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P.S. You Should Know... | Issue #327
Errors and Expectations
my story 🚀
i’ve been thinking 💭
Testicular Tanning, Errors and Expectations. One benefit of returning to my native Chicagoland for the summer is time with old friends. One such friend, who I’ve known since high school, is an incredibly successful pioneer in fitness and health. Every few years I like to ask him what ideas are on his radar that the rest of us aren’t yet clued in to. They can sound silly (as Ice Baths did several years ago) but I’ve learned not to write them off. One from this year’s list is testicular tanning (I’ll call it TT) — direct sunlight exposure on a man’s privates. TT is purported to increase testosterone levels in men.
There’s a useful concept from statistical testing (the type done in scientific research) of error types: Types I and II. Type I is a false-positive, like an innocent person being convicted of a crime. Type II is a false-negative, like a guilty person being acquitted. Applied to TT, a Type I error might lead to believing there’s a benefit when there is actually none. Alternatively, a Type II error might be writing off the practice despite it being beneficial. (I guess these could be reversed, depending on how you frame the hypothesis).
I’m a skeptical guy, so I’m typically worried about Type II error — writing off an idea that has merit. I started googling TT today, only to learn that the discourse is now a “left vs right” political debate because the idea was popularized by a well-known conservative tv personality. That sucks, because it means I have to work much harder to form a reasoned opinion.
In soon-to-be-related news, I recently finished reading The Expectation Effect. “In this award-winning book, David Robson takes us on a tour of the cutting-edge research that reveals the many profound ways that our expectations shape our experience.” Throughout the popular science book there are loads of study examples where people’s expectations manifest in real, undeniable, physiological outcomes. Robson highlights research on the expectation effect that shows placebo effects in clinical trials increasing in strength over decades as the population comes to expect benefits from drugs (possibly related to drug advertising on tv).
In thinking back to my pioneering friend, I tend to believe his assessment and the n=1 lab results he points to. So even if the science doesn’t end up supporting TT as a testosterone-building intervention, it might work for some anyways, and that might be because of the expectation effect. The world is complex!
fun facts 🙌
Why are we so bad at reporting good news? “In a special broadcast from the TED stage, journalist Angus Hervey sheds light on some of the incredible progress humanity has made across environmental protection, public health and more in the last year, making the case that if we want to change the story of humanity this century, we have to start changing the stories we tell ourselves.” ~ learn more
The first ever recorded customer complaint. It’s over 3,800 years old. “It is a complaint to a merchant named Ea-nasir from a customer named Nanni. Written in Akkadian cuneiform, it is considered to be the oldest known written complaint. It is currently kept in the British Museum.” ~ learn more
Estimated US Pickleball injury cost: $350 million. “[UBS analysts] estimated that in 2023 anywhere from $250 million to $500 million in medical spending could be due to pickleball injuries.” I also read somewhere that it’s the biggest cause of injuries to millennials (unverified). ~ learn more
oh, austin 🤠
Austin homeless camp makes for tabloid news. The link is to a NY Post article, which is both trashy and biased reporting with mischaracterized data, as well as an appropriate spotlight on a real problem in Austin. ~ learn more
tech, startups, internet ⚡
VCs hunting for liquidity in secondary markets. The funds from 2016-2019 are returning cash at a much slower pace, on average, than the funds from pre-2016. It’s getting in the way of future fundraising for the venture investors. “The pressure to send money to LPs is driving some VCs to sell portfolio company stakes on the secondary markets, but they're finding that buyers are interested only in the best assets.” ~ learn more
SpaceX making more than 1,000 changes to next Starship rocket. The last one blew up a few minutes into its flight. Maybe this one will too. For most people this probably gets batched in as a cool novelty with the rest of the incrementally cool rocket launches. But when they eventually get this one right it’s a major step-change in the cost of getting to space. ~ learn more
What happened to the creator economy? “In my opinion, the creator economy thesis fell apart because investors had a fundamental misunderstanding of what risks they were underwriting. They didn’t understand the media industry, they didn’t understand creators’ needs, and they totally missed that this was a vertical SaaS bet.” ~ learn more
better doing 🎯
Writing summaries is more important than reading more books. Reading this hurt me a bit and sharing it hurts even more because I’ve struggled to make time to keep up my book takeaways the past couple years. For most books I only have rough notes written way-too-long after reading. This post offers a simple template that I will use for The Expectation Effect. Assuming I don’t fail, you’ll have a chance to read my summary sometime soon. ~ learn more
Get it done. “Too often I see someone who is responsible for accomplishing an important goal doing the best they can in the face of immense odds. It may sound counterintuitive, but the mandate of such a job is not to “do the best you can.” It is to get it done. And if the way to get it done is to ask for help, then that’s what you should do.” ~ learn more
under the microscope 🔬
Twin study: 40 vs 20 minute workout. “[Ross and Hugo Turner] monitored their bodies over a three month fitness challenge to understand if training twice as much offered twice the results.” ~ learn more
Placebo beats opioid for acute back and neck pain. I just finished a book about expectations and their potent effects (including the placebo effect) so this is timely reinforcement for me. With 347 study participants, “The study found that, at six weeks, participants who received opioids didn’t have better pain relief than those taking a placebo. Even short-term use of an opioid provided no benefits in pain reduction and led to a small increase in pain in the medium and long term, compared to the placebo.” ~ learn more
Evidence supporting vaginal seeding for babies delivered via C-section. “The result showed that the babies who had received their mother’s microbiota from their mother’s vaginal fluids showed more of that bacteria in their gut, suggesting that the method of seeding used by the researchers effectively reached and colonized the babies’ guts, with no adverse events reported.” ~ learn more
thoughts of food 🍔
MrBeast Burgers to become a zombie. The biggest YouTuber in the world launched a virtual burger brand during the pandemic selling Beast Burgers from 2,000 ghost kitchen locations. Now he’s “moving on” from the brand. He would prefer to turn it off altogether, “But the company I partnered with won’t let me stop even though it’s terrible for my brand. Young beast signed a bad deal.” ~ learn more
big ideas 📚
For sale: a promise to remove invisible gas. Jamie Wong, a “Software engineer learning about climate tech”, wrote this primer on Carbon Dioxide Removal and the industry forming around it. He discusses the various startups working on pulling carbon out of the air and storing it somewhere permanent, as well as the related issues of bringing the carbon credits to market. ~ learn more
on the blockchain ⛓
The state of Bitcoin mining. A very well-rounded update from the (bullish and biased) heavy hitters of Bitcoin mining. “I hosted a conference on bitcoin mining yesterday. Speakers included CEOs and leaders of the most successful mining companies in the industry. … Below you will find my notes on each conversation, along with takeaways on bitcoin mining, regulation, power grids, hash rate, and where the industry is going over the coming 2-3 years.” ~ learn more