Back in the dim and distant past, around 2011, when the dignified and staid National Geographic bought up my former blogging home, ScienceBlogs, there was a certain self-appointed guardian of the Purity of NatGeo who was infuriated that I might exist under the bold banner and yellow border of his beloved company. I was going to taint the brand! I was a horrible person who should be dismissed forthwith! I was a corruption, a depravity, a dissolute poisoner of the sacred spirit of science!
He was a little bit distraught about it all.
I’ve completely forgotten his name, but I’d be curious to know what he thinks now, now that NatGeo has completely shuttered ScienceBlogs after a couple of years of neglect, and now that NatGeo is peddling…magic…rocks…to people. Yep, they’ve really sold out. I guess they were envying Gwyneth Paltrow’s reputation and money.
It’s true. They’re sending out magic healing crystals to journalists.
The huge box Nat Geo sent me contained a book, some press material, and this glass water bottle with their name printed on the side. The >$70 bottle’s package advertises that it contains “carefully selected and ethically sourced gemstones representing the building blocks of earth,” including “wood,” “water,” “earth,” “metal” and “fire.” It came with an instruction and information manual.
Why does my water bottle have an instruction manual? It reads: “For the most precious moments in life! Gems raise the energy level of water. That’s been known for hundreds of years and scientifically proven. VitaJuwel Gemwater Accessories are not only Jewelry for Water, they’re a great tool to prepare heavenly gemwater like fresh from the spring.” The instructions are: screw in the gemstone vial, fill with water, and then wait 7 minutes.
You know how it works? Vibrations. NatGeo is promoting vibrations.
Some of the claims are really wild. At one point, the pamphlet says: “Everything in nature vibrates. Gems naturally act like a source of subtle vibrations. These vibrations inspirit water, making it more lively and enjoyable.” This is nonsense, and any reference to electricity in crystals (like piezoelectricity, when charge accumulates on some structures in response to physical stress) is neither exclusive to crystals nor relevant to healing or enlivening drinking water. (“Ha! Yeah. Nah,” astrophysicist Katie Mack told me in a DM.)
Now I feel really guilty. He was right. It was all my fault. That I was briefly (and under protest) sponsored by National Geographic was the causal agent that sent the whole venerable institution plummeting into a deep chasm of woo.
I’m sorry, everyone. I didn’t do it on purpose, it must have just been my bad vibes.