Month: May, 2022

Is A Lunar Crew Dragon Possible? (And Other Questions)

In today’s lightning round video, I explore questions like whether Falcon Heavy could launch a Crew Dragon around the moon, whether or not pool covers could help save water in drought regions, and really important stuff like pineapple pizza and um… mushrooms.


Mark Hoffman – Patreon – May

Main question: What’s your take on these anomalous areas known as blue zones?  

Expanded question: It seems the phenomenon of blue zones don’t get much attention beyond pushing some sort of diet. Yet the commonalities seem much more complex than that. There seem to be five “officially” cited, yet emerging data could suggest more. Thoughts?

Robin – Patreon – May

During my landing approach to  beautiful Scottsdale last month, I was not surprised by the vast number of swimming pools I could see throughout the Phoenix area.  I was, however, surprised that I was seeing few pool covers.  In an area threatened by severe water shortages, is this just a “drop in the bucket?”  Does it matter or not?  

You know for someone who was always so bad at math, I do love this kind of thing.
Because I bet I could actually answer that. I want to work that out.
So of course this sent me down a rabbit hole and I think I have a solid answer, let me show you my math. It’s at the bottom of the rabbit hole.

So first I had to find the number of pools in Phoenix, she mentions Scottsdale and Phoenix, I went with Phoenix for this thought experiment but anyway according to this from the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University, they say that 2/3 of homes don’t have pools. 

That means 1/3 of them do. Okay, so I look up the number of homes in  Phoenix, according to the United States Census Bureau the number of homes is 626,977, that would make the number of homes with pools 208,979.
So now we have to figure out how much gets lost to evaporation from the average pool, for that we need to find the average pool size, so I started looking around for that and got a bunch of charts of different pool sizes.

And this website that says, “the average size of a rectangular pool is 10 feet by 20 feet at the low end of the scale, to 20 feet by 40 feet at the larger end.” And that shakes out, I saw that pop up a lot on the size charts so we’re just looking for an average here, split the difference and you get 15×30′.

By the way, I know everybody in the non-America parts of the world are cringing right now, but these were the units they were found in, and I’ve already got enough math to do.
In fact I got it to liters as fast as I could but then I realized it wasn’t about now much water was in the pools it was about how much it was evaporating.
So that’s when I happened on this site that says, Water evaporation rates vary based on water temperature, air temperature, wind speed, wind volatility, sun exposure, and humidity levels. The average pool water evaporation rate is about a quarter of an inch of water per day or more than two inches in a week, which on a 33′ x 18′ swimming pool (an average pool size) This checks out with what I was speculating before…is more than 2500 liters or approximately 600 gallons a week; this may vary depending on your climate and the factors listed above.

Okay so here comes the caveat, the website where I got this from is for a company called Katch A Kid, and they make pool covers. They are using this figure as part of their marketing basically and I don’t see a source for it here. With that in mind, there’s every possibility that this is inflated or on the high end.
But Phoenix is possibly the hottest and dryest city in North America, they would be well above average so I think maybe the high end is where we should be.
So there’s some wiggle room in this one but I’m going with it. I think my logic is sound enough for this.
All right, here comes the math and I did look ahead to see what units I needed to get this in and it needs to be in acre-feet, which is an absurd volume of water one squared acre wide and one foot deep. It ranks number 5 on the list of most American units of measurement.

Cole Parker – Patreon – May

Hey Joe, this might need to lean on your space friends like Tim and Scott to answer but could they launch the dragon on the falcon heavy and send it on a fly by of the moon? Or could they add two more boasters to get stuff into lunar orbit? 

Fishtail – Discord – May

What are some of your pet peeves about what science educators, like yourself, do? 

Not throwing shade
“You see” Cadences bother me, the spooky pasta guy Science creators especially can get into the word salad

John Regel – Discord – May

This may be too hot to touch, but what is your stance regarding pineapple on pizza?
Honestly… I’ve had the Hawaiian pizza – don’t hate it. I never order it but maybe that’s because whenever I eat pizza I’m with other people who would never get near it
But I haven’t had one in years… Kinda want one.

John Regel – Discord – May

In futurism, is poo the answer to life extension?

And in history, MegaRaptors… thank goodness for extinction events?

Mark Hoffman – Patreon – May

Additional question: Do you think an adequate amount of resources are being allocated to oceanic floor/deep sea exploration and documentation? Clearly there is so much more “out there” worth exploring (by surface area, even in our own system, there is vastly more to explore than what the ocean floor covers). However, many oceanographers advocate for more intensive research, and for valid reasons. Would you agree?









The Deadliest Company In Human History

Spices might be the single thing in history that most shaped our world today. That sounds crazy, but spices once were as valuable as gold. It was an international currency that created and destroyed civilizations and great cities, and enslaved millions. And along the way created the very economy we live under today, by way of the most powerful corporation in human history.


Maybe an opening where I go through my spice rack and make a comment on how common and ordinary these spices are today but believe it or not, our entire world was shaped by spices once upon a time.

Maybe an opening where I go through my spice rack and make a comment on how common and ordinary these spices are today but believe it or not, our entire world was shaped by spices once upon a time.

I know it’s kinda gross when YouTubers flex about their lifestyles but I’ve got something downstairs that’s pretty impressive. Come here, let me show you.
Again, before I show you this, I want you to keep in mind, I’m just a regular guy, I promise.

Okay, obviously the gag here is that there’s nothing impressive about my spice collection, in fact it’s basic af and some of these are probably way past the expiration date (look at one) Good lord…
But four or five hundred years ago, every one of these was a luxury. This collection would have been the envy of the most wealthy nobleman. They would have marveled at how well-traveled I must be and asked about my bloodline and… wondered what this weird soft colored metal must be… And probably hang me for being a witch, let’s not go back there.
There are a lot of things about the way we live today that’s different from the way our ancestors lived but maybe none more radical than the way we view spices.
In fact, I’ll make the argument that if you were to point to one thing that most explains the world as it is today, the answer would be spices.

This thing that we take for granted and just pick up while we’re at the store for a few bucks was once as valuable as gold. Men traversed the globe to find it, cities were built around it, it made and destroyed empires, enslaved millions… and created the most powerful corporation the world has ever seen. In fact it created the entire economic system we all live under today.
This video is the story of spices and the world it created.


“Hey look at this weird geography fact; have you ever wondered…?” and say how it can be explained with spices”.
How is it that something we pretty much all take for granted today was so insanely valuable hundreds of years ago? I mean, sure the world has changed, technology’s changed – it’s not like they had iPhones back then… But spice?

I mean I’m not even trying to make a Dune reference but for hundreds of years humans went to extreme measures to make sure the spice must flow.
Now, I wanna be clear, spices weren’t the only commodities being traded around the world, and trade didn’t start with spice, people have been trading across empires and tribes for thousands of years, but spice was a huge part of the global trade network.
And there are a few reasons why.

One theory is that spices covered the taste of spoiled meat.
This was long before refrigeration, so again, something we take for granted today was a major concern for people hundreds of years ago.
So there you go, problem solved. There are a few problems with this theory.
Spice was expensive. Actually way more expensive than the meat it’s supposed to be saving. In Medieval Europe, a pound of ginger could buy a whole sheep.
That would be like putting your phone in rice to save the rice.

The spoilage theory seems to come from a book by a food scientist named J. C. Drummond, and he based it on historical records that refer to “greene” meat.
But historians think “green” was used in the sense of fresh, or newly cut.

Besides, in the old days, they had another way of keeping meat fresh… they just kept it alive.
Yeah, before refrigeration, shipping meat was not a thing. They shipped pigs. And chickens, and cows and goats and sheep. And then the end user would do the dirty work.
On sea voyages and caravans, they didn’t stock up with meat, they just brought the animals along with them, and there was the added benefit that they could walk themselves.
Also meat was a much smaller part of most people’s diets back then. Of course not everybody had their own livestock or gardens and they did have to take some efforts to prevent spoilage but often this involved pickling or salting foods so if you consider salt to be a spice…

Food Preservation

Having said that, some spices did help prevent food spoilage because many spices are antibacterial and antifungal.
And there’s a reason for this – because spices are basically poison.
Have you ever wondered why people who live in hotter climates tend to eat spicier foods?
There was a theory going around that eating spicy foods can actually make you feel cooler because it activates your sweat glands, or just kinda trick your brain into thinking the outside is cooler because your insides are on fire.

And there could be some truth to that but in general the reason is much simpler. They eat hotter food there because that’s where the spices grow.
Most of the hotter spices, your peppers and chilies, they tend to grow along the equator, where it never really gets cold and the plants grow year-round.

They don’t have the luxury of a winter freeze that kills off the bacteria, fungus, and bugs that can infect and kill them, so they developed a kind of chemical defense system.
In spices it’s capsaicin, in tobacco and coffee, it’s nicotine and caffeine.
But that kinda gets to the heart of the whole thing; the climate in these specific areas caused plants to create chemicals that… make us feel things.
Could one say that the Spice Trade was really the first drug trade? Only if one wants to be demonetized.
But many spices and teas were used medicinally because of their antibacterial properties. Of course they didn’t have the germ theory of medicine back then so they didn’t know how it worked, they just knew it worked.

It was also used ritualistically. Ancient Romans would burn it as incense, Egyptians used cinnamon to help preserve their mummies. Think about that next time you’re choking down a Cinnabon.

Status Symbol

But maybe when it came down to it, spices were a flex. Kinda like I was doing at the beginning of the video.
Especially in Europe, spices were exotic and grew in far away places. And they were expensive. In a way, they were the ultimate status symbol.
I mean, gold and jewelry are nice, but what better way to show off how cool you are than by serving your guests a food they had never tasted before.
“Oh, this Moroccan, well… what’s your story?”

This is actually true of a lot of foods. Pineapples are a good example of this.
Sailors and travelers would bring home pineapples and serve it to everyone in their communities in big parties. And eventually pineapples became a symbol of hospitality, you would see them on old hotels and stuff, it’s actually got a really interesting history but that’s for another time.
But yeah, like pineapples and like the tulip craze, spices took on a value way beyond their practical use. They were valuable because they were valuable.

They were like NFTs that you could eat.
They were a symbol of wealth and high status in Europe – combine that  with their medicinal and practical uses, and oh yeah, I haven’t even mentioned yet… they make food taste good.
And food holds a powerful place in our cultures and traditions. Think about how many holidays have specific foods attached to them.
Those tastes that we hold so dear are made by the flavorings and spices that go into them. And once upon a time, those spices were only grown in certain parts of the world.
So vast commercial and political systems were created to move spices from places where they could grow to places where they couldn’t. This in turn created cities, civilizations, even empires that still stand today.

So join me on a journey… THROUGH THE HISTORY OF SPICE!

The Incense Route

One of the first known spice routes was well established by the 3rd Century B. C. Known as the Incense Route, it ran from India to Africa, with stops along the way.

One of those stops was the city of Petra in modern day Jordan. Here they traded everything from Indian textiles to rare African woods, along with pearls, precious stones, gold, and incenses like frankincense and myrrh.
Petra is also where Indiana Jones would later punch some Nazis in the Last Crusade.
Petra, of course, is right down the road from Bethlehem, which is why the fabled three kings from the Bible were said to have come bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh.

And if you were anything like me when you were a kid, you made jokes about how that guy with the myrrh, he needs to step it up, that other guy’s got gold… or “oh, check out Mr. Gold over here, compensate much?” Well it turns out, frankincense and myrrh – were as valuable as gold back then.

Another hub was Alexandria
Today Alexandria is mostly remembered for its wonders of the world like the Lighthouse of Alexandria and the Library of Alexandria, well something had to pay for those wonders and that thing was spices.
Boats would sail from India around the Arabian Peninsula and up the Red Sea into the Gulf of Suez where they eventually couldn’t sail any further.
This was long before the Suez Canal but there were roads where goods could be transported to the Mediterranean sea in caravans.
And this is where Alexander the Great saw an opportunity and built his grand port city through which goods could be spread throughout the Mediterranean.
And because of this positioning, Alexandria became one of the most powerful and richest cities in the world. Apparently trade was so lucrative in Alexandria, the mint couldn’t stamp coins fast enough for the currency exchange.

The Silk Road

A much more famous trade route was the Silk Road, which was not just a road, it was actually several trade routes – and they didn’t just move silk, also spices.
And, jade, glass, furs, and slaves. But also spices. AND… technologies.
Paper and gunpowder were both invented in China, but found their way into Europe on the Silk Road.

Great explorers traveled the Silk Road like Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta who wrote vivid accounts of their journeys.
Often, these were the first exposure to new cultures for readers back home, as well as the ideas that came from those cultures.
One of the major port hubs along the Silk Road was Constantinople, and it was founded pretty much for the same reason Alexandria was.

It’s situated on the Bosphorus Strait, connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and just like Alexander the Great saw an opportunity to control shipping across the Mediterranean into Europe and created Alexandria, the Byzantine emperor Constantine saw the same opportunity here, so he created Constantinople.
Tiny egos on these guys.

But he was right. Constantinople became a powerful port city and eventually when the Roman Empire split in two, it became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, and survived long after Rome itself fell into ruin.

The Silk Road was an incredibly successful and durable network that flowed spice across Europe and Asia for 1500 years.
And Constantinople was just one of dozens of cities the sprang up along the Silk Road from Turkey to China and India, many of which still exist to this day. And many others that have been lost to time, like the aforementioned Petra.

Of course you won’t find Constantinople on the map today. But it is still there, it’s just called Istanbul. You know the song.
Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, who changed the name to Istanbul to be more Islamic, because Constantine was a Christian emperor.
And this is way more than just an interesting quirk of history and geography, this changed everything for Europe. Because they were now in control of the spice. And they wielded that power, restricting the supply and raising prices.
That whole stereotype of Arabs being shrewd and ruthless traders? That’s where it comes from.

All right, so it’s the late 1400s and Europe is suffering through Spice withdrawal, so they decide it’s time to go straight to the source, this time bypassing the Middle East by going around Africa.
Sea routes had been a part of the Silk Road for a while, but nobody had sailed all the way around Africa before. And that’s when Portugal said… “Hold my Sagres” (saw-gruse)
Portugal had been a seafaring powerhouse in Europe for a while, again because of geography.
(over map/animation)Their location on the tip of the Iberian Peninsula, gave them equal access to the Mediterranean and the North and Baltic seas, where another trading route existed across Scandinavia and Russia called the Volga Route.
This route was mostly controlled by Dutch merchants who partnered with the Portuguese.

So if any country had the skill and resources to go around Africa, it was the Portuguese, so in 1488, Bartolomeu Dias did just that, creating a new trade route directly to India.
But this was not an easy trip. The seas around the southern tip of Africa, were notoriously treacherous, with violent storms and massive swells.
So of course they named this the Cape of Good Hope.

They also found that sailing south along the African coast was especially hard because there was a northward current along the coast that slowed things down to a crawl – you’re basically swimming upstream.

They later figured out that that current was created by the South Atlantic Gyre, and it was actually faster to sail westward a bit and let the current carry you around to the tip of Africa.
But still, this was a ridiculously long voyage, which made it more expensive and dangerous. So still not a great solution.
Which is why in 1492, Christopher Columbus thought he could do better by just… sailing west.

Yes, the New World was discovered in an attempt to find spices – and gold.

And yes, they knew the world was round, that was why he went that way, he thought he could sail all the way to India.
It’s also why he named the Islands he discovered the West Indies, and named the natives who lived there Indians. A name that has stuck to this very day.
Columbus sailed for Spain of course, and they continued exploring and exploiting its resources, including gold and silver, and of course, chilies and allspice. 

They also conquered native peoples and populated wide swaths of territory, which is why much of Central and South America speak Spanish.
Meanwhile Portugal continued going around Africa since that was where the spice was. But remember how I said they learned to sail west to take advantage of the South Atlantic Gyre? Well in 1500, one of them went a little too far west.

His name was Pedro Álvares Cabral and on his voyage they had a small navigational error and accidentally landed on South America. He figured while he was there he might as well claim it for Portugal which is why, unlike the rest of South America, Brazil speaks Portuguese. (refer to language map)

But back to the Spanish, while they did trade in spices from the New World, their main cash crop was sugar, which was harvested through the use of enslaved Native Americans and West Africans.
You know, sugar and spice and everything HORRIBLE.

So, I don’t want to go too much into slavery here because it is… a whole thing.
But while slavery has been around from as far back as we have records, the transatlantic slave trade began with Portugal making their way down the west coast of Africa and found (act out) a whole continent filled with slaves!
It actually started with them purchasing enslaved people from tribal leaders in Africa but over time as other European nations got involved, it spiraled into kidnapping and conquest.
Ultimately, tens of millions of Africans were displaced to mostly the Caribbean and central and South America to work on tobacco and sugar fields, and the conditions there were so brutal, the average life expectancy was only 7 years.
So they had to keep ’em coming.

Slavery of course made its way to North America, setting the stage for the economic and social disparity that we’re still reckoning with in the US today. And it all started with the Portuguese looking for a new spice route.
Throughout the 1500s, Spain got super powerful off their New World exploits, to the point that in 1580, when Portugal experienced a crisis in succession in their royal family, King Philip II of Spain swooped in and took over.

And their first order of business was to cut the Dutch out of their lucrative trade deal with the Portuguese.
Yeah, the Dutch kinda had their own thing going this whole time, basically serving as trade facilitators for Northern Europe, with the Volga Route coming in over land and the Portuguese ships feeding them goods from the Indies.

They had become exceedingly wealthy. So wealthy in fact that when this deal with the Portuguese ished the bed, they came up with with their own solution.
And being the shrewd merchants that they were, it was a decidedly capitalist solution. They created the world’s first publicly traded company. They basically invented the entire concept of a corporation. For spice.
This allowed the public to invest in literal trade wars. And it was so based on spice that dividends were often paid in mace or cloves.

This was the birth of the (Feren-de oost-indiche Compagnie) Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie , or the VOC, also known as the Dutch East India Company.
And these guys had no chill.

They immediately set their sights on a chain of islands in modern day Indonesia that were so rich in spices like cloves, mace, and nutmeg, they were known as the Spice Islands.
The Portuguese had tried to trade with the natives earlier but were met with hostility, so when the VOC arrived in 1605, they came with a massive fleet of ships and quickly took over an old Portuguese fort.— the Wikipedia source for this section, very detailed

Their early successes brought more investors in and by the 1620s, the VOC had conquered parts of India, Indonesia, Southern Africa, and both North and South America.
They held monopolies on the Spice Islands, all the trade routes between Africa and India, and were the world’s largest supplier of silver, copper, silk, porcelain, cotton, and textiles.
They were not only the richest company arguably in human history, they had the largest military in the world at the time, with 30,000 troops and more than 200 warships.

Once again, just a reminder – this was not a country. This was a company.
Oh, and they weren’t alone, the British had their own East India Company or EIC, and these two companies fought wars with each other. And I’m not talking about the cola wars with Coke and Pepsi, I’m talking canons firing at wooden ships filled with human beings. This is the birth of capitalism.
By the way, the EIC was a massive company itself and would eventually spread British influence to all seven continents.
But they couldn’t hold a candle to the power and wealth of the VOC, and nowhere was that proven more true than on the Spice Islands.

The Spice Islands were actually a chain called the Banda Islands and the natives of these islands were called the Bandanese and at the time this was the only place in the world where nutmeg grew.
How valuable was nutmeg? It was selling in Venice markets for the same price per pound as gold.
And the VOC was obsessed with getting a monopoly on this gold so they literally slaughtered and displaced the entire civilization of Bananese people in 1620.
The details of this situation are horrific – I literally couldn’t talk about it here without getting demonetized but it’s such an amazing story, I made a companion video about it that I’m uploading to Nebula.

It goes into detail about how they subjugated the people by slaughtering their leadership and torturing and enslaving the populace and the personalities involved that went on to become heroes in their native lands.
And actually I want to make a whole series of these videos – I’m calling it Forgotten Atrocities, I want to dig up stories about horrible events that have been kinda forgotten to time. Let me know what you think of that. I think it would be interesting. I’d like to dig into it.

But one last crazy fact about the VOC  – they were obsessed with having a total monopoly on nutmeg. So much so that there was one tiny island in the Banda chain called Ran that the British owned and nutmeg was grown there. And they had to have it.
So they cut a deal with the British to literally trade islands. The British gave them the island of Ran, and in return the Dutch gave the British an island on the coast of North America where the Dutch had a small settlement.

That Dutch settlement was called New Amsterdam. The British changed the name to New York.

By the way, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a city founded by the hypercapitalist Dutch would go on to become one the the biggest financial centers in the world.
In so many ways, the world as we know it today was shaped by spices. And the fact is, the spice trade never really ended. There’s more spice being traded around the world today than ever before – most of it exported from China.

Although the Netherlands is still the world’s third biggest exporter and 2nd biggest importer of spices. And they ruled the Spice Islands — and all of Indonesia — until 1949.
But globalization increased the supply and made it possible to grow in more places, which is why you can go into a store and buy pretty much any spice  you want for fairly cheap.
Except saffron. Saffron is always expensive.

You know, we always ask, like, what would people from hundreds of years ago think of the world today and we think it in terms of our technology but really I think the availability and cheapness of spices might be the biggest mind-blower for them.
I mean you might as well have grocery store shelves stocked with gold bars.
This video is obviously an oversimplification of a vastly complex story through human history and there was a lot left out. But I found it fascinating when I connected all the dots and realized like, holy crap – it was all about spice?

But anyway, I hope that was interesting to you and maybe it made you think about what we value today, and why we value it.
And how future generations might take it completely for granted.
Oh, alright In 138 BC, a Han Chinese noble arrived at the easternmost city of the Greek Empire The city was so distant, it had fallen under the rule of a local tribe 

In this case, the tribe was an enemy of another tribe that hated the Han The noble had come looking for allies These guys were ideal
Unfortunately for the noble, they didn’t want an alliance But they did have these horses Swift and rugged, the beasts were known to sweat blood when they galloped NOTE: they don’t seem to have been unusually large; refs makes them sound more like mustangs, with parasites in their manes that accounted for the bleeding —
The noble took ten years to get home But when he reported about the horses, the Han Emperor decided they were holy He needed these “heavenly horses” for his cavalry
A Han army marched, but failed to capture the city The emperor sent a larger army This time, while crossing a desert, the army secured its supply line
They captured the distant city and 3000 bloody horses Plus, they now had a convenient route to trot along That route was the foundation of the Silk Road[END TANGENT]
Spices were an important trade item along the routes of the “Road”

Marco Polo is especially important to the history of spice exploration

His family were spice traders Marco’s descriptions of spice growing on islands inspired many to go to sea

Another Silk Road traveler, unfortunately, was disease The Black Death has long been thought to have spread from Asia to Europe A recent theory suggests it first lay dormant in Europe before a mutation made it deadly
Whatever the case, the Black Death traveled by means of the Silk Road Its initial outbreak killed an estimated 50 million people in Europe, and about 25 million in North Africa and Asia Subsequent outbreaks…who knows?

In 1488, the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias rounded the tip of Africa His ships had navigated away from the coast, then swung back in Whether Dias planned this maneuver or stumbled on it by accident is unknown

Either way, the route let the Portuguese escape the currents that would have stopped them from reaching southern Africa There’s a roughly circular system of currents called the South Atlantic Gyre It pushes ships north and west, away from the African coast
The discovery of a sea route around Africa gave Portugal an edge on trade Particularly trade in spices Oh, and navigating the route is what brought explorers to Brazil, which is why Brazilians speak Portuguese

Going Nuclear With Laura Krantz – Episode 12

Laura Krantz is the host of the Wild Thing Podcast which is just about to launch season 3, this one focusing on nuclear energy. The pros, the cons, and everything in between. So we talk about about what she learned along the way, the mixed bag that is nuclear energy in general, and learn a little bit about the background that gave her the tools to be a podcaster today.

You can hear all three seasons of Wild Thing (yours truly makes an appearance in a bonus episode of season 2) at



We’re Shockingly Close To A Cure For Aging

Aging, and the chronic diseases that come with it, is considered just an inevitable part of life. But what if it wasn’t? What if aging itself was a disease – a disease that can be treated? Many scientists are doing just that, and the results are nothing short of shocking. Just how close are we to a cure for aging?


I had a birthday recently, and I’m way past the age where a birthday is something to get excited about. Now it’s just a reminder that your body has decayed one more year.

Yeah, aging is bullshit.

It’s a joke that a lot of comedians have told that once you get past a certain age, doctors just stop trying to fix you.

After a certain point, life is just an endless series of trying to figure out what is causing the random pain today.

And you go to the doctor with that pain and they just kinda give you the shoulders like, I don’t know that’s what happens.

Cool. Thanks guy.

But there are some doctors and researchers doing the opposite. In fact they’re making the argument that aging itself is a disease. And this disease can be treated.

And I think it’s a pretty compelling argument. So today let’s not go quietly into that good night and talk about how we can slow, stop, and maybe even reverse aging.

The Merck Manual defines aging as “a gradual, continuous process of natural change that begins in early adulthood.” And that’s fine. Change is good.

It goes on to say that “bodily functions begin to gradually decline” during a person’s early middle age. Cool.

But people can grow old in several ways:

In 1970, the average life expectancy in the U.S. was 71. Fifty years later, it was 77.

And that sounds great… But it’s kind-of not.

Because yeah, we’re living longer, but those extra years are being added at the end of our lives, when we’re at our most decrepit and in the most pain.

In other words, we may be extending our lifespans, we’re not necessarily shoring up our healthspans.

For example, between 2013 and 2015 the number of years lived in poor health in the U.K. was 16 for males and 19 for females.

More people living longer also increases the risk of more people living with dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

And this isn’t just a problem in individual lives, this has societal implications.

These people often need constant care in order to live their daily lives, which may create economic and social burdens for communities, caregivers, and families.
The longer you live also increases the risk of developing other chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

It’s like this constant, expensive whack-a-mole we play in the last 20 or so years of our lives until eventually… one of the moles get us.

But what if we change our thinking on this? What if instead of treating these as different diseases, we start thinking of them as symptoms of a bigger, broader disease? The disease of aging.

o a lot of people that sounds crazy, to call aging a disease because I mean, aging is a natural process, how can that be a disease?

But… cancer is a natural process. Arthritis is a natural process. Most diseases are natural processes and we fight them tooth and nail. So why not aging itself?

It’s funny how aggressively people push back against the idea of life extension and age reversal, people call it unnatural as if there’s anything natural about the way we live these days.

It’s weird to me. Like why wouldn’t you want to live longer and healthier? Why wouldn’t you want to be in less pain? It’s like people have some kind of mortality Stockholm Syndrome or something.

We know that different people age at different rates, and different animals age at different rates. So clearly aging is a malleable process that can be sped up or slowed down. And we’re learning how to do exactly that.

So let’s start by talking about how aging works and I should go ahead and disclose that a lot of what I’ll be talking about here is from the book Lifespan by David Sinclair, he’s a Harvard researcher that focuses on aging and he’s got some pretty unique insights; it’s worth a look.

Right off the bat, there’s no unifying theory about aging. Except for the one that Sinclair professes, which we’ll get to in a moment.

One hypothesis is that DNA damage causes aging. There are also theories about mutations to the DNA or that free radicals contribute to aging.

But many of these theories have kind-of fallen to the wayside over the years. These days aging is usually attributed to a handful of cellular processes, including:

  • Attrition of telomeres
  • Genomic instability from DNA damage
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction
  • Senescent cell accumulation
  • Stem cell exhaustion

Researchers work at addressing these aspects as a way to slow down aging, which may mitigate diseases, which could forestall death.

All of this may help us add more healthy years to our lives. But they won’t help us live longer.

For that, we need a singular reason why we age, which brings us back to David Sinclair’s theory, which he calls the Information Theory of aging.

Sinclair writes in the book that there are two types of information in biology:

  • Digital: Based on a finite set of possible values, like DNA
  • Analog: Commonly referred to as the epigenome, which are heritable traits that aren’t transmitted by genetic means

As DNA stores genetic information, a structure called chromatin stores epigenetic information.

It’s this information that guides the assembly of a human being from a fertilized egg.

Another way of putting it, if the genome was a computer, the epigenome would be the software.

He also uses the analogy of a scratched DVD. That over time DVDs accumulate scratches to the point that eventually it doesn’t play anymore. But, that information isn’t lost. It’s still there under the scratches. And if you polish the DVD, which I’ve done many times, it’ll play perfectly again.

The epigenome works the same way. Over time little imperfections build up – scratches if you will – that cause cellular processes to deteriorate, which we experience as aging.

So the question is, how do you “polish” the epigenome? Well it turns out we have some genes that are designed to do exactly that.

They’re called “longevity genes” or “vitality genes,” and they’re tied into our body’s survival circuit. And they go back all the way to the beginning of life on this planet.

Life, it turns out, wants to survive, and times are not always plentiful so during times of stress, these survival genes kick in and help the body repair itself.

When things get tough, they hunker down. When things are easy, they tell our cells to grow and reproduce fast.

One of these longevity genes is called target of rapamycin, in us and other mammals it’s called mammalian target of rapamycin, or mTOR.

When under stress, mTOR sends a signal to help improve survival by boosting DNA repair, reducing inflammation from senescent cells, and by digesting old proteins.

When everything is good, it helps with cell growth by managing the creation of proteins.

So, mTOR – target of rapamycin, keep that one in mind.

Another longevity gene is called AMPK, which stands for adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase. (a beat) That word salad will make sense in just a second.

So to explain AMPK – let’s step back. First of all, the cells get energy in the form of chemical bonds, delivered by the ATP molecule.

Like when you eat something, the digestion process breaks that food down over and over until it gets down to basic molecules that can be used by the cell, well the basic molecule that delivers energy is ATP – adenosine triphosphate.

This is a nucleoside, adenosine, tied to three phosphate groups. So, triphosphate.

Once ATP gets inside the cell, the cell strips two phosphate groups from the molecule, releasing energy in the process, and leaving behind a single phosphate group, turning ATP – adenosine triphosphate, into AMP, adenosine monophosphate.

You got it? You still with me? You good?

So cells require a steady flow of ATP in order to keep functioning. If a cell uses up all its energy from ATP, it then fills up with low-energy AMP molecules.

It then runs out of energy, collapses, and dies. Unless… A new source of energy is found. This is where AMPK comes in.

AMPK essentially is the gene that tells the body to pull energy from stored sources in the body, like fats and sugars.

So, when there are high levels of adenosine monophosphate in the cells, it activates the adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase gene. Word salad explained.

In our youth, we have high levels of activated AMPK, which is why we burn fat so much easier when we’re young. But those levels do drop off as the years go by.

But a side benefit of AMPK activation is that it can slow aging in a couple of ways, by reducing oxidative damage, and protecting against senescence.

Senescent cells by the way are kind-of zombie cells. They’re alive… but not functional. They basically just pump out a bunch of inflammatory signals that causes all kinds of problems.

But AMPK activation can clear those senescent cells out through a process called autophagy.

So, AMPK burns fat and kills zombies. So how do you turn on AMPK and become a sexy zombie hunter? One way is through calorie restriction.

Eating less – seems pretty obvious but if you don’t feel like starving yourself, there’s also a pill you can take.

Metformin is a drug that is used to help treat type 2 diabetes but also activates AMPK. It basically mimics some benefits of calorie restriction without decreasing caloric intake.

Also, it can help improve physical performance, increase sensitivity to insulin, and reduce cholesterol levels. And the best part – it’s super cheap. But you do need a prescription in the US.

One last longevity pathway are a family of enzymes called sirtuins. There are 7 of these, SIRT1 through SIRT7.

These play a major role in cell survival and metabolism, and DNA repair.

If you’ve heard of NAD supplements lately, this is what those are for, sirtuins are dependent on that.

They can also be activated by low-calorie or low-amino-acid diets or exercise.

mTOR, AMPK, and sirtuins are three longevity pathways, according to Sinclair. They were evolved to help protect the body during times of stress by activating survival mechanisms.

And once activated, “organisms become healthier, disease resistant, and longer lived,” Sinclair wrote.

So basically the key to longevity, according to this theory, is for the body to be in a state of stress. I know that sounds fun. But there are some ways of doing that.

The first is through intermittent fasting.

If you want to activate that AMPK gene, you’ve gotta make your cells hungry. And that means not eating. Sometimes.

There are several types of intermittent fasting.

For example, the 16:8 diet (Jason note: This is the one I do.) has you fast for 16 hours and eat within an eight-hour window. For some people that means you start eating at noon and stop eating at 8:00. When I do it I usually go from 2 to 10. Because I stay up late.

The 5:2 diet has you eat 75 percent fewer calories for two days a week.

Whichever one works for you, studies have shown that intermittent fasting can help lower blood pressure, reduce body fat, and decrease weight.

Though in the interest of balance, there have been some studies that show it’s not as effective for weight loss. But, for the anti-aging properties, studies show some pretty compelling results.

Another way to switch on sirtuins is through cold temperatures.

Cold temperatures activate brown fat, or brown adipose tissue.

This is a type of fatty tissue that has more mitochondria than regular fat, and it helps maintain body temperature in cold conditions. And a side benefit is that it helps in DNA repair because again, your body is in stress.

This is why a lot of people advocate for cold showers which I’ll just come out and say it, that’s a nope for me dawg.

I’ve tried it and…. no.

Although it’s mostly carried in our backs and shoulders so if you can lay on an ice pack or a cold pad, that’s supposed to produce some effect anyway.

And then there’s exercise. Yeah, I know, it always comes back to exercise.

Not only does exercise help with blood flow, heart and lung health, and mental health, it can help preserve longer telomeres, those things at the end of chromosomes that help protect them from damage.

Thing is, you don’t have to exercise for a long time to reap its benefits.

One study showed that with just 15 minutes of exercise a day, a person can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 45 percent.

They say the goal is to exercise to the point that you’re breathing hard enough that it would be difficult to talk. If you can just do that for 10-15 minutes a day, that’s enough to make a difference.

But you might be saying, “10-15 minutes! That’s like my whole day, can’t I just take a pill?”

Yes, there are some pills that you can take but before I go any further, this is where I have to point out that I am not a doctor, and what I’m telling you is not medical advice. But these are some of the supplements and pills that are being studied.

You’re in luck because research is being conducted into things like nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) and resveratrol to determine their effects on longevity.

First, a reminder that I’m not a doctor, and what I’m telling you is not medical advice.

The first is NMN, or nicotinamide mononucleotide.

NMN is a precursor of NAD+ so when you take an NMN supplement, your body breaks it down into NAD+.

As I mentioned earlier, NAD+ is central to metabolism and is associated with things like downregulation of energy production in mitochondria, inflammatory conditions, and oxidative stress. And its level decreases with aging.
You might have also heard of Resveratrol lately. This is a compound found in several plants, like peanuts, berry fruits, and grapes.

It’s known for being associated with various health benefits, like:

  • Antidiabetic
  • Anti-obesity
  • Antioxidants
  • Glucose metabolism

Other medicines and supplements that show promise in extending lifespans are the aforementioned metformin and rapamycin.

Rapamycin is interesting actually because it was first discovered on a bacterium in Easter Island – the island with the big stone heads on it. And that’s how it got its name the Polynesian name for Easter Island is Rapa Nui.

And for years it was used as an immunosuppressant for transplant patients until some studies showed that it had anti-aging properties.

You might remember that mTOR gene that triggers DNA repair earlier, well mTOR stands for mammalian target of rapamycin. That’s how they found this gene.

So rapamycin can trigger DNA repair and improve longevity, there have been some amazing studies in mice with this actually.

Though I should also say that as an immunosuppressant, it can have some undesirable side effects so be especially careful with this one.

Research is ongoing, but all or any of these things might just give you some extra years of life. Years that might get you closer to some real crazy stuff.

Because if we have these genes that can trigger DNA repair and other life-extending processes… and we have the ability to edit our genes… maybe someday we can just turn those processes on at will.

One of the wilder ideas in Sinclair’s book is that we could edit our genes to have an age-reversal trigger. One that gets turned on when we take a simple antibiotic.

So we could create this edited gene, spread it throughout our bodies with a viral vector, and then at various times in our lives, as age-related issues start to crop up, we can go on that antibiotic. That age-reversal trigger kicks in and we just… age backward for a few months.

We get more energy, our joints get stronger, skin gets more supple, hair gets it color back, and when we’re at the biological age we prefer, we stop taking the antibiotic, start aging normally again.

This is apparently something they’re already doing in mice.

And of course, if you really want to cheat death, there’s always cryonics, which I’ve done a whole video on before.

Now we’re really nowhere near being able to restart bodies that have been frozen in liquid nitrogen and if we’re being honest, the chance that it could ever work is low. But in 2019, scientists did put a human being in suspended animation for the first time.

This happened at the University of Maryland and the process involved rapidly cooling the brain to less than 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) by replacing a patient’s blood with an ice-cold saline solution.
This gave surgeons some extra time to perform surgery on a patient who had lost half of his blood. He was essentially dead for a while, his brain and heart went silent. But they brought him back to life.

The boundary between life and death has been shifting for hundreds of years now. And now we can actually put people in suspended animation. It’s only for short periods right now but give it another 30 or 50 years… (shrug)

The bottom line is, aging research is still in its infancy. It’s actually remarkable that we know what we do considering how few researchers around the world are studying this. But that’s changing really fast.

We’re about to see an explosion of aging related research. Because as I mentioned at the beginning of this video, we have to change our mindset on aging from being just a thing that’s bound to happen to a disease that we can treat.

And in January of this year a major step was taken in that direction when the World Health Organization’s 11th International Classification of Disease (ICD) revision went into effect.

The ICD is an international standard for clinical diagnosis, epidemiology, and health management in developed nations. They basically assign a code for every disease.

Having a disease recognized with a code by the ICD basically legitimizes it in the eyes of the research world, it allows for drugs targeting that disease to be clinically evaluated and approved.

And the newest addition of the ICD includes for the first time an extension code for “aging-related” diseases.

This means more money for research and just as important, for insurance companies to provide coverage for therapies targeting that disease.

So hey, everybody says I’ve been too doomy and gloomy on this channel lately well how about this, we are about to see massive advancements in life extension over the next 20 years.

You might not live forever. But it might be a lot longer than you think.

So I’ll leave you with one last thought and let you guys debate it in the comments. I’m sure many of you have already started listing all the reasons why it would be terrible if people lived longer. I mean, other people, not you.

The overpopulation problem, the world can’t sustain that many people, economic and labor problems if people never retire, all interesting points and there are counterpoints to all of them, but I just want to ask one thing.

How much differently would people act if they really had to deal with the consequences of their lifestyles?

I’ve heard many a person poo-pooh climate change saying, “oh the worst of it will happen long after I’m dead.” And the same attitude goes for other things, I’m just using climate change as an example.

But what if we did have to live with it? What if instead of thinking about things affecting future generations, we know it would affect us in our own lifetimes? Would we behave differently? And could that produce a better society? I’m curious what you think. Let me know down in the comments.

This Man Just Woke From The Dead. Sort-of.

Clive Wearing lives life 7 seconds at a time. That’s because he has both retrograde and anterograde amnesia, which means he has no ability to form new memories and remembers nothing of his life before. It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to live like this, but his condition teaches us a lot about how we form memories and how the structure of the brain structures our lives.

In a neurological institution in the UK, lives a man named Clive Wearing. Clive is 83 years old, and actually he’ll be turning 84 two days after this video comes out. Thing is, he doesn’t know this. In fact he probably thinks he’s still in his 40s.
And chances are, less than a minute after he blows out his candles, he will have forgotten it completely. He’ll have no idea it’s his birthday, or even how old he is.
This might sound like the kind of dementia that one might expect from a person of that age, which is sad but inevitable, but Clive Wearing has been like this for over 40 years, and his memory issues go far beyond normal and expected.

In fact, there’s nobody else in the world that’s quite like him.

That’s because Clive has two different forms of amnesia. Chronic anterograde and chronic retrograde amnesia.

  • Anterograde amnesia (meaning he can’t create new memories)
  • Retrograde amnesia (meaning he’s lost many of his memories)
When combined this means Clive is unable form any new memories, and can barely remember anything about his life before he developed amnesia.
So Clive just kinda… exists. He lives his life on an endless loop, 30 seconds at a time, never knowing exactly what just happened or where he’s going.
It’s kind-of impossible to even imagine what this must be like. Our continuity of consciousness is pretty much what defines our experience of life. Clive describes it as feeling like he’s constantly waking up.
In fact, he keeps a journal that is just filled from top to bottom with him proclaiming “I am now awake,” or “I live” with a lot of the earlier entries crossed out because when he sees them, he doesn’t believe that he wrote them, even though they are in his handwriting.
Also, and this kinda heartbreaking, but Clive is married. And every time he sees his wife, he rushes to hug her like he hasn’t seen  her in years.
Deborah Wearing actually wrote a book about their experience called Forever Today: A True Story of Lost Memory and Never-Ending Love,
where she described his experience like this:
Yeah, this is where it gets kinda creepy. He often describes it as having been dead.
He lives in a beam of light with darkness ahead and behind him.
It’s creepy to think about, but Clive’s situation opens up a lot of questions about how memory works in the brain and what it means for our conscious experience.
For example, he’ll claim he doesn’t even know what coffee tastes like, even though he drinks coffee every day. If you ask him where the coffee is, he can’t tell you, but once he’s in the kitchen, he’s perfectly able to make a cup for himself.
Meaning he knows where the coffee is, the cups, the spoons, the sugar, the cream, all that, and he knows how to prepare it… but when he’s sitting in front of the TV, he’ll tell you he has no idea where all that stuff is and doesn’t even know what coffee tastes like.
Today Clive lives under constant care and observation because literally if he were to leave the house, he would have no way of getting back home.
Normal activities like reading a book or watching a movie are out of the question because he would constantly be forgetting the previous scene or the page he just read.
Actually the only entertainment he seems capable of enjoying are sports like cricket or rugby because the action takes place in short segments that are short enough that he can process them.
And this can be very frustrating for Clive because obviously, he wasn’t always like this.
Before the amnesia, he was a kind-of a world-renowned musician, he was a highly respected guy, so in general in conversations he sticks to just a few subjects that he can talk intelligently on.
And he does talk. In fact, chattering on endlessly is kind-of a way for him to remain grounded.
He will sometimes speak about WWll and hiding in air raid shelters as a young boy or talking about the choir at Cambridge.
He also can draw on a slurry of topics that interest him or of which he knows something about. Which makes it so that, if you’re just meeting him, he seems pretty normal.
But in about 15 minutes when you notice he’s said the same thing 3 times in a row… He doesn’t seem so normal.
He also jokes a lot. Kind-of compulsively. It’s actually a condition called Witzelsucht , (vitzul-shoot) which when you have a German condition you know it’s bad news.
Looking at you Munchausen Syndrome.
But no, actually Witzelsucht is known as joking disease, and it’s likely a consequence of his frontal-lobe weakening as he ages.
Clive’s condition is very remarkable and unique to only him. And that begs the question. Just how did this happen?
HERPES! Literally just your basic, run-of-the-mill herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1).
Which is funny… but also horrifying.
Horrifying because a LOT of people have herpes. It’s one of the oldest viruses on the planet, in fact there is a herpes virus for every type of primate there is.
And for most people the worst symptom is cold sores on their lips. If you’re unlucky, you might get sores on your genitals.
But for Clive, somehow the virus crossed the blood brain barrier and attacked his hippocampus. Even unluckier, the doctors couldn’t figure out what the illness was and treated him for the flu.
It was only after he was completely unresponsive that they were able to figure out the actual problem. By that time the damage had been done.
he hippocampus, as you’ve probably already guessed, plays an important part in the memory equation, it kinda transfers memories from short-term to long-term storage.
But of course it’s more complicated than that because as I mentioned earlier, he knows how to make coffee, and where all the coffee stuff is kept, even if he can’t explain it verbally.
So long-term memory is broken up into explicit and implicit memory. You can describe explicit memory as declarative, things that can be consciously described. Implicit memory are non-declarative, things that are more felt and intuitive.
And these can be broken down further, for example there are two types of explicit memories,
  • Episodic (experienced events) Ex: Recalling unique memories of your life
  • Semantic (knowledge and concepts) Ex: Knowing state capitals and dates of things.
On the other side, Implicit memories can be:
  • Procedural (skills and actions) Remembering how to do things like play music or shuffle cards well
  • Emotional conditioning (feelings) Memories which evoke emotion.
And all of this gets confusing with Clive’s condition because some of this he has and some of this he doesn’t.
Like the coffee thing from earlier, that’s Implicit Prodedural memory. He understands that at a subconscious, instinctual level, but if he were to try to recall a specific memory of him doing that in the past… which would be Explicit Episodic memory, he can’t.
You get what I’m saying here?
And sometimes it’s hard to pin down the truth, like he claims to have a vague memory of hiding in bomb shelters during World War 2, which would be Explicit Episodic, but it might just be that he knows the fact that people sheltered from bombs in World War 2, that would be more Explicit Semantic.
But to me the most interesting thing he was able to retain was his ability to play music.
So I mentioned he was a respected musician earlier, well that’s kind-of an understatement.
He was considered like the world’s foremost expert on this late renaissance composer named Orlande de Lassus.
And yes, you’re right, that is a very specific thing to be an expert in, now meet me at camera…
Two… because that’s what makes a person really interesting.
Hey you want to be an interesting person? Or at least convince other people that you’re interesting? It’s really simple. Just become the world’s foremost expert on the most specific, weird, obscure thing you can think of.
Nothing is more interesting to me than to meet someone who has spend a significant amount of their lifetimes obsessing over the tiniest detail of something that I’ve never heard of.
Where you’re just like, “Wow, really?”
Like it makes me wonder what it is about this thing that they’re so passionate about, there must be something there I can’t see.
That is the definition of interest.
Now find your weird thing and nerd the hell out on it.
Sorry, what were we…?
Orlande de Lassus, right, Clive was the world’s expert on his music, he had an encyclopedic knowledge of his work.
He actually ran The London Lassus Ensemble, and led the 1982 London Lassus Festival, which celebrated his 450th birthday.
Right, Clive was a supernerd.
Today, Clive has absolutely no memory of any of it.
But the question is, can he still play music? I did a video a while back about how music hacks the brain, it does hold a strange and deep connection in our minds.
Could his musical ability survive all that memory loss?
Yes, he can still rip up a piano just like he used to.
He can both read music and perform music from memory. And you might think that it would be shocking to sit down at a piano, thinking you don’t know how to play, and then suddenly this virtuoso music comes pouring out of you. But for Clive, he just kinda slips into it. As soon as he starts pressing keys, he’s himself again, lost in the movement, and everything is what it should be.
That sounds nice. But for Clive the real shock is after when his brain resets.
In fact he would kinda convulse and burp and lose control over himself. It’s like his body reacting to being sucked back into the void where he thinks he’s just woken up for the first time ever.
Doctors ascribe his seizure-like shakes to damage in his inferior frontal lobe.
It’s like when his brain sends a signal to activate an emotion, it creates a near epileptic event.
What’s also interesting about his playing music is that he improvises. So it’s not like his brain is acting like an old victrola playing the same thing over and over, Clive’s still in there.
So yeah, once again, music is weirdly intertwined with our identity and sense of self.
It’s really hard to imagine exactly what it’s like to live like Clive.
Part of it sounds hellish. But then again, that hell is forgotten 10 seconds later.
It’s also hard to imagine being in a relationship with someone like that. After years of caring for him full time, Deborah had to finally distance herself from Clive, just visiting him every other week or so.
And she would say that she felt a lot of guilt about that for a while, but… he didn’t. He wasn’t missing her when she was gone, when she wasn’t there, he had no idea she existed.
I should point out that he had no memory of their relationship, but when he saw her, he knew she was his wife. Again, he retained that implicit knowledge but had no episodic memory of it. It’s super interesting.


And while I say that Clive has a condition that is totally unique to him, there are other cases of amnesia that are all just as interesting.
Henry Molaison, who came to be known as HM, cracked his skull in an accident when he was a young boy in 1953.
This led to epileptic seizures that continued to get worse and worse throughout his life, eventually becoming debilitating.
Eventually this led him to one of the top neurosurgeons at the time, a guy named W.B. Scoville, and his suggestion was to remove the hippocampus.
The hippocampus and while they’re at it the parahippocampal cortices, entorhinal cortices, piriform cortices, and amygdalae.
It was the world’s first surgery performed with an ice cream scooper.
But it worked. H.M.’s seizures went away, but of course as we just learned with Clive, a hippocampus is a terrible thing to waste.
This is your brain. This is your brain without a hippocampus. Any questions?
So yeah from that point forward H.M. was unable to form new memories. And he struggled to remember anything in the couple of years before he had the surgery.
He was diagnosed as having temporally graded amnesia.
One more weird thing, when H.M. died in 2008, he donated his body to science and researchers sliced up his brain as thinly as possible and scanned it into a 3D virtual environment, which you can see today at


Another story is Kent Cochrane, who suffered a severe motorcycle accident that caused brain damage and gave him temporally graded retrograde amnesia.
Cochrane had his semantic memory intact; he could tell you the Capital of Vermont was Montpilliar but couldn’t tell you what he had for dinner the previous day.
Cochrane’s accident happened in 1986 and at that point CT scans were available, so scientists for the first time got to document a damaged brain at that level.
Researchers working with him were able to learn some new things about episodic and semantic memory but also the distinction between implicit and explicit memory, and how people learn new things in amnesia.
In one experiment, neuro researchers presented Cochrane with a list of words. A year later, they showed him the words with letters missing and he was able to fill in the letters while not knowing what the words really were.
In other words the info was getting into his mind through a different process, and found a different retrieval process was different as well.
This challenged the previous opinion that patients with anterograde amnesia are incapable of adding information to their declarative memory. In short, people with amnesia can indeed learn new things.


Then there’s the case of Scott Bolzan which I don’t want to spend too much time on but his case is interesting.
He was a professional football player in the 80s and had his share of concussions because this was way before the helmet to helmet rule.
But his story is he slipped on the bathroom floor and hit his head. And he got the kind of amnesia you always see in the movies, where he forgot his entire life up until the fall, but could make new memories after that.
But what’s weird in his case is he lost the procedural memory and implicit stuff, like he didn’t know what a job was, or the ritual of Halloween, or what a wife is.
Normally amnesia patients retain that procedural memory. So there are some people who think that he’s faking it?
At least Dr. William Barr thinks so, describing his symptoms as “Hollywood amnesia” and suggests he’s doing it to sell a book or get out of some debts.
He would also say, “Not knowing what a TV is, not knowing what a cellphone is, this is all inconsistent with any known form of brain damage.”
But back to Clive, reading about his situation really makes you think about our experience of life, and how the structure of our brain contributes to that.
Because one one level, we’re all going through life exactly like Clive is. Just one moment at a time.
We all have these two memory systems, short term and long-term. And short-term, immediate, real-time system is always running, that’s our present moment, what’s right in front of us. It’s the current block you’re on as you’re walking across town.
But that present moment is informed by our memory of the block we just passed and we know what’s up ahead because we walked there yesterday, those long-term memories provide the context that create this feeling of a continuation of our consciousness.
And when our short-term system resets, it’s supported by this other memory system, so it doesn’t feel like a reset but that system does still reset.
We’re just ridin’ a skateboard on a beam of light through fabric of space and time bud…
If I may end on a sweet note, one thing about this story that gets me is the way he responds when he sees his wife. Every single time, even if she just left the room for 10 minutes, he runs to her and holds on to her like he hasn’t seen her in years, he’s just overcome with emotion.
Which is sweet… but… I mean I get why she had to get away from it after a while.
Like I said before, he doesn’t remember his relationship with her, all he knows is that he loves her with all his heart. Which kinda says something about how deep down the emotion of love is.
I actually think Clive said it best when Deborah asked him, “What does love mean?” And to that Clive responded, “In tennis nothing, in life everything.”
And to that I say, Good show, old chap. (a beat) And happy birthday.

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