Science isn't broken

A three-part longread from FiveThirtyEight; the first two sections, “Hack” and “Retract”, examine methods that many scientists use to skew data (and study results.) The concluding section, however, is endlessly quotable:

“Science is great, but it’s low-yield,” Fang told me. “Most experiments fail. That doesn’t mean the challenge isn’t worth it, but we can’t expect every dollar to turn a positive result. Most of the things you try don’t work out — that’s just the nature of the process.” Rather than merely avoiding failure, we need to court truth.

Sometimes scientific ideas persist beyond the evidence because the stories we tell about them feel true and confirm what we already believe. It’s natural to think about possible explanations for scientific results — this is how we put them in context and ascertain how plausible they are. The problem comes when we fall so in love with these explanations that we reject the evidence refuting them.

People often joke about the herky-jerky nature of science and health headlines in the media — coffee is good for you one day, bad the nextbut that back and forth embodies exactly what the scientific process is all about. It’s hard to measure the impact of diet on health, Nosek told me. “That variation [in results] occurs because science is hard.” Isolating how coffee affects health requires lots of studies and lots of evidence, and only over time and in the course of many, many studies does the evidence start to narrow to a conclusion that’s defensible. “The variation in findings should not be seen as a threat,” Nosek said. “It means that scientists are working on a hard problem.

(Emphases are mine.)

If you’re short on time, skip straight to part three and read the whole thing, if only to get a good understanding of why science is not easy, why we can’t believe everything we read in the headlines and journals, but also why we should still trust the process.

Hall et al.

August 20, 2015

A bombshell study was just published in the journal Cell Metabolism by Kevin Hall and colleagues and many journalistic publications are—as they are wont to do—misconstruing the results for the sake of flashy headlines and pageviews. This post isn’t meant to be a full-blown literature review, but I do want to bring the study to everyone’s attention.

You can read the full text of the study here if you want (you don’t,) but do realize that this is probably one of the most in-depth, expensive, and meticulously-crafted studies on human energy balance ever done. Nineteen obese adults were locked in a metabolic ward for upwards of two weeks, allowing for precise caloric measurements (among other things) to be taken. The participants were put on a baseline diet for a while, then divided into low-fat and low-carb groups for six days; we return them to baseline, crossover (low-carbers become low-fat, vice-versa), and repeat.

Both diets were what we call isocaloric: all 19 dieters were eating exactly 1918 calories each day, which was exactly a 30% reduction from baseline. The only variables that changed were carbohydrate and fat intake; protein was kept constant. With this setup, Hall could measure changes in body composition knowing precisely what brought them about.

Many journalists are skewing this study as a nail in the coffin for low-carb dieters, citing the authors’ conclusions:

“Calorie for calorie, dietary fat restriction results in more body fat loss than carbohydrate restriction in people with obesity.”

This probably shouldn’t have been the title of the study, because it wasn’t the hypothesis Hall et al. were testing, which instead was:

“Any diet that succeeds does so because the dieter restricts fattening carbohydrates …Those who lose fat on a diet do so because of what they are not eating—the fattening carbohydrates.”

This is a quote out of Gary Taubes’ book Good Calories, Bad Calories, which is worth a read despite the outcome of this study (spoiler alert?) The study, in essence, was designed to test the assertion that for fat loss to occur, it is necessary for carbohydrates to be reduced. Ultimately, this was not the case. Instead, the low-fat group lost a solid pound more of body fat than the low-carb group.

A few obvious criticisms that have already been made:

  1. The low-fat diet was way too low-fat. Sure: only 17 grams of fat per day is fairly unsustainable for most normal human beings. However, the study wasn’t designed to test real-life diets, and to keep calories and protein equal among both populations, this was the necessary step. Which leads to complaint #2…
  2. The low-carb diet wasn’t really low-carb. Also true: the low-carb group was eating 140 grams of CHO/day (few of which were from sugars,) which was indeed a significant reduction from the 350 grams/day of the baseline diet, but still falls well above the cutoff for ketosis and most low-carb diets (which often restricts CHO-intake to below 100g or even 50g/day.) So it shouldn’t be called low-carb, it should instead be called reduced-carb, or moderate-carb. Again, however, this was necessary to keep both diets isocaloric; any further reduction of carbohydrate would end up putting the low-fat group into the negatives!
  3. The study wasn’t long enough. Yeah, six days with each diet is a relatively short time, but it was short enough to measure some changes. More importantly, keeping people locked up in a metabolic ward for two weeks is already difficult enough, not to mention expensive. Hall et al. did what they could here. I’d love to see the same study done over months, but that would require insane monetary commitments and superhuman test subjects. It probably won’t happen.

So again, this study ought not to be interpreted as “low-carb doesn’t work,” nor as “low-fat is superior.” The authors did, however, succeed in proving their original hypothesis: that carbohydrate-reduction is not required for fat-loss to be achieved.

In my rant about calories last month, I wrote that insulin via carbohydrate intake was the only way for fat to get into our adipocytes:

So, how does one reduce fat accumulation if calories aren’t the answer? It turns out that there is but one way for fat to be deposited in your body: the hormone insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas when (and only when) carbohydrates enter the bloodstream (unless, of course, you are diabetic, but that’s another conversation.)

I was, admittedly, being over-simplistic with this statement, and was called out on it. All foods are insulinogenic, otherwise one could eat a zero-carb diet ad libitum and never gain fat at all. The fact of the matter remains that carbohydrates provide a fast-track to insulin overload and the resistance to insulin that accompanies most metabolic diseases. But I was wrong in asserting that this was the only possible way, as this study has demonstrated. (Remembering throughout, of course, that this study didn’t measure real-life diets.)

So why did the low-fat group “win”? My theory, and many others’, is glycogen, the sugars stored in our muscles and livers for use when carb-intake is low (think “carbo-loading” before the big 5K, or some other silliness.) When the reduced-carb group started on their diet, their bodies likely noticed the change and started burning through glycogen to remain “carb-happy.” The low-fat group, on the other hand, continued burning at “high-fat mode” for a while as fat oxidation was downregulated over a few days. (I’m being simplistic here as well for the sake of space. Stephan Guyenet, a man much smarter than myself, goes into more detail on this subject here.)

If you’ve made it this far into the post, you can relax, it’s almost over. Realize again that I am fairly well-versed in scientific reading and writing, and there are others out there smarter than myself with their own interpretations. The case in point is this: it pays to investigate new studies and draw conclusions based on the science, not a journalist’s hasty interpretation of it. The study has not “finally put the low-carb craze to rest” or whatever other crap you’re reading out there.


Update: Some supplemental reading, if you happen to be crazy and enjoy delving into other analyses of this study. My favorite critique is this one from Metabolism and Medicine. It points out some valuable flaws in the study—for instance, accidentally feeding participants the wrong diets on one day, and completely leaving out one woman’s data—and does a much better job of articulating the same points I’ve tried to. This blog post outlines an alternative baseline diet that would’ve put the low-carb arm under 100g/day, more closely resembling a keto-diet and perhaps producing different results.

A review of Soylent 2.0

I was going to give Soylent 2.0 an “F,” but it has not killed anyone yet, so I bumped it up to a “D-.” It contains potentially harmful ingredients; it is nutritionally inadequate, it is bad for your gut, and it tastes like glue. The only advantage it has is speed, but there are other products on the market that are just as fast and are about the same quality. If I were stranded on a desert island, I would drink Soylent 2.0 to stay alive. Other than that, I have no use for it.

This post succinctly sums up most of my issues with the Soylent phenom. John and Jason are both health and nutrition extraordinaires, and they did an excellent job of objectively tearing the drink apart.

Stand for Mac

A nice little app (pay what you want) that mimics the Apple Watch’s on-the-hour “Time to stand!” notification, but on your Mac. Neat.

The science of stress and how our emotions affect our susceptibility to burnout and disease

This is where stress comes in — much like memory mediates how we interpret and respond to various experiences, a complex set of biological and psychological factors determine how we respond to stress. Some types of stress can be stimulating and invigorating, mobilizing us into action and creative potency; others can be draining and incapacitating, leaving us frustrated and hopeless. This dichotomy of good vs. bad stress, Sternberg notes, is determined by the biology undergirding our feelings — by the dose and duration of the stress hormones secreted by the body in response to the stressful stimulus.

Short term memory with Due

Ben Brooks:

I call them my short-term memory tasks and they are amazingly well suited to Due. There’s one simple reason for this: Due doesn’t ever let me forget. As long as I don’t cheat (by telling Due I did something when I did not do it), Due will pester me until I do what I said I wanted to do.

The exact same reason that I love Due.

NSAIDs increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been associated with increased risk for heart attacks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration now requires NSAIDs to have labels stating that they increase risk for heart attacks or strokes (FDA Consumer Updates, July 9, 2015). The longer you take them, the greater the risk.

The news was also reported in more detail by CNN. Relatedly, I also recently wrote something about why NSAIDs and icing should be avoided. (It appears that, out of all the “NSAIDs” you can find, aspirin might be the safest.)

The skinny on the trans fat ban

Trans fat consumption is a significant contributor to cardiovascular disease. The FDA has long recognized this and finally decided to gradually eliminate it from our food system by 2018. Until then, any industrially produced trans fats still present in our food system should be avoided, though this can be quite difficult due to confusing and misleading nutritional labels.

Trans fats are perhaps the only compound found in our foods that are unanimously, objectively bad for you. (Almost.)

Deconstructing the Deadlift

The individual muscles that make this happen are not of concern during the execution of a record performance, unless one of them fails due to injury.

Strength training has long been the victim of a lack of focus on the movement patterns of the segments of body itself, in lieu of the great deal of attention being paid to the constituent components - the “muscle groups” of bodybuilding-think.

Let’s examine your favorite and mine, the deadlift, from the perspective of rigid-body analysis, and see if we can’t come to a better understanding of what actually happens when a bar is pulled from the floor.

A very lengthy, very dry analysis of one of the most important exercises anyone can (and should) do.

The ‘Stunt Your Growth’ Myth

Pediatric bone specialists know that the skeletal characteristics acquired in the adolescent and teenage phases of development are carried forward into adulthood. Stronger and bigger teenage bones beget stronger and bigger adult bones. A thicker teenage sub-cartilaginous bone layer — under the hip joint cartilage, for example — acquired through the stress of loaded work, play, and exercise is a thicker adult sub-cartilaginous bone layer, and a hip that is more resistant to osteoarthritis than that of a lazy kid/sedentary adult.

It has been my experience that most practicing pediatricians don’t know this. Most pediatricians advise children and their parents that kids should avoid lifting weights, under the pretense that it damages young joints or, for God’s sake, stunts the growth.

I once had a kid — a large, not-very-explosive kid — who was told by his pediatrician, “I’d hate to see you jeopardize your career in sports by lifting a bunch of heavy weights.” This is a comically tragic miscarriage of professional authority, and very bad advice.

The problem with "calories"

July 9, 2015

I’m often to quick to challenge the assumption that counting calories is necessary for healthy weight loss. I state this point often on Twitter, but I suppose I’ve never fully explained my stance. I’ll do so here, trying my best to not offend or ostracize.

It all started with a tweet by yours truly:

Am I gonna have to be that guy who writes a blog post defining what a calorie actually is? Does anyone actually know without Wiki-ing it?

People have referenced “calories” day in, day out in all sorts of contexts, but I fear that not many people truly know what it is they speak of. Let’s cheat and go to Wikipedia:

  • The small calorie or gram calorie (symbol: cal) is the approximate amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius at a pressure of one atmosphere.
  • The large calorie, kilogram calorie, dietary calorie, nutritionist’s calorie, nutritional calorie, Calorie (capital C) or food calorie (symbol: Cal) is approximately the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. The large calorie is thus equal to 1000 small calories or one kilocalorie (symbol: kcal)

Right off the bat, we’re faced with a dilemma of semantics: these aren’t calories we’re talking about; they’re kilocalories. Furthermore, I tend to challenge the status quo by asserting that we should not refer to calories as “something we consume,” but instead simply as the measure of energy that they are.

The original semantic debate (which raged briefly on Twitter) stemmed from a piece by Matt Gemmell, wherein a line caught my eye and irked me: “Our bodies are burning energy all the time, and we need to consume calories (in the form of food and drink) to supply that energy.”

You don’t consume calories to supply energy—energy is not the result of calories. Nay, you consume food, measured ultimately by its composition of macronutrients, which in turn provide various measures of energy (as stored in the molecular bonds within) which is measured in kilocalories (kcal). Generally, carbohydrates contain four kcal/gram, protein closer to three kcal/gram, and fats around 9 kcal/gram. In any case, calories ought not to be thought of as some baseline for measure amounts of food; just as 100 pounds of brick might weigh the same as 100 pounds of feathers, they are wholly incomparable, and would never be substituted for one another.

If we decide to use calories as our basis for measuring (or planning) weight loss, then we are assuming that, all things equal, net energy loss is the primary driver of said weight loss. All things are never equal, as I will discuss briefly, but I do think this is a valid assumption.

This is, in essence, the first law of thermodynamics. It states that energy cannot be created or destroyed–i.e., the total change in energy equals the energy entering the system (read: food) minus the energy exiting the system (read: exercise, basal expenditure, etc.) This cannot be argued.

What can be argued is whether or not an energy deficit is the primary driver of weight loss, or if an energy excess is the primary driver of weight gain. If you’re gaining weight, are you necessarily eating too much or exercising too little? This is not always the case, as many will agree: “I’m on a diet, but I gain weight just by looking at food!”

To me, citing the first law of thermodynamics—or net energy balance in general—is akin to stating: “Why is Bill Gates so rich? Because he makes more money than he spends.” Sure, okay, but how?

So, thus arises my first issue with Gemmell’s advice: that the first step to weight loss is calculating your basal metabolic rate, and then you just need to accumulate a slight deficit for a long period of time. The problem with this methodology is there is no discussion of where those calories should come from, or what forms of exercise ought to be done, if any. The picture is entirely too simplistic. To carry on the money analogy: if one wants to make more money, and you tell them to just “cut their spending,” they could just stop paying rent and would be set. Except that doesn’t work.

Indeed, that’s an exaggeration, and most people aren’t that silly, but in diet and exercise people do silly things that are often counterproductive to true health. (Let us not forget: weight loss and health are not often one in the same.)

You don’t have to make huge changes; just pay a bit more attention, and whittle away a few calories when you can. It all adds up. By the way, some things may surprise you in terms of their fat and sugar content, despite seeming to be “healthy” (and indeed being basically good for you). Fruit, for example, has a lot of sugar, and nuts have a lot of fat. Coconut is pretty heavy, calories-wise, and many muesli/breakfast bars can rival chocolate for their calorie content. There are healthier options available; your supermarket may have a healthy foods section, but still check the label.

It is absolute silliness to suggest to someone to avoid fruit, nuts, or coconuts because of their calorie content alone—they are some of the most healthful foods one can find. Nuts are quite ketogenic, ridiculously nutrient dense, and hard to overeat in reality; fruits are equally nutrient packed, and indeed quite heavy on sugar. Both ought to be moderated, but certainly not to attain a caloric deficit. Cut the soda, alcohol, and bread before almonds or blueberries.

I have similar complaints about using physical activity for the exclusive goal of “calorie burning.”

Go at a reasonable pace. You don’t need to run, but swing your arms. Move with purpose. You can easily cover three miles in a total of 60 minutes (broken up during the day if necessary), and you’ll likely burn 150 calories or more. Your Watch will tell you how you’re doing, and if you need to burn more calories in the same amount of time, try walking a bit faster, or take an uphill route. Just don’t push yourself too hard.

Why? Why should I go at a reasonable pace? Why should I not push myself too hard? I suppose if one gets genuine joy from running for a full hour every day of the week simply to create an energy deficit equal to a can of Coca-Cola instead of just not drinking the Coca-Cola, by all means, carry on. However, I’ve always counted exercise as a vital part of a physical practice that leads to health and longevity, and this is not gained by plodding along for hours, miserable. And certainly don’t do this:

Keeping your brain occupied makes exercise go faster. Listen to music, or podcasts. Watch TV. If you’re on a stationary bike, read a book or your Kindle. I have my laptop set up on my indoor bike. Just find something that distracts you a bit.

Saying “keeping your brain occupied makes exercise go faster” is almost literally calling exercise “mindless,” which almost offends me.

If you do choose to exercise, attack it with the same mindfulness with which you would attack a nightly meditation practice, or a yoga session; the goal is not to just “get it done.” If you can’t find a movement practice that you enjoy and your only goal is weight loss, then congratulations, you never have to run another step in your life.

It’s not a sure-fire weight loss approach anyway; the American Heart Association has formally stated: “It is reasonable to assume that persons with relatively high daily energy expenditures would be less likely to gain weight over time, compared with those who have low energy expenditures. So far, data to support this hypothesis are not particularly compelling.” Indeed, exercise (“training,” as I would call it) is crucially important for long-term health, but not for weight management.


Since this post is has accidentally transformed into a “my thoughts on how to lose weight” post, I’ll do my best to conclude with some actionable advice.

Do I think calorie counting is critical, or even necessary, for weight loss? I truly don’t, certainly not for long-term, sustainable weight loss. The best possible solution that I’ve found is working to change the way your body processes and partitions the fuel it is given. It is sometimes said: obesity is a disorder of inappropriately accumulating fat, not a disorder of eating too many calories.

So, how does one reduce fat accumulation if calories aren’t the answer? It turns out that there is but one way for fat to be deposited in your body: the hormone insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas when (and only when) carbohydrates enter the bloodstream (unless, of course, you are diabetic, but that’s another conversation.)

I’m not going to lecture on beta cells and insulin resistance, but it’s certainly a topic worth investigating if weight loss, obesity, or diabetes is on your mind. Instead, I can tell you why I think we get fat: excess insulin caused by excess carbohydrate consumption. Changing nothing else while eliminating all sugar consumption, “simple” carbohydrates like bread and pasta, sweeter fruits and juices, and reducing overall carbohydrate intake will result in fat loss.

Generally, I also advocate for an increase in fat consumption and a moderate protein intake. Indeed, that means my diet includes a lot of meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, dairy, avocados, olive and coconut oils, berries, and vegetables galore. Admittedly, it looks a lot like a Paleo model, though I don’t call it that anymore. The word ketogenic comes to mind as well.


The subjects I’ve discussed here are detailed and complex enough to write a book on, and many have. I can’t hope to give you every detail you might want in this post alone (though you know how to contact me if you have questions.)

The takeaway should be this: you don’t have to be a slave to the numbers to get the results you want. I would in fact argue the opposite: succumbing to the conventional wisdom of weight loss will only lead to unsustainable habits and disappointment. Take the long road, and be in it for life.

A parting note: I would encourage you all to look past the number on the scale. Weight matters, in both health and our own personal journeys, but there is so much more to our bodies than that. The human body is indeed a remarkable machine, designed to live well past a century, and it is the tragedy of modern medicine that we all have not yet been convinced of that. When you set out to make a change, do it for your health, physicality, and longevity, not the number you see on the scale. And to do that, we’re going to have to dig a little deeper than “calories.”

The Sweet Setup compares Instapaper and Pocket

I touched on this topic a couple of weeks ago, but I think Robert McGinley Myers managed to convey my thoughts and feelings in a more concise manner, so I want to review the article. He ultimately picked Instapaper as the winner on the basis that it is superior for reading—that, I think, is true. But his problems with the service echoed my own as well:

Its biggest drawback, in my opinion, is how it handles images. Some articles, like a review from The Sweet Setup, show up in the Instapaper app with images intact. But other articles, like a review of the 20 Best New Sour Beers in the World, arrive in Instapaper with no images at all.

Also, something I forgot to touch on:

Instapaper also doesn’t do a great job with videos. There is a folder in the app for saved videos, but it only works if you’re saving videos directly from a video site like Youtube or Vimeo. If the video is embedded into a blog post from something like Kottke.org, Instapaper doesn’t recognize that it’s a video and simply saves the text.

These big two points are the key reasons why I claimed that Pocket “handles media better.” If all you are doing is reading words, then Instapaper is unbeatable—but I send a ton of image-heavy articles and videos to it, and they don’t get processed well at all. It’s incredibly frustrating.

In any case, Robert concluded that Pocket “does a better job of parsing images” and “also does a better job of handling videos,” but also made a point of addressing Pocket’s more colorful personality, which does indeed feel more inviting, especially when half of your queue contains images. Indeed, Instapaper often feels like I’m picking up a newspaper, whereas Pocket feels more like a “media bucket.”

He finishes the Pocket review with a neat idea:

That said, I come away from this review thinking I might start using Pocket as a research tool. Pocket’s tagging features, search capability, and permanent library make it an attractive option for when I’m compiling material to write about, rather than material I just want to read for pleasure.

I’d hate to be that weirdo with both Instapaper and Pocket on his homescreen, using both for different reasons; it’s certainly inefficient, but might lend itself to a more delightful experience. For the record, I’ve switched back to Instapaper.

I love Due.app

July 2, 2015

For simple tasks and reminders, there’s probably no better app out there than Due. It delivers a delightful experience and some genius implementation for entering and “snoozing” notifications.

Seriously: genius. I’ve found no other app like it. When it comes time for Due to remind you of something (via push notification), the notifications continue to pop up every five minutes (you can adjust this amount of time) until you do something. It’s a foolproof way to ensure that it gets done or gets rescheduled, and I wish every todo app out there implemented this feature. Conveniently, you can act on these notifications from the lock screen; a swipe on the notification allows you to Mark Done or +1 Hour without having to even open the app.

It’s not perfect for everything, such as what you might put into Omnifocus or your app of choice. I use it for small, menial tasks that I tend to forget about but need to do: brushing my teeth before heading to class, taking this or that pill, checking the mail, calling someone. In the real world, most things just need to get done at some point today. The effortless scheduling + snoozing workflow offered by Due accommodates this perfectly.

The app was recently redesigned; it’s now Due 2, and it’s super pretty and elegant to use. A swipe down brings up a bar that doubles as a search bar and a new reminder input box. When creating a new reminder, you can use natural language input, and it’s parsed excellently, reminiscent of Fantastical and Todoist (natural language input is another feature that I think every app should have.) Due is largely gesture-based, which is ideal these days, and rarely requires extensive button-tapping or other tedious ventures. Also, timers.

Long story short: the whole app is lightning fast, simple, and effortless, and I love it. It’s been on my homescreen for years.

Instapaper vs. Pocket

June 23, 2015

In general, when I find an app or service that “suits me,” I tend to stick with it. This is, however, untrue regarding two types of apps: productivity suites, and read-later services.

Since it’s 2015, anyone who even remotely enjoys reading a variety of online content probably uses (or has used) Instapaper or Pocket. The two are at constant odds of being the read-later “industry leader,” and I have gone back and forth between them probably more than anyone else out there besides Justin Blanton himself.

I’d like to detail a few pros and cons for each. (It should be noted that 90% of my use occurs on iOS, so these are basically reviews of the apps, not their web counterparts.) I’m currently using Pocket, and always seem to go back to it. Why?

Pocket handles “media” infinitely better than Instapaper does.

I also use read-later services as bookmarking services, and send more than just articles to it—often, my Pocket queue contains podcasts that I want to listen to, videos to watch, and websites to check out later. For these purposes, Instapaper doesn’t stand a chance. It’s easier to open one of these links in Pocket and jump straight the website, watch the video, or whatever action I want to take. Opening a link to a webpage or a Youtube video on Instapaper feels like I’m confusing the app.

Instapaper is much better for reading.

Instapaper as a whole is just prettier, and lends itself more to a pleasant reading experience than Pocket does. Instapaper has more fonts to choose from (and more customizable typography in general,) and the light/dark themes both seem very “designy” and reader-friendly. When I want to read a long-form article and plan to be there a while, Instapaper is much more appealing. Pocket, on the other hand, can feel too utilitarian.

Pocket feels faster, and Instapaper can sometimes feel cumbersome.

Articles are just quicker to load in Pocket, whereas Instapaper often feels slow and awkward when trying to open and parse longer or more-complex articles. Instapaper is not slow by any means—Pocket, for my uses, is just much nimbler.

Instapaper is updated much more frequently.

It seems like every couple months, Instapaper has released a fun new feature, whereas Pocket always seems to lag behind. Instapaper has more features in general, with TweetShot being a huge selling point for me. In fact, I can’t remember the last time Pocket was updated (and if it was recently, it must’ve clearly been a rather bland update.)

I simply can’t afford Instapaper Premium

This isn’t truly a fault of Betaworks’. However, for a fully-functional Instapaper (like search, for instance), one needs to dish out $30/year, which isn’t a horrific price to pay for such features, but it’s just well outside of my budget. I’ve always been able to get full functionality out of Pocket without feeling the need to upgrade.


There are perhaps a few other things to bring up, but for the most part, the above covers my primary concerns with each.

Why do I keep coming back to Pocket, then? The biggest points, for me, are the perceived speed differences between the two and the “mood” each app brings. In Instapaper, every article feels so serious and heavy, whereas in Pocket the queue feels lighter and a lot easier to manage. The other selling point for Pocket is how it handles videos and other forms of media, which Instapaper still needs some serious work on. These key things keep me coming back to Pocket, though every month or two I still find myself trying out Instapaper to see if something else clicks.

Sunlight and the circadian rhythms in your skin

Anecdotally (or so I’ve heard), skin cancer frequently develops in places not regularly exposed to sunlight. If true, this flies in the face of the dogma which goes something like this (Tl;dr): ultraviolet light from the sun penetrates into the nuclei of skin cells and damages DNA; if the right [wrong] genes are altered/mutated and the mutated cells proliferate, it can develop into a tumor (gross oversimplification).

So, what might explain the discord?

Interestingly, Bill also cites a 2003 study that concluded “lifetime sun exposure appeared to be associated with a lower risk of malignant melanoma.”

I’m really only sharing this article because it’s summer, hot out, and everyone out there is probably worrying about sunscreen. I’ve never been convinced. Sun does a lot of interesting things to/for us, perhaps most importantly vitamin D production, which (ironically), a deficiency in is linked to many cancers.

It’s probably not the sun that’s giving us all melanoma; instead, it’s probably a lack of sun combined with too much artificial light at the wrong times. (And diet, and exercise, and the rest. It’s never that simple. The point here is that if the sun was killing us, our species wouldn’t have made it this far.)