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Diamonds: A Doctor’s Best Friend

Reductio ad Absurdum

Kyle Hill

October 17, 2013

art figure model on crystalsCrystal Healing by Caroline on Flickr with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License

She hesitated when the priest asked, “Do you take this man…” in anticipation of the ring. Its size would symbolize more than her future marital status; it would create happiness. She said the words: “I do.” She saw her imminent husband move the ring from its small folding box towards her finger—it was enormous. Reflexively, she sighed with relief. When crystals really do generate happiness, health, and well-being, diamonds are everyone’s best friend.

If crystals really did have some power to heal the body and the mind, studies of married couples would always be missing something intangible. Like how studies of intelligence systematically miss some unnamed component, every analysis linking socioeconomic status or psychological disposition to the state of a marriage would be off—those diamonds are forever after all. Social and mental factors explain much, but in tandem with the vibrating power in couples’ rings the whole picture would be clear as, well, you know.

Along with love and marriage, crystals with actual power would bring death and destruction. Once our scientists started identifying the gemstones of the best “frequency,” prices for them would increase around the world. Conflict-ridden areas already stressed by the diamond trade would be pushed a bit further as prices rise. The gemstones would make their way into stores around the world, and their cuts and qualities would soon denote different properties. Jewelers try their hand at crafting the perfectly cut “healing stone.” Others reject this molecular sculpting and push for more “organic” stones. Quartz paperweights could be worth a fortune.

Crystals are everywhere. Simply put, they are solids with atoms, ions, or molecules ordered in a consistent pattern in three-dimensional space. There’s a good chance that there are even crystals inside the screen you read this on. Liquid-crystal displays, surely in the homes of millions of people, take advantage of crystalline properties as well. If crystals really did output energy to get one’s qi in check, sitting too close to the TV screen would no longer be a mother’s worry, but rather a requirement.

The ubiquity of crystalline structures in nature means that geology itself is the largest gem shop. Why spend money on chakra amulets and glittering key chains when a whole strata beneath your feet likely has enough crystal power preserved within it to last a lifetime of vibrational readjustments. Grab a trowel and some Birkenstocks and get digging! And if crystals really could cure, this cave in Mexico would be flooded with sickly patients like a faith-healing megachurch. However, assuming a decent distribution of crystals throughout the Earth’s surface, it would be next to impossible to determine which crystal was soothing which aura and when (as any shaman worth his or her salt would know).

If crystals helped and healed through “vibrations” and “frequencies,” sitting in front of a radio would be the next best thing to a doctor’s visit. There is nothing particularly unique about a frequency. It is a process that repeats over time—like the revolutions of a CD in a stereo or the pulses of pressure waves in air. Any geologist or physicist could identify the crystals that did put out a frequency almost immediately…and then the black market of frequency healing would spring forth. The calming effect of quartz would be patented and licensed by large corporations, costing the average consumer, while back-alley drifters would offer a quick fix of hertz played from a small speaker to get anyone’s qi going on the cheap.

Of course, gems and crystals do not produce sound or vibrate noticeably in hand, so it would be very important to find the frequency that works for you. If humans did have a resonant frequency that could be tapped into, there would feasibly be some rate at which we could be vibrated to the point of shattering like a wine glass in front of the proverbial opera singer. To think of the New Age shaman who would first have to hit you over the head with a tuning fork in order to recommended the proper stone…

It would be odd to see dump trucks pulling up behind hospitals to deposit the latest load of gemstones, but that would be the norm if crystals really had healing properties. Word would spread quickly throughout the medical community. Miracle cancer cures are suppressed by Big Pharma, of course, but there would be simply too many rocks to send back to the quarry to keep a crystal cure under wraps. Doctors would prescribe sulfur to absorb the negative energies of their patients. Nurses would go from ward to ward adjusting the placement of rocks on abdomens and foreheads. The next Nobel Prize in medicine would go to the lucky researcher who published the establishing paper, “On the Healing Properties of Crystalline Minerals.” Grant money would flood in from the government. Mines the world over would be dug to aid in the battle against what ails us. Pharmacies would sell less potent versions of the healing stones discovered by doctors. People on the street and in their homes would ask each other over dinner: “Crystals can heal the human body, haven’t you heard, have you been living under a rock?” For your health’s sake, I hope so.

But instead of having the answer to all our maladies stuck in stone beneath our feet, crystals, while something to look at and study, have no biological or physical mechanisms through which they could affect human health. Perhaps a glittering diamond would make you happy, and therefore alleviate stress or give you calm, but it certainly does not tap into a yet undiscovered “human frequency” like someone searching for a radio station. Nothing about the natural world suggests that a certain arrangement of a mineral’s atoms will do anything for the human body other than please the eye. Can we reduce crystal healing to the absurd?

Kyle Hill

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Kyle Hill is a science writer who specializes in finding the secret science in your favorite fandom. He writes for the Scientific American Blog Network at his blog, But Not Simpler. Hill also contributes to Slate, Wired, Nature Education, Popular Science, and io9. He manages Nature Education's Student Voices blog, is a contributor to Al Jazeera America’s science show TechKnow, and you can follow him on Twitter under @Sci_Phile.