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13 Things That Do Not Make Sense 1013

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the wookies-on-endor dept.
thpr writes "New Scientist is reporting on 13 things which do not make sense. It's an interesting article about 13 areas in which observations do not line up with current theory. From the placebo effect to dark matter, it's a list of areas in need of additional research. Explanations could lead to significant breakthroughs... or at least new and different errors in scientific observations. Now there are 20 interesting problems for Slashdotters to work on, once you combine these with the seven Millennium Problems!"
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13 Things That Do Not Make Sense

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  • by filmmaker (850359) * on Thursday March 17, 2005 @11:30PM (#11972214) Homepage
    So what is going on? Doctors have known about the placebo effect for decades, and the naloxone result seems to show that the placebo effect is somehow biochemical. But apart from that, we simply don't know.

    That's really interesting. The body and/or the brain releases the THIQ (I would presume) as if herion were present, but only if the morphine blocker isn't used in combination with the placebo.

    This suggests that as long as we think we're getting morphine, our bodies will respond accordingly. If the phenomenon could be isolated...combine that with some VR, and you've got the opium dens of the digital age. But no opium.
  • by bryanthompson (627923) * <logansbro@gmail. c o m> on Thursday March 17, 2005 @11:31PM (#11972217) Homepage Journal
    I think an effective use of a placebo is when addicts of some types of drugs continue going to methadone clinics, even after the physical addiction is gone... Even if the dosage is so small it doesn't matter, or even if the dosage is a placebo by that time, it makes them feel better to go.

    I think it's also one reason why some people feel the need to have a disorder of some kind. It's something like what a hypochondriac feels, but different. I'm not a doctor, but from my understanding, hypochondriacs make themselves sick and need to feel sick, whereas someone who feels the need to have a disorder of some kind needs the attention, or the feeling they get from treatment. I guess it's more like fight club.
  • by Andyvan (824761) on Thursday March 17, 2005 @11:33PM (#11972228)
    Maybe saline solution is not completely inert after all, and so is not a good placebo.

    -- Andyvan
  • I think an effective use of a placebo is when addicts of some types of drugs continue going to methadone clinics, even after the physical addiction is gone...
    That would be a great example, except that methadone is addictive. The reason it is given to heroin addicts is that it doesn't get them high. It's unclear to me exactly why that is considered an improvement.
  • Mind over matter. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gimpynerd (864361) on Thursday March 17, 2005 @11:36PM (#11972246) Homepage Journal
    The brain is a very powerful thing. I don't know what is so hard to believe. Pain originates in the brain so it isn't that hard to believe that you can deceive it.
  • ...nobody must be looking at the data.

    During the dark ages people were absolutely convinced that theory was correct. And anything that disagreed with the theory was burned, as were the heretics who observed it.

  • Missing option (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Thursday March 17, 2005 @11:42PM (#11972284) Journal
    What about "Why do people believe whatever politicians say?". I've never seen a single one not lie out his ass every chance he gets just to win votes then 6 months later deny all knowledge. We're ment to be a smart race yet we repeatedly fall for the same scams and tricks day in and day out.

    Might not be "why is the universe breaking laws we know apply to everything in it", but it's something which might effect our lives unlike a few of the things mentioned.
  • more then we think (Score:2, Interesting)

    by courseB (837633) on Thursday March 17, 2005 @11:51PM (#11972344) Homepage
    just recently heard michio kaku [mkaku.org] talk about trying to measuring minute changes in gravity to show that 'parallel worlds' are right around us and ties it in with dark matter.

    as far as the placebo effect goes, when i am happy- i feel good!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 17, 2005 @11:51PM (#11972347)
    Well, it looks like some one may have already knocked 10 off the list, and explained it as 2:3 resonance orbits with neptune.
  • Assholes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Renraku (518261) on Thursday March 17, 2005 @11:52PM (#11972354) Homepage
    14. Why Being An Asshole Gets You Chicks

    Its true. Go to any mall and you'll see a not-so-attractive man walking around with a beautiful, well-endowed lady in tow while he's making fun of her to his friends, or is putting her down. He never calls, he never does the dishes, he never puts the seat down, and most of all, he's getting some.
  • by shanen (462549) on Thursday March 17, 2005 @11:54PM (#11972360) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, we know you're in a hurry to post quickly, but the result is an entire thread with your hurried spelling mistake (not copied above).

    Anyway, the counterexample in the article is easy enough to explain, in that the counter-placebo actively prevents some secondary effect, where it is the secondary effect that is closer to the true cause of the perceived pain reduction. The the morphine or the original placebo are just acting somewhere higher in the chain. Given how little we know about the nature of the mind (including our perception of pain), the results are not nearly as suprising as they proclaim.

    The whole topic of "truth" just seems so passe these days. Faith-based politicians aren't going to worry about any of it, anyway. They don't need or want better science or more facts--they already know what they believe, and they're going to structure the world around their beliefs, no matter how crazy. The whole notion of truth is under attack.

    So many examples, it's hard to know where to start. The two that are on my mind right now are the new UN ambassador who is pledged to destroying the UN, and appointing the master planner of the Iraq fiasco to the World Bank.

  • by goombah99 (560566) on Thursday March 17, 2005 @11:54PM (#11972362)
    Morphine works because it is an analog of some natural molecule in the body and affects the same receptor. Naloxone presumably works because either it binds morhpine or it binds the morphine receptor. Thus it might be reasonable to assume that naloxone would also inhibit the natural molecule as well. This does not explain why saline induces the same effect as morphine but I think it explains why naloxone could seem to increase the pain.
  • I remember once... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CaptainPotato (191411) on Thursday March 17, 2005 @11:57PM (#11972379) Homepage
    ...getting a guy completely trashed on water, because he thought he was drinking vodka. Sure, he'd had a few vodkas already (only a few), but once the bottle ran out, he still wanted more, so I filled up the bottle with water, and he and I sat down and kept drinking the 'vodka'.

    I acted as if I were drinking vodka (the flinching at the strength of it, and pretending to be feeling the effect), until he became so drunk on about 350ml of water (and the perhaps 100ml of vodka that he'd drunk earlier) that he couldn't stand and was passed out, and was out of action for almost a day.

    After this, with the d*ckh**d out of the way, I finished my good deed for the party, and everybody else had a great time from that point onwards at the party... it only took about 40 minutes for this to work.

    So, yes, I can believe that the placebo effect works - and even more effectively on fools like the guy in my anecdote.
  • Re:Assholes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:02AM (#11972404)
    Dude, that's easy. Chicks want to be mistreated (many of them, at least). I'm not trying to be funny or anything. I honestly suspect that it's some evolutionary hold-over from when we lived in caves. When you show her that you are in charge, it shows you have good genes and are a good choice for breeding. If you treat her right, she might keep you around, but she will fuck other guys behind your back and then make you take care of their children. I've read that that happens in at least 10% of all marriages.
  • by hedley (8715) <hedley@pacbell.net> on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:04AM (#11972412) Journal
    I think these recent experiments are interesting and require some explanation.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/841690.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    and also

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/655518.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    Hedley
  • by vortex2.71 (802986) on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:11AM (#11972463)
    Wow, the inclusion of cold fusion as number 13 in this list is a big disappointment! Cold fusion took the bang out of legitimate fusion efforts many years ago and it just won't die. Nagel's claim that "The experimental case is bulletproof, [y]ou can't make it go away." is a load of garbage. Even adamant proponents of cold fusion will agree that the experimental evidence is pretty shoddy at best is rife with irreproducibility. It is precisely this lack of reproducibility that makes the "effect" so hard to swallow. I would have preferred to see coronal mass ejections or the enhanced temperature of the Sun's corona listed as number 13.
  • by Rod Beauvex (832040) on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:15AM (#11972494)
    It can always rent it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:19AM (#11972518)
    It seems to me that you'd also need a group C - where you tell them that they're all getting the medicine (but they're not).

    This way you test all three cases for completeness:

    A - unsure what they're getting.
    B - knowing that that they're not getting it.
    C - believing they're getting the real thing.

    (when, of course, nobody actually has any medicine).

    The problem with group A is that it doesn't correct for optimistic / pessemistic attitudes in the test group (ie: results depend entirely on their subjective view of the test conditions).
  • Placebo quandaries: (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wew (21138) on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:24AM (#11972544)
    Here are a couple of questions raised by the placebo effects for enthusiasts of the scientific method:
    1. If the placebo effect relies on the conviction of the patient that their treatment is going to help them, then aren't medical systems with a simpler-to-understand and more immersive theoretical foundation, such as various traditional and new-age therapies, going to be more effective (ceteris paribus) than scientific, Western medicine?
    2. For the same reason, is research intended to debunk traditional and new-age therapies likely, if successful, to reduce the overall health of society?
    3. Finally, is scepticism therefore bad for your health?
    Just wondering...
  • The horizon problem (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:24AM (#11972548)
    the two edges are nearly 28 billion light years apart and our universe is only 14 billion years old

    This has always bothered me. Not only do we have light 28 billion light years apart, we have matter that is 28 billion light years apart. I can understand that, since the big bang, light could have made it 14 billion light years, but matter? How the hell did matter get that far out?

    And is the age of the universe really 14 billion years? That just doesn't seem like enough time for heavier elements from supernovae to make it to other star systems so that the elements would be available when planets form. From which supernova (and when) did the heavier elements on our planet come from? How far away was it? Even if it had been a mere 100 light years away, that's still a long way for those elements to have travelled.

    Maybe, just maybe, the universe is far older than we imagine.
  • by ultramk (470198) <ultramk@nOspaM.pacbell.net> on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:25AM (#11972551)
    A couple of thoughts... (possible complications)

    1. Maybe he had more actual booze than you were aware of. I remember at that age having a few *before* the party, to loosen up. Remember too, that alcohol takes a while to metabolize under some circumstances.

    2. Perhaps he was just a lightweight, all it took was a couple to push him over the edge. Case in point, my wife (this was last year, btw) went out for drinks and a movie with her mom, her aunt, and some ladies from her bookgroup. She's not a tiny thing, and she's not incapable of holding her drink. However, on this particular day, she hadn't had anything to eat, and was slightly dehydrated. She had 2 martinis, and literally passed out 30 minutes later at the theatre. Either because of her lack of eating that day, blood sugar weirdness, or whatever. (I picked her up, and drove her home. She didn't wake up for 2 hours. I would have taken her to the emergency room, but her mom's a nurse, and suggested that she just needed to sleep it off. She was right.) If you're wondering, she hasn't had a drink since.

    3. He could have been on some medication/recreational drug that amplified the effects of the alcohol he DID have.

    I'm not saying any of those things had to be the case, but the effects of alcohol vary so widely, from person-to-person, and even from day to day depending on diet etc, that it's hard to quantify an anecdotal account, and use it as proof of an actual physiological effect. Just a thought.

    What would be more convincing to me would be a double-blind study with a rigorous testing method. It would probably even be fun to do! Any volunteers?

    Interesting story, though.
    m-
  • by SpacePunk (17960) on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:29AM (#11972575) Homepage
    Its temperature remains uniform because there is no other structure near enough to either inject or extract energy. The temperature in any given direction is the same as the temperature in any other given direction because any observer is theoretically in the center of the universe (don't let your head asplode, that all gets into expansion/motion cosmology).

    If 'inflation' happened like they think then the universe is actually younger than the 14 billion years that is the current measure.

    But, then again, all our theories and measurements could be fundamentally flawed to the point where all our theories and assumptions are completely wrong. In that case it doesn't matter.
  • Re:Assholes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by StikyPad (445176) on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:37AM (#11972617) Homepage
    Yup.. Double Your Dating..

    Worked for me.. it really quintupled it. You don't have to mistreat women, just be a man and show that you're in charge and not scared of her or trying to kiss her butt. Women, like most men really, want someone else to be in control. They want other people to tell them the right way to do things, etc. That's not true all of the time, of course, but the majority of the time. Don't believe me? Post a personal ad saying how you want a woman who is beautiful, intelligent, self confident, and self sufficient but believes that it's a man's responsibility to be the leader in a relationship. You'll get tons of responses.

    Teasing women shows them that you're not intimidated by them, or that if you are, you're at least not going to act like it. Unless they've got horrible self confidence, they'll see through it anyway and know you're joking.. it just makes things fun. As does playing hard to get, and teasing them that they're not your type or not good enough for you. People enjoy challenges.. don't make yourself unenjoyable.

    Romance is something that was invented in a time where men were all "chauvinist," so it was rare and appreciated. Romance is greatly appreciated by women.. if you make it a rarity.

    Bottom line -- don't be a wuss.

    David DeAngelo is the man.

    I'm sure I'll get modded down for being offtopic.. for some reason we nerds don't like to talk about how to be successful with women. Probably for the same reason most people don't like talking about technology.. because it makes them feel inadequate.
  • My take on Placebo (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lawpoop (604919) on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:41AM (#11972640) Homepage Journal
    I think the placebo effect is because of our evolution as a social animal. People live in a group, and a healthy person receives attention. If you aren't getting attention, your health suffers. If a doctor is treating you, that means that someone values you enough to keep you alive, and your health will improve because of some psychosomatic recognition of your standing in the community.

    It's like the opposite of 'bone-pointing'. In some aboriginal cultures, a medicine man could kill people just by pointing some bone or small object. People would really die if they got bone pointed -- not only because they believed that death was certain, but also because everyone else in the community treated them as a walking corpse. No food, no conversation, no medicine. An invisible.

  • by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:41AM (#11972642)
    Give everyone placebos, and see if the pills being taken by group A have any effect.

    Also get Group C and tell them they are all getting placebos and give them the real pills and get Group D and tell them they are all getting the real pills and give them placebos. With Group A, the patients will have some uncertainty about what they are getting and that may affect the effect.
  • by Rocketship Underpant (804162) on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:55AM (#11972717)
    [The following may be the inane ramblings of someone who has read too many books about quantum physics but has no actual formal training.]

    If I'm not mistaken, much of our knowledge of relativity, cosmology, and quantum physics comes from the assumption that c (the speed of light) is a constant. Einstein, if I recall correctly, came up with his remarkable theories of relativity and gravity after trying to imagine what the universe would be like if light-speed was constant in all frames of reference.

    However, if the constant c is not actually constant, but a variable - perhaps a function of mass or space-time itself on a galactic scale - then at certain scales or under certain conditions, the weak mass/energy interaction we call gravity might be a little different than presently calculated. Perhaps different enough, on a galactic scale, to account for the "missing matter" that dark matter has been contrived to explain.

    It could also explain variations of Alpha, unexpectedly constant background radiation (particularly if c is slowing down), and the acceleration of space probes as they leave the solar system.

    Perhaps now that variations of the double-slit experiment are demonstrating the non-locality of some phenomena, it's time to stop regarding c as necessarily being a constant and a universal speed limit.

    Do any actual physicists care to shoot holes in my wild suppositions?
  • where are the women? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by themusicgod1 (241799) <themusicgod1@NOspAm.zworg.com> on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:00AM (#11972748) Homepage Journal
    They are too busy watching television and working, it seems.

    Personally I'm not single because I don't show confidence or interest

    I'm single because I'm poor*. What's the point of falling in love when you cannot afford to feed yourself, nevermind a loved one or children?
  • by izomiac (815208) on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:02AM (#11972765) Homepage
    I wonder what would happen if someone injected saline solution into someone who thought they were getting a lethal injection?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:09AM (#11972804)
    Depression sucks, whether it's purely from innate biochemical imbalance, or whether the biochemical imbalance is from some major part of your life actually being crap... such as being sick.

    The other half of the coin is that we are a social animal. An acquaintance of mine who's published on this speculates it's from hominid coevolution with the dog over the last 50kyr, but the cause is less important than the bare fact: Humans find isolation depressing, and company comforting. (For introverts, you can postulate a toxicity threshold; but even introverts save the pathological tend to want at least a few companions. EG: even slashdotters want a girlfriend.)

    I postulate that the body has a shutdown mechanism that goes: "If I'm completely useless, I may as well die," and while not intrinsically lethal, does provide a noticable edge in marginally survivable conditions. While individually anti-survival, it's easily arguable as a pro-survival trait to have for the gene pool, reducing competition for scarce resources for others with better chances. The placebo effect, IMHO, is the body responding to the sense that someone cares, so it's worth trying to live. Placebo is an anodyne for despair... and this is what the placebo effect measures.

    Posted A/C, because I've wasted enough time with shrinks.

  • You forgot logic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by glpierce (731733) on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:12AM (#11972824) Homepage
    "If the placebo effect relies on the conviction of the patient that their treatment is going to help them, then aren't medical systems with a simpler-to-understand and more immersive theoretical foundation, such as various traditional and new-age therapies, going to be more effective (ceteris paribus) than scientific, Western medicine?"

    Western medicine cures many diseases and can remedy or improve many medical conditions. Mental states can influence health and well-being. Your conclusion is that mental states are therefore more effective than Western medicine. Please explain.
  • Re:Missing option (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Joe Tie. (567096) on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:17AM (#11972863)
    That's a good question, and one I always find myself wondering whenever the usual Democrat VS. Republican arguments break out here. I think some, certainaly not all but at least a portion of it comes down to humans having some inate need to believe in a higher power. One which has a greater knowledge than the individual and can provide another group of people to hate. Couple hundred years back it would have been preachers telling of the danger posed by witches and heathens, now it's politicians preaching about the evil ways of their oposing party. A lot of folks would be quick to believe anything, provided it gave an easy target to explain why things are going wrong. It's them darn liberals/It's them darn conservitives! From what I've heard, even the politicians themselves are trapped in it, pretty quickly finding their former views lost and replaced by whatever their peers particular view is.
  • Re:You forgot logic (Score:2, Interesting)

    by myowntrueself (607117) on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:27AM (#11972908)
    What sort of resources do you need in order to create the appropriate mental state?

    Little more than a working brain, really.

    What sort of resources do you need in order to provide the appropriate western medicine?

    Massive refineries and oil tankers and wow just masses of expensive *stuff*.

    Did that help?
  • If it was legal for the clinic to administer heroin, it would be a habit which could be supported without committing crimes. So again I ask, how is methadone better?
  • by nimblebrain (683478) on Friday March 18, 2005 @02:45AM (#11973248) Homepage Journal

    I'm sure they're subject-shopping, but it's interesting that there are so many weird things going on out there.

    It does feel like there are a few things about to tease themselves apart in cosmology...

    Gravity seems to be behaving oddly, with things like the Pioneer acceleration and the anomalous in-track acceleration of the LAGEOS satellites [harvard.edu].

    The limited age of the universe is being stretched to strange proportions of late with observations of the early universe looking more developed than expected [spaceflightnow.com]. Observations by the Spitzer [caltech.edu] may throw even more confusion on the fire.

    Add to the pile interesting oddities like Quantized Redshift [lanl.gov], originally proposed by Tifft and still observed, that would see to put us at the center of the universe (we shouldn't see the equivalent of even "shells" from our point of view). The Fingers of God [thunderbolts.info] is an interesting graphic interpretation.

    Association of high-redshift quasars with low-redshift galaxies [uci.edu] rounds off the plate.

    Actually, a number of these controversies have been around since the mid-80's, but the power and spectrum spread of our telescopes has been getting better. It's been hard to get time to observe the controversial objects - the allocation committees tend to turn such proposals down - but there are plenty of controversies left in the skies, even when we don't go looking for them :)

    Personally, I'm excited by the possibilities. It feels like there's something just around the corner, if only we can get some research time in on it.

  • by fireman sam (662213) on Friday March 18, 2005 @02:45AM (#11973254) Homepage Journal
    I was listening to JJJ the other day and Doctor Karl was talking about placebos. He mentioned that a patent had come in to the hospital in which he was working in great pain (kidney stones or similar). The nurse was sent to get the pain killers (morphine?) which were located about 10 minutes away at the other end of the hospital. Dr Karl (mad scientist he is) was about to flush the "whatever they flush" with saline, and decided to try a placebo experiement.

    Just before he injected the saline, he told the patient that he was giving him the pain killer. To the doctor's surprise, the pain went away quickly.

    The interesting thing was, the nurse returned with the medication and it was administered. The patient then showed the symptoms of an overdose. His heart rate plummeted, his breathing changed dramatically (can't remember if it was slower of faster). But after a short while, (about 20 seconds) his heart rate returned and the man slept the remainder of the night.

    Very interesting.
  • by FCAdcock (531678) on Friday March 18, 2005 @03:02AM (#11973315) Homepage Journal
    How can pot make you have antisocial behavior? That's absurd. I smoked pot when I was a teenager and it had the opposite effect. It was something that brought our friends closer together. We'd sit and smoke and play video games/ guitar/ cards or whatever and talk. To this day I'm still good friends with all of my ex-pot smoking buddies even though we no longer smoke.

    But when we DID smoke, we were all much closer friends.
  • by khallow (566160) on Friday March 18, 2005 @03:09AM (#11973332)
    If anything, dark energy is a triumph of experimental science. An experimental groups found something no one expected, and within a hand full of years, armed only with careful data analysis, they convinced not only themselves but everyone else that it was genuine and radically changed our picture of the universe. Since then we've accumulated even more convinging data, and found independant evidence to confirm the existance of dark energy. There is a vigerous community studying the problem and proposing new tests, and theorists everywhere proposing new and interesting ways to accomodate the data. One couldn't hope for a more perfect example of science working in the way we all like to believe it does.

    Maybe the state of things has changed. But a number of things still bug me. First, how do they know the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate rather rather than decelerating at a slower than expected rate. The distance measurements I recall seeing were rather crude to determine acceleration. Second, if fundamental physical constants can vary over time, then perhaps so can things that depend on those constants like the brightness of the supernova types that are used to calibrate distance scales.

    Ultimately, and I think this is a reasonable view, we shouldn't count "dark energy" as a solid theory until we observe it locally in our labs where we have far more control over observations and the experiment.

  • by niittyniemi (740307) on Friday March 18, 2005 @03:32AM (#11973400) Homepage

    > It's unclear to me exactly why that is considered an
    > improvement.[methadone over heroin].

    It is not seen as an improvement by honest doctors ie. doctors who take their hippocratic oath seriously and don't do their governments bidding.

    I was treated in a mental hospital about 10 yrs ago for alcoholism (UK) and there were a number of heroin addicts in there being treated with methadone. They said the methadone was disgusting in every possible way. (They became the living dead on it).

    The consultant psychiatrist wanted to treat his patients with heroin. People with a heroin addiction can lead perfectly normal lives, those on methadone can't. Yet the government wouldn't allow him for purely political reasons: red top newspapers screaming "Junkies get heroin on National Health Service Scandal!"

    The psychiatrist (Dr Marks) made a fuss about it, saw that he would make no progress in changing attitudes and then pissed off to Switzerland where they have an enlightened drugs policy:

    * Needle exchange (no Aids or hep)

    * Heroin prescription (no stealing or shitty side effects)

    The UK eventually solved all their mental health problems: it's called "Care in the Community" also known as "do fuck all for them and if they break the law chuck them in prison".

    I'm currently doing my bit by lobbying my MP but I feel I will make no progress either and will follow Dr. Marks' in going abroad to a country where mental health problems equates to a trip to hospital and not prison. One needs to protect ones family, right? (Alcoholism and other mental health problems have a genetic component).

    Sorry to be OT but people need informing of what is exactly going on in their name and the public disgrace that is mental health provision in large parts of the Western world.

  • Re:On cold fusion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ibag (101144) on Friday March 18, 2005 @03:38AM (#11973411)
    There have been recent, successful (i.e. highly reporoducible, statistically significant) experiments with cold fusion, or at least with something that doesn't seem explained by other known science. I know people at MIT who are currently working on cold fusion research, and apparnelty there are at least two commercial ventures that are underway to make products out of some of this research. However, nothing is going to be released till people are damned sure this is the real thinng, because the social and political risks are too big if it isn't.

    The probleme with cold fusion is not that it doesn't work (which it may or may not, as I haven't actually looked at the research), but that because of the bad science that has been done on cold fusion, there aren't many reputable scientists working on it. Of course, 90% of the crap you read might be completely irreproducible, so if you were to try to just look into the field you'd find a lot of crackpots and poor results. However, you should not confuse what you will most likely find with what you might find.

    Of course, on the other hand, if the results that people are finding really are examples of workinig cold fusion, the experiments should be at a level that cannot be ignored very soon. It follows that *if* this is the real thing, we will know soon, and if it is not, we will know that the current batch of research isn't fruitful. I trust my friends, so I think there is something to look forward to, but its really hard to say what will happen. Its imporant that we have people working on this kind of research, though, because the benefits will far outweight the costs if things do prove fruitful. The trick is keeping it in the realm of science.
  • The horizon problem (Score:2, Interesting)

    by asjk (569258) * on Friday March 18, 2005 @03:51AM (#11973465)
    OUR universe appears to be unfathomably uniform. Look across space from one edge of the visible universe to the other, and you'll see that the microwave background radiation filling the cosmos is at the same temperature everywhere. That may not seem surprising until you consider that the two edges are nearly 28 billion light years apart and our universe is only 14 billion years old

    This one has me so puzzled I'm sure I won't even understand someone's kind effort at an explanation. Wouldn't one expect the horizon edges to be exactly twice the distance from the center? I mean the BigBang happens and spreads out in all directions. 14 billion years later the edges are 28 billion light years apart--14 light years along one radius and 14 along the other. What am I missing?

    Wait a second! Maybe I solved it! Stoopid fizzassits.

  • Re:"No bearing"? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Nasarius (593729) on Friday March 18, 2005 @04:18AM (#11973549)
    Yes yes, I know. I tried to find a wording that would prevent just that misinterpretation, but evidently I failed. But really, "all men are created equal"? Not for a long time after the Declaration. The Constitution is a much better reflection of both the ideals and the necessary compromises that the nation was founded on.

    It's just disappointing to me that so many people, even many of those who think the Constitution is a great thing, have no clue what's actually in it. It's not a long document. Grab an annotated version (for clarity) and read it.

  • by S3D (745318) on Friday March 18, 2005 @04:22AM (#11973561)
    John Baez, quantum gravity reseacher have an exellent list on his site of Open questions in Physics [ucr.edu]
    It includes:
    sonoluminescence - plasma core in the bubbles of liquid [nature.com]
    high temperature superconductivity
    turbulence and Navier-Stokes equations -mathematic of chaos
    what is meant by a "measurement" in quantum mechanics? Does "wavefunction collapse" actually happen as a physical process ?
    What happened at or before the Big Bang?
    Why is there an arrow of time; that is, why is the future so much different from the past?
    dark energy
    dark matter
    The Horizon Problem: why is the Universe almost, but not quite, homogeneous on the very largest distance scales
    When were the first stars formed, and what were they like
    Is the Cosmic Censorship Hypothesis true? Roughly, for generic collapsing isolated gravitational systems are the singularities that might develop guaranteed to be hidden beyond a smooth event horizon?
    Why are the laws of physics not symmetrical between left and right, future and past, and between matter and antimatter?
    Why is there more matter than antimatter, at least around here?
    Is there really a Higgs boson, as predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics?
    Why do the particles have the precise masses they do? Or is this an unanswerable question?
    Are there important aspects of the Universe that can only be understood using the Anthropic Principle?
    The Big Question(TM)
    This last question sits on the fence between cosmology and particle physics:
    * How can we merge quantum theory and general relativity to create a quantum theory of gravity? How can we test this theory?
  • Re:"No bearing"? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jonner (189691) on Friday March 18, 2005 @04:45AM (#11973628)
    I saw a PBS documentary on the restoration of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. One major point of the documentary is that the Declaration has taken on much greater importance to US citizens since the Civil War. It may have been largely the result of Abe Lincoln's quoting of it in the Gettysburg Address.
  • by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Friday March 18, 2005 @04:59AM (#11973661)
    How can pot make you have antisocial behavior?

    It really depends from person to person. You might've felt more social and relaxed smoking pot. There are others however who react differently to pot where it amplifies certain emotions or at least puts more focus on it.

    Imagine someone who's a bit shy, slightly sociophobic, or being socially rather inept, that person wouldn't suddenly buddy up. Au contraire.

    As well, you have these people who withdraw themselves alot while being stoned for a whole array of reasons. Main for being in their "own world" while stoned.

  • by Havenwar (867124) on Friday March 18, 2005 @05:28AM (#11973747)
    From the article:

    1 The placebo effect
    DON'T try this at home. Several times a day, for several days, you induce pain in someone. You control the pain with morphine until the final day of the experiment, when you replace the morphine with saline solution. Guess what? The saline takes the pain away.


    What do you mean do NOT try this at home? Oh... yeah... I see now. You are absolutetly right, I would also much rather stick with the morphine.

    On an unrelated note, ever had a parent dying of cancer or something similar? Ever noticed how amusing it can be to talk to them while they are on morphine? Well, apart from the sad parts then. My mother died a week ago or so, and the last time I met her I couldnt stop laughing.

    Glad she wasnt on saline. ;)
    This way we got a happy last meeting.

    Yay for drugs!
  • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Friday March 18, 2005 @06:06AM (#11973850) Homepage Journal

    Nagel's claim that "The experimental case is bulletproof, [y]ou can't make it go away." is a load of garbage.

    I think most people on /. simply have in mind the 1986/1987 publications.

    Yes, there have been problems in duplicating them. But that was 17 years ago. Researchon cold fusion did not stop during the last 17 years.

    There are new results and new experiments. When Nagels is saying: "The experimental case is bulletproof" he is reffering to the established working experiments of the previous 5 yeas. And not to the old Pons/Fleischmann claims.

    Further more: exepriments with "hydrogen" on "low pressure" interacting with probes leading to transmutations (where a trasmutation of H + D is considered a "fusion") are meanwhile nearly 100 years old.

    There are PLENTY of historical experiments of meanwhile less well known physics researchers. The point is, the winners write history: Meissner, Röntgen, Fermi, Bohr, Pauli etc. won the race into the established science.

    So the our days thinking is: they are right and the others are wrong. I'm very convinced that both are right. That at both ends of the energy spectrum: high energy and very low energy, transmutations and fusions can happen.

    There are even pretty easy explanaitions how cold fusion can happen:

    a) Cooper Pairs
    Like electrons building Cooper pairs in super conductors, H atoms difussed into a latice build "Cooper" pairs. As Cooper pairs no longer fall under the Pauli exclusion principle they can come close enough to fuse.

    b) Brown Movement
    If the "gass" of deuterium and hydrogen inside of the latice of the electrode is "dense" enough, collisons amoung them or with the fabrice (or with electrons?) lead to a wide distributed energy spectrum amoung the H/D atoms. If two of them with high enough energy collide, then its not even "cold" fusion but ordinary hot fusion.

    So, what now? The second explanaition is likely nonsense. As hot fusion implies (as we know today) by products like neutrons.

    The most anyoing thing about "cold fusion" rejecters, especially if they are scientists is, instead of trying to find an explanaition HOW it could happen they simply reject it on the terms: does not fit into working theory.

    So:
    The evenly distributed background radiation we see in the univere, we accept.
    The unexplainable acceleration of the Pioneer probes, we accept.
    The idea of Dark Matter and Dark Energy, we accept -- at least as a interims name until we can translate/incorporate it into the formulars and constants.
    The super fast cosmic rays, we accept (albeit the number of researches having found them is much smaller than the researchers working on cold fusion .... or how it is called today: Low Energy Nuclear Reactions)

    I suggest you google for LENR or the complete term and look for the publications over the last decade ragarding this topic :D Or you glanse trough the old publications from 1930 to 1950, especially from Italy and Japan.

    angel'o'sphere
  • Re:Missing option (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ballpoint (192660) on Friday March 18, 2005 @06:25AM (#11973894)
    The problem is that in such a democracy you wouldn't be able to stand out of the crowd as a beacon of wisdom, and you'd lose your advantage and/or high self-esteem. It's all relative.

    Then again, there are times where I wish I were just plain stupid myself. It must be an easy life, especially in the "Land of the Herd, Home of the Weak" socialist utopia where I live.
  • by NoData (9132) <_NoData_NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday March 18, 2005 @06:54AM (#11973966)
    The Hrobjartsson meta-analysis (the story that you ulitmately link to) is intetersting, but in the end it shows that placebo does not resolve people's sysmptoms (it doesn't actually make people get better), which is not surprising, since we know placebo does not actually have any curative powers! They were looking at placebo in disease state, and we know the basis of disease is almost never something can be wished away,even if you believe the placebo is working.

    But whether or not the placebo effect actually alters people's perception is another matter, and not one that I'm convinced has been discredited. Some of my colleagues took this seriously and performed a brain imaging [princeton.edu] study and found that placebo actually changed the way people's brains perceive pain (they examined placebo analgesia) in those people subject to the placebo effect (report less pain with placebo). Namely, people show less activity in pain-related areas and more activity in "control" areas that may be overriding or dampening pain processing. Mind over experience.
  • Re:Full ANOVA Design (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalker&gmail,com> on Friday March 18, 2005 @07:35AM (#11974076) Journal
    Yes, but if I tell you that you are getting a placebo and give you real medicine or visa vera there is real harm. No real harm was done in the shock thing, either way the shock experiment may even provoke lawsuits in the current state of medicine. And no waiver could exist as it would tip off the patients.
  • Methane on Mars (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iammrjvo (597745) on Friday March 18, 2005 @08:25AM (#11974210) Homepage Journal

    Can someone answer the question as to how prevalent hydrocarbons are in our universe? I'm interested in knowing if the existence of methane on Mars supports a theory that I've heard regarding the origin of hydrocarbons on earth. The theory goes that many natural hydrocarbons were trapped in the earth as the planet formed and that oil is not a product of decaying animals but rather is a product of chemical reactions from these natural hydrocarbons. Proponents say that, for one thing, there's just too much oil and gas to have been formed from fossils.

    If there's methane on Mars, but no life on Mars, then could it just be the product of hydrocarbons that naturally fill the universe? Can anyone answer the question as to how much hydrocarbon is naturally found in the universe as a whole?
  • Re:Full ANOVA Design (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pla (258480) on Friday March 18, 2005 @08:44AM (#11974280) Journal
    nice try, but the Milgram studies have generally been thought to be unethical.

    True, they do seem unethical in hindsight.

    But they also revealed an absolutely amazing area of human psychology that we couldn't have discovered any other way - That our normal concept of "conscience" completely vanishes in the interaction between an authority figure and a subordinate.


    Kinda funny that a lot of the most important findings in psychology (and medical science as well) count as "unethical" by today's standards.

    Myself, I interpret that as the entire human race having turned into a culture of whiners. "Oh, boo-frickin' hoo, I feel bad about having thought-I-did-but-not-actually zapped that guy"... "Oh, I feel violated, I must now sue you because you said you would give me caffeine but you actually gave me a sugar pill".


    At the risk of sounding like a Trekkie, sometimes the good of the many outweighs the good of the few. I say "sometimes" because you could use the same argument to justify torturing prisoners. When dealing with a minor inconvenience to the few, no problem. When "breaking" someone into saying whatever they think you want to hear, the criteria for "justifiable" become quite a lot more strict, if even possible to satisfy.
  • Re:Full ANOVA Design (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DarkSarin (651985) on Friday March 18, 2005 @09:16AM (#11974430) Homepage Journal
    I won't argue with any of that. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that you are right.

    Also, very sadly, there are certain advances in medicine that *might* not have happened as early as they did without the holocaust and Hitler's experiments on live humans. I don't think that we can safely say that they were worth it, however--and that is the crux of the problem.

    Sometimes the good of the many does outweigh the good of the few. The trouble is, however, that it becomes difficult, on occasion, to tell where that line is. Thus was born the Ethics Committees and Review Boards who object to some very strange things at times, but generally do good work.

    Are studies involving deception possible? Absolutely. Are they difficult to get approved? Yes, and with good reason.

    You do bring up a good point, though. It does, occasionally, seem as though all the major discoveries happened because a researcher (at least in psychology, and to a lesser extent, medicine) was willing to do things to subjects that were more than a little questionable.

    I would argue, however, that it simply requires more effort and ingenuity to set up an experiment to test the same thing without crossing that line. IIRC, the Milgram studies have been replicated to show that the effect exists, but in a more humane way.
  • by _w00d_ (129045) on Friday March 18, 2005 @09:48AM (#11974595)

    Bruce Lipton [brucelipton.com] has done research on people's perception and how it changes their internal physiology (i.e. elevated immune response, hormonal changes, etc.). His work may explain the physiological changes some people experience after taking placebos, possibly due to perceptive changes.

  • by Bastian (66383) on Friday March 18, 2005 @09:50AM (#11974605)
    The more interesting medieval cases were where laymen knew more about the real world than so-called intellectuals.

    A great example is projectile motion. I'm sure most any archer could have told you that the arrow takes a curved path. The official intellectual story at the time, though, was that the arrow went straight up into the sky at an angle, then somehow stopped and instantaneously began falling vertically back down to earth. This motion had to be the case because all motion occurs in straight lines.

    Maybe it would be more fitting to call them the Dim Ages.
  • by budgenator (254554) on Friday March 18, 2005 @10:57AM (#11975239) Journal
    Normarly they take a population and tell them they will be divided into groups;
    1. one group get the test medication,
    2. one group get the "old-stand-by" medication
    3. one group gets an inert plecebo

    the meds are packaged to look the same and have the same taste as much as possible. Everybody knows and consents to be treated with the test med, the old med, and the plecebo med with out their knowege of what they'll really be getting.

    if the primary researcher knows what meds are given to who, it's called a single-blind experement because the patient is blind to what they are getting.

    if the primary researcher doesn't know, as well as the patient, it's called double-blind. who got what is only revealed after the experiment is over.

    There is usualy a mercy clause in the experiment where if it becomes obvious that one group is recieving irrefutable benefits from what they are taking, everybody gets it.

    I saw an interesting program on tv about homeopathic remedies, essentialy even when sceptical and respected researchers conducted homeopathic experiments, even on cells in vitro, the homeopathic remadies worked in every single blind experiment. When the same researchers repeated the same experiments in the double-blind method, they always failed. The researcher's knowelege of experiment and control groups even effect the results obtained in cell cultures in test tubes, and analysed with automated test equipment, very strange results in deed.
  • by vigour (846429) on Friday March 18, 2005 @11:12AM (#11975409)
    I felt I had to reply to this directly after reading it (I just posted a message on homeopathy just now [slashdot.org]) I normally don't take things on a faith basis, but after my experience with homeopathy I will admit I'm a believer.

    After years of suffering from ME, and going nowhere with treatments (no quacks, I wouldn't waste my money, time, or ruin my hopes yet again) I've seen a massive turnaround over the last 9 months I've been on a homeopathic treatement programme. Yes there could have been other factors involved that I am unaware of. That they were coincidental with my treatement makes them unlikely but still possible. I don't know how I'm better, I just know that after following my homeopath's programme I am healthy again.
    I don't like not knowing, but I attribute it to homeopathy.

    You are bang on the mark with the bias in the experiments, and with other "believers". I don't think practictioners will ever admit to it not working, but beyond the research done so far, I don't know what else can be done in a scientific way to prove that it doesn't work.
  • by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Friday March 18, 2005 @11:16AM (#11975455) Homepage
    Instead, we have the worst drug prohibition in history, for no particular good reason, and to no particular useful effect.

    Worse than that, people who need pain medication aren't getting it. If doctors prescribe them enough opiates to block their pain, they will be threatened with the loss of their license to practice medicine. The War on Drugs is incredibly harmful to American society.
    -russ
  • by Doctor Fishboy (120462) on Friday March 18, 2005 @11:46AM (#11975774)
    First, how do they know the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate rather rather than decelerating at a slower than expected rate. The distance measurements I recall seeing were rather crude to determine acceleration. Second, if fundamental physical constants can vary over time, then perhaps so can things that depend on those constants like the brightness of the supernova types that are used to calibrate distance scales.

    Well, over the past few years the initial results from 1998 have been confirmed with more measurements. Two groups were independently making this measurement, and the discovery of this acceleration was so unexpected, both groups didn't publish for a few months and in the end agreed to publish in the same journal with back to back articles.

    So how did they do it? It turns out that a certain type of star explosion (a type 1a supernova) has a very distinct and specific brightness when they go off. these supernovae can shine as bright as their host galaxies for a few days, and so by looking at lots of galaxies, every so oftern they see the distinct brightness of a supernova going off. They then intensively monitor the light curve as the supernova fades over many tens of days, which gives a good indication of the physical distance to the supernova.

    They then measure the redshift of the host galaxy, which gives the speed of recession for that supernova (the supernova system is moving within the galaxy), and you plot a form of these two quantities against each other. The resultant curve implied that only accelerating universe models fit. This was such a suprise that many astronomers started up more intensive searches for really distant supernovae, and these confirmed what the intial experiments suggested.

    Now, there are sertain systematic errors to take account of - how do we know that all supernovae go off with the same brightness of explosion? What happens if there's lots of dust that makes supernovae appear dimmer (and thus farther away than they physically are?) I'd be happy to explain if you want, so send a reply to this post and I'll talk some more.

    The short version (THIS is short?!) is that many effects that could give a false signal have been ruled out - exceptional results require excepconal evidence (sorry, Prof. Sagan!) so 99% of astronomers believe these results.

    Ultimately, and I think this is a reasonable view, we shouldn't count "dark energy" as a solid theory until we observe it locally in our labs where we have far more control over observations and the experiment.

    Sorry to be pedantic, but dark energy is an observed phenomenon. WHAT dark energy is, is the reall million dollar question. We'd love to see it in the lab, but when you work out what the typical effect of dark energy would be over omething the size of the solar system, it is a fantastically miniscule effect that we could not detect, never mind trying to detect it in a lab.

    Hope this helps (and that you'll still be around to read this some 8 hours later....)

    Dr Fish

  • Re:Mind over matter. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GeckoX (259575) on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:05PM (#11976005)
    So then, our governments are actually killing smokers? I've always suspected them of adding the most dangerous shit into cigarettes, but making them kill us simply by telling us it will...Genious!

    I've got to get a new tin-foil hat ;)
  • Re:Missing option (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iwadasn (742362) on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:07PM (#11976029)

    That seems a little simplistic. There are real differences of opinion within the country, and though neither party perfectly represents anybody, they do tend to align into groups that are fairly evenly matched. The adversarial system produces adversaries, who knew!

    Yes there is corruption (even in my party), but that has always been the case. Look back at the early days of New York (Tweed), and you'll see how far we've come. The corruption now is dramatically less than the corruption 100 years ago, so perhaps we're making a little bit of progress, though we seem to have backslid a little in the last few years.

  • by David's Boy Toy (856279) on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:28PM (#11976283)
    Anyone with any experience in the Leather Scene (S&M) knows that pain perception is highly subjective. Its not at all surprising that the placebo effect works quite well on pain.
  • by radtea (464814) on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:39PM (#11976440)
    This article contains a host of issues.

    The Dark Matter problem is actually the Dark Matter problemS, plural. Galactic dark matter is only the tip of the iceberg, and can be explained by baryonic matter. Dark matter (or energy) on larger scales is a different kettle of fish. A better heading would have been: "Large scale dynamics of the universe", which would take in the horizon problem, the dark matter problem and the dark energy problem.

    The article in this regard is a bit like a software requirements document written by a user: it's in terms of projected solutions rather than actual problems. The actual problem is that we don't understand the large-scale dynamics of the universe. The solution may be anything from exotic particles to weird properties of space to alternative dynamics. We just don't know.

    The things about alpha changing and tetra-neutrons are cool, but far more likely to be mistakes than new phenomena.

    The stuff about high-energy cosmic rays is probably the most interesting, and in fact there are a wealth of phenomena that have been observed by large detectors such as SNO and Kamiokande over the years that really don't make sense. The possibility of new physics at high energies, or entirely novel particles (magnetic monopoles, for example) is quite real, and some of the anomalies observed in these detectors may be indicators of these things.

    --Tom
  • Re:On cold fusion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jc42 (318812) on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:55PM (#11976642) Homepage Journal
    In all I thought the committee's conclusions seemed reasonable, pragmatic, and scientific, without being strongly prejudiced for or against the "cold fusion" effect. However, in the media (such as this article) the final report has been painted with much broader strokes.

    The media does want to portray it as a possible new energy source. They're interested in useful science, not just interesting science. One of the possibilities is that "cold fusion" is something real but not very useful.

    For a parallel, consider the old claim that "bumblebees can't fly", which you still hear now and then. What this really meant, of course, was that the equations used by aeronautical engineers couldn't explain how bumblebees developed lift. They don't use "aerodynamic lift", and no other mechanism was fully understood. Then, a couple of decades ago, someone decided to investigate the topic. They figured out pretty quickly how bumblebees develop lift, and it was by a totally different mechanism than birds or airplanes use. It's understood fairly well now.

    The important part for the current topic is that the lift-generating method used by small insects doesn't scale. It depends on treating air as a collection of particles, and at larger scales air acts like a fluid rather than particles. It's very powerful for a gnat, but its effect falls off quickly with size, and doesn't work for an object much bigger than a large insect. So we can't use it in our airplanes or helicopters.

    There were a few breathless reports about this in the media at first, about scientists discovering a new kind of flight, and speculating about it resulting in much more efficient flying machines. But this coverage died quickly, as the news got through that it's useless for lifting a creature much bigger than a gram. It's interesting to scientists, but not to the media, because it's not useful (so far) to us large animals.

    Similarly, it's possible that "cold fusion" is something that only works on a microscopic scale, and can't be scaled up to human size. Maybe it only happens in tiny bubbles, but too many bubbles disrupt the fluid medium. If so, it may be of interest to the nanotech crowd. But it's difficult for media folks to get their minds around something like this.

    There have been proposals to make tiny flying machines that fly like insects. It could be interesting if a bee-size machine, powered by "bubble fusion", could house a camera and a network link ...

  • by Cycnus (162186) * on Friday March 18, 2005 @12:58PM (#11976675) Homepage
    I'm glad to learn that homeopathy had a positive impact on you but that should not detract anyone from the biggest picture.

    A treatment is not confirmed to be working on the basis of testimony alone. There are good reasons for that and in particular the fact that following a new treatment also includes a change in lifestyle and without knowing which parameters count and which do not, you can't infer that any progress is attributable to the treatment alone.
    Another reason is the lack of properly measurable quantity to actually define improvement. For some it will be subjective, for others it will be objective, but what counts is to quantify that improvement and verify it over a large sample of people being treated for the same symptoms folowing the same methods.

    Honest people have come to believe very strongly in all sort of stuff because it worked for them, however it is very hard to shake the notion that it isn't enough to confirm actual effectiveness.
    Would you take a treatment that was found to work in only 1% of cases?
    Such a treatment wouldn't even be considered interesting, especially if others exist that have a better success rate.
    Now if you're one of the 1% for which that treatment was effective -for whatever reason-, then you too would be a strong believer in that treatment because it worked for you, but that doesn't translate in it being an effective treatment that should be recommended.

    The fact that homeopathy was born out of thin air 200 years ago at a time when medical science was in its infancy, and that it has not changed its practices even though progress in other sciences have been unable to find any trace of supporting evidence to those practices should be a big red signal that there is something off with homeopathy.

    Homeopathy is armless (http://www.homeowatch.org/articles/jaroff.html [homeowatch.org]) except that it may detract people from the treatment they actually need.

    That being said, if it works for you, then by all mean use it. However, dont be too quick to see your homeopath before seing actual doctors next time you have something: Medecine's goal is to actually help patients using methods that are proven to work most of the time.

    There is no such thing as "alternative medecine": medecine will use whatever works for real, that's why it actually progresses. Alternatives have to call themselve that way simply because they have not been able to make a sufficiently strong case for themselves, otherwise they would be embraced. That's the difference between herbalism and pharmacognosy for instance: the former can't prove effectiveness and is rooted in unwavering faith for "traditional wisdom" and the latter actually uses the plants that are proven to work to help people.

  • by antispam_ben (591349) on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:20PM (#11976933) Journal
    This is a high-school level science expeiment (directions on how to do it are in the Amateur Scientist column of Feb. 1995 Scientific American, if you're interested you can get ALL the AS columns on CD at http://brightscience.com/ [brightscience.com]), and has been known of for decades, but the exact cause is a mystery.

    But there is recent speculation and evidence that this basement-science experiment generates nuclear fusion:

    http://www.scispot.org/archives/physics/sonolumine scence_lights_up_fusion_research.html [scispot.org]

    Oh, and from that page, one of the "Selected sonoluminescence resources on the web" is no less an authoritative science source than...http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/03/03 /1833245 [slashdot.org]!
  • by The MESMERIC (766636) on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:57PM (#11977308) Homepage
    I don't know if someone posted about this yet.
    But come on noone been able to prove this phenomena in almost 25 years now.

    I've seen it a live, a BBC reporter using just his mind to make the graph of a computer
    (spinning the equivalent of 1 billion coins a second) go upwards.
    Pure mind over matter.
    The reporter was every bit sceptical like most of us.
    Of course I would love it to test it myself.

    Princeton Engineering Anomaly Research [princeton.edu]

    If it was hocus-pocus it would have been scrapped from Princeton University by now.
  • by The MESMERIC (766636) on Friday March 18, 2005 @02:06PM (#11977399) Homepage
    "Did anybody consider that homeopathy = placebo effect?"

    er ..
    how can a culture of human white cells, isolated in a container, be prone to placebo effects?

    "You must belieeeeeeeve!" - says one cell to another.
  • by vigour (846429) on Friday March 18, 2005 @02:30PM (#11977664)
    Thank you for your measured response! I know it would have been easy to attack my previous posts.

    And yes you are completely right on many points. After I posted that second comment I realised I missed my own point, about being impartial.

    The greatest conflict for me is between the scientific method (which has had a profound effect on my way of thinking), and my first hand experiences of myself, and other people I know. Those experiences I had upset that paradigm I am still (I hope) in, especially compared with the professional, scientific experiments carried out indicating the homeopathy has no effect.

    From my own experiences, conventional medicine had no effect (and they will admit themselves that there is no know cure, yet, for ME), but I would never advocate homeopathy as a standalone treatment. The homeopaths I know, all advise their patients to stay with whatever treatments their GPs have them on, and keep them informed about the homeopathy.

    At the end of the day, I want to believe in homeopathy, while wanting to analyse it properly and go "Hey, what about all this evidence!". Which are fundementally opposed to each other. I don't know if there is a way to "prove" homeopathy, all the evidence suggests otherwise. Then again that could be due to fundamental flaws in the approach to the experiments, (like the studies of brownian motion before Einstein's treatement of it in his 1905 paper, the researchers were getting nonsensical results for the velocities of the particles, which would increase as you measured at smaller and smaller scales!) but that is unlikely. I once read a book trying to explain the physics behind it, it was hilarious. The author brought in ideas from QED, and string theory (primarily the energy from the molecules in solution being transferred and stored in higher dimensional elements of the water molecules!), it had no founding in reality (I suppose you could argue the same with string theory, m-theory and the like).

    Indeed you are quite right about the origins and practise of homeopathy. I only know a certain amount about it (I wanted know more about what I was putting into my body, and where the techniques came from), but its methodology is something that any chemist/pharmacist would hate.

    I wouldn't brand Chinese medicine with the same stick though. They had a fully developed system thousands of years before western medicine, and it was only codified after a long history of medicine before that.

    (As an aside, I have heard -so it's only word of mouth- from chinese friends that one of the biggest problems with chinese medicine, in China anyway, is that in the past they kept the best remedies and knowledge within their families)

    And it's a system that works, in principle yes medicine should take whatever works, and works safely to help improve/save peoples lives, but it's not always the case. There is still a lot of arrogance in the west about chinese medicine, and herbalists. The old remedies your granny might suggest most likely have been refuted, or more effective solutions discovered (there are the nuggets of gold though), but herbalism (at least those that are licenced, and have had training up to the required standard for their governing bodies) is not as voodoo-hoodoo as it normally thought.

    Damn, I will have to stop there, I've a date in an hour :P which I need to get ready for.

    (PS I'm trying to find an article that was in an Irish Pharmaceutical magazine about research indicating that active molecules could be more effective if left bonded to larger molecules, as found in plant and herb remedies, as opposed to the isolated molecules in equivalent conventional medicines. Of course I haven't supplied any evidence to prove this article exists yet, so it can't be treated as being true - yet, hopefully!)
  • by The MESMERIC (766636) on Friday March 18, 2005 @07:57PM (#11981017) Homepage
    Of what I heardJames Randi has his own an agenda.
    To disprove virtually anything deemed supernatural as superstition.
    He goes to such a length to achieve this, and has been accused of avoiding serious challeges or dismissing the results.

    James Randi the publicist, author, with a band of worshippers, lives under constant self-denial in fear of losing his own challenge to the world:
    "£1 million dollar offered to anyone to prove that any super-natural phenomena does actually exist."

    When pressed too hard for an explanation - he denies things based on "personal intution alone"
    which I guess translates to a simple "cos I say so".

The trouble with the rat-race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. -- Lily Tomlin

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