Why why why why

And you begin to get a very interesting understanding of the world and all its complications. If you try to follow anything up, you go deeper and deeper in various directions.

~ Richard Feyman from, https://fs.blog/2012/01/richard-feynman-on-why-questions/

Asking ‘why’ is a well-known way to dig deeper into things. But being able to answer a ‘why’ question is something I don’t hear discussed. My mind is stuffed with information, ideas, skills, and experiences. (Yours is too.) That’s not particularly interesting, and it’s certainly not useful.

What is useful is being able to dive into all that stored information and experiences to then craft a thread which leads the questioner on a small journey of learning. Sure we can take the highway and zoom past all these details. But something it’s the better choice to drop into the off-ramp, and onto the secondary roads; Probably still don’t want to come to a complete stop—if we can help it—but if we take the scenic route and point out more of the details… well, we’re effectively, (both metaphorically and literally,) compressing our knowledge and passing it along.

To the secondary roads!

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Variolation

I generally don’t write about current events here on my blog. But occasionally I find something that I think would be so beneficial for more people to read, that I find I want to share it.

Initial viral load seems likely to have a large impact on severity of Covid-19 infection. If we believe this, we should take this seriously, and evaluate both general policy and personal behavior differently in light of this information. We should also do our best to confirm or deny this hypothesis as soon as possible.

From, https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/3ArEA7tHDXQxE6PED/taking-initial-viral-load-seriously

Since virology has taken such a place of primacy in our lives for the foreseeable future, it can only benefit each of to read more. That article is a wide-ranging, opinion piece (so, I recommend a few grains of salt with it,) which touches on a treasure trove of topics and facts. Of particular note is its discussion of how vaccines work for other diseases. (Or maybe I should write, “…of the variation in efficacy of vaccines for other diseases.”)

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Sedimentation and erosion

I have this image of our home as a bunch of related-rates problems: There’s inflow and outflow. Energy: In through my electric meter, out through lighting, waste heat and heating/cooling, water heater, etc.. Climate control: Heat flow in from heating/cooling system, the wood stove, the sun, versus losses through the attic, windows, doors, etc.. Mass: The balance of the rates of the flow of all the stuff.

Ever stop to think of that? Think of your home as a sealed balloon which has two, (or more of course,) doors, (garage doors count,) through which everything passes. Everything—no exceptions—passes in first, and then out second. Everything–every single thing, including the people–is only inside temporarily. The people come and go most frequently, (some pets might exceed some people I suppose,) and some things might remain inside for decades. But still, inside only temporarily.

You know that at some point you, (and everyone else if you share your home,) will go out for the last time. You might carry some things with you on your last exit, or you might arrange for someone else to come in, (and go out and in and out and in and out one last time,) to remove things after you go out for the last time. And of course eventually the entire structure will be removed and certainly at that point, everything you brought in—everything that was temporarily still inside—will go out at that point.

Where does everything you carry in from the market and grocery store go? Where does the furniture go? The books? The nick-naks? The packages and packing material from purchases? The clothes? The postal mail? The firewood you carry in is vastly more massive than the ashes you carry out; where does all that mass go?

Based on how the things around me make me feel, I know I have too much stuff. When I think of our stuff this way—as just a mass of stuff that’s temporarily inside our home—it’s much easier to keep my life under control. Too much stuff? …all I need to do is make sure more goes out than comes in, on average, and the problem will subside.

…and I can have fun with it. If something breaks, is worn out, or I’m done with it, that’s the outbound mass for today! Can I recycle this random thing? Can I FreeCycle this random thing? I no longer feel bad about sending things out, (wether that means landfill, recycle, giveaway, whatever… as appropriate.) Instead, I now find I feel bad about bringing things in. Each time I consider buying something, I think: Do I want to bring that into my life?

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Causality

Most obesity “experts” assume (erroneously) that the big equal sign between the blue and red terms implies a direction of causality.  In other words, they assume that an increase in fat mass (the blue side gets bigger), was CAUSED by the red number being bigger than the green number.

~ Peter Attia, from https://peterattiamd.com/revisit-the-causality-of-obesity/

Yes, physics always works. Yes, the First Law of Thermodynamics is always true. Yes, “calories in” always equals “calories out”. But that does not explain why we get fat. The equals-sign in the calories-in equals calories-out does not tell you anything about causality.

As with every single thing Peter Attia writes, you should go read this. Twice.

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§12 – Final Thoughts

(Part 12 of 12 in series, Changes and Results)

Wow.

It took me years longer than I had originally hoped to finish this series of posts. I’ve recently decided to push these posts out the door so that they could possibly be of some use to others. Having them laying around as drafts-in-progress isn’t helpful.

As this series was being written, I took a terrific detour working with two friends who were experimenting with starting their own personal training company. They used me as a guinea pig for testing their coaching and training systems for nutrition, psychology of eating and physical training. During this time working with them I succeeded at some huge improvements in psychology (related to eating) and achieved the best physical condition I’ve been in in recorded history. If you want to do a deep dive, check out, Training for the New Alpinism.

…and a few other disjointed thoughts:

This: From Nerd Fitness, 5 Steps After Failing.

What do I want? I simply want to be able to move and play. I’m constrained by physical limitations (age, body type, etc.), but mostly just by my total weight. So although I always want to increase my general fitness, the current first order problem—and I’ve linked directly into the Wikipedia article to the section that could be a profound, new way for you to consider when solving problems—for me is simply weight. For me, that is almost entirely driven by psychology—psychosis?—as it applies to food.

What am I tracking? I’ve often heard, “that which you measure gets improved.” Tracking and measuring does focus your attention, but it only gets you data. You have to be motivated to analyze that data and make adjustments to your routine. Am I making progress? Is the rate of progress what I expected when I planned? Is the progress too slow or too fast? What can I change that would affect the progress? What happens if I cycle periods of tracking a lot, and tracking nothing? You have to look at your assumptions, analyze, research, and experiment to figure out what’s true. “Science, bitch!” ~ Jesse.

So long, and thanks for reading!

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Intelligence

http://www.raptitude.com/2012/01/natures-finest-gift-to-you/

At worst, we apply a supernatural explanation to the whole show, because otherwise we’d have to recognize intelligence as a natural extension of the things that happen on a barren, unattended planet. For some reason we often insist nature couldn’t be that interesting or potent on its own. There has to be a super nature, to keep nature in its rightful, humble place. It makes us feel special I guess, maybe that’s why we don’t give nature the credit. We’re special either way, but we don’t need special rules to explain how we’re here. For that matter, we don’t necessarily need to explain ourselves to ourselves at all. Whatever happened, we got intelligent at some point, and that’s great. It’s okay to wonder aloud exactly how it happened, but clearly it did.

~ David Cain

Monism has never made sense to me. It’s interesting and I’ve spent a significant amount of time turning over its various flavors trying to understand others’ points of view. But, “that’s interesting,” is as far as I get.

When I face reality—thinking through mental models, comparing them to my personal experiences, talking to other people and listening to their experiences—I simply don’t see any deep mystery in life. Certainly, I see mind-bogglingly-huge expanses of things which are unknown (by me or anyone,) but that simply makes me more excited and more curious!

What confuses me is that the majority of people think differently, and I spend a lot of time talking to people as I try to understand how they think. I have only one point of view. I’m deeply fascinated by the universe around me and, in particular, by the conversations that come from me saying, “What does that bit of reality over there look like from your point of view?”

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Stem cell research

https://www.quantamagazine.org/stem-cell-researcher-renee-reijo-pera-studies-embryonic-clock-20181015/

Things that are every bit as great happen every day in scientific labs, and no one cares. Maybe as a society we’ve become anesthetized to science — when really, it’s so exciting. We have so much to gain as a country if we invest in science and knowledge and understanding. I don’t blame the public for not understanding, though, or even legislators for sometimes not wanting to invest. They all look so much like my family.

~ Renee Reijo Pera

There are several science-y details in this interview that really startled me; Our knowledge of embryo development is vastly improved since last I looked.

…but mostly I just like the sentiment of wonder she expresses. “When is the last time I learned something new?” is a question I try to update the answer to every day.

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Aerosols

https://www.universetoday.com/139836/look-at-all-the-aerosols-pushed-into-the-atmosphere-from-fires-volcanoes-and-pollution-even-sea-salt-thrown-into-the-air-from-hurricanes/

The annotated version of the visualization (shown above) highlights the GEOS FP model’s output for aerosols on August 23rd, 2018. On that day, wildfires caused huge plumes of smoke to drift over North America and Africa, three tropical cyclones took place in the Pacific Ocean, and high winds over the Sahara caused wind-borne dust particles to fill the sky. All of these produced aerosols which are represented in the visual by different colors.

~ Matt Williams

I’m not sure if I’m more impressed by the beautiful composite photo and the science that went into it, or if I now just want to never inhale again.

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Psych-itis

http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/01/05/chronic-psychitis/

So basically all of these systems are intimately interconnected, and probably before this is done with researchers will find five more systems intimately interconnected with all of these. It might be that inflammation is the master system which causes a cascade of events in all of the others. It might be that one of the others is the master system. It might be that depression is a collection of multiple different diseases, and some are caused by one thing and others by another. It might be that looking for a “master system” is silly and that the true mathematical relationship between all of these things is such a chaotic process that all you can say is that they all stumbled together into the wrong attractor point and things deteriorated from there.

~ Scott Alexander

This is one of those stories where science has been carefully teasing something apart for many years, only to find out, in the end, that they had it all wrong along the way.

Clarity: SCIENCE FOR THE WIN.

But — via my confirmation bias — this jumps out as another place where being “certain” about things turns out to be — wait, no — I’m not certain. Dammit. Oh well, it’s just turtles all the way down.

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