Open Thread, Aug. 8 - Aug 14. 2016

post by Elo · 2016-08-07T23:07:27.792Z · score: 4 (5 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 71 comments

If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post, then it goes here.


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71 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Cariyaga · 2016-08-08T10:29:16.679Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Man, I had no idea how much effort it takes to actually write and the sense of scale there is to five or ten thousand words. I've been working on a fanfic recently and just breached a thousand words so far on the first chapter. It takes a LOT of effort to write that much, especially in trying to keep it up to my own standards. Mad respect for authors that put out 10k a week. I've always preferred longer chapters, but damn if trying to write, myself, doesn't put things in perspective.

comment by Elo · 2016-08-11T04:43:49.190Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The number one tip on the top of every single "writer's advice" list is to write every day. rain, hail, death in the family. Write.Every.Day.

comment by Cariyaga · 2016-08-11T05:34:56.957Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, that's good to hear, 'cause I have been! Usually around 300-400 words a day just to make constant, incremental progress.

comment by moridinamael · 2016-08-08T16:01:57.023Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

An auxiliary problem is that once you find that you've managed to write something like 50,000 words, you realize the difficulty of going back and editing it into something good. It takes a couple of hours at a careful pace just to read that much text.

comment by Cariyaga · 2016-08-08T23:24:34.964Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, at least I decided to change the perspective to first person early. Doing that even 5000 words in would be hell.

comment by Viliam · 2016-08-09T21:34:35.777Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I have heard repeatedly the argument about "calories in, calories out" (e.g. here). Seems to me that there are a few unspoken assumptions, and I would like to ask how true they are in reality. Here are the assumptions:

a) all calories in the food you put in your mouth are digested;

b) the digested calories are either stored as fat or spent as work; there is nothing else that could happen with them;

and in some more strawmanish forms of the argument:

c) the calories are the whole story about nutrition and metabolism, and all calories are fungible.

If we assume these things to be true, it seems like a law of physics that if you count the calories in the food you put in your mouth, and subtract the amount of exercise you do, the result exactly determines whether you gain or lose fat. Taken literally, if a healthy and thin person starts eating an extra apple a day, or starts taking a somewhat shorter walk to their work, without changing anything else, they will inevitably get fat. On the other hand, any fat person can become thin if they just start eating less and/or exercising more. If you doubt this, you doubt the very laws of physics.

It's easy to see how (c) is wrong: there are other important facts about food besides calories, for example vitamins and minerals. When a person has food containing less than optimal amount of vitamins or minerals per calorie, they don't have a choice between being fat or thin, but between being fat or sick. (Or alternatively, changing the composition of their diet, not just the amount.)

Okay, some proponents of "calories in, calories out" may now say that this is obvious, and that they obviously meant the advice to apply to a healthy diet. However, what if the problem is not with the diet per se, but with a way the individual body processes the food? For example, what if the food contains enough vitamins and minerals per calorie, but the body somehow extracts those vitamins and minerals inefficiently, so it reacts even to the optimal diet as if it was junk food? Could it be that some people are forced to eat large amounts of food just to extract the right amount of vitamins and minerals, and any attempt to eat less will lead to symptoms of malnutrition?

Ignoring the (c), we get a weaker variant of "calories in, calories out", which is, approximately -- maybe you cannot always get thin by eating less calories than you spend working; but if you eat more calories than you spend working, you will inevitably get fat.

But it is possible that some of the "calories in (the mouth)" may pass through the digestive system undigested and later excreted? Could people differ in this aspect, perhaps because of their gut flora?

Also, what if some people burn the stored fat in ways we would not intuitively recognize as work? For example, what if some people simply dress less warmly, and spend more calories heating up their bodies? Are there other such non-work ways of spending calories?

In other words, I don't doubt that the "calories in, calories out" model works perfectly for a spherical cow in a vacuum, but I am curious about how much such approximation applies to the real cases.

But even for the spherical cow in a vacuum, this model predicts that any constant lifestyle, unless perfectly balanced, should either lead to unlimited weight gain (if "calories in" exceed "calories out") or unlimited weight loss (in the opposite case). While reality seems to suggest that most people, both thin and fat, keep their weight stable around some specific value. The weight itself has an impact on how much calories people spend simply moving their own bodies, but I doubt that this is sufficient to balance the whole equation.

comment by niceguyanon · 2016-08-10T15:39:27.779Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I thought that to most LW'ers the weak version of "Calories in, Calories out" was uncontroversial. One can accept that Calories in (the mouth) is not the whole story, and at the same time feel it's pretty much most of the story.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-08-12T20:15:57.291Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I thought that to most LW'ers the weak version of "Calories in, Calories out" was uncontroversial.

EY likes to say that "mass in, mass out" works even better for predicting changes in weight.

comment by Viliam · 2016-08-15T08:38:41.469Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I feel about this similarly.

The motte of "calories in, calories out" is a purely descriptive post-facto theory. If you lost weight, it means that your organism somehow spent more calories than it gained, and if you gained weight, it means that your organism somehow spent less calories than it gained, but the details about the calorie flows are completely unspecified.

The bailey of "calories in, calories out" is: "You complain about not losing weight? Just eat less and exercise more, dummy! You say you already tried that, but it didn't work for you? Congratulations, you have successfully violated the laws of physics, go collect your Nobel Prize!"

What people who complain about this actually want: a strategy that fat people could use to lose weight without negative side-effects... or admitting that for some people such strategy doesn't exist for metabolic reasons. The motte version of "calories in, calories out" is definitely not such strategy, but the bailey consists of pretending that it is.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-08-15T09:19:15.154Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In reality I think it's likely that different people are overweight for different reasons. Adenovirus 36 infections for example do correlate with overweight.

Partly because "The infection with Adv36 accelerates differentiation and proliferation of the 3T3-L1 human preadipocytes into adipocytes [27,43,44] and increases the concentration of lipid content in fat cells."

Saying it's "calories in, calories out" suggests that the fact that the virus results in more adipocytes (fat cells) in lab cells is irrelevant.

Lab animals with their controlled diets also got more overweight.

Investing money into finding out how to cure Adenovirus 36 seems important to me from a public health perspective but a group of researches of obesity who believe in the calorie in, calorie out maxim won't direct their research that way.

It seems like we have the technology to produce vaccines against some types of Adenovirus.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-08-15T14:29:02.501Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The motte of "calories in, calories out" is a purely descriptive post-facto theory.

It is a also a predictive ex ante theory. It successfully predicts the change in your weight on the basis of your persistent net energy balance.

The bailey of "calories in, calories out" is: "You complain about not losing weight? Just eat less and exercise more, dummy! You say you already tried that, but it didn't work for you?

... then continue. Eat LESS and exercise MORE. Still doesn't work? Eat LESS and exercise MORE. I guarantee that at some point you will start losing weight

What people who complain about this actually want: a strategy that fat people could use to lose weight without negative side-effects...

Sure. People want a lot of things. I want the ability to fly, it's just that pesky gravity that gets in the way. Wouldn't it be great to jump off a cliff and soar without the negative side-effects of going splat! shortly thereafter?

comment by Viliam · 2016-08-15T14:42:54.850Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Just a few comments ago you accused me of strawmanning, and now here you come with a comment that I wouldn't have ascribed to the "calories in, calories out" fans, because I would think this would be too strawmanish. Yet, such opinions apparently do exist in the wild.

From another point of view, thank you for showing me that it was meaningful to start debating this topic.

Okay, so...

Let's assume that "still doesn't work" for some people means "when I try eating even less, I am so weak that I can barely move my body; yet my weight doesn't decrease". How specifically -- excluding the possibility of magic -- are such people supposed to apply the "eat less and exercise more" advice to become thin.

This is like telling people that levitation is easy: you just have to believe hard and raise yourself high in the air. Doesn't work? Believe harder, and raise yourself higher! I guarantee that if you follow both parts of this advice, at some point you will start levitating (but I suspect you will probably ignore the second part, in which case, that's your fault not mine).

comment by Lumifer · 2016-08-16T14:37:26.303Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Let's assume that "still doesn't work" for some people means "when I try eating even less, I am so weak that I can barely move my body; yet my weight doesn't decrease".

Let's not. This is equivalent to discussing exercise by starting "let's assume some people collapse from utter exhaustion on their way from the parking lot to the gym, what about them?" You are not saying yours is a central example, are you?

In any case, CICO is not a normative theory. It's primarily a descriptive theory. It says that A (net energy balance) and B (body weight) always go together, A is necessary and sufficient for B and B is conclusive evidence for A.

CICO certainly has implications for attempts to lose weight (e.g.: if you're not in calorie deficit, you are not going to lose weight), but it makes no claims about optimal (in various meanings) ways to lose weight. It says that there is a simple, specific way that always works: eat less. It does NOT say that it will be easy or pleasant or that your average Fatty McFatface will be able to stick with it for more than a day.

Issues with losing weight are usually psychological and often biochemical. These issues can be overpowered by eating less though, again, it's not necessarily the optimal way to go about it. And, by the way, I assume general health -- if you are or should be under medical care (e.g. you are a diabetic), such generic advice no longer applies.

Basically, the advantages of eating less as a way to lose weight are that it's simple and, provided you can execute, it is guaranteed to work. The disadvantage is that it's hard to execute because it's unpleasant and few people can stick with doing unpleasant things for a long while. "Eat less" is good advice for some people and useless advice for others: YMMV as usual.

comment by Viliam · 2016-08-16T20:53:53.708Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So... I guess we both agree that eating less and exercising more is a good strategy to lose weight unless there is a health-related reason why this strategy will not work.

(And that for different people, or even for the same person at a different age, the proportions of the food consumed and exercise necessary to lose weight may be quite different?)

And we disagree... about how frequent are these health-related reasons in population, and how often the people with the health-related reasons are given this advice anyway...?

comment by Lumifer · 2016-08-17T14:51:07.953Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I guess we both agree that eating less and exercising more is a good strategy to lose weight

It can be -- for some people. It's probably not a good strategy for other people. The simplest way to find out is to try.

the proportions of the food consumed and exercise necessary to lose weight may be quite different?

Yes, very much so. That's why it says "eat less" and not "eat 1000 calories/day".

And we disagree... about how frequent are these health-related reasons in population, and how often the people with the health-related reasons are given this advice anyway...?

I don't know -- neither of us made explicit claims about that :-) Generally speaking, humans are well-adapted to periods of starvation and fasting can help with some health problems. Diabetes is probably the most widespread disease which will present problems with "eat less" approach.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-08-10T17:46:23.571Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Seconded; it seems that for most people, much of the time, CICO is a fine approach to weight loss and will work if you even approximate your deficit and BMR. There is definitely weird stuff, but it's not the MOST likely issue.

comment by Ixiel · 2016-08-10T03:43:40.954Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Just one point of data: I kept a spreadsheet when I lost 59 pounds in 96 days. I had values for my personal base burn as a function of current weight and per task (usually a rower and hiking), and a daily deficit of 2000 calories correlated fairly well with a daily loss of .55 pounds (in round numbers; I don't want to sound like the proverbial economist with a sense of humor. I also went over some and under some, used nutritional labels and activity estimates that rounded to the nearest 10, &c.)

I was not scientifically rigorous so grain of salt, but over three months or so, I anecdotally found that 3500 calories of deficit correlated very well with a pound of loss. After that I stayed pretty constant while I was paying attention, 1-2 years. Bit North of there now, but I don't do much counting anymore.

comment by moridinamael · 2016-08-10T15:04:41.381Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is a good point. While "calories in != calories out" within a broad range of caloric inputs, because humans have some built-in ability to absorb fluctuations in food intake centered around each person's metabolic setpoints, you can definitely get some play at the extrema of the caloric intake/expenditure axis.

In the opposite direction from your example, if someone has a hard time gaining weight, they may find that eating 3000 cal/day has no effect but eating a carefully measured 6000 cal/day definitely moves the needle upward.

The problem in general is that maintaining a caloric deficit of 2000 cal/day for weeks is going to be impossible to achieve for most people, and likewise maintaining a caloric excess of thousands of calories per day is a full-time job (ask any bodybuilder).

comment by Elo · 2016-08-11T06:33:16.640Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

LMGTFY: "base metabolic rate calculator"

gives you a few calculators that estimate your resting energy burn rate. Each human will be slightly different being noisy systems. Add in an entire lifestyle of different potential variations and you get a good feel that this is a very fuzzy estimate.

The first one on google gave me 1818kCal a day. You can look at the equation that got to that.

CICO is a close enough approximation to use for dieting. Dieting systems usually do what they do based on the assumption of CICO. given CICO if you also only eat blueberries you wont be very hungry or similar.

I believe the Shangri-la diet works in an interesting way around disconnecting calories with pleasure reward.

Most diets work if you can stick to them. Different diets might sound like they are selling the "what you eat" part, but in reality they are usually selling the "you can stick to it" part disguised as the "what you eat" part.


If you also look into the energy burnt during say; an hour of running, an hour of walking, and an hour of sleeping. You can get a sense of the scale of how much exercise impacts weight loss (hint: not much).

This can also be reasoned from first CICO principles that you can eat more calories in 5 minutes than you can burn in 5 hours running a marathon. (You can out eat your exercise routine and more effective interventions will involve diet than just exercise, but of course both together is best.)

As a final note: There will always be another birthday cake.

comment by MrMind · 2016-08-10T08:21:29.356Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

a) all calories in the food you put in your mouth are digested;

This is certainly not true. Usually calories in food are measured burning the stuff and measuring the calories emitted, but of course our digestive tract doesn't work like that. This means that we always absorb less calories that are in the food, indeed cooking was a great revolution in human history because it allowed more calories to be extracted from the same amount of food.

b) the digested calories are either stored as fat or spent as work; there is nothing else that could happen with them;

This, on the other hand and with the caveat of a), seems pretty uncontroversial. There are different deposits of long-term energy, such as glycogen in the liver, glycogen in the muscles and adipose tissue. But other than accumulating or being used to produce ATP, I have never seen any reason to believe that calories are used for something else.

c) the calories are the whole story about nutrition and metabolism, and all calories are fungible.

Well, this is obviously untrue, but usually "calories in, calories out" is used in the context of weight loss.

Could it be that some people are forced to eat large amounts of food just to extract the right amount of vitamins and minerals, and any attempt to eat less will lead to symptoms of malnutrition?

It can be, but the body is usually extremely efficient when extracting vitamins out of food. An inability to do that would be a serious business, most probably caused by a genetic disease, and surely cured by supplementation rather than eating large quantity of food.

maybe you cannot always get thin by eating less calories than you spend working; but if you eat more calories than you spend working, you will inevitably get fat.

I don't see how the first sentence would work. As far as I know, there are no hidden reserve of energy besides glicogen, muscle proteins and fat.

But it is possible that some of the "calories in (the mouth)" may pass through the digestive system undigested and later excreted? Could people differ in this aspect, perhaps because of their gut flora?

This is a certainty. Think for example to all the calories contained in indigestible fibers.

Also, what if some people burn the stored fat in ways we would not intuitively recognize as work? For example, what if some people simply dress less warmly, and spend more calories heating up their bodies? Are there other such non-work ways of spending calories?

That is called non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) and is the way that most of our calories are expended: keeping body temperature constant, providing energy to all the chemical reaction in the body, etc.

While reality seems to suggest that most people, both thin and fat, keep their weight stable around some specific value.

Yes, there is a set-point which is regulated by a complex interaction between various hormones, such as ghrelin, leptin, insulin, etc.

comment by Viliam · 2016-08-10T11:13:31.575Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure if I am reading your response correctly, so would you agree or disagree that it is possible for two people to eat the same food, do the same work, and yet one of them will be thin and the other one will be fat, because of some combination of:

  • different gut flora;
  • different genes contributing to efficiency of digestion;
  • different genes contributing to efficiency of keeping body temperature constant;
  • (other stuff I forgot to mention).

In other words, that there is such a thing as "metabolic privilege", which is usually denied or ignored by the "calories in, calories out" proponents.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-08-10T14:36:11.308Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In other words, that there is such a thing as "metabolic privilege", which is usually denied or ignored by the "calories in, calories out" proponents.

Huh? The individual metabolism (aka the "metabolic privilege") is what primarily determines the "calories out" part. No one denies that people have different metabolisms.

The CICO theory says that the only way to lose weight is to have a negative calorie balance. You can achieve it in any way you want -- by lowering the CI part, or by increasing the CO part -- but it has to be there for you to lose weight.

The claims that all calories are fungible or that the CO part is stable are just strawmen.

comment by Viliam · 2016-08-11T11:20:14.142Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No one denies that people have different metabolisms.

Statements including "no one denies that ..." are usually false.

Regardless, my goal here was to ask people to help me decipher what "calories in" and "calories out" precisely mean, especially where the correct version could differ from the naive interpretation.

Because it seems to me that (a) the naive interpretation is wrong, but (b) most people use the "calories in, calories out" argument as if the naive interpretation is true. ("If you disagree with the naive interpretation, you ignore the laws of physics!") Motte and bailey, etc.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-08-11T18:42:08.181Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Statements including "no one denies that ..." are usually false.

Taken literally, yes. However these statements are not intended to be taken literally, they are a shorthand for "it is widely accepted that X is true, most people who deny X are either blatantly unreasonable or have strong incentives to do so. I do not expect sane people to deny X with a straight face".

Regardless, my goal here was to ask people to help me decipher what "calories in" and "calories out" precisely mean

See the grandparent post. In particular, to repeat myself

The CICO theory says that the only way to lose weight is to have a negative calorie balance.

In general CICO posits one-to-one correspondence between net energy balance and gaining/losing weight, regardless of anything else. This is on a time scale where short-term fluctuations (from bowel movements to water retention) are ignored as noise.

CICO also does NOT say anything about the fat/muscle ratio, it does NOT say that different foods with the same calorie content will have the same effect on weight (food you eat generally affects both the CI and the CO parts), it does NOT say that specific levels of CI (e.g. 1000 calories/day) will result in specific gain/loss of weight.

comment by MrMind · 2016-08-12T10:27:05.016Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I'd generally never let two strawmen fight each other.

comment by Ishaan · 2016-08-17T18:15:21.171Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You're missing the fact that tightly controlled feedback mechanisms govern appetite. That's what allows maintaining weight in the real world. Magically add 20lbs (or an apple a day) to a healthy person and they'll feel correspondingly less hungry.

impact on how much calories people spend simply moving their own bodies

Actually, it's mostly going to be the metabolism of the tissue (extra fat tissue needs flood flow, temperature regulation, energy for cellular processes etc too), and that can be significant, although not as much as hunger regulation.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-08-17T18:44:07.234Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

People are forced to eat more than they should primarily because of hunger pangs.

I am not sure this is true in contemporary West. I suspect that a lot of overeating happens because of social cues ("I'm at a dinner party so I should eat even though I'm not hungry") and for purely psychological reasons -- from boredom and activity displacement ("I'd like to procrastinate a bit, let me go and have a snack") to hedonics ("Sugar boosts make me feel better, yay sugar!"). None of that is actually hunger.

comment by Ishaan · 2016-08-17T22:23:05.129Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps that's also a reason, but the role of insulin / leptin resistance in causing hunger pangs (contractions of the stomach) in situations when additional food is not actually required is pretty well established.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-08-18T15:09:00.856Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, feelings of hunger certainly exist (though I'm not sure what does "additional food is not actually required" mean).

Perhaps it would be useful to draw a distinction between people who are trying to lose weight and who are not. The former are likely to get to the point of actually being hungry and so being driven by hunger. The latter, I think, rarely get hungry and tend to overeat for non-hunger reasons.

comment by root · 2016-08-11T14:24:45.244Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Can we get in some agreed upon middle ground?

A simple daily-iterated formula to start: WEIGHT = WEIGHT - WEIGHTBURN + FOOD

My assumptions are that WEIGHT is the person's current weight. WEIGHTBURN is the amount the person burn per every day from energy consumption + bodily maintenance. FOOD varies from person to person.

My questions for you:

But it is possible that some of the "calories in (the mouth)" may pass through the digestive system undigested and later excreted? Could people differ in this aspect, perhaps because of their gut flora?

Not unreasonable. I remember reading that while brocoli has more calcium than milk, the composition of milk allows the calcium to be absorbed better. In fact, the components of brocoli seem to contain something that actually inhibits calcium absorption!

More generally, I assume your reasoning here to be that actual food digestion is not a 1:1 to, say, food labels. Correct? (I assume that food labels use some sort of average, say, 10,000/100 = x per 100g. Correct me if this is wrong please!)

Also, what if some people burn the stored fat in ways we would not intuitively recognize as work? For example, what if some people simply dress less warmly, and spend more calories heating up their bodies? Are there other such non-work ways of spending calories?

Define your 'work'. Is it physical activity without any body maintenance? Keeping your body temperature, for example. Digesting food also takes 'work'. I don't think you can burn so much calories from exercise alone, in fact. Calorie counting is a better choice for fat loss than walking/running distance.

comment by Viliam · 2016-08-12T08:15:58.211Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

More generally, I assume your reasoning here to be that actual food digestion is not a 1:1 to, say, food labels. Correct?

Yes, but more importantly, I ask whether the difference between "food labels" and "actual food digestion" may depend on the specific person. To use your example, some person may be able to better extract calcium from food than other person, either because their genes create different enzymes, or because their gut flora preprocesses the food differently.

Now apply this argument to the calories themselves. Is it possible that two people eat the same food, yet one of them extracts 1000 calories from the food, and the other extracts 1500 calories?

Define your 'work'.

Well, you have just returned my question. I was curious whether there are ways to spend calories that most people would forget to think about when thinking about "work".

For example, whether it is possible that we could observe two people the whole day and conclude that they do the same things (same kind of work, same kind of sport) and therefore their "calories out" should be approximately the same, while in reality their "calories out" would differ because one of them e.g. wears a warmer sweater.

Adding these two questions together, I am asking whether it is possible to have two people eat the same food, do the same amount of work and sport, and yet at the end of the day one of them gains extra calories and the other does not.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-08-12T15:02:50.467Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is it possible that two people eat the same food, yet one of them extracts 1000 calories from the food, and the other extracts 1500 calories?

Yes. Off the top of my head some factors which will affect this: bowel transit time, the general condition of the GI tract including the amount/efficiency of digestive enzymes, gut flora particulars.

I am asking whether it is possible to have two people eat the same food, do the same amount of work and sport, and yet at the end of the day one of them gains extra calories and the other does not.

Certainly possible. In fact, I would expect this to be true for the same person at different ages: a 20-year-old who loses weight at a certain food/activity level would eventually become a 40-year-old who would gain weight at the same food/activity level.

comment by Vaniver · 2016-08-12T15:39:30.236Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but more importantly, I ask whether the difference between "food labels" and "actual food digestion" may depend on the specific person.

Obviously; things like lactose tolerance seem like clear examples of this, and Lumifer's list seems like the sort of things I would expect matter in less obvious but more important ways.

comment by root · 2016-08-12T10:53:45.032Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

depend on the specific person

I'm not really sure how to pinpoint individual differences. I'm going to stop here but I honestly think it would be nice to break this down further. A potentially harmful practice could be taking some sort of average ability to digest food, and then start deriving standard deviations from it. I'm saying 'harmful' because I (1) do not know how to do this and (2) I have no idea if this is the right thing to do.

Now apply this argument to the calories themselves. Is it possible that two people eat the same food, yet one of them extracts 1000 calories from the food, and the other extracts 1500 calories?

I'd imagine that people who had a less economical digestion would probably have less offspring, but that's just a guess.

Well, you have just returned my question. I was curious whether there are ways to spend calories that most people would forget to think about when thinking about "work".

It would be greatly helpful to have a list of energy spendings by the body, then. Can someone provide directions?

comment by Elo · 2016-08-12T04:36:51.583Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

going to modify for clarification:

EndOfTodayWeight = StartOfTodayWeight - EenergyBurn + EnergyIntakeFromFood + WaterIn - WaterOut

where Energyburn is:

EnergyBurn = BaseMetabolicRate + IncidentalExercise + PurposefulExercise (+ SomeFudgeFactor for individual variance)

And:

EnergyIntakeFromFood = Food'sCaloricComposition (* PercentAbsorbed: where this is probably close to 100%)


This is also more complicated because food travelling through your digestive system (or liquid travelling through your filtration system) can be at various stages and weights. For example watermelon has a lot of water in it, so will initially make your weight go up, but shortly after only the sugar will remain.

Other factors like feeling bloated may genuinely be caused by water retention. BUT if we try to build a model assuming these other factors are not there...

And assuming that when you eat food, the mass of the food is equivalent to your weight change due to the caloric load. (which is distinctly not true for chocolate, where you can eat less weight of chocolate but put on more weight because of the calories. The weight comes from added water when you process that food.)

(this is where the weight-measure starts breaking down but if we keep going anyway we can still get a useful model)

comment by WalterL · 2016-08-10T17:46:00.553Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Basically every person (including those who will tell you that calories in = calories out) has seen babies, so if your model of the people who disagree with you would be baffled by the fact that fat dad and football sized son don't gain the same weight from eating the same food then your model of their beliefs may be lacking an important nuance.

comment by morganism · 2016-08-08T22:17:58.773Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

AMA: We are the Google Brain team. We'd love to answer your questions about machine learning.

https://www.reddit.com/r/MachineLearning/comments/4w6tsv/ama_we_are_the_google_brain_team_wed_love_to/

i missed this, even while reading askscience then...

comment by Gyrodiot · 2016-08-09T13:58:18.390Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As of today, the thread is still gathering questions. The team will start answering them August 11; a LW post may be of interest then.

comment by moridinamael · 2016-08-09T21:55:10.725Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I recently committed to learning a mnemonic peg system in an effort to improve my memory. I've learned a few things from the experience.

Mnemonic peg systems are almost perfectly arbitrary so they provide a decent case study for how you form memories in the absence of any governing structure or natural chunking. It's an "IQ-proof" task.

In the past I have systematically overestimated my ability to retain information after a single exposure and simultaneously underestimated my ability to retain information after training. Specifically, in a single training session I will see a particular pairing and think to myself, "Okay, I've got it," and then manage to forget it a couple of hours later. However, after a few days of repeated exposure, it eventually sinks in to the extent that I can recall it instantly. Forcing yourself to memorize unstructured/arbitrary associations concretely shows you both how bad you are at retaining information by default and how amazingly good you can get at retaining and retrieving information if you just keep at it.

I have also realized the importance of "sitting with the mistake". If I fail to recall an association on a given flashcard, or come up with the wrong association, I will sit with that card for 30 seconds or so, visualizing in as much detail as possible all the connections implicit in the association, before moving on to the next card. In the past, with previous attempts to use flashcards, I would simply see the right answer, think "Oops," and move on. Using flashcards without explicitly focusing on your errors is like trying to train an artificial neural network while skipping the propagation of the error signal.

I suspect a lot of "smart" people get through life avoiding the slog of rote memorization as much as possible. I personally managed to get through school without ever really memorizing the multiplication tables because I could always mentally calculate small numbers "well enough". It has been very instructive to force myself to memorize something essentially arbitrary.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-08-12T20:17:51.669Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Mnemonic peg systems are almost perfectly arbitrary so they provide a decent case study for how you form memories in the absence of any governing structure or natural chunking. It's an "IQ-proof" task.

I don't think it's useful to try to adopt mnemonic pegs without any chunking. I personally started having pegs from 0 to 9 and 00 to 99. I filled them with images of woman that I put into 11 categories with 10 people and sorted every pile by the alphabet.

comment by moridinamael · 2016-08-12T22:11:39.991Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

After thinking about it I realized that the system I'm using doesn't have zero structure, but it has less than, say, multiplication tables.

I use the phonetic two digit Person-Action-Object system. So 23 for example corresponds to "Nemo nomming (a) gnome." (n=2 and m=3). 48 is "Raph raving (at a) ref." (r=4, f/v=8). 56 is "Luigi leashing a leach." (5=l, 6=sh/j/ch). This allows you to chunk 234856 as the vivid image "Nemo raving at a leach."

I'm still not quick enough with the system to say whether it's really useful. Part of the purpose of the exercise is to force myself to memorize something difficult just for the sake of getting a sense of what it is to memorize something, since I've avoided that activity for my entire life.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-08-13T10:19:41.376Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

At the moment I do have people and soon I will have cards for all from 0 to 99. I don't yet have actions or objects. How did you come up with lists for actions and objects?

comment by moridinamael · 2016-08-15T16:30:44.965Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I started with this list and customized it with names that had meaning for me.

This page ( http://mt.artofmemory.com/wiki/Person-Action-Object_(PAO)_System ) has a lot of links that could give you other ideas.

comment by turchin · 2016-08-08T12:46:59.768Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Willing to cooperate seems to be low status signaling. E.g., a low status author of an article may try to get higher status person as a coauthor of his article. But higher status author would not try to get low status author as a coauthor. Higher status people could defect with lower punishment, like not return calls or not keep promises. It results in open willingness to cooperate may be regarded as a signal of low status and some people may deliberately not cooperate to demonstrate their higher status. Any thoughts?

comment by Eugene · 2016-08-14T01:10:08.945Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think cooperation is more complex than that, as far as who benefits. Superficially, yes it benefits lower status participants the most and therefore suggests they're the ones most likely to ask. In very simple systems, I think you see this often. But as the system or cultural superstructure gets more complex, the benefit rises toward higher status participants. Most societies put a lot of stock in being able to organize - a task which includes cooperation in its scope. That's a small part of the reason you get political email spam asking for donations, even if you live in an area where your political party is clearly dominant. Societies also tend to put an emphasis on active overall participation (the 'irons in the fire' mentality), where peer-cooperation is rewarded, and it's often unclear who has higher status in those situations without being able to tell who has the most 'irons in the fire' so to speak. I feel like this is where coauthoring falls. Although it probably depends on what subculture has developed around the subject being authored.

And then there's the people who create organizations entirely centered around cooperation. The idea being that there's power in being able to set the rules of how the lower status participants are allowed to cooperate, and how they are rewarded for their cooperation. For example, Youtube and Kickstarter. In these and similar systems, cooperation effectively starts at the highest possible status and rolls downhill.

comment by Fluttershy · 2016-08-09T03:04:22.255Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've noticed that old money types will tend to cooperate in this sort of publication-based dilemma more frequently for cultural reasons: to them, not cooperating would be a failure to show off their generosity.

To give a real life example, I've often seen my parent's friends "fighting over the check" when they all eat together, while I've never seen new-money-types of similar net worth do this outside of romantic contexts.

comment by niceguyanon · 2016-08-08T16:14:23.311Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In your example I would say mostly yes it does signal lower status, but you should do it anyway.

Willingness to collaborate is not as pure of a signal as say something like owning a winter home does to signal status because if I knew nothing about your willingness to collaborate I could still tell your status by examining your catalog of publications. Willingness to collaborate is an attempt to increase the lower status that you already have to a level that you would like to have. It's like attempting to win is signalling that you haven't won yet, but how do you win? You have to attempt to win.

I have recently been thinking about how incredibly useful networking is. I know successful people that have large and small social/professional networks, but if I examine only the people who I know that have large social/professional networks they are almost always employed and win more.

comment by Panorama · 2016-08-14T10:35:18.285Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Researchers orbit a muon around an atom, confirm physics is broken

The proton's charge radius shouldn't change, and yet it appears to.

comment by morganism · 2016-08-13T21:37:01.582Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Parents giving unproven IQ-boosting drugs to kids with Down's"

attempting to increase neuron interconnection

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23130864-100-parents-giving-unproven-iqboosting-drugs-to-kids-with-downs/

comment by MrMind · 2016-08-08T16:05:10.741Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I was reading this, Mr Money Mustache blog article about the pursue of happiness. And I was wandering: besides the mystic shit, does Buddhism equate a sort of psychological pain asymbolia?

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-08-08T12:00:50.581Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In the wake of the news of the lack of evidence for flossing I would really like to see a trial where everybody brushes teeth and an added intervention is: "Oral probiotics" vs. "Flossing" vs. "Tongue Scrapping" vs. "Control".

comment by delton137 · 2016-08-09T21:38:42.775Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast interviewed Grant Richey about this. He notes that some of the headlines were misleading, because the study did find that when flossing is performed by a dental hygienist on children, it has positive effect. So, a better encapsulation of the recent review is that improper flossing doesn't have any positive effect. On the other hand, its very unlikely to hurt you, unless you damage your gums in the process.

in case anyone wants a detailed review of the literature from before this study, Grant Richey did a blog post on it a few months ago: https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/may-the-floss-be-with-you/

comment by morganism · 2016-08-14T23:16:37.005Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Being vegan isn’t as good for humanity as you think

"But the vegan diet stood out because it was the only diet that used no perennial cropland at all, and, as a result, would waste the chance to produce a lot of food."

http://qz.com/749443/being-vegan-isnt-as-environmentally-friendly-as-you-think/

comment by Yaacov · 2016-08-15T00:16:42.426Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This study was trying to figure out what would happen if everyone in the US followed the same diet. That's probably not that useful for individual decision making. Even if lots and lots of people became vegan we wouldn't stop using grazing land, we would just raise less grain-fed animals.

Also, this analysis doesn't seem to consider animal suffering, which I personally find important.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-08-14T12:32:06.889Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I recently read that sleeping (and anesthetica) come with increased interstitial space (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/342/6156/373). Maybe that increased in interstitial space usually leads to a loss of consciousness.

I have a hypothesis that it's also possible to be in a state of meditation whereby one is conscious but the interstitial space is still increased. Does anyone have ideas about whether that's plausible?

comment by morganism · 2016-08-13T22:45:33.192Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

SETI, aim your scopes at Proxima Centauri...

Scientists are preparing to unveil a new planet in our galactic neighbourhood which is "believed to be Earth-like"

http://phys.org/news/2016-08-scientists-unveil-earth-like-planet.html

Proxima is only 4.2 LY away, but on occasion, its brightness increases. Proxima is what is known as a flare star," meaning that convection processes within the star's body make it prone to random and dramatic changes in brightness.

comment by morganism · 2016-08-12T22:52:48.954Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A new paper on synthetic biology and CRSPR gene drives. In the new arXiv for bio sci.

http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2016/06/06/057281

comment by morganism · 2016-08-13T21:45:25.350Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Says CRSPR will never be able to fix damaged people that exist, just the next generation.

https://www.reddit.com/r/askscience/comments/4xb9tw/could_crispr_eventually_allow_us_to_borrow_genes/

and here is a story on the regeneration they discuss in the thread

http://www.sciencenews.org/article/anemone-proteins-offer-clue-restoring-hearing-loss

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-08-14T11:00:48.831Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

CRSPR alone won't but that doesn't mean that it's not possible to use a virus to get a gene into existing people. Gene therapy for issues in the eye is already working: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_therapy_of_the_human_retina

comment by turchin · 2016-08-11T20:09:56.135Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I just published my new map about ways of preventing global warming on EA forum here: http://effective-altruism.com/ea/10h/the_map_of_global_warming_prevention/

TL;DR: Small probability of runaway global warming requires preparation of urgent unconventional measures of its prevention that is sunlight dimming.

Abstract: The most expected version of limited global warming of several degrees C in 21 century will not result in human extinction, as even the thawing after Ice Age in the past didn’t have such an impact. The main question of global warming is the possibility of runaway global warming and the conditions in which it could happen. Runaway warming means warming of 30 C or more, which will make the Earth uninhabitable. It is unlikely event but it could result in human extinction. Global warming could also create some context risks, which will change the probability of other global risks. I will not go here in all details about nature of global warming and established ideas about its prevention as it has extensive coverage in Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_mitigation). Instead I will concentrate on heavy tails risks and less conventional methods of global warming prevention. The map provides summary of all known methods of GW prevention and also of ideas about scale of GW and consequences of each level of warming. The map also shows how prevention plans depends of current level of technologies. In short, the map has three variables: level of tech, level of urgency in GW prevention and scale of the warming. The following post consists of text wall and the map, which are complimentary: the text provides in depths details about some ideas and the map gives general overview of the prevention plans.

The map: http://immortality-roadmap.com/warming3.pdf

comment by morganism · 2016-08-12T22:30:10.866Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You should also research some of the existing methanotroph bacteria studies, there are some strains available without GM.

One of the most interesting is the Antarctic researcher who was studying the ice cores. He used some weird culture when his regular supply ran out, and found that every single core he tested was inbued with methanotrophs. They were dormant in the cores, but they were still metabolizing very slowly, and they where in all of them. This points to the major possibility that the "historical" high levels of CO2 everyone points to in the record, were actually methane gun events, that upped the methano's, then as the level dropped due to predation and conversion, we are left with the gas bubbles people are studying now, which show very high levels of CO2 before industrialization.

and as i posted before , the Ridiculously Resilent Ridge atmo high is still in place, we are getting a winter storm front right now in AZ. Gonna be 4 years soon, and we know about emplaced highs, we get one most every summer for 4-6 weeks.

comment by turchin · 2016-08-12T22:44:17.050Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So you mean that historic CO2 cores are flawed and current CO2 is much more dangerous?

comment by morganism · 2016-08-13T21:28:53.268Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That is exactly the danger.

One of the biggest drivers in the denier argument is the historically high CO2 in the ice core record, and the pore sizes of plants stomatas. Both of those could easily be explained by a methane gun event.

What is most interesting to me, is how did so many methanotrophs get airbourne?

Most likely to me is undersea volcanoes lofting seawater loaded with them, because if there was enough methane in the air, to support evolution of an airbourne bacteria just to fill a niche, it would take longer than the 7 year life of methane in the atmo....

http://astrobiology.com/2016/08/specialized-life-forms-abound-at-arctic-methane-seeps.html

edit: add

https://aeon.co/videos/how-airborne-microbes-ride-clouds-hop-continents-and-even-make-it-rain

comment by turchin · 2016-08-12T22:43:22.160Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. But there is also a bacteria which is able to produce methane and it was suggested as one of the reason of extinction event 250 mln years from now.

comment by morganism · 2016-08-13T21:32:26.098Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I read just last year that the most abundant organism on the planet can become a methanogen when conditions arise, the tiny, seabourne S11

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2016-08-09T00:59:29.208Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I used to worry that dysgenesis was leading us towards a world in which everyone was really dumb. That fear has been at least partially alleviated by new research showing that more educated people are having more kids. But now I worry that dysgenesis is leading us towards a world in which everyone is really sick.

Historically, human reproduction used the following strategy: have 6 or 8 kids, and the healthiest 3 or 4 would make it to adulthood. Now couples have 2 or 3 kids, and they almost all make it to adulthood. But that implies that lots of marginally-healthy children are surviving, thanks to medical technology, and so the gene pool is getting less healthy.

Look around you and count the number of people who have some kind of debilitating allergy, chronic illness, or mental health condition. Does it seem scary to you? What if that percentage goes up dramatically in the future, while the conditions themselves also get worse?

comment by niceguyanon · 2016-08-09T14:00:35.870Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That fear has been at least partially alleviated by new research showing that more educated people are having more kids

Could you please post a link if available?

comment by Vaniver · 2016-08-10T02:24:09.924Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I believe the impression is that lower and higher education women are having the same number of children by age 50. There's still a problem that education correlates with age at first child, and so you have fewer generations of more educated people running around in equilibrium.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-08-09T09:33:06.879Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not everybody who makes it to adulthood has kids. Various disabled people don't find a partner with whom to have kids.

I'm relatively confident that medical progress will be stronger than the effects you talk about in the next century. Sooner or later I expect genetic engineering to replace natural selection as the driving factor for human DNA, so the effects of the selection become less important.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-08-09T17:34:24.846Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Presumably this is the kind of thing that is fixable by widespread genetic technologies. Once you can identify and/or fix problematic zygotes, the problem disappears.

comment by moridinamael · 2016-08-10T15:07:05.276Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Or just straight-up medical cures and treatments.

Also, I have my own medical problems that cause me suffering, but I would still rather be alive than not.