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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Why physics precludes homeopathy from having any real effect - a summary of some recently published work

Last year I spent a few months in Australia, a serious competitor for the woo capital of the world with clinics in every town offering everything from crystal healing to aura reading to colonic irrigation, though one would presume not at the same time of course. Naturally in such a place, homeopathy is widely practiced, despite some high profile tragic cases . Anyway, upon my oft quite inebriated travels I came across many a proponent of the weird and wacky, including a professional homeopath. Despite my repeated explanations about the placebo effect, regression to the mean, and how this all meant homeopathy was bunk, she steadfastly quoted anecdote after anecdote. So I decided to be a little devious; I asked her for a loan of her homeopathy texts so I might educate myself better. She gladly obliged, gloating slightly that she had got the attention of a sceptical hard scientist as she bequeathed me her tomes and a handful of papers she said "prove" homeopathy works. "You can't fail to be inspired by them!" she stated confidently.

On that note, she was right, but I doubt she'll like the result. What I read inspired me to write a review paper, which has just been published in the journal Focus on alternative and complementary therapies with the snappy acronym FACT. The paper is entitled Proposed mechanisms for homeopathy are physically impossible. The abstract is shown below; if you're an academic type in medicine or the hard sciences with journal access, you can read the full paper here. With the kind permission of the legendary Professor Edzard Ernst, this post is a synopsis of what might be a very interesting paper to those interested in finding out why homeopathy doesn't work. So without further preamble, let's talk about what the paper says and why homeopathy can't work without violating basic physical laws. I've cut down the math and referencing to the minimal needed is this explanation, but do comment if you want any more explanation!





Abstract from paper All rights FACT 2012 (Used with permission - original here)


Introduction and motivation

In the 18th century, Samuel Hahnemann came up with a strange philosophy; that curative effects could be found by administering a substance thought to cause the same symptoms the patient complained of. He called this the law of similars. At this stage in history, medicine and indeed science weren't quite so rooted in reality as they are now, and this wasn't particularly fanciful in an era of blood letting, miasma and vitalism.  Hahnemann also figured that the more diluted the active ingredient was, the more powerful the curative effect.

The state of medical and scientific knowledge in the 21st century is somewhat more advanced; instead of believing in bad air and cursing, Koch's postulates allow us to pinpoint the causes of various maladies and figure out treatments. The existence of atoms has thought us there are fundamental limits to how much we can dilute or subdivide something. People are living longer, healthier lives. But curiously, homeopathy is enjoying something of a renaissance. Despite the sheer outlandishness of the concept, and the fact that meta-analysis of clinical trials shows it performs no better than placebo, the homeopathy market is thriving. Further, several major medical schools have started actively teaching homeopathy under the banner of CAM. Depressingly, several health providers, including the UK’s NHS, also fund homeopathic treatments. This isn't just a waste of money; homeopathy can cost lives, particularly when patients decline conventional medicine in favour of this impossible therapy and it's lofty promises.

While the scientific consensus that homeopathy has no effect beyond placebo is clear, modern practitioners cling to the handful of poor quality studies that seem to think validate their position; of course they don't, but I decided that rather than approach the problem through the various clinical trials and their weighing and statistics, that I'd review the problem through the cold eye of first principles physics to see if one such effects have any plausibility, regardless of the clinical data.

Let's start by analysing the bastion of homeopathy, the credo that higher dilutions mean more powerful remedies


Homeopathic dilutions

Homeopaths insist that the biological potency of their treatments  increase with dilution. This runs contrary to conventional understanding, where higher doses trigger correspondingly higher reactions. These dilutions are extreme; homeopaths use the centesimal or 'C' scale, where each C corresponds to a dilution of 1/100 (10^-2) the original; thus a 2C dilution would be 1/10000 (10^-4), a 3C dilution 1/ 1000000 (10^-6) etc. This presents a physical problem; a single mole of any molecule of any substance contains Avogadro's number of particles. This number is roughly

NA ~= 6.022 x 10 ^ 23 / mol

So imagine we start diluting this down; up to 11C (10^-22) we're ok, but once we hit 12C we run into a problem; at 12C, we can only expect find 0.6022 particles; but atomic theory tells us particles only come in integer numbers like 1, or 2, or 5012; a fraction of a particle doesn't make sense. This means we have to interpret this as a probability; after 12C dilution, we'd expect there to only be a 0.6022 chance (60.22% chance) of finding ONE particle of the original substance. At dilutions higher than this, the odds quickly fall to zero. This means that it is physically impossible to dilute this much. Yet this doesn't stop homeopaths, as you can see from the table below

Homeopathic dilutions - All rights FACT 2012 (Used with permission - original here)

Typical homeopathic remedies have a 30C (10^-60) dilutions. If the diluting media is water, this allows us to make some predictions. I've skipped the math here, but you'll find it in the original paper. To have a SINGLE particle left after a 30C dilution, would require a mass of 15,000 times the sun and a radius of 28 times it. This is absolutely stellar and would dwarf earth AND the sun. This "water mega planet" is illustrated below and compared to the size of the earth and the sun.


See that tiny little dot in the centre ? That's Earth. The bigger circle is the sun; the gigantic circle is the size of the water planet required to have even one particle remaining after a 30C dilution. It's about 3000 times the size of Earth. All rights FACT 2012 (Used with permission - original here)

You read that correctly - for the standard 30C dilution to have a single atom or molecule of active ingredient, it would be orders of magnitude bigger than the Earth and Sun. So unless you're getting GIGANTIC pills , it's a pretty safe bet there is not an iota of active anything in there. In the paper, I also discuss how this just gets more insane with increasing dilution; the 200C dilution would require 10^320 universes or so just to find one active particle.

In essence, the problem can be visualised as trying to divide one entity into many containers; without smashing up the entity, this can't happen. And the entity, if smashed up, no longer has the properties of the active ingredient.You'd think this would be the nail in the coffin for homeopathy from a logical perspective, but they have one more trick up their sleeve....

Water memory

In defence of Hahnemann,  when he proposed that serial dilution bit that seems so bonkers to our modern sensibilities, he couldn't have been aware that atomic chemistry precludes there being anything actively left beyond 12C. Indeed, while he could be forgiven for his ignorance his modern disciples strain credibility by taking a position so clearly divorced from reality. While most 'modern' homeopaths acknowledge that no active ingredient can be left in the mix, they postulate a fancy deus ex machina that solves this seemingly intractable problem - Water memory, or the belief that water "remembers" what it came into contact with and retains chemical properties from this.

This is kind of disturbing when you you think about it, all Water on earth is a closed system and constantly gets recycled; this would mean that water could have an unduly strong recollection of all the human and animal waste it has come in contact with. However, homeopaths seem to think water has a somewhat more selective memory than this. Still, if the former image is haunting you somewhat, rest assured this handwavy explanation is equally devoid of merit; water is a polar molecule, two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. The oxygen is much bigger than the hydrogen, and has a partial negative charge. The hydrogen have partial positive charge. This makes them act like little bar magnets, and makes water molecules join together, like in the diagram below.


I sometimes visualise bonded water molecules as severed Mickey house heads and spinal columns. Feel free to use that pedagogical tool whilst I make an appointment with my shrink......

Now, while these bonds are quite weak and easily broken, they give water many cool properties like surface tension. For water to have a memory, these bonds would have to be disturbed and these these disturbances would have to persist long, long after the catalyst had left the scene. In practice, this would mean water would have to be slow to redistribute its bonds. Thankfully, an experiment can be performed to measure this, using infrared techniques. Cowan et al measured this and got an answer for how long the memory of water is; 50 femtoseconds. Let me express that is non-nerd terms; 0.00000000000005 seconds, or one 50 thousandth billionths of a second. Water re-distributes its bonds rapidly, and the only conclusion can be that the memory conjecture holds no water, if you'll pardon the pun.

Benveniste's memory of water

With such tiny time scales for bond breaking, it's hardly surprising that the water memory conjecture is bunk. However, in the late 1980s French immunologist Jacques Benveniste submitted a paper to the journal Nature, which stated human antibodies still produced histamine when exposed to anti-immunoglobulin E that had been diluted up to 60C. As we've just seem, this isn't technically possible, and aroused the suspicion of physicist editor John Maddox. Yet the paper itself seemed reasonable and was allowed to run on the condition that it would be independently examined. Guess who that independent investigator was ? 


Badass.

Indeed.  The 'ghostbuster' team consisted of of Nature editor John Maddox, Nobel Laureate in chemistry and fraud investigator Walter Stewart and the infamous magician/sceptic James Randi. After much detective work, they found that the results had been an artifact caused by observer bias; the team stated "that experimental data have been uncritically assessed and their imperfections inadequately reported.", which appeared in a follow up paper in Nature - which means that in addition to being an awesome figure, James Randi has had a paper in Nature, something few scientists can boast. <not jealous...not jealous>

Attempts by other independent laboratories to replicate Benveniste’s findings also ended in failure, and questions were raised about two of Benveniste’s original team who were funded by French homeopathic giant Boiron. The 1987 paper in Nature is considered an example of pathological science by the scientific community; yet, to this day, it is still quoted by homeopaths to support their belief. That is has been utterly discredited seems to not deter them one iota, for reasons only a psychologist could speculate on.


Montagnier's magical mystery message 

In 2009. there was another stir when nobel prize winning virologist Luc Montagnier claimed to be able to detect electromagnetic signals from extreme dilutions of bacterial deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). While not specifically mentioning homeopathy, many homeopathic institutions (such as the Society of Homeopaths in the UK) cite this as evidence rendering homeopathy plausible. In the paper, I analysed Montagnier's experiment and found it incredibly suspect from a physical and technical perspective.  A systematic drawing of the apparatus used by Montagnier appears below

All rights FACT 2012 (Used with permission - original here)

The system purports to record electromagnetic signals from the vial and carry them from the conducting wire to the amplifier where the signal is increased and read by a computer.To add an extra little bit of background crazy, it should be noted that this system was derived by Benveniste who claimed he could use it to send homeopathic signals down telephone lines. You could not make this stuff up.


However, that they detected a signal is hardly surprising – the coil is not electrically insulated in a Faraday cage which means no background signals are screened out. Background noise is ubiquitous, and any detection system should be screened to avoid this. As this was not the case in the experiment, the amplifier was essentially increasing the noise, raising serious questions about what was being measured.
Worse, the paper itself is a mess, with no mention of vital data - The authors also do not make any mention of the amplitude of the signal, mentioning only that it was very small and could only be detected after being filtered with a band pass filter. The authors make some passing reference to the noise generated by the power source ‘which was found to be necessary for the induction of the resonance signals from the specific nano structures.’ They also noted that the effects disappeared when they reduced the noise, and concluded that the effect needs noise to work rather than the more obvious solution that the effect is the result of noise. This is truly putting the cart before the horse; the authors measure a signal when there is noise, and the signal disappears when the noise is screened out; any other author would conclude that the signal is DUE to the noise, but no such pedestrian conclusions for Montagnier; no sir, he takes the esoteric Occam defying position that the effect is real but NEEDS noise to work. The mind boggles.


In practice, all measurements are affected by noise, and this is a great problem when signals are small. To determine the amount of noise, signal and electrical engineers employ the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). This measurement becomes extremely important when measuring small signals, such as the ones Montagnier nd colleagues reported observing. A linear SNR of one or less, for example, would indicate that the noise was respectively the same as or less than the signal measured, rendering the results meaningless. There are various tools and methods for analysing and quantifying SNR to investigate whether the results obtained are useful or not, but Montagnier et al. made no reference or indeed any analysis of error despite mentioning the signal was extremely small. The lack of quantification raises serious questions about the nature of the signals recorded and seems to be an extreme oversight.

Now, I'm no conspiracy theorist but it does seem strange such a poor quality paper could be accepted without such basic information being included. The plot thickens somewhat when one realises that the journal that carried it, Interdisciplinary Sciences – Computational Life Sciences, is a journal Montagnier set up and is editor of. The paper was received, revised and accepted for publication within 3 days, a suspiciously fast turnaround time. This, coupled with the lack of quantification, suggests serious flaws were overlooked in the peer-review and publishing processes. Nothing in the paper has been replicated, and is highly unlikely to be replicated. In conclusions, Montagnier's work is dubious and does not lend much credence to the claims homeopaths make of it.


Conclusions

From what we've discussed, we can see that homeopathy simply can't exist without violating some basic physical and chemical laws; yet still, it thrives based on dodgy arguments.Many clinical trials investigating the efficacy of homeopathy have failed to show any benefit of the therapy beyond a placebo effect. Evidence suggests that patients who receive benefit from homeopathy may do so because of the non-specific effects of the therapeutic encounter; the act of getting a 'treatment' and being listened to is enough to mitigate some symptoms on a psychological basis

The arguments and analysis I put forward here and in the review paper indicate that homeopathy is impossible and proposed mechanisms are simply not valid in reality.Despite this, some proponents claim that scientific criticism of homeopathy is ignorant and unnecessary as it is ‘grounded on assumptions differing from the traditional scientific ones’ (M. Teixeira, 2011) , but this is an incredibly dishonest and self-insulating position; Homeopathy fails on both a clinical and a theoretical level, and one cannot insulate it from criticism by dismissing investigation. The problem is not the scientific method or evidence-based practice – it is that homeopathy has been shown to have zero efficacy and, as this work and other establish, there is no reason it should. To add insult to injury, there is a level of hypocrisy when proponents of homeopathy dismiss the scientific method, yet claim to have scientific studies only when it verifies their belief. Introducing questionable epistemological objections should be seen as no more than weak rhetoric to hold an untenable position. To summarise, homeopathy suffers from the doubly fatal flaw of not being supported by clinical evidence and not being physically plausible. Because of this, the author suggests that promoting homeopathy as a valid therapy would be highly questionable in a clinical environment.

Many thanks to Edzard Ernst and FACT for allowing me use portions of the paper in this summary









48 comments:

  1. ". . . but most large-scale clinical trials show no homeopathy to be no more effective than placebo treatment."

    Is the double negative in the abstract just a typo?

    I was able to get the PDF. I enjoyed the study and, in my opinion, your logic is irrefutable. Of course, as you pointed out, the homeopaths will simply claim that the laws of physics don't apply to them. It's a shame that politicians are still willing to spend money on this "therapy."

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  2. Your paper seems to be too simplistic; it looks like all you are saying is "there is not a single molecule in the solution so it cannot have an effect". Many homeopathic remedies are not that highly diluted. Furthermore, you do not seem to know much about the literature on water memory. See the 2007 special issue of the journal Homeopathy on water memory for good overviews by Martin Chaplin and Jose Teixeira, and also a number of research papers on water memory. The findings of the Benveniste paper in Nature, i.e. highly diluted solutions having biological effects, have since been confirmed in a number of well-controlled experiments you do not seem to know about. I can give you further pointers if you are interested. These, of course, do not indicate that homeopathy works; it just indicates that the argument "homeopathy cannot work because water has no memory" is flawed.

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  3. Had you bothered to read the article, you would have seen that's not the argument I made, and perhaps saved yourself looking devotional and a little foolish. Benviste has been debunked for years and I explain why above.

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  4. Yes, I did read the article and I think it is quite uninformed. You didn't do your homework, you failed to read the relevant literature. And it looks like you don't want to be informed either. I'm quite surprised actually that such a poor paper has been published in Edzard Ernst's journal. Was this paper peer-reviewed? If yes, shame on the reviewers.

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  5. I will gladly believe in a long-term water memory when someone can distinguish, without prior knowledge, a finished homeopathic from the water solution used in the dilution process.

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  6. Andras Szilagyi, you have made it clear to any reader you're talking out your ass. Congrats. Of course it was peer reviewed, and Edzard Ernst would be the FIRST to tell you homeopathy does not work.

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  7. David, I gave you pointers to the literature and also offered to give you more in case you requested. But it looks like you don't wish to be informed about the subjects you write about. Why don't you check out the papers I referred to? Your paper is crap. If you decided to write about water memory and stuff, why didn't you bother to look up the relevant literature and read up on the subject? Also, you seriously made a figure of the Earth with a dot in the centre to illustrate dilution, for a paper to be published in an academic journal? Did you think you were writing for 7-year old kids or what? I respect Edzard Ernst, and that is exactly why I think that your paper, which is of very low standards, should not have been published in his journal. This will really only harm his reputation.

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  8. Mike, there have been several papers in recent years where ultra-diluted solutions could be distinguished from controls by various means, including NMR. But David doesn't want to know about these studies. Do you?

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    Replies
    1. Andras,

      I am a chemist and I wrote a blog post recently asking some simple questions about how homeopathy works:

      http://www.atomsandnumbers.com/2012/a-chemist-asks-some-scientific-questions-about-homeopathy/

      While I'd appreciate getting answers to all these questions, one question is quite relevant to what you've been discussing:

      6. If two preparations were made – one which followed the entire protocol as given, and another where the dilutions were done but the solution was not vigorously struck 10 times on an elastic body, how would a homeopath distinguish which is the properly-prepared solution?

      I'd like for you to answer this very practical question. Instead of simply alluding to what is in the literature, I'd appreciate a specific answer to this question.

      Delete
    2. I too would like to see this. I did a wide literature trawl before I wrote this and never saw any such thing but by all means, show us

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    3. OK, David. Check out these papers:

      Demangeat JL
      NMR water proton relaxation in unheated and heated ultrahigh aqueous dilutions of histamine: Evidence for an air-dependent supramolecular organization of water
      J Mol Liquids 144:32-39 (2009)

      Chirumbolo S, Brizzi M, Ortolani R, Vella A, Bellavite P
      Inhibition of CD203c membrane up-regulation in human basophils by high dilutions of histamine: a controlled replication study.
      Inflamm Res. 2009 Nov;58(11):755-64. Epub 2009 May 6. PMID: 19418203

      Sainte-Laudy J, Belon P
      Use of four different flow cytometric protocols for the analysis of human basophil activation. Application to the study of the biological activity of high dilutions of histamine.
      Inflamm Res. 2006 Apr;55 Suppl 1:S23-4. PMID: 16705375

      Belon P, Cumps J, Ennis M, Mannaioni PF, Roberfroid M, Sainte-Laudy J, Wiegant FA
      Histamine dilutions modulate basophil activation.
      Inflamm Res. 2004 May;53(5):181-8. Epub 2004 Apr 21. PMID: 15105967

      Belon P, Cumps J, Ennis M, Mannaioni PF, Sainte-Laudy J, Roberfroid M, Wiegant FA
      Inhibition of human basophil degranulation by successive histamine dilutions: results of a European multi-centre trial.
      Inflamm Res. 1999 Apr;48 Suppl 1:S17-8. PMID: 10350142

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    4. Andras,
      I'm also a chemist, and I'm sick of you witchdoctors scaring my family and friends. Every week a new fad shows up and I have to talk them out of buying into it.

      Water does not have a memory, it is an INANIMATE molecule. Your ignorance to the world astounds me, as such a demonstration of sheer stupidity in any other species on this planet would have already rendered you dead.

      It's people like you that talk cancer patients off chemotherapy. People like you are directly responsible for the muddying of waters around healthcare and science and I'm very very sick of it.

      STOP BEING WRONG....so wrong......

      We (the ACTUAL sceintific community) have tried to be polite in the past to people like you but enough is enough. Homeopathy is a lie, a bold faced lie and unless you realise this we will have to assume that you've stopped taking your medication.

      I'm sorry if the truth hurts, but your feelings are less important to me than health of those you put in jeopardy with your glorified paint shaker

      Delete
    5. atomsandnumbers: I don't know the answer to your question; I never claimed a homepath could distinguish between the two; I don't even understand why you are asking me this question. Succussion, however, has been shown to induce solitons in water that remain detectable for ~10 minutes. Also, it may introduce nanobubbles which can remain in the solution for an indefinite time. Nanobubbles are suspected to be one possible reason for high-dilution effects.

      Delete
    6. Dec, you are stupid. I'm not a supporter of homeopathy, I never said anything like that. If you are a chemist, then instead of these unintelligible rants you have spilled here, please apply higher standards against yourself and check out the literature references I provided in my comments.

      Delete
    7. Andras,

      I asked you my question because you seem to show much knowledge about how homeopathy works. You stated: "the argument "homeopathy cannot work because water has no memory" is flawed", so I hope you could then explain, in practical terms, how one could distinguish between a solution that has undergone succussion and one that hasn't. You also stated that "succussion has been shown to induce solitons in water that remain detectable for ~10 minutes", so I would like to know HOW that is detected - not with a list of references, but with you telling us in 1-2 sentences how that is detected. It's a simple question, which should have a simple answer.

      But your comment that you've "never claimed a homepath could distinguish between the two" is interesting. Don't you think it's a problem if a homeopath can't tell the difference between a real and fake remedy? That doesn't speak well for quality control. It doesn't even have to be an intentional "fake" - the person preparing the remedy could have make an honest mistake and lost out of the number of succussions. How would anyone tell the difference if that person intended to make a 30C and made a 20C instead?

      If you are a user of homeopathic remedies, how can you have any confidence in the remedies you are consuming if, as you admit, even an expert homeopath can't distinguish between a properly-made remedy and an improperly-made one?

      Delete
    8. atomsandnumbers, where in the hell did you get the idea that I am user of homeopathic remedies or that I think homeopathy works or I support homeopathy in any way? I have nothing to do with homeopathy and I don't think it works! I absolutely don't care what homeopaths do or what they can distinguish what from what by what means.

      If you are a scientist, why are you so unwilling to read the literature? I never claimed to have discovered anything new and I didn't claim anything that has no adequate proof in the literature.

      The solitons have been detected using a bioassay producing bioluminescence. But I'm not providing a literature reference since you aren't interested in literature references.

      Delete
    9. Andras

      Have you come across any criticism of the papers you cited?

      Delete
    10. Andras,

      I am perfectly willing to read the literature. Has it ever occurred to you that not everyone has continuous instant access to scientific journals? I was not on a university campus yesterday or today, so I can't just download papers whenever I want to. If you wanted to have an actual scientific discussion, along with the list of citations you'd also tell us what is relevant in those papers.

      You say you're an academic who has published alot - are you this childish when someone challenges your own research in peer review? Do you get this angry and defensive when someone asks you questions after you give a conference talk?

      Oh, and I've just typed "bioassay producing bioluminescence" into Google Scholar and then into Pubmed, and I got zero references from each. I don't have access to Web of Knowledge from here so I can't check whether there will be any hits there.

      Of course, since we're discussing water memory - last time I checked, water is not a living thing, and in many cases, the substance being "remembered" is inorganic - there would be nothing from which BIOluminescence would be emitted. Luminescence maybe, but not BIOluminescence.

      Delete
    11. Zeno, no I have not, at least nothing serious.

      Atoms and Numbers: you specifically asked me not to provide literature references. I assumed you didn't want to read the papers then. Now it looks like you are still interested. Good.

      I don't think I'm childish, you guys are childish when I come here to criticize David's poorly researched paper and all you guys attack me as if I were some evil homeopath or whatnot.

      What is your problem with a bioassay? If you can use chemical indicators, you can also use bioindicators as well. In this case, a protist was used that displays bioluminescence in response to agitation of the surrounding water. This is an elegant way to detect mechanical disturbances in water.

      Delete
    12. Andras Szilagyi said:

      "Zeno, no I have not, at least nothing serious."

      Appeal to personal incredulity, of course, but I'd have thought you might have had a serious look for any criticism just in case it highlighted any flaws.

      What's your views on them? Are they pretty robust?

      Delete
    13. Andras,

      I don't have a problem with bioassays, and I don't know why you assumed I'd have a problem with it. When you simply named a technique without context, it made no sense, but now that you've given us a bit of detail, it sounds interesting - will you tell us the reference describing how solitons are detected in this manner?

      Delete
    14. Zeno, some results seem to be pretty robust, others not so much, but certainly they warrant further studies, so much that now there is a journal titled "International Journal of High Dilution Research".

      I think the fundamental point is that water is never pure water, it always contains additional stuff such as ions (including those from glassware), dissolved gases, nanobubbles, a number of contaminants and so on (not to mention homeopathic stock solutions that also contain ethanol). The idealized pure H2O that people have in their minds does not exist. It is always a complex system with lots of components. In this system, several phenomena have long relaxation times.

      Atoms and Numbers: it's PMID 16226202.

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    15. Andras,

      Thanks for sending the citation. For other readers, this paper is: AV Tschulakow, Y Yan and W Klimek, "A new approach to the memory of water", Homeopathy, 94, 241-247 (2005). The paper was on several websites, so I was able to download it without going through ScienceDirect.

      Interesting idea. I wish they had done this with three modalities - along with succussed and unsucccussed, I'd like to see "merely shaken", where the samples are shaken but not with the 1 Hz succussion. This would allow them to further determine whether the "water memory" that is detected comes from any shaking, or strictly from the act of succussion. Since they published this in a homeopathy journal, I'd think that is a detail they'd want to check in this.

      Having read the paper, I see major flaws with the statistical analysis, which casts major doubt over their conclusions. They appear to calculate the mean and standard deviation of 1000 or 2000 count-per-decisecond measurements (that is what they say on page 242, middle of right column). But those 1000 or 2000 measurements do not follow anything close to a normal distribution - at least 98% of the measurements are close to zero, and then a few points are well in the thousands. If the measurements don't follow a normal distribution, then the z-tests and F-tests of that data will be meaningless.

      Now looking at the table on page 244. I have no idea how they calculated the z-values here (and yes, I know how to do a z-test - but what they used as the population mean, and how they got to those z-values, I don't know). And as I said, the means and standard deviations are useless for z-tests and F-tests here. I find it really strange in part b - they cut off all intensities that are below 50, turning them into zeros, but it appears that they retain the zeros when they calculated the means - if they hadn't, the mean should be over 50 (because there would be no measurements below 50 in the set!). I have no clue why they would do that, although it does reduce the standard deviation because now the mean is much lower, and all those zeros will leave small residuals since they are so close to the mean.

      Finally, looking at part a of the table - the standard deviations are so much larger than the means, so based on that, I suspect that none of these means, either succussed or unsuccussed, would be above the limit of detection. That would be different if they deleted (not just zeroed) all measurements below 50, but we can't verify that with what is here.

      The statistical tests in this paper are meaningless - with what they've presented, there's no way that we can trust the conclusions drawn in this paper.

      Delete
    16. Whatever. The analysis may not be adequate. I never studied this paper in this much detail because I don't think it's important. But I think it's quite plausible that the effect of succussion may remain for up to 10 minutes. If you just take a bottle of water with some visible dust in it, shake it, and then put it on a table, you will see the dust particles whirl around in the water at least for tens of seconds. So then why would it be so unbelievable that some movement from the shaking is still present even after several minutes. It's not a very important paper anyway, of course a homeopathic remedy is expected to remain efficacious for more than 10 minutes. If succussion has any lasting effects, I would guess it is due to other factors such as tiny bubbles rather than these solitons.

      Delete
    17. Andras Szilagyi said:

      "Zeno, some results seem to be pretty robust, others not so much, but certainly they warrant further studies, so much that now there is a journal titled "International Journal of High Dilution Research"."

      I'd be interested to know which of those studies you believe are robust, which you believe are not and your reasons.

      You say the journal for high dilution research was set up because there was a need for further studies after the ones you cited. Can you say whether they have now been improved upon (or at least duplicated) and their results confirmed?

      Delete
    18. Zeno, I read those papers several years ago and I don't remember the details, just the impression I had at that time. This is not my research area and I don't have the time to go all over the papers again. However, the studies that have Madeleine Ennis among the authors are very carefully done. The NMR study also seems convincing.

      As this is not my research area, I do not follow the more recent papers in the journal of "high dilution research". Just glancing in it though, I see a steady stream of new results. I do not have the time to evaluate these.

      Delete
    19. Andras

      You need to read them again - they really are very unconvincing.

      As an example of the problems: In Belon (2004) - bearing in mind this is the study frequently cited as being the one that showed how Ennis' first 'success' could be repeated - the controls did not do what would normally be expected. Without going into too much detail, Belon et al. claimed that homeopathic concentrations of histamine significantly inhibited anti-IgE mediated activation of basophils. Three different concentrations of anti-IgE were added to different (homeopathic) dilutions of histamine down to 10^-38 M with the same three concentrations of anti-IgE diluted in water rather than homeopathic histamine as a control.

      The problem here is that you'd expect the three control anti-IgE concentrations (ie without any histamine) to have different effects. Addition of anti-IgE activates basophils. The cells then release histamine as part of the allergic response and the different concentrations in the three controls should have given different responses. But Belon didn't see any difference in response in three out of the four labs. This shows that there was something wrong somewhere with their experimental set up and casts doubt on any effect they observed on the homeopathic histamine. Without a control that behaves the way it would be expected to means there is something seriously wrong and the results cannot be relied upon.

      There have been other criticisms of these studies and overall, they are not good evidence for any memory of water, nor for omeopathy.

      Delete
    20. Zeno, why do you expect a strong dependence of the activation on the anti-IgE concentration? I'm not an immunology expert and I don't how what this dependence should be like. Do you know any publications where it is shown that there must be a marked dependence when the experiment is correctly done?
      If this were really such a huge problem, they would probably write about it in the Discussion, but they don't mention it.
      In the Discussion they explain that the cells used in the four laboratories came from different donors and thus they had different sensitivities.
      The activation is still the lowest with the lowest anti-IgE concentration in all four laboratories, and this is where they observe the largest inhibition by histamine.
      I don't think this criticism invalidates the study.

      Delete
    21. Andras

      Because it's what anti-IgE does! We would expect that in varying concentrations of anti-IgE, there would be a dose dependent effect. That means there would be more activation of basophils at 1 µg/ml, lesser at 0.2 µg/ml, and least in 0.04 µg/ml. That's not what Belon et al. reported.

      Why wasn't this investigated? I have no idea, but when your control doesn't behave the way it should, that has to cast doubt on the experimental technique and hence on the other results.

      But that's almost irrelevant. The real question is: particularly if there was a journal set up to publish new research on high dilutions as a result of Belon, etc, has there been any further attempts at replication published? If not, why not? Has it been taken as gospel that Belon's results were 100% correct or have there been further studies? What do they conclude?

      Delete
    22. Zeno, so you don't know what the dose-response curve should be like, right? Why are you assuming a monotonic curve with a significant slope? This is not necessarily the case. Then why are you assuming that Belon et al didn't get what they should have?

      Even if you are right, casting doubt is not enough. If you want to argue that the study is invalid, you have to show exactly what the mistake is and you have to show how that mistake could have been responsible for the observed result. You have not done this. Whatever the dose response curve of anti-IgE, there's still the inhibitor effect by diluted histamine. You cannot explain this.

      Check out the other studies I cited, there's Chirumbolo et al. which is similar. I don't know if there were other similar studies after that one. If you are interested, go ahead and check.

      Delete
    23. Andras

      I knew I was - at some point - going to regret trying to engage with you and that doing do would take me away from more important things than having to go back to basics.

      I've pointed you in the direction of flaws in those studies. You want to cite them as conclusive proof of real effects of homeopathic dilutions yet you don't seem to want to either look for the criticisms of those studies, nor, even though you brought up that journal, any newer studies that either confirm, refine or refute those old studies, despite you earlier trying to tells others off for not doing their research.

      That's entirely up to you, of course, but it smacks of a less than open mind and that means I'm wasting my time.

      Delete
    24. Zeno, I did look for criticisms of those studes - didn't find any.
      Your criticism is not well founded.
      I also pointed you to newer studies, which you seem to ignore.

      My time is also finite. However, I already did tons more literature research than David Grimes who never even knew about these studies at all in the first place, and still wrote an article about the subject. I assure you that if I were to write an article for an academic journal on this subject, I would do my homework and consider all available studies.

      Delete
    25. Zeno, Chirumbolo et al. 2009 is a replication of Belon et al. 2004, and it confirms its findings.

      Delete
  9. Are you a physicist Andras ? Are you actually even an academic ? Because if you think the paper is so weak, my all means write a retort. Submit it for review. If it passes review, and you can prove your point, nominate yourself for a Randi challenge and go win a million; by all means, prove your assertions and have them independently reviewed. If you can, I'll be the first to shake your hand and say "I was wrong.". I'm willing to put a few hundred quid in the mix you won't do that though

    http://www.randi.org/site/

    ReplyDelete
  10. And if you know of an NMR technique that can find a dilutions beyond 12C, by all means tell the world about it. Especially my colleagues in spectography, who would be delighted to know how to find particles when basic chemistry precludes them being there in the first place. If you have such arcane knowledge, do show us. We're all eager to see it

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  11. David, you are so incredibly uninformed that I'm quite stunned. Looks like your information sources are limited to the JREF forums. Do you really think it is enough to read a few skeptic articles on the internet and you are ready to write a paper for an academic journal? Duh. Yes, I am a (bio)physicist, I am an academic, and I have a lot more publications than yourself. But what especially surprises me that I gave you literature references and you still didn't bother to check them out. Why, David? Are you really so lazy? Don't you know how to search the literature for publications on a subject? Your paper is on a level of a high school science fair project.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. you're why people don't trust science.

      also, the main reason that no real scientists ever go out to try and disprove homeopathy is that real scientists don't need to. One look at the very idea of it and we're all rolling around on the floor laughing

      JOKE: What did the glass of water get in the Leaving Cert?
      ......
      nothing.....BECAUSE IT DOESN'T HAVE A MEMORY

      Delete
    2. Dec, with this comment you have given ample proof that you have nothing to do with science.

      Delete
  12. Well done, Andras. Aren't closed minds both sad and dangerous? Especially when they let their language become "over-emotional", and personal.

    They will catch up some day......or perhaps be eternally be in the slow land and left behind. The way they speak its as if we now know all there ever was and is to know, and nothing beyond their spectrum of knowledge can be right or exist. Ho hum. :(

    ReplyDelete
  13. Well done, Andras. Aren't closed minds both sad and dangerous? Especially when they let their language become "over-emotional", and personal.

    They will catch up some day......or perhaps be eternally be in the slow land and left behind. The way they speak its as if we now know all there ever was and is to know, and nothing beyond their spectrum of knowledge can be right or exist. Ho hum. :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm afraid the first post was accidentally sent from my son's Google account, my not realising that his details were the ones that the login related to!

      Delete
  14. Apologies for not responding sooner as I am currently on holiday; in essence, the only so called evidence is coming from dedicated homoepathy journals with very poor controls. This smacks of pathological science. In the paper, I reference the numerous attempts to replicate water memory which have failed. All of these were reported in mainstrean journals: I find it unsurprising that a journal such as Homeopathy would accept anything that it thinks validates its position, even if it is of very poor quality. This inherent bias and lack of credibility is precisely why it was excluded from review. There is plenty of high quality results to show water memory is a fallacy.

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  15. David, you are talking out your ass. I cited papers from Journal of Molecular Liquids and Inflammation Research. Besides, the reviews in Homeopathy on water memory are very good and unbiased. The reason why you failed to cite these in your paper is that you did not even know about them.

    You did not do your homework and wrote an extremely poorly researched, biased and uninformed paper. Shame on you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The reviews in homeopathy are unbiased? Bollox; you had cited a rake of puff journal pieces. The weaknesses in these papers have been pointed out to you. You have ignored this and admonished physicists and chemists who dispute you without actually addressing their points: for any of this to stand, modern chemistry would have to be wrong. It is not, and your flimsy arguments do the counter no favour. Anyone showing water memory would be all over nature and science and quite likely get a nobel prize in the mix. They would not be pandering to the likes who read homeopathy. You also ignored the citations in my paper which show null results for replication of Benviste: some of these were published in Nature which just goes to show only junk or dedicated puff journals show anything and is precisely why I excluded them.

      Delete
  16. David, you are clearly an idiot, as one of the reviews in Homeopathy on water memory is a skeptical review, even the title says "a sceptical view". This is proof that you have not looked into those papers and did not even know about their existence. You are busted. You are intellectually dishonest and you are nothing more than a caricature of a scientist. You substitute rhetoric for facts and research. Your paper is utterly worthless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You truly are an idiot. Or at last letting your ideology blind you: yes, you may be a scientist but so were Benviste and Montagnier. In fact, those disputing you are also scientists, though I can understand their reluctance to engage with your blinded zealotry. But others have pointed this out numerous times so from now on I will just ignore any of your replies. And I am most certainly not giving you my Oxford contact details; Ive had nutjobs like you email my colleagues and I before and really am not keen to go through it again. Now off you go, no one here will engage your odious little arguments anymore. Yuou are, as I understand it, a polymer researcher; by all means if you can find proteins in super diluted media publish away in some mainstrean journal: But dont point us to flimsy research which chemists here have already pointed out is flawed and demand it be taken as seriously as the abundance of evidence to the contrary. If you feel this work or the work it cites are so flawed; by all means propose a physical mechanism that would allow it. But certainly dont insult the other vast bulk of academics who disagree with your assertions.

      Delete
    2. David, you are an ignorant bastard. No, the "chemists" didn't point out the "flaws" in the research. One person mentioned a single potential flaw in one of the several papers I cited. But I showed that his criticism is baseless and he had not been able to defend it. The study he criticized has since been replicated.

      You are so dumb that you have not even learned how to spell Benveniste's name. That demonstrates that you are practically illiterate.

      You omitted your affiliation from your paper, which is highly unusual. Even if you work at Oxford, you obviously felt that it would be bad for the reputation of Oxford University that one of their employees publishes such a crappy paper.

      Delete
  17. So David, if Inflammation Research and Journal of Molecular Liquids (impact factors 2.1 and 1.58, respectively) are "junk" journals then what can we say about FACT (Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies), which is not even listed in ISI and has no impact factor? Apparently it is you who published a paper in a dedicated junk/puff etc. journal, don't you think? BTW what is your affiliation, as you apparently provided your home address or whatever in your paper, and I can't seem to find any reference to you on Oxford University web sites?

    ReplyDelete

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