In quantum mechanics, there is a pervasive theory known as the “observer effect,” which states that the act of observing a phenomenon (usually by making some kind of measurement) necessarily changes that phenomenon. In other words, just by being there and having an interest in the outcome, we affect that outcome.

While the explanations behind the observer’s influence in quantum mechanics come down to the measuring instrument and not the observer’s conscious mind, we also see strong evidence for the placebo effect in medicine: a patient’s condition can improve if they just believe they are receiving an effective treatment. And those beneficial effects can happen even if the patient is not actually receiving that treatment or if the treatment doesn’t actually work.

So is there such a thing as too much information? We now live in an age where mountains of detailed statistics on our own genetics are readily available thanks to DNA testing companies like 23andme and Ancestry DNA. At the same time, we continue to make significant progress toward mapping the human genome and understanding which genes are linked to our specific physical traits.

If our minds truly do have power over our surroundings and our bodies, what does having all of this genetic information do to us? Does simply knowing more about our own physiology change it? A recent study on exercise and obesity suggests that the answer is yes.

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