Eating Predictions Miss the Mark

We all think about the future and what it will bring for us, our children and our grandchildren. Some even make bold predictions about the future. If we were asked 10 or 20 years ago what we expected in the year 2020, we might have guessed that we’d all be eating synthetic food pills and being served by robot butlers.

Nikola Tesla, the electricity wizard, predicted in 1937 that “within a century, coffee, tea and tobacco will be no longer in vogue.” Alcohol, however, “will still be used,” he claimed. “It is not a stimulant but a veritable elixir of life.” Tobacco use has plunged, but coffee and tea are going strong. Tesla also warned against chewing gum, claiming it could cause “exhaustion of the salivary glands, put[ting] many a foolish victim into an early grave.”

In 2005 futurist and computer scientist Ray Kurzweil predicted that eating will no longer be necessary.
“Nanobots capable of entering the bloodstream to ‘feed’ cells and extract waste will exist (though not necessarily be in wide use). They will make the normal mode of human food consumption obsolete,” he wrote. Maybe that’s a good idea, but it’s likely none of us ever thought “this meal would be so much better if it had no flavor whatsoever and it was just a tiny robot that we injected into our veins.”

Waldemar Kaempffert, a New York Times science editor, had lots of opinions about how different the world would become by 2020, especially when it came to our diets. All food, “even soup and milk,” would be delivered to our homes in the form of frozen bricks. It would never take anyone “more than half an hour to prepare … an elaborate meal of several courses.” And thanks to advances in culinary technology, it would be possible to take ordinary objects like old paper and even “rayon underwear,” and bring them to “chemical factories to be converted into candy.”

Gustav Bischoff, president of the American Meat Packers Association, had only grim forecasts for the 21st century, which he warned would involve a diet of mostly vegetables. Because of a shortage of meat, even the wealthiest people in 2020 would be forced into a life of vegetarianism. Bischoff told a New York Times reporter in 1913 that “living as the low-caste [Asian man] does now, on rice and vegetables, and, like him, slothful creatures, anemic and without initiative.” Aside from his staggering racism, Bischoff felt that the only way to save humanity was to “educate the American farmer to the necessity of raising more cattle.”

We all should have robot butlers or maids by now, right? David Eagleman, the neuroscientist and writer, says “I predicted that 20 years ago, when I was a sanguine boy loving Star Wars, and the smartest robot we have now is the Roomba vacuum cleaner.” Even though he’s holding out for robot assistants, “I won’t be surprised if I’m wrong in another 25 years. Artificial intelligence has proved itself an unexpectedly difficult problem.” As for fears that robots will soon steal all our jobs, Wired magazine isn’t too concerned. As they reported last year, “the problem we’re facing isn’t that the robots are coming. It’s that they aren’t.”

Undaunted by failed predictions of the past, some have some ideas for 2030.

Amazon is already launching drone delivery, and some believe the kitchen of tomorrow won’t need you to notice that your milk is running low or you’re almost out of beer. Containers will send out alerts, on their own, when they’re in need of replenishing.

Sean Raspet, a former flavorist-in-residence at Soylent, recently launched a new company called Nonfood that makes food entirely out of algae. As in, the gross slime that floats on the top of swamps. Pretty soon we’ll all be eating food that isn’t really food, some of which one early review reports tastes like “vinyl, and latex, and the dust of my grandfather’s ashes.” Delicious, NOT!

Six Signs May Indicate Heart Disease

One in four people in the western world die of cardiovascular disease. The importance of keeping the heart in good working order is hard to overstate. Sadly, the first sign many people have that their heart isn’t in good working order is when they have a heart attack.

Although you can’t see your heart beating in your chest — not without specialist imaging technology, at least — there are visible, external signs that can indicate if something is wrong with your heart, before you suffer from a life-changing – or ending — “cardiovascular event”.

Adam Taylor, director of the Clinical Anatomy Learning Centre and a senior lecturer at England’s Lancaster University, offers these cautions..

1. Creased earlobes. One such external indicator is diagonal creases on the earlobes – known as Frank’s sign, named after Sanders Frank, an American doctor who first described the sign. Studies have shown that there is an association with the visible external crease on the earlobe and increased risk of atherosclerosis, a disease where plaque builds up inside your arteries.

More than 40 studies have demonstrated an association between this feature of the ear and an increased risk of atherosclerosis. It is not clear what the cause of the association is, but some have postulated that it has to do with a shared embryological origin. Most recently, it has been seen that these creases are also implicated in cerebrovascular disease – disease of the blood vessels in the brain.

2. Fatty bumps. Another external indicator of heart issues is yellow, fatty bumps – known clinically as “xanthomas” – that can appear on the elbows, knees, buttocks or eyelids. The bumps themselves are harmless, but they can be a sign of bigger problems.

Xanthomas are most commonly seen in people with a genetic disease called familial hypercholesterolemia. People with this condition have exceptionally high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol – so-called “bad cholesterol”. The levels of this cholesterol are so high they become deposited in the skin. Unfortunately, these fatty deposits are also laid down in arteries that supply the heart.

The mechanism that causes these fatty deposits in tissues is understood and it holds an iconic place in medicine as it led to the development of one of the blockbuster group of drugs that reduce cholesterol: statins.

3. Clubbed fingernails. A phenomenon known as digital clubbing may also be a sign that all is not well with your heart. This is where the fingernails change shape, becoming thicker and wider, due to more tissue being produced. The change is usually painless and happens on both hands.

The reason this change indicates heart issues is because oxygenated blood is not reaching the fingers properly and so the cells produce a “factor” that promotes growth to try and rectify the issue. Clubbing of the fingers is the oldest known medical symptom. It was first described by Hippocrates in the fifth-century BC. This is why clubbed fingers are sometimes known as Hippocratic fingers.

4. Halo around the iris. Fat deposits may also be seen in the eye, as a grey ring around the outside of the iris, the coloured part of the eye. This so-called “arcus senilis”, starts at the top and bottom of the iris before progressing to form a complete ring. It doesn’t interfere with vision.

About 45% of people over the age of 40 have this fatty halo around their iris, rising to about 70% of people over the age of 60. The presence of this fatty ring has been shown to be associated with some of the risk factors for coronary heart disease.

5. Rotten gums and loose teeth. The state of your oral health can also be a good predictor of the state of your cardiovascular health. The mouth is full of bacteria, both good and bad. The “bad” bacteria can enter the bloodstream from the mouth and cause inflammation in the blood vessels, which can lead to cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that tooth loss and inflamed gums (periodontitis) are markers of heart disease.

6. Blue lips. Another health indicator from the mouth is the color of your lips. The lips are usually red, but they can take on a bluish color (cyanosis) in people with heart problems, due to the failure of the cardiovascular system to deliver oxygenated blood to tissues.

Of course, people also get blue lips if they are extremely cold or have been at a high altitude. In this case, blue lips are probably just due to a temporary lack of oxygen and will resolve quite quickly.

In fact, the other five symptoms — mentioned above — can also have a benign cause. But if you are worried or in doubt, you should contact your GP or other healthcare professional for an expert opinion.

The Jetsons Are Coming

You might remember George & Jane Jetson of Orbit City. The couple and their family lived in Orbit City and came to our attention in the 1962-63 television season on ABC TV. In the animated production, the Jetsons used a variety of futuristic devices, including a personal helicopter.

Workhorse Group of Cincinnati is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to begin production of its personal helicopter in 2019. Dubbed the Surefly, the two-seat device uses electric vertical takeoff and landing technology and is expected to sell for about $200,000. Test flights already are under way.

Interested customers can make a $1,000 deposit at to reserve one.

Commuters expect they can cut two-hour commutes to about 10 minutes with the Surefly, which has a cruising speed of up to 70 miles per hour. It can travel for more than two hours using battery power combined with a small engine. The device is about the size of a sedan.

Workhorse Group already produces a delivery drone, dubbed the Horsefly.

The Japanese government has launched a campaign to bring together companies and public agencies in a push to have similar vehicles aloft in the next decade. In the United States, ride service Uber announced an initiative last year to create flying vehicles.

Noise, flight paths and landing spots are among the problems posed by personal helicopters. But the time saved in commuting is likely to push the growth of the concept.