Saturday, April 26


The Stupid Files

Today's dose of burning stupid comes to us courtesy of Lynne McTaggart of The Intention Experiment

What is The Intention Experiment?  Well, about 13 hours from now, McTaggart plans to change the spectroscopic fingerprint of a sample of water by thinking at it.

Yes, you read that correctly.

She's planning to point a Raman spectrometer at a beaker of water, and think good (or perhaps bad) thoughts at it for a few hours, in hopes that it will change.  Change what?  Well, she doesn't exactly say.  There are three things that can change a spectroscopic fingerprint: A change in the actual chemical structure of the compound you're studying; uneven mixtures of impurities; and random variation because you're running an experiment with no controls and no clearly stated goals.

It's a bit like modern "ghost hunters": Get hold of an extremely sensitive scientific instrument that you don't understand, and wave it about until it registers a reading that it wasn't showing before.  It doesn't matter what the reading is, because you haven't bothered to make any predictions or set up any controls.  Any reading at all will do.

More generally, this is termed a unicorn hunt: Go out, find something, and call it a unicorn.

McTaggart brings real scientific expertise to the table, in the form of, well, I'll let her tell it:
Scientists like Dr. Rustum Roy, who is an expert on water, at the University of Pennsylvania, have recorded the structuring of water with electromagnetic radiation.
Professor Roy is an elderly but respected materials scientist specialising in ceramics, which is not notably a category featuring water among its members.  He famously lent his name to a paper proposing structures in water as a potential mechanism for homeopathy based entirely on Raman spectroscopic analysis of alcohol.  Which is not only not a ceramic, but also not water.  Said paper also lacked any proper controls, or any relevant discussion of what was being measured and how.  Again, all they were looking for was anomalies, with no prior definition of what would be considered anomalous.

In short, it's unicorns all the way down.

McTaggart is no fool: She's using the notoriety of this ludicrous bit of pseudo-science to flog her books and DVDs, which I can recommend highly to no-one at all.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 01:44 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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1 Sounds like they should be using not a Raman spectrometer, but an E-meter

Posted by: mikey at Saturday, May 17 2008 02:46 PM (LvSr1)

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