Jim Colburn...Don't Ask

The Placebo Effect

You think you know something.

Then you start to re-think things.

Take the placebo. Every drug company does trials on their new drugs. They spend millions of dollars to prove that their new wonders drugs are safe and effective against the latest bad thing. Doctors sign up. Hospitals sign up. Protocols are adopted. Volunteers are recruited. Some of the volunteers get the drug, some get The Placebo. The Placebo is usually a sugar pill. It usually works quite well. In a "successful" study you might find that 75 present of the people taking the drug got better. Then again, it usually works out that 25 percent (or more) of the volunteers taking The Placebo get better too.

Until now this has been dismissed as "The Placebo Effect." It's thought of a purely psychological thing. But maybe there's another explanation. Maybe sugar is a miracle drug.

Sugar. Cane sugar. Maybe beet sugar for those in Europe but sugar. It could be the latest in a long line of overlooked miracle drugs that can benefit mankind.

If you respect statistics you've got to see that sugar does a pretty good job against anything from cancer to hives. All those stats prove that one-in-four people get better when they take a sugar pill three times a day. Maybe it isn't psychological. Maybe sugar really rocks, in a medical sense.

Is it a huge drug company conspiracy? To answer that, think about this. Does Viagra really have to cost $10 per pill? It probably cost all of 25 cents to make and even a billion dollars in research spread out over 10 million guys using one pill a week for a year breaks down to 25 cents per pill. That's a total of 50 cents. For a HUGE profit lets add 500 percent and get a per pill price of..... $3.00. So maybe the conspiracy theory isn't that stupid after all.


Just this. Question authority. Trust your own senses. Take things with a grain of salt. (Insert cynical cliché here.)

Why do you use the film you use? Did someone recommend it to you? Did you read about it in a magazine? Was it forced upon you by a management-purchasing structure that only looks at the bottom line? (If so, you're screwed, but for the rest of you...)

Try the new stuff out for yourself. Do some testing of your own.


I've seen serious photographers insist on ditching a tried-and-true film for something new because "Photographer X" says "It's Great!" It'll push "better than anything." The colors will be true to life and the grain will be almost non-existent. If you're on the road it'll make you coffee in the morning and pack your bags.

And if you believe that I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you cheap.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are barely my own much less my employer's so don't blame Time Magazine, Time Inc., Time-Warner or even AOL for anything written here. If you want to blame someone just think to yourself "Your tax return must be postmarked by April 15th......."

Jim Colburn
(aka james.colburn@pressroom.com)


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