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Psychedelics, the secret of human success and eternal life – it’s the New Scientist Live again

 

This Friday 10th November is World Science Day for Peace and Development. On this day, a number of events across the world aim to engage people in scientific discussion through innovative and creative communication. This reminds us of an event CHC recently attended at the ExCel Centre in London, the New Scientist Live. This fun day out was the perfect example of how to captivate an audience. Here are some of our highlights from this year’s event:

Can magic mushrooms treat depression? – Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College London

Dr Carhart-Harris’ work tackles the status quo in terms of our perception of psychedelics and studies them as potential medicines. The talk reported on the first ever clinical trial examining psilocybin, the active psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms, in the treatment of depression.

Participants from the pilot study described the effects as like “pressing the reset button”. It was suggested that psilocybin could even have the potential to be able to address the core underlying causes of clinical depression. Could this lead to the breakthrough that opens the door for prescribed psychedelic treatments?

 

Is there a cure for aging? – Professor Dame Linda Partridge of University College London

In this talk the question was posed “Is aging a disease?” and if so, “Can we treat it?”

Many examples were shared of weird and wonderful living creatures that display incredibly long-life; from the longevity of the naked mole-rat to the ageless sea anemone. The challenge is, what can we learn from these examples to improve healthcare in humans?

If we could translate these age-defying phenomena found in nature to humans it could even create a new branch of medicine described by Professor Partridge as “broad-range preventative medicine.”

 

Just another animal? – Steve Jones, Geneticist of University College London

What makes humans so special? The answer, you might be surprised to hear…is cooking!

When our ancestors discovered the ability to cook food, our genes started to diverge from that of our more ape-like ancestors. Cooking our food makes it more digestible. As a result, our intestines became much smaller, as we no longer required a digestive system capable of digesting raw food.

Smaller guts meant we were able to stand upright and run faster. These changes coincided with Homo erectus developing a much larger and more complex brain. Their superior intelligence meant they were better equipped to survive. It is no coincidence that the most highly-developed cognitive beings on this planet, also happen to be dab hands in the kitchen.

 

In a similar fashion to last year, in between these fascinating talks we enjoyed the opportunity to wander among the interactive displays within each area of science. We got up close and personal with a range of creepy crawlies and saw the infamous naked mole-rat, as well as marvelling at an array of innovative technology.

The day out allowed us to listen to some gripping expert speakers and learn of their current research. The New Scientist Live event didn’t fail to remind us again of the power of engaging communication and why it is so important. See you next year!