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Category Archives: Immortality Medicine

Study Finds Over 55 Million Deaths Could Be Prevented Annually By Some Sort Of Immortality Serum – The Onion

Posted: October 12, 2019 at 12:46 pm

MADISON, WIConcluding that such a breakthrough would greatly improve the prognoses of patients with terminal conditions, a new study released Wednesday by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine found that more than 55 million deaths could be prevented each year with an immortality serum of some kind. We would likely see a dramatic drop in death rates worldwide if an elixir that confers everlasting life could be successfully developed and then administered to every person on the planet, said epidemiologist and study co-author Matthew Potter, who suggested the public health benefits of such a serum could hardly be overstated, considering it could prevent deaths caused by heart disease, cancer, tuberculosis, car accidents, wars, and many other things. Given the positive outcomes it could deliver, this is clearly an area of medicine that merits further research. Once we have the serum, then its just a matter of adding it to the water supply, releasing it into the atmosphere via drones, or maybe coming up with some other universal-delivery system we havent even conceived of yet. Its really that simple. The study concedes an immortality serum would also come with its share of adverse effects, including rampant overpopulation, critical resource depletion, and crippling existential crises for anyone who takes it.

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Whats the mark of a real friend? – Aleteia EN

Posted: at 12:46 pm

Friendship has been praised throughout the centuries. The biblical Book of Ecclesiastes (or Sirach), written in the second century before Christ, includes these beautiful words: Nothing is comparable to a faithful friend, and no weight of silver or gold is worth more than the goodness of his fidelity. A faithful friend is a medicine for life and immortality.

Generally speaking, we make friends in the ordinary course of life. As we enter different environmentsbeginning when we are young, in our neighborhood and our extended family, and as we grow up, in our city, at school, at workwe discover people who become our friends. Weve all experienced the joy of getting together with them, talking, sharing experiences, giving each other advice, and so forth.

Our life experiences include many moments of happiness when we are accompanied by friends, who are often the ones who made those moments possible. Things such as trips, sporting events, graduation from school, or birthday parties are among the countless good experiences weve had with our friends.

How can we tell if someone is a real friend, and not just someone whos passing through our life in a pleasant and enjoyable way, but with no further meaning or consequences? And how can we make those friendly and fun people whose company we enjoy into authentic friends?

Friendship has one basic aspect: friends want whats good for each other. Friends are not really friends if theyre only useful for reaching professional success or for connecting with other people, or for satisfying our ego and vanity because we want to be surrounded by influential people.

True friends dont take advantage of each other.

Theres another distinctive aspect of friendship we should include: authentic friends share their interior life with each other. Friendship goes both ways, so its not about one giving and the other receiving.

This means that in great friendships people share their experiences of suffering, concern, and their interior battles, and they help each other in times of difficulty. They also share their deepest joys and most personal discoveries. Friends know each others hearts through and through.

Its not necessarily about sharing our deepest thoughts and feelings on social networks, or about being able to drink wine with each other every Friday night. The way it happens is something thats different in every friendship.

With whom do I share my confidences, and the depths of my heart? Does that person share theirs with me? Thats the way true friends are, and it lasts throughout the wide variety of circumstances we may experience throughout our lives, even if we cant always be physically present with each other.

If you have a friend like that, you truly have a priceless treasure.

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Raising the Dead: Ketch Secor Talks Old Crow Medicine Show’s Live at The Ryman, Ken Burns’ ‘Country Music’ and Playing with Bob Weir –

Posted: October 7, 2019 at 7:50 pm

This Friday, Oct. 4, Old Crow Medicine Show will release their new album, Live at The Ryman, which captures various cuts from the country-folk stalwarts many performances at the famed Ryman Auditorium in Nashville over the past half-decade. Ever the torchbearers of down-home, old-timey, harmony-filled music, Old Crow have ridden the wave of the 21st-century folk-revival to awards and accolades over the years, but the groups founders havent forgotten the musical and geographical roots that spawned their success.

Old Crow co-founder Ketch Secor recently helped with the creation of Ken Burns newest documentary, Country Music, which chronicles the myriad storiesboth well-known and nearly forgottenthat have shaped the history of the genre for over a century. Here, Secor talks about keeping the memory of country, folk and bluegrass music alive through the documentary and in his own music and actions, plus his recent experience with playing alongside Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir at LOCKN Festival in Old Crows home state of Virginia (where they collaborated on Mexicali Blues, Cumberland Blues and Will the Circle Be Unbroken?) and why Old Crow Medicine Show might have a bit more jamband in them than they previously thought.

Letsstart with this years LOCKNFestival, specifically your set and the Bob Weir sit inhow did that cometogether?

Bobspeople reached out a few days ahead of our tour and let it be known that he wasinterested in sitting in with us, asking what we would play. So we sent himback a list of tunes, and he picked the ones that we played from that list.Then we warmed up in the trailer and we hit the stage together. There are justa few moments like that in the life of a musician, where it seems that somesort of spiritual butterfly will land on the headstock of your guitar and justflap its wings. It reminds you of where you came from, where the music camefrom, and lets you know youre not alone and that your dreams are coming true,all at the very moment of your singing.

Didyou grow up with the Dead? How would a younger version of Ketch have viewedthat experience, being onstage with Bob Weir?

Well,it would have been unfathomable to me as a younger personthat the person I waslooking at, with eyes strained through an LSD hit, was going to be, like, afriend on the stage, years later. I saw the Grateful Dead at Giants Stadium thesummer that Jerry died. It was mid-June, in the burning-hot Meadowlands of NewJersey. I think that, if I wasnt 16 in 1994, I probably would have been to alot more Dead showsbut I just got to go to the one. I loved the music, and Ivealways felt that our band was part of the same familywe were just a littlefurther down the line. Also, so much of our influence tended toward the earlierside of the Grateful Dead, so it sort of felt like, well, maybe its more of ahorseshoe shape?

Hadyou played with any of the members of the Dead before?

Well,we worked some shows with Phil [Lesh] this summer, but in the capacity ofWillie Nelson [on the Outlaw Music Festival Tour], so I dont think Phil knewus, but he did watch our sets most nightsjust awesome to have him there. Andthen there was some correspondence a long time ago with Billy Kreutzmann thatnothing ever came of.

Butthe thing is, when someone is your hero, they take on a life in your life thatis not their life, but something related to your own imagination anddreamscape. And then theres this positively charged sonic landscape in whichJerry lives forever, and Pigpen never died, and theyre taking their firstbanjo lessons, and theyre learning to sing folk songs in the early 1960s, allin the same breath as singing Cats Under The Stars, and death and beyond. Thatsthe kinship that I think the Grateful Dead embodies better than any other musicmaker. The immortality piece.

Andthe relationship of the music to a spiritual plane doesnt need to be aparticular spirit; you can put any deity you want in that picture. That partsnot very important to me. Chuck Berry did the same thinghe lives foreverbuthe didnt talk about living forever, and he didnt dance about livingforever. If he did, he did it in subtle ways. The Dead invited you into a worldthat very much was stated as a spiritual plane. The music undulates andmoves like the soul.

Doyou aim at something like that with your own music?

No,man, Im a revivalist. Im just trying to raise the deadIm not trying to coexistwith them.

Howdid you pick what songs you wanted to play with Bobby?

Well,I hope to check the list again sometime and get to pick again, because theresa lot on that list. Our band has always played Grateful Dead music; we grew upon Grateful Dead music. I polled the band, because were all such big fans, soit was so easy to get a list of twenty tunes together. Most of them we had notplayed before, but we had a few regular songs in our rotation, and certainly alot of common ground. Whats interesting, I think, for our collaboration isthat were really from the roots-music world, like the Dead, but were not atall from the jamband world, so our crossroads happens in a veryless-than-obvious place, in a really deep and soulful place. I think that, whenwe started singing together with Bobby, it instantly felt locked in.

Theresso many people [at festivals] you might want to meet, but these [onstage]encounters, I think, go so much deeper than someones email address. I mean,they certainly require that, and Bob gets to play with all kinds of peopleandyoud have to ask Bob what he feltbut, for us, the man has loomed so large inmythology, in our arts, and in our music, that I still see Steal Your Faceseverywhere. I can close my eyes and still see the Dancing Bears dancing to Cumberland Blues. So it was just a real homecoming to get to play with him.

Haveyou ever had that kind of experience with any other sit ins?

Youknow, it was like meeting Pete Seeger backstage. In the case of Pete Seeger,the part that was the most like making music with Bob Weir was sitting withPete while he talked. Story craft is just at the heart of Pete. He told thisreally long story that I just wanted to drink in. Weve had such a specialprivilege in our lives as musicians to be able to be there with a lot of peoplewho arent on this earth anymore. Plus making music with Cowboy Jack Clement,or Merle Haggard. These kinds of things are what the newspaper men of thefutureGod willing, if I live to be oldenoughwill be asking me. What was it like to play music with Bob Weir?What did Merle Haggard whisper into your ear?

Didhe whisper something into your ear?


Whatwas it?

Illtell you in 35 years. [Laughs.]

Beforethe festival, I was talking to the talent buyer for LOCKN for the LOCKN Times,and he was saying hed been trying to get Old Crow on the lineup for years, butthe timing never worked out. So Im curious what your thoughts of the festivalwere after your first time.

Ima Virginian, so Im always going to want to play in the Old Dominion. But, asfar as playing in Virginia goes, this was a really new experience, because Ivenever done a big festival here before, with music going on [that late]. What Imused to with playing in Virginia is more like a rock festival or a bluegrassfestival, or its a country thing or an Americana thing. But this was none ofthose, so it was exciting to be in the space of what felt like new, in thelandscape of what felt so old.

Youmentioned Old Crow not being too much in the jambands world, but Ive heardthat youre a pretty big Phish fan. Can you talk about that connection andappreciation?

Ihavent seen Phish quite a few years. I kind of stopped going in my earlytwentiesthats something I really did a lot of in high school, though. A lot ofI mean, there was a minute there when Id seen Phish as much as Id seenBob Dylan. But Joe Andrews and Corey Younts in our band are still very muchPhish concertgoers, along with all the variations of Phish. Theyre reallytuned in to whats happening right now. Im sort of tuned into Junta and Lawn Boy. But Im really tuned into them. [Laughs.]

Anyspecific highlights from your Phish-going days that pop out in your memory?

Oneof my favorites was going to a show in Amherst, Mass., and not having a ticketand figuring we were just going to go hang out in the parking lotbeing 16,having some mushrooms in my pocket and being so excited about just going tohang out in the parking lot. Stopping off on the turnpike on the way there, wego into the glass house [regional name for highway rest stops/service areas]and there was someone handing out Phish tickets to the show we were headed to.Those are the kind of miracles that occur in the lives in 16-year-olds on wildweekends in boarding school. [Laughs.]

Ithink, if we had our chops, Old Crow would be a jamband. But we were just neverthat virtuosic. We were a three-chord band that was really song-driven, and thebest that we could do was with soulnot really the way we played, but thepassion with which we played. But its all very self-taught and rudimentarychord structures. Our biggest influences are probably like the Memphis Jug Bandand Workingmans Dead. You can see, in the Dead, that theres thispathway into the wilderness, from the sound of the Warlocks, or the musicbefore that, the undergirding of the Dead.

OldCrow is really rooted in the folk revival, which I think is one of the mostsignificant times in American music, when the first waves reappeared of aprimal sound that had made American popular music so powerful. That wave was sostrong that there were echoes of it resounding even 30 or 40 years later in theShenandoah Valley, when Critter [Fuqua] and I, in the late 1980s, startedplaying folk music. It was that colossal. What really inspired us was to betrue to it. The ideology of the band was still in its infancy and richlyaffixed to this concept of, Gotta keep the old music strong, or else itll die. And, you know, thats the way a 20-year-old thinks. WhatI would tell that 20-year-old is just to rephrase it a little bityouve gottamake the old time music strong so that you can give it away, again and again,so that itll be worth giving away and wont make a memory, but rathersomething present and fun.

Doyou ever have that fear anymore?

No,I think its in great shape. I think probably more harmonicas, banjos andfiddles have been sold in the past 15 years than at any other time. So yeah, Ithink were doing great, in terms of the cultural preservation of the music ofthe state of Virginia and other places. But, as the band is growing into the21st year of its career, we have been able to change that loyalty considerablyand stretch out into lots of new directions.

HavingBob up there affirmed the feeling and emotion in the band that we couldactually play for a long time if we want. We could jam. And so, we startedplaying a couple of Phish tunes in our setmost of that is because we wereplaying in Vermont, and we always have the tendency to play [regionallyappropriate covers]. When we play in Detroit, we sing The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald; in Seattle, we might do Nirvanas [version of] Mollys Lips or something like that. So, going upto Burlington, were likely to play some Phish. And our audiences down Southarent as appreciative of us doing Phishand weve learned that the hard way. [Laughs.]With the blessing of Bobin all his Bob-nessI feel like we could probably goforth and sew a new roots-music/jam rowand grow some pretty unruly crops.

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FMA: The Top 10 Symbols and Logos, Explained | CBR – CBR – Comic Book Resources

Posted: at 7:50 pm

Hiromu Arakawa's action fantasy seriesFullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhoodis a tale of adventure, the follies of mankind, ambition, conspiracy, and the innate goodness of humanity. Along the way, the main characters learn all kinds of lessons about themselves and each other, and the world of Amestris is richly fleshed out during the Elric brother's journey.

RELATED: FMA Brotherhood: Top 10 Friendships and Alliances

This series is also brimming with important symbology and real-life references to religion, mythology, alchemy, and more, and all this research has certainly paid off. Fullmetal Alchemist is a treat for anyone who enjoys these things, and there's plenty to learn. Find out what are the secrets of this show's arcane symbols and logos.

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Not a lot is explained about the national flag of Amestris, but some educated guesses can be made. It depicts a dragon on a green field, and most likely, the dragon represents the aggressive ways of this nation. Amestris is a military autocratic state, where the army and big government are intertwined. Often, white is a color representing purity, but it can also represent death, such as human bones. The "death" Horseman of the Apocalypse rides on a white horse, after all. And this dragon's tails forms a loop, possibly alluding to how important transmutation circles are inFullmetal Alchemist.

Only the homunculi bear this symbol, and it gives away their homunculus status. Greed's, as pictured, is on the back of his left hand, and Gluttony has one on his tongue and Wrath's is on his left eye. This creature, according to real-life symbology, represents immortality and eternity, since it is eating its own tail and thus creating an infinite loop. The homunculi are not truly immortal, but they can outlive humans, and they are tools of Father's ambition to become an immortal god for all time.

RELATED: Fullmetal Alchemist: 10 Facts You Didn't Know About Olivier Armstrong

Next up is the Flamel, the symbol that appears on the back of Edward Elric's distinctive red coat. Just what is it? This cross has a snake draped on it, along with detached wings and a crown, and it represents the real-life Nicholas Flamel's relationship to alchemy. This symbol also has a superficial resemblance to the Greek Rod of Asclepius, associated with medicine in ancient Greece. It's also somewhat similar to the Greek Caduceus, the symbol of the Greek god Hermes (who controls alchemy). Izumi Curtis, the Elric brothers' teacher, has this symbol tattooed on her breast.

Now for an active alchemy transmutation circle. Colonel Roy Mustang is an extraordinary alchemist, being able to snap his fingers to generate heat and flames in any shape or pattern. To do this, Roy has a unique transmutation circle on his glove that shows a triangle, a stylized flame, and a salamander. In medieval Europe, salamanders were associated with fire, and this motif appears often in fiction both old and new. Take Charmander in Pokemon, for example, a fire lizard. "Charred" and "salamander" gives us "Charmander."

The transmutation circles of several alchemists appear on this list, and now it is Solf J. Kimblee's turn. Kimblee has to clap his hands to use alchemy, and his circle is split in half on each palm. What do they mean? The sun symbol on his right hand represents gold, and the moon symbol on the left hand stands for silver. The triangles are important, too: the upwards triangle is symbolic of fire, and the downward-facing triangle represents water. Put together, they form a hexagram, and Kimblee's explosive alchemy is ready to rock!

RELATED: Fullmetal Alchemist: 10 Differences Between the Anime and the Manga

Alphonse Elric is very careful to protect this transmutation circle. In a moment of desperation, a young Edward used his own blood to write it, and this bound Al's soul to armor with advanced alchemy. This seal may represent the real-life philosophy that a human life is two distinct parts: the body, and the mind. Some argue that killing the body does not kill the mind, and to be sure, Alphonse is a fine metaphor for that. Hang in there, kid.

Edward comes face to face with Truth whenever he performs human alchemy: once as a child, and once to escape Gluttony's stomach realm. Each time, he finds himself in a white void that features this door. And that door is oozing with symbolic meaning. In particular, it refers to the mystical branch of Judaism known as the Kabbalah. The whole thing is based on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, and in Ed's case, the tree has a crown, or a "keter." This tree's roots represent the most mundane and earthly aspect of trying to reach godhood, and the top represents the divine. The circles also describe aspects of Ed's being and God, in Hebrew and in Latin, such as Filius ("son"), and El Pater ("God)".

RELATED: Fullmetal Alchemist: 10 Most Powerful Alchemy, Ranked

Shown is an experimental combination of alchemy and alkahestry, from the notes of Scar's deceased brother. Alkahestry, which originates from Xing, is based on pentagrams rather than hexagrams, and a star is often symbolic of the human body in real life. Take, for example, Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. Scar's brother realized that neither alchemy nor alkahestry represented the sum of the world's power, and attempted to reconcile them. Scar's arm tattoos, which enable alchemy, also have alkahestry symbology in them.

The ancient Xerxes people of the great desert had some symbology to offer, too. Ed finds these ruins both in Xerxes itself and inside Gluttony's stomach, and he soon divines their meaning. According to him, the sun represents the human soul, while the moon stands for the mind. The stone itself, meanwhile, is the human body. What does this add up to? A human transmutation circle, and Ed is not happy to see that. Ed also notes that the lion is eating the sun, representing the attainment of the Philosopher's Stone and thus immortality.

The list concludes with another alchemist's own transmutation circle. In this case, Major Alex Armstrong has two copies of it, one on each armored gauntlet, and he strikes the gauntlets together to activate his own brand of alchemy. Inside a triangle is the word for "God," as seen on the Xerxes human transmutation circle. There appears to be German text circling the symbols, which is easier to see in the manga. The text changes at some point, but it's not clear if that's from an artistic oversight or if Armstrong really did change the writing.

NEXT: The 5 Best (& 5 worst) Fullmetal Alchemist Relationships

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NextX-Men: 10 Things Fans Should Know About Vulcan, The Third Summers Brother

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Why Are Some Americans Paying $8000 For A Shot Of Teenage Blood? – IFLScience

Posted: August 25, 2017 at 3:33 am

Lets get this out of the way first: theres very little convincing evidence that the blood of young people will slow down aging in old people. Nevertheless, theres apparently just enough evidence going around for enigmatic organizations to pay through the nose for the blood of teenagers, just in case the cure for oldness does actually exist after all.

As pointed out by The Sunday Times, teenage blood is in high demand in parts of the US right now, with individual shots of the crimson liquid going for as much as $7,940 a pop. So what the hell is going on here?

Back in 2016, a company named Ambrosia whose name derives from the mythical, immortality-granting substance from Greek legends declared that they were going to run a trial where older Americans would be given young blood, and their biological response to it would be tracked.

Although there is some evidence that this process works in mice, far more work needs to be done through peer-reviewed research to confirm the same applies to humans.

Ambrosia received some serious flak at the time for falling a fair bit short of that: specifically, there was no control group, you didnt even have to be particularly old to take part 35 was the minimum age and the volunteers joining the project had to pay $8,000 apiece just for taking part.

Either way, as you would expect, people with several grand to spare around 100 of them in fact joined the trial, and theyve been receiving injections of the young blood plasma ever since. If the original trial outline was anything to go by, they were given four rounds of weekly servingsfor their donation.

The young blood is coming from registered blood banks, and its almost certain that the money being given by the trial subjects is paying, at least partly, for these unusually valuable vials.

Speaking to reporters, the lead physician on the project Jesse Karmazin has claimed that the trial is currently successful. He said that its like plastic surgery from the inside out, which frankly sounds terrifying.

He also added, rather strangely, that Im not really in the camp of saying this will provide immortality but I think it comes pretty close, essentially.

Its probably worth pointing out that lifespan is a binary thing: you can either be immortal, or youre mortal. You cant be almost immortal, because, well, thatll still result in death.

In any case, whatever this trial reveals, assess it with considerable skepticism. Its unlikely this is proper science, and remember extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, not just a nicer way of saying vampirism and a few PR stunts.

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Immortality Medicine Part 8456 |

Posted: August 22, 2017 at 11:27 pm

On this weekend of hope, I thought I would offer everyone some of the messages of inspiration and hope that I received from the remarkable man whom I have been interviewing for many years.

You see, I have also found hope that anything was possible since I first heard the story of the incredible man who defied death 2,000 years ago. But like most of you, I still needed to see, hear, or better yet experience such death defying feats during our modern age to really take to heart what we were taught by those famous biblical prophets.

So when it occurred to me that there actually were people living past 125 years of age, and way beyond that number, I started to feel my heart stir to the possibility many of our ancient myths may have been much more than stories of hope. Could they conceivably be accounts of actual people who found the answers to achieving the impossible? Did these people achieve such incredible feats, because the has nothing to fear? Or because they simply decided not to allow their lives to be conquered by their fears? Or, perhaps, they discovered the secret of living a life without fears which allowed these people to accomplish all that their hearts desired?

Clearly, fear in our lives, disables us, blocks us from growing, stops us for moving forward, hampers us in attaining our lifes dreams; and in some cases, perhaps in many ways, destroys our lives from the inside out.

So, if fear is what keeps us from what we want, what we need, what we desire; then is it possible that the lack of fear or the absence of fear will allow us to obtain what we work for, what we struggle for, and what we sacrifice for?

From what what I have learned from my 2,800 year friend, and from the man who made history 2,000 years ago, is a big, blatant YES to these questions. Certainly they both had fears, but it is quite obvious from what I have heard from the both of them is simply: conquer your fears and you will achieve results.

So how did these 2 incredible men face their fears and conquer them? The simplest of answers I could ascertain from the both of them, happens to be the same message:

1. Do not believe in the fear. Believe instead in the opposite of fear which is love.

2. Do not believe in death. Believe instead in the opposite of death which is life.

3. Do not live your lives believing in fear and in death, but instead live your lives believing in love and in life.

Have you ever met a person who believes in love and in life? When you do, you automatically be moved by the presence, their words, and all that surrounds them.

Is that not how we, deep down inside, really want to live? A life of contentment without worries, fears, and experiencing life at its fullest?

We can seek out these people for guidance, we can model our lives after these people

or we can start today and simply add this simple knowledge into our lives, in everything we say, everything we do, and when we deal with all that life deals to us.

This is what I have learned from a 2,800 year man, who lives this way every day. And I am embarrassed to say, this is what I should have learned from the man who taught us all this; 2,000 years ago today.

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Seeking A Glimpse Of Immortality In The Waters Of India’s …

Posted: at 11:27 pm

A Hindu devotee prays after a holy dip at the Sangam, the confluence of three holy rivers the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati during the Kumbh Mela festival in Allahabad, India, on Sunday.

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Pilgrims make their way over pontoon bridges.

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A father dips his son into the holy waters.

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The Kumbh Mela is one of the rare times that sadhu nagas make themselves known. Many of these ascetics live in forests and villages, and have little contact with ordinary Indians. Their population is dwindling, as young devotees prefer not to pursue a life of deprivation.

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A man blows a horn in celebration during the daylong procession that drew 30 million devotees Sunday, the most auspicious day of the 55-day-long Hindu festival.

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A naga sadhu smeared in ash serves up the early morning tea for his akhara, or sect, one of 13 that has its own camp on the 20-square-mile grounds.

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Naga sadhus, naked holy men, walk in procession after bathing on the auspicious day of Mauni Amavasya on Sunday.

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An Indian devotee holds an offering at the Sangam.

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Hindu devotees cram as they board their train Monday at Allahabad train station, the site of Sunday's stampede. Thirty-seven people were killed in the stampede.

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Hindu devotees wait Monday to board a train at the site of Sunday's stampede. Survivors blamed the tragedy on baton-charging police and the slow response of medics.

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The Hindu gathering known as Kumbh Mela is on a scale difficult to fathom: The world's largest religious festival is millions of feet shuffling, millions of mantras chanted, countless sales of firewood to ward off the night cold. Millions of incense sticks will be burned and bells rung in devotional rituals called aartis.

An officer guards the purses of pilgrims who came to pay homage to the holy waters at the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers. Anoo Bhuyan for NPR hide caption

An officer guards the purses of pilgrims who came to pay homage to the holy waters at the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers.

Jet-setting swamis, naked holy men and foreigners fascinated by Eastern mysticism joined tens of millions of pilgrims for a dip in river waters believed to be holy.

Tragedy struck Sunday on the biggest day of the 55-day-long festival, when a stampede killed 37 people at a train station ferrying pilgrims home from the Kumbh Mela.

In a single day this past Sunday an estimated 30 million people celebrated on the river banks of the city of Allahabad. It's as if the combined populations of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota showed up at the same place, at the same time. These pilgrims have converged on the Sangam the confluence of three rivers, the Ganga or Ganges, the Yamuna and the so-called mythical Saraswati.

American-born Sadvhi Bhagawati Saraswati is a sanyasi, or a nun in the Hindu tradition. She is a disciple of Swami Chidanand Saraswati and the managing editor of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism, which was released last year.

"Once every 12 years, when the stars, the planets, the moon and everything is in proper alignment, it is considered the most auspicious and divine and sacred time to have a bath in the confluence of these sacred water," she explains, referring to the three holy rivers of India.

In Hindu mythology, Saraswati says, the kumbh of Kumbh Mela is a pot that contained sacred nectar.

"Drops of the sacred nectar of immortality actually fell upon this land and into these rivers, and so people who have come have come to bathe in the nectar of immorality. But nobody thinks that what it means is that cells of their body won't die. Of course they will. Everybody knows that," she says. "So we go home from here with an awareness of our divine and eternal nature. And that's what the nectar of immortality is."

Saints Are Stars Of The Show

The Kumbh attracts all manner of devotees, from the simplest souls looking to wash away their sins to Bollywood film celebrities looking for an angle to promote their movies.

But the real stars of this show are India's holy men: sadhus, or saints, and naga sadhus. These naked ascetics, smeared in nothing but ash, are often the postcard image of religious India.

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, a Hindu nun, edited the Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Julie McCarthy /NPR hide caption

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, a Hindu nun, edited the Encyclopedia of Hinduism.

One holy man confided that the life of deprivation naga sadhus lead is more than today's initiates are willing to endure, and that as a result, the nagas are becoming an endangered species.

But millions of pilgrims lined a route in the cold pre-dawn hours Sunday to catch a glimpse of these normally secluded holy men, who kicked off a procession parading naked on horseback. Surrounded by heavy security, they made a dash for a dip in the chilly waters and millions of pilgrims followed suit.

C.T. Gautam, a retired teacher from the state of Haryana, was among them. What did he pray for?

"For peace of the whole world," he says. "Nothing for myself, only this."

We go home from here with an awareness of our divine and eternal nature. ... That's what the nectar of immortality is.

Sadvhi Bhagawati Saraswati, Hindu nun

He adds wistfully that this occasion, on the same date with the same astrological alignment "will not come around again for another 147 years."

Movies have been made about getting lost at the Kumbh Mela, where India's richest and its poorest inhabit the same noisy, unsanitary conditions, living under the stars along the river banks in this megatent city. To accommodate them, 35,000 toilets were built and 500 miles of electric wires were installed.

Gyanesh Kamal, a saint from Allahabad, calls the Kumbh "the great leveler."

"There is no discrimination at all," he says. "We are getting everyone here full of simplicity. This is the purpose, to make equality."

It is expected that by the final dipping day on March 10, more than 100 million people will have experienced the Kumbh Mela.

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How to live forever – TechRadar

Posted: August 20, 2017 at 5:46 pm

Humans have wanted to live forever for as long as we've lived at all. It's an obsession that stretches back so far that it feels like it's somehow hard-coded into our DNA. Over the years, immortality (to a greater or lesser extent) has been promised by everyone from religions and cults to the cosmetics industry, big tech companies and questionable food blogs.

It's also a staple of fiction, all the way back to the earliest surviving great work of literature. The Epic of Gilgamesh, carved onto stone tablets in 2100 BC, depicts its titular king hunting for the secret of eternal life, which he finds in a plant that lives at at the bottom of the sea. He collects the plant by roping stones to his feet, but then a snake steals it while he's having a pre-immortality bath. Gilgamesh has a little cry, then gives up.

A cuneiform tablet containing part of The Epic of Gilgamesh.

The reason why we age is still the subject of major scientific debate, but it basically boils down to damage accumulating in our cells throughout our lives, which eventually kills us. By slowing that damage - first by making tools, then controlling fire, inventing writing, trade, agriculture, logic, the scientific method, the industrial revolution, democracy and so on, we've managed to massively increase human life expectancy.

There's a common misconception that to live forever we need to somehow pause the ageing process. We don't. We just need to increase the rate at which our lifespans are lengthening. Human lifespan has been lengthening at a constant rate of about two years per decade for the last 200 years. If we can speed that up past the rate at which we age then we hit what futurist Aubrey de Grey calls "longevity escape velocity" - the point we become immortal.

There's a common misconception that to live forever we need to somehow pause the ageing process. We don't. We just need to increase the rate at which our lifespans are lengthening.

That all sounds rather easy, and of course it's not quite that simple. It's all we can do at the moment to keep up with the Moore's Law of increasing lifespans. But with a major research effort, coordinated around the world, who knows? Scientific history is filled with fields that ticked along slowly and then suddenly, massively, accelerated. Computer science is one. Genetics is another recent example.

To understand what we need to do to hit longevity escape velocity, it's worth looking at how life expectancy has increased in recent history. The late statistician Hans Rosling made a powerful case that average lifespans rise alongside per capita income. Take a couple of minutes to watch this video and you'll be convinced:

Reducing the gap between the global rich and poor, therefore, is probably the fastest way to boost the world average life expectancy figure, but it's limited. And it won't do much for people in rich countries.

To boost the lifespans of the people living in countries that are already pretty wealthy, we need to look closer at the countries that are forecast to have the highest life expectancies in the coming years. A study published earlier this year in the Lancet shows what life expectancy might look like in 2030 in 35 industrialised countries, using an amalgamation of 21 different forecasting models.

South Korea tops the chart with women living on average beyond 90, while France, Japan, Switzerland and Australia are not far behind. Most of the countries at the top of the chart have high-quality healthcare provision, low infant deaths, and low smoking and road traffic injury rates. Fewer people are overweight or obese. The US, meanwhile, is projected to see only a modest rise - due to a lack of healthcare access, and high rates of obesity, child mortality and homicides.

The study results are interesting, not only because they're the best possible guess at our future but because they clearly show how social policies make a massive difference to how long people live. There are unknowns, of course - no-one could have predicted the 80s AIDS epidemic, for example, and no doubt further pandemics lurk in humanity's future. But ban smoking, fight obesity, and introduce autonomous cars and personalised medicine, and you'll see lifespans rise.

The US is projected to see only a modest rise in lifespan - due to a lack of healthcare access, and high rates of obesity, child mortality and homicides.

The other interesting thing is that the study's results are a shot across the bows of scientists who claim that there are hard limits to human lifespan.

"As recently as the turn of the century, many researchers believed that life expectancy would never surpass 90 years, lead author Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London told the Guardian back in February.

That prediction mirrors another, published in Nature in October 2016, that concluded that the upper limit of human age is stuck at about 115 years.

"By analysing global demographic data, we show that improvements in survival with age tend to decline after age 100, and that the age at death of the worlds oldest person has not increased since the 1990s," wrote the authors - Xiao Dong, Brandon Milholland & Jan Vijg.

"Our results strongly suggest that the maximum lifespan of humans is fixed and subject to natural constraints."

The maximum length of a human lifespan remains up for debate.

Other researchers, however, disagree. Bryan G. Hughes & Siegfried Hekimi wrote in the same journal a few months later that their analysis showed that there are many possible maximum lifespan trajectories.

We just dont know what the age limit might be. In fact, by extending trend lines, we can show that maximum and average lifespans, could continue to increase far into the foreseeable future, Hekimi said.

Three hundred years ago, many people lived only short lives. If we would have told them that one day most humans might live up to 100, they would have said we were crazy.

That's all big-picture stuff, so let's dive down to a more personal level. Assuming that you can't change your genetics or your life up until the point that you're currently at, what can you personally do to live longer?

Here's the list: Don't smoke. Exercise your body and mind on a daily basis. Eat foods rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and unsaturated fat. Don't drink too much alcohol. Get your blood pressure checked. Chop out sources of stress and anxiety in your life. Travel by train. Stay in school. Think positive. Cultivate a strong social group. Don't sit for long periods of time. Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D. Keep your weight at a healthy level. And don't go to hospital if you can help it - hospitals are dangerous places.

All of those things have been correlated with increased lifespan in scientific studies. And they're all pretty easy and cheap to do. If you want to maximise your longevity, then that's your to-do list. But there are also strategies that have a little less scientific merit. The ones that people with too much money pursue when they realise they haven't been following any of the above for most of their life.

Inside the Cryonics Institute.

Cryonics is probably the most popular. First proposed in the 1960s by US academic Robert Ettinger in his book "The Prospect of Immortality", it involves freezing the body as soon as possible after death in a tube kept at -196C, along with detailed notes of what they died of. The idea is that when medicine has invented a cure for that ailment, the corpse can be thawed and reanimated.

Calling someone dead is merely medicines way of excusing itself from resuscitation problems it cannot fix today, reads the website of top cryogenics firm Alcor.

The problem is the brain. First, it's so dense and well-protected that it's extremely difficult for the cryonics chemicals to penetrate it. It's almost impossible that it doesn't get damaged in the freezing process.

The 21,000,000,000 neurons and ~1,000,000,000,000,000 synapses in the human brain means that it'll be a while until we have the computational resources to map it.

Secondly, your neurons die quickly - even if you're immersed within minutes of death, you're still likely to suffer substantial brain damage. To which cryonics proponents argue: "What do I have to lose?" If the choice is between probably never waking up again and never waking up again, and it's your money to spend, then why not give it a shot?

An alternative to deep freeze is storing your brain in a computer. Not literally a lump of grey matter, but a database detailing in full all of the connections between the neurons in your brain that make you you (known as your connectome). Future doctors could then either rewire a real or artificial brain to match that data, resurrecting you in a new body (or perhaps even as an artificial intelligence).

A close look at a slice of mouse brain. Credit: Robert Cudmore

So far, we've only managed to map the full connectome of one animal - the roundworm C. elegans. Despite the worm's mere 302 neurons and 7,500 or so synapses, the resulting data is about 12GB in size - you can download it in full at the Open Connectome Project, and even install it in a robot, which will then act like a worm.

Unfortunately the human brain is a somewhat larger undertaking. The Human Connectome Project is making a start, and AI is helping, but the 21,000,000,000 neurons and ~1,000,000,000,000,000 synapses in the human brain means that it'll be a while until we have the computational resources to get it done. It's worth noting that this isn't an unassailable goal, especially if we can somehow figure out which bits are actually important to our personality and who we are as individuals and which bits are just used to remember the lyrics of Spice Girls songs.

For now, though, my recommendation would be to stick to the list of simple life extension strategies above. It's probable that in time we'll have new ways of augmenting our bodies that will extend our lifespans (we've already started with cyborg technology - just look at pacemakers and artificial hips).

But if you want to be at the front of the waiting list then you'll need to arrive at that point with as youthful a body as possible.

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How to live forever - TechRadar

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When thoughts often turn to death – The Economist

Posted: at 5:46 pm

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When thoughts often turn to death - The Economist

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Two-step process leads to cell immortalization and cancer – Medical Xpress

Posted: August 18, 2017 at 4:43 am

August 17, 2017 Human chromosomes (grey) capped by telomeres (white). Credit: PD-NASA; PD-USGOV-NASA

A mutation that helps make cells immortal is critical to the development of a tumor, but new research at the University of California, Berkeley suggests that becoming immortal is a more complicated process than originally thought.

The key to immortalization is an enzyme called telomerase, which keeps chromosomes healthy in cells that divide frequently. The enzyme lengthens the caps, or telomeres, on the ends of chromosomes, which wear off during each cell division.

When the telomeres get too short, the ends stick to one another, wreaking havoc when the cell divides and in most cases killing the cell. The discovery of telomerase and its role in replenishing the caps on the ends of the chromosomes, made by Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider at UC Berkeley and John Szostak at Harvard University in the 1980s, earned them a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009.

Because telomeres get shorter as cells age, scientists theorized that cancer cells - which never age - become immortalized by turning on production of telomerase in cells that normally don't produce it, allowing these cells to keep their long telomeres indefinitely. An estimated 90 percent of all malignant tumors use telomerase to achieve immortality, and various proposed cancer therapies focus on turning down the production of telomerase in tumors.

The new research, which studied the immortalization process using genome-engineered cells in culture and also tracked skin cells as they progressed from a mole into a malignant melanoma, suggests that telomerase plays a more complex role in cancer.

"Our findings have implications for how to think about the earliest processes that drive cancer and telomerase as a therapeutic target. It also means that the role of telomere biology at a very early step of cancer development is vastly underappreciated," said senior author Dirk Hockemeyer, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of molecular and cell biology. "It is very likely that what we find in melanoma is true for other cancer types as well, which would warrant that people look more carefully at the role of early telomere shortening as a tumor suppressing mechanism for cancer."

The results will be reported online August 17 as a "first release" publication from the journal Science.

From nevus to cancer

Hockemeyer and his UC Berkeley colleagues, in collaboration with dermatopathologistBoris Bastian and his colleagues at UCSF, found that immortalization is a two-step process, driven initially by a mutation that turns telomerase on, but at a very low level. That mutation is in a promoter, a region upstream of the telomerase gene - referred to as TERT - that regulates how much telomerase is produced. Four years ago, researchers reported that some 70 percent of malignant melanomas have this identical mutation in the TERT promoter.

The TERT promoter mutation does not generate enough telomerase to immortalize the pre-cancerous cells, but does delay normal cellular aging, Hockemeyer said, allowing more time for additional changes that turns telomerase up. He suspects that the telomerase levels are sufficient to lengthen the shortest telomeres, but not keep them all long and healthy.

If cells fail to turn up telomerase, they also fail to immortalize, and eventually die from short telomeres because chromosomes stick together and then shatter when the cell divides. Cells with the TERT promoter mutation are more likely to up-regulate telomerase, which allows them to continue to grow despite very short telomeres.

Yet, Hockemeyer says, telomerase levels are marginal, resulting is some unprotected chromosome ends in the surviving mutant cells, which could cause mutations and further fuel tumor formation.

"Before our paper, people could have assumed that the acquisition of just this one mutation in the TERT promoter was sufficient to immortalize a cell; that any time when that happens, the telomere shortening is taken out of the equation," Hockemeyer said. "We are showing that the TERT promoter mutation is not immediately sufficient to stop telomeres from shortening."

It is still unclear, however, what causes the eventual up-regulation of telomerase that immortalizes the cell. Hockemeyer says that it's unlikely to be another mutation, but rather an epigenetic change that affects expression of the telomerase gene, or a change in the expression of a transcription factor or other regulatory proteins that binds to the promoter upstream of the telomerase gene.

"Nevertheless, we have evidence that the second step has to happen, and that the second step is initiated by or is occurring at a time where telomeres are critically short and when telomeres can be dysfunctional and drive genomic instability," he said.

In retrospect, not a surprise

Though most cancers seem to require telomerase to become immortal, only some 10 to 20 percent of cancers are known to have a single-nucleotide change in the promoter upstream of the telomerase gene. However, these include about 70 percent of all melanomas and 50 percent of all liver and bladder cancers.

Hockemeyer said that the evidence supporting the theory that the TERT promoter mutation up-regulated telomerase has always been conflicting: cancer cells tend to have chromosomes with short telomeres, yet have higher levels of telomerase, which should produce longer telomeres.

According to the new theory, the telomeres are short in precancerous cells because telomerase is turned on just enough to maintain but not lengthen the telomeres.

"Our paper reconciles contradictory information about the cancers that carry these mutations," Hockemeyer said.

The finding also resolves another recent counterintuitive finding: that people with shorter telomeres are more resistant to melanoma. The reason, he said, is that if a TERT promoter mutation arises to push a precancerous lesion - the mole or nevus - toward a melanoma, the chances are greater in someone with short telomeres that the cell will die before it up-regulates telomerase and immortalizes the cells.

The study also involved engineering TERT promoter mutations in cells differentiated from human pluripotent stem cells and following their progression toward cellular immortality. The results were identical to the progression seen in human skin lesions obtained from patients in UCSF's Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and examined in the Clinical Cancer Genomics Laboratory, which Bastian directs.

Explore further: Unraveling the mystery of why cancer cells survive and thrive

More information: K. Chiba el al., "Mutations in the promoter of the telomerase gene TERT contribute to tumorigenesis by a two-step mechanism," Science (2017). 1126/science.aao0535

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg have gained important insights for stem cell research which are also applicable to human tumours and could lead to the development of new ...

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Two-step process leads to cell immortalization and cancer - Medical Xpress

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