Links for February 2023

How to Achieve Long Term Success on the Potato Diet from Critical MAS. We don’t agree with the conclusions, but this is the kind of criticism we’d like to see more of — disagreement on specific theoretical points that we could maybe try to resolve empirically. MAS if you are reading this, we’re curious to know what you think of the half-tato diet.

​​Also related to our work: No-one knows whether or not a neutral-tasting nutrient-sludge diet leads to enormous weight loss. You could try to replicate this with some friends.

Declining Sperm Count: Much More Than You Wanted To Know. People ask us all the time about doing a deep dive on sperm count — now Scott at ACX has done it, concludes that the evidence is mixed but maybe favors pesticides as a cause, “I’m pretty split about how concerned to be”. We are glad he did it so we didn’t have to.

People love the genre of tweet that goes ‘I’m the author of this article, and you’ve misrepresented it’ so much that they failed to check if the person in question really WAS the author! Extraordinary.

Clever study design: recruit people who are already purchasing psychedelic drugs on the black market and give them a self-blinding protocol to get a placebo controlled study. The results: microdosing likely has no pharmacological benefits.” (h/t Basil Halperin)

Gary Wolf meditates on the fact that in the study of health, rarity is common.

Erika Updates #0: A Publishing Experiment

Depression researchers rethink popular mouse swim tests (from 2019): 

Nearly every scientist who has used mice or rats to study depression is familiar with the forced-swim test. The animal is dropped into a tank of water while researchers watch to see how long it tries to stay afloat. In theory, a depressed rodent will give up more quickly than a happy one — an assumption that has guided decades of research on antidepressants and genetic modifications intended to induce depression in lab mice.

But mental-health researchers have become increasingly sceptical in recent years about whether the forced-swim test is a good model for depression in people. It is not clear whether mice stop swimming because they are despondent or because they have learnt that a lab technician will scoop them out of the tank when they stop moving.

Obesity seems like it would be bad for your health and would make you more likely to die from things like heart attacks. But many studies find no effect of BMI on mortality — this is sometimes called the obesity paradox. However, a new paper argues that this can be explained by simple statistical biases. The paper concludes, “the mortality consequences of overweight and obesity have likely been underestimated, especially at older ages.”

How to Live Near Your Friends

Claims about fascia and chronic pain. Some parts seem plausible but also sounds a lot like any miracle cure claim, so, dubious. We’d be interested in hearing points for or against.

Is Everything an MLM? Only tangentially about MLMs, also about e.g. the false lure of graduate school:

But academia … does something different. Like my yoga teacher, it affirms what so many of us wanted to believe about ourselves: that we’re good enough, smart enough, potential-filled enough, to go to grad school. Maybe it started when you wrote a paper you were particularly proud of, and your professor told you, off-handedly, “maybe you should think about grad school.” Maybe someone else in your life — the parent of a friend, someone you nannied for, your parent — told you the same. When my undergrad professor told me as much, it was like someone had unfogged the windshield of my life: oh, yes, there’s the road in front of me! Everyone I met in grad school had some version of this story.

Leonardo da Vinci’s forgotten experiments explored gravity as a form of acceleration

User on r/AnarchyChess placed Stockfish (white) against ChatGPT (black). ChatGPT invents moves, cheats blatantly, still loses. Full transcript here. Things go ok until… well, take a look: 

looks like a regulation move to me, boss

Eminem becomes a Second Century Warlord — basically a crash course in Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Mike vs ADHD 2023. Interesting prediction-market-based N=1, luck-based medicine self-experiment. Will Mike regret using nicotine gum? You predict, Mike decides.

Thread about Chinese linguist Yuen Ren Chao’s innovative 1872 Chinese translation of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”.

New Lives in the City: How Taleban have experienced life in Kabul. Complaints include:

“Another thing I don’t like, not only about Kabul but broadly about life after the fatha, are the new restrictions. In the group, we had a great degree of freedom about where to go, where to stay, and whether to participate in the war.

However, these days, you have to go to the office before 8 AM and stay there till 4 PM. If you don’t go, you’re considered absent, and [the wage for] that day is cut from your salary.”

​​Some insects I found inside dried Turkish figs from Trader Joe’s. DON’T READ if you are squeamish about the idea of bugs in your food. Seriously.

Rob Sheridan: I Have a Confession to Make. Rob comes clean about being the one to create The Dancing Baby.

I took my new revelation to a friend older than I, a game designer who’s been involved with internet technology since the beginning. He too was amazed by my confession, but from a different angle I’d never considered: one of an internet historian. “I think you made the first true meme,” he told me. We looked through lists of the earliest internet memes, and although several preceded The Dancing Baby (like the Hamster Dance), their popularity had remained contained within the internet. The Dancing Baby was the first meme to truly permeate meatspace.

7 thoughts on “Links for February 2023

  1. I also attempted to play ChatGPT at chess, with much less impressive results. My first move was to advance my king’s pawn two spaces. Its response was to move my (yes, MY) queen’s pawn forward two spaces, too. I pointed out its error; it apologized politely, as it always does, then made the exact same wrong move again. That’s when I gave up.


  2. MAS here. A “half-tato” diet is something that I did towards the end of my diet. I called it “potatoes and protein” and I have a few posts about it on CriticalMAS. I endorse it. Protein along with high-volume foods (like the potato) work great together.


  3. Julian says:

    That fascia stuff is definitely bogus. Its the same pitch that a chiropractor will give you about alignment. Notice she never said how they fix the fascia nor did she provide evidence of fascia being a cause of problems on wide scale or that her methods actually solve things. She only provided an anecdote and a “this is obviously true!” demonstration that only seems scientific. Total junk.

    I can’t comment on that “everything is an MLM” post, so I’ll being a debbie downer here. Academia (and all the other examples given by commenters) is not an MLM. MLM = Multi Level Marketing. Where are the multi levels? There are just two: The university and the student. The students are not encouraged to recruit more students, which is the key part of an MLM. Additionally, where is the marketing? The university actually provides the service they claim to: “we will teach you this information and give you this degree”. Thats not just marketing, its a service.

    Just because something is a bad deal, does not make it an MLM.


  4. Corey Fisher says:

    I have mixed opinions on MAS’s article – I’ve been doing half-tato (generally, two meals of potato and a balanced dinner per day) and lost about 25 pounds so far.

    Primary insight I have: I have gotten way more than a reasonable amount of satiety for the amount of potatoes I consume, and I’ve usually not had to sacrifice flavor. (My standard protocol is “parboil in advance, chop, air fry in a hint of olive oil with salt/pepper/paprika, malt vinegar”.) If you put more of these potatoes in front of me I would probably keep eating – but I finish the bowl and I’m satisfied. I started this diet over 300 pounds, and I think by just “eating when I’m hungry” plus whatever’s for dinner, I’m eating around 2000 calories a day – less than this calculator’s estimates for extreme weight loss: I am quite simply not eating a stomachful of potatoes. I am not even eating a “large fries” worth of potatoes per meal!

    I think this is fairly consistent with the thesis that there’s an additional method of action in potatoes – if the lipostat is going down due to potat, and that makes me less hungry, that would fit my experience.

    P.S. That 25 pounds was the first 30 days of half-tato. If consulting with my doctor goes well, I’m hoping to continue the half-tato diet for another six months – I just like the air-fried potatoes, I don’t have to make any decisions about what to eat, and so far it’s met with a lot of success.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Corey Fisher says:

        Yeah, I did see that, which has been making me ponder some other changes I might make (I love cottage cheese, and potato and eggs are a great combo.) The mixed opinion there was mostly on the low-flavor aspects you put some extra focus on – for me, low-flavor straight boiled potatoes makes the diet much harder to keep with. It’s definitely possible I’m not getting the full benefits for a satiety/flavor disconnect, but it’s helping me keep on the wagon, which is the most critical part.

        Two followups to that:

        1. I might be getting some of that satiety/flavor disconnect by always knowing that I can eat a potato for satiety later – or it might just be that I’m paying more attention to what I eat. Either way, I’m definitely taking smaller portions during dinner and not going back for seconds as often.

        2. My air fryer has been critical for getting the proper flavor+texture: I’m only using about a tablespoon, tablespoon and a half of olive oil per day, 120-200 calories, but still getting potatoes that come out pleasantly crispy, and go really well with various low/no calorie seasonings/condiments. I’ve also found that having a fairly small air fryer is helping – if smaller portions fit to cook at once, I end up just eating less.


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