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Seth RobertsRSS Feed of this column.

I am a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and author of Read More »


About 10 years ago, a UC San Diego psychology professor named Ben Williams, who is in my area of psychology (animal learning), managed to successfully cure his own terminal cancer by self-experimentation. He wrote a book about it called Surviving Terminal Cancer. As this WSJ story shows, his approach — which can be summed up think for yourself — is spreading.

The press release had a curious title: “Omega-3 fatty acids protect against Parkinson’s.” The certainty suggested an experiment, but Parkinson’s is too rare to study prevention experimentally. The press release turned out to be about a rat study that used a drug called MDPT to cause brain damage that resembles Parkinson’s. Rats given a high-omega-3 diet suffered much less damage — apparently none — from the drug.

Here’s a nice post about dietary puzzles in which a group of people who should have a high or low rate of heart disease don’t. For example,

Spanish paradox. Those naughty Spaniards are eating more fat and less carbs and getting LESS heart disease, now there’s a surprise. Good thing their medical system is so marvelous.

Gary Taubes spoke at Berkeley a few weeks ago; the title of his talk was “The Quality of Calories: What Makes Us Fat and Why No One Seems to Care” (webcast).

Did you know that the last edition of Dr. Spock’s baby book advocated a vegan diet? One of many fascinating details.

Also this:

Andrew Gelman: You’d think we prefer an upward spike in pleasure — we’re happier for a while, then return to normal — to a downward one, but the evidence isn’t clear.

Seth: I know someone who woke himself up so he could enjoy falling asleep.

Andrew: Really?

Seth: Yes, really.

Andrew: Was that you?

Seth: No, it wasn’t me.

Andrew: If I heard about someone doing that, I’d think it was you.

Phil Price: That’s brilliant, actually.

The journal Experimental Mathematics, started in 1992, publishes “formal results inspired by experimentation, conjectures suggested by experiments, descriptions of algorithms and software for mathematical exploration, [and] surveys of areas of mathematics from the experimental point of view.” The founder wanted to make clearer and give more credit to an important way that mathematicians come up with new ideas. As the journal’s statement of philosophy puts it, “Experiment has always been, and increasingly is, an important method of mathematical discovery.