On that note, she was right, but I doubt she'll like the result. What I read inspired me to write a review paper, which has just been published in the journal Focus on alternative and complementary therapies with the snappy acronym FACT. The paper is entitled Proposed mechanisms for homeopathy are physically impossible. The abstract is shown below; if you're an academic type in medicine or the hard sciences with journal access, you can read the full paper here. With the kind permission of the legendary Professor Edzard Ernst, this post is a synopsis of what might be a very interesting paper to those interested in finding out why homeopathy doesn't work. So without further preamble, let's talk about what the paper says and why homeopathy can't work without violating basic physical laws. I've cut down the math and referencing to the minimal needed is this explanation, but do comment if you want any more explanation!
|Abstract from paper - All rights FACT 2012 (Used with permission - original here)|
Introduction and motivation
While the scientific consensus that homeopathy has no effect beyond placebo is clear, modern practitioners cling to the handful of poor quality studies that seem to think validate their position; of course they don't, but I decided that rather than approach the problem through the various clinical trials and their weighing and statistics, that I'd review the problem through the cold eye of first principles physics to see if one such effects have any plausibility, regardless of the clinical data.
|Homeopathic dilutions - All rights FACT 2012 (Used with permission - original here)|
|See that tiny little dot in the centre ? That's Earth. The bigger circle is the sun; the gigantic circle is the size of the water planet required to have even one particle remaining after a 30C dilution. It's about 3000 times the size of Earth. All rights FACT 2012 (Used with permission - original here)|
In essence, the problem can be visualised as trying to divide one entity into many containers; without smashing up the entity, this can't happen. And the entity, if smashed up, no longer has the properties of the active ingredient.You'd think this would be the nail in the coffin for homeopathy from a logical perspective, but they have one more trick up their sleeve....
Water memoryIn defence of Hahnemann, when he proposed that serial dilution bit that seems so bonkers to our modern sensibilities, he couldn't have been aware that atomic chemistry precludes there being anything actively left beyond 12C. Indeed, while he could be forgiven for his ignorance his modern disciples strain credibility by taking a position so clearly divorced from reality. While most 'modern' homeopaths acknowledge that no active ingredient can be left in the mix, they postulate a fancy deus ex machina that solves this seemingly intractable problem - Water memory, or the belief that water "remembers" what it came into contact with and retains chemical properties from this.
This is kind of disturbing when you you think about it, all Water on earth is a closed system and constantly gets recycled; this would mean that water could have an unduly strong recollection of all the human and animal waste it has come in contact with. However, homeopaths seem to think water has a somewhat more selective memory than this. Still, if the former image is haunting you somewhat, rest assured this handwavy explanation is equally devoid of merit; water is a polar molecule, two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. The oxygen is much bigger than the hydrogen, and has a partial negative charge. The hydrogen have partial positive charge. This makes them act like little bar magnets, and makes water molecules join together, like in the diagram below.
|I sometimes visualise bonded water molecules as severed Mickey house heads and spinal columns. Feel free to use that pedagogical tool whilst I make an appointment with my shrink......|
Benveniste's memory of water
Montagnier's magical mystery message
|All rights FACT 2012 (Used with permission - original here)|