Posts

Thermodynamics of Intelligence and Cognitive Enhancement 2014-04-03T23:17:48.130Z · score: 8 (21 votes)
Hacking Quantum Immortality 2012-05-08T07:06:06.748Z · score: -5 (14 votes)
How to use human history as a nutritional prior? 2012-03-10T00:47:58.972Z · score: 8 (12 votes)

Comments

Comment by casiothesane on Biofuels a climate mistake · 2016-12-31T16:04:13.019Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Growing crops for biofuel cannot produce more carbon than it consumes over long time scales, because the only source of carbon available to the system is the carbon in the atmosphere. If they are saying biofuels aren't carbon neutral over long time scales, where is this extra unlimited supply of carbon coming from?

Comment by casiothesane on Knowledge Dump: Pomodoros · 2016-07-31T03:12:58.420Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

High intensity deliberate practice that you can only do for short amounts of time per session

How is that different from flow work?

Comment by casiothesane on Knowledge Dump: Pomodoros · 2016-07-21T03:13:16.938Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure if you've read Mihály Csíkszentmihályi or not, but he argued that flow states are more likely when a task is more complex/challenging, and the person has a high level of appropriate skill that makes it possible (with substantial effort) to complete the task.

For me this often occurs while programming, sailing, or doing math- especially if I need to solve a new problem with those skills that will be especially challenging.

Once I'm in 'flow' it is a distinct mental experience - I am totally into it and lose any sense of time passing, or of needing to motivate myself until I am interrupted either by my own body, or by something external.

Cal Newport in Deep Work (his own word for flow work) defines "Deep Work" as anything that requires skills that would take at least a year to develop if a person was already generally educated, smart, and motivated.

Comment by casiothesane on Knowledge Dump: Pomodoros · 2016-06-08T21:46:44.487Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I stopped using pomodoros for flow-work, because it would break my flow state. I've found roughly 2 hour chunks work better for flow, without any particular warning to stop me if I feel like going longer. If I am in flow, I want it to keep going as long as possible, until I am fatigued, or the problem is solved.

Comment by casiothesane on The Thyroid Madness: Two Apparently Contradictory Studies. Proof? · 2016-05-25T22:59:43.889Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But I would have thought that if there was widespread 'central hypothyroidism', someone would have twigged by now, since that form does show up if you do a full panel of hormone tests

Which tests? I am not aware of any simple blood test that measures the endpoint of thyroid activity on metabolic rate (except, arguably, cholesterol levels), rather than just the state of the T4->TRH->TSH->T4 feedback loop.

mostly T4 with a bit of extra T3', but no-one has particularly clear ideas on what works and what doesn't or why

The challenge with T3 is it has a very short half-life, one would need to take very small doses impracticably often to achieve stable levels. Taking mostly T4 with a bit of T3 helps compensate for the reduction in T3 production due to feedback without the problems caused by trying to obtain nearly all T3 directly from a supplement.

Thanks for the reference to Ray Peat, I hadn't heard of him before. Can you link to the best expression of his thoughts?

His own essays at raypeat.com are the only accurate source, but can be challenging to read. Most of the summaries you will find online don't do him justice.

Comment by casiothesane on The Thyroid Madness: Two Apparently Contradictory Studies. Proof? · 2016-05-25T22:39:30.770Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

he was basically making his patients hyperthyroid

Why is this a reason not to reject it? He is essentially arguing that the major cause of cardiovascular disease is population-wide high rates of hypothyroidism. It would be a circular argument to dismiss that because his treatment leads to a greater than average metabolic rate. One would also need evidence of a disadvantage that outweighs the advantages. His patients seemed to be doing well, or at least he doesn't report them exhibiting any classic signs of hyperthyroidism. He was primarily adjusting dose based on body temperature to the upper end of the normal non-hyperthyroid range.

to help them lose weight

I have seen studies on thyroid supplementation as a weight loss strategy, and it causes loss of lean tissue (muscle, etc.) more than fat.

Comment by casiothesane on The Thyroid Madness: Two Apparently Contradictory Studies. Proof? · 2016-04-29T02:07:31.474Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You wouldn't need to invoke the idea of 'hormone resistance' because TSH and T4 tests normally used to diagnose hypothyroidism don't measure the active hormone - T3. T4 is just a prohormone with very little direct activity on metabolic rate.

In primates, metabolism is regulated primarily in the liver by T4->T3 conversion, so if this is inhibited for any reason it will suppress metabolism without showing up on those tests. Low calorie intake, and poor nutrition are known to cause this (e.g. Euthyroid sick syndrome). In cases of poor liver conversion, supplementing T4 can actually make symptoms worse, as it will further suppress metabolism by lowering the small amount of T3 production from the thyroid (via the TSH feedback loop).

I assume you have heard of Ray Peat? I personally had good luck applying his ideas to increase my energy levels, and my pulse, body temperature, and cold tolerance raised as well - without supplementing thyroid. His general idea is pretty simple- just look at what conditions and nutrients maximize T4->T3 conversion, and provide them (low stress, high nutrient diet).

Broda Barnes work is very interesting. It blows my mind that he published a paper in The Lancet showing that desiccated thyroid lowered cholesterol levels and seemed to prevent cardiovascular disease in his patients, and that it remains virtually un-discussed and uncited (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13796871).

Comment by casiothesane on Rebutting radical scientific skepticism · 2014-05-01T18:50:55.853Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You're right, we do understand the pathophysiology of many diseases, and those are the ones that have been mostly eradicated. The major chronic diseases that remain are very poorly understood such as type II diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and alzheimer's.

I spend a lot of time reading about 'alternative' ideas about these diseases, and many seem promising, but aren't taken seriously by the mainstream. It's definitely possible that they're ignored for a good reason, but I haven't been able to find the reasons yet. This is the biggest problem I've found with trying to be 'critical of everything.' In very few instances do I find myself quickly understanding and agreeing with the mainstream view. Instead, the more I read the more my opinion seems to diverge from the mainstream view. I have made an effort to discuss these issues personally with specialized experts, so they could help point out factors I may be missing, or not understanding correctly. I am a PhD candidate in the life sciences, so I have the opportunity to meet with research professors at my university in person to help clarify my understanding.

Here are two example theories, regarding cancer and cardiovascular disease in particular.

1) The idea that cancer isn't initiated by genetic mutations, but that mutations are a downstream phenomena that results after damage to the mitochondria occurs.

This stems from the initial observation by Warburg, that lack of control over glycolysis is part of the cancer cell phenotype. This phenotype can be triggered by a large number of factors which inhibit mitochondrial respiration including hypoxia. Later it was found that the mitochondria in cancer cells undergo a phenotypic change, where the cristae structure is lost. Nuclear transfer experiments have shown that a 'mutated' cancer nucleus placed into a healthy cell cytoplasm does not exhibit a heritable cancer phenotype. Conversely, a healthy nucleus placed into a cancerous cell cytoplasm does exhibit a heritable cancer phenotype.

Here is a review article covering the evidence for this hypothesis:

Cancer as a metabolic disease: implications for novel therapeutics http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/35/3/515

More evidence for this hypothesis includes the observation that active thyroid hormone levels (T3) are inversely correlated with cancer mortality rates in the general population. T3 is a key regulator of mitochondrial respiration:

Thyroid hormones and mortality risk in euthyroid individuals: The Kangbuk Samsung Health Study. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24708095

2) The finding that treatment for hypothyroidism drops cholesterol levels significantly, and virtually abolishes cardiovascular disease without the side effects seen from statins. The late Broda O. Barnes was an experimental endocrinologist and a clinical doctor, and he extensively documented this phenomena in his books and publications.

The idea here is that the central mechanism of cardiovascular disese is a low metabolism which inhibits cholesterol clearance from the blood via reduced steroid hormone synthesis, and reduced bile synthesis. The pathophysiology of cardiovascular disease begins with a long residence time of cholesterol particles in the blood, resulting in their oxidation. This can be reversed by any strategy that restores a normal (higher) metabolic rate: a carefully designed diet and/or thyroid hormone supplementation.

Here is a good introduction to this idea:

The Central Role of Thyroid Hormone in Governing LDL Receptor Activity and the Risk of Heart Disease http://blog.cholesterol-and-health.com/2011/08/central-role-of-thyroid-hormone-in.html

I am not insisting that these ideas are correct, or are some sort of 'well proven answer' to these diseases. I'm just pointing out that they seem promising, but are relatively ignored. If they prove accurate, much of the mainstream research on these phenomena would seem to be barking up the wrong tree.

You might notice that both of these examples are essentially the same theory. This is an appealing concept to me: most age-related chronic diseases may be centered around a common process of age related impaired mitochondrial function and/or improper hormonal regulation of mitochondrial function. Insufficient chemical energy (ATP) to fuel normal biological function would have widespread consequences, and could present as a diverse array of seemingly disconnected symptoms. I'll admit, this sounds somewhat like a modern molecular version of vitalism. However, unlike vitalism it makes specific testable predictions, and involves a very specific mechanism. It's also consistent with the 'free radical' and 'tissue peroxidizability index' theories of aging, which involve (among other things) progressive oxidative damage of unsaturated fats (such as cardiolipin) in the mitochondrial inner membrane.

Comment by casiothesane on Rebutting radical scientific skepticism · 2014-05-01T11:12:12.266Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have been attempting to do this with biology and medicine, seriously for about 5 years now. Not by actually repeating experiments, but in trying to understand the original evidence, and see if I agree that it was interpreted correctly. Of course this is nearly impossible as biology is too broad and complex for one person to understand all of the details.

It's a confusing mess, but I think I am still learning a lot. Even if I come to agree with most of the mainstream ideas, I'd like to think I'd then understand them more deeply, in a way that is more functionally useful.

For much of medicine, there really isn't any biological basis or evidence to review. Much of modern medicine involves covering up symptoms with drugs proven to do this, without understanding the underlying cause of the symptom.

Comment by casiothesane on Thermodynamics of Intelligence and Cognitive Enhancement · 2014-04-06T15:39:46.967Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Excellent post, thanks for putting so much work into a clear explanation. I will re-investigate Ling's work more carefully, and also see if I can find the mistakes in his thermodynamics calculations you mention. I have been biased towards his work and not looking critically enough, because it seems to explain some surprising observations about drug activity I've found in my own research- but that's no excuse.

I am interested in the possibility that Ling could be entirely wrong about membrane physiology, but this gel phase shift phenomena could still be important in the cell. If Ling and Pollack are wrong about long distance effects from protein surfaces, that might not destroy their arguments as the cytosol is very dense, and the distance between proteins is very short. Albert Szent-Györgyi also did some work on this idea that is very different from Ling's.

One of my committee members works on physics simulations of protein hydration shells, and I am going to meet with him and see what he thinks about this. The simulations I have seen don't show significant water structuring, as the water molecules have too much thermal energy.

Comment by casiothesane on Thermodynamics of Intelligence and Cognitive Enhancement · 2014-04-04T17:55:54.810Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's a good point about intelligence, the way I used that word without defining it in this article is sloppy.

I am interested in the ability to solve important problems. Maybe instead I should talk about something more easily definable such as mental endurance, or limiting the stress response from focused work? Personally, I think if I could work longer in one sitting on a hard problem without stress or fatigue, that alone would count as "increased intelligence" for practical purposes.

I think there are links between the stress response and nutrient availability. In lab mice anyway, sugar seems to reduce stress hormone production during stressful situations. However in practice this might be harmful to doing focused work, if stress improves focus.

Thanks for pointing out the issue of brain energy consumption vs mental activity. I think this entire article hinges on the (unfounded?) assumption that the two are strongly correlated. I am confused about this, and need to learn more about it. I see many articles and researchers claim massive increases in energy consumption with hard mental activity, and others that claim there is none which seems very strange. How are they measuring this? I wonder if people under general anesthesia have much lower, or about the same energy requirements as an awake person?

Comment by casiothesane on Thermodynamics of Intelligence and Cognitive Enhancement · 2014-04-04T17:39:45.238Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I need to learn more about this, I don't have a strong belief. If I understand correctly, this is basically the idea behind the free radical theory of aging (FRTA). One interesting variant of that idea is in the article I linked above, which suggests that the focus should be on "mitochondrial membrane peroxidizability index" rather than antioxidant activity or free radical production.

It seems weird that sugar seems to cause problems in certain populations of people, but not others.

Comment by casiothesane on Thermodynamics of Intelligence and Cognitive Enhancement · 2014-04-04T17:11:16.669Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There can be damage or defects in the mitochondria that inhibit it's ability to respond to hormones, for example per-oxidation of cardiolipin. Cells don't always die when they have a mitochondrial defect. An extreme example is cancer, where there is major damage to the mitochondria, but the cells continue to live via anaerobic fermentation (aka the Warburg Effect).

Some review articles that talk about these theories:

Cancer as a metabolic disease: implications for novel therapeutics

Life and Death: Metabolic Rate, Membrane Composition, and Life Span of Animals

Role of cardiolipin peroxidation and Ca2+ in mitochondrial dysfunction and disease

Comment by casiothesane on Thermodynamics of Intelligence and Cognitive Enhancement · 2014-04-04T06:51:26.605Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps sugar and glucose only cause problems in those who can't metabolize it effectively, for other reasons (or when consumed in excess of your capacity to metabolize them). I used to think high glucose intake caused metabolic syndrome but I can't reconcile that with the existence of large groups of people (Kitavans, fruitarianism, etc.) that have very high carb diets and don't develop metabolic syndrome.

In mice, high sugar diets don't cause metabolic problems or liver damage unless also coupled with high polyunsaturated fat intake. Populations of people with high carbohydrate diets and no metabolic syndrome seem to have very low polyunsaturated fat intake. Could carb restriction protect against the symptoms of metabolic disease, without addressing the underlying cause?

Fructose seems to increase T3 production in the liver, which could be a mechanism behind the sugar high. I am not sure if this is "good" or "bad."

Comment by casiothesane on Thermodynamics of Intelligence and Cognitive Enhancement · 2014-04-04T05:55:00.862Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you have time to provide links, I would like to read the research you mention- especially on the thermodynamics of ATP and calcium-triggered membrane vesicle fusion. Ling's work is all very old and doesn't address any newer research, but Pollack addresses some of the issues you raise in his books. Pollack does love to speculate a lot, but he appears to be careful in distinguishing this speculation from things that have more evidence. Here is also a newer review paper that discusses this and some other ideas related to the role of entropy in biochemistry: Coherent Behavior and the Bound State of Water and K+ Imply Another Model of Bioenergetics: Negative Entropy Instead of High-energy Bonds

Comment by casiothesane on Thermodynamics of Intelligence and Cognitive Enhancement · 2014-04-04T00:52:49.729Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think this would be difficult to observe, because starvation also increases stress hormones which increase motivation. For the most part, brain metabolism remains high in starvation, but other glucose using systems are reduced, to preserve glucose for the brain. Ketones are also used to reduce glucose demands while keeping brain metabolism high. Ancedotally, I seem to be more motivated when fasting or dieting, but more creative when eating a nutritious diet.

Metabolic syndrome, and hypothyroidism (both diseases of decreased cellular energy production) are correlated with reduced intelligence.

Citations:

Intelligence quotient in children with congenital hypothyroidism: The effect of diagnostic and treatment variables.

Pre-morbid intelligence, the metabolic syndrome and mortality: the Vietnam Experience Study.

Contribution of Metabolic Syndrome Components to Cognition in Older Individuals

Cognitive function in non-demented older adults with hypothyroidism.

Comment by casiothesane on Items to Have In Case of Emergency...Maybe. · 2014-04-03T17:54:09.017Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's a good point. I think some old hot water heaters might even be so full of small particles that they're hard to drain from the bottom, and you might need to get the water from the top.

However, I think most of the sediment would be insoluble in water, and can be avoided by letting the water settle for a few minutes. Any soluble particles would have long since dissolved, sitting in a bath of hot flowing water for years.

Comment by casiothesane on Items to Have In Case of Emergency...Maybe. · 2014-04-03T10:20:27.708Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Great post.

For food, I think dehydrated potatoes are a particularly effective emergency food. They're more complete nutritionally than grains and will keep you performing longer in a tough situation.

I also like to store enough fuel to safely get to a friend or family members house in another town, if necessary. My vehicle is diesel, so storing the fuel is somewhat safer than storing gasoline.

Books can be helpful as well- especially easy to read field references for emergency medicine and survival techniques. In my opinion a good book on first aid is more important than an actual first aid kit.

Also, a hot water heater is a giant tank of drinkable water, and is always full. It can be drained from a spigot at the bottom.

Comment by casiothesane on Biomedical research as a career · 2014-04-03T06:27:51.146Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

However, I don't really have a strategy to seek out some similar mentors and worry that in engineering it's a lot more likely to find method-oriented persons. I'm wondering if you have any advice on this.

No, I'm not even sure how to easily tell if someone is method or problem oriented without at least meeting them and talking to them. If you find any ideas on this please share them with me.

intractability of the problems that grabbed my attention in the first place (intelligence amplification/cognition)

That is a very hard problem. This is wild speculation but have you looked at the concept of hormesis? Maybe it's possible to engineer the right conditions under which the brain improves it's abilities on it's own. I think in some cases living organisms can be considered 'functional systems' which adapt as much as possible to maintain function in the face of a stress or challenge. This adaptation is limited in part by overall stress levels, and metabolic rate/energy availability. Focused strategies to overcome these limitations may increase adaptive ability. This may require developing a deeper understanding of both stress and metabolism.

Consider a weight lifter that can lift over 1,000lbs, something with probably no evolutionary precedent. They get this way with a combination of very low overall stress, a high nutrient diet that raises the metabolic rate and overall energy availability, a progressively increasing and highly specific stressor, and long rest periods. Perhaps a similar approach could be applied to 'train' improved cognitive abilities? One obvious difference is that our brain is limited in size, so there may be tradeoffs involved when we improve one specific skill or ability. I imagine this idea would sound very naive to neuroscientists.

What kind of paradigm shifts do you think will occur for biology in the future?

I can't predict the future, but this is a fun question good for more wild speculation. I think genetics will be seen as increasingly less significant, and heritable traits and information will be found encoded in many different molecules and structures in living cells.

I also think progressively impaired energy availability (impaired oxidative metabolism) will be viewed as a central phenomena occurring in most degenerative diseases, aging, and failure to adapt to stressors. This simple paradigm will help focus research to understand, fix, and prevent the underlying problems, enabling a shift away from medicine focused on managing symptoms. This is a popular concept in many old medicine systems (such as chinese medicine) but it has limited effectiveness without a deep understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms, and how to manipulate them.

Comment by casiothesane on Biomedical research as a career · 2014-04-03T03:43:11.890Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

e-mail sent

Comment by casiothesane on Biomedical research as a career · 2014-04-03T03:41:20.867Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I would love to hear more of your thoughts on this.

I've been planning on writing some articles on here, but I don't feel comfortable throwing out outlandish statements without explaining all of my reasoning and evidence in detail... and I don't have time to do so yet. This is a project at least on the order of the Timeless Physics sequences.

This is just the tip of the iceberg but one thing I have been looking at recently is Gilbert Ling's Association-Induction hypothesis which is centered around the idea that gel-like phase shifts in the cytoplasm are central to regulating and fueling many biological reactions. Initially this came from his observation that poisoning energy production in cells doesn't destroy ion partitioning, they still retain potassium and exclude sodium. He also found that if you slice cells in half, or otherwise remove or destroy the membrane in many different ways, this ion partitioning persists. It seems to be supported by an incredible amount of empirical evidence, yet is virtually unknown. There was some mainstream debate in the 1970s but the idea seems to have faded away without any convincing evidence against it. I think this could be partly due to Ling's attitude of "everything you know is wrong, and the stuff you're studying doesn't even exist," which is hard for other scientists to stomach. Personally I think his discoveries are better viewed as additional phenomena within the cell, rather than in opposition to other discoveries. The book "Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life" by Gerald Pollack (Amazon Link) is a relatively recent, and easy to read introduction to this idea.

Are you familiar with this idea, and if so what is your opinion?

Comment by casiothesane on Biomedical research as a career · 2014-04-03T03:27:28.599Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am interested in understanding the molecular basis of chronic diseases such as metabolic syndrome. I am also interested in understanding the relationship between various homeostasis mechanisms and small molecule drug activity.

Comment by casiothesane on Biomedical research as a career · 2014-04-02T16:44:06.658Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I would still be doing biomedical engineering given what I now know. However, I am driven mostly by curiosity and a desire to answer medical questions- if I worked in another field, I would likely be doing so to support myself while I work on these medical questions in my free time. I am a 'dry lab' bioengineer. If my primary goal was to make a high income, I would instead do software development.

If I could change anything, it would be seeking out problem-oriented instead of method-oriented mentors. Scientists and engineers can often be divided into two categories: those who are experts at a given method and look for problems to apply it to, and those who are experts at a given problem and look for tools to attack it with. Both can be productive strategies. I have a problem-oriented perspective, but most of my mentors have been method-oriented and don't understand my unwavering focus on specific seemingly intractable problems.

Comment by casiothesane on Biomedical research as a career · 2014-04-02T07:30:43.043Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Value creation depends entirely on you. Like any field, to make major advances you will need to tackle big problems and come up with creative solutions.

In my opinion (as a biomedical engineer) the field is currently stalled in some areas (and advancing rapidly in others) but is ripe for a major paradigm shift which will accelerate progress. Some verifiably false ideas about basic biology remain commonly accepted in the field, and will need to be reinvestigated for progress to continue.

As for the grad student debt issue, most major research universities in the USA pay students in doctoral programs. It is very much possible to obtain a PhD in the life sciences or bioengineering with zero debt, if you have good spending habits while in school. I managed to actually accrue some investments during graduate school, rather than debt.

I would only recommend getting into the field if you have a strong passion for solving medical problems, and have some clear ideas about how you will attack these problems very differently than others already working on them. If you don't have such clear ideas, I would start by reading journal articles and books on your own. Personally, I think it's valuable to seek out little known unusual experimental results and iconoclastic theories, as these are the leads that are being missed by others already working on the same problems. The more distinct your education is, the more it will complement the almost cookie-cutter identical educations of your peers, and allow you to become a major catalyst in problem solving.

Comment by casiothesane on Rationality Quotes March 2014 · 2014-03-27T22:32:55.411Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Don't you think it would be a useful item to add to your intellectual toolkits to be capable of saying, when a ton of wet steaming bullshit lands on your head, 'My goodness, this appears to be bullshit'?

-Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

Comment by casiothesane on Rationality Quotes March 2014 · 2014-03-10T18:55:13.189Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My interpretation is that this quote is aimed at people who do have the cognitive capacity to reason through specific problems that are important to them, but are failing to do so because they put too much trust in authorities.

Comment by casiothesane on Rationality Quotes March 2014 · 2014-03-10T18:44:46.263Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

He's not literally saying to believe this, but to consider this idea to enable you to then look at the evidence yourself.

The problem is so many people hold a 'prior' that the authorities are always right, it becomes possible for wrong ideas to become entrenched, and never seriously reinvestigated.

Comment by casiothesane on Rationality Quotes March 2014 · 2014-03-10T18:42:43.079Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

His ideas are all based on the Association-Induction hypothesis, which is a little known and iconoclastic theory of cell biology... however it seems to have a strong experimental basis.

His writing seemed crazy to me at first (almost like schizophrenic word salad, despite having graduate level training in biology), but I've spent much of the last year studying the papers he cites... and I cannot find any mistakes in his reasoning yet. It's seeming more and more reasonable, but I think it's better to use his writings to find new ideas about basic biology, rather than just follow his health recommendations without understanding them.

I'm planning a post on the Association-Induction hypothesis. It's status is very similar to that of timeless physics: it's largely ignored and unknown however it is researched seriously by a small number of academics.

Comment by casiothesane on Rationality Quotes March 2014 · 2014-03-10T18:37:29.101Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Is this reverse stupidity? It's a demonstrably false statement, but I think it's a useful heuristic to compensate for a bias we are prone to, allowing you to then collect evidence and evaluate the situation rationally. It might help overcome the also demonstrably false 'prior belief' that the authorities are always correct, which prevents people from ever expending energy to confirm or question them.

Comment by casiothesane on Daily Low-Dose Aspirin, Round 2 · 2014-03-08T07:40:58.222Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I retracted this, because I have learned a lot more about this issue in the last year. I am still undecided on aspirin, however I no longer think that the mechanisms mentioned above are the only important roles aspirin plays. I am also no longer convinced that omega-3 offers a health benefit, and that omega-6 restriction alone may be superior to replacing omega-6 with omega-3.

Comment by casiothesane on Rationality Quotes March 2014 · 2014-03-08T07:32:51.861Z · score: -7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Occasionally, someone complains that they ‘don’t want to read a lot of technical stuff.’ These people prefer to do what ‘the authorities’ tell them. Where would the authorities be without them? I wouldn’t want to interfere in their relationships with the authorities, except that the system they sustain is tending to kill everyone.

-Dr. Ray Peat

Comment by casiothesane on Rationality Quotes March 2014 · 2014-03-08T07:30:37.794Z · score: -5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

A scientific attitude is of great importance, but we must recognize that science has absolutely nothing to do with the ‘consensus of the authorities.’ You are less likely to do the wrong thing if you believe that ‘the authorities are always wrong,’ because then you will begin to question their assumptions, evaluate their evidence, and examine their reasoning.

-Dr. Ray Peat

Comment by casiothesane on For FAI: Is "Molecular Nanotechnology" putting our best foot forward? · 2013-06-22T22:45:03.885Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I really like your recipe analogy, I think it would be very useful for teaching molecular biology.

I think our discussion mirrors the tension between traditional biology and bioengineering. As a bioengineer I'm primarily concerned with what is possible to build given the biology we already know.

While I agree that a "blueprint" isn't a good analogy for naturally evolved living organisms, this doesn't prevent us from engineering new molecular systems that are built from a blueprint. As I mentioned, we already have turing complete molecular computers- and software compilers that can turn any code into a set of molecules that will perform the computation. It's currently too slow and expensive to be useful, but it shows that programmable molecular systems are possible.

Comment by casiothesane on For FAI: Is "Molecular Nanotechnology" putting our best foot forward? · 2013-06-22T18:16:38.540Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

To what extent is labeling the behavior of biological systems as "emergent" just an admission that these systems are currently mysterious to us?

I don't think it's clear to what extent biological systems have "emergent" behavior, vs. organization into distinct "modules" each with a specific role, and robust feedback systems.

The book chapter On Modules and Modularity in the book System Modeling in Cellular Biology argues that simple modular design is likely selected for, as it would increase the ability of an organism to evolve and adapt. Non-modular systems are so interconnected that small changes break too many things. Biological systems may be more modular (and therefore understandable) than they currently seem- but we'll need to extend our study to look more at dynamic behavior before we'd be able to identify these modules and understand their function.

The fact that biological systems are so reliable despite high error rates in the underlying processes shows that feedback systems are an effective strategy to build robust systems from somewhat unreliable components.

I think this suggests that we may not need to solve hard problems such as protein folding before we can build practical self assembling nanotech. We "just" need a programmable library of robust modules that can be combined in arbitrary ways- but we may find that these already exist, or that they can be engineered from what we do understand (such as RNA chemistry).

Comment by casiothesane on For FAI: Is "Molecular Nanotechnology" putting our best foot forward? · 2013-06-22T10:40:48.983Z · score: 15 (23 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't life an example of self-assembling molecular nanotechnology? If life exists, then our physics allows for programmable systems which use similar processes.

We already have turing complete molecular computers... but they're currently too slow and expensive for practical use. I predict self-assembling nanotech programmed with a library of robust modular components will happen long before strong AI.

Comment by casiothesane on Learning programming: so I've learned the basics of Python, what next? · 2013-06-22T08:15:53.300Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Consider volunteering in an academic lab that does computational research- such as bioinformatics, or computer science research. This will get you practical programming skills, but also other useful skills and knowledge related to the specific research being done.

Comment by casiothesane on Learning programming: so I've learned the basics of Python, what next? · 2013-06-22T08:11:40.060Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Personally, I find it a chore to learn programming languages, but I find it very enjoyable and rewarding to write software which helps solve problems I'm interested in.

Comment by casiothesane on Learning programming: so I've learned the basics of Python, what next? · 2013-06-22T08:07:52.445Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have any more information on this?

My personal experience has been that it's almost impossible to consistently put in more than about 2 hours/day of highly focused 'flow' coding. I was previously worried that there was something wrong, but at this pace I'm able to complete big projects on a regular basis. Could this be normal even for productive programmers?

Comment by casiothesane on What makes you different from Tim Ferriss? · 2013-06-22T07:10:34.784Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Invest some time looking into modern bodybuilding methods and "paleo 2.0" diets, and you'll quickly see that his knowledge level of practical fitness methods is shockingly shallow (and outdated) for someone who claims such a longstanding interest in them.

Comment by casiothesane on What makes you different from Tim Ferriss? · 2013-06-22T06:25:48.763Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I was not arguing for studying theory over practical experience- but to argue that he is far from an expert at either approach.

It's true that most effective fitness techniques lack any solid theoretical basis and were discovered by self experimentation. However, his knowledge level of these practical fitness techniques is shallow.

For example his workouts were copied nearly verbatim from the book "Body by Science" but are missing important advice from that book on how to perform them safely and effectively. He also seems unaware of the methods developed by self-experimentation/bodybuilding pioneer Vince Gironda, which are generally more effective than the methods he talks about in 4HB.

Another example- The low rep/low duration/infrequent lifting methods in 4HB don't work without EXTREMELY high effort/intensity levels. He does mention this in his book (I think he says lift like you have a gun to your head), but the vast majority of people can't do this without specific mental techniques that increase intensity. By leaving "intensity mental hacks" out of his book, the workouts will do nothing for most people.

I'm glad that he's popularizing alternative fitness and nutrition ideas, but at the same time I'm frustrated that he didn't take the time to do a better job of researching and understanding what's out there first.

Comment by casiothesane on What makes you different from Tim Ferriss? · 2013-06-21T05:29:51.556Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

You have a good point about motivation, but I don't think Timothy Ferriss is a good example person to use for explaining this idea to LWers. Perhaps a very successful and motivated scientist such as Feynman?

Personally, I don't find Timothy Ferris' motivation level that impressive- on the contrary, I think he's dangerously lazy.

For example, he presents himself as an elite and highly experienced biohacker in 4HB, but he's just copying methods from already published books that he doesn't understand well. He's using relatively dangerous and ineffective techniques, because he never invested the time to understand the relevant biology, history, and many key methods surrounding the ideas he talks about.

Comment by casiothesane on Near-Term Risk: Killer Robots a Threat to Freedom and Democracy · 2013-06-20T21:30:53.892Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The barriers to entry in becoming a supervillan are getting lower and lower- soon just anybody will be able to 3D print an army of flying killer robots with lethal autonomy.

Comment by casiothesane on Rationality witticisms suitable for t-shirts or bumper stickers · 2013-06-20T16:21:48.208Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Our own Steven "Black Belt Bayesian" Kaas

Comment by casiothesane on Meetup : Berkeley: The Motivation Hacker by Nick Winter · 2013-06-06T13:23:19.387Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I just got an eBook of "The Motivation Hacker" and it seems AMAZING. I realize it's much of the same ideas present in the article on here how_to_beat_procrastination, but Nick explains them in a way that seems far more convincing and applicable to daily life.

Comment by casiothesane on Optimizing for attractiveness · 2013-06-06T03:26:14.162Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The terminology "cheat meal/day" bothers me, as it implies that it's not a critical part of the diet or even some sort of "planned moral transgression"- and leads many people to think they might get better results if they avoid it, do it less often. In reality it's a critical part of the method.

Comment by casiothesane on Optimizing for attractiveness · 2013-06-05T08:31:19.996Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think the high carb "cheat" meals just help psychologically, but help avoid many of the long term biological consequences of low carb diets which can inhibit weight loss: low thyroid function, low leptin levels, and chronically low liver glycogen levels.

A single high carb meal raises leptin levels for up to a week, which increases your metabolism, AND powerfully suppresses hunger. There's been a few studies looking at how carb cycling works that show major hormonal changes. Personally, I notice my body temperature and energy levels are higher, and I hardly have any appetite for about 24 hours after a heavy carb feed.

Comment by casiothesane on Finding interesting communities · 2013-06-05T08:24:55.051Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was surprised to find that this isn't the case with science or engineering graduate students, at least not at my grad school.

With a few exceptions, most are NOT geeks/hackers, and tend to use social interaction to escape thinking about technical things, not to geek out on them even harder than they do in the lab.

I've had better luck finding interesting and smart friends in artistic and psychedelic drug use subcultures, despite the fact that I have little interest in those activities myself.

I don't have a broad sample of what different schools are like, but mine is a large public research university in the southwestern United States.

Comment by casiothesane on Optimizing for attractiveness · 2013-06-05T08:11:21.650Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Here's four other "weight loss hacks" that are at least as worth trying as low carb or shangri-la.

Low food reward diets: Seduced by Food: Obesity and the Human Brain by Stephan J. Guyenet

carb back-loading + high intensity lifting: Extreme Diet Hacking With Tech: How Cheesecake Made Me Leaner And Stronger With Carb Backloading

Intermittent fasting + high intensity lifting: The Leangains Guide

higher carb paleo: The Perfect Health Diet

Comment by casiothesane on Optimizing for attractiveness · 2013-06-05T07:49:39.122Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you want to be more physically attractive you don't want to just "lose weight" but look fit and healthy. How to do this isn't obvious, as mainstream health advice doesn't achieve this for most people. You should expect to spend considerable time researching and learning about fitness and nutrition. Look to emulate methods that work, not ones well understood by science- it is a myth that nutritional science has advanced to the point where we can design effective diet and fitness programs entirely from basic biological knowledge.

This is a good article on physical traits women find attractive, and how to cultivate them:

Male Physical Attractiveness Part I or: You Shallow, Shallow Ladies

The website contains good information, but it's also clearly trying to sell a particular fitness program (The Hollywood Physique for Men). I did this program myself and it worked exactly as advertised, but it was very challenging and time consuming to follow. I ate 11 eggs/day for 6 months, went to the gym 8 times a week, and was totally socially isolated- and very fatigued at times.

Still, afterwards it was very surprising how differently people treat me in social situations. I am a serious health/biochemistry nerd and like to go on and on about these things… people used to roll their eyes but now that I look different they want to hear what I have to say.

Comment by casiothesane on Finding interesting communities · 2013-06-05T07:44:50.660Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

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