Human Auras And Energy Fields

Humans do not have auras. There is no kind of "energy field" consistently found around humans.

I say this for a bunch of reasons:

Evidence from equipment

Physics has some very advanced equipment. We can, for instance, measure one quantum of electromagnetic flux. That's more than a million times more sensitive than living tissue is. After all, life as we know it is always warm and wet. Devices don't have that constraint. We can make devices out of poisonous metals. We can cool them to hundreds of degrees below zero, to make them superconductive. Even if the human nervous system turns out to be a thousand times better than I think, devices would still be hugely better at measuring energy fields.

There is a billion dollar industry which builds versions of this equipment for medical use. So, the human body has been measured - and measured often - with the very latest toys, like antimatter. (The P in "PET scan" stands for Positron. A positron is an anti-electron.)

Are there energy fields near the human body? Well, yes, because there are energy fields almost everywhere. The human body is a conductor, and has capacitance, which is how many burglar alarms detect you. But chairs have capacitance too. (The burglar alarm company assumes that chairs will stay where they're put.) These effects dominate the puny amount of electricity actually generated by the body. Burglar alarms don't try to detect that electricity. If you've ever had an EEG or ECG, you will appreciate the care that is needed to measure it.

The bottom line: the form and strength and frequencies of the fields near humans are not particularly due to the human being alive. The fields are much more affected by things like humidity, dust, carpeting, nearby electrical equipment, and your choice of clothing. You radiate far, far more energy to infrared detectors than to field detectors.

I will eat my words if a burglar alarm comes out that detects people by their auras. Given the number of years I've been waiting, I will also eat my hat.

Evidence from photography

It used to be claimed that Kirlian photography revealed auras around living things, like leaves and people's hands. More careful study showed that the electricity used in Kirlian photography was following the moisture that the leaf (or the hand) placed into the equipment.

The scientific consensus is that there aren't any photographic techniques which defy conventional explanation.

Evidence from those who see auras

Many people claim to see auras, and I don't doubt their sincerity.

However, if a person can see an aura around a human, then they should be able to see a bit of the aura, even when the human is behind a screen. So, it should be possible to see if there is a human behind the screen, or not. This test has been done. The person who was tested signed a contract beforehand, saying that they had helped to design the test, that it was fair, and that they expected to succeed. They didn't.

I didn't expect a success. The low level details of human vision have been heavily studied and are understood to a fare-thee-well. That is, we know (for example) just how photons affect rhodopsin molecules. There is no clue that eyes can see things that photographs can't.

Evidence from those who feel auras

Various people claim to be able to feel the energy field around other humans. Of these, the largest group is probably the nurses who practice Therapeutic Touch. Their claim has failed some tests. For example, here's a news item for APS members (APS is the professional society for physicists):

WHAT'S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, 27 Mar 98 Washington, DC

3. HUMAN ENERGY FIELD: "THERAPEUTIC TOUCH" FAILS SCIENTIFIC TEST. TT is endorsed by major nursing organizations and is said to have 40,000 practitioners in North America who can palpably sense an energy field that extends some 10 centimeters beyond the surface of the skin. Treatment consists of manually smoothing the field. For 20 years therapists have focused on which ailments can be treated by TT, without first determining if anyone can really detect such a field. The spring issue of Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine reports a rare test of TT designed by James Randi. The practitioner was unable to detect the presence or absence of a human arm in a "sleeve." More research is needed.

The test involved a "patient" flipping a coin. After each flip, they either did or didn't insert their arm into the sleeve. For the first twenty flips, the "patient" was in plain view, and the TT practitioner was 100% successful (20 out of 20) in determining if the arm was or wasn't in the sleeve. This was done to verify that the practitioner's skills were not being baffled by the test conditions.

The "patient" was then screened from the practitioner's view, and another 20 coin flips were done. The practitioner did no better than random at telling if the arm was in the sleeve. They were asked if they would like to go on, and they refused.

Randi says he did not test Therapeutic Touch practitioners until 1998 because of a lack of volunteers. However, Emily Rosa, a nine year old girl, may have seemed less threatening. She was able to get a number of TT practitioners to help her with her school science project. Some adults helped her write the results up, and she is now the youngest author ever to be published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. As you can see from the abstract and full text of her JAMA article, TT practitioners completely failed. They believed (knowing what was being tested) that they would succeed, and they didn't.

The clear conclusion is that Therapeutic Touch practitioners are simply fooling themselves when they think that they are "feeling" an energy field.

Further reading: The Skeptic's Dictionary

Last modified: 11 April 2010

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