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weblog archives
eXTReMe Tracker
Monday, November 14, 2005
Anesthesia and Pain History Resources on the Internet collates links and articles on the early history of anesthesia, including frequently heartbreaking stories about accidental overdoses as pioneering physicians struggled with the unknown. The site also clued us in to the etymology of the word 'mesmerism'. Franz Anton Mesmer was, by any century's standards, a charlatan and a quack. Fascinated by the world of magnets, Mesmer believed that these strange forces were mirrored by forces that flowed around the human body, and were occasionally blocked and obstructed - causing illness. He coined the term 'animal magnetism' to describe the inherent powers of those who could seemingly draw out these obstructions themselves (althogh he seemed to prefer real magnets, making his patients 'swallow a preparation containing iron... and then attached magnets to various parts of [the] body').

Animal Magnetism was apparently distinct and Mesmer believed the magnetic properties emanated from the body of the physician involved. Even by the minimal knowledge of the age, this was a dead-end for scientific discovery, yet while Mesmer's focus on the influence of external forces on the human body (be they planets, tides, magnets, or whatever) didn't result in fame or fortune, his many followers eagerly expanded on his ideas of a magical, all-enveloping life force that could be shaped and controlled. His chief disciple, the Marquis de Puysegur, ultimately invented hypnotism, the power of auto-suggestion, which was dubbed 'Mesmerism' in honour of his inspiration. While hypnotism and various states of consciousness eventually found their way into healthcare through the new science of psychology, confusing definitions of hypnosis persisted, linking the state with hysteria and even the burgeoning spiritualist movement (which continues to surprise and delight). Robert Wozniak's essay, 'Mind and Body: Rene Descartes to William James' tells the stories of the early hypnotisers and psychotherapists.

As for magnets, they continue to hold a special place in the minds of alternative healthcare practitioners, with bracelets designed to 'increase circulation' just one of many direct descendents from Mesmer's theories. Ben Goldacre's Bad Science frequently comes up against devices like magnetic bandages and many other things professing to use the magical abilities of magnetism. If you must believe in inanimate objects giving off invisible power, try the mysterious Q-Link, 'the most advanced personal energy system available today': the investment will at least focus your mind. On the same theme, consider this spot of information about crystal 'power' from the Skeptic's Dictionary.

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Other things. Kratky Films has a huge catalogue of short Czech films / plug and play gets take to its logical conclusion with the TALON, a handy military cyborg that can not only sniff for explosives but can also handle an Anti-Tank launcher. Whatever happened to Asimov's three laws? (via) / all about Spring Heel Jack (previously mentioned, but always good to be reminded of London's lesser-known myths and legends, rather than just the usual suspects) / stop the letters, a minor distraction.

k'alebol presents an eclectic selection of links, like this one on witchdoctors / Eso Garden, an 'esoteric blog' (via All about nothing, a visual weblog) / Sachlichkeit, 'a blog on the intersection of design+management+life'. Sachlichkeit is defined as 'objectivity, objectiveness, clarity, relevance, no frills,' a word usually associated with Die Neue Sachlichkeit ('the new objectivity'), the artistic movement the Nazis saw as most degenerate / Phamous 69 is glossy porn, a bit like Richardson (both links NSFW).

Artistic (and geographical) representations of the unknown sea: La Mer Inconnue, an online exhibition (via Borborygme). Early image of the Mediterranean. King Alexander the Great, under the sea (more information here at this underwater exploration timeline) / Norway's greatest structures. See also panoramas in Norway.

C90 go!, 'the origin of the species'. Is there any contemporary equivalent to carefully making a taped selection of music from the radio? / strangely satisfying / in the spirit of last week's most-wanted time capsules, someone's going to have a real shock when they open up these walls / Lostshot, a weblog focusing on web design standards / the world's toughest runways (via gadgets.fosfor.se). Actually, maybe they're the world's easiest runways since there's nothing around them to distract you?