Author: Seth Roberts


Quantified Self Utopia: What Would It Look Like?

October 27, 2012

On the QS forums, Christian Kleineidam asked: While doing Quantified Self public relations I lately meet the challenge of explaining how our lives are going to change if everything in QS goes the way we want. A lot of what I do in quantified self is about boring details. . . .  Let’s imagine a day…


Why Self-Track? The Possibility of Hard-to-Explain Change

August 22, 2012

My personal science introduced me to a research method I have never seen used in research articles or described in discussions of scientific method. It might be called wait and see. You measure something repeatedly, day after day, with the hope that at some point it will change dramatically and you will be able to determine…


Beijing Quantified Self?

May 11, 2012

I recently had lunch with Richard Sprague, an engineer at Microsoft Beijing. He raised the possibility of starting a Quantified Self Meetup group in Beijing. The meetings could be held in one of Microsoft’s two brand new buildings, which are in the exact center of Zhongguancun. If you might attend, please let me know (e.g.,…


Effect of Vitamin D3 on My Sleep

May 4, 2012

I have blogged many times about biohacker Tara Grant’s discovery that she slept much better if she took Vitamin D3 in the morning rather than later. Many people reported similar experiences, with a few exceptions. Lots of professional research has studied Vitamin D3 but the researchers appear to have no idea of this effect. They don’t control the time of day…


Butter Improves HDL and LDL as Much as Statins

April 6, 2012

A New York lawyer named Greg reports remarkably clear evidence about the effect of butter on blood lipid levels: It improved them. For a few years he measured his HDL and LDL regularly with a home cholesterol device. For unrelated reasons, he started eating more butter. He ate a half stick (about 60 g)/day, like me. Here’s…


The Value of Moodscope

March 11, 2012

In 2007, Jon Cousins started tracking his mood to help NHS psychiatrists decide if he was cyclothymic (a mild form of bipolar disorder). After a few months of tracking, he started sharing his scores with a friend, who expressed concern when his score was low. Jon’s mood sharply improved, apparently because of the sharing. This…


Acne Cured by Self-Experimentation

December 29, 2011

In November, at Quantified Self Europe, Martha Rotter, who lives in Ireland, gave a talk about how she cured her acne by self-experimentation. She summarizes her talk like this (slides here): When I moved to Ire­land in 2007, I began to have skin prob­lems. It began gradu­ally and I attrib­uted it to the move, to stress, to late…


Butter and Arithmetic: How Much Butter?

December 2, 2011

I measure my arithmetic speed  (how fast I do simple arithmetic problems, such as 3+ 4) daily. I assume it reflects overall brain function. I assume something that improves brain function will make me faster at arithmetic. Two years ago I discovered that butter — more precisely, substitution of butter for pork fat — made me…


Van Gogh Defense Project: Rationale

September 2, 2011

A colleague I’ll call John has decided to start tracking his mood for a long period of time (years). He explains why: A few years ago, after a severe manic attack, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The attack was preceded by an intense period of stress, then two weeks of elevated mood, increased social…


Percentile Feedback Update

July 19, 2011

In March I discovered that looking at a graph of my productivity (for the current day, with a percentile attached) was a big help. My “efficiency” — the time spent working that day divided by the time available to work — jumped as soon as the new feedback started (as this graph shows). The percentile score,…


Percentile Feedback and Productivity

May 2, 2011

In January, after talking with Matthew Cornell, I decided to measure my work habits. I typically work for a while (10-100 minutes), take a break (10-100 minutes), resume work, take another break, and so on. The breaks had many functions: lunch, dinner, walk, exercise, nap. I wanted to do experiments related to quasi-reinforcement. I wrote R programs…


How To Self-Experiment

April 6, 2011

At the upcoming QS Conference (May 28-9, San Jose), Robin Barooah and I will run a session about self-experimentation. Alexandra Carmichael has asked me to write a post about how to do self-experimentation as a kind of encouragement to come to the session. Robin and I will be giving examples of what we have done…


18 Months on the Shangri-La Diet

March 29, 2011

Alex Chernavsky has kindly given me several years of weight data he collected by weighing himself daily. He read about the Shangri-La Diet in 2005 and several years later decided to try it. The graph above shows what happened: Starting at 222 pounds (BMI = 32), over 11 months he lost 31 pounds, reaching a…


Effect of One-Legged Standing on Sleep

March 24, 2011

In 1996, I accidentally discovered that if I stood a lot I slept better. If I stood 9 hours or more, I woke up feeling incredibly rested. Yet to get any improvement I had to stand at least 8 hours. That wasn’t easy, and after about 9 hours of standing my feet would start to hurt….


Seth Roberts on Personal Science

February 7, 2011

In the IEEE Spectrum, Paul McFedries, the author of Word Spy, writes about new words generated by new kinds of science made possible by cheap computing. Perhaps the biggest data set of all is the collection of actions, choices, and preferences that each person performs throughout the day, which is called his or her data exhaust. Using such data…


Results of The Buttermind Experiment

January 30, 2011

In August, at a Quantified Self meeting in San Jose, I told how butter apparently improved my brain function. When I started eating a half-stick of butter every day, I suddenly got faster at arithmetic. During the question period, Greg Biggers of proposed a study to see if what I’d found was true for other people….


Another Mysterious Mental Improvement

January 24, 2011

A month ago I posted this graph, which shows how long I needed to type the answer to simple arithmetic problems (7-5, 4*1, 9+0). I tested myself with about 40 problems once or twice per day. Because I’d been doing this for a long time, I no longer improved due to practice. Then, at the…


Does Shower Temperature Affect Brain Speed?

January 8, 2011

In November I learned about benefits of cold showers. So I tried them. I took cold showers that lasted about 5 minutes. I liked the most obvious effect (less sensitivity to cold). Maybe a bigger “dose” would produce a bigger effect. Maybe the mood improvement cold showers were said to cause would be clearer. So I…


Measuring My Brain Function: One-Finger Typing

May 15, 2009

Noticing that flaxseed oil improved my balance led me to measure its effects on other tests of brain function. It also made me wonder what else in my life affected how well my brain works. Eventually I measured the mental effects of flaxseed oil with four tests, but each had problems: Balance. Time-consuming (15 minutes…


Hey, What Happened to My Brain?

March 9, 2009

For a few months, I’ve been measuring how well my brain is working using arithmetic problems. Each test session includes 100 simple problems (3+4, 7-0, 4*8) divided into 5 blocks of 20. I type the last digit of the answer as quickly as possible. I got the idea from Tim Lundeen, who got better on…