Russian scientists make progress on secret of eternal life

Russian scientists make progress on secret of eternal life

Scientists have decoded the DNA of a bacteria found thriving in ancient permafrost, and are now seeking to understand the genes which provide its extraordinary longevity.

Work is also underway to study a so far unexplained positive impact on living organisms, notably human blood cells, mice, fruit flies, and crops. Professor Sergey Petrov, chief researcher of Tyumen Scientific Centre, said: 'In all these experiments, Bacillus F stimulated the growth and also strengthened the immune system. The experiments on human erythrocytes and leucocytes were also very optimistic. '

The bacteria were originally found on Mamontova Gora - Mammoth Mountain - in Siberia's Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia, in 2009 by Dr Anatoli Brouchkov, head of the Geocryology Department, Moscow State University. Similar bacteria were discovered by Siberian scientist Vladimir Repin in the brain of an extinct woolly mammoth preserved by permafrost.

Dr Anatoli Brouchkov, head of the Geocryology Department, Moscow State University, on Mamontova Gora. Picture: Anatoli Brouchkov

'We did a lot of experiments on mice and fruit flies and we saw the sustainable impact of our bacteria on their longevity and fertility,' said Dr Brouchkov. 'But we do not know yet exactly how it works. In fact, we do not know exactly how aspirin works, for example, but it does. The same is true here: we cannot understand the mechanism, but we see the impact.'

Describing the discoveries as a 'scientific sensation' and an 'elixir of life', Yakutsk epidemiologist Dr Viktor Chernyavsky said: 'The bacteria gives out biologically active substances throughout its life, which activates the immune status of experimental animals.' As a result, 'mice grannies not only began to dance, but also produced offspring'.

If the same substance were to be given to people, it could cause a significant improvement in their health, leading to the discovery of an 'elixir of life', said Dr Chernyavsky.

A number of claims are now being made for the potential of three different strains of bacteria found in the permafrost, among them the rejuvenating of the life of living beings. Another is the potential development of organisms capable of destroying petroleum molecules, turning them into water, with the potential one day to create a new system for cleaning up oil spills. A third strain of ancient bacteria is capable of eliminating cellulose molecules.

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'The key question is what provides the vitality of this bacteria, but it as complicated as which human genes are responsible for cancer and how to cure it.' Pictures: Anatoli Brouchkov

Dr Brouchkov told The Siberian Times: 'We have completed the deciphering of Bacillus DNA and, more importantly, we have completely restored a sequence of genes in it. This work was ongoing for several years and it finished at the end of last year. Now we face the most complicated task - the attempts to find out which genes are providing the longevity of bacteria, and which proteins are protecting the DNA structure from damages.

'We want to understand the mechanisms of the protection of genome, the functioning of the genes. The key question is what provides the vitality of this bacteria, but it is as complicated as which human genes are responsible for cancer and how to cure it. The scale and complicity of the question are nearly the same.' This involves technically difficult research, he said.

He revealed that the bacteria has survived for millions of years deep in the Siberian ice. 'To state the exact age of bacteria, we need to date the permafrost rocks and this is not so easy,' he said. 'There are no exact methods to date the permafrost, but we have solid reason to believe that it is rather old.

'Eastern Siberia is not a warm place even now and 3.5 million years ago it was also rather cold. It already had nearly the same temperature mode as it has now. That is we believe that this permafrost was formed 3.5 million years ago. And we believe that the bacteria could not penetrate to the oldest layer from the earlier ones through the permafrost. This bacteria was isolated from the outer world in ice, so we are quite sure that this bacteria was kept in the permafrost for such a long time. Yet we are still working to prove this.'

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'The bacteria gives out biologically active substances throughout its life, which activates the immune status of experimental animals.' Pictures:

Bacteria also preserved in other extreme conditions, he said. 'Some of them were found in amber, some even in rock salt. More than this, in rock salt a bacteria aged half a billion years was found.'

He claimed: 'I would say, there exist (in the world) immortal bacteria, immortal beings. They cannot die, to be more precise, they can protect themselves. Our cells are unable to protect themselves from damage. These bacteria cells are able to protect themselves. It would be great to find the mechanisms of protection from ageing, from damage and to use them to fight with our ageing. It's is the main riddle of mankind and I believe we must work to solve it.

'Now we have a key, ancient bacteria, which scientists have found in an extreme and ancient environment.' He admitted that some people need convincing of the significance of the discoveries. 'Of course the discussions are ongoing. There are a lot of sceptics who do not believe that bacteria are really old.

'But the main thing is: we finally saw the light at the end of a long and hopeless tunnel. It is a great deed. I would be happy if people are interested in our research. It is much better than to follow the dollar rate or price of oil. Our researches globally has just started. The first (scientific) articles appeared about ten years ago, so it is at the first stage of the research.

'I believe that we all need to start studying these immortal beings, but at the moment not so many of us are doing this. We are arguing, discussing, instead of (doing sufficient) research. We need to use the fact that such bacteria were found in our permafrost. We have such opportunities for study. I believe that this bacteria could be very useful.'

'In the laboratory we got very good results. The bacteria not only stimulates growth, but increases frost resistance. The seeds sprouted at a temperature 5C.' Pictures: SurgutInform TV

One place where active research is underway is in Tymen, western Siberia, under Prof Petrov. 'We conduct various studies of the impact of the bacteria on the living organisms,' he said. 'We made experiments with copepods, mice, crops and human blood cells. In all these experiments Bacillus F stimulated the growth and also strengthened the immune system. The experiments on human erythrocytes and leucocytes were also very optimistic.

'Now we are focused on experiments with the crops. The bacteria stimulates the growth of crops, increases productivity. This year we completed the laboratory studies and went to the field trials. We will look at the results. Before sowing seeds we put them into a solution containing a culture of the bacterium. We have harvested but the results are not completely processed yet.' The results of these trials will be announced later.

'In the laboratory we got very good results. The seeds sprouted at a temperature 5C. It is very important in our Siberian harsh conditions, when a sudden frost can come in May and even June.'

He revealed: 'We can say that the bacteria enhances photosynthesis. It is also very important for our northern areas with short photo period. The plants have time to fully mature.

'We conduct the biochemical research to understand the mechanism, how exactly this bacteria influences on the plants, which exact stages of the metabolism it affects. At the moment we cannot say for sure. That is, we see the effects, but cannot fully explain this yet.

The bacteria were originally found on Mamontova Gora - Mammoth Mountain - in Siberia's Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia, in 2009. Pictures: Sergei Goltsov

'At the moment the use of plant growth promoting bacteria is a very promising direction. It is clear that bacteria are much more effective than chemicals. Our Bacillus F has a great potential, as it managed to survive in permafrost. I believe its potential is much higher that other growth promoting bacteria. Besides it can help to withstand frost, which is so important for our conditions.

'Now we have applied for a grant to conduct further research, especially on human blood cells, and we hope that we will get it, because the research is extremely promising.'

Close to the site where the ancient bacteria was found lay the remains of woolly mammoths and rhinos. 'We found our bacteria in deeper, more ancient layers of permafrost, significantly lower that the layers where mammoths were found,' said Dr Brouchkov.

Featured image: Work is also underway to study a so far unexplained positive impact on living organisms, notably human blood cells, mice, fruit flies, and crops. Picture:

The article ‘ Russian scientists make progress on secret of eternal life ’ was originally posted on The Siberian Times and has been republished with permission.

Russian scientist says he is stronger and healthier after injecting himself with 'eternal life' bacteria

If injecting yourself with 3.5 million-year-old bacteria could keep you looking and feeling youthful and healthy without having to fork out for a gym membership, would you do it?

Russian scientist Anatoli Brouchkov, head of the Geocryology Department at Moscow State University, is looking for the key to eternal youth.

He has therefore become a human guinea pig for some bacteria that could perhaps hold the key to longevity.

The bacteria,named Bacillus F, is amazing because it has remained alive in the permafrost for millions of years.

Scientists have tested it on mice and human blood cells, but this wasn't enough for Mr. Brouchkov, who decided to inject himself with it.

"I started to work longer, I've never had a flu for the last two years," he said. "After successful experiments on mice and fruit flies, I thought it would be interesting to try the inactivated bacterial culture," he told The Siberian Times.

He didn't think there would be a danger, as the bacteria is actually in trace amounts in the water of the region.

The scientist said: "'Besides, the permafrost is thawing, and I guess these bacteria get into the environment, into the water, so the local population, the Yakut people, in fact, for a long time are getting these cells with water, and even seem to live longer than some other nations. So there was no danger for me."

It's not a proper science experiment, but Anatoli Brouchkov says that the bacteria seems to have had a positive effect on him.

He said: "'It wasn't quite a scientific experiment, so I cannot professionally describe the effects. But it was quite clear for me that I did not catch flu for two years. Perhaps there were some side-effects, but there should be some special medical equipment to spot them. Of course, such experiments need to be conducted in clinic, with the special equipment and statistics. Then we could say clearly about all the effects."

People are definitely interested in looking for the key to eternal health and youth - just look at how many buy superfoods and do weird things like have their own blood injected into their faces.

If the bacteria does, in fact, work and scientists are able to enhance its power, it could make someone very rich.

Mr. Brouchkov said that they are still experimenting on the bacteria. He elaborated: "We have to work out how this bacteria prevents ageing. I think that is the way this science should develop. What is keeping that mechanism alive? And how can we use it for our own benefits?"

The bacteria may also hold the key to fertility - it allows older female mice to reproduce after they've stopped being able to, and heals plants.

Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality?

After more than 4,000 years — almost since the dawn of recorded time, when Utnapishtim told Gilgamesh that the secret to immortality lay in a coral found on the ocean floor — man finally discovered eternal life in 1988. He found it, in fact, on the ocean floor. The discovery was made unwittingly by Christian Sommer, a German marine-biology student in his early 20s. He was spending the summer in Rapallo, a small city on the Italian Riviera, where exactly one century earlier Friedrich Nietzsche conceived “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”: “Everything goes, everything comes back eternally rolls the wheel of being. Everything dies, everything blossoms again. . . .”

Sommer was conducting research on hydrozoans, small invertebrates that, depending on their stage in the life cycle, resemble either a jellyfish or a soft coral. Every morning, Sommer went snorkeling in the turquoise water off the cliffs of Portofino. He scanned the ocean floor for hydrozoans, gathering them with plankton nets. Among the hundreds of organisms he collected was a tiny, relatively obscure species known to biologists as Turritopsis dohrnii. Today it is more commonly known as the immortal jellyfish.

Sommer kept his hydrozoans in petri dishes and observed their reproduction habits. After several days he noticed that his Turritopsis dohrnii was behaving in a very peculiar manner, for which he could hypothesize no earthly explanation. Plainly speaking, it refused to die. It appeared to age in reverse, growing younger and younger until it reached its earliest stage of development, at which point it began its life cycle anew.

Sommer was baffled by this development but didn’t immediately grasp its significance. (It was nearly a decade before the word “immortal” was first used to describe the species.) But several biologists in Genoa, fascinated by Sommer’s finding, continued to study the species, and in 1996 they published a paper called “Reversing the Life Cycle.” The scientists described how the species — at any stage of its development — could transform itself back to a polyp, the organism’s earliest stage of life, “thus escaping death and achieving potential immortality.” This finding appeared to debunk the most fundamental law of the natural world — you are born, and then you die…

A Dyson Sphere Could Bring Humans Back From the Dead, Researchers Say

This cosmic megastructure may be the key to resurrection&mdashand immortality.

  • Russian researchers have outlined several ways technological resurrection may be possible in the future, including a method called digital immortality: restoration based on recordings.
  • In this method, a superintelligent AI uses the cosmic Dyson Sphere megastructure to harness computing energy from the sun.
  • Humans can&rsquot build a Dyson Sphere&mdashyet&mdashbut the researchers say nanorobots could one day do the job.

Imagine this: In the far, far future, long after you&rsquove died, you&rsquoll eventually come back to life. So will everyone else who ever had a hand in the history of human civilization. But in this scenario, returning from the dead is the relatively normal part. The journey home will be a hell of a lot weirder than the destination.

➡ You love weird f#@!-ing science. So do we. Let&rsquos nerd out over this stuff together.

Here&rsquos how it will go down: A megastructure called a Dyson Sphere will provide a superintelligent artificial agent (AI) with the enormous amounts of power it needs to collect as much historical and personal data about you, so it can rebuild your exact digital copy. Once it&rsquos finished, you&rsquoll live your whole life (again) in a simulated reality, and when the time comes for you to die (again), you&rsquoll be transported into a simulated afterlife, à la Black Mirror&rsquos &ldquoSan Junipero,&rdquo where you&rsquoll get to hang out with your friends, family, and favorite celebrities forever.

Yes, this is mind-boggling. But someday, it might also be very real.

This is Plan C of the &ldquoImmortality Roadmap,&rdquo a project on which Russian transhumanist and life extensionist Alexey Turchin has been working since 2014. Turchin recently laid out the details in a paper he published with fellow transhumanist Maxim Chernyakov called &ldquoClassification of Approaches to Technological Resurrection.&rdquo (Plans A, B, and D involve life extension, cryonics, and quantum immortality, respectively. You can find arguments justifying how each can lead to immortality in the paper.)

When Turchin was 11 years old, a girl in his class died. The experience planted the first seeds of the possibility of eternal life in his young mind. &ldquoI started to think in science-fiction terms about what could be done,&rdquo Turchin tells Pop Mech.

In 2007, he became a member of the Russian Transhumanist Movement, a community that works to prepare Russians to embrace the technologies that will help them transcend their current physical and mental limitations. Turchin cofounded Russia&rsquos first transhumanist political party in 2012, and for the last few years, he&rsquos been perfecting his Immortality Roadmap and proactively recording every tidbit of his life.

Turchin is recording and keeping diaries of every dream, conversation, and daily experience he has. This practice of &ldquoubiquitous surveillance&rdquo&mdashthroughout which Turchin says he even records his own biases&mdashis necessary because the superintelligent AI needs to subject future resurrectees to the exact same developmental conditions they went through when they lived for the sake of their &ldquoauthenticity,&rdquo he says.

Once the AI creates your precise digital copy, anything is possible&mdasheven restoration to biological life, says Turchin. The AI will doggedly search for your DNA&mdashit will even dig up your grave&mdashbecause only then will it be able to create a clone of your physical body, wherein your digital copy will find its temple.

Now take the singular example of digital immortality and multiply it to the scale of the billions of people who have ever lived, accounting for many copies of the same simulation with different variants of how things could develop, which will exponentially grow with any choice they make at the same time. There&rsquos no way Earth&rsquos power output could provide us with the computational resources for this endeavor. We need the sun. Better yet, we need a Dyson Sphere around the sun.

The late physicist Freeman Dyson proposed his megastructure concept in a 1960 Science paper, &ldquoSearch for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation.&rdquo The gist: It&rsquos a hypothetical shell encircling the sun to harness a large part of the majestic 400 septillion watts per second of energy our star emits on any given day. That&rsquos on the order of a trillion times our current worldwide energy usage.

Think of a Dyson Sphere as many separate satellites with separate orbits, as one enormous structure would be gravitationally unstable, says Turchin. He envisions the megastructure as a fleet of black or slightly orange solar farms, bonded together into a staggering 300 million-kilometer shell around the sun. It will be the ultimate alien megastructure, one that will signal the passage of our species from a planetary species to an interstellar one.

There&rsquos just one small problem: We can&rsquot actually build such a thing.

&ldquoAn actual sphere around the sun is completely impractical,&rdquo Stuart Armstrong, a research fellow at Oxford University&rsquos Future of Humanity Institute who has studied megastructure concepts, previously told Pop Mech.

The tensile strength needed to prevent the Dyson Sphere from tearing itself apart vastly exceeds that of any known material, Armstrong said. Plus, the sphere wouldn&rsquot gravitationally bind to its star in a stable fashion. If any part of the sphere were nudged closer to the star&mdashsay, by a meteor strike&mdashthen that part would be pulled preferentially toward the star, creating instability.

➡ Gear We Love: The Best Telescopes for Stargazing

It&rsquos still not exactly cheap, but Orion&rsquos SkyQuest XT8 is one of the best options around if you&rsquore looking to get the biggest aperture for your money. The XT8 is a reflector telescope, which means, at over four feet long and more than 40 pounds, it&rsquos big and difficult to move around. It also isn&rsquot computerized, but it should still be relatively easy for most folks to set up with a bit of practice thanks to its straightforward design and high-quality mount. And as Love the Night Sky explains in its review, the telescope delivers where it counts the most, with a large eight-inch aperture and high-quality mirrors and lenses that will let you clearly view galaxies, nebulae, and deep-space objects.

With over nearly 7,000 positive reviews on Amazon and a 4.4/5 rating, it's not hard to see why the Gskyer telescope is a fan-favorite. This option features a 70mm aperture and fully coated optimal lenses to offer a crisp, clear view of the night's sky. Tech savvy stargazers will appreciate the smart phone adapter and wireless camera remote, making it possible to view constellations from your screen. Thanks to its adjustable, aluminum alloy tripod, this telescope is suitable for every member of the family.

Beginner stargazers will find a lot to love about Emarth's Telescope. Using it is easy: All you need to do is point the tube in the direction of the desired object and take a gander. With two high-quality eyepieces (70mm and 360mm) that provide low- and high-power views of celestial objects, you'll be able to satisfy your stargazing wishes with ease.

Consider NASA Lunar Telescope the perfect option for avid adventurers or kids who are yearning to spontaneously stargaze. Clocking in at a little over two pounds, this option is lightweight enough to stow in the trunk of your car. This telescope features a multi-coated, extra-low dispersion optical glass to ensure you'll score a clear, perfectly contrasted view of the night's sky.

As TELMU proves, it's possible to find a great telescope for a bargain. This option features a wide, 70 millimeter aperture that will make stars and constellations appear bright and clear. With two eyepieces&mdashwhich ranges from 6 to 20 times the magnification&mdashit's suitable for a range of stargazing experiences. It also has a smartphone adapter so you can view everything directly from your screen. To top it off, TELMU's telescope comes with a tripod and finder scope, so you can buy everything you need for one fair, affordable price.

If you want to take your stargazing game up a couple of notches, Celestron's NexStar 4SE Telescope is ideal for beginners and advanced hobbyists alike. With a four-inch primary mirror, this telescope is compact, but lets plenty of light in so you can see everything the solar system has to offer. Not only does this telescope have a computerized to-go mount that tracks your target's movements, but it also comes with Celestron's app so you can learn more about what you're seeing. If you want to learn something new&mdasheven as an advanced stargazer&mdashthis one's for you.

This ToyerBee telescope is another great option for kids or beginners. It's equipped with a 3X Barlow lens and two eyepieces, H20mm and H6mm, so you can get a magnification of 15X to 150X. A 70mm aperture and 300mm focal length offers more lights and a clearer image. The telescope is easy to assemble and can be controlled wirelessly (the set includes one smartphone adapter and one wireless camera remote).

Okay, so humans can&rsquot construct a Dyson Sphere (yet). &ldquoBut nanorobots could do it,&rdquo Turchin says. The baby bots could start mining a small planet for iron and oxygen, and use these resources to create a reflective hematite surface around the sun.

Even if machines pitch in and solve the problem of how to harness all that energy, however, the concept of digital resurrection still doesn&rsquot sound feasible to Stephen Holler, an associate professor of physics at Fordham University.

&ldquoI don&rsquot think you could subject somebody to the same developmental conditions they had in life, because that presupposes you know all their developmental conditions, from the guy who picked on that person that day when they were very young to what day the person received that award,&rdquo Holler tells Pop Mech.

&ldquoThere are many things we don&rsquot know that historically molded the way a person&rsquos life turned out,&rdquo says Holler. &ldquoThose aren&rsquot part of any record, making it a very hard thing to resurrect somebody.&rdquo

A digital twin, then, is probably more likely than a digital self. But is your digital twin really you? Well, sort of.

&ldquoIt&rsquos you up until the point that you download it,&rdquo says Holler. &ldquoAfter that, it evolves into a different person. It becomes a new entity. The digital copy will always be divergent from the biological copy.&rdquo

Kelly Smith, professor of philosophy and biological sciences at Clemson University who researches the social, conceptual, and ethical issues surrounding space exploration, sees manufacturing a mammoth Dyson Sphere as more of a political problem than an engineering challenge.

&ldquoAll of humanity would have to work on it for 100 years,&rdquo Smith tells Pop Mech. But people have evolved to be short-term thinkers, preoccupied with matters of profit and loss in their short lifetime. &ldquoWho&rsquos gonna want to devote their whole life to building something that will benefit neither them nor their children, nor their children&rsquos children, nor their children&rsquos children&rsquos children, but humans living 1,000 years from now?&rdquo he wonders.

Plus, even if we developed all kinds of advanced technology and uploaded our personality onto a computer powered by a Dyson Sphere, we&rsquod still be talking about a very large extension of the human lifespan&mdashnot immortality. Blame entropy: &ldquoThe star that&rsquos powering the Dyson Sphere is going to go supernova at some point, so there goes our power source,&rdquo Smith says.

Smith shares Holler&rsquos concerns about the challenges of replicating the exact developmental conditions for the creation of a human being. &ldquoThere&rsquos no way we can do that right now, no matter how proactively we record our life,&rdquo he says.

Over the billions of years a simulation might run, errors can surely creep into the computer code. &ldquoWe may end up essentially duplicating 90 percent of someone, but is the result the same?&rdquo Smith asks. &ldquoI don&rsquot know how happy I would be to know that a copy of myself that is 80 percent similar to me is going to survive forever.&rdquo

Secret of Eternal Life, Better Sex Found in Mammoth Graveyard

Get ready for eternal life and better sex: Russians scientists working on a Siberian mammoth graveyard have found unknown bacterium DNA which, according to preliminary lab results, effectively extends mice's life-as well as other things.

According to Professor Anatoli Broushkov, their "set of tests and the results prove that simple organisms like fruit flies and mice live longer after being vaccinated with the ancient bacterium extract." Not only that, but the bacterium DNA super-vaccine actually increases mental alertness, physical capability, and sexual activity for both male and female mice. The females actually have had babies at an older age than usual: "Some elderly mice demonstrated a growth of physical, mental and sexual activity, while some females even had babies aged at the human equivalent of 70," said scientist Vera Samsonova.

The bacterium was found still living in the Siberian permafrost, next to frozen the mammoths and woolly rhinos, which the Japanese and Russian scientific teams are exploring in an effort to clone them back into life. Finding an unknown ancient bacteria still living in the permafrost came as a surprise to the Russian scientists, who were blown away by the preliminary analysis of the DNA and their lab experiments.

The team, however, is not claiming an immortality potion yet: They are aiming at extending life at least ten years if everything goes well. The results are so good that it is already attracting the interest of investors.

The only thing that has me thinking here is that these bacterium were found next to extinct prehistoric animals. But hey, I'm all for injecting myself ancient DNA that can either increase my virility and extend my life. Or make me grow huge tusks and plenty of hair. In both cases, it's a win. [ Daily Mail ]

5 Myths and Truths About Rasputin

T he life and death of Grigory Efimovich Rasputin is shrouded in mythology, making him an almost larger than life figure in Russian history. A sexual deviant, mystic healer, political saboteur and renegade monk, the mysterious Rasputin was both reviled and revered during his lifetime, and became a scapegoat for various dissident groups of the time period. Friday marks the 100-year anniversary of his controversial death on Dec. 30, 1916.

Here, we take a look at five myths and truths about the legendary Siberian holy man:

Myth 1: He had mystical powers

Born to peasants in a small village in Western Siberia, the young Rasputin turned to religion early in his life. Even as a child, rumors among the local populace were that Rasputin had certain mystical gifts. Despite marrying and fathering several children, Rasputin abandoned family life in search of Orthodox Christian religious devotion and piety. Following years of wandering and religious teaching, Rasputin ended up in St. Petersburg, the seat of royal power. Through various connections, Rasputin became known to Tsar Nicholas and his wife, the Tsarina Alexandra.

Desperate to find a cure for their ailing son&rsquos hemophilia, one night they called upon Rasputin. After his session with the young boy, the bleeding seemed to stop for some time. Some historians, such as Pierre Gilliard, have speculated that the bleeding likely stopped as a result of Rasputin&rsquos insistence on disallowing the administration of aspirin (a known blood-thinning agent), and not any &ldquomystical&rdquo powers he may have had. The Tsarina was amazed, and immediately enlisted the services of Rasputin as a close adviser.

Myth 2: He was a sexual deviant and the Queen&rsquos lover

Tales of Rasputin&rsquos sexual exploits began to spread early into his time with the royal court, as his eccentric behavior&mdashlike drinking heavily and visiting brothels&mdashwas seen to clash with his religious piety. According to some historians who believe Rasputin may have been a member of, or at least influenced by the Khlyst religious sect, such sinful behavior brought him closer to God. However, though he did frequently entertain in salons, there is no evidence to suggest Rasputin was a sex-crazed maniac who had a secret affair with Russia&rsquos queen. Much like the rest of his life, his behavior in this realm has been exaggerated, and&mdashfollowing the February Revolution of 1917&mdashembellished by his enemies in attempts to propagandize his life.

Myth 3: He was Russia&rsquos secret ruler

Because of his constant presence in the royal court, whispers grew that Rasputin was acting as a puppet master over the royal couple. Alexandra&rsquos growing dependence on Rasputin and his apparent healing abilities with her hemophilic son only exacerbated these rumors. Occasionally, the monk did offer military advice as well as medical help, but his ideas never proved beneficial for the Russian army or Tsar Nicholas personally. In fact, after Tsar Nicholas took personal control over his armies on Aug. 23, 1915, under the advice of Rasputin and the Tsarina Alexandra, the Tsar became the target of blame for Russia&rsquos battlefield defeats. Meanwhile, with the Tsar away fighting, a vacuum of leadership was filled by the Tsarina.

Here, the myth does approach the truth. Though the Tsarina was in charge, Rasputin did wield great power as her adviser. The mystic healer wasted no time in appointing his own church ministers and other public officials.

Myth 4: He was impossible to kill

Rasputin&rsquos behavior and influence came to symbolize everything negative in Russian politics and society at the time. Even prior to his final assassination, other attempts on his life were made. In June of 1914, a beggar woman stabbed the monk in the stomach, claiming he was seducing the innocent. Rasputin made a full recovery, even though he had lost a lot of blood and was close to death after the incident.

Two years later, a group of nobles led by a man named Felix Yusupov plotted to get rid of the holy man once and for all. On Dec. 30, 1916, Yusupov invited Rasputin to dine at his home. After a heavy meal, complete with wine and dessert, all supposedly heavily laced with poison, the men looked on, as amazingly, Rasputin showed no symptoms that the poison was having an effect on him. The men proceeded to shoot Rasputin, who, according to legend still drew breath after a barrage of bullets and only died after he was thrown into an ice-cold river to drown. However, while Rasputin&rsquos death was in fact plotted by Yusupov and other nobles, autopsy reports show that no poison was found in Rasputin&rsquos system and that he seems to have died from a single bullet to the head.

Myth 5: He rose from the dead

Much like the tale of his murder, the aftermath of Rasputin&rsquos death has been mythologized over the years. According to legend, after Rasputin&rsquos poisoned and shot body was thrown into the ice-cold river, he was fished out by a group of passersby, who found that he was still alive when they dragged his body to the shore of the river. However, the truth is that after Rasputin&rsquos already deceased corpse was thrown into the Malaya Nevka River, it took days for the police to find the body because the water had already frozen in the sub-zero Russian winter.

On March 15, 1917, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated the Russian throne as a result of the February Revolution. The following year, Bolsheviks eliminated the last vestiges of the Romanov dynasty. But myths about Rasputin endured&mdashand, underneath those myths, there does reside some truth. Several historians have speculated that Rasputin&rsquos influence did indeed play a role in the contempt for the royal household and everything it came to represent. The tale of Rasputin indeed shows that mythology can take a life of its own, and grow to become more important than the truth.

Who was the Count of Saint Germain?

The Count Saint Germain may have been more legend than man. Yes, we know that he lived and we know some of what he did. However, there have been so many claims made about this man that it is difficult to sort the truth from the embellishments.

An Embellishment of History

Of course, many would claim that there were no embellishments and that he really was all that people claimed him to be. If this were so, it would mean that the Count of St. Germain was the Wandering Jew, an alchemist with the secret to eternal life, a man that could turn various metals into gold, a man that could melt diamonds and form them however he wished, a proficient musician, artist and linguist and so much more.

A 1783 engraving of Count Saint Germain by Nicolas Thomas. Image: Public Domain.

Who was Count of Saint Germain?

The Count of Saint Germain was not a Saint and may not even have been a Count. The place and circumstances of his birth are completely unknown. However, there have been many theories presented over the past few centuries. Some believe that he was a man of noble birth whose family was disgraced somehow and he, therefore, had to hide his true identity. Others believe that he was born long before his presence was documented and that he was immortal. Theosophists believe him to be an Oriental Adept. Whoever he was, he never divulged any information regarding his birth to anyone during his (known) lifetime.

His Travels

It appears that the Count St. Germain may have arrived on the scene in Europe as early as 1710. At that time, he appeared to be in his mid-forties. The story goes that he always appeared this way. He seemed to never age. From 1737-1742, he was supposedly in Persia studying alchemy. He went to Versailles in 1742 and then in 1743 he was in England for the Jacobite Revolution. He then went to Vienna to visit Frederick the Great and then to Edinburgh in 1745.

In 1755, Count Saint Germain went to India. When he came back, he stayed in the Royal Chateau of Chambord in Touraine on King Louis XV’s invitation. There he rubbed elbows with Voltaire, who appeared to be impressed by the man. In fact, Voltaire described him as:

A man who knows everything and who never dies.

Count St. Germain left France and went to Hague and London in 1760. In 1762 he supposedly went to Russia and was involved in the revolution there under the pseudonym Graf Saltikoff. He later traveled to Germany and Bavaria. All the while maintaining a middle-aged appearance. Count St. Germain died on February 27, 1784. There is a record of his death and burial.

A Man of Many Talents

During his time in Europe during the 1700s, the Count of St. Germain’s acquaintances had an awful lot to say about this strange man. He was said to have had a striking appearance, especially his eyes. He was reportedly a very talented musician and composer who shared his work with Tchaikovsky and Prince Ferdinand von Lobkowitz. Two of his compositions dwell in the British Museum. One of them was written in 1745 and the other in 1760. He even performed on the harpsichord for Frederick the Great.

Count St. Germain was said to have knowledge of Sanscrit, Chinese, and Arabic. He also spoke Swedish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Spanish and Russian flawlessly. He was a painter of some renown. It is said that he could make the jewels in his paintings appear strikingly realistic. He was also a collector of diamonds and wore many of them to social events. There were claims that he could also fix flawed diamonds.

Odd Behavior

The Count of St. Germain was also said to have some very strange habits. Some people claimed that he never ate in public, but that he would drink a special tea frequently. There were also claims that he often made strange comments about his age. He would speak of times long since past as if he had been there. He reportedly told an acquaintance who had made a comment that he must be more than one hundred years old that it was “not impossible.”

Many people have claimed to be the Count St. Germain in the centuries since his death was documented. Others have claimed to have seen him in various places. He has been referred to as “The man who does not die.” He has been credited with the gift of eternal life, or at least of extremely long life, but are any of these claims credible? It is hard to be certain because there are so many of them. However, it is extremely doubtful, for obvious reasons.

The Count of Saint Germain is credited with so many rare (and fictitious) abilities that it seems almost certain that his talents have been embellished over the years and during his lifetime. He may have encouraged this behavior, for all we know. It is quite possible that he was a very talented con man. Either that, or he was an exceptionally old, yet youthful man who was impossibly intelligent and talented. At this point, it is impossible to tell.

His story has been told so many times, in so many ways, that the truth is probably quite different from what has been said. That leaves us with the possibility that we may never know the truth about the Count St. Germain

Secret Police

From the beginning of their regime, the Bolsheviks relied on a strong secret, or political, police to buttress their rule. The first secret police, called the Cheka, was established in December 1917 as a temporary institution to be abolished once Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks had consolidated their power. The original Cheka, headed by Feliks Dzerzhinskii, was empowered only to investigate &ldquocounterrevolutionary&rdquo crimes. But it soon acquired powers of summary justice and began a campaign of terror against the propertied classes and enemies of Bolshevism. Although many Bolsheviks viewed the Cheka with repugnance and spoke out against its excesses, its continued existence was seen as crucial to the survival of the new regime.

Once the Civil War (1918&ndash21) ended and the threat of domestic and foreign opposition had receded, the Cheka was disbanded. Its functions were transferred in 1922 to the State Political Directorate, or GPU, which was initially less powerful than its predecessor. Repression against the population lessened. But under party leader Joseph Stalin, the secret police again acquired vast punitive powers and in 1934 was renamed the People's Comissariat for Internal Affairs, or NKVD. No longer subject to party control or restricted by law, the NKVD became a direct instrument of Stalin for use against the party and the country during the Great Terror of the 1930s.

Lavrenti Beria

After Stalin's death in 1953 the loyal Beria was purged from the Communist Party and power and later executed. (The young girl in Beria's lap is Stalin's daughter Svetlana the man at right, rear, is unidentified.)

Joseph Stalin and Lavrenti Beria, a Soviet political leader and official in the secret police during the Stalin era of leadership, enjoying a rest at a dacha (a Russian country cottage).

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The secret police remained the most powerful and feared Soviet institution throughout the Stalinist period. Although the post-Stalin secret police, the KGB, no longer inflicted such large-scale purges, terror, and forced depopulation on the peoples of the Soviet Union, it continued to be used by the Kremlin leadership to suppress political and religious dissent. The head of the KGB was a key figure in resisting the democratization of the late 1980s and in organizing the attempted putsch of August 1991.

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Guatemala syphilis study

Many people erroneously believe that the government deliberately infected the Tuskegee participants with syphilis, which was not the case. But the work of Wellesley College professor Susan Reverby recently exposed a time when U.S. Public Health Service researchers did just that. Between 1946 and 1948, Reverby found, the U.S. and Guatemalan governments co-sponsored a study involving the deliberate infection of Guatemalan prisoners and mental asylum patients with syphilis.

The study was intended to test chemicals to prevent the spread of the disease. The researchers attempted to infect their subjects both by paying for them to have sex with infected prostitutes and by abrading the skin on their penises and pouring cultured syphilis bacteria on the wounds.

Those who got syphilis were given penicillin as a treatment, Reverby found, but the records she uncovered indicate no follow-up or informed consent by the participants. On Oct. 1, 2010, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a joint statement apologizing for the experiments.

October 2009

Vaccination programmes begin in the US and Europe, but many healthcare workers are reluctant to have the vaccine, even though it is virtually identical to the seasonal vaccines used in previous years, which have a good safety record.

Production delays also continue to plague the deployment of vaccine. By 22 October, the US has only 27 million doses available, compared with the expected 45 million. Researchers show that this much vaccine will reduce the number of cases in the second wave by less than 6 per cent – but that is still enough to save 2000 lives.

Six months after swine flu first shot to world attention, US President Barack Obama declares the virus a national emergency.