The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss – Jason Fung

Dr. Jason Fung is a specialist in Type 2 Diabetes and obesity. The Obesity Code goes back to first principles in order to explain why people become obese, and what they can do about it.

I liked the fact that almost every bold statement in the book, of which there are many, was thoroughly researched and supported by actual data. This is not a pop-science guide with only vague foundations that “seem to make sense”. If the data doesn’t fit, Dr. Fung examines why it doesn’t, and which hypothesis would actually fit. This is tome of solid science targeted at the layman.

What I found most interesting was how complex the mechanisms controlling weight gain and loss are. I had for a long time believed strongly that input vs. output was the only answer. It seems I was wrong, or at least only partially correct. It turns out that most perceived wisdom about weight is, if not incorrect, then at least incomplete, especially if individual factors are taken in isolation. And that is perhaps the key message. You cannot take a single reaction and single it out. A holistic approach is needed.

Now to do some testing on myself.

Bonk – The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

BonkThis non-fiction book describes and explores “sex science” in a way that the layman can understand. Ms. Roach has performed extensive research, traveling around the world and around the US Patent Office website among other places. In a frank but very amusing style peppered with the driest of irony, she goes through everything from sex therapy in antiquity to sex machines for therapy and research, to genital implants.

Despite sometimes cringing at the descriptions of surgeries and other things in intimate regions, I found this a fascinating read. Ms. Roach can probably make any subject fun, and when combined with the somewhat taboo aspect, her writing makes for compelling reading.

If I had one gripe, it was that while all individual chapters were interesting, by about two-thirds of the way through I was losing interest. I guess there’s only so much sex science I can take.


The Terminal Man – Michael Crichton

The table of contents reveals the traditional Chrichtonian day-by-day format, with the story laid out over four days. The plot is about a man who is implanted with a device that gives pleasure in order to control violent seizures. The man goes on a murderous rampage as he learns to control the pleasurable impulses.

It’s typical Crichton. Briefly entertaining. I find it a lot of fun to read about the technologies, even dated as they are. Crichton is heavily into using very contemporary gadgets and looking into their philosophical implications. So while his novels date fast, they provide an interesting insight into what concerned people at the time of writing.

The Andromeda Strain – Michael Crichton

Formulaic like pretty much all other Crichton books, but without the redeeming quality of page-turning excitement present in his later works. This story of a satellite falling back to Earth after picking up an alien, and dangerous, organism has aged very badly. I can forgive the aged subject matter. Unfortunately, and as opposed to other Crichton books, I didn’t care at all about the characters. There were times when I couldn’t even tell them apart. Still, having read his later works it was interesting to see how it all started. Hints of the author’s future style are discernible in the text. And since it is a very short read it wasn’t too taxing.

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void – Mary Roach

In this curious non-fiction volume, Mary Roach explores an aspect of space travel that is normally glossed over: the human inside the machine. She starts by explaining why engineers find humans the trickiest part of their spaceships, and goes on from there through impact experiments on cadavers, body odor research (really!), what happens to humans if they lie still for weeks on end, the horrors of space food, the even greater horrors of going to the potty in space and various other subjects.

If this sounds boring, think again. Not only is the subject matter surprising and fascinating, but Ms. Roach’s writing is infused with an extremely entertaining dry wit. Throughout her research and her many interviews with scientists, astronauts and even interns involved in space travel and its accessory activities, she seems to find the humor in every situation. To be fair, it is hard not to see the humor but she describes it so well. A couple of selected gems:

“Safeguarding a human for a multiaxis crash is not all that different from packing a vase for shipping. Since you don’t know which side the UPS guy’s going to drop it on, you need to stabilize it all around.”

“The staff played hot potato with my call until someone could locate the Person in Charge of Lying to the Press. The PCLP said that the room that houses the base archives is locked. And that only the curator would have a key. And that Holloman currently has no curator. Evidently the new curator’s first task would be to find a way to open the archives.”

I recommend this book even if you are not particularly interested in the space program. It is a great read about what it really takes to put people in space.