By C. N.
Ciao a tutti!
"If you open your mind too much, your brain will fall out." (Tim Minchin).
Welcome to the Quantum Quackery page! This podcast discusses the social drive for "alternative" healing, the dangers it poses (as well as the benefits), and a rise in the number of so-called "doctors" popularizing unproven healing methods in the UK (and a little in the US too). This podcast in particular focuses on the term 'quantum' and its misuse in these alternative healing methods. The podcast will revolve around Victor Stenger's opinion piece in Skeptical Inquirer titled "Quantum Quackery." Each vignette will relate to a theme prevalent in Stenger's paper and present some facts and opinions supporting (or denying) his claims.
Transom.org recommends that a writer with writer's block start with a story. So here's a story of a field trip on a snowday when classes were cancelled:
Some "Field" Research: Royal Ontario Museum
An innocent day trip to the ROM led to some questions: is the information presented in the museum's exhibits considered a "popular source" or "academic/peer-reviewed"? How can we tell which 'science' to trust (is it alternative science)? I hadn't planned to be thinking about these questions, but the creation of this podcast changed my perspective during my day trip. Here are some cases in point:
1. A detailed list of the items displayed in this exhibit case (Ancient China exhibit).
These cards lend credibility to the artifacts. It tells us where they came from, who curates them, and what particular collection they belong to + year found.
2. This card describes the attempts of 'standardization' of Chinese text in ancient China.
How can we make pure/'true' science accessible to everyone? Are we creating 'standard' science sources that are reliable for the general public? Thinking about the many different dialects of the Chinese language that became standardized Mandarin, how do we ensure that modern people who speak different languages get the same "pure" scientific content, and not harmful alternative mumbo-jumbo?
If the above audio fails to work, please follow this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/hzgm7sbv06nvnmu/final_pitch.mp3?dl=0
The transcript can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/apzzgvein4mejxf/Transcript%20of%20Pitch.docx?dl=0
Draft Episode Outline
Now on Turnitin.
Note that the official, Word document of the bibliography can be found here (last updated Feb.18.2018): https://drive.google.com/file/d/1m4AhY-rWW07HQXD12zZrHxWReCcJexub/view?usp=sharing
Barthelemy, P. (2016, September 20). Non, la NASA n'a pas inventé un treizième signe du zodiaque. Retrieved January 29, 2018, from http://passeurdesciences.blog.lemonde.fr/2016/09/20/non-la-nasa-na-pas-invente-un-treizieme-signe-du-zodiaque/
Secondary source. Popular (comes from a newspaper, Le Monde). This light article in francophone Le Monde discusses a craze that occurred when several (less-than-professional, scientific) media sites had stated that NASA changed everyone's horoscopic signs by inventing a new zodiac symbol. Pierre Barthelemy points out that these magazines (including Cosmopolitan) are misinterpreting that fact that NASA had simply updated some star charts, and are creating a rumor out of nothing. Barthelemy's article is relevant to understanding that sometimes, the non-scientific public will misconstrue scientific information in mass media, leading to pseudoscience. Additionally, this is just one of many ways that pseudoscience is created. This supports Stenger's view "common sense [should] continue [sp] to apply on the human scale" (Stenger, V.).
“Brian Cox: It Is Not Acceptable to Promote Bad Science.” Brian Cox: It Is Not Acceptable to Promote Bad Science, Institute of Physics, 3 Oct. 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7BTqKeP6Ks.
From a traditionalist school of thought, Brian Cox promotes the widely-accepted idea that pseudoscience/"bad" science should not be promoted. His speech outlines some dangers in propogating fake science. This is an extension to the conclusions drawn in Stenger's article, "Quantum mechanics, the centerpiece of modern physics, is misinterpreted" (Stenger, V.) by the general public much too often.
Dawkins, Richard. “Snake Oil and Holy Water.” Forbes. Can be found at http://samizdat.cc/shelf/documents/2004/12.22-dawkins/dawkins.pdf
Dawkins is a well-known and respected biologist from the UK who has long been famous for his conversations with contested scientists (like Deepak Chopra). In this paper, he questions some of Ursula Goodenough's information in her book, "Sacred Depths of Nature". Dawkins asks us to take a second look at the fine line between catagorizing a book as "science", "religion", and "medicine". He points out that Goodenough's language in the book is inherently atheistic, yet she claims that it is a religious text. He then concludes that "One of us is misusing the English language, and I don’t think it’s me." He gives a few examples of quantum healing as well, one of which is Patricia Newton's claim that traditional healers "are able to tap that other realm of negative entropy—that superquantum velocity and frequency of electromagnetic energy—and bring them as conduits down to our level. It’s not magic. It’s not mumbo jumbo.” He clearly sums up his argument agaisnt her work by saying, "Sorry, but mumbo jumbo is precisely what it is. Not African mumbo jumbo but pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo, down to the trademark misuse of the word energy. It is also religion, masquerading as science in a cloying love feast of bogus convergence." The key point here, which is also the key point in Victor Stenger's work highlighted in my podcas, is that "religion [is] masquerading as science", and so is medicine and alternative healing.
“Deepak Chopra (Author).” Simon & Schuster, www.simonandschuster.ca/authors/Deepak-Chopra/1155961.
A short biography of Deepak Chopra that tells us that he has sold over twenty million copies of his books, which have been translated in 85+ languages. (Statistical source).
Deepak Chopra doesn't understand quantum physics, so Brian Cox wants $1,000,000 from him. (n.d.). Retrieved January 22, 2018, from https://www.newstatesman.com/future-proof/2014/07/deepak-chopra-doesnt-understand-quantum-physics-so-brian-cox-wants-1000000-him
Secondary source. Popular. Ian Steadman's article is frankly hilarious to read; it contains a detailed commentary on the Twitter war that physics Prof. Brian Cox had with alleged pseudo-scientist Deepak Chopra. Deepak Chopra is well-known for his "quantum healing" methods, using the mind and 'quantum' powers to heal ills, such as he describes in his book, "Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine". Both men challenge each other in the $1 M challenge to prove each other wrong (or right), and what ensues is an onslaught of demand for scientific proof, from one side, as the other side fastidiously ignores or avoids the allegations.
The Most Wanted Particle [Video file]. (2015, April 6). Retrieved January 20, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQ95WcCCI9w
By Perimeter Institute.
Secondary source. Scholarly-popular. Perimeter Institute's Public lecture series is presented by a scholar (in this case, a particle physicist working at a particle collider) to the public. Jonathan Butterworth's lecture was intended for the general public, so he deftly explains some basic concepts of quantum physics (e.g. wavelength and energy relationship), where the future of quantum physics is, and some key "true" definitions of scientific terms that, for my study, are popular for use among quackers. Additionally, because the Perimeter Institute is a hothouse for credible researchers in theoretical (and some applied) physicists, the credibility of this particular lecture is very high.
Quantum Misunderstandings with Professor Brian Cox and Robin Ince [Video file]. (2015, February 9). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ojwZ9FffR8
By The Cosmic Shambles Network.
Primary source (will be used in a vignette). Popular. This short, but descriptive, video presents P. Brian Cox telling Brian Ince what makes him doubtful of the science that Deepak Chopra propagates to the public. It is nearly a continuation of the previous article from New Statesman, and allows us to hear some of Cox's thoughts of why a field like quantum physics is very specific and why it is commonly used for quackery.
Ramtha's School of Quantum Flapdoodle. (2010, February 25). Retrieved January 23, 2018, from https://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/04-10-01/
Secondary source. Popular. This lengthy piece describes the film "What the -*!? do we know?" and the inconsistencies spotted within it. The articles states that "the film is the latest effort by religious, mystical, and New Age gurus such as Deepak Chopra to cloak their views in the mantel of science." It breaks down the points the film tries to make to support pseudoscience, and offers several educated rebuttals.
Richard Dawkins interviews Deepak Chopra (Enemies of Reason Uncut Interviews) [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsH1U7zSp7k
Primary source (will be part of a vignette). Popular-industrial. Prominent biologist Richard Dawkins interviews Deepak Chopra to discuss his beliefs behind quantum healing, and why he decided to coin his theory with the name 'quantum'. Chopra concedes that his choice of the word 'quantum' was, in fact, only a metaphor. His words are misleading to the true nature of his theories about conciousness healing the physical, and the documentary is a good example of deliberate use of scientific-sounding terms to mislead the public.
Stenger, V. (1997). Quantum Quackery. Skeptical Inquirer. Retrieved January 19, 2018, from https://www.csicop.org/si/show/quantum_quackery.
Primary source (is the central opinion piece). Academic (in a reviewed journal). This paper was published in the Skeptical Inquirer two decades ago, but is still relevant today. It discusses some common scams created by con artists who use misleading, obfuscatory scientific terminology (and other means) to fool the general public into investing in their product or service. One particular eg. includes "quantum healing", where so-called medical doctors claim that a state of mind can alter the being because of 'quantum fields'. This article in particular provides a good overview of the issues that society faces in terms of 'quantum' scamming/quackery.
Townson, S. (2016, January 26). Why people fall for pseudoscience (and how academics can fight back). Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2016/jan/26/why-people-fall-for-pseudoscience-and-how-academics-can-fight-back
Primary source (will be part of vignette describing how we can counter pseudoscience). Popular. Townson's article outlines the basics of health issues in pseudoscience. As a professional scientist herself, Sian suggests several ways to lead the public back to the right track. She also explains why it's so easy for the public to believe these lies, mentioning the Dunning-Kruger effect, clustering illusion, and more. Her article is well worth a read and outlines the whole of pseudoscience (and the fight against it) in simple, informed tones.
Willmsen, Christine, and Michael J. Berens. “How One Man's Invention Is Part of a Growing Worldwide Scam That Snares the Desperately Ill.” The Seattle Times, The Seattle Times Company, 19 Nov. 2007, www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/how-one-mans-invention-is-part-of-a-growing-worldwide-scam-that-snares-the-desperately-ill/.
Secondary source, may be mentioned in a vingette. Popular. This news article gives a prime example of terms like 'quantum' being thrown around by 'professionals' who do not understand what it means. A group called the 'Quantum Alliance', in charge of a healing machine, "claimed the [machine] can repair injured tissue and accelerate healing" by firing radio waves. And yet, "Company President Brian Thompson ... couldn’t explain what the device does or how it works. 'We just sell them,' Thompson said." This article also contains many statistics, including how many of the machines (called EPFX) were sold yearly. 17K were sold worldwide by 2007; each cost about $19 000 US.
Wynn, C. M., Wiggins, A. W., & Harris, S. (2017). Quantum leaps in the wrong direction: where real science ends-- and pseudoscience begins. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Secondary source. Popular. Wynn's perspective is surprisingly detailed with light language; Wynn describes pseudoscience broadly. He covers astrology, ESP, and various other fields where quackery is often present. Though my interest lies in quantum mechanics' misrepresentation, most of the points that Wynn makes here are also applicable to my podcast.
The following are some sounds to be heard in the podcast. No copyright infringement intended, sounds composed and performed by yours truly.
Learning to use 'Audacity'
1. Sound check in an enclosed space. Enjoy this mini-podcast demonstrating my multi-lingual skills.
2. Learning to incorporate sound files into vocal track. Enjoy this mini-podcast on learning basic jazz piano.
Plant samples with genus + species name.
Names like "acacia, microbotrya benth." are meaningless to most non-botanists; what's to say that these words aren't just made up mumbo-jumbo? If I was an uneducated member of public, it would be just as easy to tell me that "quantum rays" could cure my arthritis as "acacia rays" could cure my asthma. Again, how are we making science and scientific terminology accessible to the public?