Modafinil Works!

It’s official. Those of us who’ve been using it didn’t need persuading, but the moaning Minnies who thought we were imagining benefit or experiencing a placebo effect can now form an orderly queue to submit their apologies.

Hard core unbelievers should check this out.  If you’re not used to ploughing through academic papers or just don’t have the Modafinil to hand, here’s the plain english version and here’s the obligatory Wiki page which, among other things, will confirm that it’s been in medical use (for treating Narcolepsy) since 1986. No directly related deaths, addictions or lingering side-effects ever since.

It’s not quite the perfect wake-up drug I’ve been searching for the past 40 years because it takes longer than I’d like to kick in. That’s about an hour and I really want something that works in seconds and doesn’t get you high. High is for playtime. I’m happy with the drugs we have for that.  When I’m working, there are times when I’m desperate for something just to clear the fog.

Others, presumably even more desperate than me, have not shied away from using the more dramatic “uppers” like Cocaine or Amphetamines in the workplace. These will certainly wake you up or keep you awake, but they can’t be said to improve or even maintain your ability to think straight. In fact I would argue that one of the most serious dangers of Cocaine, excluding overdose, is that it makes you believe you’ve taken a brain booster, when it actually impairs cognitive function and, amongst other things, promotes the kind of risk taking which has been blamed, in part, for the financial meltdown in 2008.

Had the wankers bankers been on Modafinil, I suspect that calamity may have been avoided. Unfortunately it’s difficult to set up a double-blind placebo controlled study to test that hypothesis.

I’ve been using it consistently since 2009 and I can fully endorse the findings of the current review. Took me about a year to work out how to use it optimally. Was far too enthusiastic to start with. In short, try to limit usage to one tab a day and not more than four or five days a month. Otherwise you develop a tolerance and the law of diminishing returns comes up and bites your ass.Other useful tips: take it on an empty stomach or you may not notice any significant benefit (or it’ll take a lot longer to kick in). Give it at least 15 minutes to get into the bloodstream before you pollute it with food. And, providing you’re not on other drugs, you can roughly double the effect (or halve the typical dose – to 100mg – which is what I prefer) by drinking about half a pint of grapefruit juice with it.

It keeps you awake (and lucid)

It has two major benefits. The first and most dramatic enables me to maintain concentration on a difficult or complex task for much longer than I can without its aid. I only use it intensively once a year and that’s for the week we’re producing the PFL bulletins (don’t ask). That entails a week where we get about 2-3 hours sleep a day, spend the daytime gathering news and all night creating a satirical rag loosely based on any gossip, rumour or occasional facts we’ve managed to harvest. We then speculate wildly and invent any other facts we need to fill the four pages we’re committed to publish.

That used to grow increasingly painful as the week went on, the sleep deficit builds up, the creative juices dry up and the proof-reading becomes less and less important, or even possible. One of the most horrendous nights of my life was on the last night of the annual gig. The rest of the team had passed out or gone to bed and I’m left there on my own at 5 o’clock in the morning, unable to see straight or keep my eyes open; with a blank page to fill, no material, the layout and proofing to do and a deadline in 2 hours, by which time I had to drive the copy 8 miles to the printers (this is in the days before printers routinely had email). I’ve still got no real idea how I survived that night. Sort of thing that could make you believe in Flying Spaghetti Monsters – or even see them! (Other durum deities are available)

Nowadays, we pop a pill at about 1 am and we’re totally and reliably functional right through till about 7 am when we email the copy to the printers and we’re just about comfortably numb enough to catch 90 minutes of zzzs before we’re up again to breakfast, zap over to collect the print and deliver it to the punters. We’ll take another tab to get us through till about 2ish, leave the day shift in position, head back to the Safe House, perform any running repairs, routine housework, t-shirt printing and all that shit, see if we can squeeze in another hour in the arms of Morpheus before returning to collect the day shift and beginning the evening rounds. Rinse and repeat for what used to be 5 days, (now reduced to 4)

We’re certainly still “feeling it” by the end of the week, but Modafinil removes all the stress and makes it doable. More importantly,  makes it possible for us to carry on enjoying it; which, at the end of the week, is the only reason we do it in the first place. (The punters will never figure that one out; they’ve spent nearly 40 years trying to calculate our ulterior motives. So have we.)

I think the results show in the quality of the output but others would have to judge that; though in some ways its obvious – like the dramatic reduction in speeling missteaks and other tapas.

and it helps you to sleep!

In “normal” times, I generally try to limit my use to when I really really need it. Like when I’ve not had a good night’s sleep but I still have work to do. Which brings me to the second major benefit. NOT the fact that it keep you awake in such situations but the exact opposite. It can help you sleep better! Why? Because it’s an excellent cure for “anxiety insomnia” where your despair at not being able to get to sleep feeds back on itself and keeps you awake.

That used to be a regular problem for me (approx twice weekly) but Modafinil has banished it completely. How so? Because just knowing that, even if you don’t get the sleep you need, you won’t suffer, because the Modafinil’s there if you need it, once again, completely removes the stress. So now, if I find I’m not drifting off to sleep as normal, I take it as an opportunity to try to focus on some on-going problem or project I’m working on. And, in that relaxed, semi-focussed state, I usually drift off to sleep quite naturally and, even if I don’t, I’ll have gained some useful insight into the aforementioned problem, before getting up, dropping a tab and spending most of the next day performing slightly better than normal. Hence, I average about one or two tabs a month for the rest of the year.

Unless, that is, I’m required to drive for more than a couple of hours, which is quite rare at the moment. I usually pop one at the beginning of a long drive, just to fend off those head nodding moments and keep me fully alert on the road. Incidentally, I’d feel a lot safer in a plane, knowing that the pilots had similar access to Modafinil on demand.

So, in summary, seriously good shit with no significant side effects or long term adverse consequences. Strongly recommended but use sparingly, only when you REALLY need it.

Only problem is, last time I looked (about 18 months back) it was becoming more difficult to buy and the sites selling it looking ever more dodgy. It’s supposed to be “prescription only” and the authoritarians have been clamping down on the online providers to the extent that its difficult to know which ones you can trust anymore. So if anyone knows a reliable and trustworthy “dealer”, lemme know…

The Effects of Manuka Honey on Plaque and Gingivitis

I’d like to think I can claim a tiny part of the responsibility for research in this field if not this particular example.

I first read this article (sorry, most of it is behind a paywall) on the wound healing benefits of Manuka honey in October 2000. At the time I was experiencing major plaque problems, to the extent that I was having to visit the dentist every 3 months for a clean and scrape. I read the article and thought “surely if it’s that potent, it ought to be able to kill the bacteria causing my plaque”.

But I was nervous about what taking such a powerful antibiotic might do to my insides, particularly the beneficial flora I was so careful to encourage with my daily intake of live yogurt. So I wrote to the lead researcher – Dr Peter Molan – at the University of Waikato in New Zealand and asked his advice. He reassured me that, once swallowed, the honey quickly became too dilute to cause harm and even offered to send research samples to my own dentist if I could persuade them to conduct trials. He also said he was minded to consider such research himself.

I’ve been using UMF15+ Manuka ever since. At that time, nobody, including Peter Molan, knew how or why it was so effective. It took till 2008 for the discovery of Methylglyoxal as the principle bacteria killer.

The plaque problem was resolved instantly. If you want to try it yourself, all it takes is this:

After you’ve brushed your teeth last thing at night, quickly brush again with about half a teaspoon of manuka. The aim is to coat (mainly) the “outside” surfaces (nearest the cheek). Then take another level teaspoon of manuka and suck it off the spoon, and, using your tongue, try to squeeze it, equally, between all your teeth. Try to hold it in your mouth, without swallowing, for as long as possible; the idea being to expose any bacteria in your mouth, for as long as possible, to the manuka. In practice, you’ll find you can’t retain much of it for more than about 45 seconds, but that’s fine. I suspect 30 seconds is probably enough to kill any of the little critters hiding in your teeth.

When I proposed this self-treatment to my Dentist, they were somewhat less than enthusiastic. They advised the precaution of a baseline xray and examination so they could judge the long term effects. I now visit the dentist about once every 3 years and at my last visit (May this year) they confessed to how pleased and surprised they were at the long term effects of the manuka. My teeth, they told me, have, since 2000, suffered nothing more than the inevitable damage caused by wear and tear. In other words none of the problems caused by oral bacteria have manifested in my mouth since I started taking the stuff. And now, 12 years later, the research is finally emerging to justify my guess.

Strangely, my dentist never showed any interest in conducting their own research into a substance that might reduce their business by 90%. Can’t think why…

Digital Evolution – Another Step Closer

This is a key step towards our digital evolution and our migration from organic to digital lifeforms. Basically, if we can’t record the human brain in sufficient resolution, we can’t migrate. Period. No Omortality

But this research looks like we’re poking our sticks in the right ant-nests! If we get this right, then, sometime in the next 10-20 years, we’ll have the technology to record and store the information constituting a complete human brain, probably in a few 10 minute sequences, to the resolution required to preserve our entire personality, memory and neural matrix well enough to be re-animated, later, when a digital substrate exists to house us.

Unfortunately, that might be MUCH later. Like another 50-100 years. So we might, I’m afraid, still have to spend a few years technically dead. Although, interestingly, along the way, technology should reach the point where the brain maps could be interacted with as a kind of “living in the permanent present” avatar, like Henry Molaison, who we’ve been hearing about only this last week…

This isn’t a breakthrough, but it is a major step in the direction we need to travel in order to achieve the break-through.

Oh, and along the way, it’s going to have some fascinating commercial and security spinoffs:

Ferinstance, I give you: the perfect authentication device. It not only verifies, unspoofably, unique individuals, but can even detect the absence of informed consent and thus even block those attacks based on coercion. You couldn’t unlock the safe or file even if you did have a gun pointed at your head. And the attacker will know this, so they won’t even try that. It will even enable version 1 of the Mindlock I mused on back in April.

And of course, it makes possible the Perfect communication and self-surveillance device I was fantasising about in the History of Digital Telepathy

…and think of the impact this is going to have on VR. I think we can bet that “Full Immersion” will come along shortly after the first wave of smart dust adopters have begun to appreciate the benefits of receiving data direct to the sense processing parts of the brain.

And obviously, whatever we record, subject to our informed consent, can be played back. Think what that’s going to do for the sex industry. Just a thought. Though I challenge you not to think about it.

It’s happening Reg! Something’s actually happening!
Just remember, you ‘eard it ‘ere first. Righ’!

Who and What is it safe to Believe?

If we can’t even trust the Peer Review system, who or what can we trust?

A friendly banter between me and one of my Stumbling friends began as an argument about whether or not Vaccines are safe. Public confidence in Vaccination became a (serious) problem with a failure of the peer review process by the Lancet, when, in 1998, they published Andrew Wakefield’s notorious and extraordinary claims about a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Based on case studies of just 12 patients it should never have been accepted by a reputable journal in the first place. It was finally Retracted in 2010. The shit from that ludicrous storm in a teacup is hitting the fans as we speak with the current ongoing panic as a low-level measles epidemic spreads from Swansea.

Our argument was over the validity of vaccinations as a basis of public health. When confronted with the question as to why we should trust the claims, my ultimate fallback was the peer review process. But then I realised that it was almost impossible to defend as it is still one of the “Trust Me” based social infrastructures and too many stories like the Wakefied cockup and the various examples touched on in this “Scientist Magazine” article (first link) were and are surfacing. Personally, I firmly believe that vaccines are reliable, safe and well-tested. But given the abuse of the peer review system which is little short of rampant (see also Ben Goldacre’s “Bad Science”) I have no trusted means of validating my belief for the benefit of those who remain sceptical. This is not just sad, it’s dangerous…

Transhumanism & Gout?

no, it’s not a Googlewhack. Hang on, I’ll just test that assertion. Nope, it’s definitely not a googlewhack

I read this article in the New Scientist earlier today and got rather excited. I’ll explain why in a minute. I wanted to share it with you but I knew – as you’ll have just confirmed if you clicked on the link – that the article is behind a pay wall. New Scientist is the one publication I subscribe to so can read stuff like that, but we’re a tiny minority.

So I went looking for another source for the story and came across this rather dry abstract. And because I’m that sort of nerd, I read it. And got almost as excited again.

That research may have filled a gap in our knowledge regarding the effects of ph on the human body. As a gout sufferer for the last 10 years I have had to research the condition and possible treatments or regimes. I have, by trial and error, discovered what works for me: an alkaline diet. The question is why?

The research is absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with gout. But it may, nevertheless, answer that question. What it is revealing is that if your cells are in an alkaline environment rather than acid, the potassium ion gates are opened and positive ions (which actually constitute or create the alkaline environment in the first place) are able to rush in.

As I’d just learned from the first story – the one I wanted to share – opening the gateway to positive ions turns out to be a good thing if you’re a mammalian cell. It allows the scavenging of “free radicals” like oxygen ions which are poison to the inside of a cell, but are formed as the waste product of cellular “digestion” and one or two other intra-cellular mechanisms.

This would explain why alkalinity tends to promote healing and dampen the infamous “inflammatory response” (which is a principle mechanism for most disease), so I immediately conjecture that the same process, through some related mechanism, also reduces the likelihood of precipitation of uric acid crystals from the blood into the joints – which is the precise cause of gout.

This matters because what I think we are gradually confirming is the reason that alkalinity is good for health generally, not just gout. Many sites around the web have been pumping out the Alkalinity message for over a decade. Many, unfortunately, are misguided nonsense talking about “Blood Alkalinity” and the importance of preventing “acid blood”. In fact, if your serum ph ever went acid, you’d be dead, pdq. Amongst other things, your haemoglobin wouldn’t be able to bind to enough oxygen to let you breath properly.

Blood ph is remarkably stable (typically 7.35-7.45) because it is homeostatically controlled. i.e. it will take whatever it needs from the body to ensure that it NEVER becomes acidic or too alkaline. If you are heading towards acidic, what will happen in the short term is that you’ll start breathing faster as your body insists on ejecting carbon dioxide, the result of which is a change in the serum bicarbonate production and rise in ph back to normal, if you’re lucky. If the problem is more long term your bones will start dissolving as the homeostasis leaches calcium to maintain the higher alkaline ph. Or the liver will break down more than usual nucleic acids resulting from protein digestion into urea, or worse, uric acid – which has the painful tendency to drop out of precipitation from the blood into the most painful places it possibly could – the joints of big toes for instance.

The abstract is essentially explaining the mechanism by which an alkaline diet will flood the system with positive ions, suppressing the requirement to leach the calcium or produce uric acid and leaving the body’s building blocks right where they belong. And allowing the cleanup of free radicals. So now we know…

It was impossible to find another source for the original story, unfortunately, but I did find the same source handily pasted into one of Kurzweil’s Transhumanist forums. Which means you can now read it without charge and I’m not the one in breach of copyright (for a change).

It’s obviously on the forum for precisely the reason I wanted to share it with you. One of the biggest challenges in developing “mind-uploading” techniques involves how we map the entire brain non-destructively. That “Positive Switch” story describes what will almost certainly be a major component of the solution to that problem. The same intracellular switches which will one day return Francisco Sepulveda to full normal (possibly better than normal) hearing, will eventually morph into the devices we need to read every cell in the brain for the purpose of mapping it to our digital clone.

And it looks like it could be ready to roll in the next 10-20 years. That’s got to be worth another spliff!

Did you notice GlaxoSmithKline’s $3 Billion Fraud Penalty?

Actually a MUCH bigger story than Barclay’s LIBOR fixing scam, yet I haven’t heard a single discussion of it on the beeb and have only spotted a couple of mainstream media covering it.

This New York Times story will fill you in.

In short, I believe it’s the biggest criminal fraud settlement in US (and, I think, global) history. Ten times bigger than the Barclay’s fine and publicly described as criminal (whereas there is an ongoing debate about whether what the banks got up to was also criminal)

In the past 24 hours, we’ve seen the 3 top executives of Barclays walking the plank. Not a peep from GSK or its shareholders. Obviously they consider such fines merely the cost of doing business. It hardly affects the bottom line, so the dividends will be safe.

You’d think, given the hours and acres of coverage being heaped on the banks’ story, we might here a minute or two about the British arm of Big Pharma, the biggest organised crime syndicate the world has ever known.

Don’t hold your breath…

Nutt demolishes latest Cannabis Lung Scare Story

Thank-you Professor Nutt. You’ve saved me the wasted time and effort of writing to the British Lung Foundation myself. I first read their latest drivel last week in the Mail. I knew it was complete bollocks; had any REAL research found such a clear conclusion it would have been headline news around the world for weeks. The authoritarians would have ensured it was fully trumpeted, around the clock, from all available rooftops.

So once the steam had cleared and I had stopped kicking the cat, I resolved to write to the BLF and ask, as politely as I could muster, where we could read this startling new evidence for ourselves. David Nutt has far more clout than I do and they’ve pointedly ignored him, so I’d have had no chance. But this is his day job. So he’s done a brilliant job here dissecting and revealing the true extent of their peculiar and obsessive duplicity.

Peculiar because I don’t understand their motives. They’re a charity f-fuxake, so they can’t have a financial interest. They have no obvious axe to grind. The Lung Cancer wards are not being clogged with cannabis smokers. Indeed their own evidence, should they ever bother analysing it will almost certainly reveal that cannabis smokers are under-represented in the statistics.

So why do they try so hard – and so consistently – to promote that ignorant and illicit authoritarian line? Could it be the price they pay for support from some of their donors? I’ve just checked their most recent audited accounts and if one or more of their donors is leaning on them, it’s certainly not obvious which one of them would give a damn. Feel free to speculate…