Science: the forgotten years.

I noticed, while working for other people in science, a very important change take place with the advent of the computer and the internet.

In the Olden Days (before about 1990) we used to use a little periodical called ‘Current Contents’. It listed all the contents pages of all the main journals and we’d browse it for new papers relevant to our work. Then we’d go and look up the papers. All of this was done with paper copies, no screens at all.

There was also ‘the stacks’ in the basement of the library, where the pre-1970 copies of journals were stored. In really big libraries ‘the stacks’ were immense and smelled of old paper. I spent a lot of time down there as a student and as a researcher.

Then computers arrived. We all thought this was great. No more rummaging about in paper journals, no more looking for a particular copy to find it loaned out, lost or wrongly shelved. It was all there, on screen. Type in a keyword and the university account let you access an e-copy of all related papers right there and then. If one of them was relevant to what you were doing, you could print it. Fantastic. Except…

They only digitised back to 1980. In many cases not as far back as that. It wasn’t long before I started noticing new papers with revelations of things that I had read in papers from the 1960s and 1970s. The authors had only looked on the computer and found no prior work. All that science prior to computerisation simply ceased to exist.

Hundreds of years of work gone, just like that. Have you seen the clinical trials proving the safety of blood transfusions? No, you haven’t because there have never been any. It’s accepted that there must have been, it must have been done well before computers started storing. If you want to sell a new type of food you have to go through all kinds of hoops but an untested procedure is in use every day. Don’t come back with ‘it must be safe, it’s been in use for a long time’ because while that works for me, it really should not wash with the modern obsession with regulation and testing.  Everything must be proven safe now.

Nicotine patches and gum have been proven safe. Well of course they are safe. They don’t do anything. The quit rate with those things is less than the quit rate from people who just decide one day ‘Nah, I don’t want to do this any more’. So they are safe. Useless, but safe.

Homeopathy is, I think, still available on the NHS because it’s safe. It relies on the ‘memory of water’ which has been proven to be nonsense. Even if it hadn’t been, homeopathy uses dilutions to levels that can’t contain any of the original compound and little to nothing of the water it was originally dissolved in, so ‘memory of water’ still won’t work. It’s safe though. Probably safer than what comes out of your tap.

What triggered this rant was a story about a new miracle discovered by researchers – that microorganisms can communicate with each other. We microbiologists called this ‘quorum sensing’ many years ago but it’s probably scrolled off the researchers’ radar and they maybe didn’t bother to look at bacteria.

Oh, and no, it does not suggest at all that the sea might be conscious. Not in the slightest.

There is a bacterium called Erwinia that ruins potatoes by causing blackleg (the base of the stem rots away) or by rotting the actual spuds. Potatoes can defend against this beast so it needs to attack as a mob. A few attacking will get wiped out.

What Erwinia does is to stick to a plant and start reproducing. It makes no attempt to infect at this stage. Every cell releases a chemical, and every other cell can detect that chemical. When the chemical reaches a certain concentration, the cells ‘know’ there are enough of them to beat the potato’s defences and they switch into infection mode.

It’s not the only one. Salmonella does this too. Many other pathogens use this trick. Some bacteria can eavesdrop on other species’ quorum sensing chemicals to gain a food advantage. It’s no surprise to find that sea microbes do it too. We’ve known about this for a very long time.

Yet here it is again as if it has only just been discovered, and extrapolated to grant salty water sentience. We don’t consider those chatty bacteria sentient. They have just developed a chemical system in response to having the shit regularly kicked out of them by a potato, which has to be embarrassing even for a bacterium. They react to chemical concentrations. That is all. They are not thinking.

Neither is the sea. It’s far too busy being wet and wavey. Rather like our Prime Monster, who shows less evidence of intelligence than plankton.

Nobody looks back at old papers any more. Strangely, the old ones that seem to support anti-things get recorded on the net. Not much else does.

It does help the Righteous to have a population who think science began in 1980. They can invent drink limits and pretend that essential nutrients like salt are bad for you and act as though everyone died in 1950 when about 80% of people smoked and much, much more. If scientists aren’t checking, why would politicians? Politicians are too busy watching porn on taxpayer funded computers, drinking taxpayer subsidised booze and smoking cigars the rest of us can only dream of trying because we’re skint after paying for theirs. They have no time left to mess about checking facts. Pity them, for they are useless.

Computers are great things. I have a lot of them. I can go and look up anything and some of it might even be true. I can talk to people in countries I have never visited and will probably never be able to afford to visit. I can send books to publishers in America and I can self-publish with a couple of keyboard taps (well, a bit more than that, I never get the format right first time) and have stuff available to the entire planet in a matter of hours.

But I am wondering if computers might be what killed science. The truncation of those vast libraries of knowledge to the last thirty years, the training of students to use online sources instead of rummaging in ‘the stacks’, the loss of all that prior research to dusty tomes in forgotten basements. It’s like the burning of the Library of Alexandria all over again.

Only this time it’s not burned. It’s all still there. On ageing paper.

But nobody reads it.

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49 thoughts on “Science: the forgotten years.

  1. The digitial dark age works both backward and forward? Scary.

    Reminds me of the dilettante ‘historian’ in Asimov’s Foundation stories who doesn’t see the point of doing original research since the highly respected Professor so-and-so already looked at the primary sources and wrote the definitive text on the matter decades ago. Far better to synthesise one’s argument from masterful second-, third-, or fourth hand analyses than grub around in dirty old documents.

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  2. I know it’s not what you were on about, so can be considered OT but it is relevant as it addresses the assumption that, in my opine, underlies the confusion and apparent contradictions with which we must.
    It is your passing statement regarding microbes being sentient beings: “They react to chemical concentrations. That is all. ”

    That is what thought is. If you believe evolution is the way it all came about (illogical in itself, but, okay, riding with it for this) than that is exactly, more or less, what thought is.
    Chemical and electrical activity.

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    • There is a difference between a fully formed thought and the simple reaction to stimulus that is shown by bacteria and politicians. What the bacteria are doing is close to what insulin does – one cell releases a chemical and another cell responds. There’s no reasoning involved.

      I actually have a lot more on this line of reasoning, one day I’ll pull it all together and make it into something sensible.

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      • It is a difference of degree, not of the basic principle/action involved.
        Thought and being sentient is a highly complex activity, but what more is it than a physical interaction of chemicals and electrical activity?
        Spooks?

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        • Thought is a highly complex thing, as is memory and since neuroscientists struggle to explain it, I doubt we’d get further than a basic argument. But argument is fun.

          Okay. Here’s why I don’t believe that the sea can become sentient.

          All those plankton are individual beasts. They are acting/reacting to stimuli but they are each looking out for their own survival. A brain cell, or any body cell, has to work in concert with other body cells because those cells can no longer survive alone. For a highly complex body to survive, it has to have a brain of some sort co-ordinating its cellular activities. The brain might delegate some activities elsewhere: the kidneys know how to clean crap out of blood, the pancreas knows how to control sugar, so the brain does not need to intervene.

          For intermediate forms, start with Volvox, an alga that grows as a hollow globe. The cells are individuals and can survive alone, but associate into those globes anyway. If you smash up a globe, they’ll just form new ones. They don’t need to think.

          Some of the blue-green algae grow in long chains and some cells in those chains specialise into something called ‘heterocysts’. Most of the cells operate aerobically but the heterocysts operate without oxygen. They fix nitrogen and provide nitrogen to the rest of the chain. The rest of the chain provide the heterocyst (which can no longer photosynthesise) with sugars. They aren’t thinking.

          Then there are slime moulds. These live as individual amoebae until times get tough. They then associate into something that looks and acts like a tiny slug. That can move, and it can change into something that looks like a little fungus – it will form a stalk with a spore-forming head. The cells in the spore-forming part get to pass on their DNA as spores that can float away to pastures new. The cells in the stalk are doomed. It’s primitive cellular co-operation to ensure survival of the species as a whole. The slime mould slug has no discernible internal organs and (until it forms a stalk and spores) no cell differentiation but it’s a step on the way to a multicellular animal.

          So far, no brains and nothing that could be considered thought.

          It’s only when you get into full multicellular animals, where cells are highly specialised and cannot survive without the rest of the animal, that you start needing to think. Even mice, which are unlikely to win ‘philosopher of the year’, have to make decisions that affect every cell in its body. Its intestine is busy digesting the food it has eaten, its skin is busy holding it together, so the decisions are delegated to the brain.

          To make those decisions, it is extremely useful for it to be able to remember what happened last time it had to make a similar decision. If it once stepped on a copper-coloured piece of metal and received a shock, its brain will respond to another similar piece of metal with ‘best not step on that’. The brain is taking decisions that affect more than just the brain. They affect the survival of all the other cells.

          That plankton does not need to worry about what happens to all the other plankton. The sea’s microbial population is a mass of individuals who are not absolutely dependent on each other for survival. So they don’t need a brain to tell them all what to do.

          Human thought used to be considered utterly unlike other animals. Now we have apes who can use basic sign language and elephants who paint. Well, okay, those apes are not likely to bother going far beyond ‘Give me the damn banana or I’ll rip your head off’ and the elephants are poorly equipped to become Picasso (but be fair, he didn’t have to hold the paintbrush with his nose).

          Where this argument always leads is ‘Do we have a soul?’

          I don’t know. Is it all the result of increasingly complex cellular interactions, forced on those cells by the necessity of depending on each other for survival? Or did God do it?

          All I can answer to that is – I don’t know.

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          • There is so much going on inside the human body (and all animals’ bodies) that you might get the impression that the whole body is a great big brain! The way proteins “know” how to form into particular shapes, for example and the complexity within each and every living cell is mind-boggling. The construction, transportation and communication going on throughout the body makes it look sentient; like there’s a staff of millions of microscopic builders, train drivers, postmen, engineers (and civil servants probably – and it would be the micro-politicians and banksters who would cause the diseases).

            But of course, like leggy says, it’s not like this. At least, not according to the evidence from the most powerful microscopes available today!

            So, in the brain in particular, we have much the same wondrous system occurring, but the chemicals still aren’t sentient even though they “know” their role.

            So, what else is going on that makes us more than the sum of our chemistry?

            Our soul: that eternal and most important part of us which cannot seem to be pinned down scientifically. Of course, maybe somebody did discover physical evidence for it decades ago and the study is gathering dust in some university basement. Or maybe Dawkins got a hold of it and put a match to it so it wouldn’t ruin his career making millions out of bashing religion, I mean, helping the man in the street understand science. *cough*

            [On a side issue and one which has just occurred: every living cell has its own power station, yet the body doesn't suffer from global warming because of it. Could it be that there are no microscopic envirofascist lobbyists and fraudulent scientists chasing money working inside the body?]

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            • There have been serious attempts to find ‘the soul’ by serious science. It isn’t amenable to science techniques so if it’s there, it can’t be found by the techniques currently available. I think most of the sensible brain scientists realise there is something about sentience that we have not yet found, but they won;t commit to calling it ‘soul’ because that is outside the bounds of current science.

              I read about a doctor who had patients at the point of death on a bed attached to a weighing scale. He found a detectable loss of mass from the body at the point of death. Was it the soul leaving the body? Being a real scientist, he did not commit to that. Something is lost at the time of death. Some energy/matter moves on. Whether it moves on in a coherent form as a soul, or as an entropic dissipation into the environment, he was sensible enough to leave alone. The honest answer is that science cannot currently give an answer either way. Some things just cannot be studied by science yet.

              That might be for the best. Otherwise this might become reality one day!

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          • Okay. Difficult to identify/define the sea as being sentient.
            And I’m not trying to drag any other set of theories in to makes sense of things, (although I have, personally, been through experiences that have led me to certain conclusions.)
            My question is rather: What is ‘sentient’, in scientific terms?
            What can it be other than the action of mass and energy (chemicals and electrical activity)?
            Scientifically/rationally, thought does not have an exceptional “something” that makes it objectively valid separate from the physical – if it is simply the movement of mass and energy, an existence where every action is the result of actions that went before.
            Or does it?

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            • I know you’re not trying to drag it in but these arguments always go there naturally anyway.

              The only scientific definition of sentience involves things like recognising a reflection as ‘self’ rather than ‘other’ (if you were the sort of evil child who loved to torment Siamese fighting fish with a mirror, you’ll know what I mean). At the chemical or even neurological level, the honest scientist will tell you that we don’t know.

              The dishonest scientist will just make something up. There are a lot more of those than there used to be.

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  3. Sobering thoughts. (Now, that’s a turn up, coming from you!) In the course of a long career I have written Chemical Abstracts, edited many, many scholarly tomes, designed books, and edited and translated what must by now amount to thousands of papers. I have even prepped mathematical copy for setting in four-line Monotype. All those skills, all that knowledge, now all as necessary as a Cro-Magnon dictionary. Still, I pride myself that you must have come across my and my colleagues’ work while “in the stacks”. Sic transit gloria soddin’ mundi. Lovely start to the day, that. Ta everso.

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  4. Yeah that would explain why when reading some new “studies have shown” the wife and often say “but we knew avout that 40 years ago”!

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  5. LI

    Luckily for me, some journals are digitised far further back than 1980

    Look what I found only this morning, looking up nicotine vegetables to see if there was anything new.

    The Journal of Nutrition

    The Nicotinic Acid Content of Common Fruits and Vegetables as Prepared for Human Consumption
    1942

    http://jn.nutrition.org/content/25/3/275.full.pdf

    Did you know that peas had the highest content even after cooking? I certainly didn’t.
    I like peas.

    Sadly a lot of journals, societies and other interesting organisations have insisted on registration or passwords since 2007,they were open to public view before.

    Some are still there though.

    Organic Syntheses, Coll. Vol. 1, p.385 (1941); Vol. 4, p.49 (1925)

    NICOTINIC ACID

    “In a 5-l. round-bottomed flask is placed 4 kg. (2816 cc.) of c.p. concentrated nitric acid (sp. gr. 1.42) (Note 1). To this is added, in 25-cc. portions, 210 g. (1.23 moles) of nicotine (Note 2). The addition should be made carefully in order that local heating may not occur and material be lost. After each addition of nicotine, the flask should be shaken in order to insure a homogeneous solution.”

    http://www.orgsyn.org/orgsyn/prep.asp?prep=cv1p0385

    But the Royal Society of Chemistry just crashed my computer trying to bring you this.

    Organic Chemistry
    “1867, Huber provides the first description of nicotinic acid. 1873, Weidel describes the elemental analysis and crystalline structure of the salts etc.

    These methods described by R Laiblin in 1879″

    In 1867, Huber prepared nicotinic acid from the potassium dichromate oxidation of nicotine, apparently.
    Which was rather unfortunate for anti-tobacco when nutritionists discovered the properties of vitamin B3, because it had already been named.

    Confirmed in the smoke by tobacco industry R&D from 1941

    All very useful for someone who studied Art at college and gardening at home.
    I was thrilled to bits when I heard that universities were digitising their collections, if ever I need to do some serious study, I knew where to look.

    When I knew what I was looking for, the tobacco documents proved invaluable, I’ve read their scientific discoveries back into the 40′s, though I haven’t gone past 1960 because then they might have been spooked.

    How utterly stupid for anti-tobacco to put them online.

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    • The anti-people don’t actually read this stuff and aren’t capable of understanding it even if they did. They believe it supports their arguments so they are okay with it being online. If they ever realise what it all really says, it might well vanish.

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    • Nicotinic acid is part of the vitamin B complex and an indispensable nutrient. It’s commonly found in red meat. Nicotine is a plant alkaloid, commonly regarded as a poison (except in this exalted company).

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        • May 7, 1941

          Subject Nicotinic Acid page 1

          Dear Sir,
          Since your Inquiry of March 6th and our reply of March 11th relative to the possibility of existing in Old Gold cigarettes, permit us to state that we have given the matter quite a little thought and have conducted several experiments.

          As a result of the latter we feel that we have made certain surprising discoveries, which, if they have any appeal to our
          advertising people, might be worthy of more extensive investigation.

          As you probably know, there is a vitamin, recently identified as nicotinic acid, which when absent from the diet causes black-tongue in dogs or pellagra in human beings.

          Ten to fifteen milligrams daily of nicotinic acid are neccessary to keep a man from acquiring the disease in question. Thus, in poor sections of the South and in countries, such as Spain after the recent Civil War, we find a deficiency of this necessary element us exhibited by a prevalency of pellagra. Since nicotinic acid can be manufactured by the oxidation of nicotine, since it is readily available at a reasonably low price, and because of its favorable physical properties, we decided to run a few tests on cigarette smoke to see if it was normally present, or if it could be added by enrichment of the original tobacco.

          The tests which we will summarise were run on Ripple cigarettes, rolled by hand, but we feel sure that the conclusions are equally applicable to Old Golds.

          Page 3

          “In other words,we analyzed the saliva, which would have otherwise been swallowed. No nicotinic acid occurred in the smoker’s saliva before smoking. We feel that we have made this report sufficiently long to cover the discoveries, which we regard as quite remarkable. If you have any questions in the matter or suggestions, we will be glad to hear from you, we would also be interested in learning your opinion of the material for advertising purposes, as, of course, this constitutes it’s principle value.

          Very truly yours, Chemist
          Middletown Branch.
          P. Lorillard Co.

          http://tobaccodocuments.org/product_design/04365489-5491.html

          October 8 1941

          Subject: Nicotinic Acid

          Dear Sir,
          Referring to the subject of nicotinic acid, or the anti-pellagra vitamin,in cigarette smoke, permit us to state that we have heard from the University of Wisconsin, and are pleased to report that they have confirmed our findings in every respect. In other words in an aqueous solution in the smoke from ten ordinary Old Golds they find .8 milligram of nicotinic acid, while in a similar solution of the smoke from ten enriched cigarettes they find 12.5 milligrams of the vitamin in question. These figures can be better appreciated,if we repeat that 10 to 16 milligrams of nicotinic acid are the daily requirements of an average man.

          In view of the above and the data submitted by ourselves in previous correspondence, we feel confident in claiming that the smoke from Ordinary Old Golds contains a trace of the anti-pellagra vitamin. Furthermore, the amount of the later can be greatly increased by adding nicotinic acid to the tobacco in the course of it’s manufacture. In addition, we have previously shown that a good proportion of the vitamin is absorbed by the saliva in a smoker’s mouth and subsequently swallowed.

          We believe that the above statements completely cover the story and in our opinion there is nothing more to be told.”
          http: //tobaccodocuments.org/product_design/04365497-5498.html

          But there are lots of pages missing from both these letters and paragraphs that I don’t recognise.
          However, when I first read it, it was enough to confirm that nicotinic acid was in the smoke in tiny amounts.

          niacin

          “pellagra-preventing vitamin in enriched bread,” 1942, coined from ni(cotinic) ac(id) + -in, chemical suffix; suggested by the American Medical Association as a more commercially viable name than nicotinic acid.
          “The new name was found to be necessary because some anti-tobacco groups warned against enriched bread because it would foster the cigarette habit.” ["Cooperative Consumer," Feb. 28, 1942]
          http: //dictionary.reference.com/browse/niacin

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          • LORILLARD RESEARCH ON NICOTINIC ACID

            “Parmele informed Mr Riefner that work on nicotinic acid could be confirmed free of charge by Dr Elvehjem at the University of Wisconsin.
            Dr Elvehjem analyzed samples prepared by Parmele by the microbiological assay method of Snell and Wright. The microbiological method was more specific than the chemical method employed by Parmele.
            Lower levels of nicotinic acid were found, but Parmele’s essential findings were confirmed”

            http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/action/document/page?tid=jbw98c00&page=1

            Conrad A. Elvehjem, (May 27, 1901 – July 27, 1962), was internationally known as an American biochemist in nutrition. In 1937 he identified a molecule found in fresh meat and yeast as a new vitamin, nicotinic acid, now called niacin.[1] His discovery led directly to the cure of human pellagra, once a major health problem in the United States.
            http: //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conrad_Elvehjem

            Of course in those days tobacco was just another plant, rather than an object of terror.

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        • I recall hearing that cannabis is also formed in the roots of the plant. Wasn’t there once someone who had grafted a related plant onto a cannabis root (hemp or hops or something) and produced smokeable leaves from an innocent-looking plant?

          I have to wonder – what if we grafted a tomato onto a tobacco root? Is that possible? It’ll cost nothing so it’s certainly worth a try.

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          • Many of the nightshades are supposed to be graft compatible.
            Tomato leaves smell horrible though so it’s likely that the result would be most unpleasant.

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            • True. Aubergines might be a better option. I still think it’s worth trying if only to establish a principle (and ready for when tobacco growing is banned).

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          • You might have problems growing aubergines in Scotland, I couldn’t get them to fruit here in Yorkshire even in the greenhouse, it’s just too cold.

            If tobacco growing is banned I shall just go herbal, from my studies of the health benefits of low dose nitric oxide and carbon monoxide they seem more important than people might think and there was a study assuring me that the amounts are the same as in cigarettes.

            However, I did read that the trigonelline in fenugreek turns to nicotinic acid when roasted, as it does in coffee, but the smoke tastes of curry which might take some getting used to.

            Here’s something that we might miss if we turned to something other than the nightshades.

            22nd July 1960

            Other Materials From Tobacco Waste

            “If other products of high value could be extracted along with the nicotine, the extraction of the latter from tobacco waste might become more profitable or the cost of nicotine could fall.
            Such a material would have to be in the high price range associated with drugs.
            At present there is no such material on the horizon although it is just possible that ubiquinone ( Co-enzyme Q ) or some related compound may become important in medicine.

            Ubiquinone has been found in tobacco as also has solanesol, a long chain alcohol which could provide part of the ubiquinone molecule.

            Ubiquinone is known to be a normal constituent of many animal tissues and in some senses is a vitamin since the benzene ring is not known to be synthesisised in man.

            It is known that Hofman-La Roche are carrying out extensive work on this in Switzerland, and it would be interesting to know if they have considered tobacco as a raw material.”

            CTRI wins patent for using tobacco as medicine
            Sunday, February 17, 2008 12:47 [IST]
            New Delhi: Tobacco will now be used for manufacturing cancer and cardiac drugs with the Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI) bagging the patent for solanesol – a medicinal substance extracted from tobacco.

            Solanesol, a white crystalline powder derived from tobacco’s green leaf, has curative effects against cardiac insufficiency, muscular dystrophy, anaemia, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and liver injury

            “Many pharmaceutical companies have approached us for carrying out clinical trials for the usage of solanesol as anti-cancer and anti-diabetic drugs,” CTRI Director V Krishna Murthy told reporters. Solanesol is rich in Coenzyme Q10 – a physiologically active substance with high pharmaceutical value”

            My clippings on Solanesol

            http://www.forces.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=363&t=3765&sid=de950e9c257e818a30f32ddb124c7e80

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            • I did try aubergines one year. It was a good summer but even so, I only managed one fruit. Then I found I didn’t like it. But then I wouldn’t be growing it for fruit ;)

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          • Solanesol is only a white crystalline powder after it’s been processed.
            From what I can make out it’s really the stuff that sticks to the wall as part of the tobacco smoke condensate, I am informed that it’s brownish white and stringy when extracted.

            Flue-cured Tobacco. I. Isolation of Solanesol, an Unsaturated Alcohol
            R. L. Rowland, P. H. Latimer, J. A. Giles
            Publication Date: September 1956

            http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ja01599a041

            Make of that what you will.

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          • Strange that, isn’t it?
            When you actually look at the plant itself you get a very different story from the one we have been told.

            Brain chemical may explain why heavy smokers feel sad after quitting

            “For Immediate Release – August 2 (Toronto) – Heavy smokers may experience sadness after quitting because early withdrawal leads to an increase in the mood-related brain protein monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A), a new study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has shown.
            http: //www.camh.net/News_events/News_releases_and_media_advisories_and_backgrounders/Meyer_MAOA_smoking.html

            Smoking May Act as an Antidepressant Drug

            “The study found that the brains of chronic smokers had neurochemical abnormalities in the locus coeruleus that can be produced by repeatedly treating laboratory animals with antidepressant drugs, he explained.

            Specifically, long-term smoking appears to inhibit monoamine oxidase (or acts as an MAO inhibitor). Monoamine oxidase is the enzyme that metabolizes monoamines — such as norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, Klimek explained. The locus coeruleus produces norepinephrine. Drugs that inhibit monoamines are antidepressants.

            Nicotine, Ordway added, does have antidepressant qualities, but is not an MAO inhibitor.”
            http: //mentalhealth.about.com/library/sci/1001/blsmoke1001.htm

            Why the wicked weed wards off Parkinson’s

            “A SUBSTANCE that may protect the brain against Parkinson’s disease has been found in tobacco smoke, a discovery that could shed light on the causes of this debilitating condition.

            Researchers have known for decades that smokers are less likely to develop Parkinson’s than non-smokers, but not why. Four years ago, however, Joanna Fowler of Brookhaven National laboratory in New York showed that in long-term smokers a brain enzyme called monoamine oxidase (MAO) is 40 per cent less active.

            The hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease–tremors and a shuffling gait–are thought to be caused by a lack of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is crucial for controlling body movement.

            Normally, MAO breaks down such neurotransmitters, but it can also help convert other substances into toxins that poison dopamine-producing brain cells.

            “Intrigued by these findings, Kay and Neal Castagnoli and a team at the Harvey W. Peters Research Center at Virginia Tech set out to identify substances in smoke that inhibit the enzyme. They isolated a compound that blocks MAO’s activity in the test tube, and found that it protected mice from the poisonous effects of MPTP, one of the substances that MAO converts into a toxin, they told the meeting.”
            http: //www.newscientist.com/article/mg16622332.000

            “They ground up tobacco leaves and tested representative samples in a test tube to see if they inhibited MAO. From the fraction containing the most potent MAO inhibitor, they isolated a chemical known as 2,3,6-trimethyl-1,4-naphthoquinone.

            To find out whether this was a key MAO-inhibitor in cigarette smoke, Castagnoli’s team examined mice in which dopamine-producing neurons were killed with a compound called MPTP that’s converted to a toxin in the brain, causing symptoms much like Parkinson’s disease. Without the naphthoquinone, dopamine levels in the mice given MPTP dropped 60% below normal.

            Yet when the mice were pretreated with naphthoquinone, dopamine levels fell only 40%. This suggests that naphthoquinone “is a good [MAO] inhibitor–not gangbusters, but a good inhibitor,” Castagnoli says.

            Napthoquinone had previously been found in tobacco smoke, but not linked to dopamine.”

            http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2000/04/18-04.html

            Napthoquinone appears to be Vitamin K, but you’d have to check that.

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        • Having looked at the list of natural sources, it seems that my diet contains very little vitamin K apart from lots of milk in my coffee and a passion for double cream.

          One thing that has puzzled me since being very young is my habit of eating crabapple jelly with virtually every meal, and when it ran out over summer, I felt wistful almost like a physical withdrawal until the tree fruited again and my mum made some more.

          It never occurred to me to look for what was in it, until I was researching tobacco, but one thing that struck me as unusual is that it has high levels of B17.
          I wonder if that could be what I miss when the crabapple jelly runs out?

          Jam can curb cancer, say food scientists

          “An ingredient found in jam and jelly may help prevent the spread of cancer, research suggests.

          Both popular foods contain a modified form of pectin, a natural fibre found in fruits and vegetables that is widely used in food processing.

          A laboratory study by the Institute of Food Research found modified pectin releases a molecular fragment that curbs all stages of cancer progression”

          “Pectin supplements that claim to detoxify the body and protect against cancer are already sold on the internet, and a laboratory study published in the journal Glycobiology last year showed pectin can slow the growth of prostate cancer.

          Scientists at the University of Georgia in the US found when prostate cancer cells were exposed to pectin powder or heat-treated citrus pectin, up to 40 per cent died.

          The cells were made to “commit suicide” through a natural process called apoptosis that halts the creation of tumours.
          Other studies on rats and cell cultures suggest pectin also fights lung and colon cancers”
          http: //www.telegraph.co.uk/health/3183821/Jam-can-curb-cancer-say-food-scientists.html

          Characteristics of tobacco pectin
          http: //legacy.library.ucsf.edu/action/document/page?tid=ngp65d00

          Work carried out at Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company and in GR&DC has shown that pectin ( occurring naturally in tobacco) can efficiently scavenge nicotine.

          http://tobaccodocuments.org/bat_cdc/9967.html

          I do think that it’s rather sad that under the current pressure from the various lobby groups that keep popping up, I should feel the need to find scientific justification for all the things I enjoy, in advance.

          Sugar can help make you a sweeter person, researchers claim

          “The report said: The findings suggest a link between glucose levels and the expression of prejudice and the use of stereotypes ”

          “They believe that sweet drinks give people a sugar rush that helps supply the brain with the fuel needed to suppress outspoken opinions”

          “Those who had drunk the sugary drink used far fewer stereotypes in their essays than those who had the artificial sweetener, leading to a theory that people can use restraint to keep objectionable thoughts to themselves when they have higher amounts of glucose in their body.”

          “Because self-control depends on processes that consume glucose as an energy source, people who have lower levels of blood glucose may be more likely to express prejudice”

          http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/3176128/Sugar-makes-you-sweeter.html

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  6. That took me back. Current contents…….I had nearly forgotten about that. I spent many happy hours in our medical library and the stack in its bowels. I think my earliest citation in my thesis was of Hippocrates of Kos and a description of tetanus. Quite a few others were from 1920s/30s through to the then present day of 1978. Ah, what fun it all was. topped off by a 3 hour viva with the Editor of the Jounal of Biochemistry as the external examiner. Happy days.

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  7. Hmm. Could we not dig up a load of old science journals and start discovering shit?

    We could get huge amounts of taxpayer funding to rewrite some old stuff and pass it off as new. We could save up all this money and build a huge secret base inside a volcano from where we could plot world domination.

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  8. Dear L-I,

    I couldn’t reply up above, as there was no button to click – too many replies to the original comment.

    Interesting tale you linked to and apart from the eastern philosophy-type reincarnation, I believe there is a conspiracy to keep God out the way – that’s how much our masters love their power!

    “The honest answer is that science cannot currently give an answer either way. Some things just cannot be studied by science yet.”

    Put it this way, with attitudes like this, from a Professor Richard Lewontin, who is a geneticist (and self-proclaimed Marxist), and one of the world’s leaders in evolutionary biology, science and knowledge are held in a straitjacket….

    ‘We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

    The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that Miracles may happen.

    http://creation.com/amazing-admission-lewontin-quote

    I tried a while back to find info on the weight loss at death idea, but my searches came up blank. I’ll need to give it another go.

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