New quackery....

James Randi --- Wizard (JREFInfo@ssr.com)
Sun, 4 Oct 1998 02:31:21 -0400 (EDT)

TWO NEW EXAMPLES OF QUACKERY: FROM CHINA, AND LIECHTENSTEIN.....

We may be getting the notion that quackery is an American
preoccupation. Well, yes. But our fellow Earthlings abroad are just
as fond of such nonsense, as well. Two recent items brought to our
attention at JREF:

Correspondent Don Mainfort, in China, whose comprehensive coverage of
the subject will be seen in the next Skeptical Briefs from CSICOP,
writes....

The rage here in China now is combs made of yak horn (and water buffalo
horn). All of the big department stores have them and the small shops have
begun marketing fake plastic versions. The manufacturers note on the
package that

The keratin in the horn itself is a medicinal
material. These combs made from pure
horn material can massage the head,
refresh the mind and improve the blood
circulation in the extremities as well as
help prevent hair loss and greying.
Combing with the yak horn combs can
also reduce cholesterol and lower blood
pressure.

They are selling well and crowds swarm the department store counters.

......................

Keratin is the tough, insoluble protein from which horns, fingernails,
and hair are formed. A rather commonly available substance. If the
blurb is correct, running ones own fingers through the hair should
assist to "refresh the mind." Perhaps to the point where the consumer
might get smart enough to recognize a swindle...? And just think what
wearing a fur coat can do for you, if the claim is correct!

And, at a slick Internet site (http://www.cleanfood.com) we can view a
new scam from a company in Liechtenstein who are offering The
Polarizer, in two models priced at US$39 and US $119. This a "quartz
glass" rod that one sticks into a plate of food or cup of beverage to

...deactivate the poisonous influence of
pathogenes [sic] like viruses, bacteria,
spores, fungus and eggs of intestinal
worms, which can be found in most of
our food.

And, say the producers of this wonder, when The Polarizer is used,

The pathogenes [sic] in the nutriments are
biologically deactivated by changing their
Intrinsic Data Field....[also known as]
electro-magnetic field or aura.

This is meaningless pseudoscientific jargon, perhaps attractive to
those who have heard the words before, but have little understanding
of their application.

The "large" Polarizer needs to be inserted into drinks for only one
minute, we're told, while four minutes is required for eggs, because
they "contain large amounts of toxines [sic]."

The manufacturers then drop in this clincher:

Hundreds of dedicated scientists all over
the world, including at MIT and Stanford
as well as other universities are working
on theories and phenomenons [sic]
similar to the ones that are the functional
basis of our product, The Polarizer.

This is the usual appeal-to-new-technology that quacks engage in.
They try to ride along on the exciting, new -- genuine -- discoveries
of science, depending upon the average person's lack of understanding
of such matters.

The test that is suggested in the text, is careful to disallow any
double-blind application, so no such test is possible. We have here
an excellent example of how not to perform a test.

But note: the web page has many paragraphs of disclaimers, including this
important caveat:

Your belief in natural and holistic healing,
your careful judgement as to what is
correct for your condition and the advice
of your professional health care provider
should be used to get the desired result
with the devices.

Do we sense that lawyers have had a hand in developing this statement?

Well, the JREF prize of one million dollars is available to either the
yak-horn hucksters or those who are peddling the Polarizer. We await
applications.

A closing note: the manufacturers of the DKL "LifeGuard" dowsing rod,
following their grandly failed test at Sandia Labs -- which they moan
about and declare to be fatally flawed -- have noted on their web page
(http://www.dklabs.com/Faq.htm) that they can't lower themselves to
deal with me for the million-dollar prize because my formal education
ceased when I was seventeen. I've reminded them that in the 53 years
since, I've occasionally learned a thing or two, while they apparently
stopped picking up any skills or knowledge the moment their diplomas
were handed to them.

Just for fun, look at the section labeled "The Science" on the DKL
site. You'll see a diagram of a scientific test that was done of the
DKL. Note that the distance between the subject and the device is not
shown. Why? Well, the original DKL literature calls for operation of
the device tens of meters away from the subject, through ANY sort of
barrier. And, it insists that the device MUST be held in the hand of
the operator. Here, on this page, they show the device held on a
tripod. Hmmmm. Well, according to the report of the real scientist
who did these tests, the distance was actually only a few feet, the
barrier was very thin, and the subject had to move relative to the
instrument. THAT'S ENTIRELY DIFFERENT FROM THE DESCRIPTION GIVEN IN
THE LITERATURE! I BELIEVE THAT THEY WERE USING A SIMPLE CAPACITANCE
OR ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELD DETECTOR, WHICH COULD AND WOULD EASILY
RESPOND TO A MOVING BODY, AND DIFFERENT MASSES MOVING AT DIFFERENT
RATES OR PATTERNS WOULD PRODUCE DIFFERENT "SIGNATURES."

And when you read their heavy, murky, simply wrong, criticisms of the
Sandia Lab tests, you find that they complain that Sandia failed to
mention the tests of this OTHER device, whatever it was, that they
exult gave quite positive results. Why? Because that was NOT the DKL
Model 2, which was what Sandia was commissioned to test! It was a
very different device, and based upon well-recognized and already-used
technology!

You should know, too, that the DKL complaint about Sandia failing to
count as hits the 11 occasions during the test when they were "almost
right," was something they brought in AFTER they'd failed the tests.
In science, Mr. Johnson, re-designing the protocol after the
experiment has been conducted, is a no-no. Even I, with my truncated
education, know that. Get real.

Look in on this page, an excellent example of pseudoscience, data
adjustment, afterthought reasoning, and rather sad excuses. It's a
classic.

[Sincere thanks to all those who have sent me get-well wishes. I'm coming
along just fine, and will be back at work in a week, if my doctor says I
may. And, maybe, even if he says I may not..... I love you all.]
James Randi.

[The spelling, "pathogenes" is an alternate, and acceptable one, for
"pathogens." We note the apparent discrepancy by using [sic] in the usual
manner, only to denote an exact quotation and to maintain the integrity of
the original text.]

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