Vasper to revolutionize exercise technology?

by David Bunnell

This past week my colleague Shirley Ginnis (pictured above) and I visited the Mountain View office of Vasper Fitness and Performance Systems to test their high-tech exercise machine that reportedly provides the equivalent of a two-hour workout in only 20 minutes. And you don’t sweat!

Even more compelling, exercising on a Vasper has been shown to increase the body’s production of human growth hormone (HGH) which has many benefits including increased muscle mass and bone density, decreased body fat, improved sleep, faster recovery from exercise or physical injuries, and increased exercise capacity. Whether higher levels of HGH actually makes you younger or not is debatable but who cares if it gives you more energy and makes you feel younger.

If you can increase your HGH levels naturally without the fuss of expensive daily injections that may come with some alarming side-effects (see Mayo Clinic article) then Vasper is a potential  winner for those of us who want to live longer, healthier lives.

Just getting to the Vasper office is quite an adventure as it is located at Moffitt Field NASA Ames Research Center under the shadow of one of the world’s largest free standing buildings–Hangar One, a massive blimp hangar built during the Depression.

First, from highway 101 you have to drive through a military checkpoint, where you simply tell the nice marine that you are visiting Vasper and show him your California driver’s license. You then follow a windy road towards Hangar One past some vacant military buildings and an immaculately mowed parade ground to a group of trailer-like structures, one of which is building 566, the Vasper office combination gymnasium.

The reason Vasper is at this peculiar location is because they have a research contract with NASA to see if their exercise technology might be useful for astronauts.

Sedate on the outside, Vasper is buzzing with activity on the inside. There is a reception desk where you sign in and four Vasper stations where people are peddling away, each attended by an assistent monitoring their every stroke.

After checking in, Shirley and I ask the attendent if we can interview Vasper’s founder, Peter Wasowski, before we go through the workout. Peter is busy but he’s intrigued by the name of this blog (Death is Obsolete) so he asks us to follow him to his lab, an identical building next door.

An energetic 64 year old professorial man with sparkling eyes, Peters impresses me as a nerd who has never quite grown up as he profusely expounds on the theories behind the Vasper system while pointing to some charts on the wall of his laboratory.

Pointing to a graphic of children at play, he says “whenever you see kids running around there are huge amounts of lactic acid accumulating in their bodies and the more lactic acid the stronger the feedback to the pituitary gland to release more growth hormone.”

“At puberty,” he continues,”the body reaches closer to adult size, your muscles are bigger, and so you are no longer able to concentrate lactic acid. Every 10 years after puberty humans lose 14% of their production of growth hormone.”

“This is the main reason,” he points out, “that older people take longer to recover from injuries.”

Peter goes on to explain there are three core ideas behind the Vasper technology:

  1. Compression. Cuffs, similar to the ones used when measuring blood pressure, are applied to upper thighs and biceps to trap the lactic acid that is produced when you exercise. This “fools the brain into thinking you have destroyed muscle tissue when in fact you have not.
  2. Core body cooling. A vest is wrapped around the chest which is filled with a cold liquid. The same liquid is also pumped into the cuffs and into a helmet. This keeps your body from sweating, thereby preventing the loss of oxygen that would otherwise occur as your blood temperature goes up. And since oxygen is the fuel for the muscles, this makes your exercise more efficient.
  3. Grounding. Peter tells us that “arthritis took off in the Western world in the mid-1950’s when polymers were invented.” The theory is that because of synthetic clothing, nylon carpets, rubber soles, etc., people started picking up a lot of static electricity and they “had no way to off-load it.” He says static electricity is an “inflammatory energy” and that if you go to India where 800 million people wear cotton clothes and are barefoot you will see very little arthritis. For this reason when you exercise on a Vasper machine you do it barefoot and your feet rest on a grounded copper plate.
Now that we have some understanding of the concept, it is time for us to test it out ourselves, so we head back to the other building.
Once seated on one of the Vasper exercise machines, a technician straps a blue vest around your chest, followed by the four cuffs around both thighs and upper arms. Each of these has tubes running out of them attached  to a control unit. A cold liquid is pumped through tubes which provides compression (arms and legs) and cools you body. As it was a warm day, I found that this felt really great.
You place your bare feet on the copper pedals for the grounding effect. The pedals are cold as well. A liquid cooled helmet is then place on your head and you are ready to rock and rolls.
The exercise itself is a form of interval training. After nine minutes of moderately pumping your arms and legs, the technician tells you to pump as fast as you can for 90 seconds. This followed by 90 seconds of slow pedaling, then 30 seconds as hard as you can, etc. You can get a really good idea of how this works by watching the YouTube video above.








Research shows bat superpowers can repair DNA

In 1939, two men by the names of Bob Kane and Bill Finger gave rise to a new comic book character. Referred to by many as “the Caped Crusader”, “the World’s Greatest Detective”, and “the Dark Knight”, their character Batman has now been around for 73 years.

But why was the bat the model for a superhero?

It has been suggested that Bruce Wayne, Batman’s secret identity, chose the animal based on its characteristics.  The bat is a night dweller that hunts when the sun goes down much like the Dark Knight.  The bat is also the only mammal, or species for that matter, that can truly fly.  Its forelimbs form webbed wings making it the only animal that can truly sustain flight without the need to flap its wings.

What makes the bat most incredible is its immunity.  And, perhaps Bruce Wayne knew this secret to.The bat is one of the oldest living mammals, living on average to 20 to 30 years of age.  In fact, the oldest bat ever captured died at the ripe age of 39.  What is most astonishing is its ability to withstand a myriad of diseases such as Ebola and cancer through the course of its lifespan.

This reality has peaked the interest of longevity scientists and has resulted in research that seeks the key to the bat’s super immunity powers.   The volume of published scientific research on bat viruses has doubled in the past decade. Scientists have been startled by how well bat biology responds to the genetic wear that causes aging and disease.

One study, entitled the “Hendra Outbreak”, linked bats to the death of horse trainer Vic Rail and 14 of his horses. The bats had long carried and been immune to the disease which infected the horses.

Bats’ true super power is DNA repair.

Linfa Wang, 53, director of the emerging infectious disease program at the Duke-NUS graduate medical school in Singapore suggests, “If the science is as true as we think it is, we can unlock the mechanisms and it can have a huge, huge impact.”

Wang’s research seeks to understand bat biology and unlock its secrets and apply them to humans.

Working longer extends your lifespan

If you compare the annual death rates among two groups of men aged 50 to 70, the data shows men who work longer live longer. Death rates of those still working are roughly half that of the death rates of men the same age who are fully retired.What’s going on here? I thought retirement was supposed to be good for you! (By the way, the study showed that the effect was also there for women, but it was less pronounced.)

The results shown on this chart immediately beg the question: Is this causation (working actually causes or enables you to live longer) or correlation (there’s no direct causal relationship). Here’s one possible explanation that would weigh in on the correlation side:

People who were on disability benefits and whose health was compromised were excluded from both groups.

Studies – as well as anecdotal evidence — suggests that engagement with life is what helps prolong life. This is what the authors of the book Super You also concluded.

People get engagement with life from working longer. However, the can also get it from taking up causes, volunteering, hobbies, and contributing to family and community. It all comes down to “having a purpose”, said the Super You authors, which includes Andy Walker and Kay Walker.

Finding powerful reasons for getting up in the morning in my retirement years is as important as my financial planning. My prior blog post, Can’t Retire Yet? Don’t Despair, suggests that we may need to work a little in our retirement years to make ends meet. In this case, I won’t be bitter–working may be keeping me alive!

The jury is still out on the question of whether working might increase your longevity. What’s your take on this?

Hearing aid design may benefit from understanding bugs

The human ear is pretty impressive and hard to artificially replicate. By comparison hearing aids are still sizeable, uncomfortable and have yet to get to the point where it makes it possible to hear rich sounds that humans take for granted. Still, inserts, like crickets, may provide insight into how we can learn to to design a small speaker that is  loud, just as you’d need for a hearing aid and help treat conditions like single sided deafness and unilateral hearing loss.

Crickets make sound by rubbing their wings together. The wings are corrugated in patterns which make them stiff. This makes them very loud when the insect rubs them together. Scientists can use laser vibration systems and advanced computer modeling simulations to mimic this idea, by engineering the stiffness of the speaker surface. This produces a simple and efficient way to make ultra small speakers that produce sound that is very loud.

Hearing aids are designed to operate in stages. Audio signals are collected by a microphone and then amplified to be louded. Background noise is filtered out with digital processing technology. As a result the speaker in a hearing aid can deliver high-intensity sound to an ear.  Better understanding insects may help us in each of these processes.

We can learn more about bio-acoustics through the locust. It has two large “tympanal” membranes that is uses to hear. These membranes, on its chest, vibrate with sound. They transfer the audio signals to the insect’s nervous system,  just like a human’s ear drum. Scientists have discovered that this membrane has a regular variation in thickness. When sound is played to it, i produced tsunami-like vibration with the peak of the wave directly at the location of the nerve cells. This allows for huge amplifications of the sound. Scientists may be able to similarly design microphones with inbuilt passive amplification based on this insect discovery.

Microphone design might also benefit from mosquitoes and fruit flies. They have tiny antennae which are tiny yet highly sensitive to sound. This could help scientists and engineers improve microphone design in devices that use them like hearing aids.

Learn more about this development at SingularityHub.


Soursop is a cancer fighting fruit

Soursop may be the most famous cancer-fighting fruit you have never heard of. Also known as guanabana and graviola, the spiny green fruit is well known in the Caribbean and South America, where it grows on a tall evergreen tree.

The tree thrives in tropical climates and does less well as the weather cools. It can be found in south Florida, but it does better the closer it is to the equator. It is grown around the world in tropical climates, in equatorial South America, Africa and Asia. Fresh soursop is available online.

The creamy, custardy insides of the fruit is deliciously sweet and some say a combination of mango and strawberry. Yet it has apparent mystical healing powers, as do its stems, bark, and soursop leaves. Soursop leaves can be made into tea and is said to help cancer patients survive and ultimately beat their disease. It is consumed around the world and sold online in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.

They are harvested from many places in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Grenada and the Virgin Islands and in the far east in the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia.

Scientists have shown soursop/graviola contains phytochemicals that are good at killing resistant cancer cells. These are lab tests that have isolated the chemicals. However clinical trials have not yet been conducted (there’s no profit in it for pharmaceutical companies) to prove it is a definitive anti-cancer tool – or as some call it – an all natural cure for cancer.

Soursop is also known as a good anti-inflammatory agent and helps soothe intestinal upsets and is used by indigenous people, where the tree grows wild, as a treatment for dysentery. It also can help with insomnia. The guanabana seeds, while toxic to eat, can be pulverized into a paste that can sooth skin irritations.

There are many fruit and tea products made from soursop – see them here in this U.S. online store and see them here in this online store in Canada

Super grains of the Mediterranean diet

Farro is a supergrain that is nutty and high in fiber and can be substituted for pasta and rice

One of the often overlooked elements of the Mediterranean diet is the content of what is now days called supergrains. These include Farro, Freekah and other whole grains

The diet says that grains, vegetables, and fruits should be eaten at most meals, because they are important sources of vitamins, minerals, energy, antioxidants, and fiber. An eating pattern high in these foods promotes good health and weight control when consumed wisely.

About Mediterreans Grains
The majority of grains should be whole grains, including wheat, oats, rice, rye, barley, and corn. These are best consumed in whole, minimally-processed forms, because refining usually removes valuable nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Grains and grain products common to the traditional Mediterranean Diet include: barley, buckwheat, bulgur, farro, millet, oats, polenta, rice, wheat berries, breads, couscous, and pastas.


Super grains of the Mediterranean diet