CosmicSkeptic Vegan No More: What Can We Learn?

In this thought-provoking video, I explore the recent decision of popular YouTuber @CosmicSkeptic to abandon his vegan lifestyle. With a critical eye, I analyze his apology letter, delve into the potential reasons behind his decision, and examine the complex factors that contribute to our choices. Through this exploration, the video offers an insightful and engaging look at the cognitive biases and influences that shape our beliefs and behaviors, and the lessons we can learn from them.

Video Transcript

CosmicSkeptic, vegan no more. What can we learn from this? Anyone who followed him is likely to be disappointed, but I think this is a great opportunity to debunk the debunker, so to speak, and prove that even intelligent, typically rational individuals are not immune to the well-known cognitive pitfalls that afflict all humans.

First, let’s take a look at his apology letter. It’s strikingly vague, a classic sign of bs. Specific, actionable claims can be debunked or contested. Nonsense, on the other hand, thrives when everything is kept sufficiently ambiguous.

Numerous pseudoscientific regimens make non-specific assertions of detoxing or cleansing, without ever specifying precisely what it is that they are attempting to purify. Many supplements market themselves as sources of “turbo chad alpha masculine energy”, with advertising campaigns that border on the old viral PowerThirst video, yet never clearly define what that entails. There is Feng Shui, which has numerous rules, but following them simply results in vague good fortune that cannot be scientifically tested. The examples are abundant.

Similarly here, Alex alludes to suspiciously non-specific health issues that aren’t elaborated on or explained in any way. I have no good explanation as to why he wouldn’t be specific and detailed with his troubles here, except for: I suspect it’s because he knows those claims would not stand up to public scrutiny. By keeping things vague, he precludes any potential counterarguments.

Now, you might say: that’s a malicious interpretation of Alex’s motives. You’re treating him as a bad faith actor and that’s unfair. Ordinarily, I’d agree with you. I wish I could offer a more charitable interpretation of these events, as I attempt to apply the principle of charity whenever feasible. Nonetheless, I am struggling to come up with any interpretation of why Alex would keep things so nebulous. 

Especially since, quite recently, he said he felt perfectly normal on a vegan diet, so was he lying then or is he lying now or did he, by chance, develop novel unbearable health troubles in an incredibly narrow, highly coincidental window of time? Either way you slice it, the probability of there being some bs in play seems exceptionally high.

Perhaps it is simply a matter of privacy, and he does not wish to disclose his medical history. However, if this is the case, he must be aware that his silence will lead to precisely the kind of conclusions that I have drawn here.

Second, let’s talk about motivated reasoning and rationalizing our choices. 

What would a health-concerned vegan do, if they found they have some mysterious health issue that can only be resolved with animal products? Eating bivalves is the obvious answer. Bivalves have plenty of omega 3s, they’re rich in minerals, they’ve got animal protein, an insane amount of b12, iron. Basically all those things people claim they eat fish for? You can get those things from bivalves.

If you’re leaving veganism for health reasons and seeking a magical nutrient that can only be found in sealife, then they are the most defensible animal product to consume. They most likely don’t have any subjective experience whatsoever and most vegans, I expect, avoid them not because they believe that mussels have subjective experience, but rather, because they find them gross or out of an abundance of caution. That is, there’s a small chance they have subjective experience and better safe than sorry.

Except… What if your reason for quitting veganism isn’t actually health? bivalves are not nearly as convenient as other animal products, and they are not as appetizing as alternative sources of animal protein. They look like massive blobs of snot, and the sensory experience of consuming them is not much better. Now, if bivalves are deficient in whatever magical meat nutrient, insects are the next most apparent choice, but they have an “ick” factor and are not as convenient as fish. You can’t typically find cricket burgers at your local restaurant.

But Alex, I suspect, didn’t have health concerns at first. I suspect he started with some other, true motive that made him quit and health concerns were a rationalization that came after.

If health were genuinely the reason for his actions, he would be informing us of his decision to consume bivalves or perhaps weighing the ethical considerations of consuming insects. Instead, we’re merely informed that he will be eating “primarily, but not exclusively seafood”.

But hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe bivalves are exactly what Alex is consuming and he just forgot to mention this extremely important fact for some mysterious reason, who knows?

It seems to me like the real reason here is taste and convenience. Those excuses might be somewhat understandable, if he were navigating ARFID and seven different allergies and other health conditions, but as far as I know, this isn’t the case. He’s not some special unique snowflake. He’s a regular bloke with an abundance of choices available to him. 

Anyway, why is Alex citing health concerns when it’s highly unlikely to be the true reason for his actions?

Lesson three: placebo and nocebo effects. Is Alex actually lying here? I suspect not exactly. Being an online skeptic doesn’t make you immune to placebo and nocebo effects. There’s this fascinating study showing just how powerful and prevalent they are:

Here’s the study design. Take people who experience side effects from a class of medication known as statins. Randomize them in such a way that they all act as their own controls. Over the next year, there will be four months where they take no pills, four months where they take a placebo sugar pill and four months when they take statins, in randomized order.

Here’s what we expect: real side effects should happen in those months when you take the real drug. Obviously, right? That didn’t happen. The end result of the study was that 90% of the side effect burden was attributable to nocebo. Think about that – almost every side effect was effectively an imaginary self-inflicted problem.

Here’s the greatest twist: participants in the study were selected not merely from those who had side effects, but they were people who said that their side effects were so bad that they had to discontinue treatment.

I suspect that Alex realized his heart was no longer in veganism, and his mind began searching for a plausible excuse to quit. The thing is, it’s effortless to find such excuses if you’re looking for them. Suddenly, every sniffle, bad night’s sleep, mild indigestion, or day when you feel tired is attributed to veganism, similar to how the participants in the study attributed all their side effects to statins.

As soon as you start paying attention to these things, you can nocebo yourself right into feeling awful – remember, the patients in the statin study had nocebo side effects so bad they didn’t want to take medication intended to save them from heart attacks.

Now, I don’t know anything about Alex’s lifestyle or health habits, but I’ll be frank: if vegan nutrition is a challenging topic for him, I don’t think he’s very well educated on the topic of what makes for a healthy lifestyle.

Lesson four, for some reason, there’s this common delusion in vegan circles that anyone who goes back to being an omnivore was never vegan in the first place. I’m willing to bet I’m going to see a thousand comments like that about CosmicSkeptic in the coming weeks or months. 

That is frankly some prime grade vegan copium.

I know that it’s comfortable to think “I’m awake now, I’m an enlightened cosmic superbeing, I’m never backsliding, because I know better”. That’s a nice, comforting thought, isn’t it? That there’s this shiny part at the core of your ethics that you can’t possibly get worse at.

However, people aren’t rationality machines or morality optimization machines. We’re people, we’re fallible, we suck. Thinking that you can’t regress as a person is about as naive as thinking that free democratic countries can’t backslide into authoritarianism.

Moreover, I’d even argue it’s *dangerous* to think that. The kinds of people who think they’re invulnerable to temptation, hardship or irrationality are exactly the type of people who won’t pay attention to the chinks in their armor until it’s too late.

Lesson five, so why did Alex go back to eating animal products? I think the real answer is some mix of taste, convenience and FOMO. Fear of missing out. 

Some of the played up fears are false – it is simply untrue that we miss out on any key nutrients. However, it’s an effective tactic, because some things we do miss out on. Operating outside of accepted social norms means that you miss out on certain frictionless, stress-free social bonding events. 

What I would suggest, however, is that missing out on compassion and kindness is a far greater sacrifice than missing out on socially frictionless barbecues.

Lesson six: no heroes. Alex is vegan no more and it’s yet another lesson that people are fallible. [V for Vendetta: ideas are bulletproof]. Alex’s videos and arguments are still valid, even if he himself is no longer convinced. People come and go, but ideas are enduring. You can’t be disappointed by the right idea.

And hey, last but not least, Alex, if you happen to watch this video, you can feel free to reach out. I’m not a registered dietitian or any such thing, but given that I’ve been vegan for just as long as you, while supporting a far more demanding lifestyle of someone very into endurance sports and athletics in general, I’d say I have a considerably better grasp of nutrition than you do. I’d be happy to help or even just to talk. You can’t undo the mistakes you’ve made so far, but you can stop from making even more.


The Unimaginable Scale of the First James Webb Image

The first image of the James Webb space telescope has arrived and it shows an incredible vastness of space. The universe is bigger than you think.

Video Transcript

The Universe is big.

You might’ve seen the first image shown by the James Webb telescope. This image represents a tiny part of the sky – so small that, if you held up a grain of sand in your outstretched hand, it would occupy roughly the same part of the sky as that image.

But to truly illustrate how huge the universe is, consider how far we’ll go, what kind of cosmic distance you will cover in your entire life. As you might know, speed is relative, so we have to set our cosmic speed relative to something

The Sun? No, we can go bigger. Maybe the center of the Milky Way? No, we can go bigger still. Perhaps the most useful answer is setting our speed relative to the cosmic microwave background radiation.

Let’s do some napkin math – 390 kilometers per second over a human lifespan. The Milky Way, our galaxy, is roughly a hundred thousand light years across. Assuming these galaxies are roughly the same size as our own, it would take you a million human lifetimes to travel across one of these tiny dots, thousands of which are contained in a patch of the sky small enough to fit inside a grain of sand.

That’s the mind-boggling scale of that James Webb picture and our universe in general.

Why Backseating Sucks

As Elden Ring tops popularity charts and attracts an ever-growing horde of backseaters(common for souls games), we should talk about why even well-intentioned backseating sucks for streams and let’s plays.

Clips used from: Mori Calliope, Connor CDawgVA, fireb0rn, under the doctrine of Fair Use(commentary).

WHAT A JOKE Facebook’s Empty Threat To Leave EU

Meta filed a report where it claims it may have to withdraw its core services – Facebook and Instagram – from Europe. WHAT A JOKE! No one at Facebook actually believes any of this! Facebook needs Europe far more than Europe needs Facebook and, in this video, I explain why.

Video Transcript

“Are you threatening us with a good time?” – that should be the response of every European and especially every European politician to Facebook’s amusing threats to leave.

Because, yet again, Meta has been making noises about how they might have to pull out of the EU and not offer their core services like Facebook and Instagram. What a joke. Meta is not going to do it, but I slightly worry that some European representatives may not be technologically savvy enough to realize that this is an empty threat.

The core reason why this threat is completely empty is simple: Facebook and Instagram are easily replaceable. If Facebook left Europe, we’d see a brief period of confusion, followed by a brief game of thrones to see which social network would get to be the new top dog in Europe. A month later, everyone would be on “Eurobook” and that would be that.

But it gets worse for Facebook. A couple days ago, a report showing that Facebook is not growing anymore triggered a colossal loss in market cap of around 25%. What would the response of the stock market be, if Facebook decided to leave a market of half a billion people, located in some of the wealthiest economies of the world?

But it gets even worse than that for Meta! There’s a fair chance the emerging Eurobook would be, itself, European. In that case, Eurobook would likely cash in on investor and advertising money. All that moolah now goes into local economies of Europe, instead of FB, improving our own Big Tech capacity and providing us with a bunch of high paying jobs. 

Why should the EU be afraid of that, exactly?

But wait, there’s more! This is, after all, not a two-way street. There’s no rule that says that Eurobook can’t provide services to the Americas and the rest of the world. By abandoning the European market, Facebook would be creating a huge, direct competitor for themselves – one that might very well grow to become an existential threat to the company.

You think I’m finished here? No, it gets worse. Facebook’s main global problem is that it’s not cool anymore. It has trouble attracting young users, who rightfully see the platform as the space of boomers and old people. By contrast, a new Eurobook, created in the fires of rebellion against boring old Facebook might just have that fresh, rebellious coat of paint that would attract teenagers and young adults onto the platform. 

Last, but not least, Eurobook would likely have a fairly major competitive advantage. Meta’s reputation is so bad at this point that they need to pay their engineers a big chunk of extra cash to get them to work for the company. Eurobook would be unlikely to have such a reputation, meaning that they would have a far easier time attracting and retaining talent.

In short: Facebook leaving Europe would likely result in the immediate creation of a replacement, which might very well grow to be an existential threat to Facebook on a global scale.

By all means, Meta. Leave. But you won’t, will you? Like and subscribe if you realize now that everyone in Meta’s leadership knows that this threat is bs through and through and this is just a little game they’re playing, hoping to extract some concessions.

Some afterthoughts

Hey, I’m not truly ruling anything out.

It could be that Zuckerberg is THAT arrogant, maybe he believes he’s invincible and he doesn’t realize that he’s in a precarious position, where the only thing his social network has going for it is that everyone else is already on it – but that advantage vanishes as soon as Facebook decides to pull out of a market.

Maybe I’m overestimating Zuck; CEOs have certainly shot themselves in the foot before – and if it happened before, it can happen again.


Anthony Quintano from Westminster, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons Newspaper

Newspaper headlines and other materials used under the doctrine of FAIR USE, for purposes of news & commentary, including sources: Insider, Wall Street Journal, NY Times, Associated Press, Verge, Fossbytes

Andrea Piacquadio
Magda Ehlers
Tima Miroshnichenko

Weight Loss Programs Are NOT Designed To Fail #shorts

Some say that weight loss programs are designed to make you fail over and over again and to keep coming back for more.

This is untrue – there are viable business models that support client success and saying otherwise is just edgy cynicism masquerading as wisdom. Just because something sounds edgy, cynical and makes you feel like you’re “in the know” on some big secret does not mean it’s true.

Video Transcript

There’s this idea floating around, that weight loss programs are deceptive – that their business model is based on you failing over and over again and coming back for more. This is edgy cynicism masquerading as world-weary wisdom. 

Of course, it’s not all good – exploiting beginner ignorance is common, a business model where you spend a couple hundred bucks before you wise up to the fact that it’s a scam.

But fitness programs can have powerful incentives to see you succeed as well.

Consider what happens if you do. If edgemint brand cookies1 make you succeed, how many friends do you tell about me? Lots. You become the best kind of marketing – the evangelical zealot who sounds sincere and convincing, especially if your friends see your change with their own eyeballs. If your glowing praise gets one person into the system, I’m maintaining a stable customer base; if it gets two, I’m growing.

This is a good business model.

Hit like and subscribe if you understand that just because something sounds cynical doesn’t mean it’s true.

1 I don’t actually make weight loss cookies, sorry.


Anastasia Shuraeva
Anna Tukhfatullina Food Photographer/Stylist
Ivan Samkov
Karolina Grabowska
Katerina Holmes
Mikhail Nilov
Nataliya Vaitkevich
RODNAE Productions
Tima Miroshnichenko

Why Men Still Lose Their Hair

You might think it’s the lack of treatment options, but that is not the answer. We have compounds that work to prevent hair loss in almost all men.  If that’s true – and it is – how do so many men still lose their hair nowadays?

Video Transcript

You might think it’s the lack of treatment options, but that is not the answer.

Which is why, if there’s anything you take from this, it’s simple: if you’re losing hair, go to a doctor. An actual medical doctor. The specialty you want is a dermatologist. They will prescribe you finasteride and minoxidil, which are the two compounds that actually work. That’s how you solve balding.

These compounds will work to prevent hair loss in almost all men – that is, in everyone except for the most aggressive cases or the tiny minority who experience side effects. If that’s true – and it is – how do so many men still lose their hair nowadays?

Let’s talk about that.

Stage Zero: Ignorance

Before anything else happens, you’re losing hair and you don’t know it. That’s the tragedy, almost all men could keep a head of hair for a lifetime if they started treatment when they still had ninety thousand functioning hair follicles, but most won’t notice it at that stage.

By the time most men realize that anything is happening at all, they probably lost thirty or fifty thousand hair follicles. Then we go to…

Stage One: Denial.

You look at your hair and your hairline seems too high; or you see way too much scalp… but nothing is happening, right? You can’t possibly be losing hair. You probably have a dad or an uncle who is losing hair, but that can’t happen to you… Unfortunately, that denial is costing you time – when you stop, you’ve already lost an extra five thousand hairs and we enter:

Stage Two: Friends & Family

Your family and friends deny anything is happening too. You look good, you look fine, don’t worry about it. This is not the experience of all men – for example, I had a shining beacon of truth in the form of my mom, who was honest with me – but it’s the experience of a lot of guys. Five thousand hairs down the drain. So, who will tell you?

Stage Three: Hairdresser

Most men’s exposure to cosmetic services basically amounts to their hairdressers – and if you’re lucky, your hairdresser will tell you that you’re losing hair.

Unfortunately, most of them are not well-informed. When I asked mine what I can do about this, she recommended biotin supplements, which are a total waste of time. In addition to that, they have some perverse incentives – telling you that you’re losing hair may make you feel bad and seek out a different hairdresser and cosmetic salons will often charge a lot of money for bs treatments.

They have a perverse profit incentive to keep their mouth shut and recommend bs treatments, instead of telling you to go to a doctor. Now you know it’s happening and you want to fix this; your relatives and friends and your hairdresser likely proved useless, so you go online for answers, where we enter:

Stage Four: Just Shave It, Brah

You encounter the just shave it bruh club, who tell you that just shaving it bruh is awesome and amazing and great, just go slick bald. Perhaps you are now considerably reassured – you think to yourself “yeah, screw this nonsense, I’m not going to be worried about this, I’m just gonna shave it bruh”.

The rather telling part is that people who go through this part of the process typically don’t shave their head immediately. They procrastinate on that task, they leave it for a far, distant future, where it’s of course going to be so much more convenient; they only do it right now if their hair has deteriorated to the point that it’s a disaster.

Unfortunately, the just shave it bruh club stage might very well cost you another five thousand hairs and, at this point, maybe your resolution to just shave it bruh is getting a little bit too real and too close to the present, instead of staying comfortably in the distant future, so you seek help online again.

Stage Five: Voodoo Magic Hair Loss Industry

Unfortunately, you are likely to encounter the voodoo magic hair loss industry.

Here’s the problem: the drugs that actually work for hair loss, the ones a doctor will prescribe to you, are not patented anymore. They’re generic, cheap drugs, with slim profit margins. That means that pharmaceutical companies are not incentivized to advertise them anymore. Not that they even can – outside of the United States and New Zealand, direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs is illegal.

You know, by contrast, who does plenty of advertising? The voodoo magic hair loss industry. After all, if I manage to sell you a $100 bottle of overpriced anti-hair loss shampoo or a $300 hairband or a $500 low laser light helmet which will, at best, give you a tiny fraction of the results of real medicines… Those are serious profits right there! These people will tell you – look, our product is legit, we even offer refunds! Except these products would be extremely profitable even if 80% of men refunded them, so there’s a lot of cash to be made on selling quack supplements and treatments.

Lost in the maze of voodoo treatments, you may lose your will to fight altogether or think that the whole thing is a total scam. By the time you figure out what works or grow desperate enough to search for more, you’ve lost another five thousand hairs.

Stage Six: Fearmongering

You know what works, but unfortunately, online, you will find fear mongering hypochondriac panic finasteride cult. If you believe those men, and you shouldn’t, because their ideas have only slightly more scientific backing than the idea that electromagnetic hypersensitivity exists, it’s quite likely you will have a very bad experience with the drug due to the nocebo effect; which may, in turn, delay your treatment by another five thousand hair follicles… or maybe forever.

Now, to be clear, I’m not saying finasteride can’t possibly have any side effects for anyone – but in quality research, you will find that those side effects are very rare.

But… Suppose, you conquered all of these stages. You sought treatment, ignored the just shave it bruh club, you figured out the true face of the voodoo magic hair loss industry, you found information on effective treatments, despite the fact that it’s minimally advertised now and you realized that people fear mongering about them are wrong.

Stage Seven: Too Late?

Here’s the worst problem: by the time you realized all of this, how much ground did you lose? How many years of perfectly good hair did you waste? Obviously, this depends on how aggressive your hair loss is and how long it takes you to get over your denial, but it’s perfectly possible that by the time you know how to treat it, it’s already too late, because you’ve barely got anything left to save.

Stage Seven and 1/2: Sour Grapes

That alone is bad enough, but it gets worse: many men who reach this stage will engage in motivated reasoning and convince themselves that this is what they wanted all along, to preserve their self-image and not admit that they’ve made a mistake or to avoid admitting that they’ve been conned by idiots. They will become willing vectors for spreading finasteride misinformation online, because that lets them believe that they’ve made the right choice. They will spread the gospel of “just shave it bruh”, instead of the actually helpful “just treat it bruh”.

This is why it’s so important for misinformation on this topic to be destroyed. Ideally, there should be just one stage – when you realize you’re losing your hair or even if you’re at risk of it, you go to a doctor and get treatment.

Unfortunately, if you reach the twenty thousand hairs stage, then, at this point, the just shave it bruh club is your only option.

Except… No, it isn’t. Hair systems are still an option for you. I’m going to plug Jake Kent. I wouldn’t listen to him about the topic of pharmaceuticals, but I can’t deny that his knowledge and insights about hair systems are top-notch.

If you’ve still got hair left to save and you want to keep it that way, then for pharmaceutical hair loss knowledge, you should seek out Haircafe, who is the best channel on youtube talking about this topic.

Credits & Attributions

Anna Nekrashevich
Artem Podrez
Ivan Khmelyuk
Julius M
Karolina Grabowska
Kelly L
Ketut Subiyanto
Kindel Media
Luciann Photography
Luis Quintero
Magda Ehlers
Malte Luk
Ono Kosuki
samer daboul
Tara Winstead
Tima Miroshnichenko
Tom Fisk
Victor Casarin

Hospital stock footage

You Already Failed Your New Year’s Fitness Resolution #shorts

Video Transcript

You already failed your New Year’s fitness resolution, didn’t you? That’s already true for most of you or soon will be.

Odds are you made the same mistake that every fitness newbie makes – you tried to start running or lifting weights. The problem is that a lot of you don’t LIKE running or lifting weights. You like the idea of what exercise might do for you – you could be thinking of weight loss or that chiseled body you’ve always dreamed of – but if you hate the process, you’re not going to get there.

Here’s the special, secret sauce to success: find a form of exercise that you like.

Ice skating. Hockey. Tennis. Basketball. Football. Dance. Cycling. Swimming. Hiking. Calisthenics. Boxing. Martial arts. Wrestling. Climbing. Baseball. Archery. Skateboarding. Snowboarding. Frisbee. Fencing. The list goes on and on. 

Here’s the best part: if exercise is fun, then each workout is teaching your brain that exercise is fun and rewarding. A year from now, after two hundred such lessons, if you still care to do that marathon, you might find that now it’s actually fun, because you put in time and effort to rewire your brain to make that true.

Make 2022 a year of fun instead of a year of drudgery and you might just succeed.

Credits & Attributions

Anastasia Shuraeva
Andrea Piacquadio
Anthony Shkraba
Artem Podrez
Ivan Samkov
Phil Evenden
RODNAE Productions
SHVETS production
Tima Miroshnichenko
Yaroslav Shuraev

Image by b0red from Pixabay