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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptical Inquirer > Sept/october 2019 > Laser Acupuncture: High-Tech Placebo

Laser Acupuncture: High-Tech Placebo

Its proponents may have hijacked a high-tech tool, but laser acupuncture has no more scientific validity than acupuncture with needles.

The laser is one of the technological wonders invented during the past century. It took the genius of Einstein and Kastler, then the competition between many brilliant minds of the time, including Townes, Schawlow, Maiman, and Gould, to emit the first laser beam from a ruby in 1960. Since then, applications have continuously increased in various fields of research, industry, and medicine. But the laser has also been diverted to give a boost to a practice as ancestral as inefficient: acupuncture.

An Advanced Technology

A laser is made of spatially and temporally coherent light radiation, which means that the energy is transported within a single frequency inside a very narrow light beam. Lasers are used in many medical disciplines. Depending on its characteristics and target, a laser beam can cause four types of effects on biological tissues:

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