Double duty picture from City of Heroes! According to science, identifying with superheroes can make you stronger. But unfortunately discoveries like these tend to disappear over time, as if Real Life too was a game that gets patched…
I recently bought another box of Omega-3, the super healthy fat. Unfortunately, I was too late. Before I even got started, science had discovered that Omega-3 does not prevent cardiovascular disease after all. I read it on www.forskning.no. (In Norwegian.)
For some years, it has been known that Omega-3 fatty acids have various beneficial effects on blood vessels, and the way it worked was reasonably well understood. Or so we thought. But there is another effect which is poorly understood, a general law that says that a scientific discovery is likely to disappear gradually over time (the Decline Effect).
This is not true for the basics such as gravity or electricity, but more recent (and more complex) discoveries seem to fall under this surprising law. The first independent attempts to replicate the discovery agree that there really is such an effect, and it is surprisingly strong. Theorist then come up with various ways in which the effect can be explained, and new tests are run to pinpoint these. But meanwhile, the effect becomes gradually smaller, and after some years it disappears. This has now happened to the effects of Omega-3 on heart and blood vessels. While we now finally understand how it works, it no longer works, and we don’t understand why. When we didn’t understand how it worked, it worked well enough.
Around the same time, I read that reduced calorie intake did not prolong the lives of rhesus monkeys. Scientists have tested reduced calorie intake (less than 75% of normal) for a wide range of organisms, from nematodes to mice. They stayed youthful longer and exceeded the maximal life expectancy of their species. The monkeys also stayed youthful longer, but died at the normal time anyway. This is bound to be a slap in the face for the people who have gone on a starvation diet to live to see the Singularity. Well, you may want to be youthful longer anyway, but it bears mention in passing that one of the first effects of long-time calorie restriction is that your sex drive goes off and doesn’t get back until you get your fat back. So I guess prayer and fasting really is a good combination for those who want to stay super chaste. But immortality is not so easily achieved.
The most amusing explanation for the fading scientific discoveries is that Real Life is actually a MMRPG (massively multiplayer role playing game) and that the developers patch any unintentional exploits incrementally after they are published. Hey, the developers over on City of Heroes did this with their Mission Architect system. They would patch one exploit, then someone would discover a less powerful exploit, and it was patched too, and so on until the exploits were so mediocre that most people did not really care one way or another. So perhaps the developers of real life are doing the same.
Or perhaps we are just too eager to jump on anything that seems like a loophole in the laws of nature.