recipients lasted only 112 days and two years respectively after surgery, that’s still time that the patients didn’t have without the hearts.

This artificial heart design was primitive by present-day standards, but encouraged further research.

Artificial hearts are usually used as “bridges”, to keep a patient alive while waiting for a donor to supply a “real” heart. But sometimes, the artificial heart’s help gives the patients’ own heart enough rest to heal itself, and a transplant is no longer needed. [4]

Almost every organ can be replaced, given enough time and research.

Ears can be replaced with cochlear implants.

Eyes can be replaced, but artificial eye resolution is still very low. There are many different threads of research ongoing in this area. [5]

Some of the more “bag-like” organs can be very successfully replaced right now with artificial versions.

Bladders, trachea, arteries; these can all be created from stem-cells and/or plastics.

Legs and arms deserve a full chapter. There is some amazing work being done in these areas.

The most difficult organs (in the body itself) to replace are the pancreas, liver, lungs, and kidneys. These perform specialised functions, and currently, artificial versions are not small enough to implant.

I expect to hear within a year or two of the first completely artificial kidney implant. There already is an implantable artificial kidney available, but it’s a lot larger than a natural kidney.

In the future, I expect that the only organ that you will not be able to replace, will be the brain itself. Not because it can’t be moved, of course, but because the brain is your identity – there is no point replacing your brain with someone else’s.

However, having said that, if your entire body was failing, you could transplant your brain into a younger body.

There are a number of reasons you should not hope for this to happen, though.

For one example, in order for you to do a brain transplant, there must be a younger body available for you to transplant into. But if a younger body is available and it is healthy, then it makes greater ethical logic to offer its organs to save multiple people, instead of just you.

For you to get a whole new body all to yourself, you would need to provide it yourself, and i can’t think of any legal or even close to ethical way that you could do this!

If it turns out you need a whole new body, you’re probably better off looking into brain uploads instead, which will be discussed later in the book. Currently, brain uploading is not possible, but the technology should be ready soon; probably sooner than the first successful brain transplant.

Conclusion

In this chapter, you learned a short history of organ transplants.

There is currently a shortfall of available donor organs.

Artificial replacements are available for some organs, and others are on the way.

The only organ that will never be replaced fully is the brain, but we’ll talk more about that in a later chapter.

Quantum Immortality – Life Expectancy

Life Expectancy

Life expectancy is an estimate of how long a person is likely to live. It is difficult to give a single number as the answer, as it depends what country we’re talking about, how old the person is, whether the person is male or female, and other parameters.

But, let’s throw out some numbers anyway.

How long do people live?

The average life expectancy of a newborn baby is currently about 67 years. This means that each baby born today will on average live to about 67 years.

That number might not sound very large, but it’s more than twice as long as in any other era of humanity. Even just one hundred years ago, life expectancy was only 31 years! [1]

This number does not mean that a person that is born today is constrained by the number 67 and will definitely die at that age. Life expectancy is what we currently expect a person to die at. This changes over time as we develop new medicines, better understanding of how the human body works, and better surgeries to replacing aging or faulty organs. We are not constrained by the limits of medicine at the moment of our birth. We can expect to take advantage of new medicines as they develop through our lifetimes. [2]

There is a very important distinction to be made here.

The above numbers are average numbers, in that they take into account all people of that time, including those that take care of themselves, those that don’t take care of themselves, those that live in wealthy countries, those that live in poor countries.

It makes sense to say that a person who lives in a more wealthy country and takes care of themselves, will live longer than a person who lives in a poor country and doesn’t take care of themselves.

Because life expectancy increases over time as our researches figure out more and more, the longer we live, the more likely we are to live even longer.

For example, let’s consider diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancer. in the 20th century, being diagnosed with either of those was virtually a death sentence. But today, there is a “functional cure” for AIDS, and there are a number of potential cures for cancer also being worked on. All you need to do is survive long enough for the research to find better solutions, and those diseases will no longer be a concern for you.

Preventing the common causes of death

Currently, the top five killers of humans are: [3]

  1. heart diseases (cardiovascular)
  2. infectious/parasitic diseases
  3. heart diseases (ischemic)
  4. cancer
  5. stroke

So, logically, if you try to avoid those problems, then you should be much less likely to die in any particular year.

This means exercise, avoiding or cutting down on toxic habits such as alcohol and smoking, and avoiding stress. [4]

If you are serious about living forever, then you should read about each of the above causes of death, and try to change your habits so you are less likely to die of them.

If we add Quantum Immortality into the conversation here, then you could say that you don’t need to make any change at all to your habits, as you will survive everything that is thrown at you, through sheer statistics.

But, there is a very big difference between “surviving” and “living”.

Heart attacks hurt. A friend of mine, who had his first heart attack at age 32, described the pain as “like a truck sitting on my chest”. He survived that heart attack and at least one more, and is currently 52 years old and very healthy, but I’m certain he would have preferred not to have had the heart attack in the first place!

I have lost a few friends to cancer. In some cases, the cancer came and took the person within a year or two of diagnosis. In one very lucky case, the cancer (leukemia) took nearly twenty years to take the person even though the doctors said she had only a few months to live.

Cancer is not currently curable, but it is certainly preventable. [5] There are a number of potential cures being worked on at the moment, so Quantum Immortality says that you will survive cancer long enough to get cured. Or at least long enough to go onto a course that maintains your current state and then eventually you can be cured. But, considering that cancer is preventable in most cases, it is better that you don’t get it in the first place.

A look at Influenza

It’s worth looking back in time at how the list I wrote above has changed.

In the early 20th century, the number one killer was infectious diseases such as influenza. Infectious diseases is currently the number two killer, but Influenza is much less fatal now than it was then.

Influenza still kills tens of thousands of people every year, but as we learn more about it, it becomes less and less dangerous.

The worst deaths occur during “pandemics”, when fatal forms of influenza evolve and kill a huge number of people before we figure out how to solve the problem.

There were three quantified pandemics during the 20th century. Each of them killed less people than the pandemic before it on the list:

Killed Year Name
50,000,000 1918-1920 Spanish Flu
1,500,000 1957-1958 Asian Flu
1,000,000 1968-1969 Hong Kong Flu

One of the major reasons for the decrease in numbers is vaccination.[6]

Vaccination involves injecting a dead version of the virus into your body so your immune system can figure out how to defend itself against it. Then when the real thing comes along, you might get sick for a while, but you are much less likely to die.

There has so far been one pandemic in the 21st century, called the Swine Flu pandemic.

Only about 16,000 people died this time. [7]

I think the most important thing to take from this is to realise that the effort that we (as a race) put into solving the most common causes of death, is paid off with an increase in longevity in the general human population.

We live much healthier lives these days than people in the early 20th century, and it’s not like we actively put any effort into it – it’s almost like we “absorb” healthy lifestyles by osmosis. Our friends exercise so we exercise as well. Our friends drink less or smoke less so we do the same.

Our environment is improving, and we are improving along with it.

Conclusion

In this chapter, we learned that humans are on average living twice as long now as they have ever lived before.

We also looked at the top five causes of death, and how prevention of these causes is actually not all that difficult.

We also looked back in time at how one of the historical number one causes of death is not such a huge deal these days because of medical advances.

Quantum Immortality

Quantum Immortality


At the time of writing, the oldest person ever to have lived was Jeanne Calment, who died at age 122 years, 164 days in 1997.

It is my belief that you, the person reading this book, will far outlive Jeanne. In fact, you will simply not die, ever.

And you won’t have to take up a special diet, or join a religious order – it’s just a consequence of how reality works.

This is an outrageous claim, so I need to explain how it works.

How does Quantum Immortality work?


Quantum Mechanics (QM) is one of the most accurately tested theories of how the universe works. QM is hard to understand, but its predictions have been tested and retested for a century, and have held up. [1] [2]

QM says that every time anything happens, every single possible version of the event happens, and one is “chosen” to become real (to “cohere”). This is described as “collapsing the wave”, or “quantum coherence”.

There is a very interesting interpretation of QM that leaves out the collapse, and simply says that all versions of the event happen, and each can be said to be separate versions of reality; each of which is as real as the one you are in right this moment. This is known as the “many-worlds interpretation”. [3]

A consequence of the many-worlds interpretation is something called “quantum immortality” [4]. It’s also known as quantum suicide, but that’s a rather negative name for something so extraordinary and life-changing.

The idea is basically this:

  1. Let’s say you are lying in a hospital bed dying, and the doctors say you have a 50/50 chance of living to see another day.
  2. The next day arrives.
  3. Because there was a 50/50 chance of living or dying, the many-worlds interpretation says that you are dead in half of the newly branched universes, and alive in the other half.
  4. You cannot experience being dead, so you wake up that morning and dare the doctors to come up with another prediction.


This works, whether the prediction was 50/50, ¼, 1 in a million, whatever! If there is even the slightest chance that you will survive, then you will survive.

Do other people die?


You have probably attended funerals, or lost friends to accidents, disease, old age.

Your question at this time is: if quantum immortality is true, then why are those people dead?

Well, let’s consider the case of cousin Bob, who died after his car brakes failed and he slammed into a car. You are at his funeral, wondering why Quantum Immortality doesn’t mean that he’s alive.

There are many ways that this could have played out – the car brakes don’t fail, the brakes fail and the car misses the tree and slides to a halt in a muddy field, the brakes fail and the car hits the tree and Bob is thrown clear through the window and survives with a broken leg, or the brakes fail and there is a funeral held a few days later, where you wonder what happened to Quantum Immortality.

The fact that you are attending a funeral means that you are conscious of a reality where Bob did not survive. Bob is not conscious of this reality, so for Bob, this reality is not real. But for you, it certainly is.

Bob could have survived the accident in many ways, and because Quantum Immortality says that Bob can only be aware of versions of reality where he can be aware, this funeral simply did not happen. The Many-Worlds interpretation says that every possibility is its own reality, so Bob actually survived his accident and this is all a non-issue for him.

Unfortunately for you, you will never speak to Bob again – he’s dead in your reality. But, you can take heart in knowing that he’s alive and well in his own reality.

This, by the way, has huge “spiritual” implications. It means that everyone lives forever, even if you see them die. All you saw was one possible version of that person dying, but you need to keep in mind that every possible version of that person exists, and at this moment, the versions which could possibly be alive somewhere are alive.

This means that there is no true death. You may see people die, but they actually experience something different. You might see someone breathe their last on a deathbed, but in their own experience, they took that one last breath, and followed it with another and yet another, until they finally got over their ailment and got out of bed.

But what about when the odds are against you?


Naysayers may say that in some cases, it’s just too unlikely that survival could happen.

Let’s say, for example, that you fall from a tall building, and there is a one in a million chance that you land on a car roof (like in so many films), and a further one in a million chance that you survive this and get off the car roof and go about your business.

Well, that’s a one in a trillion chance that you survive the fall. That couldn’t possibly happen, right?

QM says that every single possible event has a probability, and the many worlds interpretation says that they all have their own realities.

So, in most realities, you might slam into the ground and you are dead, full-stop.

Then there are the realities where you fall a little to the left or right of that spot, closer to the parked cars, but still die. And then there are further realities where a car is driving along the road below and you just miss it and slam into the road behind it.

Each of those realities are real. But you are not aware of them.

You are only aware of the realities where either a gust of wind blew you enough that you landed on a parked car, or you landed on the moving car below.

Even then, there’s a million to one chance that impact with the car roof kills you.

Well, guess what? Million to one chances are a dime a dozen to QM. In Quantum Mechanics there are practically an infinity of possible results, so there are an infinite number of worlds in which you are a survivor.

Sounds great, right? Want to go jump off a building now to test it? Don’t.

You see, even though Quantum Immortality says that you will survive, it does not say that you’ll be all in one piece…

You will survive the fall, but you will very likely break most of your important bones, and be in hospital for months or years before you can hobble out. It’s survival, but it’s not nice.

Conclusion


So, let’s summarise then with this:

You will live forever.

You will see people die over the years, but should be happy that they are living forever in their own realities.

Even though you are essentially immortal, you can still be hurt badly, so don’t do stupidly dangerous things.