Mystic energies, holograms and more unicorns: Part 1 (or why you shouldn’t blog when hungry)


Not so long ago, I blogged about Powerbalance bracelets– incorporating holograms treated with special frequencies to improve peoples’ energy flow, balance, athletic performance, and all-round well-being. I took a fairly scathing view, since to most scientists it’s clearly nonsense salad served with a garnish of pseudo-scientific parsley.

Parsley is not actual food, but it makes it look like you’ve made an effort. Actually it sits alongside celery in terms of gastronomic value. It’s not obvious to a lot of people that the salad isn’t a proper meal, and that we really need is some proper scientific meat.

Like veal calves, researchers have suffered in the darkness for the delicious benefit of the greater body of scientific knowledge. But for someone raised on a diet of leaves and twigs, the suffering has been in vain.

What the hell am I talking about? Ah yes… powerbalance… So, there are two opposing sides with differing philosophies. Different starting points and different ideas as to what counts as obvious or plausible or tasty.

For example, skittles and ice cream might seem like a good combination; might make sense to some. Following the “nice things” culinary rule, two nice things together make an even nicer whole. Not a bad hypothesis. However, what actually happens is the skittles freeze into a tooth grinding substance roughly as chewy as diamond. This is why the Skittle McFlurry does not exist. It’s been tested (by me), and quite possibly by the robot ant slaves* at McDonalds R+D department. Scientific experimental evidence trumps what seems plausible in this case. It’s easily verified by anyone with the mental wherewithal to operate a spoon.

Quite possibly though, an experienced chef might have predicted what would happen, perhaps by understanding what happens to different types of sugar at different temperatures, or some such thing. Certainly they would scoff at the “nice things” theory, because they have studied, theoretically and practically, the way flavours mix and enhance or clash with one another.

Another example, a bit more difficult to test objectively, is to look at tourists in Dublin. Upon arrival, they are subjected to a barrage of advertising for Guinness. It’s constant. It’s everywhere. Visit the Guinness Storehouse on St James’s Gate, and it’s concentrated into a 7-storey pint glass of not-so-subliminal stouty goodness, including museum exhibits of all the old slogans they aren’t allowed to use any more. “Guinness is Good for You”, “Guinness for Strength”, “Guinness Aids Foetal Development”**, and so on.

After a couple of hours working your way up through the museum, you reach the bar on the top floor, where you finally get to taste the silky black elixir of the gods, with a stunning view over Dublin***. Add this to the preconception that it tastes better in Dublin anyway, and you are well and truly primed to expect it to be good.

And it will be, but half of the taste is in the experience and the anticipation. It is about how you feel about Guinness at the moment you taste it. This is not a distortion of the experience, but an integral part of what you think you taste. Even if it’s actually, scientifically, chemically and physically indistinguishable from a very good pint served in London, the experience is utterly subjective and depends entirely on what you expect.

So back to Powerbalance… Our expectations and preconceptions undoubtedly affect our subjective responses to all kinds of things. It’s something we know from everyday life. For athletes, state of mind and self-belief is a massive part of performance, so if a bracelet with a hologram is sold well, just belief that it will work can itself make a difference in a competitive match.

For every Shaquille O’Neal who believes in this particular lucky charm, there will be another athlete who always puts their left shoe on first, or who has a lucky shirt number. If they don’t follow their ritual, then just the slight doubt in the back of the mind can be enough to tip the balance in their opponent’s favour. But really, it’s all just parsley.

Take a plausible sounding idea, and build up expectation… not about how it will look, taste or smell -nothing so obviously testable- but how you will feel about yourself. Everyone wants to feel good, just like everyone visiting Dublin wants the Guinness to taste better there than anywhere else.

So that’s my roundabout way of explaining why some people think it works. It’s just the starter though. Part 2 will get onto the meaty science, but I’ll do my best to tenderise it. Actually maybe it should be a fish course, to ease in the “pescetarians”. Anyway, there will be no sprouts. Nor celery.

Follow me on Twitter for updates! or join the Facebook group. If you like this post, feel free to retweet, leave a comment, tell your friends… If not, why have you read so far?
*Disclaimer: McDonald’s do not employ robot ant slaves at their R+D department.
**Disclaimer: Guinness never claimed to aid foetal development.
***Time this to arrive at the bar at sunset, if you’re lucky enough to have a clear day, it’s worth it!
I’m currently reading Moby Dick by Herman Melville, which is utterly brilliant, and also wierdly ties in with this video below. Maybe this whole blog post came out of some subliminal Guinness mind-programming. Ah well. Sláinte.

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3 Comments on “Mystic energies, holograms and more unicorns: Part 1 (or why you shouldn’t blog when hungry)”

  1. kyle Says:

    What about the Japanese technology to heat up air with laser pulses and ionize the molecules getting them to glow. Isn’t that a hologram?

    And what of the question of deriving useful or beneficial work out of a human being affected by the placebo effect in a positive way. Sometimes well planned procedures do not work well in dynamic environments, even if the level of control over acting agents is very high. In those instances the state of feeling allows enough “random” dynamic to, say, sit up and see a man about to launch an RPG into a window and eliminate him before he hurts your comrades. Its funny because the last order you got was to stay down.

    There seems to be a lot of negative association from the scientific community about the placebo effect and the feelings people have. The descriptions of “how” some magic trinket works seems to turn one off due to its misguided use of rationale. Yet, still, the fact that performance enhancement can be observed is something to keep in mind I do believe. And there is still much room to define performance.

    My point is that the part of our selves that activates the placebo effect is not a handicap. .. its merely a misused tool. I agree that the “explination” of a magic devices operation is crap, and not something that should be touted to the public. The reason is a trap in the realm of the magical, and it is better to use the magic device until its magic energy is all gone… otherwise when it runs out you will feel like an idiot thinking that your theory on how it worked was true, that will lead to dissonance. We must be careful, for magic is a powerful thing and we must resist the temptation to approach it with reason. Our reason is a precious gift and we should not corrupt it in a domain which it has no place.

    You know science and religion are gonna mix, right?
    Its more a matter or force then of anything else.


    Why? Because the potential scam about holograms in bracelets, wristbands of chains, should now FINALLY come to an END!

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