If the Secret Really Worked...

I've written in the past about the Secret, more properly called the Law of Attraction, the perenially popular New Age idea which says that merely thinking about something draws it to you and causes it to appear in your life.

One consistent aspect of this idea is that its advocates claim it's an invariable natural law, as certain and predictable in its operation as gravity - although they never seem to explain what happens if two people both wish for incompatible things, like the outcome of an election or a sporting contest. I've previously pointed out this and other logical deficiencies of this belief, but - sparked by a conversation I recently had with an LoA believer - I want to approach it from a different angle today.

Unlike people who believe in prayer, who are well-practiced at coming up with endless rationalizations for why it never has any detectable effect, the advocates of the LoA are making a thoroughly empirical and testable claim, without embarrassment or evasion. It should be easy to prove: you could do it with a test as simple as, say, flipping a coin and willing it to come up heads ten times in a row. (I wonder how many LoA believers have ever tried this experiment.) If anyone could do this at their kitchen table, I find it hard to believe that science would have overlooked it until now.

In fact, I doubt whether most people who believe in the LoA realize just how vast and sweeping a claim it is. If it were true, it would imply a fundamentally different reality than the one we live in. A world where the LoA really worked would differ markedly from ours in many dramatic ways. Just consider, if the Law of Attraction worked as promised:

• No one would ever starve to death. The LoA says you get whatever you think about, and what does a starving person think about more than food?

• It would be virtually impossible to keep people in jail. Again, what does a prisoner daydream about more than escape and freedom?

• No couple desperately wanting to conceive would ever have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments. IVF clinics and other such therapies would soon disappear because there'd be no demand for them.

• There would be thousands of lottery winners for each drawing.

• Casinos would go out of business very quickly, rather than being tremendously profitable businesses, as they are in a world that has such a thing as math.

• Experimental medical treatments would probably succeed significantly more often than they actually do, considering the nail-biting hope they inspire both in their discoverers and in the people who they could potentially help.

• On the downside, I'd guess that spontaneous death would become very common among controversial public figures, brought on by the malevolent wishes of their detractors. (You could probably cancel those out with a protective wish to the contrary, but who among us thinks on a normal day about how much they want to remain alive?)

Now it's your turn. Use your imagination: How else would the world be different if people always got whatever they thought about?

Image credit: Shutterstock

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.

Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
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