Q&A 094

Published on:
January 11, 2023

Dear Q&A friends,

First of all, our best wishes to you and your family. We hope we can continue inspiring you in the new year! Even though some ordinary flus hampered us, we would like to share some energetic sources and habits to make the most fresh start. We hope these examples help you think about experimenting and cementing new habits. Enjoy!

♛ Deep

During the Christmas break, my family was hit with a nasty flu, keeping us inside for multiple days. Low physical energy, no commitments and ample time usually sends me down a rabbit hole of some sorts. The last time this occurred, I bumped into 279 episodes of 'The Big Bang Theory', a series I miraculously managed to miss out on since its inception. Not judging the usefulness of time spent, I managed to take a sizeable bite out of those episodes before I fully recovered.

This time, my rabbit hole probably qualified a bit more as being useful. Since my sons are into chess these days, I spent numerous hours on Reddit, YouTube and Twitch trying to get a feel for how to improve at the game.

I used to play chess when I was young, but I still remember a lot of the theory not sticking. I don't know what caused this back in the day, but I was set on finding out. The couple of days I spent in chessland taught me a few new things and confirmed some others from surprising angles.

First of all, I was reminded again of the magical powers of the internet. It is truly amazing how much faster you can learn when you have access to the best & the brightest teachers. These days, a lot of the world's top players have their own YouTube channel and/or stream their online games on Twitch, commenting on their moves, sharing their strategic thoughts. On top of that, you can select your teachers based on having a personal click with them as well, since this greatly affects your learning. I visited a ton of YouTube channels before settling on a particular one that just resonated best.

The importance of having a feel for your own way of learning was another big take-away for me. This is probably the biggest change from my chess learning as a kid. Having the confidence of knowing what you're looking for, keeping up the search until you find the resources that somehow click. Trusting your intuition on this front is something I wish we could teach in school.

This continuing search also felt like a good example of what life-long-learning means to me, contrary to my formal education. In school, the curriculum is mostly set out for you, while learning these days is about following my interests, gathering material while strolling around, not yet knowing how the dots will connect, which I find infinitely more fun while also having the best track record by far.

Next, a systems thinking approach helps greatly in learning new stuff. When I was young, I never understood how the phases of the game (opening, middle game, endgame) got their meaning, since the separation felt totally artificial for me. Now, seeing the game as a progression with increasing optionality at first and solvable puzzles near the end, I developed an appreciation for the way they are taught. Understanding a ton of scenarios for specific openings helps you steer the trajectory in the beginning, increasing your chances to get a lead. When possibility explodes in the middle game, you switch to tactics and strategies, as they help you make the most of situations you have not seen before. Finally, as complexity decreases near the end of the game, you need to know specific move orders again to be able to seal the deal and win.

Finally, learning new things while knowing a lot already is much easier. Lateral examples from business, philosophy and psychology just help a lot in acquiring learnings. This rabbit hole again proved to me how much fun it is to learn new things, and life-long learning is a long game with compounding interest.

If chess interests you, take a look at some of the videos on Levi Rosenthal's (Gothamchess) channel or challenge me to a game the next time we meet. In any case, next time you're stuck in bed with the flu, think rabbit holes.

🍽️ IF

Ah, why not use this time of the year to reiterate some great benefits of a certain dietary habit that does require you to change your usual schedule? It is, after all, the time of the year many people are full of energy to change habits and implement positive resolutions, even though we've argued this might in fact not the best time to implement behavourial changes. Still, the fact that repetition is one of the greatest teachers, made me decide to write about the benefits of (intermittent) fasting once more.

Also, the opportunity just simply presented itself on a nice plate (pun intended). I was forwarded this video on intermittent fasting. In it, Dr. Roger Seheult explains the numerous benefits of intermittent fasting.

Ever since I wrote about the effects of fasting in one of our first newsletters, I've been practising intermittent fasting and really enjoyed personal benefits. Most importantly, energy levels are constant and high during the day and having a certain rhythm has also improved my sleep.

In his video, Dr. Seheult mainly stresses the benefits of fasting on all kinds of health issues. Apart from a relatively easy way -in intermittent fasting you do not necessarily change your diet or quantities- to lose weight and reduce insuline levels, it spurs all kinds of internal mechanisms that clean, repair and heal your body. The so-called 'autophagy' process, literally meaning 'self-eating'.

I guess this is one of those things that falls in the category 'doesn't hurt trying it' but may also be outside your comfort zone. It does also impact some pretty engrained habits (by the way, you can have your black coffee during fasting 😉). What would happen IF...?

🧱 Cement

Ever since the Romans perfected the production and use of concrete (the Pantheon being a great case in point), it has become one of the main building materials in our human society. Key ingredient is cement. Given the current production techniques of cement that involve processing lumps of limestone at high temperatures, it also represents ±8% of current man-made CO2 emissions.

An obvious place to start looking for alternatives. The good news is that many people have been doing that over the past decades. One route focuses on replacing cement by other materials, such as graphene (just adding less than 0.1% by weight of graphene to concrete makes it 30% stronger). Another way is to look at how nature builds strong structures, such as coral reefs.

In its 'Simply Science' section, The Economist reported in 2021 on some very promising ideas to essentially produce 'green' cement using natural ingredients and organisms. Organisms such as bacteria that under the influence of sunlight, when placed in a bath of water and calcium, produce calcium carbonate (i.e. stone).

Companies are started around these techniques but the main challenge seems to be speed and scale. How to bring these technologies to the market in large quantities in a short time? One of the examples the article mentions concerns the Dutch company Basilisk. It produces tiny pellets containing dried spores of several bacteria and its nutrients that once water touches the mixture, it will produce calcium carbonate. If you've added these pellet to existing concrete, it will lead to 'self-healing' once the concrete cracks. After all, once a crack occurs, moisture can get into the concrete. However, this technique was already announced back in the time when I studied at university (and, yes, that's a long time ago).

Great news that so many alternatives exist and are being discovered. We should try to find ways to ensure that these techniques get applied and scaled up faster. I wonder how the Romans would approach this?

That's it for this week! If you got forwarded this newsletter and like what you read, get your own. Or get an impression of everything else we shared in our renewed, searchable archive.

As always, we would love to hear your thoughts and tips. Just reply to this e-mail to get in touch with us.

Have a great week!

Quinten & Alphons