Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 19/1/2005Let me warn you against 'detox', the pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo that makers of bottled water and other snake-oil salesmen peddle at us during this time of year. As the endless drought of January wears on, there are many good reasons to take a break from one's bad habits, but detoxification ain't one.

Wednesday 19/1/2005
Let me warn you against 'detox', the pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo that makers of bottled water and other snake-oil salesmen peddle at us during this time of year. As the endless drought of January wears on, there are many good reasons to take a break from one's bad habits, but detoxification ain't one. What toxins, precisely, do these people mean? Who came up with the 'eight glasses of water a day' nonsense? Aren't our kidneys and other lights more than capable of removing that which needs to be removed without the aid of expensive addenda?

It's all nonsense. What does 'detox' mean? Insomnia and turds like granite pebbles. But there are advantages too -- a less frequently emptied wallet, a clear head in the morning with which to enjoy London Transport's delightful range of experiences, and a chance to experience the best in late night radio. That used to be shortwave, but now the city is so full of digital devices that the ionosphere is drowned beneath crackles, buzzes and bleeps from leaking processors. I would point out that this disables a lot of amateur radio, which is often the only communications service to keep going during major disasters, but I'm sure we'll find this out in due course.

What technology takes with one tentacle, it sometimes gives back with another. In this case, DAB digital radio means that I can listen to Radio 5 Live without the late night medium wave patina of distant noises. Tonight, Malcolm, they're talking about ears. And the best news I've heard for a long time is that science may save me from the consequences of another of my long-term vices: loud music.

There's a lot of hearing impairment among the young and not-so-young as the Walkman Generation starts to work its way through middle age. I was in headphones before I was out of nappies, and odd notches appeared in my hearing at around 6kHz before I was 20. Another couple of decades indulging in loud noises in dodgy gigs and on portable equipment and the degradation is obvious. And that would normally be that -- once you've killed off the microscopic cilia that transform sound to nerve impulses, they don't grow back.

Until now. Some bright spark spotted that the analogous hairs in reptiles and amphibians do indeed grow back if they're lost -- it's just mammals that stay deaf. Much peering into the matter later, and the appropriate mutation has been isolated and patched in a set of lab mice. Who calmly and without fuss,promptly grew back their missing internal whiskers.

Ten to 20 years, the bloke on the wireless reckoned, and we'll have a genetic therapy for ourselves. Igor! More volume!

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