Monday, February 10, 2014

Dietary extremism

An extremely good rule of thumb in eating is that "too much and too little of something is bad for you", and this holds surprisingly well for the vast majority of nutrients. For the vast majority of nutrients the body needs a good balance of it. Too much or too little of it is not good.

However, for some reason many people do not understand this, and instead tend to go to (often unhealthy) extremes.

The (rather primitive) rationale is "this nutrient is healthy, thus eat it as much as possible" and "this nutrient is unhealthy, thus avoid it completely". Actual example: Many people eat vitamin supplements like they are candy. In fact, some people have suggested extreme overdoses of eg. certain vitamins (most typically vitamin C) as being a good thing. (There was an actual, thankfully relatively short-lived, movement that advocated eating enormous amounts of vitamin C.)

Like with most nutrients, vitamins are a good example where a good balance is crucial: If you get too little you will get vitamin deficiency symptoms. However, too much of it can be poisonous or otherwise hazardous. (With some vitamins the overdose threshold is much lower than others, eg. vitamin A is one of with the lowest thresholds, and vitamin A poisoning is a very serious condition. However, all vitamins have overdose thresholds.)

Since there's a general notion that "processed food" is unhealthy and "natural food" is healthy, this, of course, also causes extremism. One of the most extreme forms of this is the so-called "raw food" movement, which advocates eating solely uncooked vegan food.

The "raw food" movement is not deceptive and deluded only in that they completely ignore actual scientific studies regarding cooked vs. uncooked food, but in fact they go so far as to outright fabricate hazards of cooked food that do not exist, fabricate benefits of a raw-food-only diet that are false, and try to use scare tactics to "convert" people.

While a raw food vegan diet is not in all cases harmful, it can still be lacking in some nutrients and cause all kinds of deficiency symptoms, both in the short run and the long run. (Many people who switch to a raw food vegan diet get short-term symptoms like diarrhea and other symptoms. Naturally the raw food advocates will just reassure such a person with things like "it's just your body getting rid of all the toxins" without even a shred of actual scientific evidence of this.)

The advocates do not understand what cooking does to food, and will dismiss and laugh at scientific studies that indicate benefits of cooking. Cooking does not only sterilize food rather effectively, but it can also increase its nutritional value in some cases. The advocates do not understand (nor want to understand) how the latter is possible, and will just laugh at the claim.

Heat causes chemical processes in food. Many of these processes are destructive. That term, however, is a bit misleading because the intuition is that "destructive" always means "bad", ie. that the food becomes worse by cooking. In fact, "destructive" simply means that bigger molecules get broken into smaller ones. In some cases this does mean that some beneficial nutrients are broken into non-beneficial components (or at least components that are not as beneficial.) However, in other cases the parts are actually more beneficial for the body because it makes it easier for the digestive system to process them. (In other words, the digestive system has hard time breaking those original bigger molecules itself, and cooking breaks them into parts that are more easily digested.) In other words, cooking increases the nutritional value of food in many cases.

The nutritional value of most food, cooked and uncooked, is listed out there, so you can look it up.

For a third example, it has for a long time been thought that antioxidants are beneficial because they prevent cancer by destroying free radicals. And this is indeed so: If you have too many free radicals in your body, antioxidants will decrease the risk of cancer caused by them. However, like with most other things, also this is something that the body requires a good balance of.

Recent studies have shown that free radicals not only can cause cancer (when there's an excess of them), but rather ironically, they also prevent cancer (when their amount is just right.) In other words, rather ironically, too many antioxidants, and thus too few free radicals, can increase the risk of cancer. In other words, people who pop antioxidants like candy are actually making themselves more prone to cancer in the future.

Like with most things, the amount of free radicals in your body needs to be balanced. Having too much of them is a bad thing. Getting completely rid of them is a bad thing.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Android sucks

I recently bought a new Android smartphone because my previous one is really bad. The first time I charged it, it lasted for slightly over a week before the battery got drained. This was quite an improvement over the 3-day duration of my previous smartphone. It also demonstrated quite clearly and unambiguously that this cellphone has a stand-by time of at least one week.

Now, after just a few weeks, the stand-by time has dropped to less than 2 days. This is worse than my previous ultra-cheap smartphone (which at least had a stand-by time of about 3 days.) According to the system info, the majority of the battery usage is taken by "Android OS" (which takes over 50% of the battery consumption right now.)

I have searched online for info on this, and this has revealed one of the major reasons why Android sucks. Nobody has any freaking idea what causes this. People make wild speculations and there are almost as many "solutions" to the problem as there are people. Online threads are stock full of people making wild suggestions, as well as people saying "this helped me" and then someone answering "it didn't help in my case".

And get this: I see many forums where people express happiness when they succeeded in improving their battery life from something like 10 hours to about 24 hours. When the phone is idle.

Yes, you read that right. They are happy when they succeed in improving their battery life to 1 day. When the phone is idle. It's like we are back in the 1980's.

This is just completely ridiculous. I know for a fact that this cellphone is capable of a stand-by time of at least one week, it's now at less than 2 days, and people out there are happy when they have a one day stand-by time. The stand-by time of these Android systems decreases over time, and does so ridiculously quickly (in just a few weeks, or even days, after first use.) And nobody has a freaking idea what causes this.

That's Android for you.

This is ridiculous. No other cellphone system does this.

And do you know what's another reason that Android sucks? Although, to be completely fair, it's not a fault in the Android system itself, but rather the software market built around it.

Do you think the "free" games you get from the iPhone App store are bad in terms of in-app purchases and advertisements? If so, then you haven't used an Android. Many of the "free" games you get for the Android turn this up to eleven. They constantly pester you with ads, even when you are not playing the game. Yes, that's right; even if you aren't playing the game, they may run in the background showing ads in the status bar. This level of obnoxiousness is almost matched by the ads in the games themselves. This goes so far that some games are actually really confusing to play, when you can't even distinguish what's an ad screen and what's an actual game screen, and how you should proceed. This can be so frustrating that you simply end up uninstalling the game (and yes, I'm talking from experience.)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Some conspiracy theorists really are mentally ill

I divide conspiracy theorists roughly into three categories (in order of severity):

Firstly, there are just your everyday people who happen to believe in one of more conspiracy theories, but don't stress too much about it. They might even never talk about it unprompted. They are simply being naive and deluded because they lack the experience and healthy skepticism to catch the argumentative errors in your typical conspiracy theory, and they happen to find the idea enticing.

Secondly, there are the fanatics. These are the people to whom conspiracy theories are a religion (not a theistic religion, but a religion nevertheless.) They cannot stop talking about it, they have to constantly proselytize to others about it, and they are overall quite obsessed about it. I saw a video of a former conspiracy theorist of this type where he described what it was like, and what kind of effect it had on his life. He became "converted" after someone handed him a DVD containing the pseudodocumentary Loose Change, and afterward he became literally obsessed with the subject. He became extremely passionate about it and couldn't stop talking about it, and at one point it became so bad that his girlfriend left him because of it. It was, basically, his entire life. (He later came to his senses and started thinking more rationally about it and applied healthy skepticism, and consequently "deconverted".)

And then there are the third kind of conspiracy theorist...

You might ask how it can be even worse than the second type above, but let me assure you, it can.

The obsessed theorists described above are at least mentally sane in that there's nothing inherently wrong inside their heads. They have simply been deluded and become obsessed. The third type, however... is just like watching into the depths of pure madness.

Picture in your head a small dark room with just a slide projector on, and a guy wandering in and out of the light beam, as the projector beams random images onto a wall, and the guy rambling and rambling mostly incoherent random things, jumping from slide to slide with little to no structure. The tone of voice is mostly smug and full of itself, sometimes even chuckling. The content of his speech has little to do with actual reality and mostly to do with some kind of imaginary world that he has concocted inside his head, a world that completely dismisses even the must mundane facts of physics and jumps to the wildest of conclusions without any kind of rationality. The claims are outlandish even by conspiracy theory standards, and are presented completely seriously.

Well, you don't have to solely picture that scenario, because you can find such videos on Youtube and elsewhere. These videos often feel like strange performances of abstract art... except that it's quite probable that the people in the videos are actually being serious and believe everything they are saying. It's difficult to describe in words the feeling one gets from these videos, but the demeanor and behavior, alongside the setting and the words, and the tone and manner of speaking, give a really strong impression that's almost scary to look at. It's like looking directly into pure madness.

There's something seriously wrong inside the heads of these people, and I really think they should seek professional help.