The Amazing Qlink Science Pedant

May 19th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, alternative medicine, bad science, electrosensitivity, ITV, mail, patrick holford, qlink, times | 76 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday May 19, 2007
The Guardian

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 £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 £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 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.

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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.

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! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

76 Responses

  1. rightwingprof said,

    May 23, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    What does this do that a good, old-fashioned tinfoil hat doesn’t?

  2. blf said,

    May 28, 2007 at 8:05 am

    “What does this do that a good, old-fashioned tinfoil hat doesn’t?”

    Empties yer wallet faster.

  3. tomcare66 said,

    October 10, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    the “Bad Science” testing of the QLINK looks like a bunch of kindergarted kids trying to understand how a transistor radio functions by attacking it with hammers and screw-drivers. And after a couple of hours disintegrating the radio and still being unavble to understand how the music is produced by the various metallic and plastic parts – they declare this device as “bad science” and instead ascrive the musing source as a little man who usually resides in tehradion but escaped before they attacked it.

    Basically what I am saying is: if “Bad Science” want to appear as serious and address the scientific integrity of a device they should conduct their investigation with a bit more professionalism, do their home work by reading the literature and have someone knowledgeable/professional to conduct the study, rather than a couple of amateurs (=Bad Science editors).

  4. McDorian said,

    October 16, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    Dear Ben,

    I have just done a Patrick Holford themed Scientific English lesson here in Nantes. Your Qlink article was the required reading for the first student roleplay, which consisted in a couple of customers in a shop asking the owner what the Qlink does and how it works. Luckily, a sales rep for the Qlink just happened to be there to answer all their questions about the scientific basis of the device. Here is a picture of the poster he used to explain the Qlink’s marvelous properties.

    Sadly, the second part of the lesson was a re-enactment of the discussion at Teesside University, conferring Patrick Holford’s visiting professorship.

  5. jfcicts said,

    April 29, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    drilling into it? surely the smart approach would be to analyse its effects on cells within the body. this experiment has fortunately been done showing dramatic improvement in cell quality. bad science your name seems to sum it up

  6. nixiejames said,

    May 18, 2008 at 1:54 am

    I would also add that Patrick Holford is actually someone who with his nutrition works solely from pure double blind placebo’d science. He is a deeply respected Nutritionist and has helped many thousands of people to better health and wellbeing. I wonder, once again, if any of you have actually read any of his books and checked out the science behind tham. The difference with a scientist such as Patrick Holford and some people who seem to frequent your site is that he is also aware of a life outside of science, the wonders of the natural world and it’s energies.Wishing you all health and happiness.

  7. NotACat said,

    June 11, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    I wonder whether anybody can enlighten me as to what the USB product on the QLink website might actually do.

    My colleagues and I have been puzzling this one around the kettle and we think it does just about as much as the original pe(n)dant but we’d appreciate confirmation of our suspicions.

  8. NotACat said,

    June 11, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    D’oh! I forgot to leave a link, which in a lucky twist turns out to be:

    Sometimes TinyURL just works out right!

  9. bigoxygen said,

    August 23, 2009 at 1:04 am

    I think this thing is quackery.

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  20. lucyb said,

    November 25, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    I tried to scare them by writing an email to one of the shops, asking for evidence that it actually works (not that there is any, and I know it’s juvenile) and I got a ‘message could not be delivered’ note. Is this normal?

  21. davidgt said,

    January 28, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    I’ve read through all the comments. I should say that I’m a bit of an outsider here. I’m considering the Q-link and Earthcalm, yes, even after reading all this. One reason is that it seems that cellphones and all EMF producing machines (I think we believe EMF is real) heat up the brain per EEG or whatever. And maybe it’s bad science, but it does cause what appears to be an unhealthy or at least unbalanced cell disorganization.

    Well, that gets to me. So I hear good reason to think these EMF protecting pendants, etc. don’t help. Is there anything that can? And also – this is important (to me) – what about an infrared or picture showing the cells realigned, seemingly in harmony. Is that a lie? Or is it possible. Also, has anyone thought to try a device and test it to see if EMF can be blocked. Seems possible with all the good skepticism out there.

    Can’t wait for a response!

  22. useruser said,

    March 2, 2012 at 1:58 am

    @davidgt — I’m in the same boat as you; when I moved into town (near cellphone tower base station with several neighbors featuring WiFi stations), I started feeling a subtle sensation on the surface of my brain. It was subtle, yet definitely not imagined. I slept less, too. So I decided to take matters into my own hands.

    I bought a shield I wear at night and during the day when I work (the BrainCoat: Being skeptical at first, I tested the BrainCoat by placing my cellphone inside it to see if this coat could diminish cellphone frequencies from reaching my cellphone; to my surprise, it did. Without even closing the coat, my phone went down from 5 out of 5 bars to 2 out of 5 bars. Works for Wi-Fi, too.

    That said, I’ve been wearing it at night and sometimes during the day and I feel great! Back to my old energetic self.

    Another thing I’ve experimented with is the earthing pad. Seems good, although I can’t tell either way (

    I’m still experimenting with the Q-Link. Don’t have enough conclusive empirical evidence to say either way.

  23. WiscoBilly said,

    March 28, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    The pendant looks about the right size for 1000-yard (1-km) target practice with a Roberts rifle. And exactly, just what is this ‘zero point energy’ crap? Anyone?

  24. RJCH said,

    June 7, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    I was given a q-link pendant recently and didn’t expect much from it. How can a little copper wire in plastic do anything? I put it on out of gratitude for the gift and was most surprised that after a day or two I was feeling so unusually calm and centered, (it is perhaps hard to explain in terms that won’t offend the the skeptic!) I felt very peaceful and contented in a way that was most usual to me and a dramatic improvement. There was a lack of any tension or anxiety. I took the pendant off yesterday and have gradually gone back to feeling ‘normal’ I miss the lovely way I felt when wearing it and will be putting in on again as soon as I can.

    Part of the problem is that most people are overloaded with information and don’t take a moment to slow down and notice how they are feeling beyond mental worries or desires. They don’t trust or consider more subtle perceptions. Many people still don’t seem to have noticed that mobile phones, phone masts, electricity (try taking a vault meter and holding it within a meter of any mass of plug sockets in your house – it is quite frightening!) wifi and uncorded telephones etc can all very much be felt, and they do not feel good. I’ve found an increasing number of people I know are starting to notice though. No doubt due to the steady increase in masts, wifi etc. We are bombarded with these various waves and now we have 4G as well which is even stronger.

    I’m not a doctor but I know that our hearts beat because of electrical impulses. The action of nerve cells is both chemical and electrical. And yet people rubbish the idea of this massive influx of electrical waves and other odd frequencies having any effect on us at all! Even though it has been around for such a very short time. Some things take years to cause catastrophic result. Asbestos, lead and mercury for example.

    Genetically modified foods cause infertility and hair to grow on the inside of the cheeks of in 3rd generations of rodents and yet it is considered perfectly acceptable to flood our food chain with them.

    We are all guinea pigs, make no mistake about that!

    I’ve heard people complain about headaches and lack of sleep and yet they wouldn’t dream of anything ‘so ridiculous’ as it being caused by them having a phone by them constantly. “We would know about it! The government would put a stop to it if it was true!”

    Perhaps it has to get to a point where there is a lot of it about before people start to actually notice, and we truly are reaching that point.

    It is so easy to mock something we don’t understand, or that contradicts what we already believe. Many people actually feel angry, resentful or uncomfortable about anything which has an element they presume to be ‘new age’

    We would do well to consider the history of impossibility before we write it all off though. It’s often prominent scientists who are the fist to scoff at new ideas. Simon Newcomb, an eminent scientist at the turn of the 19th century stated that it was impossible for any machine to fly long distances through the air. Many years ago an editorial in an eastern newspaper has this opinion of the telephone;

    ‘A man about 46 years of age has been arrested in New York for attempting to extort funds from ignorant and superstitious people, by exhibiting a device which he says will convey the human voice any distance over metallic wires. He calls the instrument a telephone, which is obviously intended to imitate the word ‘telegraph’ and win the confidence of those who know the success of the latter instrument. Well-informed people know that it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that, were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value’

    To assume knowledge to the extent of ridicule over something by dissection alone, without any actual observation is indeed bad science.

  25. Brad Lyons said,

    November 14, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    About a decade ago, I found out about the Q-Link pendant from surfing the web at my local county library, using a search engine to read information about alleged vibrational frequencies of various types of crystals, learn about what are referred to as natural earth frequencies known as either Schumann frequency waves or, Delfaggio frequencies, scalar technology, the pizo-electric effect of coartz crystal, tesla coils and research conducted by Nikola Tesla allegedly commented on by Albert Einstein who allegedly considered Nikola Tesla a more gifted, more important genius than him (Albert Einstein). As a skeptic of meta-physical claims, I decided to purchase a S.R.T.-3 Q-Link pendant without the circuit board, but with the coil of copper wire on one side of the pendant, and put it around my neck. I don’t remember if I felt any different or not, but then I put on a Bio-Pro pendant while wearing the Q-Link pendant; if I’m not mistaken, the Bio-Pro pendant is based on similar theoretical principles of meta-physics as the Q-link pendant that uses ‘Sympathetic Resonance Technology’, but Bio-Pro Technologies Corporation of Carlsbad in San Diego County, CA, calls their technology either E.R.T. or M.R.T., I don’t remember exactly. Just as when I had placed the Q-Link pendant around my neck several months before, I was not expecting to feel anything because I have always been a pragmatic individual who is skeptical of meta-physical claims. However, within thirty minutes or less after placing the Bio-Pro pendant around my neck while wearing the Q-Link pendant, I suddenly experienced a strong sensation of increased alertness and feeling of energy as though I had a vitamin B-12 deficiency and had just been given an injection of vitamin B-12. The feeling I experienced absolutely startled me (scared me momentarily); therefore, what I had experienced could not have possibly been psycho-somatic (illusionary). The feeling (the phenomenon) I experienced lasted several hours until I removed the pendant from my neck. I then took off the Q-Link pendant and just put on the Bio-Pro pendant by itself, to see if it was the Bio-Pro pendant that created the overwhelming feeling I experienced that startled me at first. Again, within 30 minute or less, I began experiencing the same type of increased alertness, increased relaxation, and increased feeling of energy, but at a considerably lower level than when I had both pendants around my neck. I then put on the Q-Link pendant again with the Bio-Pro pendant and within about 30 minutes or less, I felt the same high level of increased alertness, increased relaxation, and an overwhelming feeling of increased energy. I began telling people what I experienced which eventually led to someone stealing both my Q-Link pendant and my Bio-Pro pendant from me. What I cannot explain is, what in the world was it that created what I felt both times I had the Q-Link pendant and the Bio-Pro pendant around my neck? If either or both of these products are gimmicks (pseudo-science hoaxes and quackery), what in the world caused what I experienced? Please email me your thoughts / opinions because I am absolutely baffled, but very curious as a skeptic of meta-physical claims. Sincerely, Bradley Scott Lyons of Laguna Beach, Orange County, CA, U.S.A.

  26. bad science too said,

    December 23, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    I found it ironic that this article exhibits very little science in its efforts to debunk the Q. I have not seen one in person, but know several disbelievers who now swear it does have some affect. Who know? But ignoring any of the scientific reports and resorting to general name calling debunking is a laziness in approach that also is bad science. Plus any time Randi is invoked, run the other way. It is usually a sign to research something further. Randi might still be convinced the world is flat, due to not seeing any curves in it.