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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pace setter/maker

I have survived another week. Not only that, I’m flourishing; my hair is growing more vigorously than ever and my trousers have recently become quite tight. I am ALIVE!

Another person who is alive is a Japanese fellow called Dr Nakamats. I was alerted to his existence last week by a friend of mine who is right behind my record attempt and so thought I ought to know about a potential competitor.


Dr Nakamats is streets ahead of me right now. He’s 82 and incredibly fit. He does press ups and crunches and swimming and he wrestles men half his age and twice his size wearing nothing but saggy grey pants. He’s quite a man, Dr Nakamats.

My friend found him featured in a documentary shown on More4 called ‘The Invention of Dr Nakamats’. The film, a simple but gripping hour shot by a Dane, follows Dr Nakamats during the build up to and aftermath of his 80th birthday. I hope I’ll be as sprightly as Dr Nakamats when I reach that age.

The title of the film refers to Dr Nakamats’ job, which he seems to be rather good at. He holds the world record for the amount of patents ever held, which, at the time of filming, is 3357 (three times as many as Thomas Edison). It’s unclear how many of these patents have translated into actual things or whether he really was the man who invented the floppy disk, as he claims, but that’s a big number; almost one invention a day for ten years! Or one a week for 64 years or, most pertinently, one every fortnight for 130 years! It’s a lot of inventing.

Longevity is at the top of his list of things to tackle. ‘The most important problem of mankind is how to elongate life’, he says in his gruff broken English. ‘I think that nothing is impossible’. He’s convinced he’s going to make it to 144 years old; ‘I’m only half way through life’, he says with complete conviction.

His methods are, of course, peculiar. ‘I only eat one meal a day – if you eat three meals a day you age very fast. If you grow hungry you are not using your brain enough. As long as you use your brain well you won’t go hungry.’ I don’t quite see the logic and don’t think I could really sacrifice two meals a day (I really like breakfast, I really like lunch and I really like dinner so I wouldn’t know which to keep and which to lose – also, I’d probably get extremely hungry), but you have to admire Dr Nakamat’s commitment to his beliefs.

He’s taken a photo of every meal he’s eaten for the last 34 years. Amazing. Every single meal. The film shows him sitting down to a big Sunday lunch with his family then, when when some people might say grace or just pass around bread, he’s there with his digital camera (which he bought because it smelt nice – honestly), snapping away. Each of these photos he then blows up and puts in a book. Incredible.

And that’s only the half of it. He also has a blood test after every meal to show how the food has affected his health. From this procedure he’s managed to find the 55 best foods for human life and has invented a single disgusting-looking food with elements of all 55. And you can wash this down with some ‘Brain Drink’, his own type of tea made from 13 different medical herbs which Dr Nakamats says are particularly good for the brain.

He’s either a genius or quite loopy. I hope he’s a genius. I hope he makes it to 144 and thus sets me a terrific score to chase, like when South Africa got those 434 runs against Australia. But I am worried he’s going to kill himself en route. His basic method for inventing, for example, involves flirting with death in a swimming pool; he thinks of ideas by holdings his breath underwater because, he says, the brain works best when starved of oxygen (he’s invented an underwater notepad to make the process a little easier). The closer he gets to actually dying, the better ideas he comes up with. ‘The ideal time for thinking’, he says, ‘is 0.5 seconds before death’. I could see how that might go wrong.

Just by the way, Dr Nakamats also never sleeps for more than four hours (he invented the Cereberex chair for taking power naps – it’s essentially a chair with a hood), is active at all times and is one of the top twelve most expensive lecturers in the world.

But if there’s one thing I’d take from Dr Nakamats, its his enthusiasm for all things new. A lot of 80 year olds I know (I know seven 80 year olds) haven’t embraced technology. They’re not online, they can’t cope with satellite tv, they don’t text. Dr Nakamats is not only au fait with all these things, he’s trying to invent ways of improving them. If you’re going to enjoy old age you need to stay interested. Dr Nakamats is both interested and interesting.

Good luck Dr Nakamats!


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