Ripped from xkcd.com!
I have an idea for how to manage your budget. It’s a very simple idea and bound to work. Here’s what you do: take your money and divide it in half. Keep one half and toss the other half into a fire. Then do it again with the half you kept. Repeat this process thirty times. Say that you started with $10,000. After thirty times of this, you’d wind up with 0.00001862 dollars but, here’s the amazing part, your spending power would be through the roof!
Or better yet, say that you wanted to build a bomb. Now a normal explosives-type person would start with, say, 100 lbs of fertilizer and 100 gallons of fuel oil. But, ah! I know a way to make that bomb even more effective. Dilute both of those with water until you have only the merest trace of the explosive, say several parts per trillion. Then you shall have the mightiest bomb in the world!
Oh, here’s the best example of all! Take some sort of beneficial medicine and dilute it with water. Then dilute that water. Then dilute that water. Repeat this thirty or so times until you end up with something that’s 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999999999% water. At that point you should have one amazingly powerful medicine indeed! Hey, it worked out when Harry Lime did it, right?
All of this is what we get when we do budgeting, explosives and importantly medicine using homeopathic principles. They’re part of what some people call “alternative medicine”, but what I simply call “utter bullshit”.
For those who don’t know, homeopathic “medicine” involves taking something that can be effective and diluting it however many times. Somehow this makes the medicine in question stronger, though I have no idea how that’s supposed to work as anything other than a placebo.
Needless to say, removing most of the active ingredient in some sort of medical treatment is not the best way to make use of said ingredient. That anyone would think otherwise completely astounds me.
What’s even more astounding is that this “medical practice” actually has some credibility within various groups. It’s even been covered by the National Health in the UK, though that may change thanks to some action by people who are actually, you know, doctors and stuff.
You know, I was going to turn this into a big, thousand word rant against homeopathy. I was going to provide a lot of facts and figures backing up the notion that it’s something very stupid that doesn’t actually work. But then I read something from this article in Wikipedia, and I think I’ll just wind up this rant of mine by quoting the passage in question, which I think tells you everything you need to know about homeopathic “medicine”. It gives you some examples of how much of the allegedly beneficial product you get after various levels of dilution.
Critics and advocates of homeopathy alike commonly attempt to illustrate the dilutions involved in homeopathy with analogies. The high dilutions characteristically used are often considered to be the most controversial and implausible aspect of homeopathy.
Hahnemann’s joke: 1 bottle of poison in Lake Geneva
Hahnemann is reported to have joked that a suitable procedure to deal with an epidemic would be to empty a bottle of poison into Lake Geneva, if it could be succussed 60 times.
1 Pinch of salt in the Atlantic Ocean
Another example given by a critic of homeopathy states that a 12C solution is equivalent to a “pinch of salt in both the North and South Atlantic Oceans”, which is approximately correct.
1/3 of a drop in all the waters of the Earth
One third of a drop of some original substance diluted into all the water on earth would produce a remedy with a concentration of about 13C.
Duck liver 200C in the entire observable Universe
A popular homeopathic treatment for the flu is a 200C dilution of duck liver, marketed under the name Oscillococcinum. As there are only about 10^80 atoms in the entire observable universe, a dilution of one molecule in the observable universe would be about 40C. Oscillococcinum would thus require 10^320 more universes to simply have one molecule in the final substance.
Another illustration of dilutions used in common homeopathic remedies involves comparing a homeopathic dilution to dissolving the therapeutic substance in a swimming pool. One example, inspired by a problem found in a set of popular algebra textbooks, states that there are on the order of 10^32 molecules of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool and if such a pool were filled with a 15C homeopathic remedy, to have a 63% chance of consuming at least one molecule of the original substance, one would need to swallow 1% of the volume of such a pool, or roughly 25 metric tons of water.
30C: 1 ml in 1,191,016 cubic light years
Yet another illustration: 1 ml of a solution which has gone through a 30C dilution is mathematically equivalent to 1 ml diluted into a cube of water measuring 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 metres per side, which is about 106 light years. Thus, homeopathic remedies of standard potencies contain, almost certainly, only water (or alcohol, as well as sugar and other nontherapeutic ingredients).
I think that sums it up completely. Homeopathic “medicine” is really stupid and just doesn’t work.