Colon Chronometry

WARNING:

This post contains intentional puns, and fairly POO-er jokes of the immature variety.

You have been warned.

Starts with our mouth, and ends with ... the other mouth.

Inspiration comes at the most awkward times.

This morning, during my WALK, it came to me that how fast, and in what order, things go in one end of my GI tract may come out differently.

Yes.  Some things go in all at the same time, and may not come out when expected.

Who knew?

Everyone!

After all, everyone poops.

However, the rate our GI tract interacts with that matter, and the rate the colon finally does its job seems to vary.

Maybe it doesn’t for you.  I can only speak personally.

I can also speak for those old people I met during Dad’s illness.  They talk about this a lot.

Some foods, beans for example, have particular affects where a lot of gas is produced.  For some people, this gas is produced and detected by others almost immediately.

For me, well, it takes a bit longer.  Maybe my system works at higher pressures?

Anyway, this whole new field has to look at all these things: the kind of food we’re eating, the time we eat it, our microbiome composition, the time of day we ate, our activities, how we’re feeling, our age, our family, our genetics, and probably even more.

What fun!

This way, when we’re old and gray, instead of having to bore our kids and grandkids with long stories about sitting on the throne, we can have a great shorthand science as a reference.

Who knows?  There may even be a pill that sorts everything out for us.

Wait a minute.  Isn’t there already something like that?

It’s time.  Gotta go.

Resurrecting The Ancient Biome

I’m big on biomes.  It’s so cool to think that instead of my mouth feeding only me, I’m actually feeding a few TRILLION other little mouths.

It sounds rather creepy in fact, but it’s still cool.

However, the fact that each of us carries an entire ecosystem of other creatures explains so many crazy things.  Like why some people develop intolerance to certain substances.  Or why some people respond so much better to certain drugs than others.  Or why some people can eat and eat and eat and not gain weight.  And so many other crazy things.

We're spaceships filled with voyagers.

Now if we’re going to truly understand the affect our microbiome has upon us and our society, we’re going to have to try and figure out what the biome looked like for our ancestors.  For instance, what did the biome of the Romans and Ancient Greeks look like?  How did it differ from that of the Ancient Chinese?

My guess is that we’re going to have to take a page out of paleoclimatology.

It’s possible to figure out what the climate of the Earth was a thousand years ago through different techniques.  We can look at rocks,  We can look at trees.  We can measure the temperature of the ground deep down.

So, when it comes to our ancestors, we’re going to have to do much the same.  Of course, samples from the bodies themselves will be a good start.  But of course they’ve been sitting around in the dirt for some time.  So we’ll have to sample the current environment.  We’ll have to look for old organic samples to see what might have been living on those.  And we’re going to have to set up some kind of modern model that would allow us to reconstruct that old biome, just to try it on for size.

So the next time your friend says they are gluten intolerant, ask them what their ancestors had for their biome.  Were they gluten intolerant?

Someday we’ll have a way to find out.

Riots and Revolutions

Our art museum is putting on this excellent display of pre-romantic paintings that were used to record historical events.  Journalism in painting.

Painting is a story told visually, and because the artist is mostly in control, a lot of what they are thinking can come through.

When it’s historical in nature, we also get a glimpse into the big behavioral picture.

There’s this one painting showing a citadel in the background, and a riot going on in front of the locked gates.  (I can’t find it! When I do, I’ll include a link here.)

The caption beside the painting notes that during the years of 1634-35 there was a great famine, and the ruler allowed bread to be sold outside the citadel gates at fixed prices.  The hungry population was so angry that a riot ensued.  Because of the famine, almost 5% of the population perished.  That’s one person out of every twenty.

That was enough to cause the ruler to change the laws regarding land ownership, basically giving more power to the people.

Here’s what we can learn.

It took a great toll among the people before the ruling class decided they needed to shift the distribution of wealth.  Lots of people had to die miserable deaths before those in power would change the system.

Today, we also have increasing wealth inequalities.  How far will the current levels of pain go before our governments address the pain of the people?  History, at least this little oil-painted piece, suggests that about 5% of the population will have to perish first.

Is this the best way to figure this out?  Absolutely not.  But it’s a start.

And as far as wealth distribution is concerned, isn’t it better we start now?

Aren’t art museums fun?

Thanks for reading.

 

Measuring Civilization: Wheels on Meals

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Are you civilized?  Is your neighbor?  How about your President?

Trick question.

As far as I can tell, we don’t have a measure of “how” civilized we are.  Sure, an economist will point to GDP, a geographer could point to population, and a librarian could point to how many reference works exist.

But HOW civilized are we?

One measure put forward many years ago has to do with eating.

I love eating.  And I love studying behavior.  Let’s put the two together.

If I took your civilization and withheld the food supply so it was, say, 25% of normal, what would happen?

Would many people starve quietly, still obeying the rules of decency and law so that civilization continued peacefully?

Or would there be some sort of breakdown in the rules?  Would people become more like wild animals, stealing, robbing, murdering, even cannibalizing?

Let’s bring some rigor to the process.

Take any group of people, say the group you’re stuck in a meeting with today, and make them supreme.  By that I mean, make everyone else in the world go away.  They have the whole Earth to call their own.

How long can this group survive using the rules of society they grew up with?  Will they thrive and grow into a new society?  Or will they end up at each other’s throats?  Or, my favorite, will they run away from each other, dying alone?

Make the group your whole nation.  Or the whole Earth.  You choose the group.

Then restrict their food.  Give them only so many calories every quarter day.

Here’s where the fun starts.

I know that when I get hungry, I attack.  I attack the fridge.  MUST EAT screams my stomach.  The rest of the body follows.  When my stomach is full I go back to being all nice and civilized.

How many quarter days would I allow civilization to survive?  Maybe two.

How about you?

 

Today’s Most Influential Woman is …

It’s a few days before Easter, 2018, and as I realized who the most influential woman in the world is as of today.  She may have been influential for many days, but it’s even more so as of today.

#MeToo back in the Golden Age

Today is when a newly famous woman talks on big TV about an affair she had with this guy who is today’s President.  She’s NOT the Influential Woman.

There are lots of other women finally coming forward about what a sexual consumer and predator our president is ALLEGED to be.  None of them are the most Influential Women, either.  (Note, I believe all of them.  Why should they lie?  #MeToo)

No, the most Influential Woman today is…

… his wife, Melania.

I can’t feel totally sorry for her.  She put herself on exhibit, she “caught” him, she has her child, and she can live in her golden cage.

Yet I can notice certain great behavioral components.

Mr. President must be feeling pretty dry by now.  Let’s face it.  He’s pretty much living single, Melania isn’t going to be feeling much “in the mood,” and every move this guy makes is under a microscope.

So here’s what makes her influential.  You guessed it.  Sex.

All she has to do is say, “Do this, Darling, and you can have, this.”

Won’t work?  Check out this story involving pausing a war a few thousand years ago.  Or how about these stories much more recently, described along with a broadway musical about it.

More to the point of this site, we are doing the first extremely public experiment into the phenomenon of “What happens to Men when they get EXTREMELY sexually frustrated?”

I touched upon this a bit a long while ago in this post.  What makes today’s experiment so much more exciting is that we are all able to watch it, live.  Along the way we can have some fun.

How long has it been for Mr. President (no puns intended).

How much longer can he go without?

Can it be possible that he’s escaping to Florida and other places where he can get his “fix?”  If so, how long can that secret be kept?

I’m hopeful that Melania will keep him from getting his fix by being vigilant.  If she realizes she can be that much more powerful if he gets hungry, then that might encourage her.  Of course, the downside to this plan is that she has to, well, “feed” him on occasion, and that could interfere with anyone’s appetite.

Anyway, stay tuned, and enjoy the show.  It’s better than facing reality at the moment.

Who moved my Jam

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We have a morning ritual, I make breakfast.  It’s simple, and I have a system.

Where did it go?

Except.

Every now and then I reach into the fridge to grab the jar of home-made jam for our home-made bread.  Yum yum.

If it’s where it’s supposed to be, I can get it with my eyes closed.

If it’s not there, I have to start looking.  And looking.  And looking.

While I’m searching the shelves, bottom to top, front to back, I think about our brains.  I know, it sounds gross, but it keeps my mind off the lost jam!

After all, this is her fridge.  She uses it way more than I do.  She may have had a good reason for moving the jam.  She may not have even thought about it.

But there’s also that man woman thing.  After all, we know women are more likely to use landmarks for navigation, give directions using relative movements, and are much better suited to shopping and gathering versus targeting and hunting.

Of course these are gross generalities, but I’m still looking for that jam!

This isn’t saying that the way a woman organizes, or looks for things is bad, or good.  It’s just different.

  1. The good thing about the way a woman stores things is that it forces local familiarization.  She notices when that old store has changed its awning.  I didn’t even know it had an awning.
  2. It’s harder to become disoriented, especially when you’re juggling so many other tasks.  Kids screaming, you dropped the purse, and a friend just yelled at you from behind?  No problem, you still know you’re by the library heading to the drugstore.
  3. It’s easier to give directions to another person, like a friend who is also shopping.  A woman can say, “Go to the shoe store that’s next to the record store.”  The man would have to say, “Go 2 blocks North then turn East one block, North one more block and West 4 blocks and it’ll be the 5th store on the South side of the street.”

All said and done, the woman’s way requires more brain power.  That’s probably why men don’t like it.

It’s also probably why I can’t find the jam.  I’ll ask my wife when she comes down.  For now, I’ll start making toast.

Just Desserts

There are some French shows where dessert is the only thing on the menu.  These shows are at a higher level than what we’re used to seeing from other countries, because, well, IT’S FRANCE!

More to the point, little morsels of gastronomic delight can teach us more than making our saliva glands go into overdrive.

Here’s the short form:

  • Quality ingredients,
  • High standards in all areas,
  • Mastery of technique in everything,
  • Pride in one’s profession, knowing how to work as a team member, knowing how to be a leader, knowing how to handle stress, and always being supportive of others whether they are your competitor or teammate,
  • Either having the best tool for the job, or knowing how to compensate
  • Paying attention to all the senses, in visual aesthetics, variety of textures, the impact of flavors upon the tongue and the nose, and perhaps the most important,
  • Knowing how to savor all this work in small amounts.

 

How can all of this come about from one small tasty morsel?

Strangely enough, it does.  It’s all a matter of looking deep into the eyes of your culinary delight, understanding everything that goes into it, closing your eyes, and…

… letting your palate do the rest.

Bon Appétit

 

Facts is Facts

Somebody once said, “Facts is Facts” way back in the mists of time.

This is a terrible definition, because it points to itself as the definition, making this a terrible definition, because it points to itself… oops.  Caught in my own loop.

This whole “what is a fact?” broohaha came about most recently because our current leaders love to debate at the level of a 5 year old.  Was to! Was not! Was to! Was not!

In the shortest form possible, a fact is simply a statement we agree with.  If you and I are talking, and the sun is out, and you say “beautiful sunny day” it is well within my scientific right to say “that’s a fact!”  And I would.

Many great definitions can be found online.  Facts are scientifically proven.  Facts can be verified.  Facts have overwhelming supporting evidence.  Here’s the problem.  Each of these deeper, better, definitions require more work.  And we don’t like to work.

Not only do we not like working, but as of today, we don’t have a system for cataloging statements on any kind of “fact” scale.  Oh, some brilliant minds may be working on it, but they aren’t telling the politicians.  I can’t blame them.

However, we need to have this building block in place if we are to truly make progress in understanding behavior, especially behavior.  It’s easy to believe that a boulder is harder than a politician’s head.  If someone doesn’t accept this as a fact, we have two options.

First option: get a boulder, grab a politician (you have to grab because they never volunteer for anything) and run the test.  Record the results, and discuss.

The second way is to extend other facts to this new fact.  Other facts include:

  • Boulders are rocks
  • Rocks are harder than bone
  • test on large bones (from animals that aren’t currently using them) shows that the rock can break the bone.

From the above, “basic” or “direct” facts, we can extend our knowledge to a “higher” or “derived” fact.  A boulder will crush a politician’s skull.  I still prefer the first method; only because it will give us a direct fact.

So, this holiday season, when you’re sitting around with friends and relatives you only see once a year, and you’re discussing some heated topic, ponder the lowly facts that you will be bandying about so easily.  It’s likely that much of your energy is really being spent on facts that really aren’t.

Of course, getting Uncle Bob to stop rattling on about Creationism in the face of dinosaurs and continental drift isn’t going to work.  So I prefer to have more pie.

After all, pie is pie.  And that’s a fact!

 

Pastry Insights

Look into my eyes.  Can you see my soul?

Now listen carefully, can you hear my stomach?

If you answered no to the first question and yes to the second, then you’re on your way to becoming a good skeptical inquirer of human behavior.

We’re not even sure if we can define the soul.  Someday I’ll get around to it, but now there’s more important work to be done.

For I love dessert.  And there’s a good chance that you do, too.

The best desserts in the world come from France.  Have a problem with that statement?  Let’s fight it out.  Preferably over cafe and a mont blanc.

Here’s some of my best evidence, a French contest for the best pastry chef in that country.  We’ve watched three seasons so far.  It’s incredible.

This is a culture that puts a high priority on quality ingredients in small amounts.  They prioritize taste first, technique second, and aesthetics third.  But their standards in all those areas are much higher than, say, in the USA.

They have fun in the area of competition.  There is respect shown in the arena among competitors, and much greater respect shown to judges.  Judges not only act as the experts who are not challenged, but also as mentors; they help the contestants during the shows.

Finally, these contestants have dignity in work ethic and chosen profession.  These are people who may only be 21 years old, yet have 7 years of experience working in a restaurant or pastry shop.  They are proud to be in the profession.  It’s a profession that they can make a decent living, raise a decent family, and have a decent life.  There is no “get rich quick” scheme, and no “exit strategy” to go along.  Just hard work and good products.

I can remember a time when the USA had many of the same ethical standards, but they seem to be lacking today.  I haven’t watched a US based cooking contest for some time, but they don’t seem to breath the same air as these French programs.

Watch if you dare, they are guaranteed to make you hungry.  Warning: No English subtitles.  It’s more fun if you understand the French, but it’s not necessary.

Bon appetit!

 

Messy Messy Mother Nature

My friends,

Consider, if you will, the platypus.

An animal concocted of many parts: bird, turtle, otter, kangaroo, and who knows how many others.

Or take the common ant, available in so many varieties and colors.  Or the banana slug, or jellyfish.

Each in their own right is a thing of beauty, a thing wrought of nature.  A thing that should be the very essence of beauty in the eyes of their queen, or mother, or lover.

For us, they can be an abomination.  How can anyone, or thing, love a spider?

To be a true scientist, especially in biology or behavior, one must accept that all things natural are, in fact, beautiful as well.*

Here’s a fun but seemingly unrelated fact: My company manufactures natural soap.

So what! you say.  What? is this some kind of subliminal advert? you protest.  Your eyes are already getting ready to close this window.  But wait!**

What I’ve learned in making our soap is that the chemical reactions are vastly more complex than we understand.  In fact, what passes for soap in today’s society is a chemical detergent.  Highly engineered chemicals that are extremely efficient at removing oils and water from your skin.

Because they are so efficient, people also buy lotion to try and re-oil and re-moisturize that very skin.

In natural soap, anyone’s natural soap, lotion and lots of other re-moisturizers are already there.  It turns out that Mother Nature makes tens, if not hundreds, of different compounds during the soap making process.

Here’s my point.  When you put together a species, or when you combine natural compounds and make soap, the outcome is not clean and neat.  It’s messy.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Then how does Mother Nature check her own work?  Is there some way that she tests her products for “doneness” in order to make sure her improvements are greater than her mistakes?

Some people don’t think Mother Nature ever tests for improvements, but I think she does.  That’s why life may have started out as one celled plants, but has ultimately peaked with mankind.  If you’re not a fan of man, then maybe you’ll agree the peak was dinosaurs.  No matter. Overall, Mother Nature makes things better.

How she does this, and what it means for you and me, I’ll discuss tomorrow.  For now, I suggest you go and get some natural soap.  It’s good for you.

 

 

 

*We’re going to skip a definition of beauty for now.  If you want an essay on the essence of beauty, and a definition that can cross cultures, clades, and countless centuries, feel free to ask!

**I’m only bringing up the soap bit to make a point.  This is not an advert!  If you want validation of this statement, however, I will provide a hint.  Search for “Uncle Earl’s Soap.”