The stupid, it burns… now with added “Feynman Chaser”

March 22nd, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, homeopathy | 49 Comments »

No column this week, sorry about that, I forgot that Jesus died for our sins yesterday so I couldn’t give the company I was writing about a fair chance to respond. The story will pop up later as a bigger feature.

In the meantime, no matter how hard I try to be bored of quackery, the email inbox keeps defeating me. This video is beyond parody, and it would be a genuine crime to deprive you of its pleasures.

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[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZEi8l7p56I[/youtube]
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And after that, I think you need a Feynman Chaser.

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[googlevideo]http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7136440703094429927&hl=en-GB[/googlevideo]

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Update:

The youtube post was taken down, but I think there have been some copies reposted, you can find them in the comments.

Also, Chad has made a full transcript of this rather interesting and important lecture on the science of homeopathy available to all through his website, here:

chard.livejournal.com/56996.html


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49 Responses



  1. Arkadyevna said,

    March 22, 2008 at 12:54 am

    What’s she a Dr. of? Not physics, that’s for sure.

    Anyone want to help me try & cram her body into something the size of a bowling ball? For science!

  2. ossian said,

    March 22, 2008 at 12:57 am

    E=0 x c^2
    E=0
    => we do not exist, Right???

    I need to pour myself some more energetic substance as I have yet to transform my energy system to a previous better state.

    Remember guys and gals, “every single one of us vibrates”, “right?”

  3. ossian said,

    March 22, 2008 at 1:08 am

    Is it not a sin to take Stephen Hawkings name in vain? I had never realised that he was on a mission from God either. Just like the Blues Brothers.

    I believe Dr. Charlene L. Werner is a Doctor of Spectacles.

  4. ossian said,

    March 22, 2008 at 1:13 am

    Do opticians not study maths and physics in the US or is that just a funny old idea that we have in the old world?

  5. jackpt said,

    March 22, 2008 at 1:52 am

    ‘Homeopathic lecture’ – shouldn’t that be a homeopathy lecture? A homeopathic lecture is several thousand years worth of silence followed by someone whispering ‘bullshit’. Probably in a similar voice to the lady on the Marks and Spencer advert.

  6. nonplussed said,

    March 22, 2008 at 4:33 am

    Luckily enough, I had heard of H2O and Einstein so I was able to follow this impressive lecture.

    I hope you print an apology to these people, right? You’ve been dismissing homeopathy all this time and it turns out it’s fully supported by maths, physics, string theory, Einstein, Hawkings, and God. Right?

    I let her poop in my head, literally. I guess it’s OK to get the explosives out and transform her energy into a previous, better state, right? But, would she be happy with me?

    I get the impression she’s vibrating like a plant, possibly some form of vegetable. It would be less scary if this was a deliberate scam, but unfortunately I think she sincerely believes every word.

    Common sense seems to have been prescribed to some people at a 30C dilution.

  7. Bob O'H said,

    March 22, 2008 at 6:56 am

    She does _that_ to a bomb?!

  8. ACH said,

    March 22, 2008 at 7:56 am

    I’m not surprised her neighbour’s dog poops in her garden. It’s probably commenting on her grasp of physics, chemistry and biology.

    How can anyone be this stupid?

  9. apgaylard said,

    March 22, 2008 at 8:41 am

    Lots of depressing wrongness; the confusion of mass and its distribution is space is particularly galling.

  10. ossian said,

    March 22, 2008 at 9:05 am

    Question: I have never noticed diabetics suffering from sugar cravings is this a symptom of diabetes? I’m curious as none of my diabetic relatives have ever mentioned it.

  11. Dudley said,

    March 22, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Look on the positive side – everone in that room has at least heard of both “water” and “Einstein”. There’s a possibility of communication.

  12. Budicius said,

    March 22, 2008 at 10:14 am

    Yes I think she’s on to something. Good to see people with various doctorates seriously attempting to explain Homoeopathy scientifically. She was only scratching the surface in this lecture but with further research a plausible explanation will be found.

  13. John R said,

    March 22, 2008 at 10:34 am

    Is it permissible to suggest that she may be an idiot? Is there any sort of help available for people like her?

    CoQ10 in 30C dilution?

    Watching that, I feel like my brain’s just been heavily succussed.

  14. hairnet said,

    March 22, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Weirdbeard:
    ‘Is it permissible to suggest that she may be an idiot? Is there any sort of help available for people like her?’

    Yes, school!

  15. marcdraco said,

    March 22, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    I got a whole chapter out of this sorta nonsense. “This is doctor….” By the way Ben, I ordered your book ages ago and it’s not here yet, what gives?

  16. marcdraco said,

    March 22, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Wait it does work after all on a squeaky knee and hypoglycemia! All hail the placebo effect.

    Seriously though, what IS her doctorate in? If this is the standard of American physicians no wonder their health in so much trouble.

  17. marcdraco said,

    March 22, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Wait. I think I found it. Looks like she’s a doctor of homeopathy. Who the f*** hands out doctorates in quackery? Oh wait, that would be the Americans where they also hand out Doctorates to creation “scientists”.

    I would be ashamed to be called Doctoro in that case. Her boss’s blog is here: drkondrot.com/blog/ and it makes quite interesting reading.

  18. Jeesh42 said,

    March 22, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Who the hell is Stephen Hawkings? I’ve heard of the famous physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking, but this must be some other dude.

    In that case maybe she’s referring to a different ‘Einstein’. In fact this is probably a different ‘physics’ and ‘chemistry’ altogether.

  19. Weirdbeard said,

    March 22, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    hairnet: she looks old enough to have been to school already. Perhaps she didn’t listen.

    I get the impression that her audience thought she was nuts too. She certainly got very little response out of them when she asked questions. Usually with these people you can at least tell where their weird logic is heading. With this one though it really does seem as if she was spouting stream of conciousness stuff.

  20. TimW said,

    March 22, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Oh yes, those questions she asks are great. She pauses as if the audience has some hope of guessing the correct answer out of thin air.
    “Guess what the definition of disease is?”(pause)
    Hint: “It’s not mass…” (pause)
    “We have transformed our energy state into something different. That’s what the definition of disease is.”
    The answer was on the tip of my tongue, really…

  21. 74westy said,

    March 22, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Why be so negative? Why focus on yet another Dr. of homeopathy demonstrating her homeopathic understanding of physics and chemistry for 8 minutes when this post also contains 49 minutes of Richard Feynman?

    My brain has been washed clean as a cosmic egg (about the size of a bowling ball (5 pin or 10?)) and my spirit has been completely renewed by hearing someone talk about actually trying to know something instead of just talking as if you know. Instead of saying “homeopathy works and knowing that I can try to justify it by using a bunch of words I don’t understand” Feynman says, “those are mysteries I want to investigate without knowing the the answers to them.” I literally laughed out loud when he said that (at 46:27) because of the contrast.

    Thanks for that, Ben. I can never hear Feynman speak without feeling better. Accentuate the positive!

  22. homewardbound said,

    March 22, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    After 8 minutes of Feynman I was able to unclench my teeth, fingers, toes, etc and work the keyboard. AAAAGH! It keeps coming back! I’ll need to watch him to the end to erase most of that. It’s worse when there are tiny, tiny (a lot more dilute than 30C) bits of truth in there…just when you are reaching towards a recognisable fact, it transforms into something horrible and vanishes into a bowling ball (looked about the size of one of those nine-pin balls they have in Austrian bars, by the way).

  23. Twm said,

    March 23, 2008 at 2:34 am

    Einstein once said “God does not play 10 pin bowling with the universe”
    But God in his infinite wisdom sent down Dr Charlene Warner to correctionify him:

    e=mc2 (but mass is crossed out…almost LOL!)

    Lovely. This lady is like an itch you have to scratch till it bleeds. How can you ever get bored of this.

    Linus Pauling wrote that the study of the physical world, and the biological world too,
    is a search for structure and not a search for substance.

    I think that means that the ‘space between the mass’ might actually be as important as ‘the mass’.

  24. Samuel said,

    March 23, 2008 at 3:20 am

    I’ve got some homeopathic at 30M dilution, anyone want to buy some?

  25. sideshowjim said,

    March 23, 2008 at 10:32 am

    So…… if mass can be crossed out, how do atomic bombs work? Cos I remember a phrase about them, it was “Critical….something or other”.

  26. Andysnat said,

    March 23, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Late on Friday night / Saturday morning, after having a drink or two, I checked to see what was posted here as usual. I was only able to watch Dr. Dippy up to the part where she described how God created Einstein and hollow massless mass and invoked Hawking in showing how the homeopathisists do their woo. It made me grumpy.

    The grainy, poor quality, badly recorded BBC Horizon, on the other hand, was just wonderful. I had not seen it before, and Feynman was funny, engrossing, warm, so obviously intelligent that he seems to meet himself on the way back. I sat transfixed, and he really did serve to clean my brain. I envy the students who were taught by him, as despite what he said, he must have been a great teacher.

    Dr. Dippy should watch this.

  27. Ken Zetie said,

    March 23, 2008 at 11:07 am

    And she can’t even get Stephen Hawking’s name right – there’s only one of him…but she persistently referes to him as Hawkings.

    Makes you want to spit…

    Ken

  28. marcdraco said,

    March 23, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    @mmanion if you read the post, it says the American health system is in trouble: which actually alludes to the richest country in the world having the one of the weakest health systems for the poor. Have you seen Sicko?

    And it’s true you hand out doctorates to “creation scientists” giving them some sort of credibility that they clearly don’t deserve. You’ll have to read my book for the details.

    If the Catholics don’t get their way, we ‘ll be attempting to develope cures for Parkinsons and MS pretty soon. Something that Prez. Georgey Porgey doesn’t want you guys to do because it upsets his invisible friend.

  29. marcdraco said,

    March 23, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Actually folks, if this isn’t a great advert against homeopathy esp. homeopathic doctors, I dunno what is. The related links have an African (?) MD (!) opining about double-blind testing and why it doesn’t work for homeopathy. Unfortunately, she gets the definition of double-blind tests wrong too!

  30. aembleton said,

    March 23, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Unfortuanatelly, the stupid really does burn. I just couldn’t stand to watch after the first three minutes or so.

    WTF, and why do woo specialists so enjoy using the E=mc^2 formula? Is it because it is famous and so by using it they hope to trick people into believing that they must be legitimate and should not be questioned? It seems that they take that formula as a starting point. Then follow through some odd and crazy process throwing in a few science sounding words (quantum, energy, holistic, etc) and then finally reach your conclusion that your product (crystals, pendants, homoeopathy, etc) that you are trying to push is a great cure to some problem, so go buy it.

    I haven’t read all of the comments yet, so I apologise if I’ve repeated something already said.

  31. Maarten Van Hemelen said,

    March 24, 2008 at 12:02 am

    The catholics won’t be getting their way. I study at the world’s largest catholic university left. Rome told them to stop conducting research on embryonal stem cells. They basically told Rome to go screw itself, but in a more polite way.

  32. Robert Carnegie said,

    March 24, 2008 at 1:40 am

    Disease is the negative of ease, or something like that? A physiological state that disturbs an otherwise peaceful life. I mean, fundamentally it’s that.

    I’m not going to bet against the Catholics, they have a lot of control in Labour territory.

    Leaving the Catholics somewhat behind, there was a fun radio episode of a spoof future history show – to date it, it was [A Look Back At the Nineties] – where they looked at when the government made lying illegal. The Prime Minister said something like “This is just a desperate stunt to distract attention from our failed policies.” And they asked the leader of the opposition why he was against it. He said “I don’t know. I just have to be.” (The programme then admitted that this never happened at all, they made it up. The rest was all made up of course because it hadn’t happened yet. “Britain finally had a stable currency – the deutschmark.”)

    So when you find that the opposition is standing against government policy, that is the reason – they have to. It is their job. Which, this time, they are not doing.

    It’s when they support the government that we should worry – they’re all ganging up on us!

  33. edw said,

    March 24, 2008 at 6:47 am

    Her science is so bad, it doesn’t even deserve to be quoted on a badscience site. It is an insult to the readers/watchers.

  34. LazyLabTech said,

    March 24, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    For anyone seeing the Feynman vid for the first time, I can recommend the book “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out”. Contains a transcript of this program as well as other Feynman bits and pieces, such as the nanotech talk “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom” and a great lecture on “Cargo Cult Science”.

    Not too technical and highly readable, it was my introduction to him.

    44:00 “I have the advantage …. I know what it means to know something”

  35. Junebug said,

    March 24, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    I was too bust laughing to listen to the whole thing but unless I imagined it I think she said that if she blew up her neighbor she just changed his energy? So from this we see that the amount of neighbor left after our little “thought experiment” (ie none, since she isn’t counting mass for whatever reason) is the same as the amount of medicine in the average homeopathic remedy (none again). Also(I’m just stuck on the bomb metaphor–has her neighbor seen this? I’d call the police if it were me) with her newly discovered laws of physics, wherein we can discount mass entirely, how exactly would the bomb then work? Assuming all of the mass in the universe has been squeezed into a bowling ball, whatever can a bomb do that is worse than this?

  36. mjs said,

    March 25, 2008 at 2:14 am

    i can’t believe it — Charlene’s video “is no longer available.” damn, it must have just been taken down…

    you can find another one here, in which she demonstrates a nifty pair of goggles:
    prism therapy

    sadly, no mention of Einstein.

  37. Kerry said,

    March 25, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Charlene got cold feet! Capascain perhaps? Interestingly that ointment containing quite a good amount of aforementioned hot stuff is sold as ‘homoeopathic’ medicine.

    Cant find Charlene but found a great critique of her theorising on SHAMblog:
    ” The ever-witty Steve Salerno had this to contribute:

    I have just one minor scientific footnote to add to what it says in the video: If you take this lady’s head, compress it to the size of a pin, and roll a bowling ball over it, the human race will not have lost any mass, energy, or value.”

  38. edw said,

    March 25, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    I wrote out Feynman quote in the movie, I like this part:

    “Because of the success of science, there is a kind of pseudoscience; social science is an example of a science that is not a science. They follow the forms, “you gathered data, you do so and so”, but they don’t get any laws, they haven’t gone anywhere, yet. Maybe some day they will, but is not very well developed. And on even more modane level, we have experts on everything, they sounds like sort of scientific expert, but they are not scientists, they make up something like: Food which are grown with fertilizer that is organic is better than food grown with fertilizer that is non-organic. Maybe true but it may not be true. But it hasn’t demonstrated one way or the other. When they sit there at the typewriter and make up all this stuff, they become an expert on organic food, and so on. There is all kind of myths and pseudo science all over the place. Now I might be quite wrong, maybe they do know all these things, but if you have the experience of how hard it is to find out to really know something, how careful you have to be about checking the experiments, how easy it is to make mistakes and fool yourself. I know how it is to know something, and therefore, I see how they get their information and I can’t believe they know anything, they haven’t done the checks necessary, and they haven’t done the care necessary. I have a great suspicion, that they don’t know what the stuff is, and that they are intimidating other people by it. I thinks so, I don’t know the world very well, but that is what I think”

  39. Andysnat said,

    March 25, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    I think that the idea of a Feynman Chaser is so good that I’ve posted one too.

    There are a couple more around, so perhaps it will catch on.

  40. Rhysickle said,

    March 25, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    HAHAHA – the video’s been pulled down off youtube.

    the power of humiliation!

  41. ScottishNaturalist said,

    March 27, 2008 at 3:08 am

    Feynman is great.

    Thanks for the chaser.

  42. landtuna said,

    March 28, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Mirror:

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0c5yClip4o

  43. marcdraco said,

    March 29, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    So they pulled it. Shame. Not before I’d transcribed more than 1/2 of it complete with analysis. Doctor my ‘arris.

  44. kingshiner said,

    March 31, 2008 at 10:30 am

    What does ‘The stupid, it burns’ mean?

  45. Fighting_Sailor said,

    April 1, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    If I followed her correctly:

    Homeopathy is akin to terrorism and she treats her patients to truth drugs and vibrators. Err…….

  46. Robert Carnegie said,

    April 2, 2008 at 1:46 am

    It looks as though “It burns” comes from fantasy gamers (Dungeons & Dragons and such) borrowing from [the Lord of the Rings], where Gollum squeals “It burns!” when exposed to sunlight, I think, and definitely when tied with elf-made ropes. I am now imagining Zombie Tolkien’s likely reaction to being asked if Gollum had an allergy to elf-hemp.

  47. Kijani said,

    April 4, 2008 at 9:23 am

    landtuna -thanks for pointing me to the mirror site for the video clip! I don’t know why she was worried about the dog poop in her garden – there was no mass involved!

  48. rptb1 said,

    April 10, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    @ marcdraco: You have a transcript?! Please, I’d love to have it. Would you put it up somewhere? I wished I’d transcribed it. It was such slippery nonsense that I couldn’t hold it in my head.

  49. sujay1sukumar1 said,

    October 9, 2009 at 6:50 am

    Why isn’t it a crime to misinform and mislead? I’m guessing ‘freedom of speech’ has something to do with why she still continues to swindle.
    I am quite appalled that she has no remorse in advocating something that has probably harmed so many people. She is so removed from the consequences of her actions; clearly, she must be mental. Look at the things she mentions for instance:
    1) Crossing out mass in E=mc^2.
    2) Defining Disease as a transformation of energy
    3) Everybody vibrating with a plant/animal/mineral.
    4) Stephen Hawking(s?) giving homeopaths the string theory.
    5) Collapsing the mass of the universe into a bowling ball – (does she mean volume? cause there is space between the nucleus and electrons, and space between atomic bonds? is that what she is saying???? wtf?)
    6) Energy equals speed of light? F*cK!! When I was in 7th grade, we did atleast 30 problems where energy came out differently(I doubt she has attended basic science classes at all). Why do we have units like the Joule, if energy is a constant? WTF???

    I recommend that she’d better dilute the poo of her neighbour’s dog (which ‘literaly’/'metaphorically’ pooped in her lawn) and consume it in small doses (without risking an OD) and hope that she can get through 7th grade science.

    She is a curse on progressive thinking.

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