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JREF Swift Blog
Swift, named for Jonathan Swift, is the JREF's daily blog, featuring content from James Randi, the JREF staff, and other featured authors.

The Airport Vortex PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

airportvortexI was recently in Sedona, Arizona. One of the United State's most beautiful spots, it's no wonder that people flock here for vacations. Imagine an idyllic southwestern landscape, and put a town in it. That's Sedona.

Sedona is also woo-woo central.

Psychics, aura photographers, crystal shops, and all manner of New Age belief is rampant here. There's even a UFO Crash Landing museum and store, with nightly UFO tours out into the desert.

But the big unique attraction here are the "energy vortices," or "vortexes" as seems to be the local parlance. We're all familiar with the concept of a vortex - it's the funnel shape you find in a tornado or a draining bathtub. But how does that relate to energy?

 
Denny’s Discrimination Update PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

It's been a few weeks since I wrote about discrimination at a Denny's in Euless, Texas, and I thought an update was in order.

I have not heard from either the corporate office or local franchise holder, either via e-mail or postal mail. I'm not too surprised by this, and I do expect a response at some time. I sent the letters via certified mail, and they were both received.

I do have an interesting follow-up though.

A few days after the original incident, I had occasion to be in Holbrook, Arizona. For breakfast, I decided to eat at - you guessed it - Denny's. The restaurant looked identical, but the experience was quite different. In fact, it was incredible.

 
Profiles of the Godless PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Christina Stephens   

Back in early July, I argued in this Swift post that studies reporting greater health (especially mental health) among strongly religious people using a control group of nonbelievers were weakened by the fact that nonbelievers may be too heterogeneous a group to make an adequate comparison to strongly religious populations. I pointed out the need to study nonbelievers as a group on a larger scale in order to determine if there were any meaningful differences between different subtypes of nonbelievers.

As such, I was pleasantly surprised when the newest issue (August/September 2009) of Free Inquiry magazine arrived in my mailbox. Hiding in the pages of the magazine is an article reporting on the results of a study which did exactly that.

 
A Death in the Family PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Brandon K. Thorp   

Here is a report on a crime with four victims and no perpetrator. In June, Australian couple Thomas and Manju Sam were convicted of manslaughter. Their first child, Gloria, died of eczema-related complications in 2002. She was nine months old, and had been battling illness over half her life. To deal with her eczema, she was treated almost exclusively with homeopathic remedies.

Today, sentencing recommendations were submitted to the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

 
Does Chinese acupuncture affect the brain's ability to regulate pain? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Christina Stephens   

A new acupuncture vs. placebo acupuncture study has been making headlines due to results of a study suggesting that there may be a difference in opioid receptor response in acupuncture vs. placebo acupuncture.

Several large-scale studies [1-3] have been released showing that acupuncture and various forms of placebo acupuncture have clinically insignificant differences in the reduction of pain, proponents of acupuncture are now looking at brain-imaging to explore the mechanisms of acupuncture and placebo acupuncture to determine if acupuncture and placebo acupuncture operate via different mechanisms.

In this study [4], researchers hypothesized that long term acupuncture therapy may result in increased opioid receptor availability and that these effects would not be observed in a placebo acupuncture group. Their subjects consisted of 20 women randomly divided into 2 groups of 10 subjects. One group received traditional acupuncture treatment while another group received non-invasive, placebo acupuncture. Results from PET scans using contrast material were taken during a 90-minute period, during which acupuncture treatment or sham acupuncture treatment was administered during the 45-90 minute timeframe. A period followed in which subjects received 7 acupuncture or sham acupuncture treatments, and then the PET scan procedure was repeated, for a total of 9 treatments. Results indicate acupuncture therapy evoked short-term increases in MOR binding potential, in multiple pain and sensory processing regions including the cingulate (dorsal and subgenual), insula, caudate, thalamus, and amygdala. Acupuncture therapy also evoked long-term increases in MOR binding potential in some of the same structures including the cingulate (dorsal and perigenual), caudate, and amygdala. These short- and long-term effects were absent in the sham group where small reductions were observed, an effect more consistent with previous placebo PET studies.

 
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