Respectful Insolence

Almost exactly a year ago, I came across a bit of woo so incredible, so spectacularly stupid and unbelievable, that I dedicated one of the last segments I’ve done in a long time of Your Friday Dose of Woo to it. Basically, it was about a movie called Eat the Sun, which described a bunch of people who believe that they can imbibe the energy they need to keep their bodies going by “sun gazing,” which involves, as the name implies, staring directly into the sun. The idea is to stare directly into the sun for as long as possible at sunrise or sunset, so as not to burn out your retinas by staring at the noon day sun. Sun gazers seem to think that mammals are like plants in possessing an ability to absorb energy directly from the sun. We’re not, of course, as I explained in my inimitable way a year ago. Sun gazing also leaves out the fact that plants get the organic building blocks they use to produce their actual structures from the ground in which they grow. Humans have no such capacity. Even if humans could absorb enough energy directly from the sun to keep their metabolism going, they’d still be faced with the problem of what, exactly, they’re made of. Food is more than energy. It’s amino acids, sugars, fats, and other building blocks necessary to make proteins, DNA, and in general the very chemicals that make up the very structure and metabolism of our bodies.

In brief, sun gazing is a lovely fantasy, but that’s all it is: A fantasy. Unfortunately for people who try to rely on sun gazing as a means of nutrition in a serious way, this is reality:

A woman starved to death after embarking on a spiritual journey which involved giving up food and water and attempting to exist on nothing but sunlight.

The Swiss woman, who was in her fifties, apparently got the idea after watching the documentary film ‘In the Beginning, There Was Light’ which features an Indian guru who claims to not have eaten anything in 70 years.

The Zurich newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reported Wednesday that the unnamed woman decided to follow the radical fast in 2010.

The prosecutors’ office in the Swiss canton of Aargau confirmed Wednesday that the woman died in January 2011 in the town of Wolfhalden in eastern Switzerland.


Unlike Eat the Sun, In the Beginning, There Was Light is a movie I had never heard of before. Probably, that’s because it’s a German movie; so I look at it as basically the German version of Eat the Sun. Certainly, if this trailer is any indication, it sure looks like it:

I do like how the trailer starts out with a guy saying, “I’m not saying stop eating and drinking. That’s not the point.” If that’s not the point, then obviously this poor woman missed the point rather spectacularly. In fact, I really have to wonder how any person could be taken in by this movie. Just the trailer looks as spectacularly stupid as the various clips I posted from the movie Eat the Sun. That’s probably because the entire concept of “breatharianism” (the belief that you can live on air and sunlight alone). It’s similar to ineda, which comes from the Latin word for “fasting” and is the belief that it is possible to live without food.

In any case, from what I can tell about the movie, the filmmakers interviewed a bunch of people, including one of our favorite American woo-meisters Dean Radin, who takes quackademic medicine far beyond what most quackademics would ever dare as editor of Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, in which he delves into distant healing and infusing chocolate with “intent.”

But back to In the Beginning, There Was Light. The “evidence” that I can glean from the website is hilariously bad. For instance, the featured cast members presented as evidence that living on sunlight and air alone is possible include Jasmuheen, Hira Ratan Manek, and “Mataji” Prahlad Jani. We’ve met Manek before, as he was prominently featured in Eat the Sun. I realize that I’ve referred to Manek’s website before, but I think it bears repeating in order to drive home the point of just how full of woo his “sun gazing” nonsense is by looking at the man’s own explanations:

Once you reach about 15-18 minutes (3-4 months) of sungazing many of your mental tensions: irritability, anger, fear, grief, and general personal frustrations will go away. This is just the beginning, but what a beautiful beginning it is. Life will become easier, more comfortable and more enjoyable as you get closer and closer to finding out who you really are. A blissful, euphoric sensation may envelope you. Your energy levels may increase and the benefits of having a routine in conjunction with the earth’s rhythms will begin to have a peaceful effect on your perception of the world.

At about 25-30 minutes (6-7 months) of sungazing, your hungers will begin to diminish. How and why you make the choices you make may come forth with remarkable clarity. Your self confidence may begin to increase, as your comfort level with being you is heightened. And yes, your physical hunger for food will also begin to lessen.

Between 35 and 40 minutes (9-10 months) of sungazing physical disharmonies, injuries, and diseases will be remedied. Also your hunger for food will begin to substantially diminish. At this point you may also feel awakenings in your charkas as well as possible energy beginning to stir within your kundalini. Each day more energy blockages will be dissolved as you get closer and closer to your higher self. At about 35 minutes your brain reaches its ability to store an energetic charge.

You have reached the final step…40 to 44 minutes. Wow. Now you stop sungazing. To continue on can be very detrimental to your eyes. At this time, sungazing is concluded and there is no need to continue the practice any more. During the first three months, the pineal gland is getting activated, and the hypothalamus or pathway to the brain from the eye is getting charged. After that period the solar energy starts reaching your brain and charging it. After this period, the solar energy starts getting stored in each and every cell in your body. When all the cells in the body are purified there is no need to sungaze any more. Now your brain is fully charged, the ability to control your destiny is in your hands.

As I sarcastically pointed out a year ago, I definitely want my brain to be fully charged, so much so that I can shoot lightning bolts at my enemies, much as Emperor Palpatine could do. That would be so cool that it might even be worth a little singe to my retinas. In any case, this was an example of something so ridiculous that it’s hard to believe that anyone takes it seriously.

But what about the others featured in the German film? Jasmuheen, for instance, is so much of a fraud that there’s even a Wikipedia entry on her pointing out, albeit not in exactly those words, what a fraud she is. Specifically, it discusses the infamous Australian 60 MINUTES segment in 1999 in which Jasmuheen tried to prove that she could do what she claimed; i.e., survive long periods of time without food or water. To that end, the producers confined her to a hotel room under the supervision of a doctor, to prevent the possibility of her sneaking any food or drink. The result was not what I would exactly call supportive of her claims. After 48 hours, she developed signs of acute dehydration, which Jasmuheen claimed to be the result of “polluted air.” So the producers moved her to a nice, clean, mountainside retreat well away from the city, where the air was clean. It didn’t help. As the test went on, Jasmuheen showed more and more signs of dangerous levels of dehydration, although she kept telling producers she “felt fine.” Ultimately, the doctor charged with supervising Jasmuheen urged the producers to stop the test because he was concerned about kidney failure due to dehydration and warned that the experiment could prove fatal. So the producers stopped the test, its result not being much of a surprise at all.

I’d be willing to bet that nothing of that test, or the fact that Jasmuheen won the Australian Skeptics’ Bent Spoon Award and the Ig Nobel Prize in 2000. James Randi himself has offered to do the test in such a way that Jasmuheen is completely satisfied with the conditions, except with this twist:

Hey, I’ll do that test, first making sure that Jasmuheen is totally satisfied about the circumstances, and meeting all her requirements, including location, atmosphere, and ambiance. I’ll also get a comprehensive waiver from her that says she won’t bring legal action against anyone if something goes wrong, that she’s a competent adult, that she will tell us when and if she has any problems, and that she will close off the test at any time she wishes. But I won’t allow the test to be terminated unless Jasmuheen herself says she wants it to be stopped!

Why am I so heartless? You should know that to date, three of her followers have starved to death by following her instructions. If she has the wisdom to command them to die, she should have the smarts to know when she’s going down that slope, as well. Jasmuheen said of one of those dupes who died, that she was “not coming from a place of integrity and did not have the right motivation.” I believe that Jasmuheen should be allowed — even encouraged — to demonstrate that she herself has both the required integrity and the correct motivation.

As a physician, I don’t think I could go that far, even in the name of making a valuable point about these cranks. I am, after all, sworn to uphold life and not to advise something that is likely to result in death. I suppose I don’t need to worry. Randi made his challenge seven years ago, and, as far as I know, Jasmuheen hasn’t found time to take him up on it, even for a prize of one million dollars. She has, however, apparently found plenty of time to be in this German film. She’s also apparently found the time to make claims that her own DNA has gone from having two strands (like everyone else’s DNA) to the much more excellent form of having 12 strands (because, you know, twelve is always better than two). I know the Australian Skeptics have already offered to do this, but I do have a lab of my own; so I could actually do this personally. I’d love to get a cheek swab from her or a blood sample and isolate her DNA. It wouldn’t be that difficult at all to test whether it in fact has 12 strands rather than two. Of course, Jasmuheen doesn’t see what the “relevance” is; so I guess she’ll ignore my kind offer, too.

That just leaves “Mataji” Prahlad Jani, who’s a bit more clever apparently than Manek or Jasmuheen in that he got an either clueless or complicit doctor named Dr. Sudhir Shah to supervise the test of his claim that he lives without consuming any food. As was pointed out by Sanal Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalist Association and one of my favorite skeptics of all time, if only for his most excellent performance when a Tantrik threatened to kill him with a death chant and Edamaruku cheerfully challenged him to go ahead and try, the protocol for testing Jani was hardly — shall we say? — air tight. As an aside, Edamaruku, as described on Skepchick and Randi, is best known (among U.S. skeptics, at least) for having withstood “The Great Tantra Challenge.” His assessment of the testing of Jani’s claims leads to the inescapable conclusion that the people doing the testing supported Jani and didn’t want to see his claims shot down:

While the test was running, I exposed some of those loopholes in a live programme on India TV: an official video clip revealed that Jani would sometimes move out of the CCTV camera’s field of view; he was allowed to receive devotees and could even leave the sealed test room for a sun bath; his regular gargling and bathing activities were not sufficiently monitored and so on. I demanded an opportunity to check the test set-up with an independent team of rationalist experts. There was no immediate reaction from Ahmadabad. But a sudden call from Sterling hospital invited me – live on TV – to join the test the next day itself.

Early morning, ready to fly to Gujarat, we were informed that we had to wait for the permission of the “top boss” of the project. Needless to say: this permission never came.

Similarly, we were unable to attend Shah’s first Jani test in November 2003 (that was financed by Dipas too). Shah has a long record of conducting these studies, which up till now have never been discussed in any scientific journal. They merely try to prove his strange sunshine theory: that humans can stop eating and drinking and switch to “other energy sources, sunlight being one”. Prahlad Jani is not Shah’s first poster child. In 2000/2001, he tested one Hira Manek for more than a year and confirmed his claim that he was feeding on sunshine only (and sometimes a little water). The idea that Shah’s research was investigated by NASA and the University of Pennsylvania was officially denied by both the misrepresented parties.

I’d also bet that In the Beginning, There Was Light doesn’t mention the problems with the “scientific tests” of Jani’s alleged abilities.

Let’s just put it this way. “Bulletproof” these two “studies” were not. I’ll also make an offer. I’m a physician and a scientist. I’d be more than happy to propose a protocol to test Jani in a way that would convince even Randi and Edamaruku and then to oversee that protocol. In fact, I’d be more than happy to collaborate with Randi and Edamaruku in setting up and overseeing this protocol to test Jani, Jasmuheen, or any other “breatharian” willing to try to prove that he or she can live extended periods of time using only the energy of the sun. On the other hand, maybe I should stay out of it. Because I’m a physician and clinical researcher, I’d feel duty- and honor-bound by the ethics of clinical research, which would mean that I would have to submit any protocol that we came up with to an IRB for ethical approval. That would mean that I’d have to have very clear criteria for stopping the experiment before any of these breatharians could hurt themselves. Personally, I’m more than happy to include such criteria in a protocol because as a physician I am ethically bound to protect human subjects of any research I undetake, but I don’t know whether Randi would approve. I bet I could probably talk him into it.

Be that as it may, the death of this unidentified Swiss woman who apparently was inspired by the German movie In the Beginning, There Was Light to stop eating and drinking demonstrates conclusively that, no matter how utterly impossible science tells us that a particular belief is (homeopathy, anyone?), there will be people who will believe in it fervently enough that they will bet their lives on its correctness. Whether it is gullibility or mental illness that drove her to starve herself into apparent dehydration and death, it just goes to show that no belief is so ridiculous as to be harmless.

Comments

  1. #1 Militant Agnostic
    April 27, 2012

    Orac

    Sun gazing also leaves out the fact that plants get the organic building blocks they use to produce their actual structures from the ground in which they grow.

    That is why you need to go barefoot all the time. Learn to think outside the box.

  2. #2 palindrom
    April 27, 2012

    This sun-staring thing can’t be much good for your eyes.

    For once, “it’ll make you blind” may not be a spurious warning.

  3. #3 MikeMa
    April 27, 2012

    If the Swiss woman was younger, I’d nominate her for a Darwin Award for sure. I guess either she had no relatives or none smart enough to stop her. Damn sad.

  4. #4 Che Dama
    April 27, 2012

    Three words: Thin the herd.

  5. #5 Science Mom
    April 27, 2012

    Twelve-stranded DNA huh? I guess that allows for photosynthesis?

  6. #6 lurker
    April 27, 2012

    This is one of the most stupidest posts I’ve read in a long time. Why do you spend
    any energy writing about obviouly mentally ill people. Anyone who would believe this
    is obviously delusional. I can’t even bother to finish more than a paragraph of this.
    These people are in the minority but yet you go on ad nauseum in detail no less about stupid stupid claims. Can’t you find more intelligent topics to discuss or are you on a negative treadmill of a blog.
    Why are you even considering such nonsense. Life is too short to spend reading
    nonsense. I guess it’s entertainment for you. I’d rather watch a sci-fi movie. Really
    now how long did you spend writing this???

  7. #7 palindrom
    April 27, 2012

    lurker @6 — When you get up tomorrow, I suggest you try the other side of the bed.

  8. #8 StrangerInAStrangeLand
    April 27, 2012

    @MikeMa

    The woman had two grown-up children according to the article that was published in a Swiss newspaper (in German). They were worried about her but she persuaded them that she was fine and would stop if her health was in danger. Her children were the ones who found her dead when they forced entry into her home after she failed to answer the phone.

  9. #9 StrangerInAStrangeLand
    April 27, 2012

    In 2011, the director of the movie “In the beginning, there was light”, Peter A. Straubinger, received “Das Goldene Brett” (meaning “the golden board”; in German “Ein Brett vor dem Kopf haben” / “Having a board in front of your head/face” means that you are stupid and unreasonable). This prize was awarded by a German sceptics organisation for the greatest woo nonsense in a year. Straubinger played even along and accepted the prize in a good-humored speech. Wonder if he is still that light-hearted.

    BTW, one of the criteria for the “Goldenes Brett” jury was “Danger potential”, the possibility that this woo would harm health or even the life of people. Guess Straubinger got full marks for that.

  10. #10 Orac
    April 27, 2012

    Really now how long did you spend writing this???

    Probably about the same length of time it took you to read the post and write your ranty comment about it.

  11. #11 JGC
    April 27, 2012

    Are breatharians really any more delusional than homeopaths? Is it a greater leap of faith to believe humans can live on air and sunlight alone than to believe water somehow conveniently remembers only the ‘good’ molecules it’s encountered, forgetting (as Minchin puts it) “all the poo that’s been it it”? Or to believe in the face of the mountain of evidence indicating otherwise the whole “too many too soon” premise that routine childhood immunizations can overwhelm an immune system evolved to handle exposure to thousands of antigens from the environment in one’s first few hours after delivery?

  12. #12 Just Sayin'
    April 27, 2012

    This is one of the most stupidest posts I’ve read in a long time. Why do you spend
    any energy writing about obviouly mentally ill people.

    Concern troll is concerned.

  13. #13 Kelly M Bray
    April 27, 2012

    I sometimes wonder if Lurkemon is actually Maurine Meleck. Neither makes sense and they write about the same drivel

  14. #14 Andreas Johansson
    April 27, 2012

    Is it a greater leap of faith to believe humans can live on air and sunlight alone than to believe water somehow conveniently remembers only the ‘good’ molecules it’s encountered, forgetting (as Minchin puts it) “all the poo that’s been it it”?

    Well, sort of depends on how you look at it, methinks. Obviously, both homeopathy and breatharianism are prima facie nuts, but lots of people do get better after taking homeopathic remedies, and post hoc ergo propter hoc is part of how humans think. People convincingly appearing to live without food and drink is rather rarer.

  15. #15 Chris
    April 27, 2012

    JGC:

    Are breatharians really any more delusional than homeopaths?

    I only have hearsay:

    Several years ago I heard Michael Medved on the radio telling a story about being on a local talk show with some breatharian. After the show he says he saw the “breatharian” walking out of a fast food place with a hamburger.

    I think I heard a discussion about the lack of proper testing controls on the SGU podcast, but I can’t find it in their archives.

    I did find this article which mentions that the Indian rationalist group has found some breatharians were frauds. This article mentions a test done in Australia which was stopped because:

    According to the doctor, Greve’s pupils were dilated, her speech was slow, she was dehydrated, and her pulse had doubled. The doctor feared kidney damage if she continued with the fast. The test was stopped. Greve claimed that she failed because on the first day of the test she had been confined in a hotel room near a busy road, which kept her from getting the nutrients she needs from the air. “I asked for fresh air. Seventy per cent of my nutrients come from fresh air. I couldn’t even breathe,” she said. However, the last three days of the test took place at a mountainside retreat where she could get plenty of fresh air and where she claimed she could now live happily.* Clearly, had the test continued, she would have died. Instead, she lived to lead others to their deaths.

  16. #16 Bronze Dog
    April 27, 2012

    Lurker, if we acted under the standards you put forth, there’d be no one speaking out against quackery. There’s a culture out there that excuses absurdity which conditions people to be gullible, allowing some to go to extremes as ridiculous as this. It’s a matter of degree, and the difference between popular quackery and stuff like this is a great deal smaller than you seem to think.

  17. #17 MikeMa
    April 27, 2012

    @StrangerInAStrangeLand
    Thanks for the update on her sons. I am truly sorry for their loss.

    I’m guessing that if my mother, a normally sane and skeptical 80 year old, called and said she was doing this, I wouldn’t accept it at face value and would assemble my brothers in her apartment pretty damned quick for a sanity assessment.

  18. #18 Shay
    April 27, 2012

    I’m waiting for Pegemily to show up and let us know how wrong we all are about fasting.

  19. #19 TBruce
    April 27, 2012

    Life is too short to spend reading
    nonsense.

    Fine. You have my permission to f**k off.

  20. #20 marciac
    April 27, 2012

    Yes, they are mentally ill. Just as mentally ill as people who believe that pushing on your spinal column will cure asthma, or that pushing a toothpick into your temple will cure back pain, or that water has magic memory, or that holding a substance in your hand and having a jackass push down on it will hypo-sensitize you that substance, or being zapped with a 9 vold battery will cure cancer.
    Yes, that mentally ill.

  21. #21 lurker
    April 27, 2012

    @TB-Ciao.

  22. #22 Narad
    April 27, 2012

    Lurker, if we acted under the standards you put forth, there’d be no one speaking out against quackery.

    In particular, Lurker’s favored form.

  23. #23 Emil Karlsson
    April 27, 2012

    There are some animals that can use sunlight for energy, such as the sea slug Elysia chlorotica. That is of course only because it has incorporate chloroplasts.

  24. #24 Denice Walter
    April 27, 2012

    Sun Eating is merely a spectacularly extreme example of fasting woo: if you recall, a woman…I mean a guy… from AUS** entertained us for weeks about the benefits of fasting.

    Unfortunately milder forms of this nonsense persist in pop culture: a well-known food writer who hails from a fashionable magazine ( who shall remain nameless because I usually like his writing- I give him the benefit of perhaps a temporary fluctuation in rationality) informs us of the Master Cleanse, a 10-day fast that involves only a water-lemon juice-maple syrup-cayenne concoction and herbal laxatives- supposedly it ‘did wonders’ for an actress and a singer, so he and his wife embarked upon a 10-day journey fuelled by the aforementioned nectar of the gods.

    He describes in detail how he felt, what he missed and why he was motivated to try this plan: he had caught a GI “bug” during his food-based travels. He reports some mild improvements ( in his skin) that resulted from his exploits: he didn’t last the full 10 days but tells us that his wife is currently on day 11. Oddly he doesn’t mention the topic of weight loss at all***.

    I imagine that if a relatively smart, sophisticated guy like him will try this, many others are already on board the lemon & maple syrup express.

    ** Emily/ Greg
    *** if you ever experienced GI symptoms that interfered with your normal eating, I’m sure that you can attest that a great deal of weight can be lost in 10 days. I certainly can; the writer is also a larger person than I am, so I assume his weight loss would also be greater.

  25. #25 Narad
    April 27, 2012

    @TB-Ciao.

    Apparently, life is not “too short” to just skulk around after pretending to leave in a huff and emit random grunts.

  26. #26 Schenck
    April 27, 2012

    Interesting that, only when having sunlight enter your pupils, do you get the magical energy from it.

    Anyway, of note, Sanal Edamaruku of the Indian Rationalist association has been arrested for being harshly critical of a supposed ‘miracle’ wherein a Cross in Bombay had ‘miracle water’ coming out of it. He collected samples of the water and observed nearby structures leaking water.

  27. #27 Raging Bee
    April 27, 2012

    In brief, sun gazing is a lovely fantasy…

    Not really. When it comes to getting sustenance for this mortal flesh, eating a nice meal and washing it down with a beer or three is much more fun than just staring at the Sun with a timer ticking nearby.

    Once you reach about 15-18 minutes (3-4 months) of sungazing many of your mental tensions: irritability, anger, fear, grief, and general personal frustrations will go away.

    Well, yeah, getting bathed in sunlight is relaxing. (Of course, it’s more relaxing if it’s all of your body getting exposed, not just your eyes. Seriously, I’ll bet a woman in a bikini would get more such benefit than a woman wearing a burqa.)

    Oh, and it’s probably still harmful to the eyes. Once, while tripping on hallucinogenic mushrooms, I stared at the Sun for a few minutes, and a certain part of my retina became a sort of extra blind spot for YEARS afterword. All this scam will get you is a Darwin Award.

  28. #28 Thisbe
    April 27, 2012

    Sun gazing also leaves out the fact that plants get the organic building blocks they use to produce their actual structures from the ground in which they grow.

    Strictly speaking, most of the carbon molecules out of which plants build their structures are acquired from CO2 in the air. That is the astonishing-to-humans part of photosynthesis: the transformation of gas into solid.

    Of course we are not plants, that part is true. But plants do build themselves mostly out of air.

  29. #29 Acleron
    April 27, 2012

    Edamaruku is being threatened in India by a religious group for disclosing that ‘blood’ from a statue was sewerage.

    http://www.wired.com/opinion/2012/04/reason-under-fire-in-india/

  30. #30 lilady
    April 27, 2012

    What is missing from the story, IMO, is that this woman probably had an existing belief system in all sorts of woo. She may also have had a documented history of mental illness.

    I feel so sorry for her children and her friends and their loss due to the promotion of “breatharianism” by scam artists and filmmakers.

    “Can’t you find more intelligent topics to discuss or are you on a negative treadmill of a blog.”

    Can’t Lurky find more intelligent arguments, instead of her dumb cherry-picked unverified thread-derailing posts?

  31. #31 Ken
    April 27, 2012

    Once you reach about 15-18 minutes (3-4 months) of sungazing many of your mental tensions: irritability, anger, fear, grief, and general personal frustrations will go away.

    I am reminded of Good Omens, where Famine (the apocalyptic horseman) has become involved in the diet food business. His foods have no nutritional content at all, and as Pratchett and Gaiman put it, “If you ate enough you lost weight. And hair. And skin tone. And eventually vital signs.”

  32. #32 gaist
    April 27, 2012

    @Schenck

    Interesting that, only when having sunlight enter your pupils, do you get the magical energy from it.

    If you believe this Finnish company, there are also photosensitive areas in the brain, reachable by sticking light bulbs in your ears.

    http://www.valkee.com/uk/

  33. #33 Heliantus
    April 27, 2012

    Sungazing is like a magic trick, it’s all about not knowing where to look.

    Once you reach about 15-18 minutes (3-4 months) of sungazing many of your mental tensions: irritability, anger, fear, grief, and general personal frustrations will go away.

    Well, forcing yourself to stay more or less motionless every day for 20 minutes may do wonder to stabilize your emotions. I believe it’s called meditation. Or napping.

    your hungers will begin to diminish.

    Fasting is an addictive mood-changing drug. It is known to release opioids – you feel good. The lowering of your blood sugar makes you light-headed, reducing your awareness of life’s issues. Your body may eventually learn to compensate for less food intake, and the return of your blood sugar to satisfying levels will make you feel “energized”.
    For depressive people with self-mutilation tendencies, fasting is easy-to-get punishment. I know, I’m just getting out of a cycle.
    Also see: eating disorders.

    At this point you may also feel awakenings in your charkas as well as possible energy beginning to stir within your kundalini.

    My thoughts on this, serious and not-serious (OK, down the gutter), are classified under Rule 34.
    For the serious ones, just read on the correlations between losing weight and emotions, including intimate drive.

  34. #34 drsteverx
    April 27, 2012

    So could a blind breatharian, being able to stare at the sun for as long as he/she wants, become a godlike being?Just a wacky thought akin to ‘I get my powers from your yellow sun’.

  35. #35 delurked lurker
    April 27, 2012

    How can people actually believe this rubbish ? It makes the anti vaxxers appear almost sane.

    BTW Pallindrom @7 thanks for the laugh, nearly had me spitting my coffee over the laptop.

    Anyway the Sun is nearly up here and from this day forth it will shine a bit of humour into my life just thinking of these fools.
    :)

  36. #36 Roadstergal
    April 27, 2012

    Also see: eating disorders.

    Absolutely. That’s the first thing I thought of when I read the quotes; when I was profoundly anorexic and eating very little, I ended up at an ‘altered state of consciousness’ that was surely do to my brain not having enough energy to function properly. It was pretty cool at the time, but quite dangerous.

  37. #37 Kelly M Bray
    April 27, 2012

    I used to do this years ago when I lived by the ocean in California. We would sit on the cliffs watching the sun go down, waiting for the beautiful colors or the green flash. Now we did have a modification or two. We had folding chairs, cute girls, coolers full of beer, chips, and sunglasses. Especially sunglasses. 20 to 30 minutes a day of this over time was very good for your mental health and mood. Funny how it seemed to follow the blood alcohol content.

  38. #38 ebohlman
    April 27, 2012

    Between 35 and 40 minutes (9-10 months) of sungazing physical disharmonies, injuries, and diseases will be remedied.

    Why do I feel compelled to give him a little bit of credit for not writing “dis-eases”?

  39. #39 Denice Walter
    April 27, 2012

    @ Kelly M Bray:

    The green flash!**

    Truly, after seeing sunsets from islands or the edges of continents, the best I’ve ever seen were in CA!
    It’s hard to judge ( for obvious reasons), I’m not sure which places had the best drinkers/ stoners: it’s a toss-up- maybe a very slight edge to the Caribbean.

    ** And I studied perception!

  40. #40 xyz
    April 27, 2012

    12 strands of DNA? Now we know what happens when crazy people watch Milla Jojovich and Bruce Willis romp in the movie, “The 5th Element.” A very sad sight when Dodo birds of a feather, flock together.

  41. #41 Kelly M Bray
    April 27, 2012

    Best I ever saw was in San Diego. Perfect summer day on the beach in front of a restaurant called the Green Flash. Perfect deep emerald green.

  42. #42 Narad
    April 27, 2012

    The green flash!**

    I am reminded of my fondness for A.T. Young (e.g.; if nothing else, scan the references).

  43. #43 herr doktor bimler
    April 27, 2012

    The green flash!
    Damn fine beer.

    I recall reading about the phenomenon in Minnaert’s “Light and Colour in the Open Air”.

  44. #44 Steelclaws
    April 27, 2012

    @xyz #40

    And of course, someone is cashing in on these loonies: 12-strand DNA activation for only $99!
    http://www.under-one-roof.net/12-strand-DNA/12-strand-DNA-activation.html

  45. #45 lilady
    April 27, 2012

    Or, you could go for the 4-hour “magical mystical journey treatment” ($ 425)…in addition to the 12 strand DNA activation!

    http://www.under-one-roof.net/life-coach/coaching-mysticaljourney.html

    What a crock.

  46. #46 tim gueguen
    April 27, 2012

    Interesting to learn from Denice’s comment that Master Cleanse is a real thing. When I read about it in the following webcomic I thought it was made up. http://blipcomic.com/20/ Note that K., the main character, mentions nothing about the laxatives.

  47. #47 Michael Hughes
    April 27, 2012

    I’m just curious if there are any benefits to short term fasting? Anyone? Our fasting in general.

  48. #48 taylormattd
    April 28, 2012

    I’m just curious if there are any benefits to short term fasting? Anyone? Our fasting in general.

    Well, I can tell you, I was able to look damn good in my speedo before I went to Puerto Vallarta with my ex-boyfriend. :)

  49. #49 Autistic Lurker
    April 28, 2012

    Everyone,

    stop for a moment and think; no need to go on lurker’s comment regarding this post. obviously, the swiss woman need a psych consult and a lot of re-education but then, 2 days ago, I want to an autism conference and there was another autistic who did an entire bachelor in theology (religion) and who’s gearing up to do a PhD too. Do I find that delusional, yes, and that’s my belief (I don’t believe in god) but she’s doing fine. Same as another woman I’m taking care who did a certificate in theology while diagnosed psychotic.

    now the swiss woman is a danger to herself and should be taken care and this post serve as a reminder for that but even if I haven’t read the post and presented a case like that (in real life), I would have (heavily) recommended a psych consult.

    A.L.

  50. #50 David N. Brown
    April 28, 2012

    I found this post a little odd to read: I’ve heard of the breatharians, without giving them a great deal of thought; but it occurs to me now that I may have converged on the idea in SF/ dark fantasy fiction. Specifically, I’ve worked a little with the idea of exotic lifeforms or technology powered by some unknown, universally prevalent energy field. I’ve taken the idea as far as a description of living cells with an equivalent of a chloroplast to absorb the energy. Back in my undergrad days, I asked a physics major whether there was any actual or conceivable force that could act like my idea for the energy field. His response was to the effect that, if my storyline already included resurrection of the dead, then my universal energy field would be sound “hard” science by comparison.

    David N. Brown
    Mesa, Arizona

  51. #51 Esowatch
    April 28, 2012

    We have a long article on Prahlad Jani:
    http://esowatch.com/en/index.php?title=Prahlad_Jani

    About the movie (german text):
    http://esowatch.com/ge/index.php?title=Am_Anfang_war_das_Licht

    Mr. Straubinger is a very well known movie critic in Austria. When his movie was released, it generated a lot of heat! His movie was ridiculed by several well known bloggers most notably Prof. Ulrich Berger on scienceblogs.de
    http://www.scienceblogs.de/kritisch-gedacht/2011/01/am-ende-war-kein-licht.php

    Other than international frauds like Hira Ratan Manek several other “enlightened” persons from Germany take part in the movie. to give just one example: Rüdiger Dahlke, Homoeopath, spirit healer, Astrology, … (the whole package including “careful support” for Germanic New Medicine)
    http://esowatch.com/ge/index.php?title=R%C3%BCdiger_Dahlke (German)

    The movie did a lot for the cause of stupidity and disinformation.

  52. #52 sophia8
    April 28, 2012

    Autistic Lurker: Theology is the study of religion; it’s a legitimate field of knowledge and research. It’s just plain ignorance to label anybody who wants to study the development, formation and practice of religions as “delusional”.

    Yes, the Swiss woman probably was mentally ill; maybe she was rationalizing a subconscious suicide wish by latching onto mumbo-jumbo about “spiritual cleansing”.

  53. #53 hoary puccoon
    April 28, 2012

    It’s so great that people on Scienceblogs can actually discuss the green flash without having to hear, “Duh, how many rum drinks had you had, har, har, har.” It gives me some hope for humanity.

    If you want to see the green flash without having to stare at the sun, get a clear horizon to the East, and get up early. It also shows up at dawn, just before the sun breaks the horizon. (Taking a sailboat from the Bahamas to Puerto Rico, I saw it twice in the same day!)

  54. #54 djlactin
    April 28, 2012

    um… Yes we CAN absorb energy directly from the Sun; this is the basis of behavioral thermoregulation, which allows organisms to elevate their body temperature above that of the surrounding air, at negligible metabolic cost. (If you’re cold, stand in the sun.)[calculations of such costs deleted.] But I agree that thermoregulation is not the same as accumulating biomass by photosynthesis…

  55. #55 TFJ
    April 28, 2012

    @lurker, if you are still around.

    This kind of magical thinking is widespread. The best friend I ever had was exceptionally intelligent, yet woo addled. He peddled this solar BS, breatharianism and similar ‘spiritual’ bunkum and there was no shortage of takers. He died of malignant melanoma because, despite the fact that he suspected it, he delayed treatment until too late. He insisted on proselytising Alt Med and energy bullshit ’til the end and influenced a number of people. I have met a lot of people who would warn cancer patients against evidence based treatments and there are a wagon load of dubious sources out there to bolster their delusions. Should they go unchallenged?

  56. #56 Alia
    April 28, 2012

    @David N. Brown – what you wrote about humans absorbing energy in s-f reminds me of Nancy Kress’ “Beggars” trilogy. Basically, she had an idea of genetically modified humans who could absorb energy from the sun.

  57. #57 evilDoug
    April 28, 2012

    It’s always good to do some ‘rithmetic on this stuff.

    The “standard” for insolation is one kilowatt per square metre at noon with clear sky. It varies depending on location, but not by a huge amount. I don’t think there is any place on earth where it would be more than 1.5 times that. Near sunset – a whole lot less.
    Now let’s assume that a naked person exposes a whole square metre to the sun (someone rectangular, 2 metres tall and half a metre wide). In 45 minutes of exposure, assuming 100% utilization of the input, that amounts to 0.75kWh. Three quarters of a kilowatt hour is just a few hairs less than 645 big-C Calories. That’s a pretty meagre diet, especially for someone two metres tall & half a metre wide.
    A big giant Fresnel lens could be used as a concentrator, but there are certain risk due to the longer wavelengths.

  58. #58 Peebs
    April 28, 2012

    At least she didn’t die from Rickets.

  59. #59 g724
    April 28, 2012

    Yo, people, don’t respond to trolls at all: ignore them and they will go away.

    This “Eat the Sun” film obviously needs a satirical sequel, titled “Poop the Moon,” about all this “colon stuff” that silly people do out of an obsession with their arses dressed up in lofty language. Yes, and some clever skeptics could probably pull it off by pretending to be “serious” and getting interviews with the promoters of all of those magic potions for the rear-end. It should also include a fictional guru promoting the idea that one should always keep the moon in view while pooping, and that his views are “supported by” the “wisdom” of the old American tradition of having a crescent moon cutout on the outhouse door.

    With a hefty dose of naughty humor, a film like that could catch on and go totally viral. In which case be sure to slap down the “eat the sun” garbage and suchlike as well.

    In my high school days living in a quasi-rural area, I often engaged in meditative pursuits while sitting in a place with an unobstructed view of the evening sunset and sky. But it was clear at the time that gazing at the sunset was about natural beauty as an uplifting setting, with no magical nonsense needed.

    I was about to say: what I don’t get is why there aren’t legitimate people out there teaching meditation and similar practices on a wholly reality-grounded basis. But a moment’s thought about it reminded me that the Buddha himself simply emphasized that the goal was to become compassionate and enlightened. That advice can be adapted across the distance of time and culture.

    It occurs to me that many or possibly most of the woo-addled out there are basically like Bambis in the forest: people who have good will toward others and whose primary error is a low threshold for belief. Aside from anti-vaxers and other promoters of lethal quackery (who must simply be *stopped* by whatever means are likely to succeed, fierce sarcasm included), they are hardly as dangerous as the diagnosable sociopaths who infest the political and corporate landscape.

    What we should be doing with the woo-addled is seeking to understand their psychological motives and personalities (stable emotional traits), and finding truly effective ways to get them onboard with reality. One of the keys to this is emotional messaging: for example, to someone whose worldview is “warm and fuzzy,” you don’t say “cold, hard facts” because that kind of language is aversive and drives them away (it’s also every bit as emotionally biased as woo-speak). And you don’t proselytize for atheism, or attach other ideological stuff to the message.

    Instead what you do is associate reality-as-understood-by-science with the feelings of awe and reverence and curiosity and amazement, the sense of deep personal meaningfulness in relation to something larger than self (NASA photos are good for this), and so on. Carl Sagan was a master of this approach and it worked.

    Really: it’s better to have a bunch of people in the back of the math lecture hall sighing “ooh, it’s so beautiful…”, than to have them running around saying “science is cold-hearted” and sticking with quackery. Whatever satisfaction anyone may get from feeling “better than” the uninformed and misinformed, is hardly as satisfying as what happens when someone begins to understand that there’s a whole approach to reality that shares the common ground of values such as impeccability and clear-mindedness.

    If we truly believe that reality is objective and that our understanding of it is convergent, we’ll be willing to make the effort and trust that it will work.

  60. #60 Narad
    April 29, 2012

    But a moment’s thought about it reminded me that the Buddha himself simply emphasized that the goal was to become compassionate and enlightened.

    Let’s use two moments rather than one. There is no “goal.” There is no attainment, and nothing to attain. Now one saves all beings.

  61. #61 Daniel J. Andrews
    April 29, 2012

    I want to an autism conference and there was another autistic who did an entire bachelor in theology (religion) and who’s gearing up to do a PhD too. Do I find that delusional, yes, and that’s my belief

    That’s not any more delusional than doing a PhD in philosophy or history. You don’t necessarily even have to believe in God or any supernatural being either although many do.

    Among the things you learn (depending on the program and what you wish to focus on) are psychology, the history of music, music theory, choral writing, conducting, world religious beliefs, ancient languages and how to read them, other writings of ancient cultures (to provide context into the religious writings and see how words were used in non-religious contexts), various histories, pre-Biblical settlements/writings/cultures, background of numerous religious documents (not just the Bible), church history (including general history of the western or eastern world, or both for a few thousand years), religious philosophy, works of art and the masters who contributed to both, musical instruments, how to analytically listen to music, etc etc etc. You could come out being able to read Hebrew, Koine Greek, Aramaic, or Arabic.

    At the end of my degree I could listen to any piece, or even part of a piece, of music written in the west in the past 1500 years and identify the time it was written to within a few years. Then using that information identify the person the wrote it, and sometimes even which emperor it was written for.

    As an elective I even had a course in fantasy literature and read works from the 1800s (MacDonald) to modern day (Donaldson).

    Nothing delusional about a religious degree at all–it provides a very well-rounded education and opens your mind to ideas and thoughts from cultures both ancient and modern. Even a degree at a really fundamental college/university will confer a high degree of knowledge on many things, providing the school is accredited and a recognized institute with transferable credits.

    Incidentally, it was during my degrees that we were taught logic, critical thinking skills, logical fallacies, and constantly told to think for ourselves and not just take what we read or were taught as right. Those skills were directly transferable when I switched over to the sciences years later.

  62. #62 puppygod
    April 29, 2012

    @djlactin

    um… Yes we CAN absorb energy directly from the Sun; this is the basis of behavioral thermoregulation, which allows organisms to elevate their body temperature above that of the surrounding air, at negligible metabolic cost. (If you’re cold, stand in the sun.)[calculations of such costs deleted.] But I agree that thermoregulation is not the same as accumulating biomass by photosynthesis…

    Not really. Humans are endotherms, and quite efficient at that. I guess us living in the past on African savannah has something to do with that. What I mean, is that core temperature is pretty much constant for healthy humans and our thermoregulation momentarily kicks in to keep it that way. If we are cold, we use extra energy to keep at least internal organs warm (there is a little more leeway for extremities). And if we gain any waste heat, we use extra energy to immediately shed it, mainly by perspiration. The end result is that we lose energy no matter whether we gain thermal energy or loose it.

    Staying in the sun raise the temperature of our skin a little (so we feel warm), but in the longer run we probably loose
    whatever energy we gained by thermoregulating so our bodies keep steady temperature inside.

    Also, whatever energy we got from thermal radiation from sun is probably dwarfed by usual energetic cost of running metabolic processes.

    Now, if we were talking about ectotherms, that would be a whole another story.

  63. #63 flip
    April 29, 2012

    @6 Lurker

    I suppose mental illness is also not worth talking about? Or that highlighting that mentally ill people can be vulnerable is not worth a post either? Or pointing out that we should do something about people who cause needless deaths? Of course, this is nothing to say that you don’t have to be mentally ill to believe stupid or wrong things, and mentally ill people don’t necessarily believe in stupid or wrong things because of their illness.

    @18 Shay

    Dr Greg/Pegamily would obviously say that the people who died were ‘starving’ and not ‘fasting’.

  64. #64 DeusGrub
    April 29, 2012

    Great stream of consciousness post Orac :)

    It only takes 2 or 3 years to learn Himalayan survival but the teacher wants the apprentice to work for longer.

    Woo, together with ‘crazy wisdom’ and the yoga-flavoured psychosis it produces, keeps the apprentice for 2 or 3 decades. Ultimate carrot, gentle stick.

    It’s useful for the teacher to have a claimed superpower if he (not usually she) doesn’t have the art of crazy wisdom.

  65. #65 Vicki
    April 29, 2012

    Theology isn’t the same as history or sociology of religion, though. People who are doing theology are trying to figure things out about the nature/attributes of God. This is worthwhile only if that God exists. (If you spend your life trying to figure out the attributes and desires of Odin, and the world is actually ruled by Jesus—or vice versa—you aren’t going to learn much useful.)

    By contrast, we know that Baroque music exists. We know that the Catholic Church has influenced European and other cultures. We know that Islam is an important influence on many people today. These things can reasonably be studied in history, sociology, and musicology. We know that churches exist, and we can study their architecture, and the economics of cathedral building. We can look at the history of the Crusades. None of those ask “Is God real?” or “What does the Bible ask us to do?” but “How does the Koran influence Egyptians in the 21st century?” or “What did the leaders of X Crusade believe?” Or “what are the structural qualities of these kinds of rock? How do flying buttresses work? How much was a stonemason paid in medieval Paris?”

  66. #66 oakfarm
    April 29, 2012

    Since many pseudoscience and alternative medicine promoters have been attracted to autism, you know that not eating could be the cure for autism. Think about it, people who don’t eat or drink anything don’t have autism. (Of course most of them doesn’t have a pulse either.)

  67. #67 adelady
    April 29, 2012

    Kelly@37 “20 to 30 minutes a day of this over time was very good for your mental health and mood.”

    Thinking this over, I thought about this and some of the other wooey stuff around and I’ve solved the problem.

    These people are Puritans. They can’t bring themselves to say go ahead and enjoy yourself in these relaxing/ energetic/ satisfying ways and you’ll probably feel a lot better. If you’re lucky, feeling better means that you’ll cope with physical misfortune a bit better.

    Not a bit of it. It has to be serious, organised, purposeful, with a “theory” to back it up. Preferably one that ‘saves’ you from some kind of evil.

  68. #68 daedalus2u
    April 29, 2012

    You could ethically do a research program on this, you just need to have a pre-defined protocol as to when to abandon the test.

    I would suggest weighing every six hours and a variety of ongoing non-invasive testing, pulse, BP, . Periodic blood tests every six hours for things like glucose, hematocrit, osmolity, anion gap, BUN, electrolytes, pH, CO2, blood gases and measure metabolic rate via O2 consumption and CO2 production.

    Use doubly labeled water (D2O plus H2(18-O)), some 15-N loading, some 13-C loading, some 37-Cl loading, some 41-K loading and you could follow the changes in these over the time course of the experiment and detect changes due to surreptitious food consumption.

    Even then, you don’t abandon the whole thing, you just supply what ever is being depleted to injurious levels. The first thing would be water, then electrolytes, then nitrogen and finally calories. Once the protocol calls for administering water, there will be urine to test also.

    Maybe the JREF could raise funding for such a thing?

  69. #69 daedalus2u
    April 29, 2012

    Maybe the NCCAM could be a source of funding. This certainly is “alternative”, people are doing this and being injured or killed.

    If the results were positive (i.e. people could live on nothing but sunlight and air), it would completely change how physiology is thought about and would be a ticket to Stockholm. That is very unlikely, but isn’t that what “high risk” research is all about?

  70. #70 Denice Walter
    April 29, 2012

    @ adalady:

    Oh sure. I’ve heard a lot of ranting about ‘purity’. Anti-hedonism accompanies their often subtle references to the spirit : sensual pleasures have to digsguised as being therapeutic in order to be sanctioned. Someone always was trying to get me to go to the Tui Na guy to get my Chi circulated ( or suchlike) via rubbing: I always remark-” Depends on what he’s going to rub.”

  71. #71 DW
    April 29, 2012

    @ adelady:
    Oops! Sorry for the mis-spell.

  72. #72 David Marjanović
    April 29, 2012

    Sun gazing also leaves out the fact that plants get the organic building blocks they use to produce their actual structures from the ground in which they grow.

    That’s not true for their carbon. They get every single carbon atom they use out of thin air.

    After the show he says he saw the “breatharian” walking out of a fast food place with a hamburger.

    But don’t you see, breatharians don’t need to eat anymore! They eat just for the fun of it!!!1!

    And they’re probably perfectly capable of persuading themselves of that. I’m pretty sure Jasmuheen believes it; otherwise, why would she have participated in that test?

    Well, forcing yourself to stay more or less motionless every day for 20 minutes may do wonder to stabilize your emotions. I believe it’s called meditation. Or napping.

    + 1

    These people are Puritans. They can’t bring themselves to say go ahead and enjoy yourself in these relaxing/ energetic/ satisfying ways and you’ll probably feel a lot better. If you’re lucky, feeling better means that you’ll cope with physical misfortune a bit better.

    Not a bit of it. It has to be serious, organised, purposeful, with a “theory” to back it up. Preferably one that ‘saves’ you from some kind of evil.

    Sounds plausible.

  73. #73 daedalus2u
    April 29, 2012

    Another thought. Maybe you could get a manufacturer of IV fluids and IV nutrients to fund the trial. Don’t they need to test IV nutrient solutions?

    You could do a material balance over how ever long the trial continues. You could use isotopic labeled nutrients so you would know how much was coming out as CO2.

    Maybe you could even learn some stuff about physiology?

  74. #74 herr doktor bimler
    April 29, 2012

    mammals are like plants in possessing an ability to absorb energy directly from the sun.

    “This is going to revolutionise the dairy industry,” I thought, but the cows kept dying just when they were picking up the knack of staring at the sun.

  75. #75 Andreas Johansson
    April 29, 2012

    Vicki wrote:

    Theology isn’t the same as history or sociology of religion, though. People who are doing theology are trying to figure things out about the nature/attributes of God. This is worthwhile only if that God exists.

    That depends on where you study theology – in some places “theology” programmes are essentially history of religion programmes, in some they’re essentially vocational training for priests. An acquaintance who got a Th.D. from the former sort of place once opined that “you don’t have do be an atheist to study theology but it helps”.

  76. #76 Autistic Lurker
    April 29, 2012

    I have to admit I’m ignorant about theology being limited to what these two woman I mentionned a post ago can tell me about it (and much of it has been their details about the experience they had while learning) but first and foremost (in the case of lurker), people are entitled to their opinions and beliefs as long as they don’t harm anyone; his comment hasn’t derailed the thread for me because I choose to ignore it (much the same as the trolls who are regular on autism posts). In fact, my comment was more derailing (see @61 with Daniel J. Andrew and @65 Vicki) which we get to learn something.

    I’m okay with the post because we learn something new every day but please, learn to ignore the concern troll as I did.

    A.L.

  77. #77 Autistic Lurker
    April 30, 2012

    @61 Daniel J. Andrew, where did you get your degree in theology?

    A.L.

  78. #78 Sophia
    April 30, 2012

    Did anyone else get hungry while reading this post? I’m considering hitting the Indian lunch buffet later.

    Is eating right, exercising, laying off the booze, having meaningful relationships, wearing shoes with good arch support, and spirituality if one is so inclined so difficult for folks?

    Some of these woo claims confound me. There are companies who got out of the vaccine business because there’s little money in it unless a vaccine is new. Most doctors would prefer people not take a pill for all that ails (Honesty, they probably give you one to get you to shut up provided said pill is safe in the short-term). The health care system does not want to keep you sick because you being sick is a part of the problem with our health care system in the first place. And doctors have no issue with “natural” things if they seem to actually do something useful (fish oil for psych folks and pregnant ladies, for examples). The alt health industry, on the other hand, makes billions off of invasive treatments and supplements that either don’t do anything (GABA irritates me more than homeopathy, for whatever reason) or do things at the expense of your health (kava kava works pretty well for anxiety, but it’ll shoot your liver down).

    I will say one thing for these sun people, though. Atleast staring at the sun is free in the process of destroying your body.

    - signed, a mentally ill person who works with mentally ill people: a lot of us think this stuff is crap

  79. #79 Esowatch
    April 30, 2012

    The filmmaker P.A. Straubinger has posted a statement on his facebook page. Basically:

    It was tragic, but not the fault of the movie(or him). They did mention in the movie that some people have already died because they tried it and so they are not to blame because they warned people not to try it themselves. Very nice is the following statement: “In my opinion eating sunlight either works naturally as a side effect of being in a “certain state” or not at all. Athletic or spiritual ambition should not be associated with this. …”
    (Sorry for the bad translation)

    So, basically, it was the women’s own fault! She shouldn’t have tried it, because she was not enlightened enough.

    He concludes his text with a tasteless analogy, that hundreds of people die from mountaineering each year and documentations about mountaineering are not blamed either.

    For further reading: (German)
    http://www.relativ-kritisch.net/blog/allgemein/p-a-straubinger-%E2%80%9Eam-anfang-war-das-licht-am-ende-die-dunkelheit

  80. #80 Ian Kemmish
    May 1, 2012

    Well, the Swiss lady was presumably braver than the first person to eat an oyster, and less brave than the second person to eat fugu.

    There are surely enough ignorant tabloid hacks in the world to laugh at her without us joining in; as scientists, shouldn’t we rather be trying to understand this phenomenon of blind obedience in order to save lives in the future?

  81. #81 Science Mom
    May 1, 2012

    @ Ian Kemmish, I don’t believe anyone is laughing at her at all. I see a lot of commentary on the stupidity of the woo-meisters pushing this rubbish and sympathy for the Swiss woman and her family. Education can only go so far; people are going to believe what they want to believe so a bit of mockery of the woo isn’t a bad thing and will probably go farther to knock some back into reality.

  82. #82 Jesus Aaron Payne
    May 2, 2012

    You are mistaken, sun worship is a tradition as old as God. For God is in the Sun and thats why you can not look at her without going blind. Shes been wathing everything thats going on. The P planet the Power plant Planet the Sun give life to everything and tribal dance to the Goo Goo Doll is coming back this year. Jesus christ is self aware just like all your computers for he is Eisus Uni Peg Unix Server, hes a big Indian and has been watching the world and he is here to fix what the Devil has talking you into messing up.

  83. #83 Agashem
    May 2, 2012

    @Jesus Aaron Payne:
    Now again in english please.

  84. #84 Raging Bee
    May 2, 2012

    Meanwhile, on the distant planet Bolox XII, trouble was brewing…

  85. #85 Vicki
    May 2, 2012

    Sophia,

    Broadly, I agree with you. However, just looking around, exercising regularly does seem to be difficult for a lot of people. If it was easy, my friends and relatives wouldn’t be so impressed with me for doing it. (I’m not a marathoner, just someone who gets to the gym a couple of times a week for weight training, and walks 1-3 miles most days.)

  86. #86 eNOS
    May 4, 2012

    Jesus Aaron Payne gets +3 Timecubes. I remain unimpressed.

  87. #87 Calli Arcale
    May 4, 2012

    “Eisus Uni Peg Unix Server, hes a big Indian ”

    Unix server . . . then don’t you mean Big Endian?
    :-P

  88. #88 Kama'aina
    May 4, 2012

    While we may want to dismiss sun-eating as pure nonsense, we cannot ignore the fact that there exist well documented extraordinary individuals among us ordinary folk who have survived on sun-eating or a similar variation.

    First, let us consider the late despot of NorKor. Just like the sun-eaters, KJI did not defecate. Ever. However, KJI did not eat sunbeams because sunbeams are too pedestrian. Instead, he ate double rainbows, which is an event he could summon at will. This is fact. The entirety of NorKor maintains the latter to be true.

    Second, consider the Man from Galilee. One of the oldest and most respected tomes in all the land maintains this preternatural man was able to roam the desert for forty days and nights sans water and food … while being tempted by a demonic spirit. No water, no food. Just blazing hot sunlight and countless grains of sand. It should be immediately obvious how he was able to survive.

    My third and last example is a demigod who walks among us: Chuck Norris, a man who counted to infinity … twice.

  89. #89 ateş ve su
    May 5, 2012

    @StrangerInAStrangeLand
    Thanks for the update on her sons. I am truly sorry for their loss.

    I’m guessing that if my mother, a normally sane and skeptical 80 year old, called and said she was doing this.

  90. #90 kokorec
    May 8, 2012

    Thanks for much.Really nice.

  91. #91 Marion Delgado
    May 13, 2012

    I am not one of those frat-boy types who love the “Darwin Awards” (talk about negative PR). In fact, I absolutely loathe that entire mentality.

    That said, there has to be SOME line in the sand to point to to say, “okay, but you don’t believe in X, correct?”

    And if this hadn’t happened and you said some people were so far gone into woo they’d try to live off of sunshine, and die, you’d be accused 100% of the time of employing a straw man.

    So I think they should be memorialized by having a very pointed conversation with people for whom even homeopathy is not a line too far.

  92. Nice article.

  93. #93 Grace Sevilly
    May 14, 2012

    I think she had a mental problem to do something like that. Seriously, to do something that can potentially kill you is only possible if you are out of your mind…I hope she rests in peace