Phyllis Newcombe and Fantasy

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foto uit krant
The late Miss Phyllis Newcombe.
Photo: Spaldings, Chelmsford

The sad story of Phyllis Newcombe (22) is quickly told. Her dress caught fire after a dance, probably by a discarded match. More than two weeks later she died after her burns had become septic. This happened in 1938, but starting from 1942 the lurid fantasy of writers has made her death into a paranormal horror story.

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Dubious Resonances

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Source: Ellywa on Wikipedia.nl

Ion cyclotron resonance was presented in the early 1980s as the biological mechanism responsible for possible carcinogenic effects of 50 or 60 Hz radiation. Electromagnetic radiation of such a frequency is emitted by high-voltage power lines and by devices that take their energy from the power grid. After many years of research, a consensus developed that there are no health effects associated with doses that are normally encountered in daily life. Meanwhile the alternative medicine industry has for many years been making devices that deliberately produce electromagnetic radiation with frequencies in the vicinity of 50 or 60 Hz. Different scientific misconceptions circulate about how such radiation can lead to great health benefits. Ion cyclotron resonance is one of these theories.

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The clairvoyant dog

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A personal reminiscenseHondje

It must have been in 1941 or thereabouts. I was a pupil at the highschool in Veendam, a little provincial town near Groningen in the North of the Netherlands. One of our teachers in mathematics was a compact somewhat sturdy gentleman with an unruly head of hair and a five o’clock shadow, accentuated by his slightly yellowish complexion. At least, that’s how I remember him. But as you can gather, it all happened a long time ago.

This teacher was in the habit of straying from his subject, and to pose riddles or to broach areas of general interest. One of these occasions is indelibly printed on my mind: the case of the clairvoyant dog. What it boiled down to was that during his study at the University of Groningen he owned a little dog. And not one of your run-of-the-mill dogs (if dogs can ever be that). This particular dog felt when his master had almost finished his studies for the day, making it time to be taken for a walk. It was the moment to jump up, run to the door and wag its tail. Something normal dogs do as well, by the way.

This ritual was repeated for several weeks, thus confirming the clairvoyance of the dog: studies practically (but not quite) finished, dog anticipates and stands prepared. Now, you don’t study mathematics without any benefit. It sharpens your critical faculties and teaches you to approach problems in a systematical way. Covert observation of the dog did not enlighten our student. The dear animal just slept until the moment suprème. At long last it dawned upon our student: he was in the habit of lighting a cigarette as a reward for his endeavours. And he kept his cigarettes in a metal cigarette case. And closing the lid of the case . . .
The rest you can guess. (1)

(read on)

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Critical considerations on homeopathy

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coverDeJongh1943In 1943 David Karel de Jongh M.D. defended a Ph.D. dissertation on homeopathy, which he ended by concluding that homeopathy should be abolished. He based his judgment on his meticulous examination of many hundreds of articles and books and his experiences while working for quite some time in a homeopathic hospital in Utrecht.

The dissertation is digitised in its entirety, and can be downloaded here. De Jongh’s conclusions are still as valid as ever, as has already been observed by C.P. van der Smagt in his booklet Homeopathie, het wonder van het gelijkende which can be found elsewhere on this site.

Only a few people have any idea of the extent of the messiness and incoherence that is homeopathy. The general public thinks it has something to do with innocuous herbs, and those who know a little more think it is about extreme dilutions.

Similia principle

The core of homeopathy, however, is the similia principle. It was thought up by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796 and went something like ‘if you want to cure a sick person, first you establish their symptoms, and then you search for something that produces the same symptoms in healthy people’. It is unclear how Hahnemann got this idea, but he referred to a 1738 book whose author, Johann Christian Hummel, discusses a Danish army doctor named Stahl, who seemed to be quite famous in Denmark and who explained his own success by stating that the best way to treat the sick was by ‘similia similibus’.

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