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Old 6th January 2009, 08:41 PM   #1
Sherman Bay
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How could a feng shui test be devised?

This came up in a dinner conversation. How could a test be designed for the claims of a feng shui practitioner?

Ideally it would be something along the lines of Emily Rosza's therapeutic touch test, where her entire investment was a piece of cardboard, a coin, a pencil and a tally sheet.
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Old 6th January 2009, 08:59 PM   #2
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First, one would have to state, in rigorous and unambiguous terms, the claims a practitioner makes.

Originally Posted by Sherman Bay View Post
This came up in a dinner conversation. How could a test be designed for the claims of a feng shui practitioner?

Ideally it would be something along the lines of Emily Rosza's therapeutic touch test, where her entire investment was a piece of cardboard, a coin, a pencil and a tally sheet.
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Old 6th January 2009, 09:10 PM   #3
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OK, so what claims do they make?
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Old 6th January 2009, 09:13 PM   #4
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Well, for a start they make a claim that there is "energy" or "chi" which can be affected by the placement of furniture.
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Old 6th January 2009, 09:13 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Sherman Bay View Post
OK, so what claims do they make?
Yeah, what position do they take?
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Old 6th January 2009, 09:17 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Well, for a start they make a claim that there is "energy" or "chi" which can be affected by the placement of furniture.
But how can you test that?
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Old 6th January 2009, 09:18 PM   #7
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You tell me. It was your dinner conversation. I haven't the faintest idea ... one of the problems with applying rigor and scientific testing to these nebulous subjects is that it's hard to get the proponents to describe *in detail* what the claims are.
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Old 6th January 2009, 09:23 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Timothy View Post
You tell me. It was your dinner conversation.
At dinner, one person said her daughter-in-law had a "degree" in Feng Shui from some institution and wanted to open a business to provide a Feng Shui service, being fully qualified.

Obviously, I said she could make bigger money faster by passing the MDC. But I was at a loss to design a test, so help me out.

I'm aware that Penn & Teller had an episode about it, but I can't find the particular disk for the show, and Netflix isn't any help. Anyone know which one that is?
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Old 6th January 2009, 09:41 PM   #9
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Here's a germ of an idea, inspired by this:
Quote:
Sha Chi, or sharp feng shui energy, can also be created inside the building. For example, when a sharp wall angle, called poison arrow, is pointing at your bed, there is a constant emission of attacking energy directed at your body. In both cases the proximity is important; the further the attacking element is located from you or your house, the lesser its bad feng shui influence.
I will have to make an assumption that the "poison arrow" phenomena isn't inhibited by an opaque curtain, a room divider can suffice for the sharp wall angle, and an experienced Feng Shui proponent will be able to tell within a few minutes at most if he/she is being attacked by the arrow energy. And, obviously, the proponent must believe in this statement in the first place.

Then let's line up 10 beds and separate them from another part of the room with an opaque curtain. Randomly selecting a bed number, place a room divider next to one, but hidden from the bed by the curtain, pointed at the bed. Bring in the Feng Shui advocate and ask him/her to tell which bed is affected without peaking around, under or thru the curtain. Repeat test 10 times. If the claim is valid, there should be 10 right answers and no wrong ones. Any other result is a failure, and a 10% correct score would be expected by chance.

Maybe chairs could substitute for beds to make the equipment list cheaper, assuming this doesn't affect the Feng Shui phenom.

Last edited by Sherman Bay; 6th January 2009 at 09:43 PM.
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Old 6th January 2009, 10:12 PM   #10
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It would be up to the person with the "degree" in Feng Shui to state what difference it can make. I suggest you ask her. Be ready for evasive or vague answers which cannot be tested.
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Old 6th January 2009, 10:23 PM   #11
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I don't remember which episode of ************ it was, but as I recall they had several different Feng Shui "experts" go to the same house to rearrange the furniture, and they all did it differently and had different opinions. Maybe the test could be along those lines. But as Timothy pointed out, an unambiguous claim must be made. I remember on another forum discussing Chi energy with a bunch of people who believed in it. But they all had different definitions, which made it hard to discuss, and also to me was further evidence that it's bunk.
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Old 6th January 2009, 10:37 PM   #12
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Unfortunately, it seems to me that the claims of such things based on eastern mysticism (or any mysticism) are inherently so vague that it is difficult to ascribe any rigor to the testing. In fact the words mystic, mystical and mysticism share the same root origin as mystery. So as long as the precise cause of the results remains essentially a mystery, everything seems to work. Once you really start trying to define or test it, determining causal relationships, then it loses all of its mystical or mysterious powers. The negative flow of chi can (from my limited understanding ) counteract the positive flow, so by just questioning or doubting you set up such a negative chi field (as if one could actually apply vector fields to chi) that the results are inevitably doomed to be negative. The first requirement (as I understand it) is that you must believe in its effectiveness, after that it is all downhill from there. Also, it may not be just limited to you, your furniture or your beliefs (I’m just extrapolating here, you’ll have to ask someone with a degree in chi), your neighbors or neighborhood could be so un-feng shui and full of such doubts that their combined negative chi projects so much that it always cancels out your best efforts to establish a positive chi flow. As a consequence, negative results never mean a lack of applicability, while positive results can only come from the proper and perhaps temporary flow of positive chi. These remarks are just my opinions based on my limited understanding, as I have done no extensive research on the subject.
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Old 6th January 2009, 10:45 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by The Man View Post
Unfortunately, it seems to me that the claims of such things based on eastern mysticism (or any mysticism) are inherently so vague that it is difficult to ascribe any rigor to the testing. In fact the words mystic, mystical and mysticism share the same root origin as mystery. So as long as the precise cause of the results remains essentially a mystery, everything seems to work. Once you really start trying to define or test it, determining causal relationships, then it loses all of its mystical or mysterious powers. The negative flow of chi can (from my limited understanding ) counteract the positive flow, so by just questioning or doubting you set up such a negative chi field (as if one could actually apply vector fields to chi) that the results are inevitably doomed to be negative. The first requirement (as I understand it) is that you must believe in its effectiveness, after that it is all downhill from there. Also, it may not be just limited to you, your furniture or your beliefs (I’m just extrapolating here, you’ll have to ask someone with a degree in chi), your neighbors or neighborhood could be so un-feng shui and full of such doubts that their combined negative chi projects so much that it always cancels out your best efforts to establish a positive chi flow. As a consequence, negative results never mean a lack of applicability, while positive results can only come from the proper and perhaps temporary flow of positive chi. These remarks are just my opinions based on my limited understanding, as I have done no extensive research on the subject.
So how does anyone know feng shui or chi energy exists? If it's so amorphous and hard to study.
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Old 6th January 2009, 11:14 PM   #14
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There are potential tests of chi, but not in the context of feng shui. I'm trying to come up with some claim that can be tested but I'm not having much luck. Most of the claims about the effectiveness of feng shui say things like "improved health and wellbeing", which is pretty nebulous.
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Old 6th January 2009, 11:15 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by jimtron View Post
So how does anyone know feng shui or chi energy exists?
Because there are thousands of true personal stories about change of luck, new-found love and all kinds of successes once a house has been feng shuied.

Impossible to test for, because true controls are impossible to arrange. Each house has a unique chi.
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Old 6th January 2009, 11:22 PM   #16
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Quote:
Impossible to test for, because true controls are impossible to arrange. Each house has a unique chi.
This could be tested--maybe. Have 20 of the leading feng shui experts separately go to the same house and describe/measure/whatever the chi energy there. This reminds me of an argument I heard once that Chinese medicine can't be tested because each person gets an individual prescription of herbs. But you could test this with 100 people going to the same Chinese doctor with the same ailment, and 50 getting the real herbs and 50 getting non-active placebo herbs (which would be dispensed not by the doctor but by an assistant for it to be double blind).
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Old 6th January 2009, 11:34 PM   #17
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Ask the claimant what it would take for him to be wrong. Design the test from that.

If he says "nothing", then it is pretty clear to all that he is a crook.
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Old 6th January 2009, 11:40 PM   #18
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I think speculation on this subject is more or less futile until we can get an actual feng shuier to outline precisely what the claim is and how it can be tested.
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Old 7th January 2009, 12:34 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by jimtron View Post
This could be tested--maybe. Have 20 of the leading feng shui experts separately go to the same house and describe/measure/whatever the chi energy there.
Can't happen. The entry of the feng shuist changes the chi by his or her entry. Feng shuists with degrees will know how much their own chi affects the chi if the house, but they can't account for what other people will change when they enter.

As well as that, each feng shuist might use a different mechanism to change the chi. One may have a smiling pig facing the northern apex, while another uses a dish of herbs.

Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I think speculation on this subject is more or less futile until we can get an actual feng shuier to outline precisely what the claim is and how it can be tested.
I used to bonk a feng shuist, does that count?

The claims are spurious, vague and rather boring, I found. I don't believe any feng shuist will ever give a specific result to be expected as the chi is imemasurable in the first place, so measuring changes to it is somewhat difficult.
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Old 7th January 2009, 02:01 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by jimtron View Post
So how does anyone know feng shui or chi energy exists? If it's so amorphous and hard to study.
I don’t know that anybody does, but of course if you do not believe then that could be an indication that your positive chi flow is blocked. Myself, I’ve always been a big believer in knowing and not just believing (positive and negative chi not with standing).



Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I think speculation on this subject is more or less futile until we can get an actual feng shuier to outline precisely what the claim is and how it can be tested.
Agreed.



Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
I used to bonk a feng shuist, does that count?
Did you have to rearrange the furniture beforehand, for maximum flow?


ETA:

If not a test, perhaps we now have the basis for some interesting experimentation?
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Old 7th January 2009, 02:15 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Well, for a start they make a claim that there is "energy" or "chi" which can be affected by the placement of furniture.
Some so-called practitioners make such outrageous claims.

Others understand the metaphoric use of language and the sense that fengshui is no more than the systematic application of common sense, with regards to the use of space.

Granted, it does accommodate superstition, and perhaps for that reason it should be regarded with suspicion, yet it is no more wooish then any other mnemonic device.

As a method, it falsifiably yields some esthetically beautiful spaces.
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Old 7th January 2009, 02:24 AM   #22
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The only way I can think of to test it is to have a feng shui expert recommend the best and worst way the furniture should be set up in say 10 houses, and then set 5 of them up the best way and 5 the worst way. The occupants of the houses (who obviously aren't told which is which) should then keep a diary recording their feelings and every single piece of good or bad luck they have for, say, a year. The feng shui expert should then read the diaries and determine which houses are which. If he's right significantly more often than chance, he's passed the test.
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Old 7th January 2009, 10:20 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Pixel42 View Post
The only way I can think of to test it is to have a feng shui expert recommend the best and worst way the furniture should be set up in say 10 houses, and then set 5 of them up the best way and 5 the worst way. The occupants of the houses (who obviously aren't told which is which) should then keep a diary recording their feelings and every single piece of good or bad luck they have for, say, a year. The feng shui expert should then read the diaries and determine which houses are which. If he's right significantly more often than chance, he's passed the test.
Sounds good on the face of it, but it takes too long, it's too subjective, and the possibility of the subjects finding out which house is which over a year is too great. It needs to be simple and cheap.
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Old 7th January 2009, 10:31 AM   #24
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There's also too much wiggle room, for a few reasons.
A person in a 'positive' house who has one problem occur, may then decide that this means they are in a 'negative' house and focus on all the bad things that happen. Or vice versa. Or they could just be naturally optimistic/pessimistic.

The feng shui person may then claim that they got the house type wrong because the negative/positive energy has been created by that person, and nothing to do with the feng shui. Because all these things work together to influence a person's life, dontcha know.
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Old 7th January 2009, 10:38 AM   #25
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The mechanism (Chi energy etc) is bunk, but it isn't a supernatural claim to say that the arrangement of things in a house strongly can effect quality of life.

Efficiency experts suggest that you keep areas for different activities separate. For some people, trying to do their work while sitting on their bed will mess up both working and sleeping habits. Feng Shui makes similar suggestions about separation.

Sometimes, woo makes accurate prescriptions for the wrong reasons.
See: The Physician and the Priest

Would a test of Feng Shui be considered a success if the furniture rearrangement improved quality of life, but not for the reasons the practitioner cited?

Here's a test. Have 20 families fill out a survey on quality of life.
10 of them have their homes rearranged by a Feng Shui practitioner.
10 of them have their homes rearranged by some random dude.
They fill out the survey again, one year later.

If the surveys (multiple choice style) from Feng Shui houses outperform those from the random dude, then there is a real effect (sample size may need tweaking).

This doesn't guarantee that Feng Shui didn't just stumble onto some good psychological, ergonomic and efficiency tricks and wrap them in woo, so it wouldn't qualify for the MDC, but it would clarify whether there is a benefit to hiring a practitioner.
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Old 7th January 2009, 11:09 AM   #26
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Cavemonster, that's still too complicated, subjective and prone to discovery or error.

Compare it to a possible test of TT. We could have a bunch of people randomly treated or not treated with TT, then ask them how they feel a year later, and it would have all the drawbacks of the long Feng Shui test.

In contrast, Linda Rosza boiled down the TT-ers claims to a single, simple one: to be able to detect a "human energy field." Sure, they said that the end desire was healthier subjects, but if the basis for their claim to improve health was based on 100% faulty logic, the claim of healing falls thru (or into the placebo realm) without having to test it thru a complicated procedure.

So she devised a test of "human energy field detection," something all participants said they could do 100% of the time, and got an objective, quantifiable result which was nearly identical to chance.

I agree that we need to nail down a testable Feng Shui claim first before we can devise a test, and maybe that's the hardest part.
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Old 7th January 2009, 01:12 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Timothy View Post
First, one would have to state, in rigorous and unambiguous terms, the claims a practitioner makes.
Who has made a claim, and when, and where?

If a specific claimant does not exist, then why is this being discussed in the MDC forum?
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Old 7th January 2009, 01:21 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by leonAzul View Post
Who has made a claim, and when, and where?

If a specific claimant does not exist, then why is this being discussed in the MDC forum?
Here's one example--"Fens Shui and Money: A Nine Week Program for Creating Wealth." There are many more to be found. People are making claims about FS and charging money for books and services.

eta: check out page xviii at above link for examples of miraculous life changes and cures due to FS.
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Old 7th January 2009, 07:26 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by leonAzul View Post
As a method, it falsifiably yields some esthetically beautiful spaces.
Yes. I agree that it is a reliable codified system of aesthetics. Living in an aesthetically pleasing space may have a positive impact on a person's reported quality of life. This is why I think that the protocol as described wouldn't work.

What you'd need to do is have 10 feng shuiers and 10 qualified interior decorators arrange the interiors of the house, so that both are working on a baseline of aesthetic... ness.
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Old 7th January 2009, 07:59 PM   #30
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Nowhere near good enough for the MDC, but for a bit of fun, how about having a feng shui expert set up a poker table with one of the seats placed somewhere (and facing the direction) that gives financial good fortune (I believe the P&T episode had some of the experts arranging furniture to improve financial luck), then have a group of people play Poker. Have the players change seats every 10 hands. The person in the lucky seat should consistently be winning.
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Old 7th January 2009, 08:18 PM   #31
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It depends upon what 'chi' supposedly is, and what it can do. I don't know if the following could count as an actual Challenge test as deciding upon the basis for a protocol is a collaborative project. However, if you're just looking for an idea...

I would suggest decorating three identical rooms. One would be decorated in the most positive way possible according to feng shui, one would be decorated in the most negative way possible. The other would be decorated by someone who didn't know jack about feng shui.

Twenty planted seeds in flower pots would be introduced into each of the three rooms by an individual who is unaware of which rooms are which, and there would be specifics on how much to water the seeds, where to place them, what the temperature of the water should be, what time of day to water the plants, etc. All this should be recorded on video.

After one month, all the plants would be measured. The ones in the positive room should be taller, the ones in the negative room should be dying, and the ones in the nothing-room should match some kind of a baseline, which would have to be created in advance.

The baseline test should involve hundreds of plants in dozens of rooms under all different kinds of conditions, though still subjected to identical care instructions.

With this test, if you developed a baseline that stated the average plant in an average room will grow to be five inches tall in one month, you would be able to tell if the twenty plants in the positive room had grown higher than that average and if the ones in the negative room had suffered, and if the ones in the neutral room hit the baseline.

~Remie
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Old 7th January 2009, 11:55 PM   #32
GzuzKryzt
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It has been said before but obviously bears repeating: A test depends entirely upon the claim made.



@RemieV: I like your idea. But I would ask the feng shui expert to decorate all three rooms.
If he could create a "positve" setting, he should easily be able to create a "negative" setting - and of course something "neutral".
This shouldn't even be that hard to test, right?
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Old 8th January 2009, 07:00 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by GzuzKryzt View Post
@RemieV: I like your idea. But I would ask the feng shui expert to decorate all three rooms.
If he could create a "positve" setting, he should easily be able to create a "negative" setting - and of course something "neutral".
This shouldn't even be that hard to test, right?
But it might be hard to keep biases out. What if the person watering the plants knows which room and waters one set better than another?

And the plant idea, while pretty good for a study, doesn't meet the requirements for a challenge (subjectivity, time, etc.)

The poker idea is interesting, but it, too, needs to have defined in advance of what is "consistently winning" and it could be too easily biased by expert poker players consciously or otherwise. There's a certain skill to poker playing (so I've been told).

How about three rooms (positive, neg, neutral), where a coin is tossed in each and a record kept of results during multiple trials? Objective, not subjective! This requires a statement that Feng Shui can affect the outcome of coin flips, but since claims have been made for almost any influence you can think of, coin tosses don't seem much like a stretch.
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Old 8th January 2009, 07:26 AM   #34
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Well,

When I moved my velvet Elvis next to my velvet doberman, and put the velvet Jesus opposite them, instead of in the same row, I received an unexpected check in the mail.
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Old 8th January 2009, 07:32 AM   #35
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I feel that this thread is blocking the positive chi from the north, and should be moved elsewhere...

Chris
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Old 8th January 2009, 07:36 AM   #36
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Every time I try to think of a test, my mind keeps coming up with:

"Repeatedly banging your shins on a misplaced coffee table probably really IS a bit bad for you health."
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Old 8th January 2009, 09:07 AM   #37
GzuzKryzt
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Originally Posted by Sherman Bay View Post
But it might be hard to keep biases out. What if the person watering the plants knows which room and waters one set better than another?
...
Remove the persons from the equation. Use blinding or double blinding. Same amounts of nourishment for every plant.

I pretty much assumed the "chi" also affects plants.

If only we had a claim by a feng shuiist...could you ask your friend to join us, Sherman Bay?
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Old 8th January 2009, 11:11 AM   #38
RemieV
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Originally Posted by Sherman Bay View Post
But it might be hard to keep biases out. What if the person watering the plants knows which room and waters one set better than another?

And the plant idea, while pretty good for a study, doesn't meet the requirements for a challenge (subjectivity, time, etc.)

The poker idea is interesting, but it, too, needs to have defined in advance of what is "consistently winning" and it could be too easily biased by expert poker players consciously or otherwise. There's a certain skill to poker playing (so I've been told).

How about three rooms (positive, neg, neutral), where a coin is tossed in each and a record kept of results during multiple trials? Objective, not subjective! This requires a statement that Feng Shui can affect the outcome of coin flips, but since claims have been made for almost any influence you can think of, coin tosses don't seem much like a stretch.
Originally Posted by RemieV View Post

Twenty planted seeds in flower pots would be introduced into each of the three rooms by an individual who is unaware of which rooms are which, and there would be specifics on how much to water the seeds, where to place them, what the temperature of the water should be, what time of day to water the plants, etc. All this should be recorded on video.
Firstly, the issue of whether or not the individual who was watering the plants would know about feng shui or not was specified in the original idea.

Also, getting 'heads' or 'tails' on a coin toss is neither a positive nor a negative event, so I do not see how feng shui would affect it.

The card playing test could test three card poker, which is utter chance.

~Remie
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Old 8th January 2009, 11:39 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by Sherman Bay View Post
I'm aware that Penn & Teller had an episode about it, but I can't find the particular disk for the show, and Netflix isn't any help. Anyone know which one that is?
Season 1, episode 7.
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Old 8th January 2009, 12:08 PM   #40
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There is only one area of life in which feng shui is effective,birth control.The woman drags the wardrobe in front of the bedroom door so the man can't get in.
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