Episode Transcript hideshow
**Voice-over:** *I try to imagine a fellow smarter than myself, then I try to think - what would he do?*
**Announcer:** *Charge up your axons, ready your receptors and shift your lobes in to upper beta phase. You're listening to Smart Drug Smarts, the podcast dedicated to helping you optimize your brain with the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience, nootropics and psychopharmocology.*
**Jesse:** Hello and welcome to Smart Drug Smarts. I'm your host Jesse Lawler, excited to bring you episode number 45 of this podcast dedicated to the improvement of your brain and its operations by any and all means at your disposal. This is going to be little bit of a special episode. As I record this, it is actually Memorial Day weekend, so the end of summer 2014, and apparently a great number of academics are exercising their rights to enjoy their end of summer and not be bothered with things like telephone interviews. So a couple of interviews I was really hoping to have in the right-about-now time, or actually couple of weeks ago, have gotten pushed to early September. So we're doing something a little bit different for this episode. I've got an interview with somebody who's making a mobile app for the nootropics community. So we're going to talk about version 1.0 of that app, which is going to be hitting at the iOS app store very soon, I think, with an Android version to follow. But we'll save that for the main interview.
If you hang around until the end of the episode, I'm going to tell you about an experiment that's right now getting under way, which some are calling the most important scientific experiment that will be done in our lifetime. So them's fighting words where I come from. That's a pretty lofty claim, but we'll get into that. And if that will not be enough to keep you around till the end of the episode, I don't possibly pretend to know what would be. So stick around for that, but first of all, let's do This Week In Neuroscience.
**Voice-over:** Smart Drug Smarts - This week in Neuroscience!
**Jesse:** So what is a brain doughnut and why should you be interested? A brain doughnut is not a recently invented pastry that tastes like the human brain, or any other brain. A brain doughnut is what scientists at Tufts University are calling – something that they just made – a structure of lab-grown brain cells, which for the first time ever succeeds in basically getting a differentiation between white matter versus gray matter in the cell lattice structure of these petri-dish-grown brain cells. They've been able to grow human brain cells – actually these are rat brain cells – they've been able to grow brain cells in the lab before but they've all been sort of a undifferentiated, clumped together masses of brain cells going this way and that. Which isn't really representative of how brain cells actually get structured. Gray matter in a brain consists of the neuron cell bodies, while white matter is made up of axon fibers. These are the long, long fibers that can be many times the length of the cell body and these actually carry the signal between different nerve cells. So these are both sort of differentiated tissue types within a brain, but they hadn't been able to do that in a lab until now. So their approach to make these doughnuts was that the scientists cut a spongy silk protein scaffold into a ring shape and then they seeded it with rat neurons. The middle of the doughnut was filled in with a collagen-based gel and in just a few days the neurons formed functional networks around the pores of the scaffold. They sent axon projections through the center gel to connect with neurons on the other side. So if you kind of imagine a hula hoop on the outside, that's where the cell bodies are held on to and they're projecting their axons sort of in the middle, forming like a trampoline of axon fibers, might be the way to think of it. Tests showed that the brain-like constructs could be kept alive in the lab for more than two months. Which is a good length of time, because studying some sorts of traumatic brain injury, which is what they think this is really going to be useful for, requires that the brain cells actually live long enough in a lab environment to see how problems progress when problems in the brain arise. So, as I said, this has a lot of potential for studying how the brain responds to traumatic injuries and it turns out they're mimicking these effects by basically taking these brain doughnuts and dropping them from various heights. I'm not sure – it's probably a very controlled, scientific sort of thing, but I just imagined these scientists dropping brain cells from various heights on the floor. There's a Far Side comic in there somewhere. Said the co-author of the study professor Philip Haydon: "This model provides a unique opportunity for mapping out real-time neurophysiological events and function studies in the laboratory, monitoring that is prohibitive with humans or animals." Details of the research appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And we will link to it, as we always do in the smartdrugsmarts.com [website](http://www.smartdrugsmarts.com/).
In other news that has nothing to do with actual doughnuts – picked up 2 more 5 star reviews on iTunes. Thank you very much to Joe Canorella and and Al 98980008, who said respectively - “Great podcast all around. Smart Drug Smarts is an insightful podcast dedicated to the interesting world of nootropics and neuroscience. The show's entertaining and presented in an easy-to-listen manner” and Al says - “Like many listeners, I've been interested in the topic of brain enhancement for some time and I find Jesse to be an eloquent and engaging host who is genuinely interested in his subject matter.” Well thanks guys. Very much appreciated and of course we'll be keeping it up to the best of my abilities. We're now up to 59 reviews in iTunes, which ain't bad as reviews go and most of them are quite positive.
**Voiceover:** *Smart Drug Smarts*
**Jesse:** For those of you who happen to be around Iowa, you might remember two time interviewee Dr. Terry Wahls MD who's been on Smart Drug Smarts couple of times. She's got an in-person live event seminar on her dietary Wahl's Protocol on September 20th and 21st in Hiawatha, Iowa. So if you're in the Hiawatha, Iowa area or somewhere in striking distance of that and really want to meet Dr. Wahls in person and learn about her protocol, we'll have a link to that too. And if you go, say "hi!" for me too, because I haven't met Dr. Wahls in person, but hope to get to do so one of these days.
Now, without any further adieu, let's go into the main interview. Who is this main interviewee you ask, who is that could be possibly taking it on him or herself to create a mobile app for the nootropics community. Well it turns out that this interview guest that I've got happened to be the only person I could get on extremely short notice for an overdue episode of Smart Drug Smarts. He is indeed making such an app. And, for those of you who really need smart drugs and haven't figured it out yet – yes, I'm referring to myself – Jesse Lawler the publisher, host, etc of Smart Drug Smarts and now the creator of a mobile app called Axon. We're going to throw protocol aside and chuck the long standing prohibition against people talking to themselves. I'm going to interview myself, let's just dive right into the interview shall we.
**Voiceover:** Smart Drug Smarts – The podcast so smart we have "smart" in our title twice.
**Host Jesse:** So, I'm here with Jesse Lawler, the creator of the mobile app Axon which is going to be coming out soon on the iOS platform Jesse tell us about Axon – what is it and why did you do it?
**Evil Genius Inventor Jesse:** Okay, so Axon is a mobile app for Smart Drug Smarts podcast listeners, although hopefully it can appeal to even people who don't necessarily listen to the podcast but are interested in nootropics. What we're doing right now is it's a way of downloading all the past plus current episodes of the podcast and then also sort of being able to skip around and jump to the audio points you want, sort of based on the audio bookmarks that we've been doing in the past few episode posts. And also, you can do text-based searches for topics if you want to look something up in the Smart Drug Smarts library. So that's sort of element number one – just access to the podcasts the way that people haven't had so far. Then probably the next most interesting thing that we're letting people do is actually voting on what they want included in future versions of the app. We're going to be doing continuous upgrades basically from this point forwards, always going to be building on something new, so we've got five choices in there right now – the users can sort of weigh in and give priority order of votes on what they want to see next.
**Host Jesse:** Okay, so why do you call this thing Axon? If it's the Smart Drug Smarts app, why not just call it Smart Drug Smarts?
**Evil Genius Inventor Jesse:** Well, you know, that was sort of the default choice. The Smart Drug Smarts podcast logo is the icon for the app, but it turns out that – at least for Apple – you can only fit a certain number of characters underneath those little icons, and Smart Drug Smarts was just too long. I didn't want to have like the middle of it cut out or replaced with a "dot dot dot", so I was trying to think of something brain-related and kind of cool to call it. I was really surprised that actually the word Axon was available, because it's a cool space-age sounding word. People can spell it easily and nobody had taken it yet. Just in case if anybody is not clear on what an axon is – it's that long spindly part of a nerve fiber.
**Host Jesse:** So you said iOS first for this one?
**Evil Genius Inventor Jesse:** Yeah, we're doing it for Apple first. I'm kind of an Apple guy. Within our company we do both mobile apps for iOS and and Android and web applications and all that stuff, but figured we'd build it first on iOS and then clone in the Android version of of that. So now that we've the first version submitted to the Apple app store, we're going to starting to clone version 1.0 for Android quite soon, but don't have a hard and fast deadline for that one just yet.
**Host Jesse:** So, the voting that you talked about earlier, can people do that? Can anybody do that? I log in, I download it and I vote. What's keeping from doing a bazillion different votes?
**Evil Genius Inventor Jesse:** Well the voting is tied to user names. I guess somebody who wanted to game the system could easily create a bunch of fake users. We're making people create an account before they can vote, so it's sort of one user one vote. Although we're not doing anything terribly technically sophisticated to keep people from creating multiple accounts. So somebody who cares that much can probably get an undue influence in the further development of the Axon app. We're probably flattering ourselves to think that anybody is going to care quite that much to try to tip the voting on what we do next on a free app. Especially because all the things that we're thinking about for the potential next features are things that we're going to be getting to eventually. Just sort of a question of what order we attack them in. That said, I really do want to be responsive to what people are voting for. I'm very interested to see what the audience members and app users really want to see next.
**Host Jesse:** Okay, so as far as that goes, what are the said five choices?
**Evil Genius Inventor Jesse:** Okay five features that we're offering are:-
1) A nootropic data look-up. So basically sort of an almanac of information about different nootropics. Kind of a high-level overview with citations that could go off to different places.
2) Related to that would be sort of a 'Build My Stack' (my nootropics stack) where people could kind of keep track of what they're doing, how much of and on what days. Especially for those of use that are cycling different chemicals, so we don't build up a tolerance to any one thing. Getting that organized and potentially being able to collect that data and share it with other people.
3) Then there's sort of the general thing of "quantified self" stuff. Smart Drug Smarts listeners will remember that six or nine months ago we did an episode with Sebastian Marshall, talking about quantified self. Basically I'd like to support that within the app, give people the ability to ping themselves at random times throughout the day, take a quick measurement of where they're at –mood, cognition, alertness, all that stuff – and then cross-reference that with data about what they might have done that day, whether it's nootropics-wise, exercise-wise, the amount of sleep they got the previous night. Over a course of period of months, start to give people a data-driven metric of what sort of inputs to their body are having, at least anecdotal, outputs to their brain and the way that they're feeling.
4) Then finally the obligatory Smart Drug Smarts suggestion box. We've basically got that on the web now. I'd like to build that into the app too. So if you're like, "Ooh, ooh!" sitting in the subway or wherever and you come up with an idea for something that you'd like to have on a Smart Drug Smarts episode, you can quickly drop us a recommendation.
5) I finally wanted to see about getting the game Dual n-Back. This has gotten so much buzz in the past couple of years. I think there might even be open-source implementations of that, so it might just be a matter of lifting that from the open-source site and dropping it into the app. Either way probably wouldn't be too difficult to actually code that. It's not really a complex game to program, it's just a complex game to play. It's not exactly nootropic, but obviously but it's going to be of interest to people that are interested in cognitive enhancement.
So those are the five things and what we're doing is that we're allowing people to assign up to ten points to those five things and then sort of tabulate all the votes. I'm not exactly sure what date we'll set in mind to kind of look at all the votes and make a decision moving forwards but probably pretty soon. I'd say by mid to late September we'll see how people's voting goes and then make a big decision for what our next programming push will be.
**Host Jesse:** Sounds pretty cool. So for the cheapskates out there in the audience, is this totally free?
**Evil Genius Inventor Jesse:** Yes. Axon is going to be a 100% free download. I think the games and stuff, they have in-app purchases but not really planning on doing that. If we come up with some super-awesome informative something that we feel like would be a good in-app purchase thing, I'm not opposed to doing that in the future, but basically the goal right now is to see what people like, get people to use it. I'd like to get as much information as we can about what different nootropics people are taking. What types of stacks they're having success with and build it in something where we've got a data-set which is going to be useful to a large group of people. Obviously there's always going to be some real variance in how diligent people are in filling out data about what they're taking and how frequently they're taking it and kind of keeping those things up to date. It's like some people log in to Facebook a couple of times every day and their Facebook page is very very accurate. And other people they maybe log on and check out what's going on every couple of weeks. But I think we can make Axon be something that will be useful for both those types of users. People that really want to dig deep in to it and use it for keeping track of “Oh my fish-oil tablets are going to run out on this day and I need to order a new Vitamin D3 at the same time, let me consolidate those orders or something” vs people who are maybe going to want it because it will ping them when new podcast episodes are out and that's kind of the extent of it. So I would really like to make this the go-to app for nootropic fans. But part of that is going to be a community guided process on what people are really into and we'll just do the coding to get it there.
**Voiceover:** *Smart Drug Smarts*
**Jesse:** So thank you very much to Jesse for giving his valuable time ... No, I'm just kidding. But thanks for hanging out on that self-interview though. It was kind of fun. And I would also like to throw out a thank-you to Kyle Ross of Boise, Idaho, who is the Smart Drug Smarts listener who recommended the do-it-yourself Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation topic that we did for [episode number 44](http://smartdrugsmarts.com/do-it-yourself-transcranial-direct-current-stimulation/). I think that was actually an email recommendation if I remember correctly. But were Kyle or somebody like him to make a recommendation now there's also the [webpage](http://www.smartdrugsmarts.com/suggestion-box/) that we've set up at the Smart Drug Smarts Suggestion Box. Where you can go and let us know anything that you think would be good for a main interview topic, Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick or a This Week In Neuroscience article. But thank you once again to Kyle Ross. And now as promised the Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick.
**Voice-over:** *Smart Drug Smarts - Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick!*
**Jesse:** Okay, so I don't remember if we've talked about the Simulation Hypothesis on Smart Drug Smarts before, but if not it's about damn time; because the Simulation Hypothesis is probably one of the most interesting ideas I've heard of personally in the last couple of years. I heard about this a year ago and it definitely set me intellectually reeling for a few days when I first heard about it because it's kind of undeniably one of those things that's like, “Oh yeah, that could be true and I'd never thought of that.” That actually has kind of repercussions for the way I think about the world.
So here it is in a nutshell. And I highly encourage you to look up the Simulation Hypothesis if my explanation here does not do it justice or if you're interested and you want to hear more.
So as you're probably aware, computers are pretty good right now. We can do a lot of amazing things on computers. Among them play pretty convincing video games. The Pitfall and first version Mario Brothers of 20 years ago have given a way to these amazing first-person shooters 3-D whatever games where everything is pretty much almost photo realistic and in real time. These things just keep getting better and better. Barring some sort of Planet Of The Apes-like societal collapse, it certainly stands to reason that computer simulations would continue to get better and better and more immersive and more able to represent even broader worlds with more simultaneous characters and interactions. You're also probably familiar with the movie The Matrix from 1997 and kind of the idea of characters living in a simulated world without being aware that they're living in a simulated world. So let's think about the next 20-100 years of progress real-world modelling and computer simulations and cheap hard drives and amazing advances in processor power. Combine all these things and think about a grad student in history who's addressing the questions that history people always wonder about. Like “hey what would've happened if the other side had won the Battle of Hastings or what if Julius Ceaser hadn't been all that attracted to Cleopatra?” How might that have changed things? And so this theoretical grad student and others like him writing their term paper, they pop in a bunch of data and boot up a simulated version of planet Earth 3000 B.C and play it forward to the point where they are interested in doing their alternate history studies. They change a couple of variables and run that a couple of hundred times and say that, “Hey, if Julius Ceaser hadn't thought that Cleopatra was that attractive there would be a 73% chance that the French Revolution never would've happened.” Something like that.
So none of this seems completely implausible but of course for a historical simulation to have any merit it would need to be convincing to the people who lived inside it/ The humans that lived inside it if they knew that they were just little puppet stage actors or whatever it wouldn't make for a very good experiment because that's obviously not how the real world is. Right? So the simulated environment would need to be convincing to the simulated beings that live and operate within it. But if we can say that there's probably a heck of a lot of future grad students with access to this computer power and they need to run these simulations a large number of times to get as much data as needed to be statistically relevant and make other assumptions of the sort. Then it stands to reason that there would be a heck of a lot more simulated universe than there would be the one real universe, whatever that ordinal universe is. So then you think about yourself – human being – whatever your name is.
If the pieces of information that you have to go on are:-
A) I think I exist
B) I think this hypothesis about there being a significantly large number of reality simulations being possible at some point in the future. Then it reasonably stands that you yourself are in the real universe vs one of these many many simulations. These vanishing vanishingly small. And that's freaky right?
It's not necessarily bad, It's not necessarily good. It doesn't really mean anything but it just mean that the universe such as we think of it is just a facsimile, just a test tube creation. But how would we ever know, right? If it was a really convincing universe then how can we detect that? So some smarty-pants a few years ago posited that something called a Pixelation Effect might be used to detect whether we live in a real smooth, continuous universe that is not broken up into discrete chunks or whether we actually live in a pixellated simulated universe.
So think about a computer screen for a second or a television screen. When you step back and look at the picture it looks like reality or pretty close to it. When you get way up close to it you see there's just a bunch of red and green and blue dots and these discrete dots are making up the image that you perceive. As long as they're small enough and your eyes are far enough away from them, the dots become irrelevant. But when you get up close you can see that it wasn't a perfect image like reality is but actually just a facsimile made up of these discrete chunks. Well so it would be the scientist hypothesized with a reality simulation. If you went down deep enough and really burrowed into reality you would start to see pixelation effects. They're talking about a pixel size of space that would be roughly 10 trillion trillion times smaller than an atom.
Says Craig Hogan, director of Fermilab’s Center for Particle Astrophysics and the developer of the holographic noise theory: “We want to find out whether space-time is a quantum system just like matter is. If we see something, it will completely change ideas about space we've used for thousands of years.” So what they're going to do to try and get to the bottom of whether the universe is made up of space pixels. They're essentially going to put two big long laser beams right next to one another, these are super high-powered laser beams about the equivalent of 200,000 laser pointers each and see how those beams interact with one another. Quantum theory suggests that it is impossible to know the exact location and exact speed of sub-atomic particles. Now if space comes in two dimensional bits with limited information about the precise location of objects then space itself would fall under the same theory of uncertainty. The same way as matter continues to jiggle as quantum waves even it's cooled down to absolute zero; digitized space if in fact it's made up of these small pixels should also have built in vibrations even when in it's lowest energy state.
Says physicist Aaron Chou, “If we find a noise we can’t get rid of,” and by noise he's talking about a sort of jiggle in the way that these lasers interact then, “we might be detecting something fundamental about nature—a noise that is intrinsic to space-time. It’s an exciting moment for physics. A positive result will open a whole new avenue of questioning about how space works.” This experiment is funded by the US Department of Energy Office of Science and other sources, is expected to gather data over the coming year.
So stay tuned to find out whether you're real or not.
**Voiceover:** *Smart Drug Smarts.*
**Jesse:** Okay you heard it – that is the episode. If you like this episode, even though it was off-format from our normal offering, please recommend this podcast to your friends and or leave us a review on iTunes. And now soon you'll actually be able to go to the iTunes and download the Axon app, and if you like that leave a positive review, but as mentioned it's certainly not in it's final form just yet. The show notes for this episode will be online at [www.smartdrugsmarts.com](http://smartdrugsmarts.com/axon-nootropics-app/) and I will be back at you next week or something shockingly close to next week. We'll be back at an unpredictable yet assured time, sometime in the relatively near future to help you fine-tune the performance of your own brain. Have a great week and stay smart.
**Announcer:** *You've been listening to the Smart Drugs Smart podcast. Visit us online at [www.smartdrugsmarts.com](http://smartdrugsmarts.com/) and subscribe to our mailing list to keep your neurons buzzing with the latest in brain optimization.*
**Disclaimer:** *Smart Drug Smarts should be listened to for entertainment purposes only. Although some guests on the show are medical doctors, most are not and the host is just some random guy. Nothing you hear on the podcast or read on [www.smartdrugsmarts.com](http://smartdrugsmarts.com/axon-nootropics-app/) should be considered medical advice. Consult your doctor, and use some damn common sense before doing anything that you think might have a lasting impact on your brain.*