Month: November 2013

On Gravity and Religious Symbolism

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I want to set the tone of this piece. Aaargghh. There, that should do it. Now you know where I’m coming from.

As background, I sometimes find myself listening to Sunday Nights with John Cleary on ABC radio. Yes, it’s a religious program, but I generally enjoy it because the host, although clearly strongly religious, present issues of the day with a strong secular brand of analysis, and is not afraid to confront the contradictions of religion, and also to question apologists accordingly. It is on that program I first learned of Bishop John Shelby Spong, and his progressive call for ‘a fundamental rethinking of Christian belief away from theism and traditional doctrines’.  A casual glance of the titles of his publications on the Wikipedia page illustrates his struggle to find any consistency between his spiritual life and reality.

In stark contrast, however, a couple of weeks ago we had one Richard Leonard as a film reviewer, and who is also a Jesuit priest. Hilarity ensued.

In conversation with John Cleary, he proceeds to review Gravity, but in a manner somewhat differently to my approach, here.

To cut to the chase, apparently the film was choc-full of religious references. And apparently (I’m going use that word a lot – so strap in) it’s not really a story of survival in space, with a sub-theme of Bullock’s grief at the loss of a child. No, it’s more a gospel highlights piece, set in space.

To be fair, it sounded like John Cleary wasn’t buying it all that much. He wanted to talk about how the visual style drove the film, and the allusions to Kubrick’s 2001. He was impressed by the minimalist story line, and the use of CGI to make aesthetic points, like the tear drifting off in zero G, describing it as a deeply emotional moment. Good points John.

But Leonard. Oh my. All I can say is, pareidolia anyone? This is definitely a ‘face on Mars’ moment.

To begin with, he obviously liked the movie, but sets up his forthcoming analysis by identifying the major theme of survival in terms of ‘choosing life’. Well, yes, that’s what happens when people try not to die. They choose life. But then he starts in on ‘inter-textuality’, harking back to his film appreciation classes in priest school, claiming that religion is a sub-plot.

Here is a selection of Mr. Leonard’s ‘faces on Mars’ views (and the odd bit of counter-apologetics):

  • Apparently Deuteronomy 30:19 is ‘there loud and clear’: choose life. Again, if you don’t want to die, yes, you are choosing life. Do we really need a bible reference to explain this? In fact, without getting too deep here, Mr. Leonard should go back to bible school on this. From my reading as a layman, this was not the intention of the quote (see here). Apparently in Deuteronomy 11:26, of the Israelites it is taught that “God did not administer justice to them according t the strict letter of the law, but allowed them mercy so that they might ‘choose life'”. So far, so good. But an interpretation by latter scholars deduced from the the words ‘choose life‘ that ‘one can learn a trade to earn a livelihood‘. Somehow I don’t think this is a key theme of the film. Just sayin’.
  • In one of the longest bows he draws, Clooney’s obsession with Mardi Gras stories is significant apparently because “it’s the night where you have your last big blowout before the sacrifice of Lent. The sacrifice of Lent can be in contrast to Fat Tuesday. The contrast was stark.” WTF?
  • On returning to Earth, the capsule plunging into the sea is a baptismal move. Yeah, right. Here are two more interpretations: It could be a child returning to the mother’s womb, or, it could be a safe way to retrieve a metal box from orbit. Take your pick.
  • When Bullock clambers onto shore, she ‘literally comes out of the mud’, which apparently is a reference to Adam who comes out of mud. Wow.
  • He gets a free-kick  because of the St.Christopher medallion in the Russian craft, and the Buddha in the Chinese one. The latter is meant to indicate that Bullock is embracing pain and not running from it.
  • When Bullock tries to raise the Russians on the radio but can’t communicate, she asks them to pray for her because ‘no one taught her to’. This he takes to mean a deathbed conversion. I hate that. People take comfort in all sorts of fantasies – religion is just another.
  • And finally, Clooney’s return to the capsule means he’s an ‘angel of life’ (and to emphasise his scholarly reading, Leonard refers to him as ‘angelos’. Yes this means angel in Greek. Impressive.) Apparently (last one, I promise) he comes back as the angel of life to help her remember the instructions because she’s given up on life. Or it could be a hallucination brought on by the depleted oxygen environment. Maybe he’s not an angel, but an inspiration. Mystifyingly, Leonard also thinks that Clooney coming back into her subconscious is also ‘deeply Freudian’. Really? Don’t see it myself.

Well, that’s it.You see what you want to see I guess.

Leonard has found extensive religious symbology in what is essential a story of survival in a hostile environment, with the focus on human ingenuity and drive to survive, which is a strong evolutionary trait.

I don’t mind Leonard being reminded of his religious symbols by the movie – that’s fine. But to subordinate human values of courage, ingenuity, mutual support, not to mention science and technology, to religious clap-trap, it’s just intellectually dishonest.

This is just a mis-guided, or desperate attempt to leverage the achievements of man to prop up an area which has in essence had no achievements for 2000 years, unless you count creative writing, cathedrals and genocide.

When the shoe was on the other foot – when Erik Von Daniken in Chariots of Fire ascribed the events in the Book of Ezekiel to alien technology, the religiati squealed like stuck pigs, refusing to have a bar of it.

Well, that’s just how I feel about this movie review.

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EMF Devices – How to really build them

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I’ve been thinking.

Following my previous post on the preposterous EMF devices, I decided I would think about them in a bit more detail, as they present an interesting engineering challenge. Normally I don’t advocate spending too much time on the preposterous – my main example is academic debates about religion, for example ‘What is the ontological status of God’, which sounds impressive, but just asks, ‘does god exist’. So what’s the point? How can you academically prove that God doesn’t exist. It’s like debating the existence of the Easter bunny. The best you can do is show that the proponent is inconsistent or illogical, but that never phases them anyway.

So spending any time on the EMF con is similar. The difference here is that the real work I’m supposed to be doing this afternoon is boring me shitless, so I’ve decided to pull on the engineering hat again. Ok yes, it has a propeller on it – what’s your point?

In any case, I think it’s actually useful to understand WHY such devices are SO preposterous.

So after that long justification giving myself permission to spend time on this, let’s at last talk EMF Crystals! If you haven’t read the piece on EMF crystals already, it would be useful to do so now.

The reality

Imagine you’re standing in the middle of a pond, and waves are coming at you from all directions from other people frolicking, and also leaving you as you flap around your arms. This is only a 2D example, but in reality it’s happening in 3D. And the waves are a very broad range of frequencies, all mixed together – some visible, some radio, some UV, some very low like power lines, some extremely high like mobile phones. To take two extreme examples, power lines have EM waves at 50 Hz – that is, each second in our pond we get 50 peaks and troughs. For mobile phones, it’s around 2 GigaHerz, or 2,000,0000,000 waves per second in our pond. Not only that, for digital communications like phones, the waves are chopped up into billions of little packets for transmission, and reassembled by your phone to turn into something you can hear.

What it needs to do

So, what this device is supposed to do, is to take this vast array of EM fields hitting you from all directions, adjust them, and rebroadcast them in a more ‘user friendly’ form.

Technical problems abound, but just some of them are:

  • Firstly, the device is on your belt or your neck or somewhere, and would need to somehow deflect the waves from hitting your body, and suck them into the magic disk. If you think it would be messy trying to stop the waves hitting you in the pond, it would be many orders more difficult to stop EM waves hitting you.
  • We need different devices and materials to capture different frequency EM. An antenna or material to capture TV signals is quite different to capturing mobile phone signals. Just look at your TV antenna. TV is just a minor band in the EM spectrum, but to capture the different frequencies efficiently, we need different lengths of material, ranging from a meter or so, down to a few centimeters for UHF channels.
  • That’s just to capture the EM waves – we also need to stop them from hitting parts of our body. Ummm, not sure how they even might do that, because shielding is a big issue. Remember that we manage to receive a lot of EM inside solid structures – otherwise we moan about our phone coverage. So how we would stop phone signals in the air and from our phone from hitting our body is a decent engineering problem.
  • OK, so let’s grant it the ability to do all the above, thanks perhaps to ancient Egyptian materials. So now, it needs to ‘harmonize’, ‘clean’, and rebroadcast the signals to us in a form that doesn’t screw us up, and in fact can cause us to sing all day, according to one testimony. Firstly what needs to be cleaned? Cleaning implies there is something dirty or unwanted in the signal. Well, true, there is always noise in the system which needs to be filtered out, but this isn’t the bit that’s hurting you, according to our friends selling these devices. It’s the actual signal. So how do we ‘clean’ it? So we remove some frequencies? Well, that would alter the signal, so there goes your phone reception. Do we make them smaller? Yes, you could attenuate them, but that would kill the range of your phone so as to make it useless. What about ‘harmonize’ – this means to synchronise two or more frequency so that they are in harmony – so what are we harmonizing with? You body’s ‘natural frequencies’ they would say. Well, they don’t exist, but even if they did, and even if we could, harmonizing with them would mean changing our EM signal, so there goes our phone signal again.
  • And to do the cute bit in the previous step, the device would also need to keep track of all the EM it has collected, and presumably have some sort of storage while it does the cleaning and harmonizing and so forth, and then rebroadcast according to a schedule that doesn’t screw up our communications. If we did manage to screw up the timings between signals, then things like GPS – which relies on nanosecond timing – wouldn’t work. Yep, you’d need to be quite careful with this bit.
  • Lastly, to rebroadcast our captured, cleaned and exquisitely scheduled range of EM signals, we need two things – antennas and power. As for capturing the signals, we need the right sized antennas to re-broadcast whatever it is we now want to substitute. So that in a ceramic disc will be challenging. Then of course we need power, and the only way I can see of building this thing is with a miniaturised Zero Point Module – which is of course fictitious.

All in all, this is a bugger of an engineering problem, which would need some major break-throughs in physics to achieve. In fact, I’ve tried to think how I would even build one of these using ANY of the technology in the world of science fiction, and it’s still tricky. Let’s try:

  1. Stopping the EM from hitting the body – perhaps generate a warp bubble around the body to deflect the waves; or else use the warp bubble to dip the body in and out of an alternate universe (one without EM fields) long enough to really reduce the intensity of EM received by the body. Then we just have the radiation of travelling between universes to deal with, but that’s a problem for another day.
  2. Collecting the desired EM – Hmmm. I suppose we could modify the above warp bubble to act as a lens in all frequencies, but modulating its fundamental frequency through the entire band, so that it acts as an antenna itself, which then just leaves the problem of getting the energy, and associated data on the composition/timing of that energy into our crystal. If we could get the crystal to resonate at the same frequency as the warp bubble, then at least the impedance could be matched, and thus facilitate a transfer of the energy. Encoding data about the content would need a decent kilobit quantum computer on the crystal – with that, we could just about process all major communications frequencies in parallel.
  3. Cleaning, Harmonizing, and Rebroadcasting – I think once we have our information stored and sorted in our crystal, it’s then a trivial problem to present the information to our person in a gentle form, perhaps directly injected into the cerebral cortex would remove the need for re-broadcast EM altogether. Alternatively, an artificially generated Vulcan mind-meld with the crystal would do the trick too, but I suppose we’d need to replace that Egyptian sand with Vulcan, and that’s hard to get these days.
  4. Powering this thing – as I mentioned above, we’d need a ZPM out of the Stargate universe, and even that would need to be miniaturised. Alternatively, a few grams of black hole would give us enough for a miniature reactor and that would also do the job, but create a couple of other problems to solve – firstly carrying the crystal would be a challenge due to the massive curvature of space-time in the crystal, and secondly we would need to stabilise the black hole so that it didn’t kill us with radiation and also didn’t suck in the known universe; that latter would be kind of counter-productive. And to stabilise it means – yes, you guessed it – another warp field.

Let’s just hope they don’t invent sub-space radio for real, because that would totally bugger up my scheme, since as we all know, warp fields are transparent to sub-space radio.

Kirk out.

EMF – OMFG!

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EMF is not one of those abbreviations you commonly see in text messages, so don’t worry if you couldn’t decipher the title of this post.

It means Electromagnetic Fields, and it’s a thing.

But it’s another of those things that con artists have appropriated to separate you from your money. Yep, anything vaguely sciencey or technical is certain to baffle the rubes and have them reaching for their wallet (see one of my earlier sprays on this subject here).

The whole EMF protection industry (and there seems to be quite a decent sized one out there) plays on the fact that yes, there are EM fields out there – otherwise, no TV, radio, phones, air traffic control, TV remotes, wi-fi, bluetooth, microwave ovens, etc etc, but that they are nasty and can harm you, and therefore you need to be protected from our cruel modern world.

Before we get into the fun of looking at a couple of these hilarious sites, a couple of simple statements on EM fields.

  • EM radiation can hurt you if the field intensity is high enough – for example, I wouldn’t put the cat in the microwave oven. Or stand too close to a high power phone cell antenna dish (that is, on the actual dish, not the mast).
  • Nothing in our daily environment has been shown to be harmful in any way. The biggest controversy has been mobile phones, but even huge studies on their effects have been inconclusive. And by ‘inconclusive’ I don’t mean ‘well, there may or may not be a problem’, like it’s 50:50; rather, there is no significant evidence of ANY harm. There is also the issue of living close to power lines, and all the media that’s had, but again, no evidence for any physiological effect, although there are certainly some psychogenic illnesses associated with them.
  • Perhaps the dominant EM issue for us is UV radiation from the sun, and we already have protection from that – ozone layers, creams, and just staying indoors.

Conspiracy theorists and nutters, start your search engines! I expect a tonne of comments telling me how blinded I am by the establishment and ‘Big Tech’, and the New World Order, which used EM fields to control the population, yada yada yada. Go for it. But you know what I’m going to say, right? Show me the evidence for your claims. Closely followed by “no, not a study from the Online University of Hicksville USA, but one from a reputable source”. You know the drill by now.

Now that you know the basics, let’s have some fun – let’s start with the nicely titled EMF Blues. This site is basically a vehicle for mom and pop McKusick to sell some ceramic doo-dads which mom has cooked up in her ceramics class. In fact they would make nice buttons or ear-rings if you’re a bit a of a hippy.

But instead, their buttons are actually ”Crystal Catalyst Resonators”. OOohh. I swoon at the technical talk. Go on, say it to me again. Crystal Catalyst Resonators. Back in a minute….

Ok, I’m back now. Yes, apparently, these devices:

..harmonize electromagnetic frequencies so they are no longer harmful to your body. This makes them powerful EMF Protection Devices AND Life Energy Enhancers. …The technology has a unique composition and structure which allows it to absorb and then rebroadcast harmful electromagnetic radiations in a cleaner form. These cleaner frequencies are beneficial to the body. Tests shows that Crystal Catalyst® Resonators increase the body’s strength and enhance whole brainwave functioning.

So, more for your money then. But surely they play havoc with mobile phone reception? They didn’t say, but I emailed them, and their response was:

The Cell Phone Tab will not interfere with cell phone reception. The Tab does not block or shield the frequencies but rather harmonizes them, therefore, the frequencies are still present and intact, and reception is not altered.

They pointed me to the relevant page, where I found I could buy the Cell Phone Tab for only $16.50. Just stick it to the back of my phone, and all will be well.

But how do they know they work? More on this later. But front and centre they have a wonderful testimonial from William in Quebec (I know, impressive, right?), who says:

I had my Crystal Catalyst® Bead muscle tested by my naturopath and he was impressed by how well it worked for so little cost. I am now buying Cell Phone Tabs and the Star 3 Hole. I now feel confident in buying more and recommending them to others.

With that sort of support, why wouldn’t you be convinced? If a naturopath is impressed, it must be the real deal. But Robyn from Kentucky really seals the deal:

Do you ever tell what these blue disks are composed of? Don’t know how, but they really do stop the icky vibes from coming out of the computer. I don’t feel them anymore. Thank you!

Icky vibes from the computer? I only get those when I read Andrew Bolt online.

The site admits that science doesn’t know how it works, but goes for the ‘argument from antiquity’ with this quote:

Egyptian Faience refers to a silicon based ceramic glaze which was produced in Egypt from 3500 B.C. until the first century A.D. The Ancient Egyptians believed Faience to be a magical substance that contained the powers of rebirth. Scarabs and talismans were thought to derive their powers from this quartz based Faience glaze.

Crystal Catalyst® Technology shares many properties of Faience. It too is a silicone based ceramic and is fired in a similar energy field as was used to produce Faience in Ancient Egypt.

Well, it’s old, it must work. But wait there’s more…you can also charge water with the device! Bullshit you say. No, really. Here’s the proof:

Charged Water is water that has been given a new structure and has more healing abilities because of it. Water can be charged by placing a Crystal Catalyst® Bead in or touching the outside of a pitcher of water. This water tastes sweeter and is more easily absorbed by the body. Plants watered with Crystal Catalyst® Water grow green and lush.

But how was this wonderful technology developed? What great lab took this from wish to reality? None other that the team at Biomagnetics Research Inc, established in  1983. Here’s the team. I’m sure there’s a PhD in there somewhere. Actually there isn’t. Ma and pa’s main qualifications are in dowsing – you know, using a stick to find things in the ground. That’s ma and pa on the right, with Billy-bob and Betty-Lou on the left.

BioMagPortateforWeb

Perhaps surprisingly, I found a ‘Testings’ page on their site – so kudos for recognising the need for it, even though it’s grammatically unsound. But what do we find? Apparently EMF meters (which are also a thing) can’t test their product! Have we heard that before? You know, the ‘your modern science can’t deal with this mystical phenomenon’ gambit. No, apparently the only way to test that their product works is with Applied Kinesiology, Kirlian Photography and Whole Brainwave Functioning.

And damn, if they didn’t actually provide proof! There’s an actual picture of ma lifting a bottle of water before and after activating the patented technology! Wow, you have to see this to believe it! But now I’m being facetious. They’ve actually also done independent testing, oh yes. Here it is:

A leading International Canadian Testing Laboratory for Clean Energy has confirmed that the resonators “are not electrical, magnetic, or radioactive, and they can not harm electrical appliances, or computer hardware or software”

Well, ok, I could have told you that and I’m not a Canadian Testing Laboratory. Any comment on whether they work??? How about this:

Doctors at the University of California at Santa Cruz used Kiniseology (muscle testing) to measure the strength of subjects before exposure to electromagnetic radiations. Subjects were then measured in an electromagnetic field using Crystal Catalyst Resonators and showed to be stronger than they were prior to the exposure.

So now we’re using a fraudulent therapy, to test a fraudulent product? Nice One. See my article on Applied Kinesiology here. Pure theatre and totally bogus. Same goes for Kirlian Photography – which is completely fake – here’s a nice discussion of it here. What else?

Farmers in Wisconsin had Dairy cows in Wisconsin were under stress from power line radiation. After placing Crystal Catalyst® Beads on their collars the cows produced more milk with increased butter fat and less bacteria.

And the cows looked cute too, with their beads and all. Actually I’m surprised those farmers had time to do this testing, what with all the aliens doing anal probing in the part of the country. Maybe the aliens relaxed the cows – that would be a far more plausible explanation.

As for the brain testing, they contend that:

Being electrical, the brain is severely affected by electronic pollution. That’s why you feel so “brain-dead” after spending hours on your computer or talking on your cell phone.

No, you feel brain-dead because you’re tired. They follow this up with some hokey charts which anyone could have knocked up. Of course, this data has been published somewhere right? And peer reviewed? Because if they’ve actually built one of these things it would turn science and physics on its head. It means we could travel to Mars without worrying about those pesky cosmic rays! No more sunburn! And if string theory is correct, these devices could be used to block gravity too! Must get me one.

And finally, visit the Testimonials page, for a real laugh, all written in the same style – here’s the first one:

Your Frequency Harmonizer Pendant makes my child less jumpy and the Crystal Catalyst Bead makes him sing all day. Thank you very much for such nice products…I’d like to buy more in the future.

Really? You want your kid to be singing all day? And why would you need to buy more? Do they wear out?

Anyway, enough fun – and they’re are not the only site – the internet is littered with them –  try this one for example, which is a shambles of a site. Some of the fun facts on this site include:

Microwave ovens heat the food by radiation, which “deranges” the
molecules
 of food and water so our bodies have trouble recognizing
and using them.

The hip area produces 80% of the body’s red blood cells.  This
function is especially vulnerable to EMF damage.

You shouldn’t use your cell phone in a car because the metal car
frame amplifies electromagnetic radiation and affects all passengers,
even those not using the cell phone.

A cell phone’s impulses can disable the brain’s barrier that shields
the brain from poisons in the blood.  And it happens after only 2 minutes
of cell phone use.

You get the idea. Gloom and doom, therefore, buy our pendant.

Same old scam. Same old pitch.

Please don’t fall for it – just have a laugh and enjoy the kooky con artists of the 21st century.