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Meet Our Guest Blogger

In yesterday’s New York Times Magazine, we wrote about a Berkeley psychology professor, Seth Roberts, whose intriguing history of self-experimentation has led to, among other things, a very interesting new diet. Click here to read the article and here for some extras, including Seth’s academic papers, photos, etc. Because there has been great interest in the article, we asked Seth if he would like to do some guest-blogging and he has accepted. Below are his first postings. Please welcome him and feel free to send comments and questions.

Pleased To Meet You
Sun., Sept. 11

At a dinner a few weeks ago I told the woman sitting next to me, whom I didn’t know very well, that I was writing a book about how to lose weight. “Have you heard of the book Freakonomics?” she replied. Huh? What did a weight-loss book have to do with Freakonomics? She said that just as I, a psychology professor, would no doubt use the tools of psychology to help people lose weight, Freakonomics was about using the tools of economics to answer other questions of everyday interest. Yeah, you’re right, I said. She was more right than she knew.

I was thrilled when Dubner invited me to guest-blog here because I enjoy reading this blog. I felt like a small boy who has been given a tour of a submarine and then the tour guide says: Would you like to drive it for a while?

It’s Sunday morning and the article about my work has been out for about a day, if only on the East Coast. I’ve gotten about 12 emails (oops, make that 14, I got 2 while writing this) and 2 phone calls. The emails begin: “I’m sure you’re going to be inundated…” This reminds me of a letter I wrote to Spy, with what I thought was a correction: “Let me be the twenty-third person to tell you that…” my letter began. “Actually you’re the first,” Spy replied, because my correction was wrong.

Dubner has suggested I blog about what it’s like to be written about as well as what I found wrong with their article. In future posts, I’ll do that. I’ll also write about Andrew Gelman’s interesting comment that “self-experimentation is the opposite of the NIH approach to medical research,” the response to their article (the supposed “inundation”), and how lucky I felt. I’ll also try to answer the questions that come up. And I will do it without praising Levitt and/or Dubner — Dubner has specifically said I shouldn’t do that!

Mon., Sept. 12: The Big Day
Yesterday was the big day, huh? (It is now Monday morning.) Well, I did get more e-mails from strangers (perhaps 30) than any other day in my life. And it felt wonderful to see such interest in my work, especially my work — if you can call it that — on acne. (I will say more about acne in a later post.) I didn’t hear from any “long-lost” friends. šŸ™ ! I did speak to a potential book agent on the phone. “Now you have a picnic to go to,” she finally said.

She believed that everyone there would know about the Times piece. “Actually, I don’t think any of them will,” I said. I was right. At least, no one mentioned it. There was one close call. “This is our friend Seth,” the host said, introducing me to someone else. “He is the person who…” He paused. Uh-oh, here it comes, I thought. He continued: “Who met us in Beijing when we went to China.”

The most interesting e-mail I got was from a journalist who is writing a book about the harmful effects of sugar, including (or perhaps especially) fructose. She sounded very alarmed; she commented on Dubner’s Friday posting about the Times article so you can see for yourself what she thinks. I rarely consume fructose these days — not for health reasons but because sucrose is a lot more convenient and works just as well. I have Steve Levitt’s sister Linda to thank for my conversion here. (Doesn’t count as praising, Dubner!) The journalist wanted to speak to me. I replied, “I’m always happy to talk with people who disagree with me. As you say, maybe I’ll learn something.” I am curious to see what happens.

So much for the big day. It was exciting, don’t get me wrong. I think because of the excitement I am losing weight.