Monthly Archives: October 2013

When “Scientific Proof” is Bullshit

The issue under discussion is whether the E.U. is justified in banning neonicotoids in an attempt to alleviate colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon that has over the past five years, doubled death rates of bee colonies in the U.S. to 33%.

In response of Bayer CropScience to the E.U. decision was that:

As a science-based company, Bayer CropScience is disappointed that clear scientific evidence has taken a backseat in the decision making process. This disproportionate decision is a missed opportunity to reach a solution that takes into consideration all of the existing product-stewardship measures and broad stakeholder concerns.

This is the wrong way to go about asking for scientific proof. Although proof of non-deleterious effect should be required when intervening in a system, there should be no proof required for removing an intervention in an attempt to restore a balance.
Besides. Pesticides kill insects. Bees are insects. What effect do you expect pesticides to have on bees?
This reminds me of other examples in food and medicine of scientific proof being asked for the wrong things. Think about hydrogenated oils, for example. Vegetable oils that are liquid at room temperature can be made into solids by a process called hydrogenation, making into fake butter, or margarine. These were considered healthy because they were vegetable-derived, and there was no scientific proof that they weren’t as healthy as non-hydrogenated oils. Now, the evidence shows that they are worse than animal fat for causing heart disease. The burden of proof should always be on the artificial, rather than the natural. The burden of proof should have been on margarine to show that it was healthier than butter, not for it to be assumed safe until proven harmful.

How College Physics Translates to an MBA

I’ve been making my way slowly through the The Feynman Lectures on Physics. I started doing so purely because of interest – his enthusiasm for his subject, and the amount of preparation time he put into teaching is apparent. It’s a thrill to learn from him. One of the things that he does well is to give students an intuitive sense for concepts and numbers.

This sort of thinking transferred well to a business discussion at work. The idea was that we would go after a new, large market, and try to take five percent of the total sales being made in that market now. The marketing director said that if we could just take five percent, what a large addition to our revenue that would be. One of the sales guys said “Yeah, five percent is such a small number. Surely we can take five percent.” I thought a bit and said – “Wait. Five percent is actually a big number. Our product is only 1/10th of the total price for one of these units, so five percent of revenues means we have to capture fifty percent of the market.”

The moral of the story? The study of physics can apply to business – as long as one is learning to think, rather than memorize. And, no number or concept is actionable until you learn what it means. Someone once told me she read that you can lose weight if you eat 30g of protein within an hour of waking up. So we got to thinking – what provides 30g of protein? How much protein is in common foods?

  • chicken breast 30g ea.
  • eggs 5g ea.
  • milk 6g / glass

Another inspiration for this post is this one from the xkcd blog.









  1. 相手の動きに合わせる。触れ合った瞬間に自分がもう動いているようにすること。 よく、つかんだ状態から教える先生がいるのですが、実はつかんだ状態から動いた方が相手は力が出しやすいだろう。基本の動きを動いた状態からやるのがやりやすくて、それができたら、動いた状態を後に学べるだろう。何しろ、実践では相手が手などをつかみにくるのを待たない。相手の動きに合わせて自己を防御しながら攻撃する。
  2. 先生の師範演武の時に腰と膝の間を見る。足を見て、転換、転身、半転などをはっきりするといい。
  3. 手は常に肘が自分の肩幅で、肩より上に上げないこと。手を横に動かすときには腰の向きをかえること。主に縦に動かす。のばしたとしても、伸ばしきらないで常に余裕を持つ。


  1. 相手に自分の背を見せないように。合気道の技は取りがすべて相手の背中に入ることから始まる。工夫がここにある。稽古をするときに柔らかく粘って、できるだけ合いてと背中が向き合うように動く。
  2. 腰が上半身に連動して動く。特に、いり身投げで崩されてへっぴり腰になりがちですが、背筋をあんまり傾かないで腰を落として吸収するといい。
  3. 技を受けているときに足をのばす。のばすと体の回転が遅くなる。

The Hasid

I found myself feeling very comfortable as an Asian-looking person in the midst of a the synagogue at 770 Crown Heights in New York. The second night there, we had a Farbrengen, during which it is customary to have food and drink (though the Rebbe recommends less than 4 shots of vodka) late into the night, talking about good deeds and good people.

Two days there, and I was feeling really good. The environment in 770 Crown Heights is permeated with goodness and kindness. If I struggled to find a prayer book in English, someone would hiss to get my attention (as Israelis do) and hand me a prayer book opened to the right page. People would come to ask me about life in Japan, about what it was like for Jewish people living there, about how long I had known Rabbi B. One man said he’d like to study with me, and pulled out a copy of the Tanya (a book of philosophy based on the Torah) and we started going through it slowly one day before prayers.

The method of reading is to go line by line, talking about what various words mean, and talking about different opinions and precedents. My friend was so familiar with the text that he would transition smoothly the written word, to discussing it, and flowing back to the written word. I thought that this is the way one might study a physics textbook, going through basic concepts and tying them together into larger concepts. Yet, this was the approach taken with a book on ethics, a book that talked about giving to charity, about humility, about holding one’s tongue when disagreeing except in certain situations. What sort of situations and why is it worth speaking out in these situations?…

Evening prayers were about to start, and people lined up on either side of the aisle, leaving a space for the Lubavitcher Rebbe to walk to the front of the synagogue. Rabbi Menachem Schneerson has not physically walked here ever since his physical body died, but many believe he is very much spiritually alive. One Israeli man who had handed me a prayer book for afternoon prayers said to me then. “Now, want with all of your heart and soul to see the Rebbe.” And people started chanting Yechi

I learned from Rabbi B’s five-year-old son that people asked him about me – “is he Japanese, is he Jewish?” to which he would reply – “no, he is from the states, and he is not Jewish, but helps us a lot.”

After prayer services, there would be singing and dancing, and I would dance in the prayer hall counterclockwise in a circle, singing along in Hebrew that we are longing for the Messiah. This was done with smiles all around, someone waving a big yellow flag with a blue crown and the word Messiah in Hebrew in red lettering. Hands on each other’s shoulders walking, or arms interlocked jumping and chanting “Yechi” may he live. To chant Yechi is to wish for the messiah to come, to usher in a new era when all the people and nations of the world can live in harmony – to so fervently wish for that era that one’s actions in the present are dedicated to working for harmony and inclusion, to make the world into a welcoming one for the messiah. I felt – yeah. I want that. What’s more, I have always liked dancing, though it’s always been clubbing or disco, dancing here was just as fun, and on top of dancing, to chant Yechi got me right into a good mood with everyone else. The physical and the spiritual must lift each other up.

At the Farbrengen, I spoke. “You guys have made me feel very welcome here. I want to say that you’ve reminded me that it’s healthy to take an interest in your fellow man. People in Japan – they want to be polite. This has its good points and bad points, but one of the bad points is that people keep each other at a distance. They are afraid to intrude. Because of this, it’s possible to know people for a long time without really knowing them. But here, in 770, I have been able to speak about matters of the heart and have a feeling of connection with you that would take a very long time to develop in Japan. This is the glue that binds society together: connection, not distance. I like this atmosphere, and I want to take back to Japan.”

The man sitting across the table said “You will succeed. The (Lubavitcher) Rebbe said that ‘a Hasid always has the power change the world around him!'”

I smiled and thanked him, because he was indirectly calling me a Hasid, an enacter of loving-kindness.

The Farbrengen continued, and Rabbi B and I told stories of works of charity and adventures in Japan, other people told stories of great teachers they knew, or good things they had seen or participated in. People were took turns talking. It was a style of spontaneous turn-taking conversation at a table that I had never seen except in Japan, but here the table was bigger, voices were louder, and people other than the highest status members of the table had a voice.  People were focused on learning from each other and fully interested in how to better themselves and bring happiness to others through a good work or deed.

Young college grads are intent on soaking up knowledge with the aim of becoming rich or successful. These kids – about the same age – were focused on soaking up knowledge with the aim of bringing loving kindness into the world. Amazing.