The Return of the Stoned Ape

Posted by on November 5th, 2010

Don Bastardo:  ”You want to see the work?  Fine, but you won’t understand it, and you won’t replicate it at home.  You want to speak with the dead?  What do you think you’re going to learn?”
John Reinhardt: “How to permanently change my mind.  Because the one I’ve got isn’t big enough.”

Evolutionary Psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa has recently been publishing a version of his Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis over at Psychology Today.   His theory, amongst many other things, establishes a connection between intelligence, novelity seeking and the consumption of psychoactive drugs.  Or, as the Atlantic Wire put it: “Smart People Do More Drugs — Because of Evolution.” The quick version, hopefully without boiling it down too far, is that Kanazawa believes that more intelligent individuals are better equipped to deal with novel situations – and in fact seek those situations out.   Thus, highly intelligent individuals are more likely to seek out experiences with psychoactive drugs, which are essentially novelty sinks.  He’s not claiming that this behavior has a traditionally positive effect – in fact his wording shows a pretty strong bias against psychoactive experimentation but simply that people with high IQs are more likely to seek these experiences out.  Or in his words:

People–scientists and civilians alike–often associate intelligence with positive life outcomes.  The fact that more intelligent individuals are more likely to consume alcohol, tobacco, and psychoactive drugs tampers this universally positive view of intelligence and intelligent individuals.  Intelligent people don’t always do the right thing, only the evolutionarily novel thing.

What struck me, is not that he found proof of this tendency – eyeballing the amount of Ph.D’s in the room the last time I tripped has me anecdotally primed for such a conclusion – but how interestingly it matches Terence McKenna’s “Stoned Ape” theory of human cognitive development. While history and the fields of Anthropology or Evolutionary Biology haven’t been too kind to many of McKenna’s theories over the years since he passed away, one that continually strikes me as relevant – perhaps because of my own theories of hybridization and technological development – is the Stoned Ape.

Here’s the Stoned Ape on the back of a napkin:  A series of studies in the 1950s revealed that sub-threshold (i.e. not tripping balls) doses of psilocybin resulted in heightened visual acuity and movement perception.  So, hunters would have had the ability to consume psilocybin and have an instant upgrade to their hunting abilities.  

Let’s resurrect my favourite caveman, Grok Kurzweil as an example:

Grok is a hunter, with his primitive tools and lack of developed linguistic technologies. His chief rival from some other tribe is Throgg. Grok, one day due to conditions or timing, adds the nice tasting mushroom he found under a pile of feces to his diet. Soon, Grok Kurzweil and the Kurzweil tribe is outperforming Throgg’s tribe and developing better living conditions, which as anyone not on the Texas Board of Education can tell you, theoretically resulted in more Smart-Drug using Grok Kurzweils and less Throggs. There also would have been a non-incidental amount of tripping balls. If the Stoned Ape theory is at all true, the times after hunting expeditions probably looked a lot like a shorter, hairier version of Burning Man. This resulted in linguistics skills, which in turn may have been tied to tool-making skills, which may have been tied to the proto-imagination as a targeting adaptation for throwing, which led to better conditions which led, eventually, and more recently to LOLCATS.

There’s a not-inconsiderable connection between the idea that cognition evolved hand-in-hand with exposure to psychoactively generated states of novelty and the idea that intelligence itself can be linked to an ability to “withstand” and seek out novelty.  And while Kanazawa himself doesn’t theorize on the outcomes of exposure to psychoactive drugs – and also puts forth that the use of psychoactive substances is an evolutionarily recent event – I’ve got to wonder if this avenue of research isn’t on the cusp of validating at least some of McKenna’s theories on cognitive evolution.

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Soggy Pork, it’s what vat-grown meat tastes like

Posted by on December 2nd, 2009

From The Telegraph:

Researchers in the Netherlands created what was described as soggy pork and are now investigating ways to improve the muscle tissue in the hope that people will one day want to eat it.

No one has yet tasted their produce, but it is believed the artificial meat could be on sale within five years.

Vegetarian groups welcomed the news, saying there was “no ethical objection” if meat was not a piece of a dead animal.

The scientists extracted cells from the muscle of a live pig and then put them in a broth of other animal products. The cells then multiplied and created muscle tissue. They believe that it can be turned into something like steak if they can find a way to artificially “exercise” the muscle.

The project is backed by the Dutch government and a sausage maker and comes following the creation of artificial fish fillets from goldfish muscle cells.

Which begs the question: if it’s cloned human tissue, is it still cannibalism?

Perhaps soon instead of just having them endorse food, we’ll actually be eating celebrities.

Until then, let them eat cupcakes:

thanks to Nora Wainwright for the tip-off!

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Cocoon – the cooker that grows it’s own meat

Posted by on October 4th, 2009


Winner of Electrolux’s design competition, this the Cocooon. It “would heat pre-mixed food packets containing muscle cells, oxygen and nutrients.” It would also, quite possibly, taste of despair.

Pic and quote from Daily Mail.

Hyper Fruit

Posted by on August 16th, 2009

Imaginary advertisement, via


Posted by on August 6th, 2009

Canstruction, whose motto is “one can make a difference”, is an annual international design/build competition in which architects, engineers, designers, and students compete to create and build gigantic structures made only from full cans of food. Post contest, the cans and money raised are donated to local charities.

Link and photo via

Have Sprouts, Will Travel

Posted by on June 1st, 2009

Every now and then you’ll have a conversation with someone that will actually teach you something new.

This past week’s education came in the form of Travel Sprouting.

Mr T Chia Pet…not so much what I had in mind, but it’s still rather funny

Now, growing sprouts for …”fun” or “profit”, is not a new idea, but what I learnt was that there are people who grow sprouts in their backpacks. They have a couple of ways of doing this:

The ‘Easy Sprout’

Easy Sprout is 3 1/4 inches on the bottom and 4 1/2 inches on the top. It is 7 inches tall. It has a 1 liter/quart capacity. It is made of High Density Polyethylene (Fortiflex® T50-3600 HDP) – which is one of the few non-leaching plastics. The Easy Sprout is also Kosher – we kid you not.

It came to the inventor Gene Monson in a dream in the late 1970′s and he has spent much of his life since spreading the word.

And for those who prefer something more natural:

The Hemp Bag

Just dip and hang! Made from 100% pure hemp and flax fabric for long life and durability. Won’t mold, mildew or shrink. If you can dip a tea bag you can grow sprouts! So easy to use and convenient. Ready in only 3-5 days.

Grows all grains and beans, including: green pea, mung, adzuki, red pea, wheat, rye, soy, peanut, garbanzo, fenugreek, chia, shelled sunflower.

There seems to be a fair few different types of sproutables available for the on-the-go gardener, and all with seemingly quick turn around in growing time. I don’t, however, know how travel-friendly Mr T is. Which is a shame.

Some resources should you be enchanted by the idea of having your own portable salad bar:

-> SproutPeople: awesome for easy to understand and a friendly introduction to the idea. Their quick guide to travel sprouting is a must

-> NaturallyGreen UK: good products (was recommended by the guy who introduced me to the idea)

-> When Technology Fails by Matthew Stein: excerpt on Sprouting here, but damn that book is an interesting read.

Ultra-Rare Shark Found, Eaten

Posted by on April 9th, 2009

In just a short time, one of the rarest sharks in the world went from swimming in Philippine waters to simmering in coconut milk.

The 13-foot-long (4-meter-long) megamouth shark (pictured), caught on March 30 by mackerel fishers off the city of Donsol, was only the 41st megamouth shark ever found, according to WWF-Philippines.

Fishers brought the odd creature—which died during its capture—to local project manager Elson Aca of WWF, an international conservation nonprofit.

Aca immediately identified it as a megamouth shark and encouraged the fishers not to eat it.

But the draw of the delicacy was too great: The 1,102-pound (500-kilogram) shark was butchered for a shark-meat dish called kinuout.

Link and photo via

The shark was nearly dead from being trapped in the nets anyway and there was no sense in letting all that meat go to waste. Still, it would have been interesting to see what the price of such rare shark meat would have commanded on the open market.

Biomimicmarketed Strawberry Juice

Posted by on March 7th, 2009

The ultimate what-you-see-is-what-you-get:

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The Food Chain

Posted by on January 4th, 2009

Found via

Philips develops “intelligent pill”

Posted by on November 11th, 2008

    - photo via

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch group Philips has developed an “intelligent pill” that contains a microprocessor, battery, wireless radio, pump and a drug reservoir to release medication in a specific area in the body.

Philips, one of the world’s biggest hospital equipment makers, said Tuesday that the “iPill” capsule, measures acidity with a sensor to determine its location in the gut, and can then release drugs where they are needed.

Delivering drugs to treat digestive tract disorders such as Crohn’s disease directly to the location of the disease means doses can be lower, reducing side effects, Philips said.

While capsules containing miniature cameras are already used as diagnostic tools, those lack the ability to deliver drugs, Philips said.

Link and photo via

Edible Superhero Costumes

Posted by on November 11th, 2008

Spotted on

Sixty chocolatiers and pastry chefs from around the world participated in the 11th annual New York Chocolate Show, which always features a fashion show of chocolate-based couture. This year’s theme was superheroes, so the chefs plastered elaborate, skin-tight outfits to their patient models.

New “Liquid Smoking” Drink Promises Instant High for Smokers

Posted by on October 28th, 2008

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Targeting smokers that are suffering outside in the cold under the smoking ban, Liquid Smoke offers an alternative to a nicotine fix in the can. “Fruit flavored”, with the promise of an instant high followed by a ‘euphoric calming feeling, the company hopes to make it as popular as Red Bull is bars.

Link and photo via

Death By Chocolate

Posted by on October 5th, 2008

For those who enjoy fine chocolate in an equally intriguing package:

From the black satin ribbon and miniature hat box coffin to the skull served up in its dark paper tray, the presentation makes death look rather seductive. The skeleton head is finely carved but smooth, almost handsome in a macabre kind of way. This effect is achieved by smoothing a colored cocao butter over each semi-sweet chocolate skull

Link via

Snake-like Robotic Pills

Posted by on September 23rd, 2008

Researchers are developing ways to link multiple robotic pills together, with each section of the robotic pill having it’s own function. One might take pictures, or section might take samples. A drug delivery section would add the needed drugs to treat which ever medical conditions the pills might find.

Link and photo via

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Chinese scientists bred a genetically altered cow capable of producing cancer fighting proteins for humans

Posted by on August 12th, 2008

Chinese scientists announced on Monday that they have bred a genetically altered cow capable of producing cancer fighting proteins for humans. The cow, which can produce CD20 antibodies in its milk, was born in Beijing on Aug. 2 and a dozen more are due to be born next month. The human monoclonal (produced from a single cell) antibodies could be purified from the milk of the transgenic cow, and used to treat B cell lymphomas and leukemias and some auto-immune diseases, said research team leader Li Ning, an academician with China Academy of Engineering. The calf weighed 38 kg at birth. In seven to eight months, the research team would induce lactation to test its antibody expression.

The low antibody expression level and high cost of cell culture has been a stumbling block in the industrial production of the antibody drug, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1997. The U.S.-based Business Communication Corp. has estimated the worldwide market for transgenically sourced therapies at more than1 billion U.S. dollars in 2008 and 18.6 billion dollars by 2013.

Link via

Tomato: Potential Carrier of Alzheimer’s Vaccine?

Posted by on July 14th, 2008

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Korean research has come up with the potential of tomato as carrier of an edible vaccine against Alzheimer’s disease.

Kim and colleagues’ aim was to develop a plant-derived vaccine against Alzheimer’s disease, since beta-amyloid is toxic to animal cells. Tomatoes are an attractive candidate as a vaccine carrier because they can be eaten without heat treatment, which reduces the risk of destroying the immune stimulation potential of the foreign protein. The researchers inserted the beta-amyloid gene into the tomato genome and measured the immune responses to the tomato-derived toxic protein in a group of 15-month-old mice.

They immunized the mice orally with the transgenic tomato plants once a week for three weeks, and also gave the mice a booster seven weeks after the first tomato feed. Blood analyses showed a strong immune response after the booster, with the production of antibodies to the human foreign protein.

Still on initial stages, but interestingly promising line of research.

Link and photo via

Promising is an understatement, if it works well.

Square Watermelons

Posted by on July 5th, 2008

    - photo via

We know it sounds like putting a square watermelon in a round hole: but Wal-Mart claims it is the nation’s largest buyer of locally grown produce. The scaling of centrally managed industrial agriculture in the USA will be transformed.

Photo and article via

The square watermelons would fit so much easier in my fridge….

Ingestible Robots Survey Your Esophagus, Stomach, and Intestines

Posted by on June 4th, 2008

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Your body will soon be teeming with tiny robots. Last year, robotics researchers managed to guide micro-robots through a pig’s bloodstream using a magnetic field from an MRI machine (just a dry run before the bots infest us humans). Now scientists have invented a camera-bot you can swallow that will slide down your gastrointestinal tract, pausing to take pictures along the way.

The bot is remote-controlled by magnetic field, just like the ones in the bloodstream. To move it up and down through your insides, your doctor will have a hand-held magnetic device about the size of a chocolate bar. Where ever s/he waves the device, the bot follows. The new gadget will be used for studying the insides of the stomach and esophagus mainly, which are usually hard because a device that’s swallowed only spends few seconds in those parts of the body. Once in the stomach, it tends to sink to the bottom of the stomach, making imaging tough.

With magnetic control, doctors will be able to keep the camera-bot floating in the esophagus, stomach, or whatever part of the GI tract they want to study. It’ll probably feel really strange having a robot wiggling through your esophagus, but it could go a long way towards treating cancers in the stomach and esophagus, not to mention that pesky, heartburn-inducing acid reflux disease.

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Plasma from Grapes

Posted by on May 17th, 2008
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Link to original article here.

(Note the website says several times, try at your own risk of fire, mutilation, etc.)

Fast Food Joints [Will] Add Hormone to Food That Makes You Want to Eat More

Posted by on May 15th, 2008

It’s NOT on the market yet, but it could be:

When you ingest a stomach hormone called ghrelin it causes your brain to respond to food the way junkies respond to drugs. You are filled with an intense desire for it, and eating it becomes far more memorable. Researchers at Montreal’s McGill University studied people’s reactions to food after they had ingested ghrelin, and discovered that it made them crave whatever food they were shown in pictures — even if they had just eaten. Drugs that tamper with ghrelin are just around the corner.

Since ghrelin isn’t regulated, a fast food restaurant that wanted to sell more food could easily turn it into an additive in their hamburgers or donuts, essentially “addicting” people to their food. Or making them hungrier so that they buy more.

On the other hand, drugs that tamper with ghrelin could also be made to have the opposite effect. they could be used in diet pills to make you feel less hungry, and make food less memorable or appealing.

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