What is science? First, magnetise your wine …

December 3rd, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, bad science, magnets, very basic science | 70 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday December 3, 2005
The Guardian

People often ask me [pulls pensively on pipe] “what is science?” And I reply thusly: science is exactly what we do in this column. We take a claim, and we pull it apart to extract a clear scientific hypothesis, like “homeopathy makes people better faster than placebo” or “the Chemsol lab correctly identifies MRSA”; then we examine the experimental evidence for that hypothesis; and lastly, if there is no evidence, we devise new experiments. Science.

Back in December 2003, as part of our Bad Science Christmas Gift series, we discovered The Perfect Sommelier, a rather expensive wine conditioning device available in all good department stores (www.badscience.net/?p=192) In fact there are lots of devices like this for sale, including the ubiquitous Wine Magnet: “Let your wine ‘age’ several years in only 45 minutes! Place the bottle in the Wine Magnet! The Wine Magnet then creates a strong magnetic field that goes to the heart of your wine and naturally softens the bitter taste of tannins in ‘young’ wines.”

At the time, I mentioned how easy it would be to devise an experiment to test whether people could tell the difference between magnetised and untreated wine. I also noted how strange it was that none of the manufacturers seemed to have bothered, since it could be done in an evening with 50 people.

Over to Dr James Rubin et al of the Mobile Phones Research Unit at Kings College London, and their new article doing just that, in the esteemed Journal of Wine Research (full reference at badscience.net) They note the dearth of experimental research (quoting, rather chuffingly, the Bad Science column itself) and go on: “One retailer states, ‘we challenge you to try it yourself – you won’t believe the difference it can make’.” Unwise words. “A review of Medline, PsychInfo, Cinahl, Embase, Amed and the Web of Science using the search term ‘wine and magnet’ suggested that, as yet, no scientists have taken up this challenge.”

Now this study was, I have to say, an extremely professional operation. Before they even started, they did a power calculation: this is to decide how big your sample size needs to be, to be reasonably sure you don’t miss a true positive finding by not having enough subjects to detect a small difference. Since the manufacturers’ claims are dramatic, this came out at a mere 50 subjects.

Then they recruited their subjects, using wine. This wine had been magnetised, or not, by a third party, and the experimenters were blind to which wine was which. The subjects were also unaware of whether the wine they were tasting, which cost £2.99 a bottle, was magnetised or not. They received wine A or wine B, and it was a “crossover design” – some people got wine A first, and some people got wine B first, in case the order you got them in affected your palate and preferences.

There was no statistically significant difference in whether people expressed a preference for the magnetised wine or the non-magnetised wine. To translate back to the language of commercial claims: people couldn’t tell the difference between magnetised and non-magnetised wine. I realise that might not come as a huge surprise to you. But the real action is in the conclusions. “Practitioners of unconventional interventions often cite cost as a reason for not carrying out rigorous assessments of the effectiveness of their products. This double-blind randomised cross-over trial cost under £70 to conduct and took one week to design, run and analyse. Its simplicity is shown by the fact that it was run by two 16-year-old work experience students (EA and RI).”

“Unfortunately,” they continue, “our research leaves us no nearer to an understanding of how to improve the quality of cheap wine and more research into this area is now called for as a matter of urgency.”

“Drawn to drink: A double-blind randomised cross-over trial of the effects of magnets on the taste of cheap red wine” G. James Rubin, Gareth Hahn, Edward Allberry, Ross Innes And Simon Wessely. Journal of Wine Research Volume 16, Number 1 / April 2005 pp.65- 70

·Send your bad science to bad.science@guardian.co.uk


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70 Responses



  1. Artiki said,

    December 3, 2005 at 9:17 am

    At last, an experiment we can all try at home.

  2. oharar said,

    December 3, 2005 at 9:32 am

    Damn, I can’t get access to it until next April. A pity: it looks useful for teaching design of experiments. They even had enough money in the budget to replicate the treatment and control!

    I guess the only criticism is that they used a single brand of wine: this needs to be replicated for other brands. I would volunteer to carry out the work here, but the alcohol taxes are too high in Finland.

    Bob

  3. rich13 said,

    December 3, 2005 at 12:11 pm

    Is there *any* reason to think that magnets would have any effect on wine?

    I mean, should we try holding our mobile phones up to our vodka to… say… prevent hangovers?

    Should we try the magnet trick with cheap coffee?

    Et bleedin’ cetera.

    Anyone want to spend (even) £70 quid on these ideas? If not, why not?

  4. amoebic vodka said,

    December 3, 2005 at 1:59 pm

    Great experiment. Now if only we had 50 friends and £70 going spare, we could see if it is reproduceable. How about trying a similar experiment at the Bad Science awards?

  5. Oldtoolie said,

    December 3, 2005 at 2:45 pm

    This experiment is a good effort in showing the simplicity and possible effectiveness of the scientific method.

    But any experiment benefits from peer review. Unfortunately this experiment would be like testing a diet cure on skinny people.

    As an experienced wine drinker, I can say that £2.99 a bottle wine is cheap and hopefully cheerful. It is made to drink soon and quickly and does not benefit from ageing. Five years from now, £2.99 wine will taste no better and probably worse. Wine that benefits from aging is more complex and more expensive. Since these devices are purported to speed up aging of wine, you would have to use a wine that would benefit from aging to make any scientific conclusions.

    I welcome the chance to join you should you desire to repeat the test with a proper Bordeaux or Pinot Noir. We would have to have some properly aged samples as well in order to compare, recognising that the variable nature of annual vintages might throw the results off and require more testing.

    I am at your service.

  6. jaws said,

    December 3, 2005 at 4:16 pm

    Very interesting column! Regarding the “what is science” question, I’m constantly reminded of the following quote I saw on a poster in the office of a Researcher (a quality scientist not a quack fyi):

    “The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set a limit to infinite error.”
    – Bertolt Brecht,

  7. raygirvan said,

    December 3, 2005 at 5:14 pm

    Nice work. While Googling for details I found a heartwarming thread in the Wine Lovers Community list, Wine magnets and snake oil, where sceptics are giving the supplier of one such wine-enhancing device a hard time.

    This sounds first cousin to La Clef du Vin: not a magnet, but a little widget with a spot of magic alloy alleged to simulate the ageing of wine, one year for every second you dip it in. This one got a good slagging-off from the Advertising Standards Authority in July.

  8. Ben Goldacre said,

    December 3, 2005 at 7:00 pm

    lots of the ads i’ve seen for this kind of device specifically say they are directed at improving the taste of cheap wine. i love the idea of testing it at a bad science event, can somebody remind me when we have one?

  9. ChrisH said,

    December 3, 2005 at 11:48 pm

    Re. defining science – have a look at weebls-stuff.com/toons/science/

  10. Pathman said,

    December 4, 2005 at 12:28 am

    Whatever you call the wee drinkie that ye bought , ye
    shouldnt call it wine. or Whisky. But rather a

  11. Pathman said,

    December 4, 2005 at 12:39 am

    Bloody Stupid, There only one way to age a wine in the bottle and that is through slowly letting it coming in contact witth oxygen, or you get vinegar as an End product.

  12. Nasty Jim said,

    December 4, 2005 at 1:39 am

    Hmm, maybe. I’m a beer drinker, and think perceived wine quality is a placebo effect proportional to the cost. You have a wine that strips the enamel off your teeth and tastes of nitric acid and shit, at £2.99 people will say so. If you charged £100 for it, people will force it down and call it it “a complex, well-aged and uncompromisingly robust wine with idiosyncratic tartness and rustic hints of musk, straw and countryside”.

  13. John A said,

    December 4, 2005 at 2:03 am

    Nice, I wonder what the ASA would have to say about it. Of course they probably have been careful enough to only say something like “you might be surprised how much it improves the taste of your wine” or some other such weaselry.

    Ben:

    i love the idea of testing it at a bad science event, can somebody remind me when we have one?

    See the events page – I believe there’s an airing of some quackbusting movies or something… ;-)

  14. Ben Goldacre said,

    December 4, 2005 at 12:21 pm

    ah, maybe i should try and do that before xmas. the trouble is, i got a bit angsty about the copyright issues on having a public screening, even if i’m not charging money for it. any copyright nerds? i think i’d need to find out what the deal is for every single one of these ancient films…

  15. amoebic vodka said,

    December 4, 2005 at 12:50 pm

    Hmm, we think you need permission for a public screening, but you could always claim we are your friends, then it might count as a private screening. If the place you are intending to host it at doesn’t have an entertainment license then it has to be a private event anyway, we think.

  16. Teek said,

    December 4, 2005 at 1:10 pm

    “i love the idea of testing it at a bad science event, can somebody remind me when we have one? ”

    Ben, the PhD convocation that’s taking shape over in the discussion forum would be an ideal time to carry out this experiment – all we need now is a time and venue.

    i still reckon that we should choose a “prestigious, non-accredited” university as the venue, and perhaps 1st April is a good date…?

  17. Ben Goldacre said,

    December 4, 2005 at 1:37 pm

    trouble is, in the uk you can’t randomly confer degrees, so we’ll have to get them in from elsewhere. i have a plan in hand, although if anyone in the us wants to help out (as i keep saying) that would be great.

    as for film venue, much as i’d love to have everyone over to mine, it’ll be a public place with a bar, so the copyright thing is an issue, unless someone has a better idea..

  18. Teek said,

    December 4, 2005 at 1:46 pm

    UCL’s Bloomsbury theatre? i have a feeling they are able to do film screenings sans problems…

  19. Bruce said,

    December 4, 2005 at 2:02 pm

    Another wine enthusiast seems to have had the same thought (about how easy it would be to test this, and how surprising that nobody seems to have done so). They did a test in 2002: www.winelabels.org/artps.htm
    (I won’t spoil the surprise about the outcome.)

  20. Andrew Clegg said,

    December 4, 2005 at 3:40 pm

    Here’s a suggestion for a target, err, subject for next week’s article.

    Just 20 pages from this article is a full-page interview with Zac Goldsmith, including an advert — I can’t think of a better word for it, although there probably is some newspaper jargon term — for some of the things he sells in his organic boutique in Chelsea.

    These include the Pulse Bioshield, a yellow stress-ball-like object which apparently neutralises “the harmful side-effects (including headaches, deafness, memory loss, confusion etc) of so-called electromagnetic smog produced by mobile phones.”

    And he wants to be a Tory MP… Ideal.

    Andrew.

  21. Josh Kuperman said,

    December 4, 2005 at 4:29 pm

    You might want to read the sections in Malcolm Gladwell’s _Blink_ on taste tests and Coke vs Pepsi. Taste testing is a skill requiring a very skilled observer. On the other hand if you found such a skilled observer they could probably tell you straight out.

  22. oharar said,

    December 4, 2005 at 4:59 pm

    “i love the idea of testing it at a bad science event, can somebody remind me when we have one? ”

    How about trying to co-ordinate with the UK National Science Week? Perhaps do it a week before, so that you don’t contaminate the “real” science.

    Bob

  23. Huw Jones said,

    December 4, 2005 at 5:08 pm

    On the same day as your piece on how easy it is to test claimes of improvement in the quality of wine, a Guardian colleague Victoria Moore was writing about ‘biodynamics’ in the Guardian Weekend. After suggesting that the method involves ‘astrology charts, burying horns full of cow dung in the vineyard’, she goes on to eulogise, ‘I would compare its effect to that of restoring a painting. Biodynamic wines seem to have … a sharper definition and deep sense of collectedness. Drinking them is like talking to someone very rooted, imperturbable and wise.’ Apart from this being a load of tosh, it’s a shame she didn’t submit the method to the kind of test you outlined.

  24. Peter Evans said,

    December 4, 2005 at 5:14 pm

    I like the Zac Goldsmith idea.

    While you are at it, how about a discussion on the regular Ask Emma column in the Weekend section.

    You are allowed, aren’t you?

  25. raygirvan said,

    December 4, 2005 at 7:40 pm

    I just found this link describing biodynamics. Sounds like a cross between organic farming, homeopathy and necromancy (they’re very big on fermenting stuff inside bits of animals).

  26. Elmer Phudd said,

    December 4, 2005 at 7:42 pm

    What happens at a ‘Bad Science’ event?? Does it involve the Dalai Llama?

  27. Elmer Phudd said,

    December 4, 2005 at 7:45 pm

    Dalai’s llama? Pfff.

  28. Dr* T said,

    December 4, 2005 at 9:34 pm

    Does the Dalai’s Llama get on OK with Shroedinger’s Cat?

  29. Elmer Phudd said,

    December 4, 2005 at 10:33 pm

    Until it died*, yes :(

    *alledgedly

  30. oharar said,

    December 5, 2005 at 7:40 am

    “Does it involve the Dalai Llama?”

    The one-l lama,
    He’s a priest.
    The two-l llama,
    He’s a beast.
    And I will bet
    A silk pajama
    There isn’t any
    Three-l lllama.*

    — Ogden Nash

    (to which Nash appended the footnote
    *The author’s attention has been called to a type of conflagration known
    as a three-alarmer. Pooh.
    )

  31. Hanne said,

    December 5, 2005 at 11:19 am

    On a more serious note:

    news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4482174.stm

    is a particularly good article regarding Lord May’s final speech to the Royal Society this week and the threat to science from the ‘denial lobby’.

    Sexing it up!

  32. Alistair Mackenzie said,

    December 5, 2005 at 1:40 pm

    Does bad science promote bad science?

    What was the evidence that the 50 volunteers could tell the difference between aged wine and cheap plonk? Surely there needed to be a pre-experiment to decide whether they have a sufficiently discerning palate for the job. Not that I think the result will be much different but more experiments involving drinking wine can only be a good thing.

  33. Ben Goldacre said,

    December 5, 2005 at 3:21 pm

    well, the claim of these products would seem to be that everyday folk who buy them will prefer the magnetised wine, so everyday folk preferring the magnetised wine is the hypothesis to test, as in the experiment.

  34. JK said,

    December 5, 2005 at 3:42 pm

    As an aside, magnets have started to affect wine, or the wine business anyway. It’s possible to use NMR spectroscopy to determine whether a very old and expensive bottle of wine is any good by measuring the concentrations of naughty chemicals.

  35. TC005 said,

    December 6, 2005 at 6:21 am

    Everyone knows the most effective way to improve the taste of a £2.99 bottle of wine is to preceed it with one or two £1.99 bottles of wine.

  36. tom p said,

    December 6, 2005 at 2:12 pm

    Ben – if it were upstairs at a pub in a room hired out speshly for the event and if people were able to attend by invite only, then it would be a private function and, as such, copyright won’t be an issue.

    You could cover costs by asking everyone to ensure that they drink their share of the required minimum bar take to get the room free of charge (assuming that you can find a pub who’ll let you have a room on that basis).

  37. Tessa K said,

    December 6, 2005 at 6:06 pm

    I’ve been to screenings in public places (bars, clubs), organised by a group of friends, where there was no copyright issue. I’m pretty sure it’s about ‘commercial gain’. We are your bestest friends, after all…

    It might be better to have the screening in January to cheer us up during those long cold dark nights.

  38. Elmer Phudd said,

    December 6, 2005 at 8:39 pm

    Make if after February! I’ll be back to living in the UK then. Sod it, I might nip over for an event anyway. Especially if beer’s involved :)

  39. Michael P. said,

    December 7, 2005 at 12:21 pm

    I suppose it’s going to be in London. So there is a downside to living in Scotland :-(

  40. Jo said,

    December 7, 2005 at 2:03 pm

    www.intellectual-property.gov.uk/faq/copyright/licence_film.htm – we might get by on ‘educational exceptions’ – failing that can’t we become members of something and use a church hall or similar?

    www.bva.org.uk/content.asp?id=5774&headline=71

    I’ve always felt a bit sorry for the people on oil rigs.

  41. ian glendinning said,

    December 8, 2005 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Ben, I’d like to take exception with your definition of “science”.

    As a definition of scientific method (objective, experimental testing of hypotheses, etc.) I have no beef. My beef is what is missing.

    OK, if you are testing a “claim”, then you have a starting point from which to dis-entangle some testable hypotheses. I appreciate that you are mainly moving in negative science circles – discrediting bad science, rather than progressing good science, but in most postive research science intended to progress the subject, two creative things are missing from your definition.

    One – how original hypotheses are created. Other than salesmen and copywriters, who thinks up hypotheses, and how do they do it?

    Two – explanation. The problem with the clean logic of hypotheses and experiments, is they can ultimately be a matter of lies, damn lies and statistics. The hypotheses need to be not only testable, but explanatory of the causal mechanisms involved, almost always involving creative metaphors anywhere beyond commons sense everyday “physics”.

    My special pleading is that if science is too easily reduced to the logical objectivity of scientific method alone, the more inspired, creative, intutive, subjective half of the whole problem is lost and left in the hands of humanities scholars. And we couldn’t have that could we ?

    Regards
    Ian

  42. davoid said,

    December 13, 2005 at 11:22 am

    In an uncontrolled experiment the other night, I drank some cheap red while playing on the computer. After a while I noticed that it began to taste better and became easier drinking. It had been sitting just near the speaker, which I know to contain a largish magnet. I therefore conclude you are wrong, and that the device probably works well. I was unable to attend classes the following day but my friends in sociology, whom I have since told about this episode, all agree with my thinking on the matter.

    However a later obserrvation has me puzzled. I was enjoying the wine so much that I opened another bottle which had not, to my knowledge, been near any significant magnetic fields. But this bottle tasted just as good as the previous one, if not better.

    Could anyone explain this mystery to me?

    Davoid

  43. Janet W said,

    December 13, 2005 at 7:39 pm

    Hi Ian.
    I’d agree with you that science is a combination of analysis and imagination.
    But I don’t think this means that scientific inspiration is subjective and somehow
    “separate” from analytical thought.

    I think part of the problem is with the word “intuition”, which can mean all things to all men. It can mean “seeing things at a glance” (for example, suppose you were looking at a maths question you found fairly easy, and you could just “see” the answer,
    while your friend, say, who was bad at maths had to plod through all the lines of working-out)… or it can mean “an irrational hunch”.

    I’d say that scientists (especially the very clever ones) do use intuition, but it’s intuition in the sense of “seeing things at a glance”. And, of course, the harder the subject, the harder this is. So the difficult bit (when it comes to thinking up good hypotheses) is probably not finding people with imagination, but finding people with imagination who are really, really clever and know a heck of a lot about their subject.

    The really great scientific hypotheses certainly demanded an imaginative leap, but it wasn’t a leap in the dark. It was rooted in information about the subject. An example would be Darwin’s Theory of Evolution – it was an enormous imaginative leap, but just consider how much information he had collected and was able to draw from.
    Darwin was clearly a man of inspiration, but the anecdote provided in an earlier Bad Science column about his last work shows how passionately interested he was in objective **facts**.

    I’m not a researcher, but I suspect that science research for most scientists is a little more mundane than this, and that the hypotheses come from observations either from clinical experience or from earlier research – someone notices something which looks like it might be a pattern, and commissions further research to check it out.

    Bright young sciency things, could you contribute? Where do you get your hypotheses from? Has any of you got an example of a hypothesis you are working on, which you could simplify and share with me and Ian?

    (Ian, I realise I’ve so far only covered one of the points you are making, but this post is far too long already, and I don’t even know if you’re still there…)

  44. Janet W said,

    December 13, 2005 at 8:19 pm

    AArgh! Just realised I’ve muddied the waters by talking about hypotheses and theories as if they are one and the same thing.. especially unfortunate given the example I chose. Sorry, sorry, I’ll go back to the day job.
    Just for the record:

    I do not think that the Theory of Evolution is just a hypothesis.

    (I am willing to write this out 100 times if you insist)

  45. ian glendinning said,

    December 14, 2005 at 11:08 am

    Hi Janet,

    Ignoring the “theory of evolution” for a moment ;-) you hit the right point in your response to me.

    I didn’t just say “subjective” of course, I strung together a whole load of “less objective” words, intuition, imagination, the lot …. in fact better understanding rationality that inlcudes subjectivity is my main aim at the moment (inlcude notice, not consists exclusively) Science runs a continual danger of making subjectivity (or anything other than objectivity) entirely taboo. When you’re testing a hypothesis, then fine to defend the objective power of the scientific method. No argument.

    It’s easy (and valuable) to take the piss out of bad science, but I’d just like to see a less one-dimensional response. Science is more that just objective testing of hypotheses. (You list lot of other issues we could discuss, and I don’t disagree with you – it’s a big subject.)

    As to the mundane life of most rsearchers – I just see the 80/20 (or 95/05) rule. Most yes, but most valuable ?

    Ian
    (PS – subject vs object is an over-rated dualism metaphysically, but that’s a wider issue.)

  46. Delster said,

    December 15, 2005 at 4:03 pm

    Davoid,

    the reason that the 2nd bottle of wine tasted as good as the first that had actually been sitting by the speaker with the magnet in it is “entanglement”. The small traces of micro sized water clusters from the first bottle of wine immediatly transfered the effect of the speaker to the new wine as you were actually drinking it.

    it’s either that or you were so hammered after the first bottle you couldn’t taste anything anyway…..

    lets find a homeopathist and ask them?

  47. Robert Carnegie said,

    December 17, 2005 at 1:19 pm

    If cheap wine suffers from ageing then the tasters should have preferred the wine that wasn’t magnetised.

    However, is it clearly established that the magnetised wine was not accidentally de-magnetised, losing the benefits – that is, were any instructions that may have been provided for the proper handling of magnetically aged wine carefully followed? If there were no such instructions, then normal handling for aged wine would apply.

    That is to say, does it travel well?

  48. Russell Seitz said,

    December 26, 2005 at 11:18 pm

    Sir:
    I number among my Christmas presents both some excellent and indifferent wine- Dow ’70, and a patriotic Massachusetts vintners attempt at champagne making using local grapes irrigated with chalybeate water- it has met with ironic reviews As I also received some formidable magnets- a pair of neodymium-iron-boron discs the size of large backgammon counters and too powerfully coercive to force together by hand — roughly 14,000 Oersteds,your article has inspired the design of an experiment I shall attempt to carry out on New Year’s Eve.

    The victims, I mean subjects, will each be offered each a magnet in a small padded box-left bare rare earth magnets of such force could sever flesh, and a randomly assigned glass of good port or bad champagne, and asked to pair the repelling boxes after freeing both hands by draining the glass. The results will be tabulated, and both Dow and the Massachusetts winery will be invited to contribute some additional cases of their products to extend the data base in the event that our preliminary trial is inconclusive as to the effect of wine quality on magnet performance. By judiciously adding orange juice to the bad champagne, my friend Daedalus hopes to extend the experimental cycle to encompass tropical temperatures closer to the Curie point, avoiding geomagmetic interference from all the nearby iron-rich waters by transporting the necessary apparatus to a low latitude, say that of Mustique ,in a nonmagnetic yacht of classic wooden construction in order to likewise minimize artifacts of proximity to the magnetic poles.

    Trusting that Bad Science will contribute generously to this expedition, I remain, yours, etc.

  49. HarryR said,

    January 7, 2006 at 3:41 pm

    I have read this forum with great interest.
    But I am also confused.

    The consensus of all you highly qualified propeller-headed clinicians and researchers ( well that’s what I infer from these threads) is that homeopathy is nonsense.

    You dismiss homeopathy not in prejudice but because there is absolutely no credible evidence for it.

    It is founded on myth rather than evidence.
    In fact, the otherwise very successfully applied evidence-based theory contradicts the founding myth.
    It has no positive or negative effect that cannot be attributed to something else.

    It is possible for advocates of homeopathy to propose experiments that would further their cause but they fail to do so. Instead, they select and massage data so that it shows what they want it to show.

    Why do the medics, vets, dentists who advocate homeopathy do so when it contradicts their own scientific training?
    Are they wrong, deluded or dishonest?

    They are themselves scientifically trained, perhaps have since childhood lusted to understand Life, the Universe and Everything on its own terms. Why do they turn to the Dark Side?

    If they are wrong why can’t this be resolved by scientific experiment & analysis?
    This seems to work for the many other vigorous scientific disagreements.

    If they are deluded, have they clearly stated the basis of why they are convinced and participated in a broad discussion with their peers (they do not seem to participate in this forum, for example)?
    If their belief is spiritually based on what they want to be true rather than evidence-based should they not say so?

    If they are dishonest, is that not fraud given the levels of funding that are being diverted, and the services being sold to the public privately?

    NICE is mandated to make studies of the cost effectiveness or otherwise of treatments proposed for use by the NHS.
    It makes headlines when it refuses funding for proven treatments that are too expensive, not effective enough or don’t treat the right sort of people.
    Recently a drug used successfully elsewhere for the treatment of breast cancer was declined on cost per life saved or similar.

    Presumably, NICE would have been mandated to have made studies of the cost effectiveness or otherwise of homeopathy.
    Are these studies available to you guys for review? If not, why not?
    If NICE found that it was not cost effective why does it approve funding?

    Hard-nosed official bodies have been required to produce evidence that supports the spending of public money.
    If this money has been misused why can’t they be sued for incompetence or fraud?

    If a homeopath makes unsustainable claims he knows not to be true and claims a scientific rigor which he knows is unjustified why is he not accused of fraud & dishonesty?

    If homeopathy is so empty why cannot the scientific method be applied to reveal that it is so?

    The main discussion appears to be taking place in the public area via newspaper articles rather than under peer review.

    How did homeopathy become so established within the publically funded NHS?
    Homeopathy is on a roll, and it’s going to get worse.
    This forum doesn’t seem to be achieving much other than letting you guys vent some steam and entertain & inform people who care to read it.

    £20M to refit a homeopathic hospital? Who signed the cheque? Get them to explain themselves!

    Devise your own experiments to reveal any evidence of homeopathy and get the broadest scientific support for them.
    If necessary, raise the required funding and publish the results.
    Headline – “10 more Nobel prize winners approve design of experiments to prove/disprove homeopathy”, have a Great Debate live on the internet, get the discussion out in the open and away from lifestyle articles in magazines & newspapers.

    The general public have a great respect for the achievements of science.
    Let them know that homeopathy is not science.
    To you that’s obvious but why should it be to everyone else?
    Homeopathy is myth & magic? Well TV and internal combustion engines and DNA testing are pretty amazing, too, and no one is saying they don’t exist.

    Otherwise after another 20 years have passed the debate will have moved no further but huge sums of money – £100Ms? £1Bs? – will have been diverted from treatments that are known to work to what will still not have been proven to work (or proven not to work)

    Here’s a suggestion for a PhD thesis in applied medical statistics:
    “What has been the net clinical impact of spending NHS money on homeopathy instead of evidence-based medicine?”

  50. HarryR said,

    January 7, 2006 at 10:59 pm

    My apologies for having saved my comment about homeopathy in the discussion of “what is science” and wine.

  51. Fontwell said,

    January 12, 2006 at 4:05 pm

    I have just speed read your comment, and the thing is Harry, the kind of things you propose have been done. Repeatedly. They just aren’t seen as news worthy, or if they are, they are given significantly less coverage than the latest ‘eating lard makes you intelligent, slim and irresistible to women’ story. People just aren’t interested. Bastards.

  52. Steve Phelps said,

    February 8, 2006 at 4:19 pm

    This is a flawed experiment. As well as sampling across different tasters, you need to sample across different wines in order to draw meaningful conclusions. It may be that the device works well on some wines but not others, and the particular wine you have chosen is one of those for which no effect is observed. Your results therefore are no more meaningful than if you had used only a single taster in your study.

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