If I told you about the Huberman Lab podcast, it probably wouldn’t seem like something that would take the world by storm.

A professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford School of Medicine interviews other professors of other things at other universities in order to discuss biohacking and the mechanics of the human body in deeply scientific terms on episodes that sometimes run north of three hours, interrupted by the occasional host-read for microbiome supplements.

But Huberman Lab has in fact taken the world by storm. If inciting people to listen to a man talk about axons and dendrites and human “feeding windows” on their AirPods while folding laundry can be described as taking anything by storm. Chartable lists it in the top 10 most downloaded podcasts in the United States, week in and week out.

If you have been wondering why some otherwise normal person you meet at a cocktail party starts talking to you about her mitochondrial health, the answer is probably Huberman. If your barber uses the phrase “low-sugar fermented foods,” it’s fair to chalk it up to the Huberman effect.

The natural question, then, is why? Why would people care so much about what could be described as Mr. Wizard’s World for adults? Don’t people want true-crime podcasts, or to listen to Jason Bateman be friends with Will Arnett, or short, actionable 15-minute shows that are the podcast equivalent of a HIIT workout?

Listen to three or four episodes—the one about how to control dopamine to stay motivated and focused, or the episode where for two hours the man systematically destroys any defense you have for ever drinking even a sip of alcohol—and it suddenly doesn’t seem so hard to understand.

It begins with the fact that Huberman Lab is the opposite of depressing. Part of it’s just the persona of Huberman himself. He’s so optimistic and irrepressible and healthy. He has so much specific anatomical knowledge at his fingertips and loves it all so much. He’s this big, hulking, power-lifting, former-skateboarder Stanford research scientist in his late 40s who still talks with this irrepressible, dorky teenageryness that’s contagious. I love the hopefulness of hearing him nounify things such as “sleep-wake timing” or “health span.” Listening to him, it’s hard to imagine Andrew Huberman lying on a couch, or eating Doritos, or zoning out in a meeting, or ever getting even slightly tired.

Why would people care so much about what could be described as Mr. Wizard’s World for adults?

But it’s also not depressing because depression is the pervasion of hopelessness. The knowledge that everything’s terrible and there’s nothing you can do, and the more you think about how there’s nothing you can do the more terrible it is and the more hopeless you feel.

But to listen to Huberman Lab is to know there is something you can do. There is so much you can do. You can wake up between 6:30 and 8:00 a.m. You can get 10 to 12 minutes of direct sunlight into your suprachiasmatic nucleus to help you wake up, and raise your core body temperature by way of exercise or, perhaps, an ice bath. (Huberman himself does a kind of combination of all these things: “I skip rope while looking at sunlight for 10 minutes and then take a cold shower.”) You can delay your caffeine intake 90 to 120 minutes after waking to avoid the so-called afternoon crash. You can do powerlifting to stimulate the cells that then stimulate bone growth and strengthening. And you can hopefully start powerlifting before you’re 20 years old so you don’t get osteoporosis when you’re 70.

You can take post-prandial walks after your last meal of the day to clear blood glucose and lessen inflammation and get your body to a fasting state more quickly; you can get lipid tests and dexa scans; you can restrict feeding times to an eight-hour period each day; you can smell things in your refrigerator or medicine cabinet to regenerate smell receptors; you can take magnesium threonate, apigenin, and theanine. You can learn non-sleep deep-rest scripts for non-sleep hours and sleep scripts for sleeping. And all that is from just three episodes.

Bringing cold showers, AG1 supplements, and intermittent fasting to the masses.

It’s not a new idea, the biohack-self-help-industrial complex. But Huberman represents a kind of evolution, or at least a mutation. Huberman is in thrall to post-docs, scientific journals, peer review. It’s Goop, except for nerds who insist all their information be verifiably true. If the last phase of biohacking was a blend of spirituality and intuition with a sprinkle of science, a message that our feelings are real and there is magic in the world, the Huberman age of biohacking is one based completely on data and the power of Stanford School of Medicine (which he disclaims at the beginning of every episode as “completely separate” from his podcast, but it is not because he also mentions his affiliation at the top of every show).

There are no Clorox baths or goat-milk parasites or vaginal eggs. There is no sense of giving in to the mysteries of the universe. Instead there is data. So. Much. Data. Everything measured, everything explained, everything knowable, conquerable. It’s part of the continuum of Silicon Valley data triumphalism, which, say what you will about it, dominates a lot of our lives.

Part of the appeal is purely learning stuff. It’s a cliché that the human body is insanely fascinating. But the sheer complexity of it is astonishing—and if you learn anything from this podcast (and probably medical school, too, but I wouldn’t know) it is that the human body may be incredible but it’s not at all simple: the way information moves; the specialized nerve bundles; the way we respond to stimuli in varied, surprising, and yet also completely logical ways; the way we evolved to look at a sunset and have it trigger the receptors in our eyes to tell us that light from the end-of-day spectrum has arrived, so it’s time to start the process of putting our brains to sleep; the way a chemical called adenosine accumulates on receptors over the course of a day to make us sleepy, which is why caffeine, an “adenosine antagonist,” works.

There is no sense of giving in to the mysteries of the universe. Instead there is data.

I’d say the sheer volume of the specific things our bodies do is almost beyond comprehension, except that the people on this show appear to comprehend all of it. One recent episode I listened to was about olfaction. Smelling. On it, Huberman interviewed Dr. Noam Sobel, one of the leading smell people in the world, who not only has an encyclopedic knowledge of the anatomy and mechanics of smelling but is also very good at explaining it.

Because, remember, pretty much all of the people Huberman has on his show are lecturers, authors, professors, or professor-author-lecturers, and they’re all exceedingly good at explaining things. Like that all your smell nerves get threaded to your brain through this porous part of the front of your skull; and that if you get hit in the head on the opposite side from where that nerve cable gets threaded through your skull, it’s actually more likely for you to lose your sense of smell than a blow to the same side, because your brain, which sits in a protective aquarium of brain juice, can smash into that cable; and that smell is the only sense that can regenerate (unless those nerves are severed); and that if you don’t regain your smell within a year-and-a-half, you likely never will.

A Huberman episode is so dense and information-rich it’s virtually impossible to transcribe in real time—a robust, throbbing tumescence of knowledge and specialized language, a neutron ray of words and ideas from medical academia. And to sit in that jet wash of Huberman Lab information while taking your morning constitutional is … actually pleasantly calming.

Which seems counter-intuitive, except it’s completely not. Because unlike, say, spending time on the Internet, the information stream here does not communicate danger and fear and does not leave you with an enduring, subconscious sense of impending doom that you carry around with you for the rest of the day. The button it’s pressing is not the one so often pressed by people who cover “health”: that there are killers out there, so many of them, and they’re invisible, and you should be terrified.

And it’s not the anxiety machine of the piecemeal drip of studies and facts doled out in The New York Times or on Twitter, either—caffeine is actually bad for you; you should not get a mammogram; you should get a mammogram; caffeine is good for you; walking is the only important exercise; no, weight lifting is the thing that will save you.

Instead, implicit in the recitation of all that information is the idea that the world can be controlled. What underpins every episode—the message you’d be able to get even if his words were unintelligible and all you could hear was the confident bass vibrato of Huberman’s voice—is that the world can be known, explained, and optimized. And not just the world, which is vast and foreign (if the forest can be controlled … great, what’s that got to do with me?), but our very own bodies can be understood and controlled.

It’s not surprising to me that he said in his podcast that he stopped doing yoga a long time ago. Because part of the goal of yoga is to let go, to feel yourself afloat in the unfathomably immense, powerful sea of the universe and to start to believe that the universe can take care of you without your even trying, to understand that you’re not in control and that’s O.K. To be a Huberman-ist is to never let go of anything. To harness the power of all the professors of ophthalmology in the entire world in order to optimize the performance and longevity and vitality of every cell of every part of our bodies.

Which is a problem. Once you start listening, you can’t stop listening to Huberman Lab. You can’t stop pausing and taking notes; you can’t stop sending your wife e-mails about how you can’t use overhead lights at night before you go to sleep, or that you need to start eating protein before 10 a.m. And the more you listen, the longer your to-do list gets. There are just so many things to do to increase vitality and focus and concentration and happiness and muscle mass and sleep efficiency and metabolic superiority. To try to do it all would literally take every waking moment for the rest of your very long and vital life.

To be a Huberman-ist is to never let go of anything.

It’s the other part of that Silicon Valley ethos, which makes me a little insane. The cult of productivity. The idea that every moment is meant to be optimized to produce whatever widget is important to you: money, success, freedom, longevity, vitality, enlightenment, production production production. Is a life where you spend all your time trying to make your life better really a life?

I mean, I’m old enough to know that a lot of the advice and tools discussed on Huberman Lab are absolutely necessary if you don’t want to spend your last 20 years (if you’re lucky) frail and miserable and unable to touch your toes. But I’m not sure if it’s my personal life’s mission. Who wants to think about themselves that much? Who wants their focus to be inward for that much of the time? No offense to my mitochondria, but the most interesting things in the world are not happening inside my body.

The limiting factor to all this, which I bet Huberman would agree with (in principle, because in practice he’s too much of a maniac to agree), is that there are decreasing returns to scale. No matter how many years of life and vitality you add by doing cold plunges and not eating after eight p.m., the math is still brutal.

You’re still going to die. And no matter how many 10 percents you think you’re adding to your life span by doing dead lifts in your 50s or never drinking martinis, there’s only so far you can go. And that farness is probably about 90 years if you’re lucky. Huberman’s right that part of the question is how you want your body to feel for those 90 years.

But the other part of the question is what you want to spend all that time doing. And if your answer is sitting in an ice bath staring at the sun for 10 minutes beginning at 7:42 a.m., then we are different people.

Devin Friedman is still going to eat low-sugar fermented foods, because why not hedge your bets?