Water, water everywhere

Yesterday a very politely written letter arrived at the department, addressed to the physicists. I was curious as to what it was, and read it carefully all the way to the word ‘homeopathy’, at which time I began preparing a space for it in the ‘cranky letter’ folder of my filing cabinet. I will spare you the details of the ‘discovery’, but it concerned the physical reason why rainwater was safe to drink, and water-from-the-tap wasn’t. The letter was even kind enough to suggest some experiments that my department could carry out to validate this discovery. 

Many ‘discoveries’ of this nature turn up from not doing properly repeatable, controlled experiments. The orignal ‘discovery’ of Cold fusion in 1989 springs to mind. While I am quite willing to believe that this particular person ‘recovered’ from an illness after switching to rainwater for a drinking supply, I suspect that this had little to do with it. An experiment done once, with a sample size of one, doesn’t make me down tools and rush off to investigate it, however revolutionary it might be.

Finally, my correspondent would probably be horrified to read of the link between rain and autism.

One thought on “Water, water everywhere”

  • My response to this kind of thing is to remember the times when people get better without taking the remedy. Several years ago I had a vicious sore throat, and the Rawleigh’s man turned up on the doorstep selling his lotions and potions. I asked him if he’d got anything for a sore throat and he said he had just the thing – and handed me a bottle of gargle. My father-in-law, a retired GP, was staying with us at the time, so I said I’ll just go and ask him what he thinks. He said tip it down the drain, it’s rubbish. I relayed this back to the Rawleigh’s man as diplomatically as I could, he said a few choice words about the father-in-law and left. Next morning my sore throat was vanished away. I’m sure if I’d taken the gargle I would’ve sworn by it.
    Then there was the time my father, a dairy farmer, was trying to treat a cow with facial eczema. This was in the days when no one knew what caused it, there were no reliable treatments, and consequently the dairying world was awash with quack remedies. Dad tried to catch the cow, who was lurking in a patch of remnant bush (trying to keep out of the sun, as this disease makes them photo-sensitive), but she wasn’t having any of it. He eventually gave up and left her to it, and never did get the remedy into her. He just left it sitting in a bucket under a tree. But from that day on she began to improve markedly, and was soon back in the herd. He said (as a joke) that it must have been really potent stuff if it could produce a cure without ever leaving the bucket!

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