0808: "The Economic Argument"

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby flatfish » Thu Oct 21, 2010 9:30 pm UTC

teqmc2 wrote:Ok, my field of expertise is muscles. I am sure that there is a device which can measure a muscle's resting tonicity, but I do not know what that sensor is. We acquire one of those, and several people with pathologically elevated tonicity in some muscle, for example the Rectus Femoris, one which frequently has this issue. We take a base line measurement to see what the tonicity of that muscle is before treatment. The practitioner who is being tested puts their hands on the muscle, and uses the energy of their will to lower the tonicity of the muscle. Half of the subjects get treatment, half of them get fake treatment: hands get laid on, look of concentration on practitioner's face, same duration, same intensity of pressure. Afterwords, measure muscle tonicity again.


Ideally, the test should be made double-blind though. This may be difficult in this case and I can only think of patient- and observer-blinded study protocols.

There already are plenty of acupuncture studies out there, but unfortunately a majority suffers from inadequate protocol design. In those acupuncture studies, IIRC the conclusion of the better designed studies was that both "true" acupuncture (i.e. following the traditional practice based on energy meridians or whatever) and "fake" acupuncture (i.e. sticking needles in the skin without following the meridians and traditional points) have a higher efficacy than placebo (and sometimes even compared to conventional therapy) for some conditions (e.g. back pain), but no statistical difference between the "true" and "fake" groups. (Reference: Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(17):1892-1898) I think this is quite an interesting result as it may lead to the conclusion that acupuncture works, even though the whole energy meridian stuff is nonsense. It may also help deciding for which conditions acupuncture may be appropriate at all. Pain management seems to be the most promising candidate, though of course you have to be careful: the placebo-effect has also been shown to be most pronounced in pain management. I am not sure to what extend (if at all) the acupuncture studies showing this outcome as in Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(17) are supported/contradicted by repeat studies and/or meta-studies etc.

Edit: I can't find the published study now, but I remember hearing a few years back on some science radio show of a study that compared 4 groups:
1. traditional acupuncture
2. placebo in pill form
3. fake acupuncture without skin penetration
4. fake acupuncture with skin penetration.

Apparently (?) the subjects where unable to distinguish between 1, 3 and 4. Results where 1 = 4 > 3 > 2. Conclusion was, that there may be an actual effect from sticking needles in the skin of subjects suffering from back pain. The fact that 3 > 2 may be the same as the observation that placebos given intravenously show higher efficacy than placebos given orally.
But without finding the actual study publication, it's hard to say how significant this result was or if I even remember correctly...

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby Siirenias » Thu Oct 21, 2010 10:02 pm UTC

I think that double blind studies, complete with untrained hands, might violate some kind of humane treatment moral. You can do a lot of damage that way.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby flatfish » Thu Oct 21, 2010 10:11 pm UTC

Siirenias wrote:I think that double blind studies, complete with untrained hands, might violate some kind of humane treatment moral. You can do a lot of damage that way.

Well, I don't know how you could test the Reiki thing (or acupuncture) with someone untrained in Reiki. But then you can't double blind the study, because you can't blind the practitioner, he/she will always know if they do proper Reiki treatment or the opposite, and this may taint the study results. But many medical techniques (e.g. major surgeries) never have been and can't be tested in a full double blind fashion, so this might not be a major problem. But I don't know what the common procedure for comparing such techniques in a rational and statistically sound fashion is. I think it's generally accepted that a randomized controlled trial with masked analysis and unbiased (or in the Reiki case even blinded) subjects gives valid results even if the practitioner is not blinded.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby BrianX » Fri Oct 22, 2010 2:38 am UTC

flatfish:

Actually, testing reiki would in theory be fairly simple and would likely resemble Emily Rosa's protocol that discredited therapeutic touch. You'd have several reiki practitioners agree on a specific effect that should be observed under certain conditions, then compare the effects against a control group.

Essentially the point is not to test the effect, but to find out whether there is anything at all to begin with (as someone said about the Rosa tests, the equivalent of asking a surgeon to pick up a scalpel). Anyone who can't agree to something so simple is hiding something.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Oct 22, 2010 3:02 am UTC

flatfish wrote:Edit: I can't find the published study now, but I remember hearing a few years back on some science radio show of a study that compared 4 groups:
1. traditional acupuncture
2. placebo in pill form
3. fake acupuncture without skin penetration
4. fake acupuncture with skin penetration.

Apparently (?) the subjects where unable to distinguish between 1, 3 and 4. Results where 1 = 4 > 3 > 2. Conclusion was, that there may be an actual effect from sticking needles in the skin of subjects suffering from back pain. The fact that 3 > 2 may be the same as the observation that placebos given intravenously show higher efficacy than placebos given orally.
But without finding the actual study publication, it's hard to say how significant this result was or if I even remember correctly...

Funny, I was just looking at this study and it is currently my facebook status.

Anyway, you can find it here and it was similar to what you said. It tested and compared the effectiveness of individualized acupuncture (using traditional Chinese diagnostic techniques), standard acupuncture (again according to Chinese tradition and by trained acupuncturists), simulated acupuncture (without skin penetration, using toothpicks), and usual care for treatment of chronic lower back pain.

The results were very similar for reduction of reported symptoms (mostly pain iirc) for individualized acupuncture, standard acupuncture, and simulated acupuncture, but much worse for usual care. Basically, even placebos beat usual medical care for chronic lower back pain.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby teqmc2 » Fri Oct 22, 2010 3:52 am UTC

It should be noted that analgesia/anesthesia is not the only effect claimed for Acupuncture. I have also heard claims that Acupuncture can raise or lower heart rate, blood pressure, and have innumerable other effects on a body.

I want to test the claim about heart rate. Starting with several subjects, you take the heart rate of each, and then the practitioner administers three groups: raise heart rate, lower heart rate, put needles in randomly.

Take pulse immediately after needles are inserted.

Take pulse after 20 minutes of sitting with needles in place.

Remove needles, take pulse.

The subjects do not know which group they are in, the pulse takes do not know either. The practitioner does know.

However, I am much more interested in how a person can measure the resting muscle tone of a person in a recordable way. Who ever can tell me what sensor to use can have 25% of the prize.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:07 am UTC

Yeah, I imagine sticking needles in someone will change their heart rate. Big damn deal.
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby teqmc2 » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:33 am UTC

Yes, it is not surprising that the heart rate will change. The question is: will it go the direction that the practitioner intended, with how much consistency?

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:22 am UTC

teqmc2 wrote:Yes, it is not surprising that the heart rate will change. The question is: will it go the direction that the practitioner intended, with how much consistency?

According to the article I cited, such studies have been done, but I don't really feel like looking for them now. You might want to do some research int that before you bother to do an experiment.

And by the way the results are similar for acupuncture and for simulated acupuncture.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Oct 22, 2010 11:49 am UTC

teqmc2 wrote:The question is: will it go the direction that the practitioner intended, with how much consistency?
Not much, according to every strong study that's been done.
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby littlelj » Fri Oct 22, 2010 12:11 pm UTC

flatfish wrote:
Siirenias wrote:I think that double blind studies, complete with untrained hands, might violate some kind of humane treatment moral. You can do a lot of damage that way.

Well, I don't know how you could test the Reiki thing (or acupuncture) with someone untrained in Reiki. But then you can't double blind the study, because you can't blind the practitioner, he/she will always know if they do proper Reiki treatment or the opposite, and this may taint the study results. But many medical techniques (e.g. major surgeries) never have been and can't be tested in a full double blind fashion, so this might not be a major problem. But I don't know what the common procedure for comparing such techniques in a rational and statistically sound fashion is. I think it's generally accepted that a randomized controlled trial with masked analysis and unbiased (or in the Reiki case even blinded) subjects gives valid results even if the practitioner is not blinded.


How about taking some volunteers:

1. Reiki practitioners
2. people who believe Reiki definitely doesn't work

Give group 2. Reiki training. They have an interest in seeming to be a real Reiki practitioner - if they are as good as a real one whilst faking they prove Reiki is bunk.

If both groups get similar results for patients from a healing session then Reiki is bunk.

Sidenote: I have had some Reiki training (for "some" read "half an hour") and the results did actually freak me out a bit. I "felt" an invisible internal injury the patient hadn't disclosed, from four inches above her skin, with my eyes closed. :shock:
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby Chalnoth » Fri Oct 22, 2010 12:32 pm UTC

tugs wrote:
DavidRoss wrote:
joy wrote:And if lottery ticket actually worked, investors would buy them.


Actually, there is a rare situation where they do work... where the "true" prize... is greater than the cost of buying every ticket


I assume by "rare" you mean "utterly non-existent." People don't run lotteries to give away money, they run them to raise it.

Oh, it definitely happens, because the jackpot amount rolls over from week to week if nobody wins it. Every once in a while, the jackpot amount grows large enough that people buying the ticket for that particular week have a large enough chance that it makes sense to buy tickets. The lottery still earns money because it was earning receipts for all those previous weeks without paying anything out, and now just enjoys an extra boost in earnings due to the more savvy lottery players.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:05 pm UTC

littlelj wrote:I "felt" an invisible internal injury the patient hadn't disclosed, from four inches above her skin, with my eyes closed. :shock:
I don't know the nature of said injury, but could it be as simple as removing the scare quotes and realizing that an active injury site will probably have more blood flowing to it and thus radiate more heat?
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby eran_rathan » Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:48 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:For magic (hexes, curses, whatever)

- Some people claim that certain observable phenomena occur, but supposed observations of those phenomena have yet to be reliably replicated.

- Some of those people claim to have explanations of how and why those phenomena occur. Most of those explanations are inconsistent with many other, well-tested explanations for lots of other phenomena (i.e. the "laws" of physics).

- However, some of those people claim that their explanations are consistent with those other, well-tested explanations.

- That's all fine and dandy, but we still don't know whether or not these phenomena occur at all. Even if (and that's a big if) you can show that magic-like phenomena are implied to occur under certain circumstances according to well-established theories, you're still only back to the first step in the history of black hole science: "our models say these kinds of things might occur". You still need to reliably and repeatedly observe them occurring before you can really start talking about whether the explanation for them is correct or not, since at this point, we're not really sure whether they occur at all -- only that they could, according to our models. And even then, only if (that's a big if) that step of deriving magic-like implications from well-established theories has been done soundly.


Quantum entanglement has been observed, repeatedly and reliably. We have no idea how it happens, but entangled particles appear to be able to transmit data instantaneously, without any use of energy observed. There is no mechanism known for this property, though it can be described mathematically.
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:52 pm UTC

No. No information is transmitted faster than light, in any observed or theoretically predicted phenomenon.
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby littlelj » Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:57 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
littlelj wrote:I "felt" an invisible internal injury the patient hadn't disclosed, from four inches above her skin, with my eyes closed. :shock:
I don't know the nature of said injury, but could it be as simple as removing the scare quotes and realizing that an active injury site will probably have more blood flowing to it and thus radiate more heat?

Scare quotes were because it was like feeling someone look at you (rather than feeling heat or something else you can immediately identify). And I wasn't near enough to feel more heat, especially through patient's clothes and in a warm room.

Although "more blood flowing to it and thus more heat" would be a pretty scientific explanation of why reiki would work at all.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby HungryHobo » Fri Oct 22, 2010 2:18 pm UTC

eran_rathan wrote:Quantum entanglement has been observed, repeatedly and reliably. We have no idea how it happens, but entangled particles appear to be able to transmit data instantaneously, without any use of energy observed. There is no mechanism known for this property, though it can be described mathematically.


For various reasons entanglement does not allow coherent information esxchange faster than the speed of light.

Quantum entanglement has some lovely uses for passing information secretly but not for passing information faster than light.

Ask a physics nerd for the math, it went a little bit over my head.
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby eran_rathan » Fri Oct 22, 2010 2:30 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:No. No information is transmitted faster than light, in any observed or theoretically predicted phenomenon.



Data, not information. Bell's Inequality, backed up by years of research shows that the wave function appears to collapse instantaneously.
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby HungryHobo » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:08 pm UTC

eran_rathan wrote:Data, not information. Bell's Inequality, backed up by years of research shows that the wave function appears to collapse instantaneously.


Please explain your distinction between data and information.

There are communications protocols, involving entanglement, but not as an information channel (which it cannot be).

So pointing at quantum physics doesn't help someone who wants to be able to claim they can hear the magic voices in someone elses head faster than light or sense the current state of a star a thousand light years away by remote viewing.

"Quantum" will just become the new moutaintop or deep lake.
most people don't understand it so it can be used as the location of the magic.

You know it's an interesting little thing about humans, we always decide that the magic is real and just happens to be wherever we can't quite see or in whatever we don't fully understand.

The gods are always at the top of an almost unclimbable mountain.
The water spirits at the bottom of a deep lake.
When people climb the mountain and find no deitys or dive to the bottom of the lake and find no mermaids people don't seem to stop believing in the gods.... they just move them somewhere higher or further away.
"well no, the god isn't at the top of that mountain(those priests were just con artists... me and these prietsts on the other hand), he's up in the sky"
"well no, the mermaids aren't at the bottom of that lake, they're in that sea"
Then someone sends a sub down into the ocean or a probe up into the sky and still there are no gods or spirits there but people don't seem to stop believing in gods and demons.

And sooner or later the gods, the demons, the fairies, the mermaids the souls and the spirits all get moved somewhere with no grounding in reality or even sense and thus can never be disproven.

"well no gods aren't in the sky.... they're in the.... spirit world"
"well no the faries aren't there... they're just to the left of the meaning of love"

The effects of magic are by cooincidence always either so vague they cannot be defined sensibly or are unmeasurable for some other reason.
Either the magic goes away whenever someone tries to measure it "well the water was charged with magical power but all of you thinking about doing a test sapped the power(or charged the control water, you're all beacons of psychic power!)".
Or the magic is spoiled by the negative attitudes of the people around it.(for a nice trump card)

The magic can never be detected by any existing instruments(they're harsh mainstream tools, not attuned to the magic of the world or just not good enough... yet .... meanwhile I'm selling magic by the spiritual pound).
No existing sensor can ever detect it, no existing tool can ever interact with it.
The magic has the power to smite enemies at a distance but for some reason can't reliably give carefully observed lab mice a skin rash.

And when someone builds a tool that works by whatever principle by which the magic is claimed to work.... it just gets moved a little further away.

"well no, the magic didn't work by that method.... it works through.... this method"

and then someone builds the tool that works by whatever principle the new magic is claimed to use....
And sooner or later the magic gets moved somewhere with no grounding in reality or even sense and thus can never be disproven.

"it works through the spirit world.... on the soul...."

Is there anyone here who claims to have any kind of magical powers which can be clearly detected by any existing tools whatsoever?

Make the readings on a sensitive isolated voltmeter go up and down from a distance with their mind?
Make the readings of a sensitive compass jiggle back and forth reliably while sitting well away willing it to?
Make a flower petal drift from one location to another to another in a pre-defined manner using their karma?
Transmit coherent stream of information defined beforehand between 2 isolated people by psychic power?
But of course those are probably unfair in some way shape or form because nobody seems willing to go into the details enough to allow for falsifiable predictions.

Anything that isn't just beyond existing tools or at the end of the rainbow?

actually scratch the rainbow.
We found the end of it and it was a little more real and disappointing than we had hoped.
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby eran_rathan » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:28 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:Please explain your distinction between data and information.



Data is a fact or measurement (edit: i.e. the value of a variable). Information is data arranged in a meaningful or useful manner, conveying additional facts or metadata about said data.

Basic information theory.

In the case of entanglement, the data is (spin up) or (spin down). Because of the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, one has no control on whether one of said pair of measured entangled particles will be measured as spin up or spin down, hence, no information can be transmitted. HOWEVER, the pair MUST transmit data (i.e. whether or not the first measured particle is spin up or spin down, since the other measured particle MUST be the opposite (because of Bell's Inequality)). QED.
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby HungryHobo » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:48 pm UTC

eran_rathan wrote:Data is a fact or measurement (edit: i.e. the value of a variable). Information is data arranged in a meaningful or useful manner, conveying additional facts or metadata about said data.

Basic information theory.

In the case of entanglement, the data is (spin up) or (spin down). Because of the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, one has no control on whether one of said pair of measured entangled particles will be measured as spin up or spin down, hence, no information can be transmitted. HOWEVER, the pair MUST transmit data (i.e. whether or not the first measured particle is spin up or spin down, since the other measured particle MUST be the opposite (because of Bell's Inequality)). QED.


I think I remember an analogy someone came up with.
Shine a flashlight at the solar system from billions of miles out such that both earth and mars are within the beam.
then at some point a butterfly passes in front of the flashlight.
The shadow passed over both earth and mars only a fraction of a second apart.
earth and mars are 20 light minutes apart.

It's data, it can be observered at both mars and earth at the same time but earth learns precicely nothing about mars and mars learns nothing about earth.

the 2 particles might be transmitting their state instantly but it cannot be used and that isn't a limitation of current technology but rather a limitation of reality unless our models of the universe are horrifically wrong.(and of course that "unless", throws in another place to insert "magic be here" and "well science is always wrong so magic")
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby davidstarlingm » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:30 pm UTC

littlelj wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
littlelj wrote:I "felt" an invisible internal injury the patient hadn't disclosed, from four inches above her skin, with my eyes closed. :shock:
I don't know the nature of said injury, but could it be as simple as removing the scare quotes and realizing that an active injury site will probably have more blood flowing to it and thus radiate more heat?

Scare quotes were because it was like feeling someone look at you (rather than feeling heat or something else you can immediately identify). And I wasn't near enough to feel more heat, especially through patient's clothes and in a warm room.

Although "more blood flowing to it and thus more heat" would be a pretty scientific explanation of why reiki would work at all.

Reflexology, now...


Another "pretty scientific explanation" would be that your fingers have nerve endings in them, the patient's body has a highly complex nervous system, and with sufficient training your brain will teach you to instinctively recognize subtle signals in the patient's nervous system. That's not magic; that's electromagnetism.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby charonme » Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:53 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:The shadow passed over both earth and mars only a fraction of a second apart.
how?

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Oct 22, 2010 6:35 pm UTC

Because it's being projected by a light millions of miles away. I can shine a laser at Mars and then Jupiter a fraction of a second apart, no problem.
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby davidstarlingm » Fri Oct 22, 2010 6:51 pm UTC

charonme wrote:
HungryHobo wrote:The shadow passed over both earth and mars only a fraction of a second apart.
how?


The temporary interruption in the beam of light traveled outwards from the distant light source at the speed of light. When this interruption reached our solar system, observers on Earth and on Mars could both record the event simultaneously, even though they are physically at least forty light-minutes apart.

For the entangled pairs analogy: suppose that there is are two identical lightswitches on Earth and on Mars. Both are hooked up to an array of sensors that record when an interruption in the distant light source reaches them, and flips the switch accordingly.

An observer on Mars sees his lightswitch flip and immediately knows that the lightswitch on earth also flipped. He is correct, and he knew this long before any "our lightswitch flipped" signal could arrive from earth. However, knowing this fact about the state of things on earth does not mean that he has received any information or communication from earth.

Interestingly enough, if you define simultaneity reference frames based on the observer's position (and not the observer's velocity), then the speed of light in any single direction becomes a variable. Of course, the average speed of light over a closed 2-way loop will still be c, but the one-way speed of light depends on your reference frame. To travel away from your original position (at sub-light-speed, of course) is to travel through time as well. So, from the Martian's point of view, he learns that the Earth switch has flipped about forty minutes before it actually flips (from his point of view). Likewise, the Earthling knows that the Mars switch has flipped forty minutes before it actually does.

Either way (because it's not a different model; just a different set of definitions), one observer knows that the other switch has flipped at least 40 minutes before any signal could arrive to confirm it.

Relativity. It's freaky.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby eran_rathan » Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:32 pm UTC

davidstarlingm wrote:
charonme wrote:
HungryHobo wrote:The shadow passed over both earth and mars only a fraction of a second apart.
how?


The temporary interruption in the beam of light traveled outwards from the distant light source at the speed of light. When this interruption reached our solar system, observers on Earth and on Mars could both record the event simultaneously, even though they are physically at least forty light-minutes apart.

For the entangled pairs analogy: suppose that there is are two identical lightswitches on Earth and on Mars. Both are hooked up to an array of sensors that record when an interruption in the distant light source reaches them, and flips the switch accordingly.

An observer on Mars sees his lightswitch flip and immediately knows that the lightswitch on earth also flipped. He is correct, and he knew this long before any "our lightswitch flipped" signal could arrive from earth. However, knowing this fact about the state of things on earth does not mean that he has received any information or communication from earth.

Interestingly enough, if you define simultaneity reference frames based on the observer's position (and not the observer's velocity), then the speed of light in any single direction becomes a variable. Of course, the average speed of light over a closed 2-way loop will still be c, but the one-way speed of light depends on your reference frame. To travel away from your original position (at sub-light-speed, of course) is to travel through time as well. So, from the Martian's point of view, he learns that the Earth switch has flipped about forty minutes before it actually flips (from his point of view). Likewise, the Earthling knows that the Mars switch has flipped forty minutes before it actually does.

Either way (because it's not a different model; just a different set of definitions), one observer knows that the other switch has flipped at least 40 minutes before any signal could arrive to confirm it.

Relativity. It's freaky.


Precisely. Now, for the really interesting question...how to the entangled particles 'know' which is spin up or spin down? How does that data transfer between them?
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uncivlengr
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby uncivlengr » Fri Oct 22, 2010 9:03 pm UTC

teqmc2 wrote:Yes, it is not surprising that the heart rate will change. The question is: will it go the direction that the practitioner intended, with how much consistency?
Actually, the real question, if it's the million dollars you're after, is whether the results of the practitioner's actions cannot be explained by conventional science. The test, therefore, has to be able to be designed in a manner that the results will rule out any possible natural explanation.

Having two people perform the actions, one a trained practitioner and the other not, wouldn't seem to me to fit the requirements - it's very well possible that the training would allow a person to produce entirely natural results that the untrained individual would not.

Suppose you had trained masseurs and untrained individuals give massages; you could measure the results in some manner and the masseurs would surely be shown to produce consistently "higher" results in the subject than the untrained individuals, though there's nothing supernatural about massage therapy. All you've demonstrated is that being trained to perform certain real-world actions can produce certain real-world results.

I would speculate, having read quite a few different proposals for the challenge, that they would require you to do the procedure without any direct physical contact or other interaction with the subject. The "tonicity" of the muscle would be continuously monitored to get a baseline, and you would be behind a screen, or something to hide your presence. As you performed the "healing" or whatever you call it, they would continue to measure the tonicity to see if there is any change. The subject would not be allowed to be aware of when or if you are performing the "healing".

In the end, I'm pretty sure they'll never agree to a test design that involves you directly touching a subject, much less using "dummy" practitioners as the baseline.
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby teqmc2 » Sat Oct 23, 2010 5:26 am UTC

"Any sufficiently explained magic is indistinguishable form magic" -Phil Foglio (Girl Genius, side story)

If you can succeed in explaining what I do using good science, I will still call it magic. I will be ECSTATICALLY happy if someone can scientifically explain my powers, because that will prove to myself conclusively that I am not crazy. Every time I finish working magic, I stop to ask myself if I am crazy. As yet, I have no answer. I can observe the results of my actions. Other people observe the results of my actions, praise them, and refer their friends to me.

I feel vaguely guilty that I can not explain why what I do seems to benefit the people that I work on, but they really seem to like it.

I make no claims about what I can do from behind a screen. In order for me to have an effect on someone's body, I have to get within a few inches of touching them. It works WAY better if I can actually touch the patient. People feel both noticeable pain relief and major increases in measurable function (range of motion, available strength, joint fluidity, etc.).

Still, I do not know why what I do works.

I do not know what sensor could measure the tone of a muscle, otherwise I would have started experimenting with this AGES ago. Once again, if you explain what known physical law makes my magic work, I will not stop calling it magic. It will then be magic which has been explained.

Sadly, once what I do gets explained, then someone will build a machine to produce the same effect, and I will be out of a job. I will be broke, but happy that I was proved right.

Also: I looked at the research data that was posted about Acupuncture. The study ONLY tested the analgesic effect of Acupuncture, and conclusively proved the needles are better than toothpicks.

The study did not mention one word about heart rate/ blood pressure changes.

As for the study that I proposed for myself/some Reiki practitioner, I did not advocate any dummy practitioner. The study is to have one practitioner, who works on some subjects, and pretends to work on others. That practitioner should then be able to say "he will show improvement, he will stay the same.", and do so with accuracy.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby charonme » Sat Oct 23, 2010 7:00 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Because it's being projected by a light millions of miles away. I can shine a laser at Mars and then Jupiter a fraction of a second apart, no problem.
I don't understand how does it follow from "it's being projected by a light millions of miles away". The only way I see for this to be possible would be if the observers were at the same distance from the light source.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Oct 23, 2010 7:21 am UTC

uncivlengr wrote:
teqmc2 wrote:Yes, it is not surprising that the heart rate will change. The question is: will it go the direction that the practitioner intended, with how much consistency?
Actually, the real question, if it's the million dollars you're after, is whether the results of the practitioner's actions cannot be explained by conventional science. The test, therefore, has to be able to be designed in a manner that the results will rule out any possible natural explanation.

Having two people perform the actions, one a trained practitioner and the other not, wouldn't seem to me to fit the requirements - it's very well possible that the training would allow a person to produce entirely natural results that the untrained individual would not.


That's all only if you want to prove that "supernatural"/"paranormal" effects occur, i.e. that our current science is wrong, and that the effectiveness of these practices demonstrates that. It would be plenty enough for many purposes just to show that the practices are effective to begin with; whether that effectiveness requires a revision of our theories or not is a further question to be answered once that one has been.
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby Eebster the Great » Sat Oct 23, 2010 10:58 am UTC

charonme wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Because it's being projected by a light millions of miles away. I can shine a laser at Mars and then Jupiter a fraction of a second apart, no problem.
I don't understand how does it follow from "it's being projected by a light millions of miles away". The only way I see for this to be possible would be if the observers were at the same distance from the light source.

You're right that this was a bad example, but the point is that a shadow can apparently "move" faster than the speed of light.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Oct 23, 2010 2:55 pm UTC

charonme wrote:The only way I see for this to be possible would be if the observers were at the same distance from the light source.
Which they quite easily could be.
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby davidstarlingm » Sat Oct 23, 2010 3:42 pm UTC

charonme wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Because it's being projected by a light millions of miles away. I can shine a laser at Mars and then Jupiter a fraction of a second apart, no problem.
I don't understand how does it follow from "it's being projected by a light millions of miles away". The only way I see for this to be possible would be if the observers were at the same distance from the light source.


As someone else stated, there's no reason they can't be the same distance from the light source. In fact, that's really the point.

Perhaps a clearer example:

An astronaut on the moon turns on a laser pointer and points it toward earth. He swiftly sweeps it across the earth from Hawaii to London (those being the two cities he can see from his point of view). Of course, this is an idealized laser with constant beam width that won't get atmospheric interference.

It will take two seconds for the light from his laser to travel from the moon to the earth. However, once it reaches earth, the dot will travel from Hawaii to London much faster than the speed of light. However, it is useless for transporting information, because nothing can "ride" on the red dot of light as it passes across the surface. The dot may move across earth faster than the speed of light, but the light that composes the dot still only traveled to earth at lightspeed.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby uncivlengr » Sat Oct 23, 2010 5:05 pm UTC

teqmc2 wrote:I will be ECSTATICALLY happy if someone can scientifically explain my powers, because that will prove to myself conclusively that I am not crazy.
It won't, however, win you the million dollar challenge.

teqmc2 wrote:I feel vaguely guilty that I can not explain why what I do seems to benefit the people that I work on, but they really seem to like it.
You can easily explain it, in the same manner that most "alternative" therapies can be explained - the placebo effect. Also, people generally respond well to being relaxed in a calm atmosphere with someone touching sore parts of their body.

teqmc2 wrote:I make no claims about what I can do from behind a screen. In order for me to have an effect on someone's body, I have to get within a few inches of touching them.
They could put their arm up to the screen, so the distance is reduced. They typically don't let people touch any apparatus in the test, much less a human subject.

teqmc2 wrote:As for the study that I proposed for myself/some Reiki practitioner, I did not advocate any dummy practitioner. The study is to have one practitioner, who works on some subjects, and pretends to work on others. That practitioner should then be able to say "he will show improvement, he will stay the same.", and do so with accuracy.
I would think that adding that to the method I described previously would help the demonstration - if you put your hand up to the screen without concentrating or whatever is required to perform the therapy and nothing happens, you rule out the effect of the mere presence of your hand on the subject.

A better test would be if you were the one that detected whether or not the person behind the screen was there - you placed your hand up to the screen, and noted whenever you detected the "energy" of the person on the other side coming closer... assuming that you believe you are capable of doing as much.
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby HungryHobo » Sat Oct 23, 2010 9:07 pm UTC

teqmc2, have you ever read the book Bad Science by ben goldacre?
I'd highly recommend it if only for the part about the shamans apprentice.

Decades ago there lived a native Candian Indian called Quesalid.(look him up, try reading Levi-Strauss' "The Sorcerer and his Magic")
He was a sceptic and thought shamanism was bunk.
He went under cover and found a Shaman who was willing to take him on for training.
He learned all the tricks of the trade, all the "magic" including the classic where the shaman hides a tuft of down in the corner of his mouth and then right at the peak of the healing ritual coughs it out covered in blood from a discretely bitten lip and then presents it to the onlookers as the pathological source of the patients affliction (now removed from the patients body).

Quesalid had proof of the fakery, he was set to expose shamanism but as part of his training he had to make some house calls and do some shamanly duties.
So he goes to treat a patient in distress and does the trick with the tuft..... and then the patient got better much to his surprise.
It worked.
It was utterly fake.
he knew there was no magic but it worked.
Quesalid went on to have a long career as a healer and shaman.

It doesn't mean the magic is real, just that he realized that people could be helped by the belief that they were being helped.
Call <i>that</i> magic if you want since the placebo effect is the closest thing to magic I can think of.

This is in essence the placebo effect.
people really do get better sometimes simply because they believe they've been treated.
It doesn't mean they weren't really ill.
It doesn't mean it was in their head.

The placebo effect is so much more interesting than magic it's not even funny.

It can even be stronger than the physical real effects of a drug.
You can give someone a drug which causes nausea and vomiting and if they think it will help with their nausea and vomiting then they'll actually improve.
You can cause immune suppression with placebos, if you feed someone a real immune suppressant along with a distinctly flavoured drink for a while eventually the association between the drink and the immune suppressant become physical- the flavoured water will still cause immune suppression without any real drugs.


And all the people who are being negative and talking about how you'd have to use a screen etc aren't just trying to be mean.

There's a reason drug trials have to be double blinded, because if the person giving the treatment believes it's real or not they communicate that to the patients through any number of subtle non-verbal actions no matter if they want to or not.
The patients would have to be unable to see you or be in contact with you as otherwise your own belief that you were doing it for real or not and your own body language can really effect the outcome.

There's also some interesting ethical questions in there:
Is it ethical for your doctor to lie to you if it means you're more likely to recover and likely to suffer less pain. "Yes we've got a treatment for that, here it is. * Hands over a sugar pill]*"
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby Pabb » Sat Oct 23, 2010 11:06 pm UTC

About the comic:

I believe in what could be considered the craziest things. I am sure that I felt what they call the chakras after giving a try to various exercises found on the Web. I also believe in astral projection, and the "higher domains" reachable only through the mind, although I haven't consciously attained them yet (they're supposed to feel like lucid dreams, with the floaty sensation, the wider angle of vision, etc., except they're not only in your head). I believe in the principle of chaos magic, although I never went seriously at it and all I've got the day I tried was either a "misfire", or it was coincidentially one of the most unusual evenings I've ever had.
I believe in all these things and more, and yet I wasn't offended by comic 0808. While Mr. Munroe makes it quite clear that he thinks all of this is pure bunk, I didn't take that as the point of the strip. The blow, to me, seems much more directed at Capitalism in general. He's basically, again to me, saying that Capitalism is so rational, unfeeling and absolute that it can be used as an objective test to the reality of things. Also, the chart doesn't have to be 100% accurate, since it's in a webcomic, for the purpose of humor. If any "supernaturally minded" people felt the need to be offended, it should have been at http://forums.xkcd.com/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=17438&p=492523&hilit=0373#p492523, I guess, since it's missing a sizable "unproven / un-test-able" bar.

So... chakras:
Spoiler:
They're supposed to be the "non-organs" in you that refine/make use of the "energies" you collect. I used to instinctively call BS each time I saw the word, until I sat down and tried (without belief) some of the exercises the Web gave me. Basically, you sit down/lie down somewhere you won't be directly bothered (background noise is acceptable though, so hour long bus rides are okay too, if you're not sitting next to the chatty one). Now, you close your eyes, begin breathing regularly, do your best to let random, mundane thoughts "pass you by" without clinging to them, and you start working from the bottom.
What you have to do, really, is "feel" a point going up, inside of you, from the genitals up to your forehead, always centered. It's like calling back a touch with your memory, but since you've probably never really touched your insides, it requires some imagination too. Eventually, after about fiteen minutes of undistracted "passes", one of seven points (six "dots" along the line you traced, and one "area" around the top of your head) is bound to slowly "light up" in you, in a very pysical sensation that will probably break your concentration the first time.
Congratulations, you are re-energized, and you can now roam the Web to put names on what just happened, and wonder what the heck to do with your chakras now that they're "awakened".

Chaos magic:
Spoiler:
It's basically the belief that beliefs make things happen. The skillful mage can switch belief systems at will, and "make himself" sincerely believe in any system for the duration of his "spell", from randomly put together ad lib rituals made from dollar store materials, all the way to the most obscure and formal medieval-european style hermetic trappings, whichever he feels will work best for his intentions. The goal is to make your conscious mind shut up for a time, while you "ram" your effect though reality with your "true will". I could go on about sigilization, the one technique usually associated with this school of magic, and gnosis, the name of the altered state you are aiming for while performing, and a ton of other things, but I'm basically the n00b of n00bs at this, and information is only a Google away anyway.

So here's what I meant earlier by "misfire":
My first test was to attempt to bring a loose 20 dollar bill into my life (greedy, yes, but also a concrete, beneficial, and small start :P). So I improvised some random, weak ritual that doesn't need to be detailed here. I then had to take a 2 hour long subway/bus trip back from my apartment in Montreal to my parent's home. On the way to the subway, I found a penny ((edit: I am now in love with your word filter :D)Oh me yarm I'M SO SURE IT'S MY MAGICK THAT DID THIS :P). Then, at a line transfer in the subway, i saw for the first, and only time, cute girls giving away "free hugs". I didn't take advantage of the offer, though, because my train had just arrived, but it's been the only time I've seen it. Nothing happened during the bus ride, but when I got back to my car, in my small town, there were very out of season fireworks being officially presented to be seen from all over town (they're ususally only used in towns to celebrate Saint-Jean-Baptiste, in June, and it was the middle of winter). I then stopped at a Quiznos (the equivalent of Subways, if you don't have one near you), and the guy at the counter decided to hand me a large sized drink, free of charge, instead of the medium one than comes with combos.
Now for some of you, happenings like this are probably common, but I live a very dull life, and such a string was quite noticeable to me. I also never got my 20. I can also swear that noticeable happenings like this usually never appear to or around me in such a high concentration in one day.Therefore, magical misfire.

Oh my, I have written a wall. I tend to do that.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby SocialSceneRepairman » Sun Oct 24, 2010 5:39 am UTC

Okay, did anyone actually read the title-text? Just because a lot of people seem to be saying "X should be ticked because people in power fall for the woomeisters' claims!"

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby DavidRoss » Sun Oct 24, 2010 6:54 am UTC

davidstarlingm wrote:An astronaut on the moon turns on a laser pointer and points it toward earth. He swiftly sweeps it across the earth from Hawaii to London (those being the two cities he can see from his point of view). Of course, this is an idealized laser with constant beam width that won't get atmospheric interference.

It will take two seconds for the light from his laser to travel from the moon to the earth. However, once it reaches earth, the dot will travel from Hawaii to London much faster than the speed of light. However, it is useless for transporting information, because nothing can "ride" on the red dot of light as it passes across the surface. The dot may move across earth faster than the speed of light, but the light that composes the dot still only traveled to earth at lightspeed.


The light does not "travel" from Hawaii to London - the spot that is illuminated changes from one location to another, but nothing moves along that path. Each time the red dot appears to "move" it is because photons from the moon stop falling east of center of the dot and photons starts falling to the west of center of the dot. It only looks like it is moving, but it is different sets of photons. In a football stadium, when the fans to the "wave" there is nothing that is moving left to right, just a bunch of perfectly timed hands moving up and down. So, information can be conveyed by the laser, but the information comes from the moon and sticks to the Earth where it first hits the surface and doesn't go anywhere far after that.

[Trivia: The transit of light from the moon to the earth is closer to 1 to 1.2 seconds. And because of the separation of Hawaii and London, you have to be in just the right location to see both at the same time.]

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby DavidRoss » Sun Oct 24, 2010 7:06 am UTC

HungryHobo wrote:Shine a flashlight at the solar system from billions of miles out such that both earth and mars are within the beam.
then at some point a butterfly passes in front of the flashlight.
The shadow passed over both earth and mars only a fraction of a second apart.
earth and mars are 20 light minutes apart.


Actually, this example is not right. If I shine a flashlight (or say, a quasar) toward the Solar System, it will illuminate both Mars and Earth. Assume Mars and Earth are presently 20 light minutes apart. Say a butterfly flies in front of the flashlight and the light fluctuates (or the quasar has a random fluctuation). Mars will see that fluctuation 20 minutes before we do (but they cannot tell us about it in less than 20 minutes).

You can try this with a quasar and two antennas on Earth separated by some distance. Record the randomly varying signal from the quasar with accurate clocks then bring the recordings together. You will see the relative delay between the recordings change as one antenna gets closer to the quasar and the other gets further away during an Earth rotation.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby HungryHobo » Sun Oct 24, 2010 11:36 am UTC

DavidRoss wrote:
HungryHobo wrote:Shine a flashlight at the solar system from billions of miles out such that both earth and mars are within the beam.
then at some point a butterfly passes in front of the flashlight.
The shadow passed over both earth and mars only a fraction of a second apart.
earth and mars are 20 light minutes apart.


Actually, this example is not right. If I shine a flashlight (or say, a quasar) toward the Solar System, it will illuminate both Mars and Earth. Assume Mars and Earth are presently 20 light minutes apart. Say a butterfly flies in front of the flashlight and the light fluctuates (or the quasar has a random fluctuation). Mars will see that fluctuation 20 minutes before we do (but they cannot tell us about it in less than 20 minutes).

You can try this with a quasar and two antennas on Earth separated by some distance. Record the randomly varying signal from the quasar with accurate clocks then bring the recordings together. You will see the relative delay between the recordings change as one antenna gets closer to the quasar and the other gets further away during an Earth rotation.



oh for the love of...

Do I really have to put in the term "equidistant" to avoid this?
It was implied and at least some people in the earlier comments got it.

It was an analogy to make the point that not everything that can merely be measured at 2 locations far apart at the same time can carry any information between the 2 faster than the speed of light.

Okay, did anyone actually read the title-text? Just because a lot of people seem to be saying "X should be ticked because people in power fall for the woomeisters' claims!"


So, exactly how do you distinguish between companies which use X because people in power fall for the woomeisters' claims and the companies which use X because it works?
I have no belief in magic but this comic is poorly researched, poorly thought out and a just plain awful way of arguing a point.

The alt text is just a catch-all cop-out which negates the entirety of the comic.

There's no shortage of real non-magical things which companies don't do even though they could potentially make lots of money simply because big companies tend to be very conservative and it could be a risk.
Give a man a fish, he owes you one fish. Teach a man to fish, you give up your monopoly on fisheries.


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