Saturday May 19, 2007
Normally I’d ignore quack medical devices, but when the catalogue from Health Products For Life – run by vitamin pill salesman Patrick Holford – arrived, I found an unexpected treat waiting for me. Among his usual “special formulation” pill-peddling banter, there was the QLink pendant, at just Â£69.99.
The QLink is a device sold to protect you from those terrifying invisible electromagnetic rays, and cure many ills. “It needs no batteries as it is ‘powered’ by the wearer – the microchip is activated by a copper induction coil which picks up sufficient micro currents from your heart to power the pendant.” Says Holford’s catalogue. According to the manufacturer’s sales banter, it corrects your energy frequencies. Or something.
It has been flattered by the Times, the Mail, and ITV’s London Today (seriously, follow the link and watch the video) and I can see why. It’s a very sciencey looking pendant, a bit like a digital memory card for a camera, with eight contact pads on the circuit board on the front, a hi-tech electronic component mounted in the centre, and a copper coil around the edge.
Last summer I obtained one of these devices (from somewhere cheaper than Holford’s shop) and took it to Camp Dorkbot, an annual festival for dorks held – in a joke taken too far – at a scout camp outside Dorking. Here in the sunshine, some of the nation’s cheekiest electronics geeks examined the QLink. We chucked probes at it, and tried to detect any “frequencies” emitted, with no joy. And then we did what any proper dork does when presented with an interesting device: we broke it open. Drilling down, the first thing we came to was the circuit board. This, we noted with some amusement, was not in any sense connected to the copper coil, and therefore is not powered by it.
The eight copper pads do have some intriguing looking circuit board tracks coming out of them, but they too, on close inspection, are connected to absolutely nothing. A gracious term to describe their purpose might be “decorative”. I’m also not clear if I can call something a “circuit board” when there is no “circuit”.
Finally, there is a modern surface mount electronic component soldered to the centre of the device. It looks impressive, but whatever it is, it is connected to absolutely nothing. Close examination with a magnifying glass, and experiments with a multimeter and oscilloscope, revealed that this component on the “circuit board” is a zero-ohm resistor.
This is simply a resistor that has pretty much no resistance: in effect a bit of wire in a tiny box. It might sound like an absurd component, but they’re quite common in modern circuits, because they can be used to bridge the gap between adjacent tracks on a circuit board with a standard-size component. I’d like to apologise both for knowing that and for sharing it with you.
Now to be fair, such a component is not cheap. I’m assuming this is an extremely high quality surface mount resistor, manufactured to very high tolerances – well calibrated, and sourced in small quantities. You buy them on paper tape in 7in reels, each reel containing about 5,000 resistors. You could easily pay as much as Â£0.005 for such a resistor. Sorry, I was being sarcastic. They are very cheap indeed.
And that’s it. No microchip. A coil connected to nothing. And a zero-ohm resistor, which costs half a penny, and is connected to nothing. I contacted qlinkworld.co.uk to discuss my findings. They kindly contacted the inventor, who informed me they have always been clear the QLink does not use electronics components “in a conventional electronic way”. And apparently the energy pattern reprogramming work is done by some finely powdered crystal embedded in the resin. Oh, hang on, I get it: it’s a new age crystal pendant.
Â·Please send your bad science to firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m not able to upload all the various clips of people mucking about with the Qlink at Dorkbot – people keep making potentially libellous jokes about it in the background and I can’t be bothered to edit those bits out of the clips – but here’s a quick clip of me and James fooling around listening out for electromagnetic emissions from my phone, and then the Qlink. Recorded on a cruddy mobile phone, like a crude form of quackyslapping (my hair is bad because I have been camping for a day or two).
Oh, and here’s a fun picture of Patrick Holford. On a pill bottle. Very classy.