Search Results for: sleep

Abe Gong: Changing Sleep Habits with Unforgettable Reminders

Abe had an issue with staying up too late. The early morning hours often found him on his couch, working on his laptop.

The problem is that he simply lost track of time. To help make his bedtime unforgettable, Abe built a reminder he could not ignore. He wrote a simple app that uses colors to gently prod him to get ready for bed and installed it on an old android phone that he mounted on the wall in his living room. When the screen first lights up in the evening, the colors are blue (“bedtime is coming.”) and increasingly become red (“bedtime is here.”). When he long-presses the screen, it means that he is ready to sleep, and the phone responds by lighting up with a celebratory array of colors.

It was a simple intervention, but did it work? Abe thought so. But the skepticism of friends spurred him to dig into the data to make sure. The problem was that his simple app didn’t record any data. He had an idea, though. For the past year, a webcam connected to a Raspberry Pi had been recording his living room. Abe used the light levels of the video stream as a proxy for his bedtime. When the light levels dropped, it meant that he had gone to bed. This proved to be a reliable indicator because, as Abe says, “I’m always the last one to sleep, and the last light I turn off is always the living room light.”

Would this work for you? Possibly not, but that’s not the point. It is an excellent example of a person building a solution that is specifically designed for his personality, and also how meaning can be found in the unlikeliest of datasets. In the video, you will find out how much sleep Abe saved and learn more about how he set up his device and ran the analysis.

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What We Are Reading


The Anecdote is the Antidote for What Ails Modern Medical Science by John R. Adler, Jr. M.D. It’s hard to imagine anybody being more of a medical insider than Dr. John R. Adler, the founding editor of Cureus. Adler has a Harvard medical degree, served his residency at Massachusetts General hospital, and is a Stanford professor of neurosurgery, as well as founding CEO of a leading radiation oncology company, Accuray.  This makes it especially heartening that Dr. Adler is now focused on opening up medical research literature to important kinds of evidence that have often been ignored: the anecdote and the case report.  Quote: “The altruism that is supposed to drive the publication of scientific research has been almost entirely co-opted by the peculiar needs of academic promotion and tenure, as well as the pecuniary demands of the scholarly publishing industry; the public good of medical knowledge has been reduced to a mere after-thought by both academia and the publishing industry.” -Gary

You can train your body into thinking it’s had medicine by Jo Marchant. There is an experimental treatment where the patients always drink from a uniquely flavored beverage every time they take their medicine. After a while, the drug is taken away, but the drink is still consumed. Amazingly, the body continues to act like it received the drug. Considering that many of these drugs have terrible side effects, these findings can impact how medication is administered. -Steven

Fleming’s discovery of penicillin couldn’t get published today. That’s a huge problem by Julia Belluz. John Adler’s reflections on the value of anecdote, linked above, were inspired by this essay by Julia Belluz celebrating the creation of another new journal, called Matters, devoted to publishing reports of small scale experiments and observations. As the publishers write on their web site: “Observations, not stories, are the pillars of good science. Today’s journals however, favor story-telling over observations, and congruency over complexity. As a consequence, there is a pressure to tell only good stories. Moreover, incentives associated with publishing in high-impact journals lead to loss of scientifically and ethically sound observations that do not fit the storyline, and in some unfortunate cases also to fraudulence. The resulting non-communication of data and irreproducibility not only delays scientific progress, but also negatively affects society as a whole.” -Gary

Machine Learning for Easier Dieting by Samuel K. Moore.

“I had a half-cup of oatmeal, with two-tablesoons of maple syrup and a cup of coffee. Oh, I put a handful of blueberries in the oatmeal, and there was milk in the coffee. It was skim milk.”

It would be wonderful to log one’s food by speaking to your tracker in this natural manner. Machine learning may make it possible, but this article reviews some of the obstacles that need to be overcome when it comes to parsing speech. -Steven

A Case of Complete and Durable Molecular Remission of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Following Treatment with Epigallocatechin-3-gallate, an Extract of Green Tea by Dawn Lemanne, Keith I. Block, Bruce R. Kressel, Vikas P. Sukhatme, Jeffrey D. White. This paper from Cureus about a notable clinical outcome offers an excellent example of the kind of research that might never come to light without the work of pioneering science publishers. -Gary

This Dude’s Fitness Tracker May Have Just Saved His Life by George Dvorsky. When a 42-year-old man recently went to the emergency room following a seizure, the doctors had to make a decision in how to proceed that depended on whether the man’s arrhythmia was caused by the seizure or was chronic. The answer was found in the man’s Fitbit data. -Steven


How Can I Stop Feeling Cold by Justin Timmer. A few years ago, I spent a winter wearing only a t-shirt when I went out. I was interested in how my body adapted to the cold over time. I am happy to see Justin attempt a similar thing but with more rigor. -Steven

Letter of Recommendation: Segmented Sleep by Jesse Barron. I’ve been long fascinated by the concept of segmented sleep, where people have a first and second sleep period during the night. I’ve read historical references of this phenomenon, but not many experiences from now. -Steven

Leave that Thermostat Alone! by Michael VanDaniker. Taking advantage of the ability to export his data from his electric provider, Michael compared his electricity usage against the outside temperature to get a better understanding of his electricity use (and created some nice visualizations in the process). -Steven

Resource: Home Hacking Blood Glucose by Jenny Horner. Jenny heard about a study in Israel that showed that post-meal blood sugar spikes differ highly according to the individual. For example, ice cream is fine for some, but sushi is not. Jenny decided to apply the findings to her life. She shares the method she is using to construct her own personal glycemic index. ‑Steven

Personal Information Manager by Fabian Benetou. Fabian’s site is a fascinating mind dump of many aspects of his life. Open to all, but comprehensible only to him, there is a voyeuristic pleasure in traipsing around and seeing a glimpse into someone else’s head (another fun example is Jerry Michalski’s “Brain”). In particular, I love seeing the notes that he keeps from the books he reads, which dovetails with my interest in commonplace books‑Steven

Data Visualizations


Arbor Ludi“Un proyecto de visualización de datos compuesto por una serie de representaciones gráficas que reconstruyen el árbol de juego de ocho de los mejores ajedrecistas de la historia.” Each image in this beautiful and fascinating series of data visualizations represent the playing life of a chess master. Created by the design and architecture firm Ootro Estudio, the portraits are made out of data from every move from hundreds or thousands of published games (the number varies significantly between masters). The coral-like shape emerges from the fact that in chess the first moves are common and well known, while later moves inhabit a vast possibility space. For more on the technique, see this informative post on The Zugzwang Blog: Arbor Ludi: arquitectura mental de un genio del ajedrez. (In Spanish.) -Gary


All Those New Dinosaurs May Not Be New — Or Dinosaurs by Maggie Koerth-Baker. My first experience of the messiness of paleontology is when I learned that my mug with a green brontosaurus depicted an animal that never existed (though that may no longer be true). This chart shows how often a dinosaur genus is later declared to be invalid. The error rate for dinosaurs named between 1850 and 1980 is 48 percent! -Steven


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Changing river path seen through satellite images by Zoltan Sylvester. Using Landsat images, this is a time lapse that shows, over a thirty year period, the oxbow section of the Ucayali river in Peru get pinched and then cut off from the main flow of the river. You can view thirty year timelapses like this for any location on earth at the Google Earth Engine. The Las Vegas one is an incredible example of urban expansion. -Steven

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Akhsar Kharebov: A Smart Scale for Healthy Weight Loss

Historically, the most prevalent self-tracking tool in the home was the scale and the relationship between people and weight is complicated. Akhsar found healthy weight loss to be an emotionally difficult process. His breakthrough came with the Withings smart scale with which he lost 65 pounds in the first year and has kept it off for the last three. In this talk he discusses how the data helped him gain the self control to overcome temptations.

Weight has been a popular topic for Show&Tell talks:
Julie Price on the effect of running and family events.
Nan Shellabarger on seeing her life story in 26 years of weight data.
Kouris Kalligas on the relationship between his weight and sleep.
Jan Szelagiewicz on being motivated by family history.
Lisa Betts-LaCroix on using spreadsheets, forms and wireless scales changes the tracking experience.
Rob Portil on how he and his partner experience weight tracking differently.
Amelia Greenhall on using a 10-day moving average.

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#WeAreNotWaiting by Dana Lewis

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From the Quantified Self Public Health Symposium

“I didn’t want to wait. I don’t want to die in my sleep. We are patients who are not waiting.”

Dana Lewis became a reluctant self-tracker at the age of 14 when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Dana and her partner Scott Leibrand have been developing a DIY artificial pancreas that is built on top of the data flows from Dana’s continuous glucose monitor. In this talk, she describes the role that access to data plays in the DIY pancreas, with immediate and profoundly positive effects on her life.

Watch Dana’s talk on Medium.

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A Public Infrastructure For Data Access

Smarr2 (1)Larry Smarr’s major contributions to scientific progress are well known. A physicist and the founding director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), he helped bring the power of computing to scientific research at a time when computers will still highly specialized instruments. Today he is the Director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), one of the most innovative research institutes in the world. He’s also an avid self-tracker, using his own data to correctly self-diagnose the onset of Crohn’s disease. In preparation for our upcoming Quantified Self Public Health Symposium I asked Larry about his idea for a large scale, non-commercial, broadly accessible infrastructure for improving access to self-collected data for both personal and public benefit.

Gary Wolf: What’s the role of the public health sector and of the academic research community in a world where individuals and consumer-oriented tech companies are taking on increasingly complex questions of personal and population health?

Larry Smarr: The fundamental role is bridging the gap between N=1 and N=a lot. Any time in the last 30 years when I’ve seen a technical innovation that mattered, like a software tool, the first approaches aren’t ready for prime time. They are not developed with professional-level software engineering, version controls, documentation and all that. Similarly, scaling up of biomedical observations made by N=1 quantified individuals is going to require the professional methodologies of the public health sector.

GW: Can this be left to industry?

LS: Not entirely, although startups are doing a fabulous job of getting tracking tools into the hands of tens of millions of individuals. The problem is how to do research on the data produced by that broad population. Too often these days I see  researchers from the university going to tracking companies and asking for access to the company’s raw data feeds, for instance to heart rate or exercise time series, and the company says no. They will give you the weekly or daily average, but you can’t get to the raw data. If you go to them and say, I’ve got this really great innovation that can be used to understand this data, more often than not they decline. They have an installed base and market share to protect, which naturally tends to make them conservative. I think there is a real opening for companies to make this anonymized broad population data available to academic researchers. That’s when a raft of scientific discoveries will be made from the quantified population.

GW: Those are the consumer fitness companies, but what about the healthcare IT world?

LS: Again there is a disconnect between the consumer fitness cloud-based apps for millions of individuals and the electronic health records in your healthcare provider. If you’re a doctor in a medical office, unlike a data science researcher, you don’t want all this data. What you want to know is: did my patient do 1000 steps or 10,000 steps today, did you get aerobic exercise or not, are they getting enough sleep? So it’s not like you need a vast dumping place inside electronic health records.  Again, I think pilot experiments are the way to get started.

GW: You’re arguing that the incentives aren’t there.

LS: These are currently major structural barriers. Who is going to work on the bridging we are discussing? There aren’t incentives for the commercial tracking companies to work on it. Neither are there incentives for the electronic medical record companies to work on it. NIH isn’t going to support bridging between commercial companies.  It falls between the stools. You need to have the research community, and health care IT experts, the commercial tracking companies, and the individual self-trackers all come together and collaborate.

GW: You envision some kind of technical system so that individuals and health care providers and researchers could all benefit from access to data. What does your experience tell you about how long this would take to have a working prototype that would be practically useful?

LS: It’s a three-to-five year project. I think if a major funder did a call for proposals requiring a health care provider, university research community and the self-tracking community to come together a prototype a solution, I think they would get some very interesting proposals.

GW: In a talk you gave in 2011, you said “science is not enough.” You pointed out that we’ve known the link between smoking and cancer for over half a century, and yet global cigarette consumption has tripled during this time. So we have all this possibility for new discoveries with self-tracking data, but how is that going to help make people healthier?

LS: Yes, just knowledge of what causes negative impacts on health is not enough. My former UC San Diego colleague Naomi Oreskes documents how economic interests slowed down the logical social reaction to smoking health threats and climate change in her Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (2010). We are seeing similar delaying and disinformation tactics in the obesity/diabetes epidemic, which has been building for four decades. It is sobering to me to see someone as politically skilled as New York City mayor Bloomberg defeated in his efforts to ban jumbo sugary drinks. My best guess is that we face a multi-decadal battle, just as we have had with tobacco and climate change, to get our society to move to healthy eating and drinking. The bright spots are subcultures of healthy living, often empowered by tracking and social media, that are developing across the country.  My hope is that these will spread and scale over the next decade.

GW: It seems you are also pointing toward activism, since that’s been so important with smoking.

LS: Activism is essential given the enormous power of the entrenched economic interests. Activism can lead to regulatory reform, which over time can make huge social changes.  For example, when I grew up in the 1950s and early 60s my father didn’t smoke, but he was embarrassed that you had to have ashtrays in your house, because he said you couldn’t tell people not to smoke in your own home. Socially, you just couldn’t. About that time the Surgeon General’s report on smoking was published. Fifty years later, huge chunks of society are smoke-free, such as all the University of California campuses, restaurants, and large social gatherings. Just think of what an enormous shift that has been! We are beginning to see similar activism in getting pension fund investors to boycott carbon fuel companies in order to slow down climate change. So can we imagine a boycott against sweetened beverages and high glycemic prepared foods? I believe that there is a huge role for health-related individual and organized activism in the near future.

GW: At the last Quantified Self Public Health meeting, you suggested that this emerging field needs a new kind of journal where individuals can report their discoveries. In light of the big challenges you’ve been describing, challenges that can’t be solved by academic and research publication alone, what kind of contribution could a new journal make?

LS: Let’s go back to the issue of scaling we discussed. Imagine the journal articles are fairly short, describing how the data was generated, but the back end is a publicly available cloud of data so that you could begin growing a large dataset of N=1 projects. Then the research community could pick up on the ideas coming out of the Quantified Self community, explore the data, and take it further. That’s how things grow.

GW: You want to be on the editorial board?

LS: No, I want to submit a paper!

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What We Are Reading



This Scientist Is Turning Every Element In the Periodic Table Into Music by Jennifer Ouellette. We have seen Randy Sargent analyze his heart rate variability with a spectogram, a tool normally used for visualizing sound. This project is perhaps the inverse, turning the molecular structure of elements into audible tones. Surprisingly, “sonification” is becoming a useful analytical tool in materials science. Here’s the sound of silicon. -Steven

Building a Better Tracker: Older Consumers Weigh In On Activity and Sleep Monitoring Devices. (PDF) This study by the Georgia Home Lab that explored the value of self-tracking for people over 50. The researchers enrolled 92 participants and set them up with seven different activity trackers, then followed them for a six week period. While participants tended to believe that self-tracking could be valuable, most of them did not learn much of interest, and reason is telling: the lessons provided by the trackers were too general. “Participants who did not find the devices to be useful said that they wanted more data related to their specific conditions and that they wanted notification if the data indicated something of concern. More sensors relevant to health conditions was the most common suggestion for improvement.” -Gary

If You Want Life Insurance, Think Twice Before Getting A Genetic Test by Christina Farr and Cops are asking and 23andMe for their customers’ DNA by Kashmir Hill. I’m filing both of these stories under “Ways your data can be used against you.” -Steven 

BMI Is A Terrible Measure Of Health: But we keep using it anyway by Katherine Hobson. It’s not news for me that BMI is a terrible metric. But if BMI is not a good proxy for health, what metric is out there that is better and as easy to measure? This article looks at mid-section measurements as a candidate. -Steven

Your Letters Helped Challenger Shuttle Engineer Shed 30 Years Of Guilt by Howard Berkes. This is a short piece, but it touches on themes of data-based arguments, courage, guilt, and self-forgiveness. -Steven


Know Thy Cycle, Know Thyself by Ilyse Magy. Using the Fertility Awareness Method and Kindara, Ilyse diagnosed a previously unnoticed vitamin deficiency that had a huge effect on her wellbeing, as well as gained other important insights into cyclical dimensions of her health and wellbeing. ”Once I started charting, I was pretty amazed by what I was learning, but also kind of mad that no one had ever told me this stuff before.” -Gary

Why I Weighed My Whiskers by John Cousins. Inspired by an anecdote about a man’s beard growth while working on a remote island, Jon explores whether there is a relationship between his mood and facial hair. Yes, you read that right. -Steven

Stoic Self-Tracking by Alberto Frigo. One of the most consistently interesting chronicles of a self-tracking life is Morris Villarroel’s shadow of the stream, where he writes on his ongoing, multi-year life-logging projects, about which he’s given several excellent conference talks. But this week Morris turned over his blog to another deeply reflective self-tracker, the artist Alberto Frigo, whose self-tracking practice includes photographing everything he picks up in his right hand. In this post, Alberto revives an old word – operosity – in describing the worthy laboriousness of self-care. -Gary

Excerpt from Alberto’s piece:

On a bus from the Venice airport to the mountains where I am now restoring an abandoned barn to deposit my life-work, I was reading Seneca. I was reading it for different reasons; in the first place, it was what an old professor of mine  quoted when he decided to give up his inspiring career and retire to a small barn near the town the bus was passing. Secondly, reading Seneca was like a counter-reaction to all the Anglo-Saxon stuff one is forced to refer to in today’s humanities. Thirdly, Seneca has often been quite superficially pointed out as one of the first persons to quantify himself.

Basis Breakdown. This an interesting take on a weekly journal, combining Basis Peak stats with daily reflections. -Steven

Data Visualizations



A Day in the Life of Americans by Nathan Yau. This visualization is a timelapse showing how Americans spend their day, based on the Bureau of Labor’s American Time Use Study. It would like to see a similar visualization, but for a single person with each dot representing a different date. -Steven



Codeology. This project takes code from github and represents them with an odd combination of 3D and ASCII text to create organic seeming shapes. After looking at a couple dozen of these, I wanted to see the shapes interact with each other. Arena fight, perhaps? -Steven



The Potential for the Most Liberal Supreme Court in Decades by Alicia Parlapiano and Margo Sanger-Katz. This excellent visualization uses Martin-Quinn scores to show the ideological leanings of Supreme Court justices’ rulings by year. More importantly, by highlighting the relative liberal or conservatism of the justice who sits in the ideological median, it shows how the character of the court has shifted through the years. -Steven

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What We Are Reading



DNA Got a Kid Kicked Out of School—And It’ll Happen Again by Sarah Zhang. This a potent example of the unexpected ways that genetic information can be used against someone. We’ve already seen how 23andMe data can be used for nefarious ends. In this case, it’s a child who was transferred from his school as if he has cystic fibrosis, but only has the genetic markers for the disease. A set of norms or rights around personal data (and genetic information, in particular) has barely been established, so it will be interesting to see how many similar incidents we will see. What’s tricky is that neither side is acting irrationally. At heart is this question: How do you manage risk when a person’s DNA is part of the equation? -Steven

When Wearable Makers Shut Down, Getting Your Data Isn’t Always Easy by Stephanie M. Lee. San Francisco QS Show&Tell co-organizer Greg Schwartz is quoted in this Buzzfeed story about the recent shutdown of BodyMedia servers and bricking of the devices. In January Greg posted a how-to video users who still wanted to get their data, but this only worked until the servers were taken offline on January 31, 2016 Article author Stephanie M. Lee talked a bit about the defunct QS companies Lark, and Zeo. The Zeo shutdown sparked a record thread on the QS Forum where users still trade tips to keep instances of this late, lamented sleep tracker in action. -Gary

Working memory training could help beat anxiety by Christian Jarrett. Dual n-back tests have been championed as a brain game that actually works since a 2008 study showed that the exercise improved fluid intelligence (i.e., IQ). Those results have since been in dispute, but a new study cautiously supports the idea that dual n-back, by improving working memory, may also lessen anxiety symptoms. -Steven

Graphing When Your Facebook Friends Are Awake by Alex. There are at least five reasons to love this post about building graphs of Facebook Friends’ awake/asleep time: a surprising revelation of hidden system, uh, features; a “procedural” on hacking them that is basically comprehensible even if – like me – you don’t understand all the details; a useful general lesson about public exposure of personal data from seemingly friendly and low level status tracking; a hilarious stream-of-consciousness narrative that tries, half-successfully, to answer the question “why;” and, for all of us who have ever tried to do something meaningful with our own data, the comforting admission that the real trouble started when it came time to make a graph. Really a great post that this preview doesn’t do justice, so go read it. -Gary

This Canadian Lab Spent 20 Years Ruining Lives by Tess Owen. As much as it’s claimed that there’s a fair amount of skepticism of science, especially in the United States, there is no doubt that it carries authority in legal matters. This article shows the damage that can happen when seemingly rigorous test procedures and results are accepted without scrutiny. It’s especially galling to see how sloppy commercial testing procedures can become, and how dangerous it is to assume that professional measurement is more reliable than personal measurement, human dialog, and common sense. -Steven

Give Up Your Data to Cure Disease by David B. Agus. Another article on the opportunities and pitfalls of making medical records available for health research. While this opinion piece argues for the value of the opportunities, it makes clear that we need better data security practices to ensure that health information is used for the greater good, rather than used against individual patients. However, nowhere is the point made that research subjects can play an active role in investigating disease and making new discoveries. -Steven





Three Years of Logging my Inbox by Mark Wilson. The number of emails in Mark’s inbox correlates very well with his stress level. After passively tracking his email for three years, Mark explores how his inbox count reflects his stress level and influences his sense of self. -Steven



Measuring My Indoor Environment: Indoor Quality and Water Quality by Bob Troia. The first two parts in a multi-part series, Bob shows the tools and measurements he’s using to understand the quality of his living space. -Steven




Maniac Weeks for Extreme Productivity by Bethany Soule. A “maniac week” (coined by Nick Winter) is spent doing nothing but working and sleeping while documenting your face and screen with a time-lapse video. Bethany talks about her successes, failures, and side effects of this level of extremism. -Steven



Data Visualizations



This Chart Shows Who Marries CEOs, Doctors, Chefs and Janitors by Adam Pearce and Dorothy Gambrell. With data from the U.S. Census Bureau, this interactive chart allows you to select a profession and see the five most likeliest occupations of the partner. It will also show whether if the partner is more likely a member of one sex or the other. Refreshing to see that it represents same-sex partnerships as well. -Steven


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How China’s economic slowdown could weigh on the rest of the world by Carlo Zapponi, Seán Clarke, Helena Bengtsson, Troy Griggs and Phillip Inman. The interconnectedness of global economies can be difficult to wrap your head around, but this series of visualizations from the Guardian do a good job of illustrating which economies’ rely on exports to China, and how much they are exposed to a downturn in the world’s second biggest economy. -Steven



Música hecha con el corazon. A website where you tap your current heart rate and it finds a song that matches the beat. The site is in Spanish but is easy enough to figure out. Just put one finger on the artery in your neck and click in the circle in time with your pulse. -Steven

The Chart Book: An Overview of Standard Celeration Chart Conventions and Practices. Owen R. White, Malcolm D. Neely. This pdf covers how to use a Celeration chart. Used for the assessment of students by teachers, this chart template aspires to be flexible enough to chart data clearly no matter the scale. It would be interesting to see this used for personal data. Thanks to Ryan O’Donnell. -Steven

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What We Are Reading



The DIY Scientist, the Olympian, and the Mutated Gene by David Epstein. There are several surprising twists in this story of a non-professional scientist named Jill Viles, who made an important discovery about her own rare genetic disorder. What inspired me mostwas Viles’ tenacious reliance on her own capacity to reason, even in the face of skepticism from professionals who had less knowledge (though more confidence) than she did. Eventually, she connects with highly technical scientists whose research direction she influences with her ideas. Epstein got a fantasic quote from one of them when he asked the scientist if this has ever happened before. “In my life, no,” he says. “People from outside coming and giving me hope? New ideas? I have no other example of this kind of thing. You know, maybe it happens once in a scientific life.” I found myself wondering if this kind of thing will be less rare in the future. -Gary

A Drug to Cure Fear by Richard A. Friedman. This article intersects two of my interests that stem from my own self-experimentation. From my stress tracking I realized that many of my reactions in my day-to-day life are influenced by traumatic memories. From my spaced repetition practice I learned how memories can change over time through retrieval and consolidation. A study done in the Netherlands suggests that a memory can be decoupled from an associated fear response by using propranolol which blocks the effects of norepinephrine, a  chemical  that strengthens connections in the brain. The study has yet to be replicated, but hopefully it will increase our understanding of trauma.  -Steven

Internet of Things security is so bad, there’s a search engine for sleeping kids by J.M. Porup. Ever since doing a research project on data flows for our first Quantified Self symposium we’ve had what you might describe as a below average level of confidence in the security and reliability of information traveling outside the immediate context of its collection, now that APIs connect to APIs connecting to yet other APIs. Still, even I was surprised by the recklessness and potential harm described in J.M. Porup’s brief account of a search engine that displays random pictures from internet connected consumer cameras around the world. -Gary

Algae bloom toxin linked to Alzheimer’s, other diseases by Amy Kraft. One consequence of the climate change and the depletion of fish stocks in ocean’s is the increase occurrence of algae blooms. Ethnobotanists found a correlation between algal blooms and neurodegenerative diseases among remote populations in the Pacific. New research suggests that cyanobacteria, the microorganism in these blooms, has a neurotoxin that can cause neurodegenerative precursors that develop. This neurotoxin enters the human food chain as it bioaccumulates in fish and shellfish. -Steven


Glass Half Full Succeeds in Unwinding Upsets by Paul LaFontaine. Most people have moments of irritation or worry throughout the day. Paul wanted to find out what worked better as a response to these moments. Option A was to step back and observe his emotions in a manner similar to that taught by some schools of meditation. Option B was to figure out the source of irritation or concern and think of a positive angle to the situation. What is great about this post is the very simple but illuminating experiment that he devised to explore this question. -Steven

Finding My Optimum Reading Speed by Kyrill Potapov
As an English teacher Kyrill Potapov spends a lot of time working with 12 year old kids who are trying to improve their reading, writing, comprehension, and analytical skills. In this talk, he explores a remarkable method of speed reading, called Spritz, that promises to let you “read Harry Potter in three hours” with full understanding and recall. Could such a promise possibly be true? -Gary

Heart Rate Variability, Body Metrics, and Cognitive Function by Justin Lawler. This is a great examination of how Justin’s HRV measurements correlate to all other personal data he has collected. -Steven

Using Spectrograms to Visualize Heart Rate Variability by Randy Sargent
Randy’s idea about using spectrograms, normally used for audio signals, to create a portrait of your own time series data, is completely novel as far as I know. -Gary



Spurious Correlations by Tyler Vigen. An entertaining collection of unrelated facts that can be correlated with a high degree of confidence. -Steven


Hackers Diet, FIRECalc and weight loss by u/Thebut_. This chart is a mess, but the idea behind it is fascinating. This reddit user was inspired by FIRECalc, a financial tool that “projects your future assets based on historical market data” and tried to apply it to his weight data. Instead of giving a single projection, the tool shows a range of possibilities. This is similar to how Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA system uses a weighted range of possibilities (probability distribution) rather than a single guess (point estimate) for forecasting a prospect’s future performance. I would like to see more of this kind of thinking applied to personal data. -Steven


Darwin Tunes by Bob MacCallum, Armand Leroi, Matthias Mauch, Steve Welburn, and Carl Bussey. A fascinating project that treats pieces of music like organisms that can mate and reproduce based on listeners’ votes. These audio loops started off as random noise, but as the generations moved into the thousands, the presence of chords and higher order melodies emerged. At this point, there have been over 8700 generations. You can take part yourself! -Steven

On the QS Blog
Quantified Self Public Health Symposium
Explaining Nightscout by Lane Desborough

From the Forum
Central repository for QS data
Best Pulse Oximeter of all-night logging
Open Source wearable bio-sensor: TrueSense Kit
How about quantifying and tracking your blood alcohol?

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Re-Living My Life with Mood Tracking by Kouris Kalligas

Kouris Kalligas, a long time participant and contributor at Quantified Self meetings, is the creator of the very easy to use data aggregation service AddApp. AddApp is an iPhone app that makes it simple to gain insights from data gathered on dozens of different devices. While running his startup, Kouris has also been doing  ongoing self-tracking experiments. At QS Europe 2014, he gave a excellent show&tell talk about his sleep, diet, and exercise data. In the talk below, he discusses using mood data in combination with calendar data to reflect on the relationship between emotion, experience, and self-image.

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What We Are Reading

A plate from "Food-Data" by artist Tobias Zimmer

A plate from “Food-Data” by artist Tobias Zimmer


Tobias Zimmer tracked what he ate and, in particular, what he didn’t eat. The image above comes from a series of ceramic plates that were created using generated graphics based on the crumbs he left. For more, see his Tumblr: Food-Data:

»Food Data« elevates an everyday occurrence to the realms of art. Minimalistic crumb compositions that emerge while eating every day, are enhanced by generated graphics, which refer to the topic of computerized data tracking of human behavior. The final plates encourage to contemplate on everyday life and to find beauty in daily routines, but at the same time remind of technological advancement and practices of (self-)surveillance, that doesn‘t even stop before the private ritual of eating.


Haunted By Data by Maciej Cegłowski. A keen sense of how things can go wrong is needed if we are to have any hope of – well, if we are to have any hope! This essay by Maciej Ceglowski about the highly toxic nature of large scale data aggregation is highly recommended.

How Your Device Knows Your Life through Images by Graham Templeton.  This research demonstrating that an artificial neural network was able to train itself to correctly identify 83% of the time the activity that a person was engaged, just based on the images collected from that person’s lifelogging camera is especially interesting in light of Ceglowski’s talk.


Life Stress by Marco Altini. Marco reviews an exhilarating but stressful 15 months of his life through the lens of heart rate variability.

Body Metrics Under Stress by Justin Lawler. Another stress-related piece. Justin shows through data how his body responded to the stress of giving a talk about his lifelogging experiences at QSEU15.


Pathways Project by Mimi Onuoha. This project looked at what story could be told from a month’s worth of mobile phone data from four groups of people, each with a different type of relationship: co-workers, a couple, a family, and roommates. The charts are interactive and fascinating. As Onuoha writes:

…data visualizations add a level of abstraction over real world events; they gather the messiness of human life and render it in objective simplicity. In life, goodbyes can be heartbreaking affairs, painful for all involved. But on a map, a goodbye is as simple as one dot moving out of view.

The project’s data is available in this Github repository.

My Hamster’s Activity Index by /u/snootsboots
This reddit user used a motion sensor connected to a raspberry pi to make sure that his hamster is ok when he’s away. Here’s a picture of the hamster, if you’re curious. His name is Timmy

Internet Pings

My internet’s median ping over time by /u/asecretsin. This a very simple chart, and a simple idea. What I like about it though is that it illustrates how just a little bit of logging and data visualization can reveal a pattern in one’s environment. It clearly shows that the response times slow down from 6pm to 10pm. I have a home office and it often felt like the internet slowed down around the time people starting getting off work.

From the Forum
Activity trackers without online requirement
My review of the H2O-Pal – A Hydration Tracker
Consumer genome raw data comparison – Which has the most health information?
Benefits of 24/7 heart rate monitoring
Can You Quantify Inner Peace?
How to find all major volunteer bioscience projects I can partake in?

As someone who still is not satisfied with any sleep tracking device or app that I have tried, I related to this dialogue from a tumblr called Zen.Sen.Life:

  • Sleep Tracking App: I see you’re not violently throwing yourself around your bed, you must be in a deep sleep. Sweet dreams, buddy!
  • Me: I’m actually still awake.
  • Sleep Tracking App: But you’re lying still…
  • Me: Because I’m trying to get to sleep.
  • Sleep Tracking App: You mean you ARE asleep.
  • Me: I really don’t.
  • Sleep Tracking App: You’re going to have to trust me, I do this professionally and I know sleep when I see it, and I’m pretty sure you’re asleep right now.
  • Me: I couldn’t be more awake.
  • Sleep Tracking App: This is all a dream…
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