Thursday January 15, 2004
Talk bad science
Â· You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to catch a Sunday Times beauty journalist out. “Harriet Griffey thought bottled water was a con, until mountain-pure H < ->2 O healed her senses.” Let’s stop her right there. I think I can write these things for myself these days. Don’t tell me: water comes in funny “clusters”, which only beauty journalists and the people who make the stuff can detect. You make them smaller with a special secret process, and then they hydrate and absorb toxins better. Oh, and the special water is really expensive (let’s say Â£13.95 a bottle) but they’ve proved it works with some special science. Which hasn’t been published anywhere. Did I miss anything?
Â· Let’s just check the inventor’s website. He has an authentically large beard, and the process works “under the principle of implosion and magnetic transfer”. It continues: “This natural magnetic transfer using electromagnetic waves does not come from using magnets or electricity.” Wow, neither? Now that’s impressive. Back to lovely Harriet, in her white chiffon A-line lab coat. “Well, that’s the science _ I am as sceptical as the next person, and am not convinced by hype.” Yes: she’s going to prove it for herself. Experimentally. “Take one lemon. Cut it in half and squeeze each half into two identical glasses. Place one next to a bottle of Blue Water, the other on the opposite side of the room. Wait five minutes, then taste … While the juice in one glass remained wincingly sharp, the lemon in the other, placed next to the Blue Water, was noticeably softer and less tart. Even through glass, the effect of the water is enough to change the taste of the lemon juice.” Head of particle physics on line one for Ms Harriet Griffey.
Â· Meanwhile, it was a delight to see intellectual Jeanette Winterson, following her recent article on the predictive powers of her favourite astrologer, writing in the Times on Saturday about a project to treat Aids sufferers in Botswana – where 48% of the population is HIV positive – with homeopathy. Some might say it was slightly patronising, unrealistic or even pointless to take your western, patient-empowering, anti-medical establishment and culturally specific placebo to a country that has little healthcare infrastructure, is frequently engaged in a water war with Namibia, and suffers frequent droughts. But we can only guess what the people of Botswana might say.