come the end of knowledge

Death of Knowledge; book, Cut, death, knife, knowledge, stab
Eric Smith (2007)

If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis that all things are made of atoms - little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling on being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.
- Richard Feynman

Asked some mates what single piece of information they would pass on were all modern knowledge destroyed. Was hoping their answers would reveal something essential about them, but I did expect some trolling too - which can anyway also be essential. (JH: "Careful now that swan could break your arm".)

CW: "Eat lots of veg."

RM: "Either that the Earth is spherical and 4.5 billion years old [cheat!] or that all people are descended from a common ancestor and any genetic difference between them is superficial. I'm not sure which would do more good."

CR: "Wear sunscreen"

SS: "π is an irrational number. Don't worry about finishing it."

JM: "I'd tell them directions to a place. We would rebuild there. It would be like Thunderdome."

MR: "Dunno. What I've been told: hold your beliefs lightly."

NM: "Maybe I would pass on that there is a large hairy humanoid in the North American forests. And from then on, Bigfoot would be considered factual and hard to disbelieve as there are very many similar species that are proven to exist. Furthermore I would say to them that weed is a fine herbal medicinal remedy. Which in many ways it is!"

JMcL: "Desiderata".

I love the existential ones, but would probably opt for something practical like "Invisibly tiny creatures cause most disease, and soap kills them." or "Rotate your fucking crops, guys!"


CW and BC wondered what was so great about Feynman's pick (charged atomic theory). I agree it's not obvious or instantly practical (atomism only became useful in like 1803 in our timeline, after all.) But the wee qualitative sentence above implies reductionism, which attitude eventually gets you proper quant chemistry, medicine, engineering. And there's a few things you could deduce without much apparatus, like Boyle's law, Proust's law etc. So it maybe saves them a few thousand years.

Of course, you can then question whether getting ourselves massive instrumental power all over again is necessarily the safest move, given that the bulk of the lethal global risks we face comes from our own activity...


BC: "Always back up your work."

houmous and a handful of pills

An update on the old better-living-through-chemistry regimen. I now take 12 pills -mostly just nutrients, but still enough to unnerve people. It freaks them out less when I mention the red wine, green tea, and chocolate that form the core of the therapy first. (Not coincidentally, those are three quite intense foods.) Folk find the mere daily regularity of it all about as unsettling as its unnatural substance.

I have to take these jitters seriously because I'm not in the business of making veganism look hard, and thereby letting people off: all any vegan needs to thrive is B12 fortified food and a very varied diet. The rest, below, is a hobby, a nerdy attempt at optimising my shiz. For the incorrigible hippies amongst you, I've given wholefood alternatives where they exist.

In a day, then:

  • 100ml matcha green tea (10x the polyphenols of ordinary green tea. Shitloads of catechins, 140mg caffeine, 100mg theanine). What for? There's a raft of weak results: cholesterol down, metabolism up, diabetes risk down, breast and prostate cancer down. But the nootropic effect is very well established (especially when one tweaks the natural order with an extra 150mg theanine).
  • 50g of 85% cocoa chocolate (for flavanols). What for? Strong evidence that flavanols prevent heart disease, and some indication that it's nootropic.
  • 50g brazil nuts once a week (for selenium)
  • 200g of kale twice a week (for calcium, iron, vit A)
  • Wine, vegan red. What for? Fun. Also a toast to the idea of resveratrol.

  • 25µg Vitamin D. Fun fact: perhaps half the world is deficient. What for? If some studies are to be believed, it's for everything. Bone health, anti-cancer, "all-cause mortality", and, strangest, stopping old people from falling over.
    (Hippies: move somewhere sunny.)
  • 0.1mg vitamin B12. Classic. What for? As well as stopping one from dying, there's been some buzz around it being neuroprotective and anti-Alzheimer's.
    (Hippies: Nutritional yeast.)
  • 1g omega-3 (EPA & DHA). All the linseed I'd been eating was missing the point: it supplies only the smallest omega-3, ALA. Luckily a vegan source of the better, larger ones was invented recently. What for? Take it for mood, heart disease, and nerve function, rather than the trumped-up IQ business of yesteryear.
    (Hippies: there's no wholefood source except one specific kind of algae - which this is)
  • 1g Acetyl l-carnitine. Vegists are in relative deficiency (perhaps 1/4 of omnivore levels).
    What for? Protein and fat metabolism? Some evidence of nootropic effect.
    (Hippies: Nope, fraid not.)
  • 1g choline. Another essential nutrient, but, as a kind of fat, it's unfashionable. What for?
    (Hippies: lots of cauliflower will do you.)
  • 5g creatine. Yup, the bodybuilder's nonsense. We only get about half our needs de novo.
    What for? Muscular integrity and endurance. Vegists get a distinct mental/affective boost off it.
    (Hippies: Nope, fraid not.)

  • 250mg Rhodiola rosea. A herb, a so-called "adaptogen", but one with some science to it. It apparently tackles the chemical causes (cortisol) of stress and related fatigue.
  • 500mg Bacopa monnieri. Along with green tea and rhodiola, here's one more (rare) vindication for traditional medicine. (Ancient Indian, in this case). Solid double-blind reports of remarkable effects on long-term memory.
  • 5mg selegiline. Rather a different beast from those ye olde herbes!

All together now:


(Though if I keep reading David Pearce essays who knows where I'll end up?)

cheap mental health

my people are as they are
because they shrink from those
small sources of cheap mental health
that are available to things like us:

exercise, stupid art,
bold conjectures, pissing outside,
uppers, group affiliation,
coupling, writing about yourself,
laughter, early nights,
framing one's pain as the small pain it is,
eating right, and embodying your morals.

(all otherwise called


a tragedy [is] a human interaction in which both antagonists are,
arguably, in the right
- David Mamet

for justice harden your heart.
hurry away; hang the dj.
this town we've shorn of innocence.

take turns for injustice,
that how it works?
in this town the shit clings readily.

the definite fire, the ridden tiger,
doggy shame in my dog soul
in this town I'm shamed and unashamed

(but then again, too few to mention)

I disappoint; please
imagine the depth of my disappointment with you
this town soon shot of me.


so the sad sadden,
the bitter embitter,
the stressed bestow distress.

but the inspired do inspire
and at least half of the time
love does not strangle!

Poem inscribed on some Undies

[Right cup]
You are my wild orchids;
you were my deep confusion.
you soothe and, better, kill
the prude, the prig and puritan I am.
you dance though asleep,
off line in lieu.

[Left cup]
I bear the happy cross self-expression;
I welcome piercing - but shy from mother's mind,
pert haptics & most people most times.
I fill finery because nothing
else makes sense, or rings out
so sweetly above the racket of time.

I am what goes beneath,
closer to the middle
of an unpretending life -
and, in our instance,
closer even to the heart.
right in the thicket of it.

no man is a AAA nation

I should like distinguish myself & Scotland. But can I?
Seems easy: he, Scotland, is thirty-thousand miles big
& likes oil, bankers, and distorting history;
I, Nemo, am a hundred percent nothing
& like sunlight, empiricism and meat-free things.
But I am belched forth from him,
filled with his faults and his smells I cannot smell,
and we both say we crave independence,
(though mine's from Britain and Scotland both).


LISTEN: 'Chop My Money' (2011), by P-square, feat. Akon & May D

Sexual corruption - cos I'd kill anyone for your time."

God, how deliriously unpleasant is this? 'Chop My Money' distils all the helplessly evil symbolism from our club hits, delivers it concentrated. Things indirectly championed in R&B (the blaming and objectification of women; the naked materialism and unbridled egoism) are here openly endorsed, with a smile, ten hooks, and a ready-made irresistible dance move.

On first listen you could mistake it for a lovely Beatlesy theme - "oh, just take the money - I don't care about it...only you." The actual story: "you, girl, are desired by many. Go out with me; I have more money than them. I have so much money that it doesn't matter that you are a grasping she-devil; I am confident my balance will soak up your avarice. Again: I don't care ...cos I gettin plenty."

I took the line at 1:40 to be the baffling, terrifying: "You know dem believers gonna die, die-e-i..." - which made the song's nihilism a more general and inspired sort, as if the narrator's lust and materialism had turned antitheistic - but it turns out to be much less interesting than that ("You no gon' believe, this girl na die, die-e-i..."). Still such smiling brutality!

The Marxian theory of marriage (that monogamous couples are constructions for maximising productivity, subordinating women, and ensuring property rights; that wives have generally been domestic slaves and a socially acceptable kind of prostitute) sounds strange at first. But don't P-square give us here a direct expression of it? "Even though I make real dough, you're the reason there'll be more." (There's also a charming money-sex identity at the end of May D's slightly naff bolt-on verse: "And when I’m done, done / Tell me if you want some more baby.")

I like May D's Yoruba bit: "Farabale ko ma lo le / Omo ele I get pepper / Je n ba e soro, kilon sele", but it's just more of the same "Relax! Baby, I earn money" stuff.
I really hope the phrase "Chop My Money" is just a nonsense idiom they've invented (Nigeria being one of the main sites where Global English dies and is reborn). I don't want to think about anyone ever saying it to their lover sincerely, in disquotation.
I probably wouldn't care so much were it less catchy. A lot of contemporary Afropop (and globalised pop in general) shares its nasty worldview, but only a few songs speak the universal language Crossover Hook Magic. ('Chop My Money' was pretty big in the UK for a couple of weeks last year.) It sucks to force one's feet to think again, but the alternative is not on.