Welcome to this podcast about taking stock, moving on and moving up. Before we dive in, I wanted to take a moment to appreciate how amazing you’ve been as an audience. The podcast is going from strength to strength, growing in reach each day. Our top 3 episodes of all time are now, in third place, How to Research Anything in Life Science, in second place, The Anatomy of Getting into Science, and in first place, Indefinite Health with Dr Aubrey de Grey.

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Timestamps

 

Something very unprecedented happened… 0:47

I was actually gobsmacked that it was basically not even visible… 4:12

I also featured in Nokia’s TV and magazine ads… 10:00

she broke down clumps of salt in a very large container by repeatedly and forcefully hitting it against the counter… 14:38

You are not paid to give up your personhood and mind. Those are yours… 23:27

 

 

Script

 

♪ tune

 

Intro

Hi guys, how’s it going? Did you know the larger females of Kobudai fish turn into males on their 10th birthday? Didn’t see that coming, did ya? ♪ tune

 

Long time, no problem

Welcome to this podcast about taking stock, moving on and moving up. Before we dive in, I wanted to take a moment to appreciate how amazing you’ve been as an audience. The podcast is going from strength to strength, growing in reach each day. Our top 3 episodes of all time are now, in third place, How to Research Anything in Life Science, in second place, The Anatomy of Getting into Science, and in first place, Indefinite Health with Dr Aubrey de Grey.

Our top location is still Blackheath in London, England. Thank you so much and remember to write a review of how much you love the show. Runners up include Mauldin in South Carolina, and back in England we have Islington, Cambridge, City of Westminster, Maidenhead and Norwich. You’re the best. Shout out also to Boardman in Oregon, Columbus in Ohio and also Vienna!

This episode is unprecedented. Something very unprecedented happened, which is that I wrote about 2,500 words for a new episode that was going to be entitled Rona Rules, and I really mulled over it for longer and longer and longer – and guess what? I am not going to publish it. It’s the first episode that I have prepared and written and edited and re-edited and in the end I will not do it.

I don’t like it. It panders to some pointless stories and it’s laden with confusion rather than clarity. It’s like a closed maze where no route leads to anywhere because it doesn’t have an exit in the first place.
However it would be rude to leave it without closure, so here it is.

 

0.027%

The control measures forced in the name of a pandemic are disproportionate. The activities of the centralised media to regurgitate emotions of fear are inappropriate. However, we can sympathise with the overlords that have felt it necessary to do all this, because we do deep down agree that the old education system was broken, the old economic system was broken, the old governments were broken, the old lifestyle was broken and the old work life was broken.

So we subconsciously welcomed the opportunity forced upon us to change, to change work, to change lifestyle, to change education.

But my closure is here, and it boils down to a singular fact. Yes, shutting down everyone’s life is entirely disproportionate to a health concern that has not killed 99.97% of the world’s people. There are no other facts. This is the long and short of it from a political point of view. There is no hidden alternative fact, either. This is plastered in centralised media like the BBC. It is not a question of the numbers as facts, it is a question of presenting facts and interpreting facts. Now that is the hard job. But, try this: take the official total global deaths figure which as of now is 2.1 million people.

The centralied media publishes this number without any context. On its own 2.1 million to most people’s minds, outside of context, is a very large number. Here is how I would present this. Get the total global population, as of now 7 billion and 800 million, 7.8 billion or 7,800 millions, and obtain a percentage of deaths. This comes to 0.027%. In other words, if you live in a town of 100,000 people, you will have had fewer than 27 associated deaths. If you live in a large city of 350,000 you will have had fewer than 95 deaths. This is based on the official figures. They simply need to be presented correctly rather than incorrectly. pull up excel or similar software, and plug in these percentages, 0.027% and 99.973% and insert a pie chart.

When I tried to do this, the wedge of the pie chart for the number of deaths was so thin, that it did not appear on the graph at all. It was in fact invisible entirely. In classical statistics the sample size assumed for 100% usability of the data is very high at 10,000. Most experiments or trials cannot get anywhere near this number. 10,000 tests, 10,000 patients, 10,000 anything. So if we know that the official figure is in the millions, then statistically this is extremely useful because we know it’s likely to be globally the truth and more or less objective reality, which mean this is the rate. This is the real rate. It is virtually zero. The official figure that you are given, when plotted as a percentage, is zero. Go on, try it yourself. When I did it, I expected it to be at least a very thin sliver. I was actually gobsmacked that it was basically not even visible. It’s invisible. There is no line. No pixels, nothing, it’s practically zero. That, to me, is as clear as 1, 2, 3.

The only other fact that one may be inclined to summon is the fact that what you focus on grows – this is how centralised media works. It doesn’t reflect real actual reality but it creates something in your mind – and here’s where it gets powerful , it creates something in your mind that is also in everyone else’s mind. Protect your mind it is powerful and it can touch both your life and others lives. If you neglect to take care of your own thoughts – accept that someone else will take that precious mind estate.

And now let me move on to what I do want to focus on and grow, which is networks, education, people, health. Exams have been cancelled for the second year in a row. It is safe to say that exams will never take place again. Exams are no longer a thing. and, again, we wanted this, remember? Re,member how we always complained about exams being silly and unfair somehow? Well, here you have it. Exams are dead.

They are replaced by some nebulous concept currently called teacher assessment which is basically a child version of networking. As an adult much success is derived from emulating and impressing the people that you want to become your mentors, or welcome you into their industry, etc.

I engaged in much of this activity, that others would fondly refer to as ass kissing. Writing essays and talking about how desperate I was to be given an internship, how crazy I was about pipetting tiny volumes of liquid – yes, really.
So for your listening pleasure with some trickles of cringe, I will share two documents that I stumbled upon in my ancient document trove that I wrote for SENS Research Foundation after they rejected my first application. This was my second application the following year – yes, kids, an A* or a 9 or 100% or whatever is still not good enough because the treasures were sold out long ago and most people’s education has inflated enormously. There are no prizes for grades or certificates, it’s a wild west of taking things into your own hands and showing initiative.

So, no, it wasn’t enough getting an A, it wasn’t enough doing a degree, getting 96% on my modules, none of that was particularly good enough for anything because most jobs including research jobs are more about work experience and network and less about your pieces of paper.

SRF needed two essays from me, a personal statement and a scientific statement. Here is the personal statement, coming up next.

 

I Am Good Enough

Tell us a little about yourself, your personality, your interests, and your career goals. Limit 800 words.

I spent the summer living some of my best to date achievements, including getting my full driving licence, meeting YouTube celebrity Hannah Hart, and finding last minute tickets to see the USA and Japan play it out in the women’s football final at the Olympics. I also featured in Nokia’s TV and magazine ads promoting their new Lumia range running Windows Phone 8. By the way, Windows Phone 8 is no longer… Yep.. No, Windows Phone 8 is not a thing for ages now. Yet the most important achievement of all came in the form of an email from Dr Cara Vaughan offering me work experience in her laboratory. It was not for long and it was not paid, but it was the only thing I wanted it to be: absolutely enjoyable and satisfying in a way I have found nothing else to be.

The work of SRF is bold and infused with the unrivalled passion of Dr Aubrey de Grey. Watching him debate others and present his ideas, as well as reading Ending Aging, have immediately recruited me as an advocate and hopeful SRF research scientist. There are few other causes as worthy and imminent as increasing people’s healthy lifespan. I am very familiar with the way in which the mainstream attempts to marginalise ground-breaking approaches, thoughts and attitudes, and the way in which they eventually get accepted and become the new mainstream.

Such phenomena can be seen all across societies regarding matters such as religion, sex and politics. As a gay atheist I was faced with a reality wholly different to my own when I lived in Romania as a child and young teenager. So deciding to tackle aging as a disease, rather than focus on more short-sighted and easier goals, came very naturally, after being used to dealing with great opposition on a daily basis. SRF is seen as unconventional and has something to prove, and I certainly want to be part of that.

I am an entrepreneur and have always believed that one’s time and energy are better assets than one’s money. I also believe in never stopping learning, and accepting challenges that are inevitably peppered on the road to achieving your aims. So when I was faced with the stinging reality of today’s graduate employment prospects, […and that was then. That was 2012. So, I think that economic crisis is kind of… nothing really, compared to what we’re going through right now. And it’s quite shocking that… certain generations are having to kind of deal with the effects of both of these things. And… are we gonna catch a break?] as well as the pressure of A levels for many students, I decided to make a difference to some people’s lives by creating The A Level Biologist. I’ve learnt, and am still learning, about web hosting and development, marketing and social media, self-employment, revenues, affiliations and collaborations. Yet at the heart of it are the simple matters of sharing knowledge and helping others.

Visiting the USA is something I have never done, and something I have always looked forward to. Its scientific, technological and entrepreneurial prowess have inspired me and drawn me towards it to consider it as a study or job destination. OK… This throws me back to being in Syracuse in New York State one winter, under Trump’s administration and I thought I was going to be stuck there, becaus that was just as he announced the ban on people travelling in from certain countries. So there were protests at the airport and there was dep snow on the roads and I just felt like, am I going to be able to get out of here? And I think that was the last time I actually was in the US. And I was left with this feeling of “Why would I wanna come here?” Like, no way! You know… So that changed. SRF is the biggest thing I am considering for my career, and I would happily make it my life’s work.

 

I Am Good Enough but in Blue

Discuss why you would like to be part of SENS Research Foundation’s summer internship program, how much you expect you could contribute to research on the application of regenerative medicine to the diseases of aging, and how your existing lab experience will help you. Explain that previous experience in detail. Limit 1200 words.

Unlike any other internship program, SRF’s summer internship program is geared towards the research areas and aims directly targeted at regenerative medicine. This makes it top of my list in terms of keeping my interest high for the long term, and providing an opportunity to make a real difference within SRF itself as well as the wider community. Working for SRF is without doubt the future I see for myself.

The SRF internship caught my eye the moment it launched last year, so naturally I keenly applied. I was amazed when I was offered an interview, disappointed when I didn’t make it through to the internship, and hopeful when I was guaranteed a SRF grant. Due to the limitations of the research opportunities available to undergraduates in the UK, I could not have made best use of the grant, so didn’t claim it, and instead decided to focus on bettering myself for the following year. I was told the reason behind my failure lay in my relative lack of experience. In current economic conditions, internships and work experience were, and still are, hard to come by.

Nonetheless I researched, and applied to, countless internships and work experience opportunities. In August 2012, just several days after my birthday, I finally received an offer for work experience from Dr Cara Vaughan. It turned out to be the best late birthday present ever.

In Dr Cara Vaughan’s lab, I experienced protein purification procedures closely, and enjoyed putting my skills to the test while learning on the go. I did not tire of creating and preparing gels for electrophoresis [This is really funny. This is one of the really tedious tasks in a lab and, you know, really good labs with money, they just buy these gels ready made for £5 a gel, you know. No one spends their time just preparing gels, you know. The highly educated, skilled, brilliant scientists should not be doing this but… This is what I was talking about here.] as well as loading and running the gel itself, or meticulously measuring out for the nutrient broth in 12 giant flasks for bacteria to carry out transformation. Again this is another really menial thing that a lot of people end up doing, where it’s kind of more menial and boring than like, food prepping. Like, you literally just measure out 5 grams of yeast extract and add it to a flask. And then you measure out 10 grams of salt and ad it to a flask, and then you measure out 1 gram of something else and add it to a flask. And the you do that for 12 flasks. And the you clean the flasks. Twice a week, weekly, that’s just what you do, over and over and over again. I welcomed a newfound fascination with the ways in which physics sits at the heart of biological experimentation as I experienced sonication and the AKTA purifier. Nothing felt like a chore to me – from lab safety and waiting times, to marking test tubes and reading protocols. They’re all talented musicians in a beautifully synchronised orchestra.

Ever since I first entered a lab and came out with a cloned cauliflower or my DNA in a vial tied around my neck, I have not second guessed my goal in life is to be a research scientist. Now this is really funny because kids don’t get to do experiments anymore in these conditions, and back then I thought cloning a cauliflower or extracting my DNA was like, a silly, very lame excuse for an experiment, it was just what kids do and it’s not what real scientists do. And it’s just like a fake, not very valid version of science or an experiment. And… to the kids that don’t get to do that anymore now, cloning a cauliflower or extracting your own DNA is actually really amazing. How amazing would it be to do that? The deeper I peeked into the most advanced research techniques, the more in love I fell with science – not as a mere figure of speech. Using a micropipetter is a very basic aspect of lab work. To me, it’s a little more than that. I view it with the amazed eyes of a child who realises the beauty and power of science for the first time, yet execute it with the commitment of a lifetime worker.

Throughout my studies so far, I have experienced a large variety, as well as depth, of lab work. Very recently I have made up countless solutions, run enzyme assays using a spectrophotometer (with variations of pH, substrate addition, EDTA treatment, and Mg2+ and Zn2+ additions), prepared many slides of fungi, mosses, protozoa, algae and other plants, and analysed them under a light microscope. I also cultured bacteria and counted resulting colonies, and compared growth in different soil environments created in Petri dishes. That I later was going to find out people call them plates. No one calls them Petri dishes, they’re called plates. This is one of those… This is what they teach you – really, if you end up doing it, it’s got a totally different name. But they’re not Petri dishes, they’re plates.

After graduation I intend to pursue a PhD on one of the many current active areas of research pertinent to the goal of SRF, such as the alternative lengthening of telomeres. Postgraduate study has always been my top academic ambition, as I believe it can place me in an excellent position to contribute to rejuvenation biotechnology research of paramount importance. My experience shadowing PhD student Katie O’Dwyer has informed me greatly of the conditions, perks and hurdles of this degree, so I am confident I have the determination and skills to prepare well for such an undertaking, and to be ultimately successful. Well… that didn’t happen like that.

I believe my contribution to SRF’s research would be highly committed, in terms of both learning and working. When one puts passion into their work, it cannot fail – that’s something I stick to. Despite my immovable dedication to, and belief in my tasks, I also make sure to add a dose of open-mindedness and flexibility to my approach, and readily recognise better options, whether they are mine or not. Now, truth be told, I think there was a section somewhere talking about how you need to show teamwork, and that’s why I wrote that bit. It’s not because I actually believed it. I don’t think I truly believe that. I think I believe more in quality of work. And a lot of the time it seems to me that teamwork and trying to compromise, “Oh, what do you think? Let’s do it both ways” absolutely hurts quality of work, and I’m just like I want it to be done to a high standard – if that means one person laser focused on the task, then that’s much better than teamwork; so I didn’t really believe that. No, I don’t think so. Especially in something like research, it’s kind of a lonely, laser-focused, individualistic, perhaps egotistical activity. Maybe.

In working for SRF my existing lab – lag, yes, lagging – experience would prove a great help, both because of specific technical experience and theoretical knowledge, as well as experience of the practical reality of lab work. I was made even more aware of the latter when PhD student Katie O’Dwyer revealed the requirement for a common sense approach when she broke down clumps of salt in a very large container by repeatedly and forcefully hitting it against the counter.

And that’s my scientific statement, 2012. I’ll now leave u with a final anecdote and post-scriptum rant that I hope you can forgive me for.

 

Floods and Tears

I took the train from Norwich to Cambridge just after the Christmas days. My sister took a walk by the city river the previous days. Many people posted pictures of different parts of the city and neighbouring regions onto a Facebook group. My mum’s friend sent her a picture of a modern development on the outskirts of Cambridge. All flooded. I looked out the train window at the massive lake just next to the tracks. It never used to exist. Fields, all puddled up. I was lucky to be on the train. Cars, half-buried by water. Just… floods.

The grounds of a top city school, flooded. I remember in the summer the kids could not do PE because it was so hot outside, so they sat down below the trees instead. Scorched in summer, drowned in winter.

An update on the flood topic….. recently we did get a flood alert and there was a twitter ad going round with a cartoon of two people leaving their flooded home carrying two suitcases with all their belongings, basically swimming through the sea building up in front of their house. It was a very chill add, basically saying very logically to not panic, just keep calm and carry on your suitcase as your home is wrecked. Notice how cool and calm this message is about literally losing your home and becoming a climate refugee; and how and and how scary the media is about literally an infection that barely kills anyone at all.

Think about that for a second. Lose your home and become a climate refugee or catch a flu that will definitely not kill you? Stay calm about losing your home and drowning or at least losing your possessions and comfort; or completely demolish civilization because of an infection? Switch off your devices, kids, centralised media is a dangerous power – don’t forget this. This is the news, the radio, all of it, The A Level Biologist Podcasts too. Keep your mind to yourself. Own your mind, it is yours.

Some very good healthcare professionals do this thing when they inject you or draw blood. They gently scratch the skin right next to the draw site. This masks the sensation that you would have felt from the injection. So, like that scratch, the incessant robot lady on the train that repeats that you have to wear a mask is trying to draw your gaze away from the cataclysm before your own eyes; to muddy your brain so you neglect to think about your tanking home value and the grim prospects of your life’s work.

The robot voice lady is not human. I was blessed to encounter a real human on a train. The conductor, she did her job of saying what she needed to say on the channels. When did we agree that our jobs included giving up our own personhood and mind? Her job is to make the train move, not to own your thoughts. We no longer even question the concept that one channel owns everything. She did her job, even though it wasn’t actually her job, of piping scripted messages over the channels. This is really, funny, if you travel to poorer countries you will the same messages but like Chinese whispers, somewhat different.

Essentially, its very obvious that the messaging is passed down from some centralised higher source and trickles down into poorer countries and weaker governments. For example, you have messages about preventing terrorism in places that have never and will never deal with this particular issue. Similarly, now there are pandemic messages in places that simply have nothing to do with it.

The wording is awkward when translated into different language, the messages become somewhat warped and diluted. but when she showed up in the flesh, in my carriage where I sat with a family of 5, exhausted, the father half asleep, the little kids running around, neither parents wearing a mask; the conductor did not stiffen up, eject her soul from her body, and interrogate us about supposedly having been naughty. She smiled at the kids and asked them if they were excited for Christmas. If they were prepared to meet father Christmas. If they had been good. She went down the carriage and then on her way back talked to the kids again.

Many of us will have been in the awkward situation of being forced to do something that goes against our will. You must ask people to wear a mask. You must ask people to do this. You must implement these new rules. And we would have felt uncomfortable because we wanted to please our boss, colleague or company. And yet it felt clearly wrong.

So here is a reminder: you are paid to do your job. You are not paid to give up your personhood and mind. Those are yours. So if you’re comfortable making a stand, and this will be few people, then say: “You pay me to do X. You don’t own my person and my mind. Those are mine.”

 

Outro

Thanks for listening, and remember… At -196C they freeze, glass-like. Once cryogenically frozen, an egg will age just a single second over 10,000 years. Byeeee ♪ tune