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You saw it here first! An example of information spreading through the news media

Seth Roberts’s work on self-experimentation is the subject of the Freakonomics column in this Sunday’s New York Times. Regular readers of this blog will recall discussions of Seth’s work here and here. Also a related study here.

The publicizing of Seth’s work also is an interesting example of information transmission. Seth published a paper in Behavioral and Brain Sciences–a top journal, but not enough to get the work much publicity. I posted a link to it on our blog (circulation 200/day), it was picked up by Alex at Marginal Revolution (circulation 10,000/day) and from there was noticed by a columnist for the New York Times (circulation ~ 2 million/day). But I think the high quality of Seth’s article in BBS, with all its experimental data and scientific context, was crucial, in convincing the two levels of gatekeeper–Alex and Stephen–that the work could be taken seriously.

One Comment

  1. Timothy Beneke says:

    I am "Seth Roberts friend Tim" (Timothy Beneke) who lost 100 pounds pictured with a "before" (March 1999) and "after" (September 1, 2005) picture in the photo gallery at the freakonomics site. (Before: After: I made use of Seth's basic principle that calories with weak or even zero taste reduce hunger, and developed a new method. Consuming calories with weak taste, and more recently, with zero taste, practicing what I call "taste celibacy" has enabled me to lose the weight.

    Some weight details:

    November 2, 1999 — weight: 280. Began eeating weaker tasting low glycemic index foods — eating fruits instead of juice, cutting out strong tasting desserts; no bread or potatoes; eating more low GI fruits and vegies (I used the book "The Glucose Revolution" as a guide to glycemic index.)

    September 2000. weight: 250.

    July 2003. Weight: 250. Began using roughly 350 calories of Star light-tasting olive oil a day scattered between meals, and continued to eat somewhat weaker tasting/low GI foods.

    June 2004. Weight 210. Began experimenting with a mush, composed of liquified fruits and vegetables, mixed with a powder made of brown rice, almond meal, flax seed meal, dry non-fat milk, garbonzo powder, potato flour, and soy protein powder. I cooked it all together in water until it reached a moderately hard consistency. Then I take a tiny spoon, take some mush, and place it in my mouth, and take a big gulp of water and float it down my throat bypassing taste. I wash my my mouth out with water if I notice any lingering taste residue — which is rare. Doing 25% of my calories with mush and olive oil only kept me at 210 for 10 months.

    April 22, 2005. Weight 210. Then I began experimenting with total taste celibacy — getting, initially for a few days 100% of my calories taste free. Between April 22, and today, September 17, averaging about 75% of my calories taste free, I've gone from 210 to 177, and am confident I can lose a bit more. I plan to lose another 8 pounds. I found, to my surprise that while taste celibacy deprives me of a certain pleasure, it's also liberating because eating has been such a source of worry, guilt, anxiety and ambivalence for so long.

    There is a great deal more I could say but will stop for now.