Monday, June 19, 2017

Science Bits and Bits and Bits

(written 2013)
Here are a collection of a few quick items you may find interesting.

Ear Candling

Ear candling is procedure often used by alternative medicine practitioners for reasons they claim including:  removing toxins, relieving sinus pressure, curing ear infections, helping with vertigo, improving hearing, purifying blood and much more.  There is no scientific evidence to support any of those claims.  Proponents often show some nasty discoloured gook in the candle after a session as proof.   This stuff actually is the residue from the candle itself.   Just burning one without use on an ear has the same exact effect as with use on an ear.  Tests have shown that there is not enough suction created from ear candling to cause ear wax to be pulled from the ear.

Health Canada considers ear candles to be Medical Devices and as such require licenses for the sale of them.  Since they are considered dangerous, Health Canada has not issued any licenses and therefore, the sale, and import of any ear candle is illegal.   They recommend if you do have compacted wax to seek a health care professional who will use proper equipment to remedy the problem.

Foot Detox Baths

Another item often used by the alt-med industry.   You place your feet into a shapely water-filled bucket.  A special cleansing formula is added and the unit is turned on.  Soon an orangey-brown colour is visible in the water.  The practitioner providing this service has told you that this is toxins from your body exiting through your feet.

Here’s the reality.  Toxins in the body (and the practitioners always seem to forget to mention exactly what toxins) do not exit through the feet, or the skin for that matter, in any significant amount.  We already have a body system that does that (visit any bathroom to see it at work).   Also, the rusty colour you see in the water is just that…rust!   It is actually the oxidation of the metal components (electrodes) through a process called electrolysis.   This happens even without your feet in the unit (see this video ).  This is just like the ear candling in that the claimed “proof” of it working, occurs without any body parts being utilized.

Hologram Bracelets

These are bracelets (usually made out of rubber) with a hologram sticker embedded into them.   Proponents claim that these help increase energy, strength and balance among other things.  They often do a couple of demonstrations to show you how well they work.

There is no scientific evidence that they work as claimed, but I am more interested in the demonstrations you can often find some of the sales people utilizing.  These particular “provings” are a collection of old sideshow strength stunts and old snake-oil salesmen techniques recycled for modern audiences.  They use little known principles of leverage and a lack of knowledge of the body to make it seem like the bracelets are working.  By watching this video of magician Brian Brushwood (,
you can see how subtle the changes in the demos are from not wearing a bracelet to wearing one.  Save your money and just keep practicing.

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