Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Ruby slippers and tachyon energy

One of the most frustrating types of woo-woo belief is the kind that is out of the reach of any sort of experimental testing.  Fortunately, it's a rare thing; most odd, unsupported claims are at least theoretically accessible to controlled scientific investigation.  Psychics, mediums, dowsing, aura manipulation, homeopathy, astrology, cryptozoology... all of those have been the subjects of scrutiny by actual scientists using the lens of experimentation (and all, by the way, have failed thus far to generate any results that would be convincing to a skeptic).

But a claim that is inherently untestable isn't common, and that's including if you throw in religious belief.  I mean, even the creation and "great flood" stories from Christian myth can be analyzed on the basis of evidence.  So it takes a special talent at woo-woo thinking to devise something that you couldn't test experimentally even if you wanted to.

I ran into a good example of this yesterday on a website sent by one of my loyal readers, a page on the website School of Awakening entitled, "Tachyon."  At first, it would seem that they're just using the word "tachyon" to mean the same old tired "life force energy vibrational frequencies" you see on so many woo-woo websites:
Tachyon, a Greek word meaning ‘swift’, was coined by physicist in the 1960’s to describe a faster than light particle which according to physics is “beyond velocity, omni-present, carries 100% potential of all form, beyond time, eternal, and formless.”  Tachyon is considered by quantum physics to be the ‘messenger’ of the Zero Point Field, which is what people commonly think of as ‘source.’  Both the Zero Point Field and Tachyon have a ‘negative entropy’ effect, which translates as; bringing order out of chaos.  Entropy is the process of decay and dying.  Negative entropy is life in a state of rejuvenation and renewal.
Interesting that they start out, as so many woo-woos do, by borrowing terms from theoretical physics.   The word tachyon was coined in 1967 by physicist Gerald Feinberg to describe a hypothetical particle that travels always faster than light and therefore breaks the laws of causality (i.e., if it existed, you could use it to send signals into your own past).  Most scientists consider the tachyon only an interesting fiction -- no evidence for its existence has ever been found, and there are a great many compelling arguments against it.

But that doesn't stop the School of Awakening people:
Tachyon, being a non-frequency type of healing method, cannot push our bodies out of balance.  ["Tachyonization" inventor] David Wagner tells us that our bodies absorb this rejuvenating source energy, turn it into the physical frequency we need, and only take in as much as is needed in that moment.  It is the body’s own intelligence which determines the amount of Tachyon we absorb.
So all of this sounds awfully nice.  An anti-entropy, age-reversing medication you can't take too much of because your body's intelligence tells you exactly how much to absorb.

Then they tell you about some "tachyonized" products they're selling that can bring "tachyons" into the water and food you consume, or even directly into your body:
The Tachyonized™ products which David Wagner manufactures at his factory go through his machines in a process which takes 14 days to complete.  At the end of this time, they have become permanent Tachyon antennae and can be used on, in or around the body and the environment to maximize regeneration and wellness.  See Tachyon Products and see Tachyon Vortex Pendants for information on the tachyon pendants available to people who have attended tachyon training workshops.
This, then, causes changes in an energetic system that everything in the universe can detect and interact with... except for humans (presumably because we're just kind of dumb):
All energy systems, except humans, are connected vertically with the Source and HIS/HER inexhaustible flow of universal life force energy, maintaining what we call the energetic continuum...  This structure we find with all life forms as a basic energetic matrix, which keeps our entire universe interconnected.
And we're given a list of positive results that will occur from all of this hocus-pocus:
  • Dissolve pain
  • Reduce stress
  • Harmonizing and re-opening of the chakras
  • Balancing harmful electromagnetic waves from computer and mobile phone use
  • Bring wellness and youthing to the body
  • Optimise sports performance
  • Charge water with life enhancing energy
  • Raise consciousness
Now, so far, how is this different from any other woo-woo nonsense out there? Wouldn't this still fall into the realm of the testable?  The answer is no, and here's the really clever bit that sets them apart from your run-of-the-mill purveyor of pseudoscience:
A human system naturally goes through cycles of order and chaos on its path of evolution.  When it is unable to adapt to more stress in its life the crisis comes to a peak.  This is called a Bifurcation point. 
At this point the body will either go into chaos (begin manifesting an illness which may have been latent for years), or it will move to better health.  Using Tachyon will speed the energetic blockage to a bifurcation point and transform the problem, which may bring insights or understanding of the underlying cause.
See what they did, there?  You're supposed to buy all of the "tachyonized" crystals and disks and everything, because they (1) emit a particle that is inherently impossible to detect, which interacts with (2) an energy system in your body that is inherently impossible to detect, and that will result in (3) any physical conditions you have either getting better or worse depending on which path you needed to take at the "Bifurcation Point."

Oh, but by all means, you should buy the crystals and disks and all.  They have case studies.  They have testimonials.  All you have to do, apparently, is believe, and you can return to Kansas any time you want.

What bugs me here is that there are people with legitimate medical conditions who are being suckered by hucksters like this, and who aren't going to get the treatments they need because they would rather waste their money being "tachyonized."  And in some sense, the people who are convinced by these snake oil salesmen are gullible enough that they have no one to blame but themselves if they get fooled.

But part of me still gets angry.  Getting rich off of people who don't understand how science works, who are swayed by big words and subtle pretzel logic, just isn't nice.  I know that there is no way to stop them; they've been too clever at crafting their argument so that it is experimentally irrefutable.   Staying with The Wizard of Oz theme, some days it'd just be nice if there was a skeptic's version to the Flying Monkeys, that could just... take care of things for me.

But honestly, I suppose that isn't nice, either.

The only answer, as always, is in getting people to understand how science works.  So toward that end, I'd better wrap this up and go off to have my un-tachyonized coffee and take my slower-than-the-speed-of-light car to school, where I can hopefully do my part in immunizing my students against falling for this sort of unscientific bullshit.


Humans have a morbid fascination with things that are big and powerful and can kill you.  Look at the number of movies made and books written about tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanoes, not to mention hordes of predatory dinosaurs picking people off the streets.  But in the "horrifically dangerous" category, nothing can beat black holes -- collapsed stars with a gravitational field so strong not even light can escape.  If you fell into one of these things, you'd get "spaghettified" -- stretched by tidal forces into a long, thin streamer of goo -- and every trace of you would be destroyed so thoroughly that they'd not even be theoretically possible to retrieve.

Add to that the fact that because light can't escape them, you can't even see them.  Kind of makes a pack of velociraptors seem tame by comparison, doesn't it?

So no wonder there are astrophysicists who have devoted their lives to studying these beasts.  One of these is Shep Doeleman, whose determination to understand the strangest objects in the universe is the subject of Seth Fletcher's wonderful book Einstein's Shadow: A Black Hole, a Band of Astronomers, and the Quest to See the Unseeable.  It's not comfortable reading -- when you realize how completely insignificant we are on the scale of the universe, it's considerably humbling -- but it'll leave you in awe of how magnificent, how strange, and how beautiful the cosmos is, and amaze you that the human brain is capable of comprehending it.

[If you purchase the book from Amazon using the image/link below, part of the proceeds goes to supporting Skeptophilia!]

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