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Unbalancing The Power PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Richard Saunders   

Sometime in the 1970s I saw a TV report on how colors could change your strength and balance. It was just, to use the word without permission, "amazing." The subjects would have their strength tested by holding out their arms and resisting as best they could the downward pressure exerted by the color therapy "expert." When a blue colored card was placed in front of the subjects, it was found they could resist the pressure quite well. However when a pink colored card was used, their strength seemed to abandon them. The same effect was found when their balance was tested. It was all so convincing. But who was going to make money out of something anyone could make for themselves at home?

Fast-forward about thirty years or so and the color cards, as far as I know, are long gone. But the same tests are still being used, only now they are employed sell a vast panopoly of products that use E.U.T.S. (Energies Unknown to Science)

We have such wonderful devices as:

FusionExcel’s Quantum Pendant “...produces scalar energy that helps to enhance the body’s biofield.” (Demo Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fp_h9QHv0Ao)

EFX Embedded Wearable Holographic Technology “...is energetic technology designed to instantly increse power, balance and flexibility by stabilizing and harmonizing the body's bioelectric current.” (Demo Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDSwLYEr7Mk)

EQ “When an EQUILIBRIUM hologram sits within your aura its coded frequencies clear the electrical pathways of negative energy. Your performance will be closer to fulfilling its highest potential.” (Demo Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkfeLITVUMY)

EKEN Powerbands “nFIT (nano Frequency Infusion Technology) is our proprietary system for programming the EKEN holograms. This method ensures that each hologram receives a highly concentrated dose of the frequencies required to produce the highest potency and longest lasting product on the market.” (Demo Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_ahBmzA75g)

Bionic Band “...which use[s] Proton Alignment Resonance Technology (P.A.R.T.™) to counteract the effects of EMF pollution and allow the body’s cells to “resonate” on the same frequency at once.” (Demo Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u683lcoeCBY)

iRenew “iRenew® Energy Balance System™ products with BioField Technology™ harness the natural frequencies which are everpresent in our environment and use them to tune and rebalance your biofield back to a more natural, coherent state.” (Demo Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4O0gNlZFymM)

Phiten “Phiten Technology is based around the different applications of our high-intensity Phild Process. Titanium has been found by our scientists to be particularly responsive to the Phild Process; meaning, it is consistently effective in emitting, or "passing on" the stabilizing effect of the Phild Process.” (Demo Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CeQVKNR7no)

Power Balance “The hologram in Power Balance is designed to respond to the natural energy field of the body.  The Mylar material at the core of Power Balance has been treated with energy waves at specific frequencies. The resulting Mylar is believed to resonate and work with your body's natural energy flow to help enable you to perform at the best of your ability.” (Demo Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8e6DnNARz60)

What a pity that science has not yet caught up with all these "bio-energy fields!"

As you can see from the linked videos, all these companies use the same balance, flexibility and strength “tests” to convince their customers of the instant and profound effects of their products.

My first encounter with these body “tests,” in the flesh, was at a Mind Body Spirit (or “Mind Body Wallet” as we call it) festival in Sydney, 2008. A group of us came across the stand of FusionExcel as they demonstrated the Quantum Pendant. Not one to be shy, I offered one of the representatives the chance to be tested by Australian Skeptics for our $100,000 prize – much the same thing as the JREF $1,000,000. To this day I have not heard back. But what made the Quantum Pendant stand out were the supplementary claims given by the FusionExcel representatives. The pendant could also turn tap water into sun block. It might take a moment for the gravity of this claim to sink in. A plastic pendant, if placed under a bottle of tap water for 15 minutes, will give that water the power of a sunblock if rubbed on the skin. Indeed, one of the representatives told us she used it on her grandchildren, as she does not trust the chemicals in real sun block.

But I digress. Let’s take a closer look at the so-called “tests” that help sell all of these magical products. What is going on? To put it simply, the person carrying out the “tests” slightly changes the direction of applied force so as to either tip the subject off balance or to reinforce the subject’s own balance. Look again at some of the videos and you’ll see that is exactly what is going on. In order to illustrate this point, I produced this video to clearly demonstrate the tricks. It also show how you too can invent your own science.

Apart from these body tricks, (and don’t think for a moment that they aren't convincing) once someone has it in their head that X, Y or Z product can improve their strength or performance on the sporting field, there is virtually nothing you can do to convince them otherwise. I met an ex-footballer who told me that he didn’t care what I did or said, he knew from personal experience that Power Balance worked. There are also the seemingly endless financial possibilities that may just sway some to jump on the bandwagon. A Power Balance band alone costs about $65 in Australia.

My own efforts in trying to enlighten people as to just how these tricks are done seem to be paying off. In December 2009 I was asked by a national TV news show to test Power Balance with the Australian distributor, Tom O'Dowd. He failed 5 out of 5 tests with his own product. This seemed to come as a complete surprise to him, as I suspect he has never before been put to a double blind test. Whenever he or anyone he knew “tested” the product, it was always an unblinded test - meaning that it was fully known by the tester when a Power Balance was being used and when it wasn't. Needless to say it did not take him long to come up with an "out" that to him explained the Power Balance's sudden failure. The TV test can been seen here.

Despite this bad publicity on national TV, the Sydney Morning Herald dated 8 September 8, 2010  reported that ”Many roll their eyes at the thought of forking out $60 for a wristband that aims to improve balance and flexibility. But not two Melbourne businessmen, whose Power Band importing business is turning over millions of dollars.”

However, due to this extra attention, the product came to the notice of CHOICE Magazine, an independent Australian organisation dedicated to consumer protection. After a series of tests with the Power Balance band, unknown to skeptics and Power Balance alike, CHOICE concluded that "This so-called exercise-assisting 'hologram' is nothing more than a pricey placebo" and went even further in a report in the Sunday Telegraph, calling it a “$2 shop scam.”

Brian Dunning has chimed in with a report on the skepticblog, as has Travis Roy from the Granite State Skeptics.

As Skeptics we can do much to draw attention to such things as magical bands that claim to improve well-being. But as CHOICE points out, it is up to our governments to act on these products and do what they were elected to do and protect their citizens.

 

Richard Saunders is a Vice President of Australian Skeptics and producer of The Skeptic Zone podcast.

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written by Sadhatter, October 05, 2010
My favorite part about trying to debrainwash believers in this type of woo is that by informing them that they are just as good without the product you are actually somehow insulting them.

Try explaining to someone that their +2 armband is not what makes them a good baseball player. You get the same reaction as if you attempted to compare thier skills to your grandmother's.

It is a wierd situation when people claim credit for a naturally occuring phenomenon , whether strength in this case, or healing ability in the case of things like homeopathy. The person buying the product becomes so convinced that they are gaining a benefit, that they overlook the much more ego stroking fact that it is soley their own efforts/body doing the work.
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written by Timothy Q. Mouse, October 05, 2010
People that rely on these kind of trinkets should watch Dumbo. Perhaps then they'll figure out that they don't need the "magic feather" to "fly".
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Agree to Disagree
written by Hierro, October 05, 2010
While I agree wholeheartedly that skeptics should do as much as they can to spread the truth about these scams, I don't agree that the government should get involved.
I don't think there is any good way to write a law which will prohibit or ban the sale of these types of items without interfering with other legitimate businesses. The law is a blunt instrument, not a scalpel.
I think the best thing that can be done is to improve critical-thinking education and to better spread information on the truth of these items.
Scams will always be with us, but hopefully with better information spreading and a more knowledgeable consumer population we can prevent these scams from generating too much money.
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@ Hierro
written by Zoroaster, October 05, 2010
In my opinion the laws have already been written in most countries, it's a matter of enforcement. Any of these products could be classified as fraudulent and making false medical claims. If a product is legitimate, its benefits should be provable. Buyer beware is always good advice but when credulous grandmothers start wheeling infants around under the Australian sun using only water for sunblock, I think it's time for the government to step in.
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written by kenhamer, October 05, 2010
"I don't think there is any good way to write a law which will prohibit or ban the sale of these types of items without interfering with other legitimate businesses. The law is a blunt instrument, not a scalpel."

Sometimes a blunt instrument is the right tool.
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written by Roberto Silva, October 05, 2010
"Buyer beware is always good advice but when credulous grandmothers start wheeling infants around under the Australian sun using only water for sunblock, I think it's time for the government to step in."

Well stated. When people are selling a product claiming benefits that it clearly doesn't have, that's false advertising at best, downright fraud at worst. Both of these are punishable by law, all it takes is the will to enforce it.
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written by MadScientist, October 05, 2010
The only thing of course is that the energies *are* known to science. What is really embarrassing is that people fall for all that nonsense and yet I can't imagine a school playground without half a dozen kids demonstrating those exact same tricks. Well, those tricks were pretty common in my school many decades ago. Maybe teachers should demonstrate these things in class and hopefully people remember later on when they encounter the same tricks being used to sell trinkets.
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written by MadScientist, October 05, 2010
@Richard: perhaps you're not trying the right tricks to convince the converts? Just do the same tricks on them - except now they're weak when they have the trinket and strong without it. Sure they might think you're tricking them or that you're using voodoo or something - but some might think twice about the claimed efficacy of their toy.
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written by MadScientist, October 05, 2010
Oh, as for the Bionic Band, the Proton is a particle in the class of Fermions so what they're really selling is Fermion Alignment Resonance Technology. 'nuff said ... or is that too much?
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written by mattyv, October 05, 2010
I think Richard is doing a great job educating those who are educable. Sadly, having followed the comments on Youtube for a while, there remain some who will believe in light of even the best evidence. I'm not sure whether it's due to mutual social networks leading rational thinkers to the videos, or an indicator to general thinking, but overall the comments on Youtube are heartening. I suspect it's the latter, based on my reading in other forums where scepticism can be lacking yet the PowerBalance gets well scrutinised.

Having a background in exercise science, I feel the testing could be taken up a notch or two in scientific validity. There's probably a need for both replication of tests used by the scam proponents like Richard has been doing (the ideas MadScientist put forward are also nice), and the addition of testing methods used in the more genuine exercise testing world. There are plenty of fairly standard tests out there for all the various physiological benefits claimed by the band proponents, it's just a matter of pooling some resources and putting something together.

Personally, I'd like to see something we could publish in a peer-reviewed journal with tests for strength, power (strength + speed, essentially), balance (perturbed in the ways we do it clinically rather than with "applied kinesiology"), flexibility, anaerobic capacity and aerobic power. Certainly, a great deal of blog material for the community could be derived from such a project. It won't convince those who can't be convinced but would nonetheless be valuable IMHO.
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@Richard Saunders
written by Caller X, October 05, 2010
"Amazing Magnetic Girl" / "The Georgia Magnet"

As Jeff Wagg could have told you, "a simple Google search" could have told you that. As I could have told you, you're not going to convince anyone by posting here. Do just a skosh more research and cobble together an article publishable in the mainstream media instead of preaching to the choir here. Actually, on a more carefule reading of your article I see you made steps in that direction. Good for the tv show. Was it ever aired?

Of course, people who will eat Vegemite will swallow anything.
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written by mattyv, October 05, 2010
I think so-called "preaching to the converted" is only an issue for scepticism if that's all we ever manage to do. There are many positives to it, though. None of us can be experts in every field, some of us aren't able to work in any remotely scientific field day to day. However, by having various people in the sceptical community educating the rest of us in the areas they have spent time looking into, we all become a little bit more knowledgeable. The next time a family member or friend asks us about a particular product, we have a better chance of giving them an educated opinion and doing so in a way they'll respect.

Furthermore, there may be one of "the converted" who reads a piece mostly aimed at fellow sceptics and subsequently *does* manage to reach a mainstream audience with a follow-up of their own. Not everyone will be in a position to do this, but there more sceptics spread their acquired knowledge the greater chance of it happening.

Re: the TV show, I do believe it aired. It's called Today Tonight, a highly popular yet normally very credulous current affairs/news show in prime time here in Australia.
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Don't forget nucleus external rays!
written by Defaithed, October 05, 2010
Great overview, and I really like the term EUTS (Energies Unknown to Science). Hmm, should the infamous E-Meter be included?

It's actually fun to read the claims of woo devices, until you remember that people are being suckered out of money, many of them people least able to afford it.

Anyway, I was spurred by the article to report on an old favorite of mine: the cancer-preventing, sex-enhancing "nucleus external rays" of a Korean mud bed that was once (still is ?) sold. (I don't know what it cost.) For the interested, details in delightful semi-English are at http://www.defaithed.com/korean-mud-mat-bed

Again, thanks to R Saunders for the good read, and thanks much more for the efforts to debunk the woo peddlers.
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Pink Studies
written by edgraham, October 06, 2010
Funny, but this weekend watching the National Football League games with the players wearing pink shoes - - couldn't help thinking about the study from the 70s. Didn't seem to sap the strenght of any players.

Or, you could just cut Troy Polamalu's hair.
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written by ShowerComic, October 06, 2010
"The pendant could also turn tap water into sun block. It might take a moment for the gravity of this claim to sink in."


Elphalba (Wicked Witch of the West) would love this.
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Truth in Advertising
written by jimgerrish, October 06, 2010
For a long time, we had "Truth in Advertising" laws that were supposed to prevent this sort of thing. It is obvious that no one in the government is enforcing these laws, if they are even still on the books.

The way to enforce "Truth in Advertising" is to hold the media accountable at every opportunity. Fox News Channel regularly runs ads for iRenew and Quietus. E-mail them ad nauseum and boycott them and their other advertisers. Hit them in their pocketbooks and shine spotlights on their stupidity.

Don't depend on government to do anything until they get their houses in order. Even if they "make a law" they will flub it all up and it won't be any more enforcable than the old "truth in advertising" laws were.
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@mattyv
written by Caller X, October 07, 2010
Personally, I'd like to see something we could publish in a peer-reviewed journal with tests for strength, power (strength + speed, essentially), balance (perturbed in the ways we do it clinically rather than with "applied kinesiology"), flexibility, anaerobic capacity and aerobic power. Certainly, a great deal of blog material for the community could be derived from such a project. It won't convince those who can't be convinced but would nonetheless be valuable IMHO.


You are WAY overthinking this. Google Amazing Magnetic Girl and Georgia Magnet for presentations of this subject matter done decades ago. Peer reviewed journal? Get real. No one reads them. You want a simple to understand article that would fit in Parade Magazine. Why not ask Marilyn Vos Savant about it? If you want to make an ookie cookie with your buddies in a circle, sure, try to put together a PRJ article. If you want to spread an idea, you need to go mainstream media. Simple and clear does not mean dumbed down.

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written by Skeptigirl, October 08, 2010
When you use the term, 'energies unknown to science', you are implying such things exist and dismissing the fact we are confident they don't.

It's just like the term, alternative medicine, which implies that there is a legitimate alternative to medicine.

Language we choose to use matters.
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written by Skeptigirl, October 08, 2010
'Energies which don't exist' would be a better choice. 'Magical energies that aren't really there', another option.
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addendum to the above 2 posts
written by Skeptigirl, October 08, 2010
For the pedantic among us, I'm not talking about real energies unknown to science that we might detect/discover in the future including dark energy.
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@Skeptigirl
written by Caller X, October 10, 2010
"Dark energy" and "dark matter" simply don't exist. Just like God. It's really that simple. The model is flawed, because it's based on the principle of "we can't figure something out, so let's make something up."

Period. End of story.

Just like when you wrote:

"When you use the term, 'energies unknown to science', you are implying such things exist and dismissing the fact we are confident they don't."

In what arena is your confidence probative?
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Baseless fantasy vs hypotheses to explain the observed evidence are not equal.
written by Skeptigirl, October 11, 2010
Baseless fantasy vs hypotheses to explain the observed evidence are not equal. I wonder why it is, Caller X, that you insist on equating the two.

The Swift article refers to FusionExcel’s Quantum Pendant “, EFX Embedded Wearable Holographic Technology “, EQ “When an EQUILIBRIUM hologram sits within your aura , EKEN Powerbands, Bionic Band “., iRenew “iRenew® Energy Balance System™ , Phiten “Phiten Technology, and Power Balance “The hologram in Power Balance as EUtoS. These are not energies unknown to science. These are medical fraud devices and we know that because there is overwhelming evidence these products are fraudulent.

Whether or not you are satisfied with the dark energy hypothesis or the dark matter hypothesis suggested as an explanation for OBSERVATIONS KNOWN TO SCIENCE, is a moot point. And whether these hypotheses turn out to be substantiated or some other explanation for the OBSERVATIONS KNOWN TO SCIENCE replaces the hypotheses has nothing to do with the fact there is observable evidence the products mentioned in the Swift article are fraudulent devices and the peddlers of these devices make fraudulent claim after claim.

Calling these fraudulent devices to be, based on "energies unknown to science", is a quaint, cutesy way of saying the devices claim to be working on non-existent energy. That quaint, cutesy terminology contains hidden harm in that those not in on the joke may indeed believe, science is just admitting they don't know how the devices work. In reality, we should be clear and firm, the evidence is there is no magical energy in the case of these fraudulent devices.

Debating the evidence for and against dark matter and dark energy is a different subject and the fact you can't readily see the difference is troubling.
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@Skeptigirl
written by Caller X, October 12, 2010
GOOD USE OF THE CAPS LOCK KEY. IT ONLY STRENGTHENS YOUR ARGUMENT. I not only question the hypothesis, I question the measurements, the data, and I am not alone in that.
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written by Skeptigirl, October 12, 2010
You ignored the point I made and reverted to what I can only guess is your pet peeve with dark matter/dark energy. Try re-reading my post and actually addressing the issue: Fake crap vs different interpretations of real observed evidence.
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@Skeptigirl
written by Caller X, October 13, 2010
written by Skeptigirl, October 12, 2010
You ignored the point I made and reverted to what I can only guess is your pet peeve with dark matter/dark energy. Try re-reading my post and actually addressing the issue: Fake crap vs different interpretations of real observed evidence.


Perhaps you could clarify which one your issue was?
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written by Skeptigirl, October 14, 2010
It's right in front of you, Caller X: Fake crap vs different interpretations of real observed data.

You are trying to equate legitimate science in which you disagree with the hypotheses with fraudulent medical cures deceitfully, shamelessly, greedily marketed purely for profit. I can only guess your reason for ignoring the topic is to try to engage in some debate on dark energy hypotheses. Can you cite a single person, web page, store, or even a product that advertises dark energy for sale?
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written by I Ratant, November 13, 2010
A "Power Band" kiosk has just opened in the Antelope Valley Mall.
There is a poster with:
"Some of the most notable benefits may include:
. Increased balance and strength
.Optimize your body's natural energy field
.Increase flexibility and range of motion
.Blocks harmful cell phone radiation
.Relief of stress and tension
.Better focus and attention"
.
I'm wondering whether to inform the Mall management of the claims as the lack of anything scientific or medical made here. smilies/smiley.gif
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