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Nutrition Graph: Cereal Comparisons

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An old friend told me about a conversation he had with his daughter over breakfast, where they mused about which cereal has the most sugar.  That led him to create a simple diagram comparing about a dozen different cereals against their sugar content.  While I was reviewing his graph, I noticed it had a few major design limitations.  The most glaring was that he used the serving sizes listed on the cereal boxes.  I decided to make my own comparison graph, using weight and percentages by weight instead of measurements by volume.  This led to many more comparisons, and was part of the inspiration for my recent book.  The first graph below is the result for different cereals, sorted in order of most to least amount of sugar.



As I was looking at this graph, I thought about how sugar and carbohydrates are basically the same thing.  (A carbohydrate is just a bunch of sugars chained together.  The body breaks these down into their component sugars and moves on from there.  There's more o…

About Non-Empirical 'Science'

I appreciate reading content from people whose views are unique, but whom I disagree with a healthy percentage of the time.  The unique part is important, because if you're saying the same thing I can get a hundred other places I know you're not putting much individual thought into the message.  This is perhaps part of why I've never signed on - even nominally - to any of the major political movements or parties.  If one of them had all the answers, it feels like they would be dominant by now.  Not because everyone 'saw the light', but because if an idea works in practice more people do it, until everyone is doing it.

I imagine there are reasons this wouldn't be the case.  For example, both major parties in the USA often claim that their reforms/policies 'would have worked if it hadn't been for those meddling people from the other party'.  And while that's an unfalsifiable claim that might well be correct, it doesn't really help convince me …

Back in the Day

Today's subject is about a problem I see often enough that I'm certain I've been guilty of it myself in the past, and will probably be guilty of in the future as well.  In fact, if you see me doing it feel free to call me out and link to this post.  I'm not shy about being wrong.  I've had a lot of practice at it.

The issue became apparent to me recently while reading a book whose author I'll not shame.  It was a kind of self-help book, which attempted to explain  ways to overcome normal human behaviors in order to make it easier to be happy (which is incidentally about the most generic explanation for a self-help book I can think of).  While explaining their shortcuts/insights into human behavior, the author explained that the reasons for the normal, maladaptive, human behaviors they were trying to correct all lie in evolutionary history.  You see, humans back on the savannas of Africa in hunter-gatherer societies were bad at [insert perceived failing of human…

New Book Live! - Nutrition Intuitions

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As promised in a previous post, I finished - and published - my book on nutrition in time for the new year.  The focus of this book wasn't about how much of which vitamins and minerals you should get, or what each thing does in your body.  There are already plenty of books cataloging that kind of thing, and I'm not certain they're useful anyway.

My aim in this book was to build intuitions for the non-biologist about how the body works and what to expect from the body.  Faithful readers of this blog will notice a few chapters were pulled from previous posts, though with some editing and modifications.  Even so, most of the book is new content, including a few chapters of data that are - to my mind - a lot of fun to read and reference.

The problem I've always had with the nutrition labels on all my food is that the information is presented to me as though it's meaningful.  Everyone pretends it's meaningful.  It's even formatted to look like it contains seriou…

Cybertruck's Best Feature

I try not to post about current events, because they're fleeting and everyone seems to forget the lessons of the past while considering the present.  So the more I post about current events, the less accurate I'm probably going to be.  Prior to the unveiling of the new Tesla truck I predicted that it would result in a large number of negative articles, regardless of the actual quality of the truck.  I'm going to call that prediction, at best, unmeasureable.  It was predicated on the assumption that a large number of negative articles wouldn't be justified, and I think regardless of whether you like the design you have to admit it is a radical departure from expected norms.  Hence the negative posts about it are within the realm of normal expectations, so even if people were prone to buying negative advertisements journalism about it there would be no need at this point to waste the money buying something that's bound to come out anyway.

Personally I don't like …

New posts soon!

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Apologies for going so long between posts.  I started a few, which I intend to publish soon, but I've been busy.  Last month, November, was National Novel Writing Month, and I'm glad to say I finished 50,000 words, though I didn't overshoot by as much as I did last year.  More on that in the offing...

Meanwhile, on the non-fiction front I've been busy putting together a book I intend to self-publish by the end of the month.  Why the deadline?  Well, it's a collection of heuristics and informed intuitions about how the body works from a biologist's perspective.  The theme is how to use a few simple ideas from biology to understand nutrition better.  Here's what Google Trends has to say about health-related searches over the past five years:
It looks like New Year's Eve is when the searches really start to pick up.  I've been sitting on some of these ideas - and some of the data I want to include in the book - for almost a year now and I really want t…

Testing Hypothesis Testing

I recently wrote about hypotheses that are beautifully simple, and how this kind of thinking can make us believe we understand the workings of Nature even when we don't.  Today we're going to appreciate some hard core biology that's so complex it's beautiful.  It's also validated against empirical testing.  Today is going to be a good day.

Before we begin, I've been making the point for a while now that it's easier to craft an accurate-sounding hypothesis that fits current evidence than it is to craft a hypothesis that matches reality.  Today I want to approach this idea from the opposite side.  Once I present the problem to you, I'll ask you to pre-register your hypothesis in the comments before you go on to read the solution.  Of course, if you know the solution already there's no reason to pre-register your hypothesis, so you can skip that step.  The exercise might not be as meaningful for you in this case.

Here's the central question we'…