Seth Roberts was an inspiration and a role model to me, and my life was richer for having known him. My longer remembrance is here.

I’ve gathered links to some of the remembrances that were posted on other sites.  They are listed below, in no particular order. If you find others, or if you wanted to write your own, please leave a comment on this page, or email me at This site is a work in progress.

Update as of May 9, 2014:  I’ve added a photos page. The San Francisco Chronicle published an obituary on May 8, 2014.

Update as of May 14, 2014:  I’ve added a videos page. Let me know if I missed any.

–Alex Chernavsky

Post by Seth’s sister Amy (see also the follow-up post by Seth’s mother Justine).  The comments contain many poignant remembrances, such as this one:

“Like all the others posting here, I was stunned to read of Seth’s passing. What a vibrant, questioning, questing voice that has now gone silent. I too checked in daily to read the latest posting — a habit that will be very difficult to give up. Thanks to all his friends and family for nurturing that inquisitive, productive mind.  RIP, Seth Roberts.”  –Claudia


An index to Seth’s posts on the Quantified Self forum:

[This page is not a remembrance per se, but rather a collection of posts that Seth had written before his untimely death.  Thanks go out to QS forum admin Dan Dascalescu for creating the page and bringing it to my attention. –Alex]


Andrew Gelman – a tribute from a statistics professor who was also a long-time friend:

“I suppose that Seth could’ve tried to do research in clinical psychology (Berkeley’s department actually has a strong clinical program) but instead he moved in a different direction and tried different things to improve his sleep and then, later, his skin, his mood, and his diet. In this work, Seth applied what he later called his ‘insider/outsider perspective’: he was an insider in that he applied what he’d learned from years of research on animal behavior, an outsider in that he was not working within the existing paradigm of research in physiology and nutrition.”  –Andrew Gelman


Saul Sternberg – Reminiscenses from a fellow scientist:

“Seth and I became interested in each other’s research about thirty-five years ago, when he was a graduate student at Brown. In the years since then we were collaborators and friends. (Each of us has attested to how much we learned from the other.) I followed his work in detail, and as you’ll see from my comments below about his scientific accomplishments (from a letter that I wrote in 2004) I admired them greatly.  […]  I was one of the reviewers of Seth’s 1987 paper on ‘Evidence for distinct serial processes in animals: The multiplicative-factors method.’ I still believe what I then said: ‘I consider this to be potentially the most significant paper I have ever reviewed.’ ”  –Saul Sternberg


Hunter Gatherer:

“Seth will be remembered for his work in self-experimentation. More than just his quirky findings – faces on TV, honey at bed, flaxseed oil – Seth taught that anyone can be a scientist. […] Seth showed that there are parts of the scientific method where everyone can participate, where everyone should participate. He demonstrated the value of amateurish self-experimentation to both scientific progress and personal improvement. Self-experimentation doesn’t just bring science out of the laboratory; it turns your world into a laboratory.”  –John Durant


“Seth encouraged others to be comfortable in their peculiarity. He was a one-man support group. A coach for radical thinking. He drew out and encouraged people’s odd and unpopular ideas, because he knew that it was the only way we’d make any progress.”  –shant


Tucker Max:

“Seth had intellectual courage as well. He examined ideas in themselves, not who they came from, and he defended and stood up for the things that were right, regardless of what they cost him. Seth loved people as well. He listened to you when you talked to him, he didn’t just wait for his turn to speak, and he treated you like a person deserving of respect, no matter who you were. How many people do you know like that, not to mention professors?”  –Tucker Max



“Though his work has been internationally recognized and published in countless places and was the subject of bestselling books, it was really his work in personal science and experimentation that impacted the most people. Seth was the kind of guy who influenced the influencers. His fans included everyone from Tyler Cowen to the Freakonomics guys to Tim Ferriss and Tucker Max to Nassim Nicholas Taleb and countless, countless others. That’s how good and important his work was–smart people with huge audiences turned to him not just for big theories but for tips, tricks and hacks to make their lives better. And he always came through, even for us smaller folks.”  –Ryan Holiday


Ben Casnocha:

“Seth taught me about self-experimentation and science. He taught me about nutrition… innovation and creative thinking. Most importantly, he taught me the value of appreciative thinking, which I once summarized thusly:

“School teaches us to be proactively skeptical and critical. We’re taught to immediately look for the flaws in experiments or theories. An appreciative approach, by contrast, simply asks, ‘What’s redeeming about this experiment or idea? What’s done right?’

“Some VCs are naturally appreciative, others naturally critical. After an entrepreneur pitch their first feedback will either be, ‘OK, here’s what I like about what you’re doing’ versus ‘Here’s where I think the problems are.’

“I am trying to take a more appreciative approach to people. When I meet someone new at a cocktail party, I am trying to ask myself more regularly, ‘What’s cool / impressive / interesting about this person?’ as opposed to dwelling on their imperfections.”

“Like many who knew him or read his stuff, I’ll miss Seth. He was a one-of-a-kind thinker. And a deeply compassionate person.”  –Ben Casnocha


Hacker News:

“I will miss Seth’s writing. He shared so much and influenced so many others. He had both the curiosity and the courage to try crazy things and shared what he learned with the world. RIP, Seth.”  –xiaoma


Facebook thread on Nassim Taleb’s page:

“Many things I care about came from Seth Roberts: self-experimentation, Jane Jacobs, actual skepticism (especially of ‘experts’), and the large impact of small-seeming things. He cared deeply about knowledge that improved peoples’ lives. My favorite writings by him as of late were about his students. He exemplified how true learning and tinkering could come back to a college classroom. I hoped we’d meet some day in Beijing to brainstorm ways to reinvent higher education for the benefit of the students, not the professors and institutions. He’s gone, but we are all still learning from him.”  –Oliver Mayor


Richard Sprague, Part 1:

“Eventually I found his blog, and discovered that he was living near me in Beijing. A famous professor like him – a New York Times bestselling author and all that – might be hard to get ahold of, but one day out of the blue I sent Seth an email, wondering if he’d like to get together for lunch. He replied in minutes and said sure, how about tomorrow? I was so excited (such a famous guy!), and I invited him to the cafeteria at my office (then at Microsoft in Beijing). We exchanged unconventional ideas, the kind I suspect are true but that I don’t necessarily want to say in public (but that he posts unashamedly to his blog): how radiation is actually good for you, how if you want to lose weight you should only drink real coke, not the diet kind, about the benefits of homemade yogurt. We talked about Zeo and microbes and personal experimentation to see what works and what doesn’t. It was a classic Seth Roberts conversation – challenging conventional wisdom, never taking anything for granted — and I was hooked.”  –Richard Sprague


Richard Sprague, Part 2:

“Beyond this, I think Seth believed something else: that anyone can think for themselves. As someone who knew first hand about how modern science is conducted, he was not impressed just because a study showed this, or an expert said that. He was baffled about why people would make life-changing decisions based solely on what they read in The New York Times, or because they heard it from somebody with a sophisticated credential. Try it yourself! he would say. Check to see if it works on you! […] Part of the reason I think Seth was so approachable was that he knew that good ideas could come from anywhere, that often the best ones come from ordinary conversations. Everyone who knew him personally appreciated those simple conversations the most, and we’ll never fully measure the outsize influence that resulted.”  –Richard Sprague


Marginal Revolution:

“…his family and loved ones can take comfort in his having helped many many people. I was one of them and was the focus of a post on his blog because I cured 15 years of exzema using things I learned from him.”  –Todd Fletcher


Mark’s Daily Apple:

“He was big on n=1 experimentation generally, and figured out a few interesting things by constantly experimenting on himself. For example, consuming honey before bed improves sleep. Standing on one foot during the day also improves sleep. So does sun exposure (or vitamin D supplementation) in the morning. Looking at pictures of faces in the morning can enhance your mood the following day.”  –maurile


Perfect Health Diet:

“Seth Roberts’s work has been an inspiration. What he taught me about life and health, about what it means to be a teacher and a learner, has been invaluable.”  –Euthyphro


Daniel Lemire:

“Seth Roberts was one of my favourite bloggers… Seth was an original fellow. He completed his PhD and went on to secure a job at a leading university… only to effectively reject the academic model. He retired early.”  –Daniel Lemire


Twitter search for “Seth Roberts”:


Mr. Heisenbug:

“You’d think that only knowing someone via the Internet and not having met in person makes it easier to deal with their passing, but in reality it’s quite difficult, because there’s no one else to share the sadness and grief with. […] Seth had an extremely unique perspective on very big and important ideas. He said things no one else was saying, and understood things in a way no one else did. The commonality we found on ideas about human health, personal science, innovation, and societal progress is one that I’m not sure I will find again. The phrase ‘Yes, I agree with that’ was probably a part of every exchange we had. Losing the only person who you feel understood certain ideas is very difficult, and the importance of keeping those ideas alive is now felt very acutely.”  –Shant Mesrobian


Yelling Stop:

“Seth was the archetypal scientist: unafraid to follow the evidence to its logical conclusion.”  –Tucker Goodrich


Shangri-La Forum:

“Seth changed my life. Not many people have had that degree of an impact on me. So many things unfolded in my life because of Seth and the Shangri-La diet. It was one big change that led to cascade of so many other changes that never would have occurred otherwise. The world seems a little bleaker. Seth was such an innovative, creative, affirming person, who wasn’t afraid to go against the status quo. The world needs more people like him, but he himself is irreplaceable. […] I’ll miss you Seth.”  –Heidi 555


Free the Animal:

“Seth was a brilliant man with an amazing sense of curiosity. He was also very generous. When I mentioned that a spoonful of honey helped me sleep he offered to mentor me and spent many months emailing me and coaching me on how to run a self experiment. I’ll miss his regular emails and our conversations. Rip Seth.”  –Stu


Kirk Condon:

“Recently I started playing with his idea of steeping tea for a short time. I’ve always wanted to drink tea without cream but never could accept the sharp edge of tea steeped for the typical recommended interval. That was the remarkable thing about Seth: he could examine something I’ve been doing for 45 years and find a new and better approach. […] I wish he could have stayed around longer. I have a long-term experiment in play that I hope will show huge benefits in a decade. I would have introduced him to it. Meanwhile, I continue to run personal experiments. When they succeed, part of the credit will go to Seth. Goodbye, Seth.”  –Kirk Condon



“Seth had a jujitsu way of indirectly challenging you when he disagreed, responding with gentle questions, putting forth new hypotheses, and ripping your arguments to shreds while being the nicest guy in the world.”  –Anonymous author at


Quantified Self:

“Seth’s contributions as a colleague and teacher had many dimensions, but in thinking about him nonstop this morning what I find myself marveling at most is the unusual style he had in nearly every conversation. Seth became interested when he saw somebody thinking independently and, like the best teachers, he wanted to understand the process by which students and collaborators developed confidence in their conjectures. Countless times, I heard Seth ask somebody ‘Why do you think that?’ His challenge was direct and generous, for if you were willing to expose your reasons you could count on him to apply himself alongside you, thinking up ways to improve your investigation, make your measurements more practical, or give your analysis more logical or mathematical power.”  –Gary Wolf


Aaron Blaisdell–from the comments section:

“Seth has been a dear friend for a long time. My collaboration with him, and my conversations with him, have made a profound impact on my life. His warm companionship, unique intellect, insatiable curiosity, and infinite creativity will be missed. A bit of Seth will live on in me for the rest of my life. […] Seth pioneered some of our early understanding of interval timing while he was a doctoral student with Russ Church at Brown University. He went on to establish some interesting insights into sources of behavioral variability. The most recent part of his career was spent championing self-experimentation as an important tool for the empirical investigation of scientific ideas, many of them in psychology but also in other realms. He is perhaps best known in this area for his work on the role of Pavlovian flavor-calorie associations on appetite and body weight control, which he published in the book The Shangri-La Diet. While some of his self experimentation work was published in peer-review journals, much of it was reported on his blog where he engaged in much creative thought and commentary, and attracted a large cadre of followers. He was recognized as an important and influential leader in the Quantified Self movement. He was and a personal friend and collaborator. I will miss him dearly.”  –Aaron Blaisdell


The Measured Life:

“Seth absolutely seemed to me like someone interested in getting to know everyone on equal terms. At least the few email correspondences I had with him lead me to think so. He was also someone with unconventional ideas about how to hack life. I have experimented with many of his ideas myself, and will continue to live my life in the same vein that I imagine Seth did.”  –Jakob Scheel Theisen



“At each stop, Seth hung back from the main action and observed what was going on. He was nearly invisible. But then afterward, in the car, he’d talk about what he saw — the different responses, interactions, and oddities of each meeting or presentation. He was like a human microscope, taking note of minute inflections or phrases and then interpreting them with shattering aplomb. He was also very comfortable being the observer. As good as Seth was at what he did, I don’t believe I ever saw him shoulder his way to the front of a conversation; I never heard him brag, or speak in a tone that even resembled braggadocio… Of all the things that impressed me about Seth — his curiosity, his gentleness, his appetite for new experience — it was his desire to help others that I found most unusual.”  –Stephen J. Dubner


Perfect Health Diet:

“Seth was a special person – one of a kind. Few scholars can match his creativity. Anyone who loves ideas quickly became his fan.”  –Paul Jaminet

Did I miss any? Let me know by emailing me at