The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'new age'
The Beatles may have helped bring down the USSR, but in the West, they helped usher in an age of endarkenment by making mysticism fashionable and opening the door to an assortment of crackpots and frauds, according to debunker of “alternative medicine” and miscellaneous quackery, Professor David Colquhoun:
At the same time, he hopes that the "fashion for irrationality", which he dates back to the Beatles going to India "when flower power stopped being fun and started being mystical bollocks", may be fading. His abiding hero is Bertrand Russell, and he laces his conversation with favourite quotes, including Russell's maxim that "it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true".Professor Colquhoun has a blog, DC's Improbable Science, in which he debunks things from tabloid cancer scares to alternative therapies; see, for example, his Guide to Magic Medicine, which is handed out to medical students when discussing alternative medicine.
A South Korean man calling himself Profesor Kim is facing fraud charges after selling devices that he claimed transformed tapwater into "holy water", having "digitally captured" what it is that makes holy water from Lourdes holy. The devices, of course, did not work.
As absurd as the idea of holy water is (that an almighty deity has specifically blessed a location—a French town or an Indian river or similar—with magical healing properties), the idea of knockoff holy water takes it one step further. Surely in the sort of universe which features omniscient and omnipotent (not to mention judgmental) deities bestowing boons, actually pirating these boons and passing them onto the unworthy would be impossible, or at least ill-advised. But Kim cherry-picks the most convenient bits of two types of universes—the rational, technological one we live in and the mystical, demon-haunted one in which our fates are controlled by ineffable forces and holy water could be considered to work—and mashes them together like P.T. Barnum's mermaid, hoping that his marks don't notice the seams before parting with their cash.
New Age terrorists develop homeopathic bomb; terror alert level raised from "lilac" to "purple":
Homeopathic bombs are comprised of 99.9% water but contain the merest trace element of explosive. The solution is then repeatedly diluted so as to leave only the memory of the explosive in the water molecules. According to the laws of homeopathy, the more that the water is diluted, the more powerful the bomb becomes.
‘A homeopathic attack could bring entire cities to a standstill,’ said BBC Security Correspondent, Frank Gardner, ‘Large numbers of people could easily become convinced that they have been killed and hospitals would be unable to cope with the massive influx of the ‘walking suggestible’.’
Members of Glastonbury's New Age community are up in arms about the town's free WiFi network, which they say emits "negative energy", disrupting the flow of chakras and ley lines and causing all sorts of ailments from headaches and dizziness to pneumonia. Some are calling for the network to be dismantled, while others are using this as an opportunity to sell "orgone devices" which work, by means conveniently unknown to boring old straight science, to neutralise the bad vibes:
Matt Todd, who campaigns against EMFs, said that residents had complained that chakras and ley lines are being disrupted. "They believe positive energy flows are being disturbed," he said.
Mr Todd has started building small generators which he believes can neutralise the allegedly-harmful radiation using the principles of orgone science. The pyramid-like machines use quartz crystals, selenite (a clear form of the mineral gypsum), semi-precious lapis lazuli stones, gold leaf and copper coil to absorb and recycle the supposedly-negative energy.One does wonder what happened when Glastonbury was first wired for mains electricity.
Charlie Brooker gets stuck into Brain Gym, a set of alleged brain-enhancing exercises with scant connection to any verifiable reality, which has nonetheless managed to get into the British school system (presumably because the line of bullshit it shills sounds like "fun"):
Brain Gym, y'see, is an "educational kinesiology" programme designed to improve kiddywink performance. It's essentially a series of simple exercises lumbered with names that make you want to steer a barbed wire bus into its creator's face. One manoeuvre, in which you massage the muscles round the jaw, is called the "energy yawn". Another involves activating your "brain buttons" by forming a "C" shape with one hand and pressing it either side of the collarbone while simultaneously touching your stomach with the other hand.
If we mistrust the real world so much that we're prepared to fill the next generation's heads with a load of gibbering crap about "brain buttons", why stop there? Why not spice up maths by telling kids the number five was born in Greece and invented biscuits? Replace history lessons with screenings of the Star Wars trilogy? Teach them how to whistle in French? Let's just issue the kids with blinkers.
Because we, the adults, don't just gleefully pull the wool over our own eyes - we knit permanent blindfolds. We've decided we hate facts. Hate, hate, hate them. Everywhere you look, we're down on our knees, gleefully lapping up neckful after neckful of steaming, cloddish bullshit in all its forms. From crackpot conspiracy theories to fairytale nutritional advice, from alternative medicine to energy yawns - we just can't get enough of that musky, mudlike taste. Brain Gym is just one small tile in an immense and frightening mosaic of fantasy.
Found whilst looking at the Wikipedia article on Jon Ronson: the First Earth Battalion Field Manual, as mentioned in The Men Who Stare At Goats. Imagine an artefact from a parallel universe or a Robert Anton Wilson novel where, for a time in the late 1970s, Timothy Leary ran the U.S. Army, and you'll have some idea of what it is.
(via "Jon Ronson")
The Skeptic's Dictionary, an encyclopædia of fringe beliefs, bizarre ideas and logical fallacies (and a few sensible ideas too). If you were wondering about therapeutic trepanation, the Hollow Earth theory, or identifying vinyl records by sight or that hundredth-monkey phenomenon the true believer in your life keeps citing to show how pitifully limited science is, and thus justify (Creationism/urine therapy/their telepathic poodle's past-life experiences), it's all here, along with the skinny on what's really going on.