Barefoot In the head

If you think so....

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Location: Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom

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Thursday, September 23, 2004

High on thin air

Ladakh, in the Indian Himalayas is a place that is quite ethereal. It is mostly above the "treeline" at 13,000 feet. There is very little oxygen as a result. When you get to Leh, the only city with an airport, you have to be in bed for 24 hours to adjust to the altitude and lack of oxygen.

About four hours away from Leh is a valley called Nubra. To get there you have to cross the Changla Pass at 17,800 feet. It is a rather disorienting experience, literally.

The mountains in Ladakh are the colour of their minerals, there are no trees to hold the soil. Green mountains of chromium, yellow mountains of sulfur(?) , red mountains of sulfur. It is so hard to describe.

Also about 4 hours away from Leh is the Pangong Lake, 145 kilometers long. One third of the lake is in India and the rest in China. No one knows how deep this lake is. We do know how high it is, though. 13,000 feet.

To get to Pangong you have to cross the Khardungla Pass, the highest motorable road in the world. It takes you up to 18,400 feet and still the Himalayas soar above your head.

Temperatures in the winter go down to minus 50 celcius.

This could be the closest you can get to Mars, on Earth.



Mountains surrounding the Nubra valley in the Himalayas in Ladakh, India


Pangong Lake in Ladakh, India

Monday, September 06, 2004

Consciousness?

Connected systems are those where the state of one node is affected by the states of all other nodes, including itself.

The effect of one node on another can't be instantaneous because cause has to come before effect. So, the state of each node is affected by the past states of all other nodes, including itself.

Connected systems tend to self organise themselves. Sometimes a stable pattern emerges and no further change happens, this is rather boring. But big connected systems, like carbon atom chains tend to continuously change. That is how life happened on Earth, through a process of self-organisation.

Looking at natural history, we could say that connected systems self-organise and self-organising systems cognate. That is, they become aware of their surroundings and themselves.

Cognitive systems become conscious given a few million years. At least, that is what happened on Earth.

All conscious action is based on anticipation. If you raise your hand, your brain decides to do so and imagines where the hand will be - before the action starts.

So, a connected system where the state of each node depends not only on the past states of all other nodes, but on the imagined future states of all other nodes including its own future state, would be conscious.

This could be a simple explanation of what consciousness is.


Thursday, September 02, 2004

Primordial diets

I started out with the Atkins diet. His theory is that the body's insulin mechanism goes out of order with years of refined foods rich in carbohydrates and sugars. Insulin converts carbs and sugars into fat. Eat proteins instead and you won't get fat, and your insulin mechanism will remain in good condition.

I went on the diet eight months ago along with some exercise (running), a vitamin pill a day, and lots of water. So, far I have lost 10 kilos and feel very good indeed!

There is another way to think about this diet. What kind of food are our bodies used to?

Well, Homo Sapiens appeared in Africa around 200,000 years ago. They remained hunter gatherers for around 190,000 years. About 80,000 years ago they came out of Africa through Yemen and beach combed around the world, populating every continent in the world, including the Americas around 25,000 years ago. What was their lifestyle like?

Here are some guesses.

Wake up at dawn, quick wash and hunt for food. That means running, jumping, climbing and swimming. In the process they would normally find eggs, some fruit (a little, no orchards, remember!), fish, small birds that don't fly well, small animals and insects, some edible leaves and veggies (a little, no farms, remember!). Sometimes, honeycombs and large game. All this to be shared by a tribe of around 200 people. Some snoozing in the afternoon, more hunting in the late afternoon. Sometimes intoxicants in the evening. Music, dance, sex. To bed by sunset.

This, I think, will translate to a meal of a few bites of meat or fish, some eggs and leaves. Maybe a bite of fruit. And as much water as they like.

This is what the human race ate for 190,000 years. In the last 10,000 we invented farming and started eating what is now called "regular" food. Refined carbohydrates in huge amounts. Fruits and vegetables, often processed into juices full of sugar. Drinks with chemicals and sugars. Milk and milk products (imagine trying to milk a wild buffalo!).

10,000 years is too little for a biological sytem to adapt to new nutrients. On the average, genetic changes take 20,000 years to take effect.

The result of "regular" food - strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, obesity. I suspect, barring accidents, they used to live longer than us.

They could move about 5 miles an hour, until horses got tamed. Then they could do 17 miles an hour. In the modern cities of today we move around 15 miles and hour in our expensive cars, but that's another story.

Back to the diet, I think all you need to do is to look at whats on your plate and imagine what it would have taken to get it in pre-agrarian times. If it is easy (like a piece of fowl), eat it freely. If it is difficult (like a piece of beef or a potato), eat very little of it. If it is nearly impossible (sugar, milk, flour, bread) don't touch it.

Run and jump around a bit and drink lots of water. Have lots of sex. You will be surprised how quickly your body will respond to a lifestyle it was designed for since the dawn of our species.