Google vision

We’re looking for a few good power bars

For decades, the military has been trying to figure out ways to keep soldiers awake and alert in the field — for days at a time. Back in the 60s, that meant some pretty hair-raising experiments with everything from bennies to LSD.

These days, the military is looking to the private sector to find out if anyone is developing a high-octane version of No-Doze. It’s no wonder they’re putting out feelers; after all, we civilians are buying an increasingly large number of performance-enhancing pills, herbs, and “smart drinks”. Many of these are total snake oil, as the New Yorker ably reported last week, but it hasn’t stopped the supplement industry from booming. Indeed, one could note the gorgeous symmetry of these trends: Outside of 22-year-old Ohio soldiers frantically dodging shrapnel-mines in Iraq, the main group of Americans who are trying to stay alert for 72 hours nonstop are crazed Gen-X yuppies gulping ginseng energy-tablets by the fistful. Be all you can be!

But je digresse. The whole reason I’m writing this by-now-rambling entry is to point you to an interesting call for submissions from the Defense Sciences Office. They’re looking for new drugs or technologies in their “Metabolic Dominance” program, the goal of which is thus:

The Defense Sciences Office is interested in proposals to develop innovative science and technology capable of affording superior physiological qualities to the warfighter. The vision for the Metabolic Dominance Program is to develop novel strategies that exploit and control the mechanisms of energy production, metabolism, and utilization during short periods of deployment requiring unprecedented levels of physical demand. The ultimate goal is to enable superior physical and physiological performance by controlling energy metabolism on demand. An example is continuous peak physical performance and cognitive function for 3 to 5 days, 24 hours per day, without the need for calories. Continuous exertion over numerous days is currently limited by: 1) the ability to transport and ingest adequate calories and/or effectively access stored calories (e.g., adipose, glycogen); 2) available training time; extended training periods are required to adapt muscle and mitochondria to meet intense physical loads; and 3) the ability of physiological systems to rapidly recover after extended, repeated bouts of physical exertion.

Squint a bit, and that almost reads like the text on the back of a workout pamphlet from the New York Sports Club.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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