Friday, June 15, 2007

Guest Blogger

Today's guest blogger is George Orwell:

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:
  1. What am I trying to say?

  2. What words will express it?

  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?

  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:
  1. Could I put it more shortly?

  2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lucinda McAlpine

Lucinda McAlpine is a British Grand Prix dressage rider. She also seems to support some fairly outre ideas.

Having kept horses in the conventional way Lucinda has gained vast experience throughout the gradual process of returning many different breeds and types of horse to a more natural state, and as a result is more than aware of the pros and cons of both systems of management. She is also continually building a list of contacts in the fields of alternative veterinary medicine, which includes chiropractors, aromatherapists, acupuncturists, distant healers, Reiki masters, sports massage therapists and teachers of awareness techniques. The field of equine science is also expressing an interest in her work and she hopes to be able to link these varied experts through study and discussion days at Bowhayes Farm.

She espouses something she calls "intuitive riding".

Lucinda uses various techniques to work with both the physical and the mental/emotional problems with an aim to finding the best that the horse can be. The work is both from the ground and also ridden, as necessary, and she works from an intuitive standpoint using her bond with that horse to dictate the course of the session.

Sort of like Natural Horsemanship with added doses of newage platitudes, intuitive riding promises:

Today I want to present to you the idea that perhaps you are the person that knows best and with the help of your like-minded horse to mirror you, the solution can be found within yourself. If you can listen to your horse he/she will tell you the way to find the harmony you are searching for. No one can tell you about right or wrong - that is a question of your own perspective. We are all individuals with different likes and dislikes (Thank God, or all women would be after the same man) What matters is what makes you happy - what FEELS good.

Like woo, it doesn't succeed or fail. Whatever happens, intuitive riding is working! It's all about feelings, not achievements or goals. Call EoR an old stuffed-stick-in-the-mud, but he believes firmly in skills and abilities. Without the appropriate skills and techniques, a rider is simply an untrained passenger.

Undergoing a road to Damascus experience when she encountered a therapist who practiced "focusing" (whatever that is - EoR suspects it has nothing to do with cameras) she appears to have gone completely over to the Dark Side:

At this point four or five years ago, when she was beginning to question how things were done, that she was introduced to the alternative therapist, Trudi Hills, whose techniques include physiotherapy, cranio-sacral therapy and focusing. Lucinda explains that Trudi showed her what could be achieved by treating her horses in a more natural way. She also introduced her to work with a dog, where the horse and dog play and work loose together. 'In those days we had shoes and boots, and I always rugged them, all sorts of non-sense. So it was a bit alarming that I was taking them out in the field... to be supposedly chased about by a dog." The belief is that the dog identifies where a horse's tension lies, and makes the horse aware of them. The dog doesn't chase the horse; the dog may initiate movement, but the horse actually follows the dog most of the time.

You see: the dog knows where the tension is! It feels which is the correct way to train the horse!

Ms McAlpine has now evicted all the owners from her agistment centre who still had rugged and shod horses, and subscribes to the "encouraging the self-healing ability of the horse" fallacy (if that's true, why do they get sick? why does she need therapists?).

The woo doesn't just stop at touchy-feely newage horsemanship platitudes. She also links to and utilises the services of Roger Meacock MRCVS (a qualification that indicates he should know better):

This then leads to both horse and rider being treated by Roger Meacock MRCVS, of Natural Healing Solutions, with the Scenar. This is a hand-held electrical device, which uses frequency and electrical properties to find out where tissue is not functioning properly. "This can be skin, muscle, bone, cartilage, even organs," he explained. "The Scenar then sends signals set to mimic nerve impulses. These cause the body to release endorphins and neuropeptides into the system, and to heal itself." Lucinda sees the Scenar as an essential tool in her work.
Susannah Commings: Intuitive Horsemanship (Horse and Rider, July 2007)

So much for the body being able to heal itself. The Scenar is the more expensive version of the ENAR. Its principles and plausibility are the same. And isn't there something a trifle unethical about a veterinarian "treating" a human with this magic machine?

At Dr Meacock's website there is a quote:

Oxygen deficiency: "the single greatest cause of all disease" Dr Steven Levine, USA

Hang on. What's the Scenar doing then? It's electrical? Does it somehow generate oxygen in the body? And why can't the body's "ability to heal itself" simply generate the required oxygen? Or, could it be, just possibly, that this is a whole load of barely plausible ideas thrown together to give an air of scientific authenticity? Though Dr Meacock also claims:

There are very few conditions that the body cannot recover from given the correct energetic input.

He doesn't state which those conditions are, however. Dr Meacock provides further advice about how his non-standard methods work (sorry - help the body to heal itself!):

Pain relief is extremely effective with Scenar. By triggering the body to heal itself at the DNA level, Scenar treatment will not mask an underlying problem but forces the body to address it, reversing the pathology.

Yes! The Scenar can alter DNA!

Dr Meacock has also fallen for (or at least, he promotes) the use of magical software that does incredible homeopathic healing with energies:

e-Lybra® 8 is a groundbreaking, fully automatic PC-based energy-balancing and complex homeopathic remedy production system. e-Lybra® 8 checks the database of around 200,000 different energy signatures including physical and psychological disorders, allergies, poisonous substances, viral, bacterial, parasitic and other infections against the energy field of the individual to establish which signatures are required to help energetically balance that individual. e-Lybra® 8 makes bespoke complex homeopathic type remedies, determined by the fully interactive electronic biofeedback equipment. Remedies can be produced using a hair sample as a witness or from distance radionically using personal details. Various different technologies have arisen from the original e-Lybra® technology. These include the e-Lybra® iPod which uses an iTrip to broadcast various formulae constructed to help balance individuals suffering from a range of commonly encountered health problems.

Homeopathy. Energies. Frequencies. Distant healing. And why doesn't Dr Meacock include the mandatory ® for the iPod®? Doesn't he realise that's a trademark as well?

Dr Meacock, who clearly has forgone everything he once learnt, also promotes herbs (but these are Indian ayurvedic herbs), oxygen therapy, and orgone energy. The page also mentions something really bizarre: "aerobic oxygen". EoR's always preferred that to the anaerobic variety.

Meanwhile, the RSPCA in the UK warn More than 200 dog attacks on livestock in UK.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Liz Ditz alerted EoR to Cellfield. Aimed at dyslexics, Cellfield states:

This is why Cellfield has developed a program that targets phonological awareness in a unique way, freeing working memory for better comprehension and enhanced language skills. This is why after only two weeks, decoding skills can improve by almost two years and comprehension can improve by one year, whether your child is normal or dyslexic. (See The Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities Vol 10 issue 2).

Cellfield was developed by Dimitri Caplygin, a Science and Engineering graduate of UNSW. In a worrying example of how people with little experience in a specific area suddenly "see" the solution that the experts fail to notice, he states:

A chance encounter with severe reading disorders provided that connection in an emotive way, which led to that familiar inventive 'flash'. Dimitri was moved by the widespread suffering of dyslexics and was bewildered by the positions of exclusivity taken by many scientists as to the causes of dyslexia. With the fresh eyes of an outsider, Dimitri thought their positions were largely not contradictory, but part of a continuum of causes that could be tied together through computer science.

Such an insight is not, of course, impossible, but it is also one of the cardinal signs of "theories" and therapies lacking evidence. The FAQ is more marketing-oriented, rather than providing information.

Why does Cellfield work?

Brain scanning research shows a 'bottleneck' in areas where 'cross-communications' between the auditory, visual and motor functions normally take place. Addressing this neural abnormality is critical to the development of language skills. Cellfield is the first to target these 'cross communications' by simultaneously activating visual, auditory and motor pathways. Cellfield's research based design also induces attention, expands working memory and provides novelty with reward.

EoR was a little concerned about this sentence though, on success rates:

For illustration, somebody claiming a 90% success rate targeting a subgroup that represents only 20% of the reading disorder population is only an 18% success rate.

No. It's a 90% success rate in a specified subgroup. Extrapolating that success rate unmodified to different groups is unwarranted. It may be more successful in a different population group. It might be less successful. It might have the same success rate. This is the sort of error journalists fall into ("a study shows 90% of us are in danger of..." when it's actually 90% of middle-aged executives with prior heart problems, or so on) but EoR wouldn't expect a trained Engineer and Scientist to fall for it.

The only published evidence appears to be a Peer-reviewed and published study of 262 subjects who completed Cellfield Intervention, Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities Volume 10 - Number 2, 2005 which Cellfield makes a copy available of on its site.

The study provides this description of the Cellfield Intervention:

The intervention comprises ten one-hour sessions, each consisting of ten exercises. Some of these target phonological processing, requiring the concurrent activation of visual and auditory processing. Other exercises involve decoding and encoding activities using tasks such as finding text embedded in continuous random text without spacing. Motion graphics designed to stimulate the magnocellular pathways and other visual exercises requiring eye/hand coordination are also incoroporated into each session.

The children involved in the study were 187 males and 75 females ranging in age from 7 to 17 "who undertook intervention at the Cellfield Clinic at some time during a 24-month period". There was no control group. While impressive gains were made, the Discussion at the end of the study (EoR wonders if any of the parents considering using the Cellfield Intervention will bother to read the report, or make it to the end) is cautionary:

Notwithstanding these impressive results, there are several limitations to this study that should be taken into consideration. Firstly, a convenience sample of those seeking intervention for reading difficulties was employed. Thus, the generalizability of these results is uncertain. The students who undertook the Cellfield treatment during the span of this study may be peculiar to the population of Australian students who experience difficulty learning to read. The Cellfield Intervention is a commercial venture that requires a certain monetary investment on behalf of parents and thus the participants in the present study's sample may be representative of those who have reading difficulties but who have the financial resources to ameliorate their predicament.

The study also notes that longterm benefits, if any, have not been established. Furthermore, some of the scales used to measure improvement were based on norms established in US and British populations.

On its links page, Cellfield claims support from authorities such as Professor John Stein at Oxford University and Professor Max Coltheart at the Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science. EoR could locate no reference to Cellfield at either of the relevant Professors' sites.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

EoR Attends Rehab

The University of Missouri-Columbia's Region VII Rehabilitation Continuing Education Program provides an interesting history of rehabilitation.

Early healers used a "naturalistic system" based on observation of events and "what seems to make sense". Today their advice sounds like bizarre folk remedies, but these physicians were trying to do the same things modern physicians are - reduce suffering by treating symptoms with prescriptions. The illnesses they treated include both "acute disease" (broken bones, abdominal pains, etc.) and chronic conditions, which we would call disabilities ("crippled", "possessed", "feeble minded", etc.). [...] Even though some of these prescriptions seem disgusting, if you look at what the writer says, he always talks about first listening to the patient's description and observing their symptoms. Next he describes a "diagnosis" based on the description, and only after that does he decide what treatment to use. Even though he uses very strange terms and treatments, he is using the same "systematic medical approach" that doctors use today. This is the beginning of medical care for people with disabilities.

Sadly, today many alternative medicine (an aside: medicine is "the science of preventing, diagnosing, alleviating or curing disease"*, therefore the "alternative" to medicine is not doing any of these things) still adhere to "what seems to make sense" and have made little or no progression since the first days of medical treatment (indeed, the older the therapy the greater the cachet it has).

Page three has some wonderful illustrations of medieval medical treatment that resonate strongly with the practices seen in the parlours of reiki healers and the rooms of homeopaths today:

At this point, society is still using magical thinking to understand mental problems, instead of what we would call science.

Even the anti-vaccination brigade have their precursors:

The "new inoculation" is one of the first vaccines - a small pox vaccine derived from the sores of infected cattle. Its development was a major victory for germ theory, but people were not enthusiastic about being injected with something so crazy and disgusting. Notice how parts of their bodies change into the heads of cows, representing the kinds of things people were afraid might happen to them.

EoR was also impressed by the advertisement for Hamlin's Wizard Oil. Was it really made from wizards? Or was it used to lubricate wizards?

Monday, June 11, 2007


The drought in Australia has become so severe that old Adaminaby, buried under water in 1957 to create Lake Eucumbene as part of the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme has started to reemerge.

Drowned 50 years ago for progress and the promise of near limitless water, the town of Old Adaminaby has re-emerged from its sunken grave as drought ravages one of Australia's biggest lakes. The country's battle with climate change and the worst drought in 100 years is stark at Old Adaminaby, where looters pick through the relics of a bygone farming town. On the floor of Lake Eucumbene lie the remains of an old truck stand on what was once a street and the foundations of nearby houses lie covered with cracked black mud.

Sadly, rather than highlighting the necessity to do something about global warming now (a subject the Coalition government seems less than keen to address) the main issue raised by this situation has been looters.

Some of EoR's more erudite readers might recognise Adaminaby as the name of a port on Old North Australia.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Ultimate Out-Of-Body State

Sweat lodges are wonderful ways to get in touch with your holistic inner self. Native Americans had a way of knowing that was more holistic than Western systems of knowledge. Natural healing energies are more potent than drugs and modern hospitals. The body's own innate healing ability is more powerful when unhindered by Big Pharma poison pills.

Meanwhile, back in the real world where the rest of us are forced to live, the South Australian coroner is hearing a case in to the death of a man who collapsed in a sweat lodge ceremony conducted by a "new age healer", David Jarvis (as reported by Adelaide Now).

Other people with the dead man, Rowan Douglas Cooke, 37, failed to seek assistance for him because they believed he was on astral travelling.

The South Australian Coroner's Court today heard Mr Cooke was undertaking a ritual called a pipe ceremony, where participants sweat out toxins and spirits to enter an out-of-body state. [...] The campers dragged the two men out of the lodge and attempted to revive them by performing a series of spiritual rituals including chanting and drumming, she said. They also massaged their hands and feet, buried their feet in the soil and smashed sacred ceramic pipes over them to set their spirits free. "They believed they had been astral travelling or were in a deep meditation space," Ms Davis told the court. Mr Asfar later regained conscious but Mr Cooke did not. At daybreak, two of the campers left the isolated camp to seek help from a homestead, but an ambulance did not arrive to treat Mr Cooke until after 8am. He was pronounced dead at Leigh Creek Hospital at 11.30am after resuscitation efforts failed.

Mr Cooke's partner is, understandably, upset at the moronic treatment the man received.

The partner of a man who died while on a native American purification ritual in the South Australian outback has described the people who played drums and chanted as he lay unconscious as poison. [...] "I feel those people are a poison beyond comprehension and my hope is that no one else is unfortunate enough to encounter them," she wrote in a statement to the media. Theare said she was angered at the failure of the campers to seek immediate medical help and their ritual antics were laughable. "What I think about what happened that day goes beyond anger," she said. "If I could direct what I feel at those close 'friends', they would incinerate from the inside out.

Nonetheless, that report concludes with a bizarrely delusional statement from a clinical psychotherapist explaining the benefits of a sweat lodge vision.

"People do not hallucinate per se, it is the small things of nature that talk to people and everything around you. You can look at a rock and it might communicate with you about the hardness of life or you might observe a grub walking around a leaf and it might turn into a butterfly."

Talking rocks! If that isn't hallucinating "per se" EoR doesn't know what is. Wrapping a dehydrated man in blankets and chanting for spirits to heal him comes pretty close, though. reports Mr Jarvis as saying:

"Not long after, I noticed a particular energy coming out of the lodge, it was quite strong in nature," he told police. "I noted two people were having an out-of-body experience."

The newage: killing believers one at a time.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

EoR Considers An Education

The Australian education system demonstrates how easy it is to run courses on just about any subject, plausible, implausible, proven or not. EoR recently had some courses offered by the state run Adult Education Tasmania brought to his attention, but the situation is the same in other states as well.

Homoeopathy for Home & Travel
Gain the confidence to treat yourself and your family for a range of minor injuries and common acute ailments in the home, or while travelling, using homoeopathic remedies alongside conventional first aid techniques.

"Alongside"? Why? Because homeopathy doesn't do anything, and would just be a wasteful extra inconvenience while trying to administer effective first aid?

Therapeutic Touch - Energy Therapy
Therapeutic Touch is based on extensive scientific research. It is designed to facilitate the body’s own healing through rebalancing energy and is taught in hospitals and universities in over 80 countries.

Look at all the meaningless woo doublespeak there: "facilitate" (ie doesn't do anything), "body's own healing" (ie therapeutic touch doesn't do anything), "rebalancing energy" (ie no measurable outcomes). Therapeutic Touch is based on science in the same way that Star Wars was.

Have You Been Here Before?
Ever wondered about all this 'past lives' talk? Curious about who you have been? Hear about karma; past life clues and stories; and birth and death as critical points for karmic experience. Experience some exercises and a regression.

Well, at least that description is accurate. This sort of nonsense is contributing to a regression in logic and understanding.

The Goddess in Everywoman
An introduction to using your astrology chart, uncovering your hidden talents and learning to recognise the goddess in your friends and family. No knowledge of astrology is required.

Since astrology is not a "knowledge" system, that final sentence goes without saying.

Meanwhile, TAFE Tasmania is jumping on the barefoot horse bandwagon, and offering a course in "natural" trimming:

This course has been developed as a partnership between TAFE Tasmania and Natural Hoof Care Practitioners, to meet an increasing demand in the Horse Industry, to educate and qualify people in the natural care of horse’s hooves.

The course is being run by Jeremy Ford who is Wild About Hooves! ("Do no harm, respect the healing powers of nature"), though he also appears to offer one day "mentorship" programs.

Free hoof trimming is offered by students of this course but, strangely, "Shod and foundered horses/ponies welcome". EoR wonders if the evil shoes are removed by the students while they "Tut, tut!" loudly, and are the horses then sent home to a metal free bliss?

It isn't just TAFE and Adult Education that suffer from these oddities. In EoR's home state he can study government accredited courses in Ayurveda ("Advanced Diplomas can be upgraded to a Bachelor of Health Science degree by completing additional units with the Charles Sturt University" - presumably by unlearning everything that has already been taught about doshas and ayurvedic astrology) and homeopathy ("Advanced Diplomas can be upgraded to a Bachelor of Health Science degree by completing additional units with the Charles Sturt University" - presumably by unlearning everything that has already been taught about miasmatic remedies and homeopathic first aid).

Friday, June 08, 2007


Ways to avoid saying "whip" in the Natural Horsemanship world:

Carrot stick
Communication stick (strangely, the Communication stick is exactly the same photograph as the Carrot stick on Pat's site above, rotated 90°)
Handy stick (being used for "whipping the ground" - shouldn't that be "sticking the ground"?)
Training stick ("The training stick is used as an extension of your arm - it's not a whip" - to EoR's uneducated gaze it's remarkably similar to a whip)
Training arm ("Used as an extension of your arm - not a whip")

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Obesity Epidemic

The obesity epidemic juggernaut rolls on. Our children are obese. Our pets are obese. Now, our horses are obese, according to the respected International League for the Protection of Horses.

Is equine obesity really a problem?

In recent years the perception of ‘good condition’ has changed dramatically and as a result many leisure horses are carrying more than the ideal amount of body weight.

EoR is a bit confused as to how a "perception" results in actual weight changes, but perhaps it's something to do with a quantum consciousness entanglement matrix thing.

The ILPH are not taking this lying down:

To help horse owners establish what the right weight for their horse is, we will be running Right Weight Road Shows around the country. On these days the general public will be invited to bring their horse to be weighed on a mobile weighbridge.

Horseowners have always regularly been warned against overfeeding horses. This is not some new issue.

The quantity of hay should be carefully regulated, and never as much given as the horse will eat if at all voracious.
(Dennis Magner: The Standard Horse Book, 1893)

In the performance horse industries, especially race horses and pacers, there is an increasing trend to feed young horses much greater quantities of protein and grain in the rations than previously used.
R H Kerrigan: Practical Horse Nutrition, 1986

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

End Pain Forever. Maybe.

Australia. Land of myriad miracle devices. Such as the ENAR (Electro Neuro Adaptive Regulator), recently given nationwide publicity on A Current Affair ("Space-Age Pain Relief" - does that mean it uses outdated 1950s technology?).

A device designed for Russian astronauts can relieve chronic pain, according to a Macquarie University study.

They probably mean cosmonauts. It's also interesting that it's being touted now, when the study was conducted in 2005. Maybe they need a boost in sales.

As the segment mentioned a number of times, this device would "end pain forever". There was also the obligatory personal testimony, provided by a man who stated he'd been in pain for many years, and confined to a wheelchair for the last few years. After three and a half minutes with the amazing ENAR he says he no longer needed the wheelchair and got up and walked! And he's been fine ever since!

Well. EoR's convinced. Especially since the segment also touted scientific proof, provided by a study conducted at Macquarie University. Few actual details of the study were given, but it was done at a university! What more do you need to know?

There was a brief rebuttal from a skeptical doctor, expressing disbelief that such a handheld device would replace prolapsed discs, or reverse arthritis. But that man walked! It must be true! There's proof!

"I know it's nice to have a study that claims you've got these results," says Dr Rose. "But it's got to be statistically provable otherwise you can't really take anything from it."

No! No! A$1400 for pain relief "forever"? Surely that's not too much to ask for a little electronic zapper that will "end pain forever"? Who cares if some Big Pharma shill wants to poo-poo this miracle of modern science! It's only scientists who want statistically significant results. Statistically insignificant results are what's needed for marketing!

The ENAR FAQ provides some fascinating information about how this device "works":

ENAR/SCENAR technology interactively stimulates the body working with Reflex Bio-feedback to find and treat ‘Asymmetries’. These asymmetries are signs of difference that indicate nerve energy problems associated with injury, pathology and disease.

"Asymmetries"? How are these asymmetries located and measured? Answering "by the ENAR" is not acceptable. An article by Ellen Hodgson Brown, JD ("who has written nine books on alternative health care") explains the ENAR combines "Western electrical biofeedback with Eastern energy medicine" and "The device works on diseases and dysfunctions of every sort, by acting systemically on the energy field of the body".

The ENAR website provides copious proof of this machine's effectiveness. Such as a report from New Scientist. Well, if New Scientist are reporting on it, it must work! Surely? Actually, since the New Scientist report is about electrical currents in wound healing and the ENAR is being promoted for total pain relief, and specifically debilitating pain such as arthritis, it has no relevance whatsoever. Unless the inability to walk is caused by wounds.

Of course, this is how these devices are promoted. Any research, even if it's only vaguely related, no matter how small the study, no matter what statistical significance it may or may not have, is proudly displayed as proof of the device itself being scientifically plausible. That conclusion is not indicated. But what about that Macquarie University study? Isn't that proof? The only proof, in fact (the FAQ makes reference to other studies worldwide, but no details are provided - the only study that is being pushed so heavily is the Macquarie University study with repeated statements such as "DRAMATIC and SUSTAINED" - Pubmed returns no publications relating to the ENAR).

As this promotional article explains:

Paul Keetley was aware that he would have to deal with scepticism about any claims that he might make for the ENAR, particularly from Australia's Therapeutic Goods Authority, so he took early steps to get Macquarie University's Centre for Health & Chiropractic to carry out a randomised control pilot study using a patient group suffering from chronic neck pain.

If Mr Keetley really thought the TGA would be difficult to deal with he's living under a delusion. The TGA seem quite happy to register almost any magical device, as long as the promoters don't make too extravagant claims about it. And even if they do, that's okay until someone lodges a complaint.

It's good to know, however, that the ENAR has been tested by chiropracters. EoR can't think of a more worthy group of people to conduct the study (unless it be homeopaths). The use of chiropracters might also explain the "assymetries" this device detects, since chiropracters are also so beloved of such "asymmetries". The relevant people are Associate Professor Rod Bonello, described as "senior academic and founder of Chiropractic studies at Macquarie University". Among his publications is a paper on "Cancer and Chiropractic" in the prestigious Sydney College of Chiropractic Gazette. EoR would love to see that paper. His ENAR work only gets listed under "Poster Presentations". So, not only is it a small scale trial, it's apparently not even published. The student who actually conducted the study is Andrew Vitiello (inventor of the Chiropak - something that sounds to EoR like some horrible newage Deepak Chopra device).

The ENAR works with positive and negative electrodes. The device, which is the size of a mobile phone, is switched on and applied to the point of pain. "We followed participants over six weeks and measured things like pain intensity, functional capabilities, quality of life and neck disability," explains Vitiello. "We treated them intensively and then left them alone." Results showed that people who received the TENS therapy were no better off than if they received no therapy at all. People who received the ENAR therapy found that not only had their pain levels improved so had their functional capabilities and quality of life.

EoR is amazed that an electrical device works with both positive and negative electrodes. Cool, eh?

Mr Vitiello also states proudly:

I am juggling a few balls but I am excited about doing these things because it helps build the profile of Macquarie University, especially in a field we haven’t classically been involved in. We are now in the front line of clinical trials as the only University in the world who is testing the ENAR.

Which rather begs the question, why is no other university interested in this magic machine so soundly based on science and with such miraculous results?

Since the study apparently remains unpublished to date, readers need to rely on this document for details. Nine patients were treated with the ENAR, seven with TENS (Transcutaneous Electro Neuro Stimulation), and eight were treated using a switched off ENAR. Patients were treated for 12 weeks, and asked weekly about their pain levels. Various conclusions, and various graphs are then presented purporting to show that TENS and the sham treatment were the same (implying, of course, that TENS has no effect at all), while the ENAR dramatically and sustainably reduced pain.

There are, however, many problems with this study.

  • It is unpublished

  • The numbers were so small that statistical errors are bound to be exaggerated

  • The ENAR works by electrical stimulation - was it not possible that those receiving the sham treatment (a switched off ENAR) were aware of this?

  • The Visual Analog Scale runs from 0 to 10, but the first graph (Pre/Post Treatment VAS Scores) only shows a scale from 0 to 4.5, exaggerating any differences (the largest difference recorded is only 0.5 to 3.5). While a continuous graph is shown from the three data points, VAS scores at the ten intervening treatments are not reported.

  • There are further graphs presented, though the greatest differences seem to appear in self-reported assessments, such as the Change in Patient Specific Functional Scores after Six Months graph.

  • There is no information what other treatments the subjects were receiving, if any.

  • The conclusion ("There is no doubt ENAR works") is unwarranted and unsupported. ENAR may work. It may not.

  • Even so, the final paragraph of the report falls back on the lack of evidence by a call to testimonials and newage cliche: "There is a fast growing list of Western anecdotal case reports that suggest it might well be a quantum leap forward in therapy."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

If You Repeat A Statement Often Enough, People Will Believe It

EoR recently saw a fragment of a creationist video where the oft-repeated statement "If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it" was displayed as a quotation from Adolf Hitler. Obviously, if Hitler said it, then evilution is a godless satanic plot.

But did Hitler say it? EoR had previously seen the statement sourced to Goebbels. Not so far from Hitler, perhaps, but an error of attribution nonetheless. So, EoR went searching on the internet. He quickly found the phrase attributed to Hitler, Goebbels, Reagan, Lenin, "and others".

Did they all say it? Simultaneously, or were they copying one another? The majority of references are, indeed, to Goebbels as the originator, but a popular vote still doesn't indicate proof. Since no one provides any primary sources that can be checked and verified, the question remains open.

Sometime ago, EoR was asked to verify the source of a rather obscure claim on the internet. As far as he could ascertain, all the quotes referenced each other, and there seemed no primary verification. Someone (who, it is unclear) had made the claim, and everyone else had repeated it as received truth.

This is a major problem of the internet. Much information is available. That information is available almost immediately. Sadly, very little of it has any imprimatur of truth or correctness, or lacks the necessary further information to confirm it. This is, of course, the problem with a lot of the alternative health information on the internet. Often, the same phrases and articles can be found from site to site, without any indication of who copied whom, let alone where the facts (if any) were obtained. It's not just a problem of altie beliefs, of course, but it's far too easy to make a statement than it is to prove it on the internet or to spend some time sourcing it and providing references.

It's not only the internet that no longer appears to have any claims to veracity or authenticity. The established media fell for the obviously fake photos of Hogzilla, and Mediawatch has exposed the Daily Telegraph for publishing statistics about the rise in ADHD cases and Ritalin prescriptions which where all false. Nonetheless, other media outlets repeated them, and now the Dore Program is using them:

Say no to high risk drugs
DORE developing skills, for life.

- The Daily Telegraph, 16th May, 2007"

Of course, this post is also published on the internet...

Monday, June 04, 2007

Car Dealer Alters Physical Basis Of World

EoR recently had occasion to attend at a car dealer's place of business. The saleswoman attempted to sell him electronic antirust protection which, she assured him, worked by "making all the neutrons in the car negative". EoR declined in case the car exploded.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Good Nutrition Bad Nutrition

Helen Frost, popular media commentator on nutrition issues hates white food ("white food is dead food"), she hates processed food (food needs to be ripped out of the ground or off the bone and eaten as "living food"), and she hates artificial additives since these are poisoning us (for example, her advice to go and look up Aspartame on the internet).

Why then doesn't she ever mention the possible adverse health effects of non-white, living food without additives? In her world such food is the heavenly source of all health. Yet the TGA has just revised warnings about possible liver toxicity from black cohosh. It can't be true! And will Ms Frost be warning us about this as well, or will she ignore it?

Meanwhile, Blacktriangle posts a salutary warning about additives and how food is killing us.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Return Of The Poo Fairy

This week's radio appearance by nutrition educator (not nutritionist educator) Helen Frost was almost wall to wall faeces (or "number twos" as Ms Frost prefers to term it, with the occasional reference to "whoopsies").

In fact, after this week's advice EoR is afraid to eat anything ever again. Did you know your "number twos need to stay soft" or your insides "get congested and fester like a dead kangaroo on the roadside"? Improper number twos mean "you end up with dead bits of sheep and cow and cake and biscuit and so on festering in your pipes". Worse than that, "so many people are poisoning themselves from the inside because the number twos aren't getting out - they've got the graveyards of dead animals inside them". EoR surmises that number twos not getting out could possibly explain the "obesity epidemic"...

Ms Frost also warned us that synthesized phenylalanine "becomes a brain toxin with 92 side effects" which will destroy the nervous system at the very least - this, she assured us, is "well documented on the internet - just put in aspartame". Phenylalanine is okay in natural food, however.

Of course, if you search for anything on the internet you're likely to find it. EoR, personally, is well aware that alien reptiloid masters from the planet Beta Atlantis-Chakra engineered the 9/11 attacks via hologrammatic government controlled cruise missiles containing aspartame. provides a more balanced view (and a lot of other links to confirm their statements) regarding Aspartame. Wikipedia also has a page on the Aspartame controversy.

Ms Frost also brought her mother into the studio with her. EoR wanted to know what she made of all this, but she remained strangely silent (though getting a word in when Ms Frost is in full faecal flight would be an achievement). Luckily, the show ended up with The Poo Fairy Song again. Apparently, people were actually requesting this! So, if you too have a burning desire to sing nursery rhymes about bowel movements: The Poo Fairy Song.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Religion. For Dummies.

Sometimes book titles are so unintentionally funny (or horribly accurate) that EoR wonders how they get past the authors, editors and marketing armies... EoR found these invaluably salutary titles at

Meanwhile, Richard Dawkins' The Root of All Evil has just been shown in Australia (by the ABC, during the religious programming slot). EoR now understands from some of the erudite religious spokespeoples shown in that documentary that killing babies is wrong, evil and heathenistic. Killing godless abortion doctors is, however, not only acceptable and the right god-fearing thing to do, but is apparently encouraged. Rape is not an excuse to find a loophole to let god allow an abortion - rape is just part of god's wonderful plan for us all.

EoR feels reassured that religion provides some firm, moral guidelines to preserve our upright sanctimonious society. Without religion, atheists could do any arbitrary thing they wanted to. And then where would we be?