View Full Version : Lights out for Light's Out?

Paul "The Viking"
11-12-2003, 12:40 PM
Hey All,

I remember reading about the book Light's Out on Dan John's website a year or two ago. After recently discovering this website, I noticed that it pops up here, as well. So I decided to check it out. Here are my thoughts:

50 pages into the book, I am totally offended and put off by the book. They claim that, somehow, all this information is being kept secret, likely by the government. Fine. I can live with that. What I can't live with is all the pseudo-science new age stuff that followed that section. On page 46, they start with supersymmetry, head toward Newtonian mechanics versus quantum mechanics, then string theory, then chaos theory -- all on the same page! All of this is to claim there exists some 'music of the universe' that our bodies are attuned to. They even claim that quantum mechanics may hold the explanation for Qi and telepathy.

It is clear from what they say that they have absolutely NO knowledge of the topics in physics that they bring up. On page 47 for example, they imply that magnetism is part of gravity, not "light" (technically, light is an electromagnetic phenomena, not the other way around.) It is clear from what they say that they have read far too many "pop physics" books that are written by non-physicists - simple enough to confirm by looking at their bibliography.

OK, so neither authors claim to be experts on physics. But that doesn't excuse them for including this in the book. From my point of view, I am so turned off by this that I can no longer trust anything else they say in the book.

They don't make it easy to check things myself, either. There are copious references to journal articles in the "endnotes" section. However, they are not numbered and not referenced in the text next to the statements that they purportedly support. I can maybe forgive them for that. They're writing a popular book, not a technical one, and might not wish to have their book cluttered by reference numbers.

I've looked up the authors in two rather large abstract listing services. They have, indeed, published scientific articles. Together, they published 2 papers on the effects of progesterone on breast cancer and a 3rd paper on a different topic. These 3 papers are the only that "TS Wiley" has published: she's essentially a reporter, from her biography in the book. Formby has published more papers, but has also had an injunction placed against him by the FDA for selling a product which qualified as a new drug, without seeking FDA approval for it:


All that being said, I have no doubt that sleep plays an important role in hormonal processes as well as other biological processes. However, unless someone here can convince me otherwise, I'll look for this information elsewhere and call it Light's Out for "Light's Out."


mark a. blakemore
11-12-2003, 12:51 PM

I can see not agreeing with it but to say you're totally offended. Read it, disagree with it, and then move on with your life.

Paul "The Viking"
11-12-2003, 01:45 PM

I admittedly am sensitive about these issues on more than one level, which explains why I was offended:

1) As a physicist and a teacher, I hate to see physics get so butchered.

2) I've specialized in both chaos and complex systems. Both have been severely butchered by the popular press in the past and this has damaged the scientific reputation of the real scientists working in those fields.

I guess I had a couple of reasons to post my disagreement here. First and foremost was to offer a dissenting view on the book. With all the postive reviews of the books here, I was also looking forward to people defending the book or offering suggestions of where else to get information on hormonal functions during sleep. I've found this website and the message boards to be full of useful information and thought that I would offer my area of expertise (physics) on this particular topic.

Like I said, the premise of the book, that sleep is vitally important for regulation of hormones and that these hormones are vitally important to health, is not what I disagree with. Its the manner in which the argument is stated that I disagree with. Likely, I'll start looking up references in journals myself.


Mike Minium
11-12-2003, 02:06 PM

For me, reading Lights Out was a case of not throwing out the baby with the bath water.

The last part of the book was what made me guffaw. Their numerous claims--in an X-Files-like fashion, no less--that the NIH and other governmental agencies are keeping this info from the public struck me as a paranoid. I was waiting for David Duchovny to make an appearance.

Being quite the layman when it comes to physics, I didn't catch all of the butchering (of physics-related data) that you've pointed out.

Even so, the premise that we're tied to circadian rhythms and that 8.5 hours of sleep a night is key (even more in winter months) is powerful enough for me to believe their central message is valid. I think their hearts are in the right place, even if their minds aren't always.


Sean Harrison
11-12-2003, 06:36 PM
Please tell me what their diet is about.

Lincoln Brigham
11-12-2003, 06:49 PM
When it comes to reading about exercise and diet, I believe nobody can possibly be 100% right on all issues and nobody can manage to be 100% wrong either. I find that this attitude makes the reading much more enlightening and informative.

Kevin Roddy
11-12-2003, 07:06 PM
Lincoln is right. I really respect the works of a lot of authors, but I don't think any one of them is straight on.

I hate to say it, but I think that the folks who really have dieting nailed down is.. that's right.. the Bodybuilders. I mean, the really hardcore ones who perfect everything. I have a lot of respect for them - though I think that there should be a bit of a training overhaul in their department :wink:

David Wood
11-12-2003, 08:01 PM

Use the CrossFit search function (on the main page) to search for prior discussion of "Lights Out" (there's been a lot).

In a nutshell, the authors try to make the case that (a) exposure to artificial light for an "un-natural" number of hours every day is affecting our hormonal systems, and (b) the best possible thing you can do for your long-term health is to sleep more (preferrably 9 or 10 hours per night, particularly in winter). To boil it down to a single phrase: "When it's dark, sleep!".

They also advise a very low carb kind of diet, with a logic to support it that basically takes follows the same lines of reasoning that support paleo dieting.

Like Paul, I found their "science" a bit hyperbolic at times, but ultimately pretty convincing. It's just damned hard to follow that advice in modern-day America . . . I'm writing this post, right now, by artifical light of an illuminated screen.


Barry Cooper
11-13-2003, 08:03 AM
I would like to ask a mostly relevant, but slightly off-topic question: has anyone tried those alarm clocks that use light to wake you up, like the sun coming up?

Roger Harrell
11-13-2003, 09:23 AM
I'd have to side with Paul on this one. There are far too many publications that quote things out of context, or flat out state falsehoods to support their arguments. Our population is being educated incorrectly and unfortunately most folks don't have the dedication, motivation or drive to research to verify these statements at all and take them for fact. In our commercial driven society folks are quick to publish if they think the idea will sell, whether it is based on reality is secondary (if even considered at all). Scrutinize everything!

I tend to react in the same way Paul does. If any part of a book is clearly wrong, it makes me question the whole thing, and wonder about the author(s).

Dan John
11-13-2003, 11:12 AM
For the record, I believe JFK was killed by a lone gunman (Oswald) who was a kook. I'm not a conspiracy theorist.

I just liked the section on sleeping more, eating low carb, and then enjoying the summer.

I don't think I ever mentioned that the book was the "be all" and "end all" of the field...which is why I summarized it for the guys at the "Old School Forum."

Here is what I posted:

If you took my posts to be evangelical about the book, I apologize. The increased sleep was the catalyst for me to really put my whole health and fitness regime into perspective.

Paul "The Viking"
11-13-2003, 03:21 PM
Just to let you all know, I didn't take anyone's recommendation to mean that the book was perfect. In fact, some of the old posts even discussed the strangeness of the paranoid parts of the book.

I guess my main point was that the glaring problems in the book where they talk about physics makes me question the rest of their scientific claims where I have little or no expertise with which to judge those sections on my own. Finding the FDA injunction was by accident when I google'd the authors to try to find more information out about them to try and figure out if they know what they're talking about with the medical side of things - I was not on a manhunt to destroy the authors or the book (or anyone who recommended it!)

Despite what I said in my earlier post, I've decided to finish reading the book. It seems I'm past the bad physics part of the book, so I can probably make it the rest of the way through. I'm curious what they have to say in the "meat" of the book.

When it comes to things as complicated as the human body, the state of our understanding is still pretty minimal. I think its not a bad idea to look at what works, then try to figure out why after the fact. Knowing why might help you in the future. Sleeping more and eating low carb seem to be things that "work" -- whether they do because of the reasons set forth in the book or not is another matter.....

In fact, written by different authors, a book which covers these topics could be incredible. The whole idea has found me downloading research articles on circadian rhythms from medical and physiology journals. If I find any useful information, I'll let the board know....


PS I just want to give a plug for how much I appreciate both this site and Dan's website. A couple of years ago, I got very tired of "bodybuilding" type workouts. As I was moving away from them on my own, I happened upon Dan's website, which confirmed my own feelings about lifting. More recently, I've started expanding my views on fitness quite a bit and changing my workouts in very crossfit type ways. I also came up with a definition of fitness eerily similiar to that in the crossfit journal. A few weeks later, I found this site. Its amazing how the web makes you realize you're not the only one thinking in certain ways!