You’ve been tangled

September 25th, 2003 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, homeopathy, quantum physics | 2 Comments »

You’ve been tangled

Ben Goldacre
Thursday September 25, 2003
The Guardian

Talk bad science

· I don’t mean to be a suspicious soul, but ever since the great Sokal scam, when a professor of physics managed to sneak a hoax paper called “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” into a cultural studies journal, pretending that quantum electrodynamics somehow proved the veracity of postmodernist textual critiques, I’m always a bit wary of far-out articles in unlikely journals. But here at the Institute of Bad Science I’m feeling very good about our latest find: “The Entanglement Model of Homeopathy as an Example of Generalised Entanglement Predicted by Weak Quantum Theory,” published last month in Research in Complementary Medicine and Classical Naturopathy.

· This might be a German journal, but it is by no means invisibly obscure: its impact factor, the figure used by academics to measure whether a journal has a high profile or not, derived from the average number of citations per article published, was 0.63 in 2001. To give you some idea of what this means, the stellar Nature got 28, and Biochemistry, a good journal, came in at 4.1.

· I could quote the whole abstract, but it’s so barking that if I did you’d all stop reading immediately, and, as my editor helpfully says, the first rule of feature writing is never file anything that nobody will read. So check it out for yourself at

But basically, their brilliant entanglement model is based on the concept of “Weak Quantum Theory”, which has only 24 entries on Google and is authoritatively referenced to, er, another paper by the same guys. They seem to take the ideas of complementarity and entanglement from quantum physics, usually used to describe things like position, momentum, and spin of particles, and then reinterpret the whole game, saying that “epistemic complementarity can produce entanglement”.

Which is to say, similar, or complementary, ideas can produce quantum entanglement. Or as they put it: “It transpires that homeopathy uses two instances of generalised entanglement: one between the remedy and the original substance (potentiation principle) and one between the individual symptoms of a patient and the general symptoms of a remedy picture (similarity principle). By bringing these two elements together, double entanglement ensues, which is reminiscent of cryptographic and teleportation applications of entanglement in QM proper.” Indeed.

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