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How quackery gets started (6/4/2002)
One of Australia's largest media chains puts out a magazine called Good Weekend which is included in the Saturday editions of their papers in the country's two largest cities (The Age in Melbourne and The Sydney Morning Herald in Sydney. Good Weekend itself does not have a web site). The cover story for the Good Weekend for April 6, 2002, showed a glass of water with the words "Miracle water? Can something as simple as this mineral-rich water really combat arthritis, fatigue and osteoporosis... and help you live longer?" The article was a four-page promotion of a "magic water" (yes, those words were actually used) which, it is claimed, has the potential to cure all sorts of diseases (arthritis, asthma, Alzheimer's, dermatitis, influenza, inflammation, fatigue and osteoporosis are mentioned) by delivering magnesium bicarbonate into the interior of mitochondria (small structures within cells which manage chemical reactions) where it can combat the destructive effects of carbon dioxide.
It's a long time since I studied either chemistry or physiology, but I would have thought that any amount of dissolved magnesium bicarbonate in water which didn't make it too awful to drink would be neutralised by the acid in the stomach. In the remote possibility that any of the chemical made it through the stomach, there is no known means of getting it into cells, let alone into the mitochondria within the cells. If that could happen, though, another interesting problem arises. For every molecule of acid neutralised by magnesium bicarbonate, two molecules of carbon dioxide are released. This would seem to defeat the purpose of fighting carbon dioxide, but the problem is worse than that. Think of what happens when you put a seltzer powder into water and imagine that foaming going on in every one of the billions of cells in your body. This would not be a pretty sight.
I don't have the space here for a full response to the article, but I will leave you with this thought. What is your opinion of someone who talks about chemistry but thinks that mineral water with "a low pH" would be useful in the battle against acidity? If you don't know, ask a chemist.
You can see more about this here.
Harassment! Ha! (6/4/2002)
Last week I mentioned how the Gutless Anonymous Liar seemed to have been medicated up for the full moon and had become almost lucid. Since then the inevitable decay has gone on with its messages becoming less and less coherent. A strange thing happened, though, and just as GAL was about to slip into chin-foam mode it disappeared and its place was taken by Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group. I don't know whether GAL's cycle is affected by medication or if it just follows the phases of the moon, but it seems that Mr O'Neill is on the same cycle to the extent that they can substitute for each other seamlessly. Perhaps they are related, or maybe just born on the same day.
Yurko's kidneys (13/4/2002)
Murderer Alan Yurko, darling of the anti-vaccination liars and hero to chiropractors, needs money for a legal appeal. A recent fund-raiser only collected $4,000 instead of the $200,000 needed, so Yurko has offered to sell a kidney. His organs should be in good shape as he has spent all except seven months of the last 12 years in prison for violent crimes. I believe it would be of more benefit to all concerned if Yurko sold both of his kidneys at once. Unfortunately eBay doesn't allow the auction of human parts, so The Millenium Project has stepped into the breach and will run an auction. I will start the bidding at $1 and you can place your bid here.
Lutec - all the energy that you can eat (13/4/2002)
One of the great nonsenses of pseudoscience that never seems to go away is the perpetual motion machine. They aren't called that these days, of course, because everyone knows that such things are impossible. The new name is "free energy device", but the principle is the same. A recent example of this genre is the Lutec 100, a generator which, according to the inventors, is 3000% efficient. The Lutec people once said that they were going to accept the $100,000 challenge from the Australian Skeptics, but for some reason they eventually lost interest. They were awarded the 2001 Bent Spoon Award for their efforts at overthrowing physics. I thought I would see where they were up to in their attempt to solve all the world's energy problems, so I sent them the following email. I have not yet received a reply, but if I could predict the future I would say that the reply will either be a set of answers to some other questions or some abuse and patronising suggestions that I don't understand what they are doing.
I was planning a feature article for the next edition of my web site, The Millenium Project, dealing with perpetual motion machines and the schemes that have been set up over the years to try to encourage investors to finance these daydreams.
Someone mentioned the Lutec 1000 to me, and I wonder if you could explain how your perpetual motion machine differs from all the ones that have gone before. I notice that Joseph Newman has claimed that your ideas are actually his, so perhaps explaining the differences between his theories and yours might be a good place to start. I see that the Keelynet people are enthusiastic about your machine, although I assume that you are not using Keely's method of driving the machine with compressed air stored in the frame and chassis.
I am a bit puzzled by your analogy which compares a permanent magnet to an electromagnet to hold a weight, which seems to imply that anything which can maintain something in position against the force of gravity is some kind of an example of stored, available energy. I assume that you do not extend this analogy to the screws holding the light fitting to the ceiling above my desk. I realise that, in a sense, they "store" the potential energy involved in raising the fitting to ceiling height against the force of gravity, but you must mean more than that trite explanation.
Is there a working model of your machine anywhere that can be observed continuously for a meaningful amount of time? I don't mean just for a few hours (Dennis Lee has been pulling that trick at his demonstrations for years), but for several days, or even weeks, watched by an independent observer. I realise that running an over-unity machine without load could cause the thing to speed up to the point where mechanical forces cause the components to fail, but it should be possible to connect the output to some sort of braking device to dissipate the energy produced. Perhaps it could be connected to a dynamometer, which would serve the dual purposes of absorbing the energy and providing a measurement of output at the same time. I assume that you have run such a demonstration at some time in the past, and I know many people who would be prepared to take shifts observing your machine running without input (but producing excess energy) over a period of several weeks or months.
Like everyone, I am excited by the idea of free energy. Australia might have a lot of coal and sunlight, but a limitless source like the Lutec 1000 could provide all the energy needed for desalination of the water we need to turn the entire continent from desert into the most productive agricultural land on Earth and to power our manufacturing and mining industries. We could then use the fossil fuels exclusively as feedstock to manufacture all the consumer and luxury goods that we could ever want. No government of business organisation could not want this, so there should be nothing standing in your way.
If it works.
And how good am I at predicting the future? (13/4/2002)
There used to be a service called Mind-it which told people about changes to web pages. I liked it as a site owner because it was a good way of letting people know about changes, and I liked it as a user because I could register a set of pages and be told when I needed to look at them again. It was a free service supported by advertising in the notification email messages, but early last year some genius came up with the idea of charging web site owners for the privilege of being included. The price was going to be $US795 per year per listed page. On April 8, 2001, I predicted that the whole thing would be dead in a year. I haven't seen a Mind-it button for a long time and when I did a link check this week I found that the domain for the Mind-it service (netmind.com) no longer exists. If I get any better at predicting the future I will have to ask James Randi for the million dollars.
Harassment takes a holiday (13/4/2002)
Things have been very quiet here lately, although I keep checking the post for letters from government authorities who want to savage me as a result of testimony from the Gutless Anonymous Liar. I have heard that lawyers acting for Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group have threatened a doctor in Canada. As Mr O'Neill has publicly called this doctor "Dr Poke-a-boy", I don't see the matter spending much time in court. I eagerly await the time when Mr O'Neill's lawyers turn their attention to me, and I hope it doesn't take anything like the 291 days since the last time Mr O'Neill said that action had commenced.
Tim reports from the foxhole (20/4/2002)
Tim Bolen, spokesjerk for not-a-medical-Dr Hulda Clark, has finally gone gaga and seems to be saying that the Medical Board of California called up a major military attack, including helicopter gunships, to drive away the millions of health freedom fighters who were protesting something that the MBC is or does. I assume that the helicopters were black. I think Tim would be spending his time more productively by getting together the paperwork for the Cancer 100 Challenge. It's probably too late for the 2002 awards now, but what could possibly stand in the way of St Hulda winning the 2003 Nobel Prize for medicine. She only has to produce 100 people cured of cancer. She can do that, can't she?
The Millenium Project on the radio (20/4/2002)
The Australian Skeptics have a program every Thursday between 6 and 7pm (Australian EST) on the Internet radio station netFM. I appear on the program every two or three weeks to rant and vent about the matters you see around you on this site and to discuss (in a more restrained fashion) issues related to skepticism and critical thinking generally. Of course, the show is excellent even when I am not on it, and the station is great at any time. You can listen the shows on the Australian Skeptics web site.
Email of the week (20/4/2002)
Someone called Joel (using the nickname "Inclusive Christianity") emailed me during the week with a long message with the title "Arise!", telling me at length the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. The retelling added little to what St John had originally said. I'm not quite sure why it was sent to me. The prize for widest miss of the target by a sales pitch, however, went to:
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Customer service (20/4/2002)
Last week I mentioned how the people who run the Mind-it service had driven away all their customers by making a free service very expensive (they have reduced the price now, but it is too late). I experienced another example of great customer relationship management this week. Regular web surfers will have seen sites which are members of Webrings. These rings are a way of connecting sites with similar objectives, and each site has a set of links to other sites in the ring. I have been using this service for years (I was one of the first couple of hundred people to run a Webring) and, while it is not suitable for all sites, I still manage a few sites that are ring members. The Webring system has changed hands several times and along the way I forgot a password I needed. Under the new system, I require a Webring ID to manage my sites. Following the instructions on the Webring site, I created an ID and then emailed them to get my sites registered with the ID. I received the following response, which suggests that the whole Webring idea has a limited future:
And then what? When you need something changed you come back and have us do it cuz you STILL don't have your password? Nope, sorry, we don't exist for that purpose
Harassment who's who (20/4/2002)
There was something a bit different this week, when Dr John Raymond Baker DC wrote to my ISP to tell them that I was putting them at risk. Several things made this notable. The first was that Dr Baker somehow seemed to think that words written by Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group were written by me. The second was that Dr Baker's site was Highly Commended in the 2000 Millenium Awards, but Dr Baker does not seem to have noticed this or has chosen not to comment. The third is the funniest, because while Dr Baker seems very concerned about what I am saying, he has the most alarming disclaimer on his own site absolving him of all manner of disagreements that others might have with him. You can see the saga here. Speaking of Mr O'Neill, it has been suggested that he has been missing for the last couple of weeks because he has been completing his doctorate and getting a sex change. He reappeared using the name "Annie McNaughton Ph.D" but not many were fooled. I wonder if he obtained the "Ph.D" at "John Hopkins", the school that "Dr Robert Underhill" went to.
Insane restrictions on freedom (27/4/2002)
It probably came as no surprise to anyone to hear that the Chinese government has placed all sorts of restrictions on what can come into China through the Internet. The pack of geriatric idiots who run the place have been talking big about how China will soon lead the world in internet usage, but if the people inside this huge prison can't connect to the rest of the world then they will have nothing. If it's such a paradise, why would it matter if the citizens get to see CNN or the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's web sites? (The ABC has been allowed back in after being blocked for a week.) To highlight the hypocrisy and stupidity, the places that are forbidden now will be the very sites who will be asked to pay enormous amounts of money to the criminals who run China if they want to broadcast the Olympic games in 2008. (I can't read it, but I would be prepared to bet that the Chinese government web site isn't talking about this in its news section.)
Meanwhile, they have been locking up planespotters in Greece. These harmless oddballs, who have a hobby of looking at aircraft and writing down details of the ones they see, made the mistake of going to an air show in Greece where they were arrested and charged with espionage. One of the perpetrators was a granny who was doing a crossword puzzle while she was waiting for the rest of her family. It is hard to imagine what military or state secrets Greece has to protect, seeing as how the country makes nothing, produces nothing and only survives through parasitic tourism. Is it any wonder that they had to get an Australian policeman to help with their Olympic security? The local police would be too paranoid to do it themselves and would be locking up tourists for writing down directions to the hotel.
Anti-vax update (27/4/2002)
I haven't mentioned the anti-vaccination liars for a couple of weeks, so I thought I would comment on some advice that I saw someone given during the week. The person had complained on the Australian Vaccination Network's mailing list that her sister had a son (4) who was autistic and another son (2) who was not and the mother of these boys was planning to continue vaccinating them. Shock! Horror! What to do? Instructions were given for the following actions.
Strange invitation of the week (27/4/2002)
I have been invited to an Internet broadcast entitled "Lord of the Rings and the Spiritual Destiny of America". I am not sure why I would be interested in this as I am neither a hobbit nor an American, so I thought I would pass the invitation on. If you can't make it at the broadcast time, it looks like these shows are archived on the site.
Ever considered the strangely close parallels between the September 11th Al Queda terrorist attack on New York and the current movie hit Lord of the Rings, adapted from the famous trilogy of novels by famous British novelist, J.R.R. Tolkien?
Don't miss the April 28, 2002 talk: "A Spiritual Exposé: Hatred of America, Why Millions Are Captivated by Lord of the Rings," to be broadcast live from Minneapolis via the Internet and sponsored by the non-profit educational group, Summit University (S.U.), featuring veteran S.U. speaker, Carla Gronewegen.
This "Spiritual Exposé" takes a serious look at the fascinating parallel between Tolkien's fantasy world of the "hobbits," living their peaceful, idyllic life as a terrible evil force devours the surrounding lands and closes in on the Hobbit Shire. Four small hobbits get dragged into the center of an epic struggle between good and evil -- it involves that troublesome "ring" -- that changes the course of history and their very souls.
Unseen "astral" forces manipulating world events! Discussion of "the most precious commodity on this planet?" "Effective spiritual techniques for combating hatred, terrorism and war in the America and the world? It's all in this talk on Sunday April 28.
For full details of the event and and hear the broadcast visit: http://www.icmerlin.com/america
Harassment by harpies, hags and harridans (27/4/2002)
The 99 names of ...
Update: Lutec - all the energy that you can eat (27/4/2002)
I have received an answer to my questions about Australia's latest perpetual motion machine. The answer did not tell me much. Read more about this here.