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.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Razor's edge

A few weeks ago, I ordered some replacement blades for my electric razor, and last week I was complaining to a friend that the result was being inundated afterward by advertisements for replacement blades for electric razors.

You'd think the advertisers would have figured out by now that if someone buys something, it generally makes no sense to screech at them immediately afterward to buy the same thing again.  The problem (from the advertisers' perspective) is that there's no way to calculate accurately when would be immediately prior to my needing to replace the blades, which would be the time to do it.  But either way, sending advertisements to me immediately afterward seems kind of silly.

Anyhow, this all comes up because my friend emailed me yesterday with a link and the message, "Hey, maybe you won't need to replace your blades again!"  The link was to a site called "Pyramid Razor Sharpener: It Actually Works! Make Your Own In 10 Minutes!"

This is the first I've seen any pyramid-power bullshit in a while -- the last one I recall was back in 2012, when someone took a photo of one of the pyramids at Chichen Itza and found that it had a mysterious beam of light shooting upwards from it.  It turned out that the whole thing was easily explainable as a common digital camera malfunction, but that didn't prevent the woo-woos from jumping around making excited little squeaking noises about how everything they'd said about pyramids was true after all, take that, you dumb ol' skeptics, etc.

[Image licensed under the Creative Commons Ricardo Liberato, All Gizah Pyramids, CC BY-SA 2.0]

So I suppose it's unsurprising that there is still a lot of latent interest in pyramids lying around, waiting for some unsuspecting nimrod to come along and pick it up.  This at least partly explains the "Pyramid Razor Sharpener" website, wherein we find out how wonderful pyramids are for sharpening razors by having the words "Pyramid Razor Sharpener" thrown at us (no lie) fifteen times.  Here are a few of the other things we learn:
  • A pyramid is a "cone shape, but with flat sides and corners."  Which is true in approximately the same fashion as saying that a cube is "a sphere shape, but with flat sides and edges."
  • Razor blades and other sharp metal objects become dull not because use wears and blunts the edges, but because of "a crystalline build-up on the blade, static electricity and dehydration."
  • It's especially hard on razors to use them for shaving, because the "repeated rubbing of the blade on the face hairs induces an ionic crystal formation of the water molecules upon the skin."
  • Pyramids work because "alignment with the magnetic field provides for the naturally present charged particles to be 'entrapped' by the pyramid and their resulting focus at the corners."  Whatever the fuck that means.
  • It can't be a different shape than a pyramid (such as a cylinder, which is like a cube shape but with flat circles on the end) because "the particular dimensions of the pyramid cause a concentration, or focus of a negative static charge at one third of its height at an equal distance from the four corners."
  • Because we're talking about static charges, here, you shouldn't build your pyramid out of something that conducts electricity.  He suggests cardboard.  (I bet the ancient Egyptians wish they'd realized this before they busted their asses hauling around all of those gigantic rocks.)
  • If you put your dull razor under the pyramid, it will become sharp because of ions.  More specifically, the "positive ions of the crystals on the blade are effectively neutralized by the negatively charged ion concentration inside the pyramid.  The crystals are stripped of their bonds and water molecules are released.  This results in the dehydration (this is the same with mummification) of the crystals, which are destroyed.  The blade is now clean and feels sharp once again."  So q.e.d., as far as I can tell.
The funny thing about all of this, besides the fact that in order to believe any of it your science education would have had to cease in the fourth grade, is that this guy doesn't appear to be selling anything.  He doesn't wind up by saying "send me fifty bucks, and I'll tell you how!" or "for a hundred bucks, I'll send you a build-your-own-pyramid kit!" or "for the low price of only $199.99, I'll send you my motivational lecture series 'Things I've Learned While Sitting Under a Pyramid,' with a bonus set of ultra-sharp razor blades as a FREE gift!"  He seems to be openly and honestly sharing something he feels to be a legitimate and scientifically-supported life hack, despite the fact that way back in 2005 pyramid power was tested on Mythbusters and found to be (surprise!) completely bogus.

So there's something kind of endearingly earnest about this guy, even though if he thinks that water forms "ionic crystals" he really should sign up for a chemistry class.  (He did say that he'd written his "scientific explanation" of how it works in such a way as "not to sound too sciencey," and I'd say he succeeded at least as far as that goes.)  My general conclusion, however, is that you probably should stick to ordinary strops and knife sharpeners, and/or doing what I did, namely buying new razor blades when yours get dull.  Even if you built your pyramid out of scrap cardboard, you're better off recycling it and finding a different way to "neutralize your positive ions."


This week's Skeptophilia book recommendation is apt given our recent focus on all things astronomical: Edward Brooke-Hitching's amazing The Sky Atlas.

This lovely book describes our history of trying to map out the heavens, from the earliest Chinese, Babylonian, and Native American drawings of planetary positions, constellations, and eclipses, to the modern mapping techniques that pinpoint the location of stars far too faint to see with the naked eye -- and objects that can't be seen directly at all, such as intergalactic dust clouds and black holes.  I've always loved maps, and this book combines that with my passion for astronomy into one brilliant volume.

It's also full of gorgeous illustrations showing not only the maps themselves but the astronomers who made them.  If you love looking up at the sky, or love maps, or both -- this one should be on your list for sure.

[Note: if you purchase this book using the image/link below, part of the proceeds goes to support Skeptophilia!]

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