Article Archive for June 2007

Być może jesteś altkiem jeśli…
By Modne Bzdury
Posted in on 30 June 2007
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Kontynuując poprzedni post chciałbym przedstawić serię pt. “Być może jesteś altkiem jeśli…”*. Jednym z pomysłodawców i głównych autorów całej zabawy jest blogger Orac. Z czasem będę starał się poszerzać listę tłumaczonych haseł (o czym będę informował na blogu), ale jeśli ktoś z Was wpadnie na ciekawy pomysł, wpisujcie go do komentarzy. Jeśli będzie celny i zabawny, to umieszczę go w poście. Zaczynamy!

  • Jeśli wierzysz, że lekarze, naukowcy i przemysł farmaceutyczny konspirują przeciwko twojemu ulubionemu rodzajowi “medycyny alternatywnej”, to być może jesteś altkiem.
  • Jeśli bezkrytycznie przyjmujesz niejasne i/lub słabo udokumentowane anegdoty i opisy przypadków jako wystarczający dowód na to, że jakaś “alternatywna” terapia ma niesamowite wyniki w “leczeniu” raka, chorób serca, autyzmu, Alzheimera itd., a jednocześnie w sposób drobiazgowy czepiasz się, a później odrzucasz wyniki dobrze zaprojektowanych, randomizowanych, podwójnie ślepych badań klinicznych fazy III konwencjonalnej medycyny, to być może jesteś altkiem.
  • Jeśli lubisz stwierdzać, ze nauka to religia, to być może jesteś altkiem (lub przynajmniej kreacjonistą).
  • Jeśli twierdzisz, że jakiś produkt lub terapia “wzmacnia system odpornościowy”, “przywraca równowagę”, “detoksyfikuje wątrobę”, “oczyszcza jelita” lub “oczyszcza krew”, to być może jesteś altkiem.
  • Jeśli imponują Tobie takie twierdzenia, to być może jesteś altkiem.
  • Jeśli poszukujesz informacji “naukowej” na stronach internetowych sprzedających produkty “medycyny alternatywnej”, to być może jesteś altkiem.
  • Jeśli wierzysz, że szczepionki “nie działają”, że “uszkadzają system odpornościowy” albo, że są główną przyczyną autyzmy lub innych przewlekłych schorzeń, to być może jesteś altkiem.
  • Jeśli wierzysz, że ślad cząstki psiego mleka rozcieńczonej w stopniu 30C ma większą siłę leczniczą niż 875 mg amoksycyliny, to być może jesteś altkiem.
  • Jeśli wierzysz, że osoby praktykujące medycynę naturalną są o wiele bardziej wrażliwe i o wiele bardziej moralne (a tym samym mniej podatne na korupcję) niż lekarze, to być może jesteś altkiem.
  • Jeśli uważasz, że Hulda Clark jest “niesprawiedliwie” prześladowana przez “konwencjonalną medycynę” i/lub “rząd” ponieważ stanowi dla nich “zagrożenie”, to jest bardzo prawdopodobne, że jesteś altkiem.
  • Jeśli czujesz się głęboko urażony przez tę listę, to być może jesteś altkiem.

* Część linków pochodzi ode mnie.

Co to jest “altek”?
By Modne Bzdury
Posted in on 30 June 2007
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Jakiś czas temu Nieukowiec i Migg zastanawiali się nad najlepszym polskim odpowiednikiem terminu “woo“. Jeśli nie wiecie o co chodzi, już spieszę z wyjaśnieniem:

Woo-woo (lub po prostu woo) oznacza idee uważane za irracjonalne, oparte na niezwykle wątłych dowodach lub odwołujące się do tajemniczych sił i mocy nadprzyrodzonych.

Propozycja Nieukowca to szu, a oto jego uzasadnienie:

Kojarzy się odpowiednio, z “Wielkim Szu”. Jest częścią fałszu oraz szulerstwa. I mimo tego, że nie jest tak dźwięczne jak oryginał, już ze startu brzmi jakby coś z nim było nie tak.

Chciałbym spróbować wykonać coś podobnego z innym terminem, który już od jakiegoś czasu krąży po angielskojęzycznej blogosferze. Panie i Panowie, przedstawiam Wam słowo “altie“. Według Oraca termin “altie“:

(…) ma znaczenie podobne do terminu woo-woo w tym, że opisuje on ludzi, którzy są tak radykalnymi zwolennikami medycyny alternatywnej i jednocześnie tak bardzo nieufni wobec medycyny konwencjonalnej, że będą zawsze odmawiać medycynie konwencjonalnej skuteczności i będą bronić się przed myślą, że ktoś praktykujący medycynę alternatywną być może, tylko być może, jest szarlatanem.

Niniejszym chciałbym zaproponować polski odpowiednik - “altek“. Czyli ktoś, kto podchodzi pod powyższą definicję może być nazwany altkiem (liczba mnoga altki). Jestem ciekaw Waszych opinii.

W następnym poście przedstawię serię “Być może jesteś altkiem jeśli…”, czyli humorystyczny przegląd najczęściej spotykanych twierdzeń zwolenników pseudomedycyny.

Ramp Industry and Threespeech
By Lave
Posted in on 30 June 2007
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As this site has now hit the front page of digg (until the iphone sinks it again) I thought I might just do a quick update on what I’ve learnt about THREESPEACH. I guessed everyone new they were fake - but just in case here’s a run down.Ben Furneaux (o…

In the kingdom of the blind…
By What the hell is this?
Posted in on 29 June 2007
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… the one-eyed man is king. I found some of the earlier papers by Lionel Milgrom - there’s one called “Vitalism, complexity and the concept of spin” [Lionel R. Milgrom. Homeopathy 91 (1) 26-31 (2002)] which, according to the submission dates, was probably written at roughly the same time as the “Weak Quantum Theory” paper, [Harald Atmanspacher, Hartmann Römer, and Harald Walach. Found. Phys. 32 (3) 379-406 (2002)], and doesn’t seem to have anything like the level of quantum lunacy which is already evident in “Patient-Practitioner-Remedy (PPR) entanglement. Part 1. a qualitative, non-local metaphor for homeopathy based on quantum theory.” [Homeopathy 91 (4) 239-248 (2002)]. But it does introduce the gyroscope metaphor, explaining how this was inspired by some NMR measurements.

The measurements in question are those reported in “On the investigation of homeopathic potencies using low resolution NMR T2 relaxation times: an experimental and critical survey of the work of Roland Conte et al.” [L. R. Milgrom, K. R. King, J. Lee, and A. S. Pinkus. Brit. Homeopathy J. 90 (1) 5-13 (2001)]. What this paper does, is work out that Conde et. al.’s results, which show some change in T2 relaxation time following homeopathic whatever it is they do, are down to the cheap glass sample vials the machine came with. Pity, because Conde et. al. had come up with all sorts of far-fetched quantum field theory ideas explaining their results. Milgrom et. al. conclude:

That our observed fluctuations in T2 values largely disappeared by changing the glassware of our NMR tubes seems to have been a reason for non-reproducibility that Conte et al have not considered. We suggest that such an observation renders their highly complex mathematico-physical hypothesis for the action of high dilutions on biological systems unnecessary. On the basis of the similar low-resolution NMR experiments we have performed so far, we doubt therefore, whether Conte et al’s work could provide a quantitative basis for reliable diagnostic and therapeutic methodologies using homeopathically potentised remedies, or the need for their QFT/relativity-based mathematico-physical hypothesis to explain the homeopathic potentisation process.

There isn’t enough irony in the world for what followed, is there?

This isn’t Free speech: How THREESPEECH hides it’s censorship.
By Lave
Posted in on 29 June 2007
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(2nd UPDATE: It seems the attention this has caused has had some results! At some point between saturday evening and sunday morning, my comment number 79 was uncensored. Also Ben from Threespeech has offered a one on one chat about the events. He seems…

Sceptycy do wynajęcia
By Modne Bzdury
Posted in on 29 June 2007
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Kilka miesięcy temu “Dziennik” zamieścił na swoich łamach artykuł zatytułowany “Groźne chemikalia przyczyną otyłości” oraz wywiad z naukowcem Fredem von Saalem, który ukazał się pod tytułem “Toksyny w niemowlęcej butelce”. Tematem tego artykułu i wywiadu były doniesienia o szkodliwości substancji o nazwie bisfenol A. Szkodliwość ta została wykazana - między innymi - w badaniach prowadzonych właśnie przez Freda von Saala. Jeśli jesteście zainteresowani samym bisfenolem A odsyłam Was do artykułów po szczegóły, gdyż chciałbym skupić się czymś innym. Kilka dni temu w czasopiśmie naukowym PLoS Biology ukazał się artykuł Lizy Gross “The Toxic Origins of Disease”, w którym opisuje ona reakcję przemysłu chemicznego na doniesienia o możliwym szkodliwym oddziaływaniu bisfenolu A. Tak oto całą sytuację opisuje sam von Saalem:


W chwili gdy tylko publikowaliśmy coś na temat bisfenolu A przemysł chemiczny szukał i zatrudniał prywatne laboratoria, aby te powtórzyły nasze badania. To, co było zadziwiające w tym wszystkim to to, że zatrudniali ludzi, którzy nie wiedzieli jak prowadzić te badania. Każdy z członków tych grup przychodził do mnie i mówił: ‘Nie wiemy jak to zrobić, nauczysz nas?’.*


Jak nie trudno się domyślić wyniki badań zleconych przez firmy chemiczne nie pokrywały się z tymi uzyskami przez von Saalema i jego współpracowników (zauważono nawet, że ten trend występuje na większą skalę i istnieje poważna rozbieżność w wynikach badań niezależnych instytutów i tych placówek, które są opłacane przez przemysł). Kiedy inny naukowiec - Channda Gupta - w swoich badaniach potwierdziła obawy von Saala, the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology (przybudówka the American Chemistry Council) opublikowała komentarz, w którym starano się wykazać, że Gupta popełniła błędy metodologiczne i źle zinterpretowała wyniki swoich badań. A to tylko wierzchołek góry lodowej.

Według Lizy Gross przemysł chemiczny na długą historię bronienia swoich produktów poprzez ataki na wiarygodność naukowców, którzy wypowiadają się na temat niebezpieczeństw związanych z niektórymi substancjami chemicznymi. Jej zdaniem strategia ta polega na “zatrudnianiu konsultantów i zlecaniu ekspertyz podważających wyniki badań lub minimalizujących potencjalne zagrożenia dla ludzi ze strony badanych substancji chemicznych”. Związek przemysłu z badaniami jest nieunikniony, ale należy mieć nadzieję, że z czasem liczba sceptyków do wynajęcia będzie maleć lub chociaż, że rzetelni i odpowiedzialni naukowcy będą mieli równie mocną siłę przebicia, jak ci przedstawieni przez Lizę Gross.

* Tłumaczenie własne za Gross L (2007) The Toxic Origins of Disease. PLoS Biol 5(7): e193 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050193.

Paris Hilton isn’t news.
By Lave
Posted in on 29 June 2007
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I don’t know the show. I don’t really understand american news apart from what I read on the daily show. But it does make me love the BBC more and more.Some people say this is staged. Others not. But either way those guys come across like fucking jerks.

Mały eksperyment psychologiczno-chemiczny
By Modne Bzdury
Posted in on 29 June 2007
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Pytanie do czytelników. Przychodzi do Was człowiek i oferuje 100 złotych za podanie waszemu dziecku roztworu chemicznego, w skład którego wchodziłyby następujące substancje chemiczne: butanol, iso amyl alcohol, hexanol, phenyl ethanol, tannin, benzyl alcohol, caffeine, geraniol, quercetin, 3-galloyl epicatchin, 3-galloyl epigallocatchin i inorganic salts. Co robicie?

Decydujecie się na 100 złotych czy uciekacie z dzieckiem jak najdalej się da?

Zaznaczcie myszką cały post, aby przeczytać jak może zakończyć się ta przygoda.

Jeśli zdecydowałeś sie na ofertę, zyskujesz 100 złotych, a Twoje dziecko napiło się herbaty.

Pomysł zaczerpnięty z broszury “Making Sense of Chemical Stories” organizacji Sense About Science (link dostępny na blogu).

Nontrivial quantum effects in biology
By What the hell is this?
Posted in on 28 June 2007
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Something which was brought to my attention at the JREF forums. It’s so nice to read something sane, following my immersion in the world of quantum homeopathy:

  • H. M. Wiseman and J. Eisert, Nontrivial quantum effects in biology: A skeptical physicists’ view, arXiv:0705.1232v2 (2007)
Physics Education and the BBC
By Grey
Posted in on 28 June 2007
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Amazingly, the BBC has picked up my article on physics education and published the story on their site. I’ve added their version to digg, del.icio.us and reddit, so please vote for it if you want to show the BBC this matters to people.

Darwin broni się sam
By Modne Bzdury
Posted in on 26 June 2007
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Julian Baggini twierdzi, że niektóre reakcje na samo hasło inteligentny projekt czy kreacjonizm ocierają się o histerię. Trudno odmówić mu racji. Brytyjski filozof argumentuje, że powinno się oswajać ludzi, szczególnie tych młodszych, z podobnymi zjawiskami i jednocześnie tłumaczyć czemu - zdaniem naukowców - są one błędne. Brzmi rozsądnie. Bardziej rozpowszechnionym sposobem rozprawiania się z kreacjonizmem jednak nadal są oficjalne stanowiska najróżniejszych organizacji i stowarzyszeń naukowych.

Edwin Bendyk ubolewa nad tym, że polski rząd nie przyjął stanowiska podobnego, do tego przyjętego przez rząd brytyjski. Stwierdza się w nim, że kreacjonizm nie przynależy do sfery nauki i nie ma dla niego miejsca na lekcjach przyrodoznawstwa. Problem - moim zdaniem - w tym, że w Polsce trudno zauważyć, aby margines jakim jest ruch kreacjonistyczny stanowił obecnie jakiekolwiek zagrożenie dla nauczania ewolucji w szkołach (o incydencie z Maciejem Giertych i Mirosławem Orzechowskim w rolach głównych prawie już nikt nie pamięta). Anglia pod tym względem znalazła się w trochę innej sytuacji, gdyż jedna z kreacjonistycznych organizacji - Truth In Science - wysłała do każdej szkoły swoje “materiały edukacyjne”. 59 z nich uznało, że materiały te okazały się “bardzo przydatne”. To jest już powód do niepokoju. Póki co, w Polsce nic takiego jeszcze nie miało miejsca. Stąd mój sceptycyzm wobec pomysłu angażowania w rządu w całą sprawę.

Poor, poor Sheffield
By Paul Wilson
Posted in on 26 June 2007
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A sad sight for me this morning, as I made my way to work and saw pictures of my flooded home town on the front of the Manchester Evening News. Sheffield, like Rome, is a town famously built on seven hills, so at least there are plenty of places that w…

An Electronic Future needs a Paper Trail
By Lave
Posted in on 25 June 2007
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I love living in The Future. Sure I might not have a flying car, or a rocket pack, and I can’t go on holiday to the Moon, but I can spout my dumb ramblings to an entire world (in theory at least). I have a “communicator” that allows me to ring almost a…

Catholic tastes
By Paul Wilson
Posted in on 25 June 2007
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I like this comment piece, it makes me laugh. In it Christina Odone argues that Tony Blair’s apparently imminent conversion to Catholicism is a good thing. It will stick it to those evil secular liberals! “Isn’t Catholicism just an antiquated religion …

Happy days are here again…but not really
By Paul Wilson
Posted in on 25 June 2007
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Oh, let the joy be unconfined, I thought, as I picked up the Guardian on Saturday and saw this article on the front page. Lord Goldsmith has finally resigned as Attorney General!When I read the article, and thought about it a bit more, I realised that …

Miscellanea: Periodic Table of the Internet
By Grey
Posted in on 24 June 2007
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For this week’s Miscellanea I took a look at the way that I used the internet and tried to organize it a bit. Each website is grouped with similar ones and ranked using Compete.com. So here it is Miscellanea: Periodic Table of the Internet. Posters …


By Grey
Posted in on 22 June 2007
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Well, after weeks of delays, the government has finally approved by petition. Please sign up if you agree with my stance on physics education. Thank you.

Kinder
By Paul Wilson
Posted in on 20 June 2007
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Just to have a break from ranting about obscure issues that no-one else is that bothered about, Jolan and I did a hike on Sunday. The route was claimed to be ‘extreme’, which in itself seems a bit extreme. It was a little steep for the first couple of …

Things visible and invisible
By What the hell is this?
Posted in on 19 June 2007
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Via Ben Goldacre’s MiniBlog, “homeopath adopts victim posture,” I found a posting which links to “Towards a New Model of the Homeopathic Process Based on Quantum Field Theory” by Lionel R. Milgrom, Forschende Komplementärmedizin 13 (3) 174-183 (2006). This was blogged at the time but I missed it. It’s worth picking up on it again now though, especially as I’ve managed to read the full text without chewing my own foot off.

From the summary: “Disease manifestation by the Vital Force (Vf) could be an event similar to spontaneous symmetry breaking in QFT: the curative remedy acting to restore the broken symmetry of the Vf field. Entanglement between patient, practitioner, and remedy might be representable as Feynman-like diagrams.”

I’ll start by pointing out how short the decoherence time is in a complicated system like a human. Tegmark [Phys. Rev. E 61 (4) 4194-4206 (2000)] estimates 0.0000000000001 s at most: he says, “We find that the decoherence time scales (∼10-13—10-20 s) are typically much shorter than the relevant dynamical time scales (∼10-3—10-1 s), both for regular neuron firing and for kinklike polarization excitations in microtubules. This conclusion disagrees with suggestions by Penrose and others that the brain acts as a quantum computer, and that quantum coherence is related to consciousness in a fundamental way.” Those who do believe that the brain is a quantum computer [for example, Hagan et. al. Phys. Rev. E 65 061901 (2002)] calculate a decoherence time more like 0.0001 s, which is a milliard times longer, but still somewhat shorter than a homeopathic consultation. Anyway, the whole idea of a “Vital force” is based on naïve biological intuition, and biology has come on quite a long way in the past couple of hundred years or so.

So, following the introduction there’s a section on quantum field theory, which “draw[s] heavily for exposition on the writings of” (i.e. is copied out of the books of) Dr John Gribbon (sic.) and Prof. Sunny Y. Auyung (sic.).” The former is a popular science book on quantum field theory, the latter “presents a philosophical analysis of QFT.” He spells these two authors’ names incorrectly, though not always.

He writes, “In classical physics, fields, e.g., electromagnetic and gravitational, are imagined as attached to and emanating from sources… However in quantum physics, fields are intrinsic and irreducible parts of a relativistic 4-D space-time continuum. And because of the concept of wave-particle duality, this means that ripples in a field may also be described in terms of force-carrying particles, known as bosons, which are exchanged between other quantum entities called fermions. This is known as the first quantisation.”

Wrong: first quantization means that we treat our particles as quantum objects moving in classical potentials. Fermions are particles with half-integer spin, and their statistics means that there can only be one fermion in any given state - therefore, fermions make solid matter.

He continues, “This idea can be taken further by describing matter particles (e.g., electrons) in terms of waves, which are ripples in another kind of field depending on the type of particle. Thus the particles themselves may also be described in terms of field quanta, and this has been called the second quantisation.”

Second quantization is where the classical potential is replaced by the exchange of virtual bosons. In the case of the electromagnetic field these are photons.

A bit later, he is talking about symmetry breaking and the Higgs field but he appears to garble this with the concept of zero-point energy slightly. And then, “The Higgs field is what is called a scalar field, which means that it is the same everywhere, hence extremely hard to detect.” A classical scalar field is just something which can be described by a single numerical value for each point in space. (The pressure of the earth’s atmosphere, for example, is a scalar field, while the wind makes a vector field.) In Quantum field theory a scalar field is one whose force-carrying bosons have zero spin - so it’s true that the Higgs field certainly would be one of these, and the Higgs field would also have the same vacuum expectation value everywhere.

He then goes on to talk about Feynman diagrams without, of course, any references to Feynman’s scientific publications but rather to his popular science account. At least by not misspelling Feynman’s name he avoids a five point penalty.

The next section is entitled “Quantum Field Theory as a Metaphor for the Homeopathic Process.” This is a trick which Sokal & Bricmont flagged - there’s a “strong” interpretation of this paper which says that homeopathy works by quantum entanglement, but when someone points out that this is nonsense he can claim the “weak” interpretation where it’s only a metaphor, albeit one which is used to confuse and impress the audience rather than enlighten them. In any case there are references all over the place to something called “Weak Quantum Theory” - Harald Atmanspacher, Hartmann Römer, and Harald Walach. “Weak Quantum Theory: Complementarity and Entanglement in Physics and Beyond.” Found. Phys. 32 (3) 379-406 (2002). The last of these three authors also turns up here and here, by the way. I can’t mine all of this rich seam alone, read for yourself if you are able. (There are some comments at the JREF forum.)

So anyway, his summary of quantum field theory contains quite a few mistakes: He gets “first quantisation” and “second quantisation” the wrong way round, he seems to confuse zero-point energy and the Higgs field slightly, he states that “the Higgs field is what is called a scalar field, which means that it is the same everywhere,” which is not what “scalar field” actually means, and he misspells the names of the authors (John Gribbin and Sunny Auyang) whose books he is getting this from.

He introduces the “Mexican-hat potential” and then modifies it as if “different energy states of the Vital Force, Vf” correspond to different states of ill health and the state in the centre (where the symmetry is unbroken) represents health. It’s not obvious what he thinks the x-axis of his graph is - he then takes a picture which he previous used in the paper I’m going to get to in a minute (which once did useful service as a schematic representation of localized and delocalized electrons in a crystalline conductor but has already been ruined by changing it to be about localized and delocalized energy states of the Vital force) and bungs in his new potential as if a state of chronic ill health moved a person a little bit to one side.

Greater (and more tractable) abuses of quantum theory seem to take place in “Patient-Practitioner-Remedy (PPR) Entanglement, Part 7: A Gyroscopic Metaphor for the Vital Force and Its Use to Illustrate Some of the Empirical Laws of Homeopathy” by Lionel R. Milgrom, Forschende Komplementärmedizin 11 (4) 212-223 (2004).

“It can be argued that homeopathy might be better `explained’ within the conventional scientific paradigm… if it were to draw on certain of the more modern ideas and concepts that have been developed within the physical sciences, particularly physics…”

Well you should start by drawing on some biology. And if you want to draw on “modern ideas” you could also learn that taking the square of a complex number [ z2=(x+iy)2=x2+2ixy-y2 ] isn’t the same as taking its modulus squared [ |z2=|x+iy|2=(x+iy)×(x-iy)=z.z*=x2-y2 ]. But anyway, most of the actual quantum mechanics seems to have been copied out accurately in this paper even if he gets the units of Planck’s constant wrong; he writes Js-1, not Js. Given that he’s going to spend the whole paper talking about angular momentum he’d have been better off by defining ħ=h/2π anyway.

The main body of this paper is the gyroscope metaphor for the Vital force. He notices that the faster a gyroscope spins, the slower it precesses if it’s not standing vertically (and therefore has gravity trying to pull it into a horizontal position) and he decides that this is the same as having a strong Vital force resisting the effects of “dis-ease” (sic.). He goes through (i.e. copies out) a derivation ending up with simple harmonic motion and then tries to use this to “predict” (i.e. postdict) some “empirical laws of homeopathy” (as if such things exist) although he keeps needing to fudge it. (And I don’t find any actual testable, falsifiable predictions yet.)

Arnst-Schulz Law as refined by Koetschau: “Every drug has a stimulating effect in a small dose, while larger doses inhibit, and much larger doses kill” - the figure given here is much better than the one in the paper, but it’s still not accurate and doesn’t show exactly the things which Milgrom tries to show.

Koetschau’s refinement says that small doses have a stimulating effect, moderate doses at first stimulate and then depress and then the patient returns to normal, and that large doses cause a large stimulation followed by a depression large enough that it leads to death. Milgrom has at hand an equation which says that the Vital force oscillates sinusoidally, and although he’s talking about the time dependence of effect now there’s no point at which he puts time into his equation. His independent variable is “S2” and his wavenumber is “k2”; on previous pages he defined “k2Σσ2” as “the totality of secondary symptoms,” apparently, and then S2 is the integral (over what variable, is not specified) of Σσ2 with the k2 not in it anymore - “Σσ2 represents the totality of secondard symptoms exhibited by Vf. However, just as the pixels of a television screen are integrated by the brain into an image, which is more that the sum of its pixelated parts, so ∫Σσ2 represents the overall image of an individual’s Vf, integrated over and out of the sum of the secondary symptoms presented to the practitioner.” So following this hand-waving he ends up with Vf=Aeik2S2+Be-ik2S2 which, if anything (and it’s a big if), describes the shape of the wavefunction, and it doesn’t change with time because it’s a stationary state (i.e. an energy eigenstate); to understand what happens to his Vital force gyroscope under the influence of a “drug” he’d actually need time-dependent peturbation theory - I look forward to seeing this in a future paper. So his attempt to apply this to the variation of effects with time is already kind of knackered and I can’t help feeling that I’m trying far too hard to find meaning in it all when there really isn’t any, and his misuse of concepts, formalism and terminology is sapping my will to live - he appears to plot a line with an imaginary gradient, calls a system which has a large negative response to a positive stimulus “over-damped” (you actually need feedback for that to happen - an overdamped system would just slowly return to equilibrium) and magically has his sinusoidal oscillation stop after exactly one cycle. As an exercise for the reader, set yourself up a damped harmonic oscillator (in a spreadsheet or something) and work out what really happens in the case of small, medium and large offsets at time zero.

Then there’s a part where he copies a schematic diagram of the localized and delocalized electronic energy levels of a (1-dimensional) crystalline conductor out of a solid-state physics text book and then relabels “atomic nuclei regularly spaced within a lattice” as “individual Vf’s of provers and their associates” and “electronic energy states” as “Vf energy states.” This is to somehow illustrate the concept that “there can be synchronous effects among provers and between provers and those closely related to them who are not otherwise involved in the proving.” - a clause inserted to excuse the placebo effect, I expect.

This is the same diagram, with different labels, as the one in the other paper where he’s talking about disease as a broken symmetry or something. Also, there’s a caveat at the end of the paper about the Vf being a nonphysical entity and needing its own therapeutic `state-space’ a bit like a Hilbert space - something which he turns to in the other paper.

A more recent article is “Journeys in the country of the blind: Entanglement theory and the effects of blinding on trials of homeopathy and homeopathic provings” by Lionel R. Milgrom, Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 4 (1) 7-16 (2007). It’s rubbish on many levels, from misspelling the names of authors whose work he refers to (again) and getting the units of Planck’s constant wrong (he writes Js-1, not Js, again) to typographical errors in equations and the fundamental misconception that when a wavefunction collapses it becomes zero. It actually becomes an eigenstate of the operator which collapsed it, but it keeps on being a wavefunction. (See S. Dürr et. al. regarding the Double-Slit experiment, by the way.)

He freely exchanges terms like “metaphor,” “model,” and “analogy” when describing the relationship between quantum physics and homeopathy, such that it’s not obvious how seriously anything should be taken. (Roughly, a model is usually considered to be a mathematical description of a physical system where the trick is to make it complicated enough that it reproduces the important physical phenomena but simple enough that we can still tell what’s going on it in and therefore gain some Insight; a metaphor is a way of describing a complicated physical problem in normal language which we know isn’t rigorous; and an analogy is a comparison between a familiar system and an unfamiliar one so that you get a head start understanding the unfamiliar one.) But it’s nonsense to suggest that there really is quantum entanglement between humans in verum and control groups during a double-blind trial, and the metaphorical interpretation is equally useless if it doesn’t help in understanding any real phenomenon. You certainly can’t expect to use the physics of a metaphor (even if you understand it, which he doesn’t) to bring new information to the physical thing it’s supposed to be a metaphor for. It’s like saying, “an electron feels a force,” and then wondering what other emotions it can experience.

And he writes, “… in order to comply with implicit assumptions inherent in the DBRCT methodology, homeopathic practioners are expected to engage in a highly questionable (and ultimately confusing) form of self-deception that would be utterly unthinkable in a real therapeutic situation.”

I just felt a dip in the world irony level.

It’s idea that in a double-blind randomized controlled trial of homeopathic remedy versus placebo, where trials demonstrate that homeopathy works no better than a placebo, it’s either because the homeopathic practitioners can’t bring themselves to deceive their patients (subconcious self-deception obviously coming much more easily) or because the control group is entangled in some quantum-mechanical-but-not-really-resonance way with the patients who get the treatment; so I’d like to see how it would turn out if we had a trial of a homeopathic remedy versus a conventional one. Then we’ll see if the entanglement between the two groups still works (so that the homeopathic group performs as well as the conventional one, not just as well as a placebo) and what excuses they come up with when it doesn’t.

This paper also contains the pseudoscience buzzword “non-linear”, because he wants to explain that the practitioner is both part of the entangled patient-practitioner-remedy wavefunction and part of the homeopathic operator which operates on that wavefunction to produce the change in symptoms. This would be nonsense if it actually meant anything.

Why bother? Well, this is apparently The Principle That Makes Homeopathy Scientifically Possible: “In a heroic series of articles [11, 12, 13, 14, 15], Milgrom derives many known aspects of homeopathic medicine from his intuition that the TAI [therapeutically active ingredient] is a quantum wave function.” Note: “is a quantum wave function” not “behaves like” or “can be imagined to share some of the spooky properties of” or such like.

So there really are people out there who actually think this is going to make homeopathy scientifically respectable. I’m not really expecting to make the blindest bit of difference but somebody has to read this stuff and point out that it’s nonsense.

Edit: how could I have forgotten this?

Corruption by British firms condoned by the government
By Paul Wilson
Posted in on 19 June 2007
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If you’ve been following the Guardian recently, you’ll know about allegations of corruption surrounding the Al Yamamah arms sales to Saudi Arabia by BAE systems. The Guardian claims that Prince Bandar, a member of the Saudi royal family, received illeg…

Diddly Dum, Diddly Dum, Diddly Dum, Diddly Dee
By Labmonkey
Posted in on 17 June 2007
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Get in.Johnny Simm is the Master.Suddenly the world is good again, thanks to bad men…


By Grey
Posted in on 17 June 2007
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Miscellanea: Less Than Complete Faith, Part I

Michael Quinion on the origins of “blood cleanser”
By DC's IMPROBABLE SCIENCE
Posted in on 17 June 2007
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Break from holiday to post a lovely analysis of the origins of the term “blood cleanser” (and pictures of the Lake District). The erudite Michael Quinion of World Wide Words, has allowed me to post his investigation. The term was been a favourite of snake oil salesman in the 19th century.

MOSBO reports again
By Labmonkey
Posted in on 15 June 2007
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Along with the medical scare story of the day, I’ve noticed that BBC breakfast has, every morning, a report from what I call the Ministry of Stating the Bloody Obvious, or MOSBO for short.Keep your eyes open, you’ll see it.

Lunacy
By andrew
Posted in on 15 June 2007
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Here is a letter from today’s Metro about the recent and rather silly reports that the moon makes people go crazy and commit crimes:
In response to J Rafai — as babies, we are abaout 75 to 80 per cent water and, as we grow older, this percentage decreases until it is reduced to about 60 [...]

The fallout from DC’s de-excommunication
By DC's IMPROBABLE SCIENCE
Posted in on 15 June 2007
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One of the effects of this affair has been the posting of some critical examinations of some of the writings of Dr Ann Walker. I make no comment. The links are here.

Further recuperation
By Labmonkey
Posted in on 14 June 2007
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Another day on the sofa.This time with spicy sausage hash and lots of tea (I’ve got my appetite back, at least).I spent this afternoon watching the film Goal. I know it’s odd that a Geordie hasn’t seen the film already, but I’ve not got round to it.It’…

Food Porn
By Labmonkey
Posted in on 14 June 2007
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Long, juicy British asparagus, dripping with melted butter.Thick, creamy mashed potatoTender, plump breasts of chickenRound, wobbly pears, oozing with juicy fruity sauce.This isn’t just food, this is M&S food porn and I love it..I don’t know whethe…

Tomatso therapy
By DC's IMPROBABLE SCIENCE
Posted in on 13 June 2007
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A nice spoof on an obscure variant of laying-on-of-hands.

Laying on of hands: just tick the box
By DC's IMPROBABLE SCIENCE
Posted in on 13 June 2007
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Just as progress was being made on homeopathy, it seems that the NHS is now going for laying-on-of-hands by employing spiritual healers. This is a step too far in lying to patients. The application form for the job shows the box-ticking mentality of administrators who demand formal qualifications in mumbo-jumbo.