By Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know via YouTube
We hear about this mysterious force all the time in fiction and film — but what is it actually supposed to be? Is there any evidence that it might be real?
By Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know via YouTube
We hear about this mysterious force all the time in fiction and film — but what is it actually supposed to be? Is there any evidence that it might be real?
Over the last two days, both Mark Crislip and Jann Bellamy wrote great pieces over at Science-Based Medicine about reiki. In particular, Jann Bellamy discussed reiki starting with an example that I’ve been citing in my talks about the infiltration of quackademic medicine into medical academia for at least four or five years now: The Cleveland Clinic Foundation and its website, which describes reiki thusly:
Reiki is a form of hands-on, natural healing that uses universal life force energy. The term comes from the Japanese words “rei,” which translates into universal, and “ki,” which means vital life force energy that flows through all living things. This gentle energy is limitless in abundance and is believed to be a spiritual form of energy. It is not tied to any specific religion or nationality.
The Reiki practitioner is the conduit between you and the source of the universal life force energy. The energy flows through the practitioner’s energy field and through his or her hands to you. The energy does not come from the practitioner; it comes through the practitioner from the universal source. There is no energy drain on the person giving the treatment. You may experience the energy as sensations such as heat, tingling, or pulsing where the practitioner places her hands on your body, or you may feel these sensations move through your body to other locations. This is the energy flowing into you. Some people may not perceive any change at all. Most people feel very relaxed and peaceful. Many clients even fall asleep while receiving Reiki treatment.
The way I like to handle this during a talk is to place an excerpt from the above two paragraphs onto a slide and just let the audience soak in the stupidity. Generally, they react with utter shock that a respected academic medical center would have something so unbelievably ridiculous on their website. I then continue my talk by explaining how reiki is faith healing that substitutes Eastern mysticism for Christian beliefs. Think about it. In reiki, reiki masters claim to be able to tap into “life force energy” from the “universal source,” as described above, and channel it into a patient for healing effect. Now, substitute the word “God” or “Jesus” for “universal source” in the description above. Yes, that’s faith healing. Stripped to its essence, there’s no difference between reiki and channeling the healing power of Jesus or God into a patient to try to heal him.
Next, I list some of the high profile medical schools and academic medical centers that offer reiki to patients, the most recent of which I discussed was the University of Arizona Cancer Center. It’s a depressing litany that includes luminaries such as M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Yale University (sorry, Steve Novella!), and Harvard, among many others.
Going back and reading about reiki again after having seen Jann’s discussion of whether advertising reiki as medicine could be viewed as fraud and whether there a class action lawsuit charging that could actually succeed, I came upon a hilarious article on reiki that helps to illustrate just how utterly nonsensical the ideas behind reiki are. Now, I’ve discussed how reiki isn’t really any “ancient” Japanese art of healing, having been invented out of whole cloth by a man named Mikao Usui back in the 1920s. I’m referring to an article on About.com’s Holistic Healing page by Phylameana lila Desy entitled Projecting Reiki Energies into Past and Future.
I’m feeling a little low today, so let’s tap into a source of energy from a neighboring dimension as a quick upper.
Faith in pseudoscience is rampant. Everywhere you turn, intelligent people fully accept the existence of anything from psychic phenomena, to angels, to new age healing techniques, to ancient health schemes based on mysterious energy fields not understood by science. Most of these paranormal phenomena rely on “energy,” and when the performers are asked to explain, they’ll gladly lecture about the body’s energy fields, the universe’s energy fields, Chi, Prana, Orgone, negative energy, positive energy, and just about anything else that needs a familiar sounding word to explain and justify it. Clearly, there are too many loose interpretations of the word energy, to the point where most people probably have no idea exactly what energy really is.
I believe that if more people had a clear understanding of energy — and it’s not complicated — there would be less susceptibility to pseudoscience, and more attention paid to actual technologies and methods that are truly constructive and useful.
A friend told me of her ability to perform minor healings, and her best explanation was that she drew energy from another dimension. She had recently rented What the Bleep Do We Know, so she was well prepared to explain that alternate dimensions and realities should be taken for granted, since science doesn’t really know anything, and thus those things cannot be disproven. That’s fine, I’ll concede that she can make contact with another dimension: after all, the latest M theories posit that there are probably ten or eleven of them floating around, and I’ll just hope that my friend’s is not one of those that are collapsed into impossibly small spaces. What I was really interested in was the nature of this vaguely defined energy that she could contact.
I asked what type of energy is it, and how is it stored? Is it heat? Is it a spinning flywheel? Is it an explosive compound? Is it food? These are examples of actual ways that energy can be stored.
In popular New Age culture, “energy” has somehow become a noun unto itself. “Energy” is considered to be literally like a glowing, hovering, shimmering cloud, from which adepts can draw power, and feel rejuvenated. Imagine a vaporous creature from the original Star Trek series, and you’ll have a good idea of what New Agers think energy is.
In fact, energy is not really a noun at all. Energy is a measurement of something’s ability to perform work. Given this context, when spiritualists talk about your body’s energy fields, they’re really saying nothing that’s even remotely meaningful. Yet this kind of talk has become so pervasive in our society that the vast majority of Americans accept that energy exists as a self-contained force, floating around in glowing clouds, and can be commanded by spiritualist adepts to do just about anything.
I am a Reiki practitioner, but I don’t believe in Reiki.
That may sound like a contradiction, but apparently it isn’t. One of the lessons Jenny, my Reiki master, taught my class when we first gathered in her small, purple classroom in La Crescenta, California, was this:
“Belief is irrelevant. You don’t have to believe a single word I say. If you have the Reiki energy and even the vaguest intention to heal, it will work.”
Now I had paid $350 to learn the “ancient” technique myself in a class called “Reiki 1-2.” But, contrary to popular myth, Reiki isn’t all that ancient. This hands-on healing method was developed by Mikao Usui just shy of one hundred years ago. The stories are not entirely clear, but the general idea is that he went up on a mountain top in Japan, fasted, and ended up receiving special healing energy from the Heavens, which he then passed down to his students. Reiki is hugely popular in the United States, where you can find a healer in nearly every city. During a Reiki treatment, you can expect your practitioner to wave his or her hands over you, often without even touching you, to heal your body, mind, and spirit. The National Institutes of Health warn that Reiki hasn’t been thoroughly studied and should never replace conventional health care. Our best bet, my instructor told us, was to always assume that whoever we were dealing with was skeptical of Reiki. And plenty of people are.
When I told Jenny I didn’t know whether I thought Reiki was real myself, she said, “Oh, perfect! People who believe in Reiki are so boring. Skeptics are so much fun! Skeptics are the easiest to work with, because they want to be fair. Just go through the motions, and let them tell you if it worked. Pretend you know what you’re doing.”
The six of us students looked at our hands, which would soon be divine instruments.
“This is a metaphysical software download,” Jenny said. “It works as long as you have the software.”
Jenny explained that everyone’s hands have some healing energy, but 10–20 percent of the population have enough to be healers already. People who get the special healing Reiki energy (passed down from Usui to every other master and student since Reiki’s birth) have the strongest, most divinely guided healing powers possible. And receiving the two “attunements” we would get in this class meant having “Super Hands” forever. It couldn’t be undone. Jenny had guided this process many times, training 2,000 students, ages five to one hundred, over twenty-three years.
For the most part, Jenny seemed like a warm, intelligent woman who defied my expectations of a Reiki teacher at every turn. She studied biology in college and was staunchly pro-GMO. Although she wore a fair amount of green and purple, her outfit was simple and all-American. Her long, brown hair was cut in straight bangs, and she was as glued to her iPhone as everyone else in the class. Besides her odd habit of saying “yesterday” instead of “tomorrow”—“We’ll learn about animal Reiki yesterday”—she was downright normal.
When it came time to receive the sacred Reiki attunements, we all sat in a circle, closed our eyes, and waited for Jenny to walk around the outer edge of our chairs, giving the six of us the holy energy one at a time. I was sitting with my hands in prayer position, centering myself and focusing on the holy energy within me already, though what I felt most strongly was a longing for the Thai restaurant next door. She reached in front of me and grasped my palms with hers, lifting my arms above my head. Then she patted my crown three times, whistled a strange tune, and touched my back. That was it. I now had partial Reiki powers.
When we opened our eyes, my classmates and I exchanged notes. Richard felt his heart become heavy and his hunger go away upon receiving the energy. Mary felt lightning bolts in her head. Tasha felt vulnerable, like wings had popped open on her back, exposing her spine. Priscilla, a physical therapist, said she was relieved she could finally be a true healer. Pablo and I were the only ones who didn’t feel much. Jenny said all our experiences were equal. We didn’t need to feel anything.
Now that we had received half of the full Reiki energy, we practiced on each other. First, the class tried to cure my headaches by feeling for lumps in the energy field above my head. I was as lumpy-headed as my teacher had expected. My fellow students all stood above me, their hands miming the removal of stagnant energy about three inches above my skull.
“Oh wow,” they said. “I can definitely feel it.”
When it was over, the teacher asked me how I felt.
“Well, fine… But I didn’t have a headache before.”
Years after Skeptoid’s original episode #1 on New Age Energy, talk of energy fields — particular the human body’s energy fields — continues to permeate pop culture. A quick Google search for “human energy field” yields an avalanche of New Agey sciencey-sounding results: biofields, noetic balancing, auras, chakras, cleansing and activating your fields, bioenergetics, science unlocking the secrets, luminosity, sensing, negative energy, positive energy, and the human bioelectromagnetic field. Does the human body indeed have any characteristic that can be reasonably described as an energy field?
Although most of the usage you’ll hear of the term sounds like something from Deepak Chopra which is clearly without any factual meaning, the idea that a living body has some measurable effect on its immediate environment is not necessarily an unsound concept. Our bodies generate heat, we have mass, fluids move within us and millions of electric signals are constantly being transmitted through our nervous system. Might we not actually produce an energy field?
A useful place to begin is with definitions, namely those of “energy” and “field”. Energy is a measurement of something’s ability to perform work. A liter of gasoline has chemical energy stored in molecular bonds that, when broken, produce an exothermic chemical reaction. Put it into the engine, and this reaction will cause the engine to run, converting stored chemical energy into kinetic energy. We can precisely quantify the amount of energy stored in that liter of fuel. A basic unit of energy is called the joule, and a typical gasoline contains about 42 megajoules of energy per kilogram. A typical alkaline AA battery contains about 9,000 joules. The calories of chemical energy that my bloodstream absorbs when I eat a Power Bar charge up my muscles enough to dig some specific, and measurable, amount of dirt in my garden.
That’s all that energy is: a measurement of work capability. But in popular culture, “energy” has somehow become a noun. “Energy” is often spoken of as if it is a thing unto itself, like a region of glowing power, that can be contained and used. Here’s a good test. When you hear the word “energy” used, substitute the phrase “measurable work capability.” Does the usage still make sense? Remember, energy itself is not the thing being measured: energy is the measurement of work performed or of potential.
OK, so that’s energy, a measured, quantified amount of work capability. So let’s wipe the slate clean and look at what a field is.
Reiki (pronounced raykey) is a form of “energy healing,” essentially the Asian version of faith healing or laying on of hands. Practitioners believe they are transferring life energy to the patient, increasing their well-being. The practice is popular among nurses, and in fact is practiced by nurses at my own institution (Yale).
From reiki.org, we get this description:
Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.
Reiki is therefore a form of vitalism – the pre-scientific belief that some spiritual energy animates the living, and is what separates living things from non-living things. The notion of vitalism was always an intellectual place-holder, responsible for whatever aspects of biology were not currently understood. But as science progressed, eventually we figured out all of the basic functions of life and there was simply nothing left for the vital force to do. It therefore faded from scientific thinking. We can add to that the fact that no one has been able to provide positive evidence for the existence of a vital force – it remains entirely unknown to science.
But the discarded science and superstition of the past is the “alternative medicine” of today. There are many so-called “CAM” modalities that are based on vitalism, including Reiki. Reiki, in fact, is very similar to therapeutic touch, another energy healing modality that was popular among nurses, and although it continues to be used it is much less popular after 9 year old girl (Emily Rosa) performed an elegant experiment to show that it was nothing but self-deception. Reiki nicely moved in to fill the void.
The research on Reiki, and energy healing in general, is similar to that of many similar modalities – those with very low scientific plausibility that are not taken very seriously by medical scientists. The research is of generally low quality, poorly controlled small studies that seem designed to justify Reiki rather than see if it actually works. The most recently published study, for example, looks at anxiety levels and self-reported well being in cancer patient and finds, unsurprisingly, that patients feel better when they receive the kind attention of a nurse. The study is completely uncontrolled, and therefore of dubious value. One might consider such a study a complete waste of time and effort, as the results were never in doubt.
A 2011 review of reiki studies concluded:
The existing research does not allow conclusions regarding the efficacy or effectiveness of energy healing. Future studies should adhere to existing standards of research on the efficacy and effectiveness of a treatment, and given the complex character of potential outcomes, cross-disciplinary methodologies may be relevant. To extend the scope of clinical trials, psychosocial processes should be taken into account and explored, rather than dismissed as placebo.
In other words – existing research is a such poor quality we cannot draw any useful conclusion from it. I disagree, however, that this necessarily means that more research is needed. The low plausibility of using magical energy that has never been demonstrated to exist by medical science argues otherwise. Further, the last sentence is odd – it suggests the authors are trying to spin placebo effects into real effects. This is increasingly the strategy of alternative medicine advocates as it becomes clear that most of the modalities they favor do not work any better than placebo (which means they don’t work).
Reiki is now squarely in that camp.
Also See: Full of Energy « Science-Based Medicine
In a nutshell: Acupuncture is a kind of energy medicine. Needles are stuck into various parts of the body to unblock energy and bring back a balance of yin-yang. There is no scientific evidence for this energy or yin-yang.
Acupuncture is the puncturing of the skin with sharp needles to unclog an invisible energy that some people think runs through everything in the universe.
Even though millions of people believe this energy, called chi (ch’i or ki, pronounced chee), and the forces of yin-yang, flow in the human body through pathways called meridians, scientists have never found chi, yin, yang, or the meridians in which they flow.
Yin and yang are ideas found in Chinese stories written long before the rise of science. To explain yin-yang Chinese writers sometimes point to how mountains can’t exist without valleys or the inside of a bowl (whose shape is concave) can’t exist without the outside of the bowl (whose shape is convex).
Some people believe that to be healthy you must have a balance of yin-yang. The acupuncturist sticks the needles in special points on the skin (called acupoints). Each point is chosen by what hurts the patient. For pain in the right cheek an acupoint might be on the left big toe or on the left ear.
Where did such a weird idea come from and why do so many people believe acupuncture is a good way to treat illness or pain?
Most people think acupuncture started in China thousands of years ago, but the truth is we don’t know when and where acupuncture began.
The word acupuncture isn’t Chinese, but Latin (acus=needle and punctura=a pricking). The first use of the word acupuncture that joined the idea of needling with chi, meridians, and yin-yang, was by a Frenchman named George Soulié de Morant (1878-1955). Morant spent nearly twenty years in China at the beginning of 20th century. For 40 years Morant traveled around Europe telling doctors about acupuncture.
Biology is the study of living things. There is no biological basis for acupuncture as a way to make people healthy. Still, many people around the world say acupuncture works. What they mean is that they feel better or think they feel better after getting acupuncture. Many scientific studies have shown that when patients are stuck in the wrong acupoints or aren’t even stuck at all (though they think they are being stuck), they say they feel better. If a scientist has only the word of those who got either real acupuncture or fake acupuncture, she would not be able to tell who got which. About the same number in each group will say it works.
If fake acupuncture works as well as real acupuncture, then something funny is going on. Many people who get acupuncture do get better, but maybe getting better has nothing to do with unblocking energy or sticking needles in acupoints. Fake acupuncture isn’t unblocking energy, but it works just as well as real acupuncture.
Dick Van Dyke’s home had terrible feng shui. Improper positioning had him stumbling, fumbling, and tumbling all over the house. The futon in the living room had a particularly negative qi about it. To think of all the slapstick sitcoms we would be deprived of if feng shui were true…
If feng shui were true, already unbearable construction delays in major cities would be dwarfed by the demands of magnetism. The magnetic compass—built specifically for the practice of feng shui—guides modern feng shui application, and would dictate giant, regular shifts in the world’s architecture. The true magnetic north of our planet moves around like a cosmic stir stick in coffee, meaning that the proper alignment of a desk, room, or building moves as well.
To optimize the flow of qi, whole cities would need to shift every so often. Counties that could not afford the grand re-alignments would undergo terrible consequences. As magnetic poles wobbled, people would begin to feel sick and uneasy in their own homes. Others would experience piercingly odd feelings of “oneness.” Culture would begin to adapt accordingly. Certain months of the year would bring a general “lack of wellness” to a society. Alerts of shifting alignments would go out like air quality warnings. A neighbor’s house, now negatively positioned relative to your own, would affect you personally. Like accusations of witchcraft in the middle ages, a world where feng shui was true makes condemnation of a neighbor as simple as “they make me feel sick.”
With a reliance on the Earth’s magnetic field, true feng shui would drive a demand for consumer compasses. Smart phones would be outfitted with sensors. Dinner guests would have ample reason to avoid a tour of your home if the compass said so. But compass reliance also makes certain parts of the world uninhabitable. Building a positively positioned home at either of our planet’s poles, for example, would be impossible. With magnetic north so close, even walking a few feet to the right or left in such a home would drastically change the relative alignments of the structures within.
If feng shui worked, the optimal layouts for buildings would enter “best practices” manuals in architecture. Schools would have desks and hallways oriented in such a way as to promote learning. Hospitals would do the same with staircases, beds, and surgical theaters to promote healing. Feng shui masters would descend regularly to houses expecting children, ensuring the proper environment. “Energetic” layouts would be on every bachelor’s mind.
The DMV would get a radical overhaul to reduce the stress within its walls.
By Dr. Steven Novella via randi.org
I have to hand it to the snake oil peddlers over at NES Health – they have managed to squeeze just about every energy-based pseudoscience into one scam. What does “NES” stand for, you wonder? “Nutrition Energy System.”
“Through its pioneering work with medical doctors and acupuncture therapists over the last decade, NES Health has not only discovered – and mapped – the human body field but it has also managed to integrate this ground-breaking knowledge with the principles of energy information.”
So, in the last decade they “discovered” the non-existent “human body field” that has been part of cutting edge pseudoscience for decades. Devices that measure the body’s “energy field” go back at least to the 1970s. A simple search on the term will indicate that this is nothing new, nor unique to NES.
The NES site continues:
“The link between biology and traditional Chinese medicine has been formally established by NES Health – and the organization’s researchers have identified that the human body field is a highly structured network of energy and information fields, which act as a master control system for the physical body.
As a consequence, it is now evident that to be healthy, the body’s energy fields must be functioning harmoniously – if their natural balance is disturbed, health consequently suffers.”
New technology meets ancient wisdom. I knew it had to be in there somewhere.
In their promotional video they inform us that NES is ushering in the “quantum age” of healthcare. Skeptics have been joking for some time that you could simply put the words: “quantum,” “energy,” “vibrations,” “balance,” “harmony,” “information,” “healing,” “toxin,” “nutrition,” and other commonly used vague terms into a bag, or into a computer program that will spit them out at random, and you can generate endless alternative health products, with claims that are just as coherent and science-based as anything on the market. They did coin the term, as far as I know, “infoceutical.” Nice one – supplements imprinted with information. Personally I would have gone for the trifecta – how about, quantum-infoceutical?
They do have a tab for “research,” which is always entertaining. On it you will find a few terrible studies that do nothing to support the grandiose claims of NES health. For example . . .
Fracking has been a standard practice in natural gas mining for a long time, but documentary films have caused some laypeople to question its safety. How justified are these fears? http://infactvideo.com
As oil supplies dwindle, it seems everyone is searching for the next big energy breakthrough. Oil companies are doing the same thing — at least, that’s the mainstream view. So why don’t conspiracy theorists believe them?
In a nutshell: Therapeutic touch is a kind of energy medicine. Those who do therapeutic touch wave their hands over a patient’s body to fix their subtle energy. The science says there is no such subtle energy.
Therapeutic touch is a kind of energy healing. Some people believe that health and sickness are caused by some sort of magical energy being blocked or out of whack in some way. There is no scientific support for this magical energy. It can’t be measured by any of our very high tech machines. Yet, many people swear it exists and that they can move it around or transfer some of their energy into another person.
Energy healers say they can “feel” the energy going through or around a person’s body. This is odd because the human hand is not a very sensitive instrument compared to some of the million-dollar machines we have these days to measure very small particles or packets of energy.
Therapeutic touch healers wave their hands over the body of a sick person. The healer thinks she is moving energy around and that this somehow helps the healing.
Nine-year-old Emily Rosa tested twenty-one therapeutic touch healers to see if they could feel the energy in one of her hands when they could not see if a hand was actually placed under theirs. She placed a screen with a hole in it for the healer’s arm to go through. Emily sat on the other side of the screen and placed her hand or didn’t place her hand under the healers hand for each test. The healers had a 50% chance of being right in each test, yet they correctly located Emily’s hand only 123 times in 280 tests. Wild guessing would have got about 140 correct answers. The test was very simple and seems to clearly indicate that the subjects could not feel the energy of Emily’s hands when placed near theirs. If they can’t feel the energy, how can they move or transfer it? What are they feeling? Most likely they are feeling what has been suggested to them by those who taught them this practice. Their feelings of energy appear to be created in their own minds.
Via The Soap Box
Reiki healing. It is a form of alternative medicine that was invented in 1922 by Mikao Usui that many people (particularly those in the New Age Movement) believe that people can focus this energy from some supernatural source and use it to heal people.
While there are a lot of things that I’ve noticed about Reiki healing, there are five particular things that I’ve noticed about it.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about Reiki healing:
5. It’s like faith healing without God.
Reiki healing is to the New Age Movement what faith healing is to Christian Fundamentalist: they both are using a source of energy from a supernatural power that is basically far beyond what they can really comprehend (and that they will admit to not fully understanding it) and expect it to do your bidding. Also, practitioners tend use their hands as a way to channel this energy into the “patient”.
That is the basics of what both faith healing and Reiki healing is, the only real differences is that with faith healing you at least know where this energy is suppose to be coming from, where as in Reiki healing there can be multiple sources where this supposed energy is coming from (except from God… usually). And that’s another thing about Reiki healing…
4. There is no set source from where this energy comes from.
Do you know where your spiritual healing energy is coming from? Well, neither do Reiki healing practitioners.
The range of alleged sources for the energy that Reiki healers claim they get this energy from to do their healing varies. Some claims it’s from themselves. Some claims it’s from the “patient”. Some claims it’s all life around us (kind of like the Force from Star Wars). Some claims it’s from the Earth. Some claims it’s from spirits. Some claims it’s from the Sun. Some claim it’s from the Universe.
In other words there is no agreement on where this alleged energy comes from. The only agreement amongst Reiki healing practitioners is that this energy is good for you.
3. It should be cheap.
According to Reiki healing practitioners, Reiki energy is all around us and/or inside of us, and if you believe them, it is an unlimited resource that can be used by anyone… theoretical speaking.
Now considering this it should be pretty darn cheap to go to a Reiki healing practitioner and have them try to heal you (hence the word “try”) because they don’t have to buy anything to do what they do, they’re just using their own mental power to force your body to heal.
Most people would think that after considering all of these factors that Reiki healing would be cheap, except…
Via The Soap Box
Breatharianism. It’s a belief in the New Age Movement that people can live off of air and sunlight alone, and do not need food (and for some, water) to live, and that people can convert air and sunlight into prana, or life energy, with according to practitioners is all a person needs to live.
Of course there is the claim that air and sunlight can . . .
Read transcript below or listen here.
Today we’re going to visit central Arizona in the American Southwest, along a wet green valley cutting through the red rock desert. This is the town of Sedona, once a humble ranching and retirement community, later popular with art galleries, and today a full-blown, prices-through-the-roof home to the rich and famous and opulent resorts, overrun with private jets and Range Rovers. What catapulted this remote hamlet into stardom? In large part, it was Sedona’s reputation among the New Age elite as a mystical Mecca, a place where the Earth breathes its energy in and out, invigorating the enlightened and enriching the meditative. For the city of Sedona is virtually synonymous with what the faithful call an energy vortex.
Normally, the plural of vortex is vortices, but people in Sedona have a slightly abnormal view of what a vortex is. Accordingly, they refer to them in the plural as vortexes. Although most vortex believers are genuine, a huge tourism industry has been built up around these mystical constructs. Most tourist maps describe four main vortexes in Sedona: the Airport Vortex, the Boynton Canyon Vortex, the Cathedral Rock Vortex, and the Bell Rock Vortex. What exactly are they?
Sedona Vortex Tours says:
A vortex is a place of concentrated energy that people can sense.
These vortexes are subtle energy centers where spiritual and psychic powers are enhanced.
Love Sedona says:
The energy resonates with and strengthens the Inner Being of each person that comes within about a quarter to a half mile of it. This resonance happens because the vortex energy is very similar to the subtle energy operating in the energy centers inside each person.
Sedona.net even warns of potential physical effects:
…You may feel a range of sensations from a slight tingling on exposed skin, to a vibration emanating from the ground when you encounter a vortex. Most often a vortex is felt by palpable sensation across the nape of the neck and the shoulder blades.
A vortex is an exquisite manifestation of fluid dynamics. You see them around the edge of your paddle when you canoe; you see them in the storm clouds of Jupiter; you see them when someone blows a smoke ring; you even see them when you stir your coffee. Vortices can occur in any fluid; air, water, magma, so long as there is some force stirring it. A vortex is the most common way that a fluid converts the energy put into it by the stirring motion into potential energy. Pressure is highest at the edge of the stirring spoon, the tip of the aircraft wing, or whatever is doing the stirring. As the pressure is reduced the further you go from the axis, these differentials in pressure cause movement at different speeds. The formation of vortices follows Bernoulli’s Principle, set forth in Daniel Bernoulli‘s 1738 magnum opus on fluid dynamics, Hydrodynamica.
So from a physics perspective, we see there are two necessary ingredients for a vortex to exist: first, a fluid; and second, some stirring influence. When we try to match up a real vortex with the Sedona version, we quickly find there are no matches to be made. The “energy field” described by the vortex proponents is not the air or anything else that has the physical properties of a fluid; therefore there can be no pressure differentials or fluid dynamics in play. Since the fluid is not there, there is no canoe paddle or stirring spoon or uplifting warm air against falling cold air to initiate turbulent flow. Physically, anyway, a Sedona-type vortex does not exist. If there’s no physical fluid, there are no fluid dynamics.
But many vortex proponents will be the first to acknowledge this. It is a vortex of spiritual energy, not of any physical force. You’re not likely to have any success trying to pin down a vortex believer by discussing the properties of this alleged energy field. The whole idea is, of course, completely unscientific; as we discussed at length in the very first Skeptoid episode #1, New Age Energy. Energy is simply a measurement of work capability, it is not a physical thing unto itself. It is not a glowing cloud of power. It’s a measurement, not a fluid that swirls and flows. There is no such thing as an energy field. Yet, a few vortex proponents buck the trend and do attempt to ascribe physical properties to them.
The usual suspect is magnetism, as discussed at length by independent researchers such as Ben Lonetree, who has gone to great lengths to analyze US Geological Survey magnetometer readings of the region. A 2002 USGS report says:
Volcanic rocks are the most prevalent magnetic lithology of this region, and we expect high-amplitude, short-wavelength anomalies over volcanic terranes, especially in the Black Hills and the area between Page Springs and Sedona.
This is referencing paleomagnetism. When volcanic lava comes to the surface as liquid, its ferromagnetic particles align themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field like so many tiny compass needles. As it cools and hardens into rock, these alignments become fixed. When later tectonic processes disrupt the placement and orientation of this rock, a magnetic anomaly results, which is basically just a tiny variance in the local magnetic field.
The problem with trying to associate such magnetic variances with the vortexes is that Sedona’s variances are not especially remarkable, certainly not unique, and certainly nowhere near the magnitude of much greater variances all around the world.
Also See: I Tried to Have a Spiritual Experience in the Desert (Vice.com)
via The Soap Box
A few days ago I was alerted to a short video on Youtube about something called “Earthing“, which is something to do about humans getting energy from the Earth (and I’m not talking about geothermic energy either).
Here is the short video that I watched:
Now the first claim in this video says this:
This is true. The sun’s light is necessary for the production of Vitamin D inside of our skin, which is necessary for our bodies. Of course to much exposure can also led to the production of skin cancer too…
The video then goes on to claim this:
Now this is where we get into the pseudoscience part.
Human beings do not receive energy from the Earth, and there are no studies that show this. In fact, other then from eating and drinking food, we can’t receive energy by any actual means.
If you are outside and you “feel” like you are receiving energy from the Earth, what you’re experiencing is not the receiving of energy from the Earth, but a placebo effect in which you only think you’re receiving energy from the Earth.
The next claim in the video states that:
Back in the “good old days” working outside was far more common then it is today. This is because most people tended to have jobs that required working outside. It was also far more common for people back then to die in their 40’s and 50’s than it is today as well.
People simply didn’t live as long in the past as they do today. The reason for that is because of a combination disease and the occasional lack of food. While a lack of food could be a hard thing to prevent back then, one of the things that helped prevent some diseases then (and now) however is shoes. Shoes help prevent us from cutting our feet on things like sticks and rock, and then getting infections from stepping in bacteria and parasite infested water and animal droppings.
Besides all of this, there is still no proof what so ever that we have ever been able to absorb energy from the Earth through our skin.
This claim makes it appear that we better off in the past when more of us were barefooted, when in reality the exact opposite is true.
The next claim then goes on to say . . .
Via The Soap Box
Sometimes you can find some really strange products on the internet. Some of these products honestly make me wonder how these things can even legally be sold, and why the website companies that these products are being sold off of would even allow these items to be sold using their websites in the first place. Recently I came across such a product on Amazon.com called Aura Cleanser, and the only thing I could think of when I saw this is, “why is this allowed on Amazon?”
In the product description of this spray, it first claims to do this:
Okay, how exactly can a spray, whom’s contents are unknown, erase “negativity” (as if that’s a real thing rather than just how you perceive the world and how you allow it to affect you) and effect energy levels on any scale?
The second claim goes as this:
Again, how is some simple spray going to “cleanse” an area of something that really hasn’t been proven to exist, more or less yet been proven to actually affect a person’s mind?
Now the third claim made says it can do this:
There’s no such thing as psychic powers, and thus no such thing as psychic threats, negative or otherwise. Also, what exactly is this so called “energetic responses” that it is said to encourage? In my opinion that is sort of vague.
Like their counterparts in traditional Chinese medicine who useacupuncture, as well as their counterparts in the West who usetherapeutic touch (TT), the practitioners of reiki believe that health and disease are a matter of the life force being disrupted. Belief in a life force, known as vitalism, was common in the West until the 19th century. Since then, the concept of life force has joined phlogiston, ether, and many other superannuated ideas on the rubbish heap of discarded scientific notions.
The belief in vitalism is still strong in China, India (where the life force is called prana), Africa (animism), and Japan Each believes that the universe is full of some sort of vital energy that cannot be detected by any scientific instruments, but which can be felt and controlled, often by special people who learn the tricks of the trade.
Reiki healers differ from acupuncturists in that they do not try tounblock a person’s ki, but to channel the ki of the universe so that the client or patient heals. The channeling is done with the hands, and like TT no physical massaging is necessary since ki flows through the body of the healer into the patient. The reiki master claims to be able to draw upon the energy of the universe and increase his or her own energy while performing a healing. Reiki healers claim to channel ki into ill or injured individuals for “rebalancing.” Depending on the training and beliefs of the healer, reiki is used to treat a wide array of ailments. Larry Arnold and Sandra Nevins claim in The Reiki Handbook (1992) that reiki is useful for treating brain damage, cancer, diabetes, and venereal diseases. Many reiki healers are more modest and treat lesser problems such as fatigue or muscle soreness. I was once treated by a reiki practitioner for a wrist injury. The treatment didn’t work because I was a non-believer, or so I was told. If the healing fails—and it will inevitably fail for such things as cancer—it is because the patient is resisting the healing energy. Non-belief is one of the great blocks to healing energy. There is a reason for that, which we will explore below.
Some believe they’ve cracked the secret of free energy forever with no fuel needed. Is it true?
Call them free energy machines, perpetual motion, over-unity machines, or any other name; a tiger remains a tiger no matter what color you paint his stripes. For as long as human beings have needed electricity or any kind of power source, inventive minds have sought in vain for a perfect solution: free energy forever with no fuel needed. Drawings of plans for perpetual motion machines are found throughout history for as long as we’ve had the science of engineering, and they continue to appear today, perhaps more than ever. Today we’re going to look at some of the most famous examples of free energy machines, and address the common public perception that such miracles actually exist.
The reason that no free energy machine can work, or will ever work, should go without saying; but since the claims continue to persist, it bears a mention. A perpetual motion machine would violate the laws of thermodynamics. Strictly speaking, it is unscientific for me to say that no free energy machine will ever work; but the fundamental laws of the universe are established to such a huge degree of certainty that it’s a limb upon which I’m willing to go out. Specifically, the first law of thermodynamics states that the energy of any closed system remains constant. If you take any energy out of it at all — for example, to make a rotor spin — then you must put in at least an equivalent amount of energy. The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy in any isolated system can only increase but not decrease; basically, systems seek thermal equilibrium. This law prohibits any process in which the only result is that heat moves from a region of lower temperature to a region of higher temperature, or where heat is converted purely into work. All free energy concepts are impossible because, by definition, they violate one or both laws.
The most common perpetual motion concept is a magnetic motor, some arrangement of permanent magnets intended to spin a rotor, push a ball around a path, or keep some other component in motion forever. These days they’re usually blended with a powered electric motor, and the inventor claims that once it gets going, its kinetic energy exceeds the electrical energy put into it. An Internet search yields thousands of results for such machines. Many of them show videos of their machines working. So how do we reconcile this: am I saying all these guys are all liars?
Vibrational medicine is a type of energy medicine. Energy medicine is based on vitalism, the metaphysical doctrine that living organisms possess a non-physical inner force or energy that gives them the property of life. This metaphysical force goes by many names: chi or qi (China), prana (India), ki (Japan); Wilhelm Reich’s orgone, Mesmer’s animal magnetism, Bergson’s élan vital (vital force), Reichenbach’s odic force, etc. American advocates much prefer the term energy or subtle energy. Many kinds of alternative therapies or energy medicines are based on a belief that health is determined by the flow of this alleged energy: acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, crystal therapy, therapeutic touch, reiki, and qigong are a few of the better known therapies. Not so well known are practices such as Aura-Soma, aura therapy, Comprehensive Energy Psychology, radionics, Sacred Santémony, and tone vibration transformation.
The founding father of modern vibrational medicine was Dr. Albert Abrams (1863-1924), the “dean of twentieth century charlatans.”* Abrams called his healing method radionics and claimed that he was able to detect distinct energies or vibrations (radiation) being emitted from healthy and diseased tissue in all living things. He invented devices that allegedly could measure this energy (vibration, radiation) and he created a system for evaluating vibrations as signs of health or disease.
The fact that no scientific instrument has been able to detect subtle energy and that modern science abandoned vitalism more than a century ago has had little deterrent effect on the belief that health depends on an invisible form of energy. Worse, despite the lack of compelling scientific evidence for any form of energy medicine, there are many pseudoscientific devices on the market that claim to heal by vibrational therapy (see here). The sellers of these devices have found a niche market among the desperate who cling to magical thinking against the claims of science.
As true believers are wont to say: the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. That is, just because there is no compelling scientific evidence that subtle energy exists doesn’t mean that such energy doesn’t exist. True, but belief in subtle energy is based on faith. The compelling scientific evidence shows that what is often attributed to subtle energy is due to the placebo effect, is an illusion, or can be easily accounted for by other non-mysterious factors such as poor study design, regression to the mean, suggestion, conditioning, or the body healing itself naturally.
Vibrational medicine adds the twisted belief that subtle energies vibrate and that these vibrations are either healthy or unhealthy. (Note: there is absolutely no evidence for these beliefs about vibrations and there have been no scientific studies that have ever identified such vibrations.)
MORE . . .
Here we go – yet another magical bracelet claiming to improve balance, energy, and performance. This time you get to pay $100 for a black piece of cloth with a small chip inside. From the Shuzi website:
Shuzi (pronounced shoo-zee ) utilizes a proprietary chip from the United States, which is programmed to resonate with your cells’ natural frequencies and causes your blood cells to separate thereby creating a better blood flow which can lead to more oxygen through out the body.
“Resonate with natural frequencies” – they can’t even be bothered to make up their own ridiculous pseudoscientific technobabble. Improving blood flow by separating blood cells is also an old scam. We have evolved very robust mechanisms to ensure optimal delivery of oxygen to our tissues. There is no simple way to “improve” this in a healthy person. These mechanisms may not be adequate in someone with advanced disease affecting the pulmonary or cardiovascular systems, neither is a little wrist band going to have any effect in such serious conditions.
The company claims that their product improves balance. Why would increased oxygen delivery improve balance specifically? It might have something to do with the fact that the balance demonstration is an old scam – a parlor trick to convince the unwary that something real is going on.
My favorite part of websites selling blatant nonsense is the tab “how it works.” You know this is going to be fun. In addition to the above claim, they write:
No battery/energy source is required. Many people ask us how this is possible.
Here is our official explanation:
It is a well known fact in the scientific community that ALL atoms are in a constant state of motion. This includes physical object atoms, such as the atoms that make up a desk or chair. More specifically, every atom in a physical object is known to “vibrate” or oscillate back and forth.
Logically, utilizing e=mc2 every atom has mass and the speed of light (c) is a constant, therefore there must be energy in every atom. Through our proprietary programming process, our chip emits sub-atomic energies powered by an atom’s inherent energy. Coincidentally, this energy stimulates the separation of blood cells in the wearer’s body which can help increase blood cell circulation. While the scale of vibration is considerably smaller for nano-vibrational technology, it is inherently the same in definition, to any other object that vibrates.
They quote Einstein and E=mc2 – it’s so sciencey. Yes, all atoms vibrate and have energy (unless they are at absolute zero). That’s called heat. None of this explains how their chip, or anything, can emit “subatomic energies” (what energy, exactly, is that?), and how this energy is transferred to the blood of the wearer. How is a computer chip “programmed” to do this? Are they saying that the energy of atoms responds to the programming inside a computer chip?
The physiology makes as little sense as the physics here.
MORE . . .
More than two centuries have passed since humans first started using engine-driven devices to do work. And from the first steam locomotives to today’s gas/electric hybrid cars, our development of motorized transport has had a parallel string of innovation: Engineers continuously work to make our engines run more efficiently.
For as long as consumers have complained about gas prices, there has been an army of inventors offering devices to stretch our mileage further. Innovations such as electronic fuel injection and the use of lighter, stronger internal components made great forward strides in fuel efficiency. It’s no wonder that these have become standard features — often government-mandated — on most modern cars and trucks. But other inventions have turned out to be hoaxes that do little for fuel efficiency and, in some cases, can actually hurt a vehicle’s mileage and cause dangerous engine damage.
There’s a veritable sea of fuel-saving devices on the market, and while most of them sound great, many offer little — if any — benefit for what they cost. It’s sometimes difficult to separate the truly useful devices from the not-so-great ones, so read on to learn more about popular fuel-saving hoaxes and how they work.
Read more: HowStuffWorks “10 Fuel-saving Device Hoaxes”.
Reiki (sometimes mispronounced as /rejˌiki/, it is properly pronounced /reːki/) is a pseudoscientific therapy based on the following beliefs:
It can be dangerous, or even life-threatening, if someone avoids evidence-based medicine and relies upon Reiki for treatment.
Keep Reading: Reiki – RationalWiki.
Reiki is one of several nonsensical methods commonly referred to as “energy healing.” These methods are based on the idea that the body is surrounded or permeated by an energy field that is not measurable by ordinary scientific instrumentation. The alleged force, said to support life, is known as ki in Japan, as chi or qi in China, and as prana in India. Reiki practitioners claim to facilitate healing by strengthening or “balancing” it.
Reiki has no substantiated health value and lacks a scientifically plausible rationale. Science-based healthcare settings should not tolerate its use, and scarce government research dollars should not be used to study it further.
Read more – Reiki Is Nonsense.
Also see The Skeptic’s Dictionary: reiki