Set points, settling points and some alternative models: theoretical options to understand how genes and environments combine to regulate body adiposity

Set points, settling points and some alternative models: theoretical options to understand how genes and environments combine to regulate body adiposity.

This is a paper I’ve linked before, and for good reason. It’s refreshing to see what the fields of nutrition and obesity research are actually doing, as contrasted with the caricatures and kooky pseudoscience passed around the internet (i.e. “starvation mode”). It’s also a neat illustration of how biology and environment interact to regulate body weight, which is a factor often left out of the deterministic causal-chains-of-biomolecules thought process.

In a larger scope, it also illustrates why we should be very careful of saying that any given thing “causes” or “explains” any particular outcome in a tightly-knit network such as regulation of body weight. Neat and tidy stories about molecules appeal to human brains but don’t always reflect the reality in any meaningful way.

[Link] Steven Shapin reviews ‘The Pseudoscience Wars’ by Michael Gordin · LRB 8 November 2012

Steven Shapin reviews ‘The Pseudoscience Wars’ by Michael Gordin · LRB 8 November 2012.

This whole piece is a fantastic discussion of contemporary issues in separating science from pseudoscience, and why we should all have a little more ‘epistemic humility’ about what we consider true and factual.

[Link] Happiness, the data

http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2012/11/happiness-data.html

“Turns out that optimizers are more unhappy than satisficers, because the latter can stop worrying and enjoy what they’ve got, while the former will keep searching forever, or will settle for something (or someone) out of necessity, and yet feel like they could have gotten a better outcome had they continued the search (as in “the neighbor’s grass is always greener,” or “look for the one person who is your soul mate,” and similar nonsense). Moreover, the difference between the two groups is most striking when there are many choices: contrary to what most people seem to think (witness the American obsession with health plans that allow unlimited choice of doctors), too many choices have a paralyzing effect, and start a perennial chain of conterfactual thinking (“had I gone with the other brand of cereal I would have been happier”) that increases frustration and diminishes happiness.”