The Kymatika K-test and… oh, look at that: LBC. Updated.

February 17th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre Tags:
in bad science, Global Radio, LBC, onanism | 86 Comments »

Just briefly (because my hair looks terrible in it, and they made nerdy stickboy here look chubby) I was on Watchdog last night, talking about some ridiculous magical diagnosis machine.

The video is here:

And there are three things to note here. One is that Julia Bradbury is weirdly hot, in a sanctimonious kind of way. The second is that they wanted to film in a sciencey laboratory (sigh). Last is that the manufacturers of this machine, Kymatika, are proud to boast on their website about mainstream media puffs: and here, bright star among them, we find none other than the mighty LBC 97.3FM:

Kymatika even paste up a whole clip from the LBC show on 27th January (I think 2008), which stars company representatives Huw Griffiths and Jonathan Welbeck-Pure in the studio with Bill Buckley, generating almost half an hour of pure, unabashed, pseudoscientific product promotion. “This sounds like real high level science here.” It certainly does. Again, it is beyond parody. Again, almost every ten seconds contains a winning quote.

Although it seems that unlike me, Kymatika have not heard from LBC’s lawyers, despite posting a full 22 minutes of extremely enjoyable content. I guess it’s all about context. Must have been something I said.

Update 22:50 17/2/09:

The Kymatika website and clip seem to be unavailable due to excessive traffic.

Dear Jonathan and Sophie [their lawyer who contacted me last time],

I would very much like to share with my readers the broadcast made on LBC on the 27th January promoting the Kymatika K-test diagnostic test for food intolerances. I think most people would agree it’s an excellent example of how the media promote pseudoscientific health products, potentially, ultimately, causing harm to health.

I think we’d agree it’s unlikely that people will take out an ongoing subscription to your service just to hear this 22 minute excerpt, and it is my intention to discuss its merits. However, as an individual, I am unable to pay lawyers fees on my side and yours for a court case in order to use the “fair dealing” exemption to copyright law. Please can you therefore tell me what licensing fee you would consider appropriate, so that I can pass the hat around online, we can pay you for the material, and everyone can freely hear and discuss this clip online.

I look forward to hearing from you.


dr ben goldacre

READ CAREFULLY. By reading this email, you agree, on behalf of your
employer, to release me from all obligations and waivers arising from
any and all NON-NEGOTIATED  agreements, licenses, terms-of-service,
shrinkwrap, clickwrap, browsewrap, confidentiality, non-disclosure,
non-compete and acceptable use policies (“BOGUS AGREEMENTS”) that I have
entered into with your employer, its partners, licensors, agents and
assigns, in perpetuity, without prejudice to my ongoing rights and
privileges. You further represent that you have the authority to release
me from any BOGUS AGREEMENTS on behalf of your employer. If you
are anything other than a friend or an institutional professional colleague and
you are writing to me about Bad Science stuff then it is reasonable to assume
that I might quote our discussion in my writing, usually anonymously.

Update 18:30 18/2/09:

No reply from LBC as yet on my request for a license to re-post the audio, other than yet another intemperate email from Jonathan Richards, their Programme Director (which once again he insists is not for publication!). I can only say I find this all slightly puzzling and inappropriate for such a large corporation. Does anybody have any opinions or advice on how to proceed?

I think it would be useful if people could hear and discuss this example of mainstream media promoting something that is very obviously a pseudoscientific medical device, because that’s such a common problem. I’ve no great interest in LBC specifically, but it is amusing to note, given recent history, from searching the archives, that LBC really are the only people to have given this magical machine any credibility in mainstream media at all. Other than that, it has received a brief puff in the Scotsman, and a critical article actively debunking it in the Daily Express (of all places).

Perhaps LBC will find a way to make a mountain out of this molehill again.

If you like what I do, and you want me to do more, you can: buy my books Bad Science and Bad Pharma, give them to your friends, put them on your reading list, employ me to do a talk, or tweet this article to your friends. Thanks! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

86 Responses

  1. yobim57 said,

    February 18, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    The K-test is not only being promoted on-line by other “health” sites, such as this one: (Note that the “How does it work?” topic, under the chart of symptoms, doesn’t actually tell you how it works ie the mechanism).

    In a Google search, I noticed a result for the Southern Railway site. They have a “DIY Medicine” feature ( where they discuss this test, along with other self-diagnostic methods.

    I used their contact form to alert them to the dubious (I’m being kind there) nature of this device and of the ill-advisedness of recommending such things without evaluating them. I informed them of the Watch Dog item and referred them to this blog.

  2. lawrabbit said,

    February 18, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    It might be worth saving all files from*/ as they can always ask to take them down or delete them.

  3. T said,

    February 18, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Ah yes I saw this…it reminded me of the machine that sciencetologists use. I just can’t believe that they can get away with this it’s so blatantly rubbish.
    Was that a real nurse?

  4. Mikebo said,

    February 18, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    On the site, linked to in comment 51, the operation of the machine is described as follows:

    “Based on forensic science…the Kymatika K-Test measures the change in the body’s resting voltage when it is stimulated with electromagnetic waves corresponding to the molecular fingerprint…”

    Now I understand! EM waves and food sensitivity, it was so obvious!

  5. Dr Aust said,

    February 18, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    “Electromagnetic waves”, eh?

    Can we assume use of the device is contraindicated for those convinced they are electrosensitive?

  6. julie oakley said,

    February 18, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Do tell, is hair testing for food intolerances also a load of woo? A family member spent a small fortune sending samples of their three children’s hair to the US to be given the most complicated different dietary sheets for each of them. I was very cynical about it at the time (especially as having them round for lunch was a bleedin’ nightmare) but as a scientific simpleton I need one of the cleverer readers or Ben to tell me where/how to find out whether these hair tests have any merit.

  7. HolfordWatch said,

    February 18, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    #56, Julie Oakley – See: Pulling my hair out.

    Woo of the finest.

  8. julie oakley said,

    February 18, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Thanks very much. HolfordWatch – crikey all that money wasted. Good news is I can now give them all the same meal and tell them to take it or leave it.

  9. P.W.Mitchell said,

    February 18, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Ben, you asked for some advice on whether to publish emails you receive. For the past few years I have subscribed to – a small group of journalists who critically appraise the media in the UK. They have a great deal of experience in dealing with angry media corporations. They publish their correspondence and encourage readers to write to those who might make a difference. They are always thoughtful and polite. I feel that they might be able to offer you some good advice on how to handle some of the problems that the LBC incident has brought up. All the best, Paul

  10. helenh said,

    February 18, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Re ‘Ben’s water taps and an electrical socket”
    That segment was filmed in a teaching laboratory of a medical school in London. It’s a real lab. That’s what they look like.
    I’m sorry it didn’t look enough like the Tardis for you. I’ll have a word with them.

    hmm. I say it’s still FAR TOO TIDY to be a real lab. but teaching labs do *probably* count as real labs. people just never stay put in them long enough for entropy to really wreak havoc.

  11. FishNChimps said,

    February 18, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Never mind the woo gadgets, when’s someone going to invent a plug-in Julia Bradbury? I’d buy one.

    Thanks for the linky BTW, Doctor.

  12. stephenray said,

    February 18, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    ‘Weirdly’ hot?

    Wow, that’s harsh. I suppose with all those nubile nurses rushing about in hospital you have a whole different set of criteria to your audience…


  13. brainduck said,

    February 19, 2009 at 2:44 am

    I have successfully downloaded the LBC clip, however it took about 20 hours all-in (try using this – will stil time out a few times, but keeps stuff running in background across multiple sessions:
    Not really worth the effort, except perhaps as a cure for hiccups.

    brainquack at gmail dot com

  14. Paulsc said,

    February 19, 2009 at 5:58 am

    Re: JamesM (34)

    I am glad to hear that it was a genuine laboratory. I wouldn’t want Ben to be party to the visual embellishments that he, correctly, mocks when perpetrated by others. It did amuse me though that he was interviewed in a laboratory, presumably in an attempt to add gravitas to his comments, and that we were subjected to bizarre shots featuring mundane pieces of equipment. Although I did find these shots amusing, I did feel that they detracted from Ben’s message which, incidentally, appeared to me to be heavily edited.

  15. JamesM said,

    February 19, 2009 at 9:06 am

    I suppose if you are going to set up people for some expert worship in a tidy (and most empty) teaching lab, the director is likely to take some liberties to make it look ‘sciencey’. The presenters probably have little say over how it is filmed and edited. You can’t get around the ignorant media preconception of what science ‘is’ (clearly plug sockets and rubber hoses this week).

    It would have been far better to take said device to the school electronics workshop, have the engineers (technically quite good, but not ‘experts’ to the media) take the lid off and explain to the audience (and the experts) why it can’t possibly do what it is claimed.

    But then you’ve got to get your hands on one, and it probably wouldn’t make ‘good TV’ anyway.

  16. mrstrellis said,

    February 19, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    I’m fondly disposed towards the K-test because I once got a chocolate lollipop out of it. Listen. My colleague informed me one afternoon that she was leaving early to go to Superdrug for a food intolerance test. I had a look at the site and told her that she would be wasting her money and that she’d be much better off going to her GP with any niggling health concerns (she eventually did and was diagnosed with a hormonal disorder). She was so pleased to have saved the £50 or whatever it was that the next day, she bought me a chocolate lollipop.

  17. gazza said,

    February 19, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    I don’t think this piece of woo is the same as the ‘K test’ nonsense highlighted by Ben – but it looks to be a kissing cousin at the very least;

    Obviously, woo allergy tests are going to be the big thing this year!

  18. droid said,

    February 19, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    I wrote to Superdrug Customer Relations about their offering of the K-Test and received the following in reply:

    Dear Ian,

    Thank you for your patience.

    We have received correspondence from the Buyer concerned.

    Every product or service that Superdrug offers its customers goes through a rigorous quality control process before the decision is taken to stock it.

    Kymatika provided us with evidence and testimonials from an extensive trial carried out using over 500 people. We have also been provided with subsequent studies as they’ve been completed.

    750 people have been tested over the last year and they have received only 2 complaints about the service.

    I hope this information helps.

    Kind Regards,

    Superdrug Customer Relations


    Amazing how I guessed the gist of the reply before it even landed in my Inbox….


    (my first post on this excellent site)

  19. John said,

    February 19, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    On the upside these quacks are managing to keep the software enginers somewhere they can do very little harm.

    You wouldn’t want these guys working on aviation or nuclear power applications would you.

    Best if they stick to quackery and parting fools from their money (apologies to the contributors who shelled out for this drivel but the very fact you post here means YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER).

    Maybe the product is crap and gives wildly disparate results because food intolerance is a moveable feast.

  20. cebolla said,

    February 19, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Ben, Bradbury had you at ‘expert’. You were playing with your hair like a girl.
    She is hot though.

  21. Dr Aust said,

    February 19, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Re. post 66, there is a vast range of “Bio-electro-Woo” quack devices out there – K-test is just the latest example. You can read some of the history here.

    For easily the most flamboyant of the modern electro-woo con-men, see Ben’s column from last Summer on Bill Nelson aka Desiree Dubounet (sic), who you can also catch in the flesh on Canadian TV here – has to be seen to be believed, BTW.

  22. David Jones said,

    February 20, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    1. “Kymatika provided us with evidence and testimonials from an extensive trial carried out using over 500 people” – is it reasonable to call a trial of this size (~500) “extensive”?

    2. Kymatika website is currently experience. The response is “Service Unavailable”. Not sure if this is a web server error or a press release though 🙂

  23. David Jones said,

    February 20, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Last comment should have read “experiencing problems”. I tried to make a link but it didn’t work out.

  24. mikewhit said,

    February 20, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Ben, Sorry to hear Julia Bradbury’s in the doo-doo … .

    Must be your voodoo jinx effect !

  25. mikewhit said,

    February 20, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Wouldn’t a better test have been to take people with known diagnosed a) intolerance(s) and perhaps b) allergies to see if it spotted them.

  26. Dave The Drummer said,

    February 21, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Anyone know why the podcast won’t download ?
    Or where I can get a copy of the audio ?
    Cheers. DtD.

  27. cumbrian said,

    February 21, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Speaking as one myself, I am horrified that pharmacists would buy into this rubbish. Watchdog should have sent along a coeliac patient to try it out – that would have sorted them.

  28. Matt of Clinical Research Land said,

    February 24, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Step right up, step right up! This reeks of snake oil and phrenology. I’m mildly surprised that they didn’t claim machine doesn’t test for disturbances in the ether. Once again, nonsense talk of “toxins”. Let’s see this compared to ELISA or RAST. These people are claiming that it can detect “imbalances” or other health problems. Sounds like a medical device to me. As such, it should be regulated under Directive 93/42/EEC. My UK associates – has the MHRA approved this as such? I highly doubt the FDA here in the states would ever this device to be marketed as such.

  29. krog said,

    March 3, 2009 at 10:55 am

    I’ve only just got round to listening to the LBC clip. Has anyone else realised that the LBC presenter Bill Buckley was once a presenter on the famous BBC consumer affairs programme (and odd-shaped vegetable showcase) That’s Life? I can’t help but think that this K-test would have been prime fodder for them.

  30. bf said,

    March 6, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Why not publish Jonathan Richards’ unpleasant emails? Just because he says they’re not for publication, doesn’t mean you have to agree. What’s he going to do – sue you for breach of copyright on his emails?!

    If he doesn’t want you to publish them, perhaps he shouldn’t send you them.

  31. Mary said,

    April 18, 2009 at 12:05 am

    The top of the list; how does a computer mobile phone or K-test and other devices based on new technology work: Its not spelt out how the components work and interact. The government used to say it did not know how mobile phones worked and what effect they have on us. Its gone on to use the HSE and the NRPB to allow manufactures to encourage us to buy the next toy. Call it another name and it becomes safe.. Or all in the mind if we find we might get sick on exposure. Its also all in the mind if we get better.

    I contacted all government departments and have been ignored.

    The MoD can close technology down:If it does not comply to BSI.(However the government is now challenging the MoD) BSI standards are being ignored poor measurement and understand.
    Governments letting industry do as it likes.
    Under the guise of security on one hand and the public wants; or thinks it wants.
    Trading Standard will not cause they have not the ability to measure it nor can they produce any experts. (The law has like to do with science and likewise the government, turning a blind eye with regard to real safety)

    The basic components in technology are the basis of
    RADAR and nuclear energy.
    Ion Drive systems are part of how it can effect the body`s cells. In both a helpful as well as a harmful way. tried to bury this info that practitioners who used these biofeedback devices end up having strokes or heart attacks. Because long term use basically over cooks them.
    Its very debatable if the patient is helped long term either.

    As far as I can observe is the whole of computer technology perimintaly changes the natural polarity. On initial exposure the reverse polarity
    helps clean the body like de-polarisation. However even if we`ve not been using K-test our cells have been locked in the wrong polarity.

    Naturally the body reverses it being North/ South polarity:

    The basic component that makes computers and not only that non-lethal weapons has many names.
    “Reverse Polarity Motor” best describes it.
    They are set to produce Scalar Waves where the power is not confined to the immediate place.
    Dr Henry Lai said that Tasar Guns interfere with the T-wave in the heart resulting in heart attacks.
    What are Tasars just another version of a K-Test.
    If we start thinking in terms of that`s what technology is and that`s what we are playing with:
    If we think our mobile phone as a Tasar Gun and yes our computer is a Tasar Gun.

    Something might just get done.
    I am sure if some just might still reading this they might do a search on Dr Lai and Tasars.

    There was a British consultant used to combat Dr Lai`s concerns: Who said that “But Tasars are only Low Level Radiation”

    Low level radiation is confused with low powered:
    Like High Level Radiation must equate to high power. The MoD, industry and past governments have allowed science to be confusing.

    Low Level Radiation referrers to not only low frequency but nuclear radiation. It nothing to do with low power. The confusion about low power has come in part from misreading the meter in the wrong phase or polarity. Modern technology works on REVERSE POLARITY. Hence power should be read from the South not the North….

    The power output of your mobile phone might be 4 Herts if read on the North Scale. Reversing the phase or polarity to the South Changes the output to non-hertz and that energy at a particle level moves very fast; not slow as some experts think low frequency works on.
    If the polarity was set to a North polarity the speed of particles might be slower.

    However computer technology works on a multi phase system and “Standing Wave” The Scalar/non-linear
    allows the energy to not decay over any distance and The MoD found this as reported in the times online.

    We have reached a very dangerous situation:
    The legislations there… Except the government and industry are not going to act or tell us what their doing.

    BBC Horizon GOD and the Brain with Michael Persinger: Applying currents to peoples brains.
    The Secret KGB Paranormal Files Narr by Roger Moore DVD 1999

    Some of this appeared in Horizon in 1995

    The Secret KGB Paranormal Files if your can find the original ITV version has a few extra bits in it. In the 1930`s the Navy Russian used microwaves to talk to voleenters at the bottom of the sea.

    Later in the 1960`s the US government was concerned about the Russians using microwaves to listen into their conversation in the Embassy in Moscow.

    They used various experts to find how much radiation the Embassy staff were exposed too.
    Included one British expert Alf Riggs (Whose a dowser and electrical engineer)

    He did not workout that in fact the Russians were generating their microwaves in the reverse polarity
    what might appeared to be microwave; was low frequency…. (But not low frequency) The output was set lower on the oscilloscope if misread from the North polarity. So the UK and USA experts only thought it was low level radiation.

    Despite this… It seems no one could work out the effects on staff through mathematics. These staff were getting head cancers.

    I would of thought a Hospital Radiation expert might of been brought in…?
    Instead the words we don`t know or, better still keep echoing around its all in the mind a placebo effect. Sue Blackmoore to name a few.

    That`s burnt my skin and still is; never mind madam
    we will not help only laugh at you as we can`t see or feel it.. Look at the whole street no one else knows and that`s the way we like it.

    In recent years we`ve had several cases related to hospital X-ray departments where patients have been over exposed to radiation treatments for cancer. Its obvious there is something wrong with the understanding of what that technology is and how to calculate and measure.

    I`ve not found an adequate explanation as to what maths is supposed to be applied to new technology
    Its much more powerful than loglinear…
    As scalar waves are non-linear they are thought to be 4X`s the power of linear.(BIG Questions)
    But if they don`t decay over distance that answer has to be a load of rubbish.

    The Earth only occasionally produces scalar waves having devices continually producing Scalar waves or Standing Wave.

    Noise Consultants and a electronics expert have not a clue and they get very nasty.

    They hardly know how to wire a plug.
    They know nothing about Star Trek and quantum physics. The quantum Physics people say its theoretical science and not real.

    As its not real we shall forget it!
    The Nuclear industry has kept its secrets how that energy is made.. Its all made out of computer/Tesla
    systems with a very cheeky little number are all part of how wind power works really.
    Zeropoint Energy by Nick Cook
    The Field By Lynn Mctaggart

    I`ve personaly contact all UK government department
    these jobs worth`s don`t think it real.
    Our eye`s have been distracted on many falsehoods all to easily.

    In which we don`t wish to know technology is already manipulating us from top to bottom.
    Some people think they can heal with these devices.




  32. Mary said,

    April 18, 2009 at 12:15 am




  33. Mary said,

    April 20, 2009 at 1:31 am

    Dear Ben,

    I need help with this:

  34. Mary said,

    April 27, 2009 at 2:32 am
    The healthcare commission investigated here and little was done GP`s and maybe someone from the HSE
    they know evenless how a mobile phone works.
    Let alone a devices the interferes potentually with T waves in the heart.

  35. Severs said,

    May 2, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Well, “Mary” certainly needs help. Do we start with her understanding of electricity generation, the concept of polarity, or english spelling and grammar?

    Sorry, that sounds too self-superior. after all, the closing comment from “Mary” is as follows: “IF WE SEE ITS ONLY IN THE MIND!”.

    Ben, I’m very concerned that you don’t have the ability to understand how energy works unless you have access to diagrams. Say it isn’t so?

  36. wayscj said,

    November 21, 2009 at 6:20 am

    ed hardy ed hardy
    ed hardy clothing ed hardy clothing
    ed hardy shop ed hardy shop
    christian audigier christian audigier
    ed hardy cheap ed hardy cheap
    ed hardy outlet ed hardy outlet
    ed hardy sale ed hardy sale
    ed hardy store ed hardy store
    ed hardy mens ed hardy mens
    ed hardy womens ed hardy womens
    ed hardy kids ed hardy kids ed hardy kids