Nerd Corner #60

Wildfires, Bertrand Russell, and more!

Hi All!

California and much of the Western US is still pretty much on fire. The smoke from the wildfires has been in the Bay Area for almost a week now so we haven't been able to go out that much. There is so much smoke that you can clearly see it from Space. I'm pretty sure you'll spot it in this image:


What I am reading 📚

Last week I was traveling (spent some quality time with friends in SoCal) so reading was slow and mixed. I traveled light so only packed my Kindle.

I didn't make much progress on Algorithms to Live By which so far has some interesting chapters in which the authors try to relate memory and sorting algorithms to every day organization and productivity techniques like David Allen's GTD and Organizing from the Inside Out.

Instead, I started reading The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (freely available from The Internet Archive here). I was already familiar with Russell's writing on mathematics and his attempts to create a sound logical basis for mathematics in Principia Mathematica but was not familiar with his other writings on politics, history, and philosophy. So I’ve been impressed by his ability and willingness to change opinions easily in the face of new evidence, facts and experiences; something not very easy for most of us to do.


Nerd Corner 🤓

Since I haven't been able to go out for my daily runs because of the smoke I've been drilling down on my running technique. For the past 5 days I've been alternating between:

  • Running 2 miles up and down the emergency stairs of my building without touching the floor with my heels in order to build up my quads and stretch my Achilles tendons.

  • Doing weights with a Kettlebell, in particular squats and jumping squats to improve my sprinting strength.

  • Run in place for 30s. As Eric Orton explains in this video, running in place is great to improve your footwork and how your feet make contact with the floor.

Now, for the real Nerd part of this section, let's talk (again) about barefoot running and minimalist shoes, something I’ve been diving deeper into after I started running seriously.

Most people assume that cushioned shoes are good. The claim is that they protect the heels and the knees. But there's no evidence that these cushioned shoes provide any running advantage over flat or "stability shoes" (shoes with no drop between the heel and the toes). This is what a 2014 study carried out by the US DoD concluded after running a randomized trial across the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps in which they randomly divided recruits into two groups: one using shoes specialized for their plantar shape and one using standard stability shoes.

They found that

there was little difference between the experimental and control groups, regardless of the injury index employed.

And that

the results of the meta-analysis suggested a tendency for recruits with low- and high-arch feet wearing stability shoes to have slightly lower injury rates than those wearing shoes presumably designed specifically for their foot type (ie, motion-control or cushioned shoes).

So if there's no advantage in using these high-tech shoes, why should we? I'd rather trust evolution on this one and run as close as barefoot as I can. After all, we've been running for at least 2 million years (check out my previous discussion on this).


Cool Finds 🤯

  • 📽 Ali Abdaal's YouTube Channel is one of the best ones I've come across in the last months. It is packed with nerd topics and all his videos are well-made and incredibly edited. They all have markers and links for you to jump to the different topics he covers! If you don’t know where to start, check his tutorial on how to type faster on a keyboard!

  • 💸 If you want to know more about Amazon and its business strategy you just need to read Benedict Evans. In one of his latest essays "Amazon's Profits, AWS and Advertising" he breaks down Amazon’s public reports and makes the case that “Amazon is not a loss-making business that will eventually have to raise prices to make money; rather, it’s many businesses leveraging a common platform and a common balance sheet.”


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Have an awesome week!

Alberto