Respectful Insolence

I’m a connoisseur of woo.

It’s true. Back when I first started blogging, I came across outrageous bits of pseudoscience such as the ones I feature periodically on Your Friday Dose of Woo, and I wasn’t sure quite what to do with them. Indeed, I had a hard time deciding if some of them were massive Sokal-type hoaxes or evenif the person writing them really believed in them. Of course, I had a lot of fun taking them on. How could I not? After all, what else can one make of something like, for example, DNA Activation or “healing sounds,” or even for that matter that unholy alliance of acupuncture and voodoo, Tong Ren?

I finally figured out what to make of these extravagant bits of woo. While deploring them and their potential for causing harm to the unwary (or at least to delay their seeking effective therapy), I started to appreciate the artistry, the imagination, the utter skill that it takes to produce such gems of concentrated woo. Truly, it takes an extraodinarily imaginative ability to twist logic, reason, and science into a pretzel, and then twist it just that much more. That extra “twist” is what elevates garden variety woo into YFDoW material. It is the ability to recognize that extra twist that elevates woo into art, rather than the extra twist that’s just plain brain dead (and it isn’t always obvious what’s genius or stupid) that makes a connoisseur.

As a connoisseur of the finest woo, I have to tip my hat to someone who is one of the finest woo artists there is. The man is a veritable grand master of woo, a Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Rafael, and Botticelli all rolled into one. The tapestries of bizarre imagery that he can blend together to “explain” how that quackery of quackeries (homeopathy) “works” truly take my breath away, although instead of Renaissance painters, perhaps I should compare him to Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dali, given the nature of his work. You’ll see what I mean in a moment.

The man I am talking about is, of course, Lionel Milgrom, he of “quantum homeopathy” and a “quantum gyroscopic circle.” These two pieces of woo remain among the very finest that I have ever encountered. I am not sure that I will ever see their like again. The sheer head-scratching hilarity to be found in reading those previous efforts is beyond belief. In essence, extrapolating subatomic particles to macrospic phenomena in a manner that would make Steven Hawking’s brain explode in protest were he to read Milgrom’s work, Milgrom postulates a quantum coupling of homeopathic practitioner, homeopathic remedy, and patient as the mechanism by which homeopathic remedies gain their potency. That’s boiling a whole lot of woo down into one sentence; you’ll have to read the posts above to get the full flavor of Milgrom’s quantum wackiness. Indeed, I recommend that you do that right now as a prelude to this installment of YFDoW. There’s a reason, of course.

That’s right. Milgrom’s back, and he’s surpassed even himself. Be very careful before proceeding. Your fragile mind may well not be able to handle it the concentrated waves of woo that will wash over it if you continue.

As usual, Milgrom has published in his favorite stomping grounds, that repository of pseudoscience for which no woo is too out there, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine entitled A New Geometrical Description of Entanglement and the Curative Homeopathic Process. Oh, yes. Milgrom is continuing down the same road that he trod when he came up with the concept of a quantum gyroscopic circle as a mechanism of homeopathy. I thought he couldn’t go any further with this concept. O fool, me! The abstract alone is black hole density woo, sucking in all reason and science into its insatiable maw, the better to digest it and excrete it as verbiage like this:

Introduction: The Memory of Water, a “local” explanation of homeopathy’s efficacy, has been supplemented recently by complementary “nonlocal” hypotheses. One of these envisages “quantum macro-entanglement” among patient, practitioner, and remedy to form a “PPR” entangled state, from which the possibility of cure may manifest.

Methods: Semiotic analysis affords a geometrical description of this entangled state as a patient-centered chiral tetrahedron. Its four corners depict three different types of symptoms (of the patient, the dis-ease, and the remedial substance) and the potentized remedy.

Results: Reflecting this state in a practitioner-derived mirror-like “therapeutic state space” generates two notional patient-centered chiral tetrahedra: cure may be thought to arise from their patient-driven combination “through the looking glass” of the therapeutic state space, into one polyhedron called a stella octangula or stellated octahedron; in essence, a 3-dimensional Star of David.

Conclusions: The practitioner helps in forming these notional semiotic polyhedra, but the patient is at their epicenters (i.e., the practitioner facilitates but ultimately does not control the curative process).

Wow.

Just wow.

I have to hand it to Milgrom; he’s surpassed himself this time. Instead of a quantum gyroscopic circle to describe homeopathy, he’s incorporated his concepts into a chiral tetrahedron, and his addition of the quackmaster version of the word “dis-ease” is just the little flourish that distinguishes a master from the merely talented, like the little bits of detail that a fine master architect will place no a building. But Milgrom goes even beyond that by using the term “beyond the looking glass.” It’s almost as though at some level he realizes that he really has gone “through the looking glass” but it later becomes obvious from what comes next that he’s as utterly clueless about just how deep his woo runs as he’s ever been when he reveals that what he really means is a mirror image symmetry between his “quantum entanglements.” Truly, he is serious about this stuff. Indeed, get a load of his introduction, from which I will quote liberally:

Homeopathy’s claims of clinical efficacy and cost effectiveness1 are regarded with suspicion and contempt. Evidence other than that framed within the (sometimes biased) reductionism of evidence-based bedicine (EBM) and the double-blind randomized-controlled trial (DBRCT) is rejected.

EBM and the DBRCT, like much of biomedical science, are rooted in the reductionist philosophy of logical positivism combined with local realism. The latter states that: (a), the universe is real and it exists whether we observe it or not; (b), legitimate conclusions and predictions can be drawn from consistent experimental outcomes and observations; and (c), no signal can travel faster than light.

In questioning (a) and (c) above, quantum theory transcends local realism and the reductionism of biomedicine. Attempts at explaining homeopathy’s efficacy have made use of concepts generalized from the discourses of semiotics and quantum theory.

Thus, nonlocal entanglement among patient, practitioner, and remedy (PPR entanglement), could form a descriptive basis for the healing interaction. It combines from physics the algebraic formalism of Greenberger- Horne-Zeilinger (GHZ) 3-particle entanglement, a generalization of orthodox quantum theory called weak quantum theory, and semiotics14,15 to generate a three-way PPR entangled state. This has been depicted geometrically as a hexagonal bipyramid.”Cure” results from the combination of this state with its “twisted reflection” in a notional two-dimensional mirror-like “therapeutic state space” (an analogue of the complex mathematical Hilbert space more familiar from orthodox quantum theory).

Though at this stage still hypothetical, PPR entanglement Homeopathy Research Institute, London, United Kingdom. This is Part 11 in a series of papers entitled Patient-Practitioner-Remedy (PPR) entanglement. affords a post hoc explanation of the observed “leakage” between verum and placebo groups during recent double- blind provings of homeopathic remedies, suggesting its possible experimental verification. In addition, and when viewed semiotically, the PPR entangled state’s geometrical projection into a notional “therapeutic state space” has been used to understand the concept of miasms in homeopathy, 35 and the action of remedies and diseases on the Vital Force.

Yes! It’s all there. The masterful jabs of contempt at evidence-based medicine and the randomized clinical trial. The dismissal of “materialism” combined with carefully chosen physics and mathematical gobbledygook. Truly we are witnessing a woo master at work. Even more amazingly, this is the eleventh installment. Truly, Milgrom is like Homer or Virgil, creating an epic poem of woo! Or maybe a better analogy is J.R.R. Tolkien or J. K. Rowling, both of whom imagined intricate and believable fantasy worlds. Of the two, Tolkien is probably the better comparison. Not only did he create Middle Earth but he created an incredibly intricate history of Middle Earth, complete with timelines of events spanning thousands of years; detailed maps of continents, nations, and cities; and intricately described histories, of which the events in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, although important, make up relatively small parts. Think of Milgrom as being the Tolkien of woo, able to put incredible effort into constructing a self-coherent and internally consistent world of utter fantasy. Like the example of Tolkien’s world, I can see how it could be possible to become utterly immersed in Milgrom’s world of fantasy quantum homeopathy. The only difference–and it is admittedly a huge difference–is that Tolkien based his vision of Middle Earth on his scholarly knowledge and study of English and European history and mythology. Indeed, his analysis of Beowolf is still highly regarded. Milgrom, on the other hand, bases his fantasy world on a pseudoscholarly parody of quantum physics. Even so, nobody–and I mean nobody–does it better! And he does it with illustrations, starting with this one:

i-f0238e01320d1ea1ad0f784ce2e23a9c-figure1.jpg

According to Milgrom, this represents the “semiotic notion that the homeopathic remedy is a “sign” working simultaneously in and for two different but connected meaningful contexts: (1) the symptoms of a sick person signify a certain disease state (first meaningful context), while simultaneously signifying (2) a homeopathic remedy in the materia medica (second meaningful context), the two contexts of illness and remedies being connected by the Law of Similars.”

Whatever that means. But it sure looks official and “science-y.” So does the next figure, which attempts to explain the quantum coupling relationship between homeopathic practitioner, patient, and remedy:

i-b88847ec4ca0656a66ff609279116c69-fig2.jpg

Once again, this illustration shows just why Milgrom is the master. See how he takes the quantum homeopathic “entangled state function” (ΨPPR) and finds a way to have its representation look like the Star of David. It almost makes me wonder whether Milgrom is Jewish. Here’s just a sampling of Milgrom’s explanation:

Such ideas can used to interpret part of a practitioner’s role, which is to be an “active” mirror, reflecting back to the patient the possibility of cure (see Box 212,16,17,20,27,35,54,58-60). Thus, the PPR entangled state, ΨPPR| suggests its mirror image complex conjugate, |ΨPPR arises out of the active reflecting activity of the practitioner acting as homeopathic operator, IIr (see Fig. 2D), while at the same time being part of the entangled PPR state. In other words, the practitioner creates the conditions for cure (i.e., the therapeutic state space), and then operates within that space as the homeopathic operator, IIr, and as part of the PPR entangled state. Finally, bringing the PPR entangled state and its reflection together, results in a change in symptoms (leading to cure)…

Imagine several pages of this, complete with illustrations like the one above and equations relating the parts of the “PPR” entangled state. Truly, it has to be seen to be believed. Such artistry is rare even in woo. I could go on, but why don’t I jump straight to the Discussion section instead? (After all, a “Results” section based on fantasy is only useful for its entertainment value, and if I quote too much I might risk going beyond fair use.) If you don’t believe that homeopathy is pure magic, check out magical master at work, someone who would put Doctor Strange to shame:

Since the time of their discovery by Pythagoras, some people have regarded the Platonic solids as imbued with mystical significance, with four of them used to represent the classical four elements. Thus, the cube was associated with the earth; the octahedron with air; the icosahedron with water; and the tetrahedron with fire. The dodecahedron represented spirit or the universe. It is in this context that the stella octangula, has a long history in esoteric thought, especially in Jewish Hasidic philosophy where it is known as the Merkabah or “chariot.”

Well, that explains the the Star of David. Who but Milgrom could throw together a glob of random equations and then come up with the Star of David and references to Jewish mysticism later in the article? Maybe the DNA Activation guy, but precious few, if any, others. I would show you the rest of the illustrations, except that Figure 3 takes up an entire page and would be very hard to show properly on a blog. Also, it might blow your fragile eggshell mind. Instead, let’s continue with Milgrom’s “insights”:

Here, the Merkabah was considered a multilayered analogy that offered insight into the nature of man and his relationship to God, the ecosystem, and the world. In current “New Age” circles, the stella octangula is thought of as a “vehicle” for transporting consciousness between different dimensions. The two superimposed tetrahedra are imagined as counterrotating, which, when combined with specific breathing techniques, certain eye movements and prayer, are supposed to generate a spine-anchored energy field around the human body. This, when activated, is supposedly the carrier of consciousness directly to higher dimensions.

More in keeping with modern ideas of quantum entanglement and its use in quantum information theory, the stella octangula has recently been invoked by Aravind to explain in the context of group theory a so-called “twirl” or twist operation. This was first introduced by Bennett, in order to allow more convenient discussion of entanglement purification protocols, used in distilling pure entangled states from a larger number of impure states (perhaps shared through a noisy channel), and so more reliably transmit quantum information via quantum teleportation. Also, the stella octangula has been shown to be relevant in a new geometric representation of the fundamental relationship between physics and biology.

Given the already-mentioned multidimensional nature of the Vf discussed in this and other papers, especially in describing the Vf’s behavior in terms of notional quantized gyroscopic dynamics, then perhaps the semiotic formulation of the curative state as a stella octangular (and all it implies in terms of rotation, consciousness expansion, and the use of entanglement in the quantum teleportation of information) could be an appropriate and compelling metaphor with which to represent healing during the homeopathic process.

Sheer genius! But that’s not all. Check out how he explains why homeopathic effects can’t be measured and why scientists have been unable to quantify the “memory of water”:

The state functions representing each of the Px, Pr, Rx, and the PPR entangled state are not related to quantifiable physical observables as they are in orthodox quantum theory. As such, the known rapid decoherence (“disentanglement”) of entangled states that occurs on their interaction with the environment, would be likely to have altogether different parameters than in orthodox quantum theory. Though still to be thoroughly investigated, it is clear that the nature of the therapeutic process requires its initial separation and “isolation” from the usual external environment, as a necessary prerequisite for the coherence of entanglement to occur, and cure to begin. One could expand on this idea to include the notion of monastic communities that might use isolation from normal society as one part of a strategy for achieving some form of inner “coherence.”

That’s right. Quantum homeopathy is not like real quantum theory. For one thing, it apparently doesn’t make an testable predictions and there is nothing physical is observable that can be used to quantify its effects or validate its predictions. Of course, this makes me wonder just what, exactly Milgrom proposes to investigate further. I suppose he means he’ll make more shit up as he goes along, just as he’s been doing for ten parts before. On the other hand, he seems to be implying that it is the very inability to detect physical evidence for homeopathy that makes his concept of PPR entanglement a valid model. That’s right, taking this together with his “post hoc” explanation for “leakage” between experimental and homeopathically treated groups, I conclude that Milgrom is saying that his quantum woo is why scientific and clinical trial tests of why homeopathy “works” can’t detect an effect and that that very inability to find an effect means that homeopathy works.

I stand in awe of Milgrom’s genius.

Thinking back on all the stuff by Milgrom that I’ve read, I’ve come to the conclusion that what truly separates him from the merely talented woo-meister and puts him into a class of his own is is ability to construct an elaborate set of mathematical models that sound very convincing to someone without a strong scientific, physics, or mathematical background. It’s like building a complex circuit board with none of the circuits connected to anything except each other. It’s like building an elaborate model based on equations that have no relation to reality. Imagine a building built on engineering equations made up from whole cloth. Oh, Milgrom’s clever in that he makes them sound very reasonable, but it’s blatantly obvious that they’re just made up. They have no basis in reality. His PPR entanglement has no basis in reality and, worse, is based on an obvious misunderstanding of quantum theory in which he tries to apply it to macroscopic phenomenon.

Milgrom is truly a master. Indeed, his construction of fantasy worlds and equations is unparalleled. In fact, I propose a new title for him: Homepathic Woo-meister Supreme, much as Doctor Strange is the Sorcerer Supreme.

Comments

  1. #1 Thony C.
    December 19, 2008

    Orac, how do you manage to read this crap? Just reading the abstract was enough to convince me that I never, ever want to see anything again in my entire life with the name Milgrom attached to it. The man is totally, completely and utterly off his trolley.

  2. #2 J. J. Ramsey
    December 19, 2008

    I think Orac manages to slog through this crap the same way as the guys at MST3K or Agony Booth slog through really awful movies. :)

  3. #3 Lexin
    December 19, 2008

    My brain just exploded from the woo. I died of crap science and it’s all your fault.

    /revives self with tea/

  4. #4 One Brow
    December 19, 2008

    “… a Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Rafael, and Botticelli all rolled into one.”

    Are you sure you didn’t mean “a Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Rafael, and Donatello all rolled into one.”?

  5. #5 Epinephrine
    December 19, 2008

    Wow. I knew there were crap journals out there, but that’s a “peer-reviewed” journal?

    Truly doesn’t count for much when your “peers” are incapable of seeing through batshit crazy pseudoscience. That is truly frightening.

  6. #6 leo
    December 19, 2008

    Wow. It does seem like a fantasy novel in the guise of a scientific paper. He’s written what looks like a paper, but nothing in it is bound by experiments or logical inference; he just goes wherever imagination and mysticism take him.

  7. #7 Scott
    December 19, 2008

    A couple of quick comments on the quantum from a physics PhD…

    In questioning (a) and (c) above, quantum theory transcends local realism and the reductionism of biomedicine.

    Bzzt! Sorry, please try again. Quantum does not question either of these points. The universe is still very much real and exists regardless of our observations. Probabilistic measurement results and wavefunction collapse do not in any way go against that. The universe is just a bit more complicated than it looks.

    Furthermore, the nonlocality of entanglement does not imply any signal traveling faster than light. This is for the simple reason that entanglement cannot be used to transmit information, and therefore does not constitute a signal. It’s entirely consistent with relativity. (Wikipedia’s writeup on the subject is pretty fair for an interested layperson.)

    The state functions representing each of the Px, Pr, Rx, and the PPR entangled state are not related to quantifiable physical observables as they are in orthodox quantum theory. As such, the known rapid decoherence (“disentanglement”) of entangled states that occurs on their interaction with the environment,46 would be likely to have altogether different parameters than in orthodox quantum theory.

    And again wrong. Observables in quantum are *operators*, not wavefunctions (about the closest you can get to a direct link between a wavefunction and an observable is to decompose it into eigenstates of the operator). Let’s also recognize that, by claiming that this entanglement results in a “cure” (i.e. a readily observable physical effect), he has completely undermined even this completely invalid argument.

    A third point is that being able to draw pictures and put a physical interpretation on the bits of the shapes is meaningless unless there is a way to use it to perform calculations and make predictions. After all, I can say that medicine is a square, with the vertices being the patient, doctor, condition, and hospital. Saying it don’t make it so. (There was a recentish attempt at a Theory of Everything that fell into this trap: http://arxiv.org/abs/0711.0770 ).

  8. #8 Christophe Thill
    December 19, 2008

    “Though at this stage still hypothetical, PPR entanglement affords a post hoc explanation of the observed “leakage” between verum and placebo groups during recent double- blind provings of homeopathic remedies, suggesting its possible experimental verification.”

    Hang on…

    Did I read this right?

    Did he just say :
    – not only that his quantic stuff is the reason why scientific tests of homeopathy can’t work
    – BUT that the fact that it doesn’t work is precisely the proof of his “theory”?

    Orac, you’re right. One can’t help but admiring the guy. It’s a shame that he doesn’t use his devilish intelligence for something useful.

  9. #9 CyberLizard
    December 19, 2008

    Orac, you are the master of kung-woo fighting! You are the Joel of the MST3K-ing of woo (I liked Joel better than Mike). My brain hurts just reading the extracts from this stuff. And many thanks to brave physics PhDs like the commenter Scott who can so clearly destroy the pseudo-quantumness so that even I can understand.

  10. #10 colmcq
    December 19, 2008

    ouch ow ouch ouch ouch and double ouch.

    BTW I think Milgrom is a chemist not a mathematician; this would explain his bizarre references to asymetrical states and molecular chirality.

    Have you read Shpalmans takedowns of Milgroms ealier efforts?

    http://shpalman.livejournal.com/3264.html

  11. #11 Emp
    December 19, 2008

    I have always wondered if people who are able to construct elaborate explanations like this actually believe what they write, or if they just count on the fact that their readers will not have enough background in the subject to dispute anything they say. I don’t know which would be worse: to be a professional liar, or to be completely delusional!

  12. #12 KristinMH
    December 19, 2008

    It has the same devastating logic you see in TimeCube or the random drawings and writings schizophrenics leave on tables in the library. It’s the same logic that makes your dream that Al Sharpton is telling you to throw away all your underwear seem plausible, if not inevitable.

    In fact, I propose a new title for him: Homepathic Woo-meister Supreme, much as Doctor Strange is the Sorcerer Supreme.

    How about, in keeping with the mystical theme of his work, Grand High Priest and Rabbi of Quantam Nonsense? Or something like that.

  13. #13 CyberLizard
    December 19, 2008

    You mean that Al Sharpton telling me to throw away all my underwear isn’t plausible?!? The entire frame of reference for my life has been shattered. Must be those quantums messing things up again.

  14. #14 StuV
    December 19, 2008

    That’s not woo, that’s the written diarrhea of a clinically insane mind! I found myself starting to back away from the screen very, very slowly halfway through.

    Still shivering.

  15. #15 Blake Stacey
    December 19, 2008

    Thus, nonlocal entanglement among patient, practitioner, and remedy (PPR entanglement), could form a descriptive basis for the healing interaction. It combines from physics the algebraic formalism of Greenberger- Horne-Zeilinger (GHZ) 3-particle entanglement, a generalization of orthodox quantum theory called weak quantum theory, and semiotics14,15 to generate a three-way PPR entangled state. This has been depicted geometrically as a hexagonal bipyramid.

    I think this rates a full TimeCube!

  16. #16 KristinMH
    December 19, 2008

    I think this rates a full TimeCube!

    Well, there’s no ALL-CAPS sections or weird variations in text size or colour…or out-of-left-field attacks against minorities…but it’s still pretty close.

  17. #17 Bob O'H
    December 19, 2008

    In questioning (a) and (c) above, quantum theory transcends local realism and the reductionism of biomedicine.

    Um. Someone should tell him the paper he got that idea from was a hoax.

  18. #18 Ahistoricality
    December 19, 2008

    The use of “semiotic” in this is making me twitch: he’s using it in a way which could best be defined as “symbolic magic” (I’d call it “voodoo” but that wouldn’t be fair to Voudu) instead of its proper use as a field of analysis…. ouch.

  19. #19 Hank
    December 19, 2008

    The amount of punishment you willingly endure for the enjoyment of your readers never ceases to amaze me.

  20. #20 Tacroy
    December 19, 2008

    The use of “semiotic” in this is making me twitch: he’s using it in a way which could best be defined as “symbolic magic” (I’d call it “voodoo” but that wouldn’t be fair to Voudu)

    The fundamental basis of homeopathy is similar to aspects of hermetic magic – the homeopathic “Law of Similarity” is almost identical to the hermetic concept of “as above, so below”.

    So yeah, not only is it magical thinking, it’s plagiarized magical thinking.

  21. #21 Dangerous Bacon
    December 19, 2008

    I’m going to try to make a kite using Milgrom’s illustration D in Figure 2 (above).

    Even if it doesn’t fly, being a homeopathic kite it _will_ be flying in some alternative universe.

  22. #22 Interrobang
    December 19, 2008

    The use of “semiotic” in this is making me twitch

    Yeah, speaking as someone with a Master’s degree in a related field, I agree. And I don’t need any help twitching. :)

    His use of “analogy” and “context” are kind of at right angles to reality, as well. I’m as much about analogy as, oh, say, Mark Turner, but yeesh.

    All I know is nobody better frickin’ mention postmodernism pejoratively, or I’m gonna get really cranky. I’m already fed up to here with every quack torturing it out of shape to justify pimping it out in bad rhetorical neighbourhoods, and equally pissed with some of the science types (who don’t get it) dismissing it out of hand because of the quacks’ misuse of it. (As a historian, I find it a tremendously useful tool for getting past the “written by the victor” problem, among other things. To get all analogical on you, you don’t throw away your Robertson screwdriver just because you don’t currently own anything that takes Robertson screws, and/or because someone keyed your car with one…)

  23. #23 Joe
    December 19, 2008

    epinephrine asked “Wow. I knew there were crap journals out there, but that’s a “peer-reviewed” journal?”

    Yes; but the peers are quacks. What else would one expect? Every stripe of quackery has “peer reviewed” magazines; they are just not worth the powder needed to blow them to hell.

  24. #24 Will TS
    December 19, 2008

    Cool! Homeopathic origami.

    It won’t be long before his hypothesis is put into practice and you will be able to buy a stella octangula to sit in to cure your energy imbalances. For full effect it will have to be solid, air-tight and completely opaque to every type of radiation, because “the therapeutic process requires its initial separation and “isolation” from the usual external environment”. Just seal people up in the little octahedrons until the quit complaining. It’s a million dollar idea.

  25. #25 DebinOz
    December 19, 2008

    He is surely the Iron Chef of Woo:

    His woo reigns supreme!

    Can’t wait for the movie.

    My head really, really hurts now….

  26. #26 DMcILROY
    December 19, 2008

    Interrobang, it’s all very well getting your apology for postmodernism in pre-emptively, but that doesn’t change the fact that such wooly-minded concepts are just the perfect tools for charlatans and woo-meisters to use as a justification for their evidence-less nonsense. OK, it may be useful in history, but in science,technology and medicine, you really do have to accept that the physical world exists, and that you need to do careful experiments to find things out. All points of view or modes of knowledge are not equally valid.

  27. #27 Dr Aust
    December 19, 2008

    The real brain-scrambler for the Woo journals is why so many of them, even utterly risible ones significantly worse than the JACM (it is possible, honestly), are listed on PubMed. “Publisher power” is the most widely believed explanation.

    There’s gold in them there (homeopathic) pills…

    …and in publishing journals about them.

    Even academic publishing groups have joined the rush to the trough. The normally sane Oxford University Press publish the laughably named “Evidence based Complementary and Alternative Medicine” (alias “eCAM”), and the British Medical Journal’s BMJ publishing group is starting a new journal of medical acunpuncture.

    Talking of eCAM, they too have published a steaming heap of Lionel’s quantum balderdash. But even better – I use the word ironically – than his eCAM paper is his reply in the comments thread following it. Watch out especially for the approving reference to the legendarily ridiculous rhetoric of Dave Holmes et al (“evidence-based medicine is a form of microfascism“). Some readers may remember the Holmes et al article being bizarrely invoked a while back by ex-NIH Director Bernardine Healy, showing just how far she had gone to the Darkside.

  28. #28 Dr Aust
    December 19, 2008

    The real brain-scrambler for the Woo journals is why so many of them, even utterly risible ones significantly worse than the JACM (it is possible, honestly), are listed on PubMed. “Publisher power” is the most widely believed explanation.

    There’s gold in them there (homeopathic) pills…

    …and in publishing journals about them.

    (extended version w. links exemplifying the above to come, hopefully, post spam filter checking…)

  29. #29 Thornton Burgess
    December 19, 2008

    Damn you Orac!

    My brain just ‘sploded all over my monitor!

    Woo? I can’t handle the woo! It’s density approaches that of a neutron star. It’s sucking my brain out through my toenails!

  30. #30 Dr Aust
    December 19, 2008

    It’s a slow Friday night here at Chez Aust, so legendary Quantum Woo-Meister Lionel has inspired me to a song. You can guess the tune.

    Nobody does it better
    Makes me feel sad for the rest
    Nobody does it half as good as you
    Baby, you’re the best

    I wasn’t lookin’ to get so entangled
    You just hooked me in with your Quantum schtick
    But with The Force that surrounds you
    I know my Quantum Woo guru
    Will feed me magic sugar pills to stop me gettin’ sick

    And nobody does Woo better
    Though sometimes I wish someone could
    Nobody does it quite the way you do
    Why’d you have to be so good?

    The way that you Woo me
    It just does something to me
    There’s some kind of magic inside you
    I guess that we’re just entangled
    Though all the logic is mangled
    How’d you learn to do the things you do?

    Oh, and nobody does it better
    Makes me feel sad for the rest
    Nobody does it half as good as you
    Baby, baby, darlin’, you’re the best

    Baby you’re the best
    Darlin’, you’re the best
    Baby you’re the best

    FADE
    Oh, oh, oh

  31. #31 Sigivald
    December 19, 2008

    I’ll second (third?) the repulsion to his abuse of “semiotics”.

    If Umberto Eco was dead, I’d suggest a haunting was due.

    DMc: Semiotics is not inherently wooly-headed, though. That’s the thing – it’s a perfectly sensible and useful discipline, despite being abused by the sort of people who give postmodernism (which is independent of semiotics, though with mutual influence) a bad name.

    In the most basic terms – language has words (signs; signifiers), and words have meanings (the signifed). Their existence and relation is the ground of semiotics (which is not limited to language, but it’s a good starting point for getting the idea across).

    One can pursue semiotics with the goal of generating clarity and useful insight. One can also pursue it with the goal of making a muddle, or of outright trickery (much as Hegel did to philosophy). Semiotics itself is just a tool.

  32. #32 MartinM
    December 19, 2008

    “Though at this stage still hypothetical, PPR entanglement affords a post hoc explanation of the observed “leakage” between verum and placebo groups during recent double- blind provings of homeopathic remedies, suggesting its possible experimental verification.”

    Hang on…

    Did I read this right?

    Did he just say :
    – not only that his quantic stuff is the reason why scientific tests of homeopathy can’t work
    – BUT that the fact that it doesn’t work is precisely the proof of his “theory”?

    Certainly seems that way. In fact, he appears to be arguing that homeopathy can cure not only people who take the ‘remedies,’ but also those who don’t, thus neatly explaining the failure of double-blind experiments to detect any differential effect.

  33. #33 SC
    December 19, 2008

    It’s like building a complex circuit board with none of the circuits connected to anything except each other. It’s like building an elaborate model based on equations that have no relation to reality.

    It’s like…theology.

  34. #34 SC
    December 19, 2008

    Sorry – very sick, very weak. Everything in that first paragraph was Orac’s.

  35. #35 LL
    December 19, 2008

    That paper should have been submitted to Annals of Improbable Research instead…

  36. #36 mayhempix
    December 19, 2008

    This guy is the M.C. Escher of woo.

  37. #37 Lurkbot
    December 20, 2008

    Should we start taking up a collection to buy Orac a silver drool-bucket? He must have to wear one pretty much 24/7 after reading this kind of crap for so long!

  38. #38 DLC
    December 20, 2008

    Wow.
    Just . . . wow.
    This guy actually believes all that ?
    How can anyone actually think there’s any reality behind all that gibberish ?

    to paraphrase Darth Vader: “The woo is strong in this one”

  39. #39 Ken
    December 20, 2008

    It is always wonderful to read a master at the top of his form.
    He is to be admired – just imagine the amount of effort tht must have gone into producing that paper.
    So much writing on alternative medicine is obviously fraudulent or foolish. This is genius.
    Imagine what could have resulted if he had applied those skills to something useful.

  40. #40 Paper Hand
    December 20, 2008

    local realism … states that: (a), the universe is real and it exists whether we observe it or not; (b), legitimate conclusions and predictions can be drawn from consistent experimental outcomes and observations; and (c), no signal can travel faster than light.

    What’s “local realism”? Is it something different from just plain ole realism (which, I’m assuming, is something like empiricism?)? And, funny, I never knew that “no signal can travel faster than light” was a part of “realism”. I thought it was part of relativity, and not a necessary part of realism. That is, should we discover that Einstein was wrong about that, it wouldn’t call into question realism itself.

    I only read about half of that before I couldn’t go any further. :-)

  41. #41 apgaylard
    December 20, 2008

    DrAust:
    To add to the list of PubMed rubbish I’d add the Australian Journal of Holistic Nursing and Holistic Nursing Practice.

  42. #42 Philippe Leick
    December 20, 2008

    I’m one of the brave physicists who’ve read parts of Milgrom’s oeuvre, and I’ve actually written on it (some of it in German though).
    I never managed to read all of his papers, and – quite honestly – I’m not going to make the attempt. Figuring out what Milgrom’s text actually means might quite well be impossible, even reading it “seriously” is a slow, tedious and painful process. At least most of the pain is self inflicted as it comes from laughing too hard or banging my head on the table.

    The physics in Milgrom’s articles are completely, utterly wrong on many different counts. He doesn’t understand quantum mechanics, makes elementary mathematical mistakes, his philosophy of science is not too impressive, his logical is best described as post-modern…

    For those so inclined, more can be found here:

    http://apgaylard.wordpress.com
    http://shpalman.livejournal.com
    http://www.badscience.net/2007/09/528/
    http://forums.randi.org/archive/index.php/t-112312.html

    The title of “Homeopathic Woo-Meister Supreme” is well deserved. I’d suggest adding “Grand Entangler of Quantum Medicine”…

  43. #43 Dr Aust
    December 20, 2008

    Another song title that might be apt for an ode to Lionel M (with apologies to Bob Dylan) is:

    “Tangled up in Woo”

  44. #44 Philippe Leick
    December 20, 2008

    That the date of the article is April 1st is probably coincidence :-)

    One thing that never ceases to amaze me is that journals like the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine call themselves peer-reviewed. The Editorial board boasts an impressive list of PhD-decorated names.
    But how do you review an article like Milgrom’s latest effort, and which reviewer do you give it to?
    I strongly suspect that – at best – the article was skimmed over by a sympathetic reviewer with no specific background in physics. The reviewer probably thinks that him not being able to understand Milgrom’s musings is a sure sign of the genius of the author.
    A proper reviewer would, in such a case, either try to get counsel from a qualified colleague or declare the article to be completely incomprehensible.

  45. #45 tresmal
    December 20, 2008

    @ Philippe Leick: Keep in mind that many of those PhDs in the mastheads oh those alternative journals are really “PhDs”. That is many of them are self awarded or come from unaccredited institutions or are in utterly unrelated fields.

  46. #46 IBY
    December 21, 2008

    Holy crap, that is the stupidest woo I have seen yet. Does stupid have any limit? Seriously, that guy is da masta.

  47. #47 Mr. Ko
    December 22, 2008

    It makes me wonder, how is it possible to be simultaneously smart enough to write this stuff and dumb enough to write it? Disregard the factual errors (QM and speed of light, duh), and what remains still seems to be a complex piece of reasoning. It has an overall structure, paragraphs build upon each other, each sentence appears to actually say something. Then when you try to understand what it is that it’s trying to say that the whole thing evaporates … kind of like space-time at the Planck scale … hmm.

    I believe I shall now formulate a quantum geometrodynamic theory of Milgrom’s brain. It will indubitably make reference to loop quantum gravity, suitably reformulated as Loopy Quantum Gravy. Watch out!

  48. #48 KeithB
    December 22, 2008

    So, what happens when I buy my homeopathic remedy at Wal-mart?

  49. #49 Robert Saunders
    December 28, 2008

    I notice this citation is to be used:

    To cite this paper:
    Lionel R. Milgrom. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. April 1, 2008, 14(3): 329-339. doi:10.1089/acm.2007.0674.

    I don’t suppose the date is relevant?

    Robert

  50. #50 Twaza
    December 28, 2008

    I seriously think Milgrom has missed the most useful application for his theory: economics. The current crisis in banking is caused by quantum entanglement. Alastair Darling should offer him a job at the treasury.

  51. #51 Mojo
    December 29, 2008

    Epinephrine posted:

    Wow. I knew there were crap journals out there, but that’s a “peer-reviewed” journal?

    Truly doesn’t count for much when your “peers” are incapable of seeing through batshit crazy pseudoscience. That is truly frightening.

    Milgrom has previously stated: “I continually run my ideas passed [sic] highly competent quantum physicists (including a Nobel Laureate)”. However, it appears that none of them was competent enough to notice that he had the dimensions of Planck’s constant wrong.

  52. #52 shpalman
    December 29, 2008

    When I wrote about this paper at http://shpalman.livejournal.com/10440.html , I concluded:

    … in order to avoid facing the fact that quantum mechanics is simply not relevant to the system of a homeopath and a patient [ http://arxiv.org/abs/0705.1232 ], Milgrom concludes that the “state functions representing each of the Px, Pr, Rx, and the PPR entangled state are not related to quantifiable physical observables”, admitting how useless it all is for actually working anything out; but when he states that “it is clear that the nature of the therapeutic process requires its initial separation and ‘isolation’ from the usual external environment, as a necessary prerequisite for the coherence of entanglement to occur, and cure to begin,” he admits something I think we already knew: that it is necessary to be out of touch with reality to be a homeopath.

  53. #53 Shakeel
    January 1, 2009

    As someone just completing a graduate level quantum mechanics course…

    I laughed, I cried. I cringed, and sat on the edge of my seat.

    I’m not sure if I should admire this guy or be making plans for his death. At the very least, he needs to start writing stuff he publicly acknowledges as fiction. His skill with words that he just barely understands is damn impressive.

    That said, Hilbert and Dirac are vomiting in their graves.

  54. #54 Jessica
    January 4, 2009

    I ostensibly understand some level of quantum theory, quantum mechanics being my motivation to study physics in the first place, but this shite makes me scratch my head in utter confusion.

  55. #55 Paul Murray
    January 5, 2009

    Me: so homeopathy is like quantum entanglement?
    Woo: Yup
    Me: does it cure people who are sick?
    Woo: Yup
    Me: what’s wrong with clinical testing? Itsn’t that just seeing if it works or not?
    Woo: It only works only if there is no-one watching
    Me: what about the sick person themselves?
    Woo: they are *inside* the system, so that’s ok
    Me: If homeopatyhy is like QM and only wrks if there is no-one watching, why do you have testimonials on your website?

  56. #56 Dr. Nancy Malik
    October 3, 2010

    I came across this page of additional information on these papers – well worth reading if you’ve got an interest in homeopathy: http://is.gd/fobRr

    I can thoroughly recommend it – you’ll learn a lot more about homeopathy.

  57. #57 the bug guy
    October 3, 2010

    Care to explain how you ‘came across’ a page with your name all over it?

    Better be careful, sombebody is apparently posting stuff on the Internet under your name.

    Thanks for the morning laugh.

  58. #58 Dr Aust
    October 3, 2010

    Since the ubiquitous “Dr” Nancy-the-human-homeopathy-spambot Malik has posted the usual link to her laughable knol page, I will just mention that my sceptic drinking buddy “Xtal Dave” (Xtal for crystal – he’s one of those actual scientists, not like “Dr” Nancy) has posted an extended deconstruction of her list over on his Anomalous Distraction blog.

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