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May 25, 2020

BehindTheMedspeak: God can ease your pain


"Brain scans of volunteers who were subjected to electrical shocks revealed that Roman Catholics felt less pain than atheists and agnostics when they were shown a painting of the Virgin Mary."

The quote above is the second paragraph of a Guardian article by science correspondent Ian Sample about research by scientists at Oxford University.

Here's the Guardian story.

Religious belief can help relieve pain, say researchers

Scientists have uncovered an ancient and elaborate source of pain relief that is based purely on the power of the mind, according to research published today.

Brain scans of volunteers who were subjected to electrical shocks revealed that Roman Catholics felt less pain than atheists and agnostics when they were shown a painting of the Virgin Mary.

Images of the volunteers' brains showed that in devout believers, an area of the brain that suppresses reactions to threatening situations lit up when they were shown the picture.

Researchers at Oxford University, led by Katja Wiech, recruited 12 nonbelievers and 12 practising Roman Catholic students. In the tests, participants were shown either an image of the Virgin Mary by the 17th-century Italian painter Sassoferrato [top] or Leonardo da Vinci's 15th-century "Lady with an Ermine" [below].


After looking at the picture for 30 seconds, the volunteers were zapped with electrical pulses for 12 seconds. Each time, they were asked to rank how painful the shocks were on a scale of zero to 100.

The researchers describe how Roman Catholics and nonbelievers reported similar levels of pain after viewing the Leonardo painting. But the two groups responded very differently to the Virgin Mary painting, with Catholics experiencing 12% less pain.

When Wiech's team looked at the brain scans of the two groups, they found marked differences between them. After seeing the Virgin Mary, an area in the brain called the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex lit up in the religious volunteers.

"The Roman Catholics engaged a brain mechanism that is well known from research into the placebo effect, analgesia and emotional disengagement," said Wiech. "It helps people to reinterpret pain, and make it less threatening. These people felt safe by looking at the Virgin Mary, they felt looked after, so the whole context of the test changed for them."

It is highly likely that non-religious people could achieve a similar ability to control pain, perhaps through meditation or other mental strategies. "There's no suggestion that this effect is specific to religion and we've not found the God blob in the brain. This is about the state of mind you can achieve," said Wiech.

Preliminary studies on lapsed Catholics suggest that images of the Virgin Mary lessen their sense of pain too, the researchers said.

May 25, 2020 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

250 Amish Men Pick Up a Barn and Move It

YouTube caption:

On Saturday, March 9, [2019?] members of the Amish community arrived at the Hochstetler Farm on Snively Road.

Over 250 Amish men and others were there to help move a pole barn from one side of a farm to the other.

Shortly after 9 a.m., they spread out to all four sides of the barn and lifted.

Walking steadily they were able maneuver the barn into its new spot.

The entire process took less than five minutes.

May 25, 2020 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Big Red One

May 25, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

"Miss Aluminum" — Susanna Moore


Here's one of the strangest autobiographies I've ever read.

Susanna Moore is now a highly regarded novelist, but for the first thirty years of her odd life, she found herself wandering like a phantom ship on the ocean, from Philadelphia to Hawaii to New York to Los Angeles to Vancouver and on and on, seemingly being carried by a wave of mostly good fortune as she spent time as an actress, script reader, and high fashion model, getting married and divorced twice, having a child, mostly in the milieu of bold faced names who festoon this book with interesting stories and anecdotes.

The book started so lazily and flat that I had to push myself through the first 25 or so pages, but it imperceptibly marshaled  her droll humor and charm and became a story I wanted to go on past the point where she stopped, 273 pages in around the age of thirty, as she prepares to leave the wreckage of her second marriage and move back with her young daughter to Hawaii, where she'd spent the first fifteen or so years of her life.

Lagniappe: the book is packed with great photos.

I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, but she better get a move on: she'll be seventy-five this year.

May 25, 2020 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Burrito Blanket


From the website:

A properly made burrito is stuffed with many delicious things — now you can stuff a burrito with you.

The Burrito Blanket is a soft covering adorned with a lifelike image of a fresh tortilla.

Keep it draped over your couch to make visitors think you're about to scarf down on a giant meal or wrap yourself in it to become a human burrito.

Measuring five feet across, this grande faux food is big enough for two snugglers who want a delicious way to stay warm.

Features and Details:
• 100% light polyester fleece with stitched edge
• Packaged in a cardboard takeout box
• Photorealistic image
• Machine washable


May 25, 2020 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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