Magic Irish electro-water for sale

Tell me, do you think this announcement is at all credible?

A GROUNDBREAKING new Irish technology which could be the greatest breakthrough in agriculture since the plough is set to change the face of modern farming forever.

That’s a rather…extravagant…claim. And published in the Irish Independent — I looked quite closely for a disclaimer that it was a paid ad, because I didn’t believe it from the first sentence, even before learning what it is.

Then they said what it is.

The technology – radio wave energised water – massively increases the output of vegetables and fruits by up to 30 per cent.

BULLSHIT. I saw “radio wave energised water” and knew immediately that this was nonsense.

Extensively tested in Ireland and several other countries, the inexpensive water treatment technology is now being rolled out across the world. The technology makes GM obsolete and also addresses the whole global warming fear that there is too much carbon dioxide in the air, by simply converting excess CO2 into edible plant mass.

If it’s been “extensively tested”, where are the papers? Show me something that’s been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The most common GM treatments are for pesticide/herbicide resistance. How can water, no matter how energised, make that obsolete? And no, enhanced crop technology does not address global warming. If this scheme actually worked, it would be carbon-neutral, which is the best you could say about it.

Then I looked at the actual method.

The compact biscuit-tin-sized technology, which is called Vi-Aqua – meaning ‘life water’ – converts 24 volts of electricity into a radio signal, which charges up the water via an antennae. Once the device is attached to a hose, thousands of gallons of water can be charged up in less than 10 minutes at a cost of pennies.

Read the Vi-Aqua web page. Yep, it’s a little magic box with some LEDs that you attach to your hose or your water mains. Plug it in or use batteries and it…what? There’s lots of gobbledygook and big claims, but again no data and no papers.

There are testimonials, though. And the most discouraging thing there is that the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, an entirely respectable institution, has endorsed this crap. Prince Charles, have you been dicking around again? It’s also endorsed by a J.J. Leahy, a real lecturer in Chemical & Environmental Science at the University of Limerick, although it says nothing about magic water on his professional page. He studies biofuels.

People have written to Kew; I found one report that Kew replied and confirmed that they endorse it.

One chemist maintains a catalog of these ridiculous water treatment schemes. It seems to be a very common kind of scam.

Vi-Aqua is obvious nonsense. The saddest thing about it is that the Independent is so willing to throw their reputation away with a totally uncritical puff piece about a too-good-to-believe claim, and that Kew is also backing it. The US is supposed to be the central station for wacky pseudoscience, why are the UK and Ireland horning in on our turf? You’ll rue the day, Ireland!

We’re all bad together here…and proud of it

Zinnia Jones is rightly resentful when a blogger who goes by the name “the atheist asshole” calls her “one of the good ones”. They’re missing the truth: while she’s all straightforward and civil and all that, she’s also one of our top bad-asses on Freethoughtblogs.

For that matter, we’ve got a fairly thorough review procedure in place right now, and we don’t add bloggers who aren’t fierce, intelligent, outspoken advocates for their ideas…and we also don’t let dumbasses in. You ought to take a look around — I’m pretty damn proud of the entirety of the network right now.

It’s been a busy morning on twitter for this Emperor of All the Universe. First I got some cheezwit telling me, Ophelia Benson, and Rebecca Watson to take people off the Block Bot. I replied by telling him that none of the people he was adressing have anything to do with the Block Bot. Then he tried to say, ‘but you’re all big shots in Atheism+…’ to which I tried to explain that I didn’t have any power over Atheism+, either, and I could have also explained that Atheism+ and the Block Bot are separate and independent entities, too, except that I was already tired of that fool. Anyway, I guess I’m master of Atheism+ and the Block Bot now. Go ahead, send me your complaints, I’ll deal with them appropriately.

Then, after I said I wasn’t in charge of Atheism+, this idiot comes along:

Did PZ just break his allegiance to A+?

Aaargh. I am neither master of nor slave to Atheism+. I think it’s a fine idea, I like that it’s a grassroots effort for people to place their priorities within atheism in social justice, but for the last time, I do not run it and while I’ve read it a few times and left a few comments, I’m not affiliated with it. It’s good people trying to do good.

And why are people so fixated on me as the Big Boss? Jen and Greta are more closely affiliated with Atheism+ than I am…is it just that the same pea-brained thugs who hate the whole idea of social justice are also incapable of wrapping their minds around the idea that a man isn’t in charge?

And finally, some guy announces that he’s not going to the American Atheist conference because I’m speaking there. He argues with Dave Silverman about it. He’s afraid of me, he claims.

@MrAtheistPants @pzmyers maybe you are not aware but a lot of people are scared of openly opposing ftb. We don’t want to be labelled rapists

Oooh, we’re scary. Why? Because we aren’t afraid to criticize the assumption of masculine authority, apparently. But they’re not so afraid to denounce us publicly and demand our withdrawal from participation in atheist conferences. I guess I’m just not scaring them enough.

But you “don’t want to be labelled rapists”? Give me a fucking break. Please. If I’m in an audience listening to some speaker, and I raise my hand to ask a relevant question, and then the speaker’s answer is to shout that I’m a rapist, who’s reputation is harmed: mine or the speaker’s? Because I love it when other participants in an argument try to shout me down with “ATHEIST!”, a charge that is actually true, and I’d be even more enthused and filled with bloodlust if the charge was blatantly false.

Right now, I’ve got dozens of blogs and forum comments and emails with elaborate stories about how I raped someone, illustrated with clumsy photoshop illustrations or ragged childish cartoons, and I am completely unperturbed. I have a clear conscience and the claims are so over-the-top that I know no one can take them seriously. It’s a whole web of hatred focuse on me right now, and I can take it in stride because I remain true to myself.

But there are apparently a lot of cowards out there who refuse to enter my presence because they believe I’ll call them a “rapist”. Why do I detect a swarm of guilty consciences?

I’m holding this excuse in reserve

You know how, as the work piles up and the grading becomes onerous and the students get more demanding and critical, you sometimes need a day off? I wonder if my division secretary would be sympathetic if I called in and said I had the brain whispers really bad one day.


Actually, the secretaries sometimes look a little fed up with us faculty around the time we’re failing to meet all our deadlines…they might reply that they’re feeling it too, and then I’d be terrified.

Thanks, M.D. Anderson, for adding another confounding variable

I’ve been talking to my class this week (and it’s going to be a theme next week) about the difficulty of analyzing epidemiological data on cancer — that there are so many steps to cancer progression and so many environmental and genetic inputs to the disease that sorting them all out is extremely complex. What I haven’t mentioned yet, but definitely will now, is the factor big money plays in encouraging statistical fraud.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston has been the top-ranked cancer center on US News & World Report’s best-of list for the past 7 years. But that top ranking was aided by a massive error in data used to evaluate its care.

The error in M.D. Anderson’s favor was made by–M.D. Anderson! Avery Comarow, who assembles the rankings at U.S. News, told The Cancer Letter that this was a huge "screw-up." The hospital systematically misclassified emergency patients, which led to the exclusion of nearly 40 percent of admissions, Paul Goldberg, The Cancer Letter’s editor, reported. He said the error was discovered in 2009, but no way could be found to correct it. "Since U.S. News averages data over three years, the results of the M.D. Anderson top rating by the magazine released July 16 are still partially based on tainted data," he wrote.

Is “error” actually the right word to use?

Comments screwed up

Hang tight, everyone, you aren’t banned (well, some of you are. Go away). We’re having some strange technical problems right now, where everyone’s comments are being automatically tossed into moderation. The masters of the machines are working on it now.

Meanwhile, I’m manually approving comments as fast as I can, but I’ve got all these teaching obligations, you know…if your comment is held up, I’ll get to it eventually.

Friday Cephalopod: The virtues of a distributed nervous system


The bulk of an octopus’s nervous system is not in its brain, but its arms. So scientists have studied isolated octopus arms and found that they retain substantial responsiveness to the environment.

It’s depressing. I love eating big molluscs, but I’ve had to cut them out of my diet because there is just too much intelligence there. I’m going to have to cut out pork, too. Chickens are OK? Well, I’m cutting back there, too.

If it’s a dudebro culture, of course women won’t be a “culture fit”

Remember Dave Winer’s speculation that women were biologically unfit for the tech industry? He should have just asked the women why they were avoiding the field — it turns out when you do that, they don’t say “Math is hard” or “I just like shopping”. Instead, they point to abusive, denigrating policies and a culture of self-congratulatory dudebros.

I have another peeve in the comments. There are complaints about the industry being reluctant to hire women of child-bearing age, and the defense from some women is “I’m not going to have children!” or “I’m a lesbian!” That’s nice. Do you think women who want to have children should suffer a career penalty for that? Isn’t it more than a little unfair that no one complains about men of that age, because the assumption is that they won’t have any obligations to participate in parenting? Maybe industry and academia should recognize that their workers are human beings, men and women, and that they will have desires and needs outside of the cubicle that you must respect.

It’s depressing stuff to read when you have a daughter with an aspirations of a career in technology. I think she can kick all the dumb dudes’ asses, but she shouldn’t have to.