Swirling, twirling, birling, and going around and around again


I haven’t been following Vincent Fleury’s escapades for some time. You may recall Fleury — he’s a woozily litigious crackpot who tries to explain all of development and evolution with swirling fluid vortices and claims that he has a hydrodynamic explanation of transiton from apes to humans, and threatened to sue me for criticizing his ludicrous scientific claims. I’ve heard through the grapevine that he’s also threatened to sue other people for pointing and laughing at his ideas, but he really has no grounds for a claim since he’s still employed at Paris-Diderot University, and doesn’t seem to have any problems getting his work out there.

He’s presenting at a conference today, in fact: La vie au fil de l’eau, Life Over Water, on Embryonic morphogenesis and dynamics of fluids. Some things never change.

If anybody is in Lille, France, and planning to go, let me know about it. It sounds very entertaining. Also on the program is Marc Henry, a quantum chemist, who’s going to talk about the physics of how water can retain a homeopathic memory, and Bernard Poitevin, a student of Bienveniste, who will explain the role of water in the process of realization of the homeopathic remedy, and Etienne Krencker, an anthroposophist. Those still exist? Wow.

Nope, no one’s ever going to suggest Fleury is part of a community of kooks, no sir.

I anticipate some more bluster and threats of lawsuits over pointing out his associations. He really doesn’t like me very much.


  1. kevinalexander says

    When I saw the title I thought you meant this

  2. says

    Myers’ blog is constructed in a certain way. He writes reviews that are not that bad but then he opens it up to his hounds, half of whom are mad. Crazed! They finish the job.

    Freedom of speech is one thing, but it is extremely insane to open the microphone to crazy people.

    Golly gee whiz.

  3. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Have the homeopaths figured out you can put water in an NMR and check for changes with each dilution? I don’t think so Tim….

  4. blf says

    Ok, who else had to look up what anthroposophist is?
    I must admit I gave up when a quick skim of Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge burbled: “Anthroposophical proponents aim to extend the clarity of the scientific method to phenomena of human soul-life and to spiritual experiences.” And then it burbles into bafflement overload…

  5. says

    Sponsored by Boiron, Weleda, and some manufacturers of food supplements, as well as by a company that sells an anti-electro-magnetic waves gizmo :


    How does it work? Well, the waves stimulate some stuff inside the little disc, and it emits a “bio signal” that counters the nocive waves. Or something.

  6. blf says

    [Then poopyhead opens his blog] up to his hounds, half of whom are mad. Crazed!

    “Penguins, dear loon, penguins”, sayeth the mildly deranged penguin, “with sniny teeth and no peas.”

  7. parrothead says

    So I look at the link PZ added in the article and I see this:

    When you deal with a physics problem, you try to have a simple mechanism that explains it all, so to speak, but that you can refine to any specifics. So when you look at the blastula you realize that it’s a hyperbolic flow. The hyperbolic flow has an extraordinary property. A major property. There is a point where the speed is zero in all directions. And this point represents the navel, the belly button.

    So the very origin of our belly button is the fact that in the blastula, there is a zero point where the speed is zero in all directions. This is a fact. I’m not speaking of something hypothetical. You can observe it.

    I cried a little inside.

  8. anteprepro says

    Fleury didn’t seem to like PZ much, but Suzan Mazur seemed to like PZ even less:

    He was recently featured in a PZ Myers Pharyngula blog — where his work first caught my eye

    PZ Myers, the Howard Stern of sciencebloggers

    He projects himself as a bully so he won’t look like a sissy when he has no choice but to go with the flow.

    Think Animal House and pimply adolescence.

    So the question I had was: who is she and why does she hate PZ?

    And the answer was crankery. It is often either crankery or bigotry, so it was a coin flip.


  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    Bernard Poitevin, a student of Bienveniste…

    You mean Benveniste?

    I thought the water memory thing was settled;

    Our results highlight the efficiency of energy redistribution within the hydrogen-bonded network, and that liquid water essentially loses the memory of persistent correlations in its structure within 50 fs.

    1 fs = 10^(-15) s

  10. blf says

    More on this Susan Mazur from the Encyclopedia of American Loons:

    Susan Mazur is a science journalist. She is most famous for credulously swallowing every piece of nonsense (especially concerning biology) she comes across from creationists and ultra-crackpots. It doesn’t really help that real scientists calmly explain things to her. The only thing that seems to stick in her mind is “conspiracy”. For example, see her claims concerning the debate surrounding Fodor & Piattelli-Palmarini’s epically clueless recent book. Part of her problem seems to stem from her obsession with the balloon animal übercrackpot rants of Stuart Pivar. […]

    Diagnosis: The epitome of bad science journalism, Mazur has turned into a sympathetic voice for anti-science crankery everywhere. As such she is probably causing some harm. Complete idiot.

    Good grief, someone actually believes classic crackpot Pivar? (Well, Ok, there was the just-as-absurd Velikovsky the other day…)

  11. Anton Mates says

    Ok, who else had to look up what anthroposophist is?

    I just assumed it was an anthropophagous theosophist.

  12. gakxz1 says

    At first I felt sort of sorry for Fleury, in that I understand the impulse of wanting to look like the genius in the room by coming up with heterodox theories. Sure, he makes the twin errors of fixating on a single pattern that explains everything (“vortices”; weirdly there are many pseudoscientists who like vortices…), and (more egregiously) dismissing lots of science (and scientists, all working, often without success, to add even a bit to what we know) as foolish orthodoxy. I get it: science is hard. I can imagine a different version of me making some of his errors (if I’m to grant that I don’t often do that now).

    But then… being a part of a community of self-reinforcing kooks… Nope, he really should (always have) know better.

  13. kevinalexander says

    chigau @6
    I play that on my fiddle. If any girl laughs, I know it pleases but I’m not sure how completely.

  14. moarscienceplz says

    George Smoot is also a professor at Paris-Diderot University. Talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous. I wonder how their faculty selection process works – casting chicken bones on the floor?

  15. moarscienceplz says

    I’ve never heard that before. Now I have a big ol’ smile on my face. You have my thanks, completely.

  16. robro says

    Lots of fluid dynamics around here the last couple of weeks. It’s been raining cats and dogs that come from Hawaii and Siberia. I’m thinking of raising myself to the next spiritual level and revert to a fish-like creature, or perhaps an aquatic ape a la Hardy and Westenhöfer. Stay tuned.

  17. says

    Generally, crackpots have plenty of “um, uh, are you sure…” feedback before they go trumpeting forth.

    Speaking as a professional who has told others, “you’re going to make a fool of yourself if you do that…” there’s usually ample opportunity for giving and receiving such advice. When I encounter someone charging out making an idiot I assume they’re overcoming the advice of their friends, their mom, and even their dog.

  18. Tethys says

    I knew anthroposophist from reading books about bad science, and knew that birling was a lumberjack / log thing, but I just have no clue what a “quantum chemist, who will discuss the physics of water” might be except person lying their ass off.

    Maybe the quantum chemist can explain gravity magnets?

  19. says

    Quantum chemistry is a real thing. They study interactions between molecules using sophisticated physics techniques: NMR, IR spectroscopy, that sort of thing.

  20. Tethys says


    They study interactions between molecules using sophisticated physics techniques: NMR, IR spectroscopy, that sort of thing.

    I looked it up because I had never heard of quantum chemistry, and it sounds very fascinating from the parts I could understand since I have only a very basic understanding of all those fields. It’s the physics of water as quantum chemistry that tripped my BS meter. Water does have some interesting and unique properties, but I’m thinking that plain chemistry and the classic physics of fluid dynamics applies to water because it’s not a sub-atomic substance.

    I am now curious if water has unique properties in quantum chemistry, just as it does in chemistry and physics. Perhaps I will research it later.

    I’m currently researching how to stop cane toads from digging up the garden with their burrowing for one of my sons, and learning all sorts of things about all manner of strange and invasive species. ie: Acetaminophen is toxic to brown tree snakes and is best administered by placing it in a non-living pinky mouse, placing the mouse in a cardboard tube with strings ( so the coconut crabs can’t get to them), and then airdropping them into the trees in your target control area. I really appreciate cold Minnesota winters after reading that USDA bulletin.

    Chicken wire digging barriers is the best control idea I have come across for the cane toad, but I am less than thrilled with the number of dangerous venomous creatures that live near my grandbabyspawn.

  21. says

    Hi, chemist here. Yeah, water has a whole bunch of interesting properties that arise from the magic stuffs. But they don’t give it memory. They just give it structure.

    On a separate note, “La vie au fil de l’eau” would be better translated as “life going with the flow”.

  22. benedic says

    “Sure, he makes the twin errors of fixating on a single pattern that explains everything (“vortices”; weirdly there are many pseudoscientists who like vortices…”

    Since Descartes attempt to explain the movements of celestial bodies by vortices they have always had a patriotic attraction to the French mind.

  23. Owlmirror says

    No love here for the inspiring speech of Presidential candidate Clinton Kang?

      “My fellow Americans. As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball; but tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom! “

  24. jrkrideau says

    I must have heard that song a dozen times and always heard “twirling”. Embarrassing, as I used to live almost beside of on the major log-driving rivers and have never even heard of the word “birl”.

    I also had no idea that peaveys could have such long, long handles until I watched the intro with the real log drivers.

  25. kevinalexander says

    Peaveys have long handles for two reasons. For reach, of course, but also to input rotational energy to counteract rolling off a log which is proverbially easy. The guy on the high wire has a long pole for the same reason. Watch the log drivers smack the water with them. They’re not trying to brain beavers. ( A little known Canadian sport. )

  26. jrkrideau says

    I realized the purpose once I saw them in the film, I just had never see a peavey with such a long handle before. I took me by surprise

    Ours, at home when I was growing up, probably had a handle about 4 ft long, about the same as a shovel but a lot thicker. We didn’t need the length as we would just be using it when skidding out a few logs from the woods.