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Conspicuous by its absence: any science

3rd August 2007 (19:06)

BPSDBThe latest issue [96 (3)] of Homeopathy is dedicated to the memory of water. There's not much point in me actually dealing with the idea of the memory of water itself, firstly because the paper [1] with Rustum Roy [2] on it is being dealt with elsewhere, and secondly because there's a paper [3] in this very issue which explains why any structures which develop in liquid water don't really persist on their own for much more than a picosecond, and furthermore that there are plenty of ways in which a sample can get contaminated [4].

No. I want to talk about Lionel Milgrom's contribution [5]. And maybe Otto Weingärtner's also [6].

Because you see the memory of water wouldn't really be a non-trivial quantum effect [7] - it wouldn't be anything to do with the physically unfeasible macroentanglement [8] and Weak Quantum Theory [9] which Milgrom has been going on about for the past seven years [10-16]. (I'd like to note though that he gets the units of Planck's constant right this time, even if he still misspells Gribbin, Auyang and Del Giudice [17-19].)

Milgrom writes a lot about nonlocality and mentions “recent” experiments, citing Aspect et. al. from 1982 [20]. Nonlocality means that information travels through space “instantaneously” instead of being limited by the speed of light, and the work by Bell [21] on the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen [22] thought experiment said that the answers which quantum mechanics gives mean that we can't keep both locality and realism. I presume Milgrom has not heard of the (actually) recent work by Gröblacher et. at. [23] which theoretically and experimentally rules out quite a broad class of nonlocal Hidden variable theories and therefore rather knackers the assumption of realism. But anyway, it's not worth spending too much time on the Collapse of the Wavefunction and the Copenhagen interpretation, because nobody bothers with that stuff anymore [24,25]. Milgrom quotes Richard Feynman saying that “Anyone who thinks they have understood quantum theory has probably got it wrong!” [17] but this doesn't mean that just because Milgrom doesn't understand quantum theory (he thinks it's non-deterministic, for heaven's sake) that he's a clever as Feynman.

Anyway I should get on to entanglement. This is a phenomenon in which the wavefunction of a system cannot be split up into the wavefunctions of the components to be treated separately: you have to take the whole lot if you want to get the right answer. Now if you're a nonlocal realist who still believes in the nonunitary collapse of the wavefunction you may have to face the fact that the wavefunction collapses everywhere in space at the same moment, when viewed from any inertial frame at all. Luckily the wavefunction itself is not a real object and the collapse cannot actually be used to transmit information [26]. (If you think this explanation is bad you should try the one in Weingärtner's paper [6].)

But quantum-coherent states tend to be destroyed quite quickly by interactions - superconductors and superfluids only work because the particles within them are protected against interacting with each other by being forbidden to absorb or emit quantities of energy which are smaller than some threshold (or something) - so these hypothetical large clusters of water molecules are specifically not going to be coherent in a quantum sense (Del Giudice et. al. [19] were talking about coherence in the sense of all the water molecules lining up in an externally imposed electric field - something else entirely). So entanglement is irrelevant [27].

Oh well. I wonder if we'll now start to see more fighting amongst homeopaths? That can only be a good thing, since the sooner they sort out amongst themselves what they think is really going on in a homeopathic preparation, the sooner the rest of us can tell them how wrong they are.

  1. Manju Lata Rao, Rustum Roy, Iris R. Bell, and Richard Hoover. The defining role of structure (including epitaxy) in the plausibility of homeopathy. Homeopathy 96 (3) 175-182 (2007)
  2. Rustum Roy, William A. Tiller, Iris Bell, and M. Richard Hoover. The Structure of Liquid Water; Novel Insights from Materials Research; Potential Relevance to Homeopathy. Mater. Res. Innov. 9 (4) 577-608 (2005)
  3. José Teixeira. Can water possibly have a memory? A sceptical view. Homeopathy 96 (3) 158-162 (2007)
  4. L. R. Milgrom, K. R. King, J. Lee, and A. S. Pinkus. On the investigation of homeopathic potencies using low resolution NMR T2 relaxation times: an experimental and critical survey of the work of Roland Conte et al. Brit. Homeopathy J. 90 (1) 5-13 (2001)
  5. L. R. Milgrom. Conspicuous by its absence: the Memory of Water, macro-entanglement, and the possibility of homeopathy. Homeopathy 96 (3) 209-219 (2007)
  6. Otto Weingärtner. The nature of the active ingredient in ultramolecular dilutions. Homeopathy 96 (3) 220-226 (2007)
  7. H. M. Wiseman and J. Eisert. Nontrivial quantum effects in biology: A skeptical physicists' view. e-Print archive physics (arXiv:0705.1232v2) (2007)
  8. D. Chrastina. Comment on “Journeys in the country of the blind...”. Submitted to eCAM (2007)
  9. Harald Atmanspacher, Hartmann Römer, and Harald Walach. Weak Quantum Theory: Complementarity and Entanglement in Physics and Beyond. Found. Phys. 32 (3) 379-406 (2002)
  10. Lionel R. Milgrom. Patient-Practitioner-Remedy (PPR) entanglement. Part 1. a qualitative, non-local metaphor for homeopathy based on quantum theory. Homeopathy 91 (4) 239-248 (2002)
  11. Lionel R. Milgrom. Patient-Practitioner-Remedy (PPR) entanglement. Part 2: extending the metaphor for homeopathy using molecular quantum theory. Homeopathy 92 (1) 35-43 (2003)
  12. Lionel R. Milgrom. Patient-Practitioner-Remedy (PPR) entanglement. Part 3. Refining the quantum metaphor for homeopathy. Homeopathy 92 (3) 152-160 (2003)
  13. Lionel R. Milgrom. Patient-Practitioner-Remedy (PPR) entanglement. Part 4. Towards classification and unification of the different entanglement models for homeopathy. Homeopathy 93 (1) 34-42 (2004)
  14. Lionel R. Milgrom. Patient-Practitioner-Remedy (PPR) entanglement. Part 5. Can homeopathic remedy reactions be outcomes of PPR entanglement?. Homeopathy 93 (2) 94-98 (2004)
  15. Lionel R. Milgrom. Patient-Practitioner-Remedy (PPR) entanglement. Part 6. Miasms revisited: non-linear quantum theory as a model for the homeopathic process. Homeopathy 93 (3) 154-158 (2004)
  16. Lionel R. Milgrom. Patient-Practitioner-Remedy (PPR) Entanglement, Part 7: A Gyroscopic Metaphor for the Vital Force and Its Use to Illustrate Some of the Empirical Laws of Homeopathy. Forsch. Komplementmed. 11 (4) 212-223 (2004)
  17. John Gribbin. Q is for Quantum. Weidenfeld & Nicholson history (2002)
  18. Sunny Y. Auyang. How is Quantum Field Theory Possible?. Oxford University Press (1995)
  19. Emilio Del Giudice, Giuliano Preparata, and Giuseppe Vitiello. Water as a Free Electric Dipole Laser. Phys. Rev. Lett. 61 (9) 1085-1088 (1988)
  20. Alain Aspect, Philippe Grangier, and Gérard Roger. Experimental Realization of Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen-Bohm Gedankenexperiment: A New Violation of Bell's Inequalities. Phys. Rev. Lett. 49 (2) 91-94 (1982)
  21. John S. Bell. On the Problem of Hidden Variables in Quantum Mechanics. Rev. Mod. Phys. 38 (3) 447-452 (1966)
  22. A. Einstein, B. Podolsky, and N. Rosen. Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality Be Considered Complete?. Rev. Mod. Phys. 47 (20) 777-780 (1935)
  23. Simon Gröblacher, Tomasz Paterek, Rainer Kaltenbaek, Časlav Brukner, Marek Żukowski, Markus Aspelmeyer, and Anton Zeilinger. An experimental test of non-local realism. Nature 446 (7138) 871-875 (2007)
  24. Wojciech Hubert Zurek. Decoherence, einselection, and the quantum origins of the classical. Rev. Mod. Phys. 75 (3) 715-775 (2003)
  25. Maximilian Schlosshauer. Decoherence, the measurement problem, and interpretations of quantum mechanics. Rev. Mod. Phys. 76 (4) 1267-1305 (2004)
  26. Asher Peres and Daniel R. Terno. Quantum information and relativity theory. Rev. Mod. Phys. 76 (1) 93-123 (2004)
  27. Max Tegmark. Importance of quantum decoherence in brain processes. Phys. Rev. E 61 (4) 4194-4206 (2000)
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Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 7th August 2007 08:40 (UTC)

The superscript tag is your friend: < sup > [1] < /sup >


Posted by: shpalman (shpalman)
Posted at: 7th August 2007 19:20 (UTC)
Re: html'd!

I felt that tiny little superscripted numbers would have been a bit more difficult to click on.

Posted by: Crazy Dave (cdave)
Posted at: 7th August 2007 17:44 (UTC)

I really enjoyed the paragraph on entanglement. I'd not heard it described that way before, and it made a lot of sense. Thanks.

Posted by: shpalman (shpalman)
Posted at: 7th August 2007 19:22 (UTC)

I'm not sure I actually described it in any meaningful way, but thanks.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 25th September 2007 11:43 (UTC)
Go on - submit it as a letter to "Homeopathy"

This is excellent stuff. Well worth putting into a letter format and submitting to Homeopathy. If they don't print it that will say something about the journal that's interesting in its own right.

By the way, I think that the Emilio Del Giudice that Milgrom and others like to quote was embroiled in the cold fusion fiasco? In Robert Park's excellent book "Voodoo Science" (p. 123) he notes that an "Emilio Del Guidice" [sic](a Milan based physicist) claimed (with others)to have proof of cold fusion; was labeled, with others, a "scientific fraud" by the science editor of La Repubblica; sued for $5M and lost. If it's the same chap, not a great track record.

Posted by: shpalman (shpalman)
Posted at: 26th September 2007 14:53 (UTC)
Re: Go on - submit it as a letter to "Homeopathy"

Writing this up into a letter would require a whole extra level of pedanticism. Maybe it's worth a try though. Regarding Del Giudice, thanks for this information. I found some mentions of it in the news pages of Nature. I'm fairly sure it's the same person, as Giuliano Preparata was involved too.

More comments like this please!

Posted by: (
Posted at: 28th September 2007 16:24 (UTC)
Re: Go on - submit it as a letter to "Homeopathy"

It would be great to get a good level of scrutiny for the quantum flapdoodle published if possible. It looks like you are the chap for the job. If they won't publish, as I said, it will say something about the journal in question.

BTW I quite liked the florid language reportedly used (according to Park) by Giovanni Pacci (La Repubblica) of Del Guidice [sic] and his co-workers:"fornicating priests".

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 10th October 2007 12:13 (UTC)
Re: Go on - submit it as a letter to "Homeopathy"

Actually, I don't think you'd need to do a whole lot more for it to be submittable. It just needs tidying up a bit and making a little more formal. Do it! Let's face it, whatever terrible state it was in would be better than most of the drivel they seem happy enough to publish.


Posted by: shpalman (shpalman)
Posted at: 10th October 2007 17:11 (UTC)
Re: Go on - submit it as a letter to "Homeopathy"

Philippe Leick has written one - I'll put it up here if he doesn't get it published somewhere himself.

Posted by: jdc325 (jdc325)
Posted at: 1st October 2007 12:59 (UTC)

"...the sooner they sort out amongst themselves what they think is really going on in a homeopathic preparation..."
Exactly - every homeopath seems to have their own pet theory on what is happening and why. Some 'homeopaths' don't even seem to be homeopaths, but are more like nutritionists or herbalists. They are all charlatans though.

Posted by: shpalman (shpalman)
Posted at: 2nd October 2007 08:08 (UTC)

“I really really hate this: when on the one hand complementary and alternative medicine is infused with credibility through its basis in ancient unchanging wisdom, and on the other hand the practitioner is allowed to meddle with the formula all they like as long as they are being intuitive and well meaning about it.” - from arg0n regarding kinesiology. Homeopathy is only 200 years old though, so not even ancient. Also see the thread on JREF where drsabbylewis says of Mary English's thunderstorm remedy that “I really don't see the effects in terms of symptoms. These have come more from the head of the person who has put them on the net.”

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 10th April 2008 13:46 (UTC)
What can God never see?

Without taking into account the issue of establishing a stone by God, which he won't be able to pick up, how do you think, may be something in this world, what can God never see?

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 19th August 2008 02:46 (UTC)

I'm new here, just wanted to say hello and introduce myself.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 18th February 2011 11:35 (UTC)
oxy hydrogen generator

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Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 13th April 2011 18:54 (UTC)
Can't wait to have my say

Hey - I am certainly happy to discover this. cool job!

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