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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?

The site lovesedona.com says:

The vortexes in Sedona are swirling centers of subtle energy coming out from the surface of the earth. The vortex energy is not exactly electricity or magnetism, although it does leave a slight measurable residual magnetism in the places where it is strongest.

No one seems to be able to define it "exactly," but measurable residual magnetism? That means if you bring something that can be magnetized, like iron, into a vortex it should become a magnet. It also means that the red rock, which is red because of its high iron content should have a magnetic charge. And that is somewhat worrying, because like the name suggests, the Airport Vortex is right next to Sedona Airport.

So I did some research, and indeed, the area around Sedona does have magnetic anomalies, meaning compass readings are slightly different than one would expect given the area's declination from true north. So maybe they're on to something.

Or, maybe not.

It seems magnetic anomalies are quite common in Arizona, as this map shows. (That's Sedona right in the middle.) So what makes Sedona special? I don't know. I got a number of different response in the many shops I visited. Some say that the energy was "spiritual," others said it was "psychic." Some shops sold crystals "charged" with energy from specific vortexes. They did all agree on one thing though: I should experience it for myself.

So I did.

I drove my Land Rover up Airport Mesa, and though that sounds all rugged and romantic, it was a short drive up a paved road to a parking lot. A parking lot that costs $5. I dutifully put my $5 in the machine, and out popped, not a parking stub, but an error message. #77 to be exact. I wonder if that's the code for "vortex interference."

Undaunted I left a note on my dashboard and climbed up the steep and scenic trail to the center of the vortex.

The was a slight problem though - no one could quite agree where it was. The supposed spot was on a ridge at the edge of the mesa. For those unfamiliar with southwestern topography, a mesa is a hill with a very flat top. This one is large enough and flat enough to have an airport on it, as well as a hotel, restaurant and ample parking. But on the ridge, there were several cairns indicating the spot for "optimal vortex action."

I observed about 20 other people there, tourists from around the world, and they all seemed to be looking for what the same thing I was looking for. Some of them spread their wings like anhingas drying in the sun, and others sat lotus style absorbing, if nothing else, considerable amounts of UV radiation. At this point, I felt nothing.

I stood in different spots, looking for a vibe. I was told by the people in the closest shop that this vortex, one of four in Sedona, was "masculine and horizontal." I have no idea what "masculine energy" is, though I suppose there is some analogy being made to the magnetic poles. I started to dwell on which pole would be feminine and which would be masculine, until I realized that I was engaging in a form of mental masturbation, and in public no less.

The most impressive "optimal spot" is the one in the picture, and that's the highest point at this particular location. It's suitably marked with a cairn. I decided to go all out, open my mind, and let whatever was there influence me. The first thing I noticed was a steady warm breeze blowing from behind me - perhaps this was the horizontal-ness they were referring to.

And then suddenly, I realized that I was being overtaken by a feeling. It was more than a feeling... it was a sensation... a compelling one. I felt... hot. It was 112ºF and I was literally baking on a red rock in the middle of the desert. There was no tingling; no vibration. There was nothing one wouldn't feel on any other rock in the desert.

Well, that's not actually true. The photo only gives a hint about how beautiful this place is. As a skeptic, I can't really account for that. Why do we find long-distance views of colorful mountains beautiful? Why do we get a chemical reward for witnessing such places? I have no idea, and I love to consider any conjecture you might have. Vortex or no – this place is special.

So, in my unscientific testing of Sedona's most accessible vortex, I have to say that I felt nothing unexpected. It's an incredible spot, and I encourage everyone to stop by if they get a chance, but for me, it's more than enough to realize how fortunate I am that I can experience such a place. I see no need to apply some pseudo-spiritual mumbo jumbo about invisible, un-describable and seemingly undetectable energy fields.

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written by MandySmith24, August 16, 2009
that's not a picture of the lotus position
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written by MadScientist, August 17, 2009
"It seems magnetic anomalies are quite common in Arizona ..."

Indeed, anomalies are common all over the planet. There must be millions of UFO hotspots. Nor is the earth's magnetic field static (see, the UFOs come and go all the time). Use the USGS site to plot out current magnetic declinations and ask for a plot of what things were like 10 years ago.

If the sun spits out some high speed plasma ('coronal mass ejection') the earth's magnetic field really goes whacky.

Very sensitive magnetometers have been flying in space for some time now to help determine and map the global variations. Some ridiculously sensitive magnetometers (superconductor types) have been in operation for over 20 years for other physics projects.

Nearby power lines (and even car electronics) and ferromagnetic materials will screw up any and all magnetometers. If you play with a decent magnetometer the reading just won't stay still - it's a bit like the electronic equivalent of a dowsing rod. If you're the type that would be impressed by Uri Geller's compass tricks, you'll go gaga over magnetometer tricks.

It's been decades since I've been to Sedona, but it is a gorgeous place. I wasn't aware of any woo-woo in the area but then I never stopped by the town, I just drove to the canyon and went for a 6 hour walk.

If you want a cheapish magnetometer which is moderately sensitive, get yourself a 3D accelerometer and attitude meter such as the TCM5 from PNI Corporation.
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written by JeffWagg, August 17, 2009
Yes, it's true.. that is not actually the lotus position as the ankles aren't positioned over the knees, but it seemed the appropriate image anyway.
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written by Random, August 17, 2009
I've used magnetic anomalies to detect both rock formations and submarines (being a geology graduate who spent time in the Royal Navy). It seems odd then that I never found an alien spacecraft!
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Penn & Teller once devoted an episode of Bullshit to this
written by garyg, August 17, 2009
Needless to say, the claims of devotees are all over the map, so to speak, and
no earthly instruments pick up what they feel they are sensing.

Certainly P & T didn't detect anything with their gear (I think they had a scientist
with them). Perhaps someone who remembers more (or has the DVD) can add more.
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It's simple ..
written by Dr.Sid, August 17, 2009
You are not spiritually ready for the sensation. Maybe next year, maybe next life. smilies/cheesy.gif
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Desert Vortex
written by GusGus, August 17, 2009
Desert? Vortex? Sounds like a dust devil to me...

(That's nothing like a dust bunny!)
.
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Long Views
written by Jefoid, August 17, 2009
I've spent quite a bit of time in Sedona, and when you get up high it is truly beautiful. I wonder if the feeling of serenity when looking out over vast distances might be caused by some primal need to be safe from predators? If you can see for miles in every direction, no one can sneak up on you, thus, peacefulness. Just a thought.
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written by kenhamer, August 17, 2009
Seems to me that by claiming all this supernatural nonsense about the place they are cheaping its actual value (i.e. the views aren't good enough, so you need to spice them up with "vortex" rubbish.)
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written by Habenero, August 17, 2009
I have pictures of an alien in Sedona. He even showed me his green card! But I have never seen a UFO or an ET anywhere.
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I Grew up Around Sedona
written by Xiphos, August 17, 2009
Back in the 70's and 80's most of the goofs that believed in this nonsense were worthless, hold out hippie losers that still think it was the summer of love. They weren't bad people just slow, high and well dumb.

Then I went into the Marine Corps and didn't get back much for a lot of years and when I did I found out that a new generation of nutcases had supplanted the old hippie weirdos. This new breed of aggressively stupid, and in some cases evil, woo woo believers were a whole different tribe of idiot.

These new generation snake oil salesman had the slick veneer of the revival preacher and could talk a good game. It was obvious some were out for the money but more seemed to have that flat glassy eyed visage of the true believer.

The good news though, is that, it seems to be less wackos in Sedona trying to hawk their "services". Last time I was in Sedona there seemed to be many open storefronts that once held shops that got over on the dim selling their supernatural junk.
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written by The_Libertarian_Otaku, August 17, 2009
To garyg: I have that DVD of Bullshit!, and apparently Sedona was a fishing spot before the leftover hippies came in and invented their vortex mythology.

They had two scientists with them, and one of them actually BELIEVED this woo-woo. The guy who was right, however, only picked up variations in the Earth's magnetic field with his fancy instruments. Either way, the vortexes are just dirt. Dirt where people dance around like coyotes and mime giant phalluses. smilies/cheesy.gif
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Sedona is depressing
written by phyz, August 17, 2009
I went a few years ago, and found the place utterly depressing. Though I'm a Michigander-turned-Californian, the red rock of the desert southwest is deeply under my skin. I get red rock dirt on me as often as I can in Canyonlands, Arches, Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, Natural Bridges, Capitol Reef, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, and so on.

Sedona is what happens when a place that should have been protected wasn't. The development and unbridled intrusion made me sad. Sad, sad Sedona. I don't have plans (or the desire) to return.
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Excellent Jeff
written by roguetrick, August 18, 2009
I don't know, but I'm finding your writing more and more entertaining. Great piece Jeff.
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written by Starthinker, August 18, 2009
I wish I was bold enough to use the phrase "mental masturbation" in everyday conversation.
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Sanctity, energy & the mind
written by davidm, August 18, 2009
In theory, the idea of "energy" as that which imbues a place with sanctity might be seen as an upgrade over traditional religious notions of the "sacred", since it's a move towards the physical/empirical rather than spiritual/metaphysical. The problem with vortices and other things New Age is there IS NO empirical/measurable energy -- thus it's still just metaphysics and belief, albeit dressed up in contemporary terminology.

And even if such energy could be objectively measured, how beneficial could it be if it's so darn "subtle"?

The real benefit here is a kind of self-hypnosis where the mind tells us to feel energized, invigorated, balanced, etc. And perhaps we should do more to leverage the power of the mind to affect the body -- just without all the layers of metaphysics.
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Whaaa?
written by pxatkins, August 19, 2009
The real benefit here is a kind of self-hypnosis where the mind tells us to feel energized, invigorated, balanced, etc. And perhaps we should do more to leverage the power of the mind to affect the body -- just without all the layers of metaphysics.


Dude, get help.
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written by davidm, August 20, 2009
pxatkins -- thanks for your concern!

I was trying to make a larger point that if people report feeling good/energized through something that has no objective efficacy (e.g. vortices, crystals, homeopathics, prayer, etc.), obviously it's the result of mental self-suggestion. The feelings are real -- the "self-delusion" is pointing to something external as the source of those feelings. Anyone remotely familiar with hypnosis should agree.

My recommendation to followers of New Age/energy-healing/religion: By all means make use of positive self-suggestion but ditch the self-delusion.
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