Tag Archives: genetic

Hacking Darwin – Jamie Metzl


Hacking Darwin

Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity

Jamie Metzl

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $12.99

Publish Date: April 23, 2019

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc

Seller: Sourcebooks, Inc.

“A gifted and thoughtful writer, Metzl brings us to the frontiers of biology and technology, and reveals a world full of promise and peril.” — Siddhartha Mukherjee MD, New York Times bestselling author of The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene Passionate, provocative, and highly illuminating, Hacking Darwin is the must read book about the future of our species for fans of Homo Deus and The Gene .  After 3.8 billion years humankind is about to start evolving by new rules… From leading geopolitical expert and technology futurist Jamie Metzl comes a groundbreaking exploration of the many ways genetic-engineering is shaking the core foundations of our lives — sex, war, love, and death.  At the dawn of the genetics revolution, our DNA is becoming as readable, writable, and hackable as our information technology. But as humanity starts retooling our own genetic code, the choices we make today will be the difference between realizing breathtaking advances in human well-being and descending into a dangerous and potentially deadly genetic arms race.  Enter the laboratories where scientists are turning science fiction into reality. Look towards a future where our deepest beliefs, morals, religions, and politics are challenged like never before and the very essence of what it means to be human is at play. When we can engineer our future children, massively extend our lifespans, build life from scratch, and recreate the plant and animal world, should we? 

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Hacking Darwin – Jamie Metzl

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How & Why to Participate in a Seed Swap

Seed swaps refer to the many different ways people can exchange seeds they?ve grown themselves. A seed swap can be done through a community event, online, or simply between friends. However you choose to do it, there are many benefits to preserving and sharing seeds. Let?s look at some of the reasons why to swap seeds and how to get started.


1. You Save Money

If you buy fresh seeds every year from a garden center, catalogue, or other supplier, you know the costs can quickly add up. Whereas, saving your own seeds and trading them with others is completely free, other than taking a little time in the process. You will also find many unique varieties that simply don?t exist in the catalogues.

2. You Get Quality, Local Seeds

The majority of store-bought seeds come from somewhere else. And the parent plants could have grown in conditions completely different from your local environment. This makes it hard to predict how those plant varieties will fare in your garden.

Seeds you get from seed swaps are typically grown by other gardeners who live near you, which means you already know they can grow well in your local area. Also, the longer you save your seeds, you may find they?ll get stronger and better each year as they continue to adapt to your local conditions over many generations.

3. You Help Maintain Genetic Diversity

Our world is rapidly losing genetic diversity as both plant and animal species throughout the world are becoming extinct at an alarming rate. It?s estimated that farmers used to grow about 80,000 species of plants prior to industrialization. Currently, they rely on around 150 species.

The primary reason for this is to create predictable, uniform crops that can be easily harvested and processed on large-scale farms. Needless to say, this does not support plant diversity. It also creates a very dangerous situation where disease can kill off a certain variety of plant, and there are no other varieties to take its place. We need as many different varieties as possible to ensure a healthy, secure food supply for the future.

Related: Why It Matters to Buy Heirloom Plants and Seeds

4. You Support Non-GMO Seeds

A particularly insidious development in the industrialization of seeds is genetic modification. Various food crops have been genetically altered to fit into the industrial agriculture model even better. Genetically modified organisms have been linked to certain health risks, as well as adding disturbing mutations to our already dwindling gene pool of plants. Growing and sharing your own seeds is a way to keep genetic modification out of our gardens and our food.


1. Collect your favorite seeds

Seed collection typically involves gathering either dry or wet seeds. The easiest seeds to start with are dry seeds, which are produced by most ornamental flowers and herbs. Simply wait until the flowers have matured and gone to seed, then break open any pods or seed heads and shake out the dry seeds into a paper bag for storage.

Most vegetables make wet seeds that need to be cleaned and dried before storage. This is a straight-forward process, and you can find more details on processing wet seeds here. Once you have your seeds dried, they should be stored in a paper bag or envelope in a cool, dark location.

2. Share your seeds

Seed swapping can be as simple as trading some seeds with a few friends, or you can go bigger and attend a community seed swap near you. Ask a local garden center, gardening club, or botanical garden if they know of any seed swaps happening in town.

If you can?t find a swap locally, try starting your own. Mother Earth News has a great overview of how to organize a community seed swap. You can also donate your extra seeds to organizations like Seed Savers Exchange, who work to preserve and distribute rare and heirloom seed varieties.

3. Go online

Many sites offer online seed swapping opportunities, such as the National Gardening Association, Houzz, or Reddit. You?ll usually need to be a member of a site in order to participate, but once you?ve signed up, you can often advertise what you have or ask for varieties you?re looking for. Once you?ve made a match, you can either arrange to meet up locally or mail your exchanged seeds.

4. Start a seed lending library

A seed library works by allowing gardeners to ?borrow? seeds at planting time, and then save some fresh seeds at the end of the season to return to the library for the following year. If you?re intrigued by the idea, shareable has a great description of how to create your own seed lending library.

5. Grow your seeds

Another important step in seed saving is to keep the cycle going. Plant your saved seeds, as well as any new varieties you?ve gotten at a swap, every spring for a fresh crop. Then collect seeds in the fall again to share and grow next year.

Related on Care2

How to Share Extra Bounty from Your Garden with the Community
6 Tips for Starting Your Own Vegetable Seeds Indoors
10 Facts Why GM Food Is Bad

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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How & Why to Participate in a Seed Swap

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Indica vs Sativa: Are These Useful Titles or Just Smoke and Mirrors?

?Is it an Indica or Sativa strain??

Whether you?re a moderate or proficient user of cannabis, you?ve most likely heard this question in numerous cannabis conversations ? but what does it really mean? More importantly, does it really even matter if a cannabis product is determined to be an ?Indica? or ?Sativa? strain?

Where do the terms ?Indica? and ?Sativa? come from?

A quick history lesson: In 1753, Carl Linneaus classified two subspecies of cannabis: Cannabis sativa L (hemp, non-intoxicating) and Cannabis Sativa (psychoactive and intoxicating). A second subspecies discovery was made by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in 1785: Cannabis Indica.

Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica are responsible for the Indica/Sativa classifications we know today. These taxonomic classifications are somewhat controversial, but the important distinctions have to do with geographic origins, variances in morphologies (shape of leaves, plant height, growing conditions), and slight differences in genetics.

A quick cultivation lesson: This Sativa and Indica taxonomy helps cultivators indicate the physical qualities of a particular strain (technically known as a cultivar) and its growing conditions. Sativa plants typically grow tall with bright, narrow leaves. Indicas typically grow into short, dense plants with wide leaves with deep green colors. Sativas have longer flowering cycles and are better suited for warm climates with long seasons, while Indicas have shorter flowering cycles and are capable of growing in cold climates with shorter seasons.

Due to extensive crossbreeding over the past fifty plus years, cultivators have effectively eliminated pure Sativa and Indica cultivars, leaving behind only hybrids that may lean more heavily toward one or the other initial subspecies, further confusing matters for the end user.

Are the effects of Indica and Sativa different?

You?ve heard it before: Sativas are invigorating, Indicas are relaxing. Sativas get you high. Indicas get you stoned.

Your local budtender may be quick to use words like ?cerebral,? ?heady,? ?uplifting,? ?energizing? and ?like a cup of coffee? when describing Sativas, and words like ?relaxing,? ?sedating,? ?full-bodied,? ?stoney? and ?like a cup of nighttime tea? when describing Indicas. Although all marijuana strains are now technically hybrids, a third categorization, Hybrid, is reserved for strains that have a balance of effects inherited from the genetic crossing of Indica and Sativa strains.

What does science have to say?

Let?s cut to the chase ? is it scientifically accurate to label cannabis as ?Indica? and ?Sativa? based on genetic ancestry? The answer: not likely.

Or, as famed cannabis researcher Dr. Ethan Russo puts it: ?The sativa/indica distinction as commonly applied in the lay literature is total nonsense and an exercise in futility.?

Science is increasingly backing this up. Bedrocan, one of the largest producers of legal medicinal cannabis, teamed up with Canadian Dalhousie University to study the genetic differences between cannabis labelled Sativa and Indica. The study analyzed 149 different cannabis samples to determine if the genotype and chemotype accurately correlated to their reported ?ancestry.? ?The results indicated that there is ?no clear evidence of ancestry differences between Sativa- and Indica-labelled cannabis.?

In short, the reported genetic lineages of strains are somewhat dubious and less distinct than cannabis cultivators and breeders would have consumers believe.

However, Bedrocan?s study did find a strong relationship between chemical and genetic profiles. This suggests that the Indica/Sativa classification has much more to do with a strain?s terpene profile and less to do with its cannabinoid profile, as previously believed.

This finding makes sense and is supported in other studies. When indicating the effect a particular strain will produce, consider the cannabinoid and terpene profiles, as the concentration of terpenes will not only indicate the aroma and flavor of a particular strain, but also shed light on the associated effects. Research is confirming that aroma profiles of a plant, coupled with the ratio of the two major cannabinoids (THC and CBD), are the most important factors when attempting to determine the possible effects of a strain.

The main Indica and Sativa takeaway

While an Indica and Sativa label may accurately indicate its genetic lineage, it doesn?t necessarily predict what effects that strain or product will produce. Not all Indicas produce Indica-like effects and not all Sativas produce Sativa-like effect. It is common to find strains with an Indica lineage that have Sativa-like effects. If you take Indica/Sativa categorization with a grain of salt and pay attention to cannabinoid and terpene contents, you?ll have a clearer picture of what each cannabis product has to offer.

Nicolas Gonzalez-Podesta is the Director of Science and Education at Weedmaps. He directs Weedmaps? educational initiatives and works with a range of professionals including scientists, government officials and educators. Weedmaps is the world?s largest marijuana technology company working with enterprises, governments, and consumers to provide the leading cloud platform to power the marijuana industry.

Related Stories:

Is Cannabis Actually Addictive?
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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


Indica vs Sativa: Are These Useful Titles or Just Smoke and Mirrors?

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The Journey of Man – Spencer Wells


The Journey of Man
A Genetic Odyssey
Spencer Wells

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: October 31, 2012

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

Around 60,000 years ago, a man—genetically identical to us—lived in Africa. Every person alive today is descended from him. How did this real-life Adam wind up as the father of us all? What happened to the descendants of other men who lived at the same time? And why, if modern humans share a single prehistoric ancestor, do we come in so many sizes, shapes, and races? Examining the hidden secrets of human evolution in our genetic code, Spencer Wells reveals how developments in the revolutionary science of population genetics have made it possible to create a family tree for the whole of humanity. Replete with marvelous anecdotes and remarkable information, from the truth about the real Adam and Eve to the way differing racial types emerged, The Journey of Man is an enthralling, epic tour through the history and development of early humankind.

Credit – 

The Journey of Man – Spencer Wells

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Behave – Robert M. Sapolsky



The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

Robert M. Sapolsky

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $18.99

Publish Date: May 2, 2017

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Why do we do the things we do? Over a decade in the making, this game-changing book is Robert Sapolsky's genre-shattering attempt to answer that question as fully as perhaps only he could, looking at it from every angle. Sapolsky's storytelling concept is delightful but it also has a powerful intrinsic logic: he starts by looking at the factors that bear on a person's reaction in the precise moment a behavior occurs, and then hops back in time from there, in stages, ultimately ending up at the deep history of our species and its genetic inheritance. And so the first category of explanation is the neurobiological one. What goes on in a person's brain a second before the behavior happens? Then he pulls out to a slightly larger field of vision, a little earlier in time: What sight, sound, or smell triggers the nervous system to produce that behavior? And then, what hormones act hours to days earlier to change how responsive that individual is to the stimuli which trigger the nervous system? By now, he has increased our field of vision so that we are thinking about neurobiology and the sensory world of our environment and endocrinology in trying to explain what happened. Sapolsky keeps going–next to what features of the environment affected that person's brain, and then back to the childhood of the individual, and then to their genetic makeup. Finally, he expands the view to encompass factors larger than that one individual. How culture has shaped that individual's group, what ecological factors helped shape that culture, and on and on, back to evolutionary factors thousands and even millions of years old. The result is one of the most dazzling tours de horizon of the science of human behavior ever attempted, a majestic synthesis that harvests cutting-edge research across a range of disciplines to provide a subtle and nuanced perspective on why we ultimately do the things we do…for good and for ill. Sapolsky builds on this understanding to wrestle with some of our deepest and thorniest questions relating to tribalism and xenophobia, hierarchy and competition, morality and free will, and war and peace. Wise, humane, often very funny, Behave is a towering achievement, powerfully humanizing, and downright heroic in its own right.

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Behave – Robert M. Sapolsky

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Scientists may have found a way to eliminate antibiotic-resistant infections

Scientists may have found a way to eliminate antibiotic-resistant infections

By on 19 May 2015commentsShare

You know how sometimes humans freak out about genetic engineering? It’s time to freak out again! Except this time it’s a good thing: Scientists are figuring out how to use new gene-editing technologies to eliminate antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

The Tel Aviv-based researchers, whose work was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science yesterday, used a new method of gene therapy called CRISPR to selectively slash the DNA of an antibiotic-resistant strain of E. coli. The method uses a virus as its vector to infect the bacteria’s cells (it doesn’t affect human cells at all) and target the exact sequence of genetic base-pairs that confers antibiotic resistance. When it locates that sequence, the virus latches on and excises the offending gene with surgical precision. With the one-two punch of CRISPR and conventional antibiotics, even the toughest infections might soon be easily mopped up.

It’s worth repeating that when it comes to GMO panic, some of that fear is founded while some is a knee-jerk uneasiness with anything that seems “unnatural” — and all of it is a little confused. As Grist’s Nathanael Johnson has pointed out, genetic engineering is a tool, and like any tool — a shovel, a gun, a Facebook post — it can be used for good things or bad ones or just scary sci-fi stuff that we don’t know enough about to start Frankenstein-ing around with.

I happen to believe eliminating antibiotic-resistant infections that infect 2 million people a year would be a very good thing indeed.

This New Gene Editing Technique Could Turn The Tide on Antibiotic Resistance

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Scientists may have found a way to eliminate antibiotic-resistant infections

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This Map Shows Why The Midwest Is Screwed

Mother Jones

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The ongoing drought in California has been, among other things, a powerful lesson in how vulnerable America’s agricultural sector is to climate change. Even if that drought wasn’t specifically caused by man-made global warming, scientists have little doubt that droughts and heat waves are going to get more frequent and severe in important crop-growing regions. In California, the cost in 2014 was staggering: $2.2 billion in losses and added expenses, plus 17,000 lost jobs, according to a UC-Davis study.

California is country’s hub for fruits, veggies, and nuts. But what about the commodity grains grown in the Midwest, where the US produces over half its corn and soy? That’s the subject of a new report by the climate research group headed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer (who recently shut down rumors that he might run for Senate).

The report is all about climate impacts expected in the Midwest, and the big takeaway is that future generations have lots of very sweaty summers in store. One example: “The average Chicago resident is expected to experience more days over 95 degrees F by the century’s end than the average Texan does today.” The report also predicts that electricity prices will increase, with potential ramifications for the region’s manufacturing sector, and that beloved winter sports—ice fishing, anyone?—will become harder to do.

But some of the most troublesome findings are about agriculture. Some places will fare better than others; northern Minnesota, for example, could very well find itself benefiting from global warming. But overall, the report says, extreme heat, scarcer water resources, and weed and insect invasions will drive down corn and soybean yields by 11 to 69 percent by the century’s end. Note that these predictions assume no “significant adaptation,” so there’s an opportunity to soften the blow with solutions like better water management, switching to more heat-tolerant crops like sorghum, or the combination of genetic engineering and data technology now being pursued by Monsanto.

Here’s a map from the report showing which states’ farmers could benefit from climate change—and which ones will lose big time:

Risky Business

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This Map Shows Why The Midwest Is Screwed

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Maine’s loony Tea Party governor signs GMO-labeling law

Maine’s loony Tea Party governor signs GMO-labeling law


Maine on Thursday became the second state in the nation to require food manufacturers to put labels on products containing genetically modified ingredients — sort of.

Gov. Paul LePage (R) signed “An Act To Protect Maine Food Consumers’ Right To Know about Genetically Engineered Food,” which mandates the following:

any food or seed stock offered for retail sale that is genetically engineered must be accompanied by a conspicuous disclosure that states “Produced with Genetic Engineering.”

The law would also prevent any products containing GMOs from being labeled as “natural.” That should seem obvious, but big food manufacturers are currently pressuring the federal government to allow them to use such labels on genetically modified foods.

But Maine’s new law has a catch, similar to the catch in a GMO-labeling law passed in Connecticut last month. The Maine law won’t take effect until at least five nearby states adopt similar rules. That’s because the states are unwilling to go it alone in the courts against Big Ag and Big Food. The Kennebec Journal reports:

Proponents of the bill said the provision would quell concerns about an almost-certain lawsuit by industry groups and Monsanto, which vowed to challenge the laws in Maine and Connecticut on the basis that they violate the free speech and interstate commerce provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills told lawmakers last year that the bill was almost certain to face a legal challenge, and said she could not guarantee that her office could defend its constitutionality.

The Journal reports that the bill “brought together such factions as libertarian Republicans and liberal Democrats, creating strong support.”

It did more than that: It got approval from “America’s craziest governor,” as Politico called LePage this week, “a man who can make even the most hot-headed conservative talk radio hosts seem reasonable.”

We’ll let you decide whether that’s a good or bad omen for the GMO-labeling movement.

LePage signs bill to label genetically modified food, Kennebec Journal

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants: johnupton@gmail.com.

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Maine’s loony Tea Party governor signs GMO-labeling law

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You Own Your DNA, But Who Gets to Interpret It?

Mother Jones

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Yesterday the FDA ordered 23andMe to immediately stop selling its DNA testing service until and unless it gets agency approval. This is the end game of a very long cycle: regulatory reviews of genetic testing have been going on, in one form or another, for more than 15 years, and along the way there have been repeated bipartisan calls for more rigorous rules to ensure that consumers get accurate and judicious information. In 2010, for example, the GAO conducted an undercover investigation of four genetic testing companies and concluded that “GAO’s fictitious consumers received test results that are misleading and of little or no practical use.”

Nonetheless, the FDA’s action yesterday produced a flurry of criticism, especially from the libertarian right. Alex Tabarrok is typical:

The FDA wants to judge not the analytic validity of the tests … but the clinical validity, whether particular identified alleles are causal for conditions or disease. The latter requirement is the death-knell for the products because of the expense and time it takes to prove specific genes are causal for diseases….Here is why I think the FDA’s actions are unconstitutional. Reading an individual’s code is safe and effective. Interpreting the code and communicating opinions about it may or may not be safe—just like all communication—but it falls squarely under the First Amendment.

I’m pretty sure this is nowhere near so cut and dried. The relevant distinction here is between medical information and medical advice: the former is protected speech while the latter isn’t. And while your genome may be medical information, interpreting your genome and explaining whether it puts you at risk for different diseases is very close to medical advice. And not just general medical advice, of the kind that Dr. Oz purveys on television. It’s specific, personal medical advice, of the kind that only licensed physicians are allowed to provide.

That’s the argument, anyway. If 23andMe is going to perform a lab test and then send you a personal letter suggesting that you, personally, are or aren’t at high risk for some disease, it’s acting an awful lot like a doctor. But for better or worse, only doctors are allowed to act like doctors, and the FDA thinks that complex and sometimes ambiguous test results should be communicated to patients by licensed MDs who know what they mean.

It turns out there’s more to this particular case, of course: the FDA’s letter makes it pretty clear that they’re fed up with 23andMe, which has apparently been almost arrogantly unresponsive to standard requests for documentation:

As part of our interactions with you, including more than 14 face-to-face and teleconference meetings, hundreds of email exchanges, and dozens of written communications, we provided you with specific feedback on study protocols and clinical and analytical validation requirements, discussed potential classifications and regulatory pathways (including reasonable submission timelines), provided statistical advice, and discussed potential risk mitigation strategies.

….However, even after these many interactions with 23andMe, we still do not have any assurance that the firm has analytically or clinically validated the PGS for its intended uses….Months after you submitted your 510(k)s and more than 5 years after you began marketing, you still had not completed some of the studies and had not even started other studies….FDA has not received any communication from 23andMe since May. Instead, we have become aware that you have initiated new marketing campaigns, including television commercials that, together with an increasing list of indications, show that you plan to expand the PGS’s uses and consumer base without obtaining marketing authorization from FDA.

Ouch. By happenstance, this brought to mind a Felix Salmon post from yesterday. It was about GoldieBlox, another high-flying Silicon Valley startup that apparently believes federal laws apply only to ordinary mortals—not to rebelliously innovative and disruptive companies that are going to change the very way we interact with the world. Salmon describes the “Silicon Valley way” like this: “First you make your own rules — and then, if anybody tries to slap you down, you don’t apologize, you fight.”

This sure sounds an awful lot like 23andMe. I’m actually sort of agnostic about the issue of whether personal genome services should fall into the category of highly regulated diagnostic tests. The line between information and advice is genuinely gray here. But regardless of that, this isn’t something that suddenly popped up out of nowhere. It’s been on the FDA’s radar for a long time, and 23andMe was well aware of the FDA’s requirements. They sure look an awful lot like a Silicon Valley company that figured they could stall them forever and never pay a price.

Source – 

You Own Your DNA, But Who Gets to Interpret It?

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The 4-Hour Body – Timothy Ferriss


The 4-Hour Body

An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman

Timothy Ferriss

Genre: Health & Fitness

Price: $13.99

Publish Date: December 14, 2010

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group

Seller: Random House Digital, Inc. (Books)

Thinner, bigger, faster, stronger… which 150 pages will you read? Is it possible to: Reach your genetic potential in 6 months? Sleep 2 hours per day and perform better than on 8 hours? Lose more fat than a marathoner by bingeing? Indeed, and much more. This is not just another diet and fitness book. The 4-Hour Body is the result of an obsessive quest, spanning more than a decade, to hack the human body. It contains the collective wisdom of hundreds of elite athletes, dozens of MDs, and thousands of hours of jaw-dropping personal experimentation. From Olympic training centers to black-market laboratories, from Silicon Valley to South Africa, Tim Ferriss, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek, fixated on one life-changing question: For all things physical, what are the tiniest changes that produce the biggest results? Thousands of tests later, this book contains the answers for both men and women. From the gym to the bedroom, it’s all here, and it all works. YOU WILL LEARN (in less than 30 minutes each): How to lose those last 5-10 pounds (or 100+ pounds) with odd combinations of food and safe chemical cocktails. * How to prevent fat gain while bingeing (X-mas, holidays, weekends) * How to increase fat-loss 300% with a few bags of ice * How Tim gained 34 pounds of muscle in 28 days, without steroids, and in four hours of total gym time * How to sleep 2 hours per day and feel fully rested * How to produce 15-minute female orgasms * How to triple testosterone and double sperm count * How to go from running 5 kilometers to 50 kilometers in 12 weeks * How to reverse “permanent” injuries * How to add 150+ pounds to your lifts in 6 months * How to pay for a beach vacation with one hospital visit And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There are more than 50 topics covered, all with real-world experiments, many including more than 200 test subjects. You don't need better genetics or more discipline. You need immediate results that compel you to continue. That’s exactly what The 4-Hour Body delivers. From the Hardcover edition.


The 4-Hour Body – Timothy Ferriss

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