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, December 20, 2021

That healthy glow

You may recall that a few days ago, I posted about a company that sells beanies and boxer briefs designed to protect you from the supposed ill effects of 5G, and electromagnetic fields in general.  The upshot of my post was that the low-level EMFs we're exposed to in the ordinary course of things have never been shown to cause harm, so at best such purchases are a waste of money that could be more productively used for other purposes, which in my opinion includes using it to start a campfire.

I choose the words "at best" deliberately, because in one of those weird synchronicities that happen sometimes, I ran into an article just yesterday on the BBC News that said there's another reason to avoid these products.  You ready?

It's because some of them are...

... wait for it...

... radioactive.

My reaction upon reading this was, and I quote:

BA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA *gasp, pant, wheeze* HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

I mean, you can't make this stuff up.  The Dutch Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection found that nine products from a company called EnergyArmor -- all of which allegedly protect you from the dangers of 5G and electromagnetic radiation -- themselves give off enough ionizing radiation that the agency recommended owners stop wearing them immediately, put them aside (preferably in the original packaging and away from close proximity to people and pets), and call the company to ask for a refund.  

This includes the amusingly-named Quantum Pendant™, which you can tell is extremely quantum because it says "Quantum Pendant" about eighty times on the box.

Why this pendant is any more quantum than anything else, given that all matter -- including dogs, avocados, umbrellas, cow shit, and Mitch McConnell -- is made up of the same set of subatomic particles that obey the same rules of quantum physics, is never explained.  My guess is they have no idea themselves.  The original claim ("low-level EMFs are harmful") has nothing to do with science, and as I've remarked before, it's very hard to logic your way out of a belief you didn't logic your way into.

Also, in this case, the fact that lots of gullible people are willing to hand over their hard-earned cash for this nonsense is a hell of an incentive to make it sound sophisticated.

So the purported health benefits of anti-5G-wear is offset fairly dramatically by the (real) hazard of wearing something radioactive against your skin.  Sad to say, but we appear as a species not to have progressed very far from when Marie and Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity, and found that radium salts glowed in the dark, from which people immediately concluded that these were soothing healing rays that could be used to treat damn near everything, and this includes a guy who (I am not making this up) fixed a radium-infused gizmo onto a jock strap, presumably to jazz up his sex life.

Didn't work.  Poor slob died of bladder cancer.

That, of course, was over a hundred years ago, and science has learned a lot since then.  Unfortunately -- and this is the sad part -- people in general apparently haven't.  There are still folks who prefer to believe foolishness over evidence-based research.  As my dad used to say, you can fix ignorant, but you can't fix stupid.

But the timing of the product recall in the Netherlands was just too wonderful not to comment upon.  And maybe this will wake a few people up.  I'm not really holding out that much hope, though.  The 5G-blocking-stuff manufacturers will probably just put the Dutch Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection on their (long) list of groups that are in on the conspiracy, joining the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, and the National Institute of Health.  I'm probably in there somewhere, too, most likely on their "shill" list.  Which, by the way. makes me wonder where the hell my Shill Check™ is.  You'd think that all of my scorn would earn me something.

Maybe it was delayed in the mail.  The Post Office is probably on to the conspiracy and is preventing us shills from getting paid.  You know how it goes.


I remember when I first learned about the tragedy of how much classical literature has been lost.  Take, for example, Sophocles, which anyone who's taken a college lit class probably knows because of his plays Oedipus Rex, Antigone, and Oedipus at Colonus.  He was the author of at least 120 plays, of which only seven have survived.  While we consider him to be one of the most brilliant ancient Greek playwrights, we don't even have ten percent of the literature he wrote.  As Carl Sagan put it, it's as if all we had of Shakespeare was Timon of Athens, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Cymbeline, and were judging his talent based upon that.

The same is true of just about every classical Greek and Roman writer.  Little to nothing of their work survives; some are only known because of references to their writing in other authors.  Some of what we do have was saved by fortunate chance; this is the subject of Stephen Greenblatt's wonderful book The Swerve, which is about how a fifteenth-century book collector, Poggio Bracciolini, discovered in a monastic library what might well have been the sole remaining copy of Lucretius's masterwork De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), which was one of the first pieces of writing to take seriously Democritus's idea that all matter is made of atoms.

The Swerve looks at the history of Lucretius's work (and its origin in the philosophy of Epicurus) and the monastic tradition that allowed it to survive, as well as Poggio's own life and times and how his discovery altered the course of our pursuit of natural history.  (This is the "swerve" referenced in the title.)  It's a fascinating read for anyone who enjoys history or science (or the history of science).  His writing is clear, lucid, and quick-paced, about as far from the stereotype of historical writing being dry and boring as you could get.  You definitely need to put this one on your to-read list.

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

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