This week I did a video about the Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks. I love the book, I’ve read it twice: one in text and once with my wife as an audiobook. Both are great. The comic doesn’t have much to do with that, I hope, but it is based on a true story. Although… stabby robots do figure in Use of Weapons and in the comic…
Use of Weapons is a space opera, and if you like that kind of thing, you might like it. It has deeper meaning, too, which I think is rare among space opera books. Even very good and influential books in the genre, like Ringworld, often focus more on Big Ideas instead of human themes. Use of Weapons does both. But it’s not an easy book. It can be hard to follow at times. I go into that more in the video.
Last week, I put up a video about essential oils. There were a few things I forgot to mention. I talked about how there are biological effects of some plant oils, despite the fact that they are not approved as medicine. Like spearmint oil spells like spearmint, but may also have effects on human memory, maybe? I briefly reviewed a study of clinical experiments with spearmint oil (Kennedy et al.). It’s a peer-reviewed, double blind, placebo controlled clinical trial on a bunch of cognitive and memory tests with peppermint oil. It’s a good example of a trial with careful controls. And it did have one result with very high statistical significance. I forgot to mention what the result actually was (whoops!). The oil improved word recall error rate.
I’m a little sad that I didn’t conclude the video more forcefully. My point in the video was just that this was the right kind of trial, and sometimes, there are some effects from these chemicals. They tend to be subtle, though. In general, eating essential oils is not safe and they are no substitute for medicine.
Before that, I made a video about some cool new anti-aging senolytic antibodies. It was inspired by an article by Poblocka et al. I hope that senolytic drugs are a thing I can try someday. It would be amazing to have a real rejuvenating drug. I know there are treatments that can make a person look younger, but if this worked, it would make a person biologically younger in a meaningful way.
I’ve been reading a book called “Recapture the Rapture,” which is a title I dislike. It’s a really interesting book, though. I would have called it “Cult Leader Construction Set,” or “Build-a-Cult Starter Kit.” It’s a run-down on all the ways that individuals and groups can re-engineer their brains for fun and profit. Putting toll boots on basic human biology is the foundation of all cults and religions (largely a distinction without a difference).
Do you want to eat? Only eat what we approve, and pray first. Want to sleep? Pray first. Want to get drunk? Pay us for the privilege, only when we say it’s OK, and pray first. Want to get it on? Pay and pray. Tool booths on food, sleep, and sex plus absolution after violence are the products for sale by religions. Free to produce, only limited by marketing. What a racket.
Despite their abuse of the human condition, they do provide value. Religions provide context for healing and meaning. Recognizing that, we could reverse-engineer religion to make a better solution. We need something free and abundant and outside institutional control. Recapture the Rapture is an attempt to start that project.
The book reviews a diverse array of methods humans have used to alter their minds. He goes into substances that alter the mind, then music, intense sensations, and sex. All of these can profoundly change human brain biochemistry. He sums up with this amazing quote: “If you’re open-minded and sincere in your pursuit of the most effective protocols for healing humans, you end up in one of two places: sexy biohacking or nerdy kink. Neither of which is exactly our wheelhouse.”
OK… but I could stand to hear a bit more. You have my attention, Jamie Wheal. that’s all I’m saying.
More things I read:
The Rise and Fall Of the SSN 688 – The Washington Post The CONFORM sail-less submarine and the molten salt reactor are two technologies that the USA abandoned for political reasons that I wish they hadn’t.
Forget Standing Desks: Are You Ready to Lie Down and Work? | WIRED I’d work in one of these. Oh, if only I had the space. And money. And dentist fetish.
What Is America’s COVID Goal Now? – The Atlantic – I like this plan. Shoot for 99% vaccination in the over-50 population, then lift restrictions. The goal is to prevent hospitalization and death. But any plan is better than no plan.
The Dead Internet Theory – The Daily Free Press – This applies primarily to the un-paywalled world, I think. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that Facebook was 70% AI bots. “It wouldn’t surprise me” is not the same as thinking it’s true.
Things I watched:
HOW TO MAKE A FOLDABLE STAIRCASE! – YouTube – I love this guy’s spite toward his naysayers in the comments.
Witchcraft, Gender, & Marxism | Philosophy Tube – YouTube – This video got me into Philosophy Tube in the first place. Good stuff. The video presents Witches as people who choose to be non-consumers and I like that.
The Earth is an Alien Planet – YouTube – I’ve seen those wild crystal caves. I wish that was a place we could visit.
Jamie Oliver’s War on Nuggets – YouTube – New Folding Ideas was very good. Why are mechanically separated meats “dirty?” It’s ridiculous. It’s a way to avoid waste.
Antarctica Condition 1 Weather – YouTube – Why don’t we set up a sustainable community on Antarctica before we try Mars? It’s not as hard, but there are similar problems of hostile environment and energy scarcity and isolation.
Why Is Conservative Comedy So… Not Very Good? – SOME MORE NEWS – YouTube – This is a deep dive on conservative comedy. In fact, what used to be “blue collar” comedy has been taken over by anger and spite. Why? Why are these people spiteful?
The Eldritch Horror of Coraline – Video Essay – YouTube – Great video as always. I love the part where CJ the X says, flat out, that it’s not his job to answer comments. He put together a video, he thought about it, it’s ours now to discuss. Is something confusing? Go re-watch or just watch something else. Not his problem.
FINALLY a COOL Spaceship game on Quest! // Endspace #VR // Oculus Quest – YouTube The first thing that actually made me want to play VR.