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The Electricity of Touch

Any topic related to science can be discussed here.
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Nirvanam
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#21 Post by Nirvanam » September 27th, 2009, 11:39 am

Latest post of the previous page:

Felicia wrote::happyclappy: Nirvanam!

Bion (v. eminent psychoanalyst and psychiatrist): 'The answer is the death of the question.'
Thank You!

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Alan H
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#22 Post by Alan H » September 27th, 2009, 2:10 pm

Yeah, yeah. I'm a sceptic. When someone proposes something that is radically different to what has gone before, I simply say "show us your evidence". Unfortunately, this paper (which I've now read) is full of fundamental flaws in the execution of the experiment, that it provides nothing persuasive at all.

There is a basic set up of one person (the 'sender') whose ECG is being measured and another person (the 'receiver')who is also wired up to an ECG. There are various tests done with them in different positions, sometimes touching, sometimes not, sometimes 'isolated' from each other.

The null hypothesis would appear to be that the the ECG of one person is not detectable in another person close by or touching. This is not actually stated in the paper. Instead, they seem to be simply trying to find evidence to substantiate their theory that such an effect exists (indeed the discussions and conclusions go WAY beyond the results of the experiments). This is not how it should have been done. They should have been looking for ways in which the postulated effect could be explained by other, more plausible and already-known effects.

Some background into ECGs. As I said earlier, muscles, including the heart, work using small currents. These currents result in a voltage (potential difference) that can be detected by en ECG machine. These voltages are minute and in the microvolt region, ie millionths of a Volt. An ECG has to be extremely sensitive to pick these up and, particularly because of the long wires, is prone to pick up and cross-coupling effects. I have some experience with this [---][/---] not in ECGs, but in other electronic systems dealing with minute signals. What is blatantly missing from the paper is attempts to completely rule out alternative mechanisms by which they might have obtained the results they did. That is the way science should be done: eliminate all other known ways and what you're left with you may then theorise that is backs up your assumption.

They did try in some small way to eliminate other effects, but I think they only paid lip service to this and I can think of several ways in which that would explain how they got the results they did without postulating some hitherto undetected 'energy' transfer. For example, they have not eliminated the possibility of cross-coupling between the ECG systems. This could so easily be caused by ground loops, inadvertently caused by the way in which the two sets of ECG were connected. This may well be simply an omission, and they may well have gone to great lengths to ensure that there was no inherent cross coupling between the two systems, but not stating this is very sloppy.

For example, the leads are connected to pads affixed to the person's body. and potential difference between the leads is amplified and fed down a cable to the ECG recording equipment. If the amplified signals were passed down any length of lead, there is the extreme likelihood that this could radiate and be picked up by the other system, giving the results they noted. I would want to see every possible precaution taken and tests done to eliminate such a mechanism before any 'proper' tests were carried out. This would not be difficult, and is a necessary step in any experimental set up: get rid of ALL other possible mechanisms before you assume it's caused by the mechanism you're trying to prove. Confirmation bias rules!

Another problem is with the time averaging they are doing and how they interpreted the results. It looks wrong to me. OK, not very scientific, but I'd need to spend much longer thinking about it that I have done and would ideally like to work with the data they obtained. One warning sign was that they seem to completely inconsistent in what time period they used for the signal averaging: sometimes 5 minutes, sometimes 10, with absolutely no justification given for any particular time period. (They seem to make a big thing about this time averaging, but it is a very simple method to reduce asynchronous noise from measurements and available in any oscilloscope or analysis package like DaDISP.)

I could go on. But there are just so many flaws in the paper, I just cannot take it seriously. I can't see how it would ever have got through any decent scientific peer review. The whole paper smacks of looking for justification for the effect they wanted to prove and ignoring [---][/---] or not looking thoroughly enough [---][/---] for alternative, more plausible explanations.

I hope this has given everyone just a hint as to why I'm sceptic about the claims it makes. Suffice to say it does take some knowledge and experience to see the flaws, but I can understand why it might, superficially, seem plausible.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

Nirvanam
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#23 Post by Nirvanam » September 27th, 2009, 3:07 pm

Here's a question on this 'touch' thing. It is based from experience so please consider it as a question that a child is posing to an adult for understanding what actually happened there:

I am sure all of us must have experienced this thing...when you are a kid and you have fallen sick, let's say a fever. Your mother comes and strokes you on your forehead, face, and runs her fingers through your hair while telling you that all will be OK (or she may not even talk). Do you feel comforted and feel better for just that tiny bit at that time? So what happens there actually?

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grammar king
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#24 Post by grammar king » September 27th, 2009, 3:19 pm

I don't think it's actually much to do with the touching. You're getting attention, you feel special, you feel like your needs are being catered for, that's going to make you feel better. It's one reason why homeopaths are so good at maximising the placebo effect, for example.

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Lifelinking
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#25 Post by Lifelinking » September 27th, 2009, 3:24 pm

So what happens there actually?
relief at not getting a skelp



Seriously for a moment however, healthy scepticism is very understandable in this area, given all the shucksters there are out there, e.g. http://forum.thinkhumanism.com/viewtopi ... aura#p8989
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
William McIlvanney

Nirvanam
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#26 Post by Nirvanam » September 27th, 2009, 3:46 pm

grammar king wrote:I don't think it's actually much to do with the touching. You're getting attention, you feel special, you feel like your needs are being catered for, that's going to make you feel better. It's one reason why homeopaths are so good at maximising the placebo effect, for example.
I am not sure if it is only about 'getting attention'. I vividly remember a pretty high viral fever, 103.5, I had when I was a kid...it was a bronchial attack of some sort. When my mom would stroke me I'd feel comforted but when my elder brother or dad tried doing it I'd frown at them. Or it could be that I was probably wanting my mom to touch me...a particular type of attention and when I got it I felt comforted.

But there have been instances when I have had a bad headache and when someone would sit next to me and try comforting me...basically giving me attention...but the moment that person would touch my forehead with their palm...the warmth of that touch would make me feel just that little bit better.

Edit: It just occurred to me that if the feeling of being comforted or feeling better for whatever bit of time is because of receiving attention then it is opening the door for some kind of mind-influence. Or is it?

Hundovir
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#27 Post by Hundovir » September 27th, 2009, 3:52 pm

Following on from Alan H's sceptical approach, here's mine. Yes! I found the article at last.

The following is from the opening paragraph of the main part of the paper:
numerous of studies of Therapeutic Touch practitioners, healers and other individuals have demonstrated a wide variety of effects on healing rates of wounds,1,2, pain,3, 4, hemoglobin levels,5, 6, conformational changes of DNA and water structure,7, as well as psychological improvements. 8, 9
I detail the references below, with my comments. Note that the article claims results for Therapeutic touch, healers, and "other individuals". I suggest that the references provided do not establish that there are any such results in the first place.

1. Wirth, D. P. The effect of non-contact therapeutic touch on the healing rate of full thickness dermal wounds. Subtle Energies 1990; 1(1):1-20.

This page: Two Decades of Deception, from "The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine" may be of interest regarding Wirth.

2. Grad, B. Some biological effects of the laying on of hands: review of experiments with animals and plants. J. Am. Soc. Psychical Res. 1965; 59:95-171.

I take that to be the "Journal of the American Society of Psychical Research". Not a publication I'd think of as reliable.

3. Keller, E. Effects of therapeutic touch on tension headache pain. Nur. Res. 1986; 35(2):101-105.
Nursing Research? But look at the article title - any chance of a placebo response here?

4. Redner, R., Briner, B. and Snellman, L. Effects of a bioenergy healing technique on chronic pain. Subtle Energies 1991; 2(3):43-68.

"Subtle energies"? Does that sound like a reliable scientific title to you? Or more like a New Age thing?

5. Krieger, D. The response of in vivo human hemoglobin to an active healing therapy by direct laying on of hands. Human Dimensions 1972; 1:12-15.

Sounds like the Dolores Krieger of "Therapeutic Touch", which is criticised here: Why Therapeutic Touch Should Be Considered Quackery

6. Krieger, D. Healing by the laying on of hands as a facilitator of bio-energetic change: the response of in vivo human hemoglobin. Psychoener. Sys. 1974; 1:121-129.

See above.

7. Rein, G. and McCraty, R. Structural changes in water and DNA associated with new physiologically measurable states. J. Sci. Explor. 1994; 8(3):438-439

There is a Wiki page on The Journal of Scientific Exploration

8. Quinn, J. Therapeutic touch as an energy exchange: testing the theory. Adv. Nursing Sci. 1984; (January):42-49.

See above on Therapeutic Touch

9. Freud, S. The Standard Edition of the Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth Press; 1962: 107-111

I'm not sure of the scientific credentials of Freud, no matter how insightful he may have been in other fields.

Nirvanam
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#28 Post by Nirvanam » September 27th, 2009, 4:12 pm

We keep referring to this placebo effect quite often to dismiss things but I haven't really seen any post that confirms exactly what is happening during a placebo effect. I read some wiki material but even there it just states that the reason why someone's condition improved is because of a, or b, or c, or whatever. But they don't present evidence of the actual reason in a specific case or whether it was observed consistently enough that the actual reason is 'b' given a particular scenario. It is just as airy as the people who claim that their alternative therapies work.

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Alan H
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#29 Post by Alan H » September 27th, 2009, 4:33 pm

Nirvanam wrote:It is just as airy as the people who claim that their alternative therapies work.
No it's not. We certainly don't know everything about the placebo response, but there there is no doubt it exists (unlike, say, the dilution 'law' of homeopathy). There is some good stuff on it by Ben Goldacre.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

Hundovir
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#30 Post by Hundovir » September 27th, 2009, 4:35 pm

Nirvanam wrote:We keep referring to this placebo effect quite often to dismiss things but I haven't really seen any post that confirms exactly what is happening during a placebo effect. I read some wiki material but even there it just states that the reason why someone's condition improved is because of a, or b, or c, or whatever. But they don't present evidence of the actual reason in a specific case or whether it was observed consistently enough that the actual reason is 'b' given a particular scenario. It is just as airy as the people who claim that their alternative therapies work.
The best explanation I've read is in Ben Goldacre's book "Bad Science".

This might help as well http://www.badscience.net/2008/08/my-pl ... /#more-761

Though I've not actually listened to the audio.

Nirvanam
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#31 Post by Nirvanam » September 28th, 2009, 8:27 pm

Hundovir, I listened to the show. It was informative and at times tended to promote in a way the idea that some small illnesses can be cured without needing any medicine: through some form of suggestion. I am deliberately not calling this suggestion as "mind power" because there is some psychological inertia attached to it.

Alan, I am not arguing that the placebo effect does not exist. I am saying that we dismiss things that we don't understand as placebo effect without knowing or considering certain potential sources of information. For example, is it possible that in a particular case the patient cured himself through suggestion or by directing certain thoughts? Many times we seem to be OK with pinning down the cause of the placebo effect to: stopped a certain medication, natural progression of illness resulted in the cure, change in environment, and the like. But when it comes to considering the possibility of the cause to be something like suggestion, energy within, we dismiss them away as a matter of habit.

Could it be that the fear of discovering something new that could potentially alter the fundamental constructs of our lives is so ingrained that we stop ourselves from opening our minds to different possibilities almost as an involuntary response?

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grammar king
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#32 Post by grammar king » September 28th, 2009, 10:52 pm

I'm going to have to get around to reading Bad Science. I thoroughly enjoyed Simon Singh's Trick or Treatment and it seems like a further explanation of some of the issues behind it.

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Alan C.
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#33 Post by Alan C. » September 28th, 2009, 11:16 pm

grammar king
I'm going to have to get around to reading Bad Science.
It's one of the best books I've ever read and I can highly recommend it. :thumbsup:
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

Hundovir
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#34 Post by Hundovir » September 29th, 2009, 12:05 am

Alan C. wrote:
grammar king
I'm going to have to get around to reading Bad Science.
It's one of the best books I've ever read and I can highly recommend it. :thumbsup:
Bloody right! It's not just about medical woo, but the whole issue of "evidence" in general, statistics, how "commonsense" isn't always "sensible" etc.

Bad Science

and Derren Brown's "Tricks of the Mind" should be compulsory reading!

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Paolo
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#35 Post by Paolo » September 29th, 2009, 1:37 pm

If you liked Bad Science, you'll probably also enjoy The Tiger That Isn't and Hippo Eats Dwarf! - they are all excellent at helping distinguish between bullshit, misunderstanding and truth.

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Alan H
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#36 Post by Alan H » September 29th, 2009, 7:58 pm

Nirvanam wrote:Could it be that the fear of discovering something new that could potentially alter the fundamental constructs of our lives is so ingrained that we stop ourselves from opening our minds to different possibilities almost as an involuntary response?
As Richard Dawkins once said, we should not open our minds so far that our brains drop out.

There is a vast chasm between saying 'directing certain thoughts' (whatever that means) and any resultant physiological effects. That isn't to say that there might not be, but, from where I stand, it is way off at one end of the scale (but perhaps a bit short of saying it was our guardian angel wot did it). There are only so many 'different possibilities' we can be open to out of the infinite number that people invent to explain things. However, I wouldn't characterise such a (tentative) dismissal as a 'fear of discovering something new'.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Gurdur
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#37 Post by Gurdur » September 29th, 2009, 8:13 pm

Alan H wrote:There is a vast chasm between saying 'directing certain thoughts' (whatever that means) and any resultant physiological effects. That isn't to say that there might not be, but, from where I stand, it is way off at one end of the scale (but perhaps a bit short of saying it was our guardian angel wot did it). There are only so many 'different possibilities' we can be open to out of the infinite number that people invent to explain things. However, I wouldn't characterise such a (tentative) dismissal as a 'fear of discovering something new'.
More brackets needed in there, I feel. :-p

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Gurdur
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#38 Post by Gurdur » September 29th, 2009, 8:30 pm

Nirvanam wrote: ... For example, is it possible that in a particular case the patient cured himself through suggestion or by directing certain thoughts?
We don't know yet. The huge danger with this all is Blame The Victim; you see, if you say that as a general rule the placebo effect is "directing certain thoughts", then implicitly you blame those who don't get better by implicitly claiming they did not "direct their thoughts well enough", or something. There is a hell of a lot about the placebo effect we really do not understand as yet; what we can be certain of is that if it was all and only a matter of directing thoughts, then a hell of a lot of people would be alive today who aren't.

We really don't understand many diseases all that well at all. And with many diseases, we know a particular genuine medical medication will work (which is how modern medicine really started off, finding out what actually worked and when it worked), but we don't exactly know why. We discover more all the time, but we're still discovering.

It can be safely said that having a genuinely postive attitude and real social support, as well as some good practical knowledge, will usually help you a hell of a lot in illness in combination with the right medication where it exists, though all the positive thoughts and helpful friendly social enviroment in the world can often be utterly useless when it comes to a handful of galloping Vibrio cholerae.

Nirvanam
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#39 Post by Nirvanam » September 30th, 2009, 1:39 pm

Gurdur wrote:
Nirvanam wrote: ... For example, is it possible that in a particular case the patient cured himself through suggestion or by directing certain thoughts?
We don't know yet. The huge danger with this all is Blame The Victim; you see, if you say that as a general rule the placebo effect is "directing certain thoughts", then implicitly you blame those who don't get better by implicitly claiming they did not "direct their thoughts well enough", or something. There is a hell of a lot about the placebo effect we really do not understand as yet; what we can be certain of is that if it was all and only a matter of directing thoughts, then a hell of a lot of people would be alive today who aren't.

We really don't understand many diseases all that well at all. And with many diseases, we know a particular genuine medical medication will work (which is how modern medicine really started off, finding out what actually worked and when it worked), but we don't exactly know why. We discover more all the time, but we're still discovering.

It can be safely said that having a genuinely postive attitude and real social support, as well as some good practical knowledge, will usually help you a hell of a lot in illness in combination with the right medication where it exists, though all the positive thoughts and helpful friendly social enviroment in the world can often be utterly useless when it comes to a handful of galloping Vibrio cholerae.
I don't disagree with the impact on society part of it. And I am not even saying that we should not care about it at all. You see if scientists can have the gall and motivation to do research on whether there are genes in a particular race that influences crime which obviously is harmful to society there is no reason why scientists cannot research suggestion / thought.

Also, even before it becomes a societal thing the bigger block is the individual mind. It does not make sense to quote some Richard Dawkins fellow (I don't even know who that person is but I have heard him mentioned regularly in this forum) saying he thinks mind should not be opened wide enough for the brain to fall..the guy is assuming mind is in the brain, the guy is assuming mind is a physical object that will 'fall out'. Its all good to use sarcasm, humor, and ridicule for a quick laugh but all of us (hopefully including this Richard Dawkins fellow) know that that is really not enough. [Alan quoted Richard Dawkins not you though]

What really mattes is first the individual. Are you and I as individuals open enough to consider a particular possibility. If we are then let us consider it and learn something about it in order to reject it. If we are not then probably we need a mirror to understand what we are fighting against or standing up for.

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Gurdur
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#40 Post by Gurdur » September 30th, 2009, 9:31 pm

,,,, nvm.

Nirvanam
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Re: The Electricity of Touch

#41 Post by Nirvanam » October 1st, 2009, 11:49 am

Gurdur wrote:,,,, nvm.
My first reaction was " :pointlaugh: LOL! he is obviously pulling my leg and did it well enough to make me laugh at myself".
Now, the only problem is I don't understand what you were intending to say or what the symbolismn ",,,, nvm" means. So please enlighten me so I can do a :hilarity:

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