I thought they'd plunged to the bottom of the Crazy Barrel with their announcement of a remedy called "homeopathic water." This is, unfortunately, exactly what it sounds like. It's water diluted with water, then shaken up, then diluted again and again.
So I thought, "This is it. It can't get any loonier than that."
I was very, very wrong, and found out the depth of my mistake at Frank van der Kooy's site Complementary Medicine -- Exposing Academic Charlatans, wherein we find out that watering water down with water is far from the nuttiest thing the homeopaths make "remedies" from.
Here are a few things that van der Kooy found out form the basis of a homeopathic remedy:
- Black holes. Yes, I mean the astronomical object, and yes, I'm serious. An amateur astronomer put a vial of alcohol on a telescope aimed at the location of Cygnus X-1, the first black hole to be discovered. My guess is that said astronomer had consumed a good bit of the alcohol first, and that's how he got the idea. But after the vial had sat there for a while, and gotten saturated with the Essence of Black Hole, it was diluted to "30C" (known to the rest of us as one part in ten to the thirtieth power). The homeopaths say if you consume it, it causes you to have a "drawing inward" sensation (because, I'm guessing, black holes pull stuff in). One person who tested it said it felt like her teeth were being pulled backwards into her head. Why this is supposed to be a good thing, I have no idea.
- Vacuum. I'm not talking about the machine, I'm talking about the physical phenomenon. I don't have a clue how you would mix a vacuum in water, nor what "diluting a vacuum" even means. The "practitioner," however, says it's really good for treating the flu.
- The note "F." Why F and not C# or Ab or something, I'm not sure, but apparently this is made by playing the note F at some water, then diluting it a bunch. After that, it's good as a "tranquilizer" and "cardiac regulator."
- The south pole of a magnet. Again, I'm not sure what's special about the south pole, but if you somehow introduce south-poliness into some water, you can use it to treat frostbite, hernia, dislocations, ingrown toenails, and "levitation." (I feel obliged at this point to state again for the record that I'm not making this up.)
- Dog shit. Supposedly, consuming diluted dog shit helps you get over feelings of self-disgust, which you would definitely need if you're consuming diluted dog shit. It also helps if you dream about dogs, or "feel like your arms and legs are getting shorter," which I didn't know was even a thing.
- The Berlin Wall. A remedy made from a chunk of the Wall -- and not to beat this point to death, but the Wall piece was shaken up in water and diluted a gazillion times -- is good for treating despair. I could use some right now, because after reading about how many people believe this kind of thing works, I'm inclined to agree with Professor Farnsworth.
Van der Kooy has other examples, and some really amusing commentary, so I urge you to check out his website, as long as you don't mind further declines in your opinion about the general intelligence of the human species.
Once again, I'm struck not by people coming up with this nonsense -- because selling nonsense to make money has been a pastime of humans for a long, long time. What gets me is that apparently people read this stuff, and don't have the response that I did, which is to snort derisively and say, "You have got to be fucking kidding me." Instead, they pull out their credit cards and start buying.
So here we are again, shaking our heads in utter bafflement. At least I hope you are. I hope you haven't read this and said, "What's he pissing and moaning for? This all makes perfect sense." If that was, in fact, your response, please don't tell me about it. Now y'all will have to excuse me, because I'm going to go take my anti-despair Berlin Wall remedy, mixed well into a double scotch. That might actually have some effect.
This week's Featured Book on Skeptophilia:
This week I'm featuring a classic: Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Sagan, famous for his work on the series Cosmos, here addresses the topics of pseudoscience, skepticism, credulity, and why it matters -- even to laypeople. Lucid, sometimes funny, always fascinating.