An interesting article in the Economist about alternative therapies and the placebo effect.
Giving pretend painkillers, for instance, can reduce the amount of pain a patient experiences. A study carried out in 2002 suggested that fake surgery for arthritis in the knee provides similar benefits to the real thing.
Despite the power of placebos, many conventional doctors are leery of prescribing them. They worry that to do so is to deceive their patients. Yet perhaps the most fascinating results in placebo research—most recently examined by Ted Kaptchuk and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School, in the context of irritable-bowel syndrome—is that the effect may persist even if patients are told that they are getting placebo treatments.
! – although I wonder if the weren’t just capturing some form of regression to the mean here?
Welcome to the Twentieth Century.
Rain squall over IBS
From 1942 until 1945 the Second World War bashed through the Solomon Islands. Sea battles, land campaigns, dog fights. Tens of thousands dead. So many ships were sunk in the strait between Guadalcanal and the Florida Islands that it’s now called Iron Bottom Sound.
We went snorkelling this morning on the South Western edge of the sound. Swimming in grey, pre-trade wind calm. There’s a wreck on the edge of the beach, a Japanese troop ship bombed full of holes. The hull is worn and rusted now, torn iron giving into the sea; an attraction for divers who clamber through what’s left. It wasn’t the wreck we went to see though. Over the years coral has covered the steel. Grown like flowers. Slender fronds and solid swirls. Fish everywhere amongst the polyps’ sculptures. Colour, shape, movement, colour. Darting, schooling.
We bobbed above it all, low-tech divers peering out of swimming goggles. As we floated, the sun started to filter through the clouds and the grey sea turned to blue. Golden lines of light bounced about. Striped orange characters from Disney movies floated amongst sea anemones and little fish coloured like rainbows watched us from just beyond our reach.
Most war memorials make me uneasy. Too martial and too little remorse. Too proud. Yet this morning watching that grave returned to life, I found a war memorial which felt right. The softness of the sea, the patterns of colour, the sway of the swell. The way time was patiently covering the ruins with living things. The fact that Jo and I had dinner with a Japanese friend the other night. How peaceful it was.
That is the way to commemorate war, by growing its alternative.
May your weapons rust.