Therapeutic Touch at the Ig Nobel Awards

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To: Scott Little,
Date: Sun, 19 Apr 1998
From: Taylor J. Smith,
Subject: Re: BLP (Black Light Power) Run #14

Scott Little wrote:

::: Jack Smith asked about Run #14....

::: We never saw a peep of excess heat
::: and they never even lifted a finger to assist us. ...

Hi Scott,

BlackLight Power is probably so far ahead that they see no need to make any concessions; but there may be alternative approaches which they have not thought of. Regardless of the risks and benefits involved, their decision is unfortunate.

The other issue which you raise deserves some discussion: "We never saw a peep ..." Some time ago you shared a Scientific American Frontiers program with a young lady [Emily Rosa] whose science project examined whether or not touch therapists could tell which of their hands her hand was hovering over. Their detection rate was no better than chance.

Recently, her work was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The touch therapist success rate was only 44%, a slight but interesting negative correlation.

Consider another experiment in which the effect of fertilizer brand on petunia growth is to be determined. Soil, seeds, and fertilizer are added to each pot, BUT NO WATER. At the end of a month, it is concluded that fertilizer brand has no effect on petunia growth.

How is the "no effect" result of the touch therapist experiment similar to that of the petunia experiment?

Suppose the touch therapists are used in an experiment to determine whether or not humans can give blood to each other. In this case, a few drops of blood from the experimenter are mixed with a sample of blood from each therapist. Using a magnifying glass, no clumping of the blood (which would be disastrous in someone's veins) is observed (the experimenter is O- ).

It is concluded that anyone can give blood to anyone. ----- Ridiculous? Just as people have different blood types, they may have different "fields" or "auras". [A touch therapist would not have detected the the presence of someone who does not generate ANY field. At least one other person besides Emily should have hovered her hand over the hands of the touch therapists.]

The petunia experiment is even more complicated if the effect of each fertilizer brand is optimized with a different amount of water.

The BLP situation is several orders of magnitude more complex than the other experiments mentioned here, and "no effect" should be perceived as only the result in the specific experiments conducted so far.

Jack Smith

[Randall Mills of BlackLight Power may well be on the way to developing the "Shipstones" which are the centerpiece of Robert A. Heinlein's science fiction novel, "Friday" (ISBN 0-345-30988-X).]

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