Respectful Insolence

The “fundamentals” of voltage quackery

In medical school, or so we’re told, aspiring young doctors are taught the fundamentals of medicine. What we science-based physicians usually mean by “fundamentals” includes the basic science necessary to understand human health and disease, the mechanism by which human disease develops, and the basics of how to treat it. We also learn a way of thinking about diagnosis and treatment, a systematic approach to differential diagnosis and how to hone in on a diagnosis based on history, physical findings, and imaging and laboratory tests. Fundamentals are important in any profession. Being a baseball fan, I can’t resist making the comparison to baseball, where no matter how fantastic a player you are you still need to keep working on the fundamentals. Miguel Cabrera, for instance, does not eschew batting practice because he’s such an awesome hitter. One of the reasons why he’s such an awesome hitter is because he is obsessive about batting practice.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about quacks, however, it’s that they have an entirely different idea of what constitutes the “fundamentals” of medicine, or, as I’ve heard it called, “fundamental medicine.” I just caught an example of this the other day from our old friend “Dr.” Sircus, whom we’ve met before a couple of times around here. In case you don’t remember, Sircus is an acupuncturist, practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, and the director of the International Medical Veritas Association (IMVA), an organization that’s about as pro-quackery as you can get: antivaccine, pro-cancer quackery, anti-science. He’s also a guy who once advocated killing CDC scientists in a post charmingly titled String the Bastards Up. This time around, he’s trying to tell doctors how to practice by opining that smart doctors understand fundamental medicine.

Believe it or not, I’d actually agree. The problem is that what Sircus considers “fundamental medicine” and what science-based practitioners consider fundamental medicine are related only by coincidence and then only occasionally. Even then, if you were to construct a Venn diagram of what Sircus considers fundamental medicine and what real doctors consider fundamental medicine, the area of overlap would be distorted beyond recognition, as though Sircus sees reality through a warped magnifying glass after dropping a whole lot of acid. He begins by citing someone named Dr. Jerry Tennant:

Smart doctors like Dr. Jerry Tennant say, “We do not treat cancer. We do support patients with cancer to help get their nutrition, minerals, acid-base balance, etc. in as good a condition as possible.” Oncologists certainly don’t cure cancer since it’s illegal to even speak about curing cancer and since most of their patients die no matter what the doctors say or do. What they are doing is using toxic substances and radiation for diagnosis and treatments, substances and procedures that cause cancer. Chemo and radiation kill both cancer and human cells and both increase instead of decreasing the chances of further reoccurrence of cancer.

A safer way to do the same is with light and heat via far infrared rays whose intense internally generated heat will kill cancer cells before too much heat kills the host. Human cells are much more resistant to heat extremes than cancer cells.

Ah, yes. The same old tropes, so perfunctorily dropped into the blog post like so many duck turds quacking up the place. Of course, it’s not at all true that “most patients die no matter what doctors say or do.” Nor is it “illegal” to speak about curing cancer, a quack claim so simultaneously untrue and silly that I don’t know whether to be outraged or to laugh whenever I see it. I talk to patients about curing their breast cancer all the time, although I’m nuanced enough that I usually point out that what doctors mean by “cures” for cancer is long term survival. After all, surgery cures breast cancer quite frequently; indeed, when breast cancer is cured it’s almost always the surgery that does it. Ditto for most other solid tumors. What Tennant is referring to, of course, is the FDA not taking kindly to claims for cancer cures that aren’t backed by data. When I say that surgery has about a 90% chance of “curing” (i.e., producing ten year survival) of an early stage cancer, I have the data to back it up. Does Tennant? Probably not, given that he’s the author of a book called Healing Is Voltage.

No, he’s into pH woo with a twist:

Each cellular biology book gave passing notice to the fact that cells require a narrow range of pH, but little more was discussed on the subject. He began to look at pH and discovered that it is a measurement of the voltage in a solution. It is measured with a sophisticated voltmeter. If the solution is an electron donor, a minus sign is placed in front of the voltage. If the solution is an electron stealer, a plus sign is placed in front of the voltage. The measured voltage is then converted to a logarithmic scale from 0-14 with zero corresponding to +400 millivolts of electron stealer to -400 millivolts corresponding to a pH of 14. Cells are designed to run at about -20 millivolts (pH 7.35). Dr. Tennant began to understand that cells must have enough voltage to work and that chronic disease was associated with loss of voltage. Next he had to find out how to measure the voltage and then how to correct it. This is how he was able to heal himself.

Uh, not exactly. Cells do function quite well at pH 7.35, and the normal pH of the blood tends to run between 7.35 and 7.45, with homeostatic mechanisms keeping it in a very tight range. Tennant is also wrong when he says that cells are designed to run at -20 mV. The usual membrane potential (the electrochemical gradient across the cell membrane) is usually between -40 and -80 mV, negative in the cell interior relative to the exterior. This electrochemical gradient is used for many purposes, from the firing of nerve cells to proliferation, to a number of other functions. The voltage gradient is maintained by utilizing chemical energy in the form of ATP to pump ions against their concentration gradient. I’ve dealt with this sort of “electrochemical woo” before. It’s the same nonsense that is used as the justification for the cancer quackery known as Cantron. In any case, it looks to me as though Tennant is confusing how a pH meter works with the voltage that really matters in biology: Namely the membrane potential.

It goes even beyond that, though. Sircus brags about how he’s about to publish a book called Conquering Cancer, which apparently will be 3,000 pages worth of Sircus’ writings on cancer. (Oh, goody.) Apparently, he intends it as a one-stop shop for cancer patients to learn cancer quackery. Obviously he didn’t say it that way, but given the scientifically ignorant beliefs Sircus holds about human biology and disease, that’s what it is certain to be. For instance, he has has his own version of Tullio Simoncini and Robert O. Young’s belief that alkalinization is the cure for everything, be it cancer or influenza. Given his truly atrocious understanding of cancer, it’s no surprise.

In any case, we know Sircus believes in a whole lot of pseudoscience with respect to medicine; so it’s also no surprise that Sircus is quite enamored of Tennant’s explanation for disease and inflammation:

Some doctors like Dr. Tennant understand the principles of health and healing. He says, “The voltage in my thumb is -25 millivolts. Now I hit it with a hammer. The voltage immediately goes to -50 millivolts so it has enough power to replace the cells I damaged with the hammer. At -50 millivolts, we have the signs familiar as inflammation: throbbing pain, swelling, redness, and heat as well as decreased function. When tissue is at -50 millivolts and healing is occurring, two things are possible. It can have enough electrons to heal the damaged cells, and it returns to normal at -25 millivolts. The other possibility is that it runs out of voltage before the damaged cells are replaced. It then drops to a voltage lower than -25 millivolts. Now we have all the signs of degeneration. The pain changes from throbbing to a constant ache, the swelling may or may not be present, redness turns to paleness, and heat disappears as circulation diminishes.”

“Every cell in the body is designed to run at -20 to -25 millivolts. To heal, we must make new cells. To make a new cell requires -50 millivolts. Chronic disease occurs when voltage drops below -20 and/or you cannot achieve -50 millivolts to make new cells,” says Tennant. Thus chronic disease can almost always be defined by having low voltage, low body temperature, low pH occurring in conjunction with low CO2 and O2 levels. Tennant himself is a medical genius telling us that cell voltage and cell pH is running down the same railroad tracks together.

Any docs out there want to take a crack at this silliness? I was particularly amused that Sircus is so impressed as to call Tennant a “medical genius” because he supposedly figured out something that physiologists have known for decades and then put a pseudoscientific gloss on it. For one thing, the voltage gradient across the cell membrane is caused primarily differences in cation concentrations across the cell membrane, not differences in electrons. As for what happens when cell voltage drops below -20 mV, well, it does that a lot in a lot of cell types, particularly neurons. It’s called depolarization. Do you know, however, what you call a cell that chronically and consistently has a voltage much below -20 mV? Dead. That’s what you call it: A dead cell. I suppose that would be bad in a trivial sense.

Sircus, of course, advocates dubious devices such as the Breathslim device and—my favorite!—the infrared Biomat. It’s basically an infrared mat that, or so its manufacturers claim, kills cancer cells, improves immune function, and in general fix anything that ails you. Not mentioned are some of Tennant’s dubious devices. My favorite is the Tennant Biomodulator. When you boil it down, it appears to be basically some sort of variant of a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device, tarted up with claims that it can increase pH and voltage. Of course, TENS units cause nerves to depolarize, actually temporarily decreasing their voltage before the cells can recover and repolarize. So I’m not sure how running electricity through nerves would do all the things Tennant claims for it.

Reading the “fundamentals” as described by Sircus and Tennant is look at a parody of science-based medicine in which basic physiology is often twisted and distorted into an unrecognizable form and then used to justify all manner of quackery. Fundamentals indeed. The fundamentals of quackery would be more like it.

Comments

  1. #1 palindrom
    August 6, 2013

    For some reason only the title of the post appears at 6:08 AM Central — “The ‘fundamentals’ of voltage quackery”.

    Which is a shame, as the title really has potential. The Wretched Hive HP would undoubtedly refer to it as “Shocking!”.

  2. #2 Antaeus Feldspar
    August 6, 2013

    Also, it’s apparently doing something weird to the page layout, as everything that’s normally on the right-hand pane is now underneath the comment box.

  3. #3 palindrom
    August 6, 2013

    Post has appeared, thanks.

  4. #4 LW
    August 6, 2013

    Chemo and radiation kill both cancer and human cells and both increase instead of decreasing the chances of further reoccurrence of cancer.

    If you die from the first tumor, you have no chance of further reoccurrence. Therefore oncologists increase the chance of further reoccurrence. QED.

  5. #5 e
    August 6, 2013

    Even before the truly bizarre biology, Circus–pardon me… Sircus– and Tennant show an absolute lack of understanding of biochemistry and basic physics. Statements like “the voltage in my thumb is…” and that voltage is what defines pH are truly ludicrous. If any of my first year physics or engineering students were to make statements like these, the student would get the long sit down and talk until the student comes to understanding of why these statements are wrong, can explain why they are wrong, and can explain the concepts properly. Apparently, neither of these gentlemen has competent instructors, or maybe not instructors that cared. Or, maybe they just don’t care, because most of their victims– pardon me… patients and clients– don’t understand either.

    “voltage” isn’t a thing. “voltage” isn’t at a particular place, or in a cell, or in blood. It is a measurement of DIFFERENCE in electrostatic potential. How much energy does a charge gain or lose moving between two points. A cell can’t “run out” of voltage, any more than it can run out of millimeters.

    With regard to the “biomat”: IR photons are not energetic enough to have any direct biochemical effect on tissue. Not by an order of magnitude or so. The HEAT may have some effect, but for their claims, I am not qualified to judge, though I doubt it does. UV photons, on the other hand, are energetic enough, and have a variety of effects, some beneficial at low to moderate dose, most not.

  6. #6 Dangerous Bacon
    August 6, 2013

    “Some doctors like Dr. Tennant understand the principles of health and healing. He says, “The voltage in my thumb is -25 millivolts. Now I hit it with a hammer. The voltage immediately goes to -50 millivolts so it has enough power to replace the cells I damaged with the hammer.”

    This experiment needs to be replicated on Drs. Tennant and Sircus at least a hundred times each with a calibrated device wielding the hammer and blinded investigators recording the voltage. I’m sure they’d be willing to make the sacrifice to advance Science.

  7. #7 Chris Hickie
    the land of common sense and ohm's law
    August 6, 2013

    Having spent a good deal of time putting intracellular voltage recording electrodes into 20-200 micrometer sized neurons in vitro for my dissertation research, allow me to second Orac in that Sircus is is friggin’ moron, idiot, quack and scammer, all wrapped into one.

    The voltage across a cell membrane is determined by the concentration differences across the membrane of each ion (Na+, K+, Cl-, H+, etc) and their independent transmembrane conductances. This is why a neuron can go from a -60mV to a + 100 mv because of a rapid and brief increase in the sodium conductance leading to the action potential peak (lasting at most a few milliseconds) with then an opening of K+ channels to repolarize the cell membrane back to below the cell’s resting potential and then, as those channels close, the membrane came back up to it’s resting potential. It’s basically Ohm’s law applied to a series of transmembrane conductances, and it’s cool because it’s how it works and people with real minds who were methodical, logical and liked math and labwork figured it out. And, when I’ve got too big an electrode into a neuron and I see its resting potential creeping up to -20 mv, I know that cell, as Orac mentions, is dying from the leaking of ions between the too-torn cell membrane and my electrode, erasing any/all ionic concentration gradients needed for cell function/survival.

    What’s not cool is when some twit thinks his thumb has some net “voltage” because he’s unwilling/unable to grasp the difference between individual cells and complete human beings. If I hit my thumb with a hammer really hard enough to cause severe tissue damage (aka a crush injury), first, my pain receptor neurons fire off very rapidly travelling action potentials (so they go to +100 mV very briefly) to let my brain know I just hurt myself and to pull my thumb away from the source of pain). But if the hammer crushed all the cells in my thumb, they all very quickly (but not quickly enough to prevent the pain signal) go from their negative resting potential to 0 mV, as they’ve all been smashed wide open and all their ion gradients (relative to the extracellular fluid around them) have vanished. As goes away the gradients, so goes away any transmembrane voltage.

    My whole body, of course, is “net neutral”, as it has to be (or, as I once heard an instructor say…”you don’t piss sparks”).

    Sircus is “net stupid”, and that’s a fact.

  8. #8 Shay
    out on the flat, rainy prairie
    August 6, 2013

    This might possibly answer M. Hertzlinger’s question from the other thread — is this what crunchies mean by energy?

  9. #9 Eric Lund
    August 6, 2013

    Wolfgang Pauli had a wonderful phrase about nonsense at the level of Tennant and Sircus’s understanding of cellular voltages: not even wrong. pH, of course, refers to the concentration of H+ ions in a solution, and is an inverse logarithmic scale: the concentration of H+ ions at a pH of 7 is ten times what it is at a pH of 8. The scale is defined such that 0 is a hard limit at one end, but if I remember my chemistry courses correctly, one can construct solutions with a pH higher than 14 (though I think this involves solvents other than water). I presume a pH meter has some fancy means of measuring a signal which is converted to a voltage, though I don’t understand the details. I don’t think the voltage is a direct measurement, however.

    It doesn’t take much of a charge imbalance to produce a voltage. The models I work with (plasma physics) require double precision to resolve charge imbalances–the difference in ion and electron densities rarely exceeds one part in 10^8–and that is enough to produce potentials of several kilovolts over about 10 Debye lengths. I’m not sure of the parameters in a human body offhand, but I would guess that a cell membrane is between 1 and 10 Debye lengths thick.

  10. #10 Denice Walter
    August 6, 2013

    @ Dr Chris:

    Doesn’t this demonstrate that Sircus ( and others who carry on about related electro-fantasies) NEVER even studied the basics!
    I mean, seriously, isn’t that p.12 of physio 1?
    I am in awe of him but not in a good way.

  11. #11 Mark Chu-Carroll
    New York City
    August 6, 2013

    One thing that always kills me about these rants is the repetition of the phrase that chemotherapy and radiation kill “both human and cancel cells”.

    Part of what makes cancer so difficult to treat is the fact that cancer cells are human cells. One of the reasons that there is no simple drug like an antibiotic that can kill cancer cells without hurting the patient is precisely because cancer cells are human cells.

  12. #12 Killinchy
    Vancouver Island, BC
    August 6, 2013

    Anybody trying to make a mathematical connection between pH and voltage has to be very wary.

    Sorensen, who invented pH to save time, energy and ink, defined it as minus log[H+]. The minus sign is there simply to get a positive value for pH.
    So, instead of writing something long-winded and complicated like, ‘The hydrogen ion concentration is 7 X 10-5 mol/L’, we can write, ‘The pH is 7′. You don’t need to write the + sign.

    Negative pHs are possible, but are hell to measure.

  13. #13 Bronze Dog
    August 6, 2013

    Nor is it “illegal” to speak about curing cancer, a quack claim so simultaneously untrue and silly that I don’t know whether to be outraged or to laugh whenever I see it. I talk to patients about curing their breast cancer all the time, although I’m nuanced enough that I usually point out that what doctors mean by “cures” for cancer is long term survival.

    I have a relevant hypothesis of mine about quacks I haven’t mentioned in quite a while: I think they need cancer to be seen as an incurable boogeyman disease.

    They need that perception so they can depict science-based medicine as inept despite all the ongoing progress and high percentage cures for some cancers. They need to maintain an illusion of despair to make their false hope attractive. They need to overstate the severity of the problem to make their “solution” look impressive. They need the illusion of an inept, defeatist dogma they can rebel against, since Hollywood narratives about science are more marketing-friendly than the hard work and team play of real science.

  14. #14 Rich Woods
    Way out there, and not coming back
    August 6, 2013

    most of their patients die no matter what the doctors say or do

    Wrong: all of their patients die, no matter what the doctors say or do. It’s just that few complain about living merely another sixty or seventy years after being diagnosed with
    childhood leukemia.

    since it’s illegal to even speak about curing cancer

    intense internally generated heat will kill cancer cells

    Oh look, a self-confessed criminal! Someone call the cops…

  15. #15 Calli Arcale
    August 6, 2013

    BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    Oh, I need to show this to some electrical engineer friends of mine. They could use the laugh.

  16. #16 Bronze Dog
    August 6, 2013
    …most of their patients die no matter what the doctors say or do…

    Wrong: all of their patients die, no matter what the doctors say or do. It’s just that few complain about living merely another sixty or seventy years after being diagnosed with
    childhood leukemia.

    Another thing I see in a lot of woos: They’re in denial about human mortality.

    A chunk of it comes from woo legends of people who live for centuries thanks to their allegedly clean living. Another bit of it is the Just World Hypothesis, where death is seen as a karmic punishment for not being “pure” and succumbing to pharmaceutical corruption or whatever. Another bit of it is the implicit preference for blissful ignorance over detailed records that bluntly acknowledge death.

  17. #17 Doug
    wisconsin
    August 6, 2013

    in response to the 3000 page book of quackery, its “oh, goody GOODY”.

  18. #18 Sastra
    August 6, 2013

    e #5 wrote:

    Sircus– and Tennant show an absolute lack of understanding of biochemistry and basic physics.

    O ‘e’ of little faith! What you would call “an absolute lack of understanding of biochemistry and basic physics’ is what they would call “thinking outside the box.”

    I think it’s ironic that the same people who are terrified of cell phones, WiFi, and being located near power lines are apparently eager to buy into voltage quackery. As long as you’re stickin’ it to da MAN, I guess.

    I’m starting to think that pseudoscientific claims like this are the sort of thing which really do fall under the “scientism” label. They treat science like it’s a religion. Vague non-explanations apparently pulled out of someone’s nether-regions; virulent us vs. them categories of the saved and the damned; a refusal to open their claims up to general investigation; appeals to secret knowledge and personal experience … and usually, somewhere, some whiff of spiritual or supernatural ‘fundamentals” (sometimes it’s a whole heapin’ stinkload.) Cargo-cult science is scientism.

  19. #19 Eric Lund
    August 6, 2013

    I think it’s ironic that the same people who are terrified of cell phones, WiFi, and being located near power lines are apparently eager to buy into voltage quackery.

    Nothing ironic about it. Voltage quackery, at least of the kind Sircus and Tennant are talking about, involves DC voltages. Cell phones, WiFi, and power lines involve AC voltages, otherwise known as [ominous chord] RADIATION!!! Quite different things, especially to the woo-prone mind. But in both cases, extreme ignorance of basic physics is involved.

  20. #20 Yodelady
    August 6, 2013

    I think some quacks deliberately tout outrageously stupid theories as a quick and dirty way of screening patients. Anyone with an ounce of sense and/or education will turn away, but those who remain will rush to open their wallets and will never ask an awkward question.

  21. #21 Chris Hickie
    August 6, 2013

    @ Denice #10–It is sad when someone is so out in left field (ok, not even in the ballpark) on what should be relatively basic science if you were actually doing or ever have done biomedical research. That being said, I didn’t have a really good grasp on these principles until upper level college classes–especially the lab where I took 400 V DC from one hand to the other via my upper body and learned what it meant to “complete a circuit” (ouch). I learned a whole lot that day, including why keeping one’s hand in your pocket when working with potentially live wiring is a good precaution.

    Whenever someone is botching basic electricity, I am reminded of what Alessandro Volta (the inventor of the battery) wrote way back in the late 1700′s when he was piecing together the physics and chemistry of electricity:

    I had in vain tried to excite with only two metallic plates, though the most active of all the exciters of electricity, viz. one of silver or gold, and the other of zinc I was at length able to affect it with my new apparatus, composed of 30 or 40 pairs of metals. I introduced, a considerable may into both ears, two probes or metallic rods with their ends rounded, and I made them to communicate immediately with both extremities of the apparatus. At the moment when the circle was that completed I received a shock in the head, and some moments after (the communication continuing without any interruption) I began to hear a sound, or rather noise, in the ears, which I cannot well define; it was a kind of crackling with shocks, as if some paste or tenacious matter had been boiling. This noise continued incessantly, and without increasing, all the time that the circle was complete, &c. The disagreeable sensation, and which I apprehended might be dangerous, of the shock in the brain, prevented me from repeating this experiment.

    Volta at least had a valid reason for not understanding the fundamentals of voltage and current and electrical conduction in tissues and cells–namely no one had figured things out yet. And he had the common sense not to keep running an electrical current through his skull when he suspected it was dangerous. The quacks of today who push bizarre electrical “treatments” would probably have kept sticking those metallic rods in their own ears (or more likely have done it to their patients)

  22. #22 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 6, 2013

    So I’m curious – what happens to my health if I grab the two posts of a 12v battery? I don’t plan to test this myself without some confirmation, but I’m all for reducing my cancer risk.

  23. #23 Derek
    August 6, 2013

    @Eric Lund #9:
    Neither 0 nor 14 on the pH scale are “hard” limits.
    Recall that pH is the negative of the log(base 10) of the hydrogen ion concentration in moles/liter; so pH = 0 implies [H+] = 1 M. Concentrated acids and bases can have concentrations well above 1 M (concentrated hydrochloric acid is around 36% HCl and around 11 M, concentrated nitric acid is around 70% HNO3 and nearly 16 M, concentrated sodium hydroxide is 47% and nearly 18 M). While these acids/bases may not be fully dissociated, they will still produce solutions with [H+]/[OH-] greater than 1 M. For example, 10% hydrochloric acid has a pH of -0.5, and 36% has a pH of -1.1.

  24. #24 Denice Walter
    August 6, 2013

    Seriously, I have heard recently ( @ PRN) that “according to the laws of physics” ( ahem!)- said twice yet-
    that when radioactive water leaves Fukushima it doesn’t mean it’s safe when it hits the west coast of N. America- it’s stll radioactive

    and that if a nuclear accident in a plant oocurs, you’re in as much trouble if you’re 50 miles or more away.

    Obviously someone doesn’t get that whole “distance” concept. Or dispersal.
    (Although these people do believe in homeopathy- maybe radiation gets stronger with more distance)..

  25. #25 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 6, 2013

    Denice Walter – There is some truth to that, depending on the dispersal pattern and the cumulative effects. It’s complicated.

  26. #26 Denice Walter
    August 6, 2013

    I know. But I don’t think that the woo-meister was trying to be realistic concerning winds and currents BUT trying instead to scare listeners any way he could: not anything new -btw-.
    Hg is lethal regardless of dose, you know the drill.

  27. #27 jre
    Republic of Boulder
    August 6, 2013

    If, like me, you frequent that other blog, and also happened to read the post on antivaccionationist wackaloonery, and made the same mistake I did and clicked on this link, you would have been treated to another steaming tidbit of alternative electrical engineering. See, our bodies are full of iron, right? That’s what they tell us in biology class about hemoglobin, OK? And we are awash in a deadly stew of microwaves, as we all know. You see where this is going? Our bodies are like foil-wrapped burgers in a giant microwave oven!!! Take that one with you when you go to bed tonight.

  28. #28 Orac
    August 6, 2013

    What link?

  29. #29 Denice Walter
    August 6, 2013

    To clarify a bit:
    if you or I were to explain soemthing, we would include the qualifiers ( -based on currents, winds, etc).

    The woo-meister would not, just like the RISKS of meds are re-iterated without mentioning the benefits. One microgram of Hg is just as bad as a dose higher by orders of magnitude: one part per billion is as bad as much higher concentrations.

  30. #30 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 6, 2013

    jre – wait, if my body is like a foil wrapped burger in a microwave oven, then I should stay raw while watching the coolest light and sound show ever!

  31. #31 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    August 6, 2013

    Denice Walter – don’t take what I said for criticism. I didn’t expect him to be realistic.

  32. #32 Chris Hickie
    August 6, 2013

    jre #27: the link didn’t come through.

  33. #33 Rosie Redfield
    August 6, 2013

    Orac, did you know that this page is loading with a cancer-quackery testimonial video advertising a clinic in Mexico (Angeles Health International)?

  34. #34 THS
    August 6, 2013

    By golly, my page is loading with that ad, also. Maybe they use Arsenic. Off topic, many thanks to RR for her role in “deconstructing” that awful As paper.

  35. #35 Seppo
    August 6, 2013

    I can just see people sticking batteries to their fingers after the said fingers suffered the hammer accident. Or sticking batteries to wherever in their bodies they believe they have dis-ease.

  36. #36 Narad
    August 6, 2013

    So I’m curious – what happens to my health if I grab the two posts of a 12v battery?

    Not much. You could try clamping them to your nipples and see if anything noticeable happens.

  37. #37 Militant Agnostic
    In a country where we obey ohms law.
    August 7, 2013

    Narad on 12 Volt Batteries

    Not much. You could try clamping them to your nipples and see if anything noticeable happens.

    The only time I felt anything from a 12 volt battery was while installing one in a Canadian Tire parking lot with an ambient temperature of well over 30 C. There was sufficient sweat on my forearm to feel a tingle. I have received more substantial shocks from a golf cart when I have forgotten that 12V batteries were connected in series.

  38. #38 Krebiozen
    August 7, 2013

    I just had an uneasy childhood recollection of discovering that I would see flashing lights if I put 9 volts, from a battery, across my temples. It probably explains a lot.

    Another recollection has surfaced from my days frequenting CAM forums (fora?): this DC device for dealing with infections. Why the current would travel through a pathogen preferentially to normal tissue, and if it did whether it would have a more damaging effect on the former than on the latter isn’t at all clear to me.

  39. #39 Skepticrat
    The World's Biggest Rat Cage
    August 7, 2013

    The woo… It burns! I’ve not even looked at pH and cell membrane voltages in over 15 years but even I cansee the horror. I made the mistake of clicking the “String Em Up” post. So depressing to see how easily people can be swayed by sheer craziness.

    On the plus side, I called out someone posting that sugar causes cancer. Hilariously, she even produced an article debunking the original post when asked for citations. I may not have changed her mind but I think I rescued some other people from the rubbish by pointing out that cancer cells also need water to live, but dying of thirst was probably not the best way to cure or prevent cancers…

  40. #40 Calli Arcale
    August 7, 2013

    The other thing that they forget with all this voltage malarky is of course that it ain’t the volts that’ll get you. It’s the amps.

    A DC device for killing pathogens? Has Thomas Edison been reincarnated and found a new way to try to stick it to Westinghouse? :-P

  41. #41 Antaeus Feldspar
    August 7, 2013

    The very evil part of me that lives deep inside, which keeps crawling up every now and then, is whispering how tempting it would be to persuade some woo-meisters that the Cure For All Maladies is clearly voltage applied at the source of the problem, which as we all know is insufficiently detoxed fecal matter in the digestive system.

    I would love to see those woo-meisters trying to explain to the doctors just why they thought it was a good idea to apply a D-battery high colonic…

  42. #42 Bronze Dog
    August 7, 2013

    The other thing that they forget with all this voltage malarky is of course that it ain’t the volts that’ll get you. It’s the amps.

    The way I’ve heard it: Volts hurt (in the sense of increasing pain), amps kill.

  43. #43 Scottynuke
    August 7, 2013

    @ #24 Denice –

    Please don’t get me started on unfounded Fukushima fears… *SIGH*

  44. #44 JustNuts
    August 7, 2013

    I’m trying to imagine what the pH of a 30C homeopathic preparation of hydrogen ions might be!

  45. #45 Calli Arcale
    August 7, 2013

    Pretty much, Bronze Dog. Your body registers pain more or less proportional to the voltage, but unless there’s a lot of current, you’ll live.

    Caveat: very high voltages are hot, even at low amps. Heat can injure you totally apart from any electrical effects, and it can start fires, which can kill you. But it’s not quite the same thing.

  46. #46 Krebiozen
    August 7, 2013

    JustNuts,

    I’m trying to imagine what the pH of a 30C homeopathic preparation of hydrogen ions might be!

    It’s water, so theoretically its pH would be 7.0. In practice the pH of distilled water is somewhat less than 7.0 , because of the atmospheric CO2 dissolved in it.

  47. #47 F
    August 7, 2013

    Wait, what’s Kw again? :p

    I wish I would have known about this a couple weeks ago when I put a drill into my thumb*. If I had only known to correct my electron deficiency, I could have healed faster.

    *Coincidence? I think not!

  48. #48 Ausduck
    not Mars
    August 7, 2013

    Am I the only one who thought of Marvin the Martian when reading “Tennant Biomodulator”?

    So much pseudoscience snake oil dribbling off Sircus’ and Tennant’s writings.

  49. #49 Krebiozen
    August 7, 2013

    Something about Sircus that amused me – he claims that white food is unhealthy, and yet sells magnesium chloride (white) as a panacea. Ancient Minerals is not explicitly Sircus’ site, but he links to it on his site, it links to him as “an expert on magnesium” and the registration details strongly suggest he owns it.

  50. #50 T Herling
    August 7, 2013

    When I hear of such nonsense, I’m reminded of the vast collection of electrical quackery from years past:

    http://www.electrotherapymuseum.com/MuseumQuackery.htm

    Some of the breathless descriptions of how these amazing devices can cure almost anything sounds just like so much modern-day electroquackery website copy.

  51. #51 Edith Prickly
    August 7, 2013

    @Ausduck: Where’s the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!

  52. #52 Narad
    August 8, 2013

    The other thing that they forget with all this voltage malarky is of course that it ain’t the volts that’ll get you. It’s the amps if the thunder don’t get you, then the lightning will.

    The issue with batteries, of course, is that they generally can’t deliver the payload all at once, unlike capacitors.

  53. #53 Ausduck
    Hiding from the lightning
    August 8, 2013

    @Edith Prickly: that darn wabbit! And let’s not talk about the duck…
    :)

  54. #54 Kemist
    August 9, 2013

    I presume a pH meter has some fancy means of measuring a signal which is converted to a voltage, though I don’t understand the details. I don’t think the voltage is a direct measurement, however.

    It has a special glass dual electrode with two compartments, one of which is in contact with the measured solution through an ion-exchange membrane. Sodium ions (Na+) from the membrane can be exchanged with H3O+ ions from the solution you are measuring and this affects the electrolytic equilibrium within that compartment, which in turn modifies the difference in potential between the electrode in that compartment vs the electrode in the reference compartment.

    Like in the case of all electronic sensors, the signal that is measured is a voltage (ie, the potential difference between both electrodes), which is proportional (in a specific pH range) to pH due to the nature of the ion-exchange membrane.

  55. #55 Tsu Dho Nimh
    August 10, 2013

    What Kemist said … It’s converting what you can’t directly or easily measure into something electrical that can make a meter needle twitch (voltage is the most common).

    Measuring sodium with a flame photometer, for example: sodium changes color of flame, light emitted from flame hits photo-sensitive material, material changes resistance, current flowing through material increases or decreases, voltmeter across the material measures the change … and the needle moves relative to the amount of sodium in the sample.

    And you have to calibrate the meter to give you correct readings.

    ============
    And there are different glass membranes for different pH ranges if you need really precise measurements. I worked with mostly medical equipment, so the membranes were designed to be sensitive at the normal body pH.

    If you wanted to measure the pH of a lab reagent, stomach fluid, or urine you used the general purpose meter … using an electrode meant for body fluids on something way out of its range would make it unfit for use until you had reconditioned it.

  56. #56 Joseph Hertzlinger
    http://hertzlinger.blogspot.com
    August 10, 2013

    Did they mention Tesla? I thought invocation of Tesla were required for electrodynamic crackpots.

  57. #57 Brendan McGloin
    United States
    August 12, 2013

    I think that when they’re referring to it being illegal to claim you can cure cancer is referring to the 1939 Cancer Act in the U.K., not anything in the U.S.

  58. #58 jre
    August 12, 2013

    Huh. Stray cosmic rays must have hosed the link I tried to supply: http://www.thecausesofautism.com

    Anyway, some surgeon feller over there did read it, and seems to have been as tickled as I was.

    The implications for hemocyanin-based critters remain unexplored. Perhaps microwaves just make eddy currents in the copper, stimulating them to incredible strength. In which case I, for one, welcome our octopus overlords.

  59. #59 Aumkara Newhouse
    United States
    August 31, 2013

    While I agree that converting pH to voltage w/o talking about it being a static voltage seems odd; I am not willing to through everything he said out.

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