Diluting nuclear homeopathy

The entire universe in blog form
March 16 2011 12:18 PM

Diluting nuclear homeopathy

The disaster is still unfolding in Japan. The earthquake, the flood, the cyclical escalating and abating of the radioactive threat from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant... it seems that everyone wants to help, but many are unsure how (I have a list of charities to which you can donate if you want to help financially). But one thing I can be pretty sure of is that not all advice is as good as others, and some is downright dangerous.

My friend, the Australian skeptic Richard Saunders, sent me a note letting me know that if I am worried about radiation poisoning or radiation induced cancers, homeopathy has me covered. The group Homeopathy Plus in Australia has sent out a note telling people they can use homeopathic "remedies" to alleviate radiation sickness, including such things as strontium-carbonicum, phosphorus, and, bizarrely, X-rays.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  


X-rays? Seriously? Since X-rays are a form of light, it seems weird, even for homeopathy, to claim they can make a diluted solution based on them. If you expose water to X-rays, the molecules of H2O will shatter, but then recombine, leaving... water. Of course, that's what all highly-diluted homeopathic remedies are anyway.

Interestingly, the website for Homeopathy Plus talks a great deal about the side effects of "western" cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy, but neglects to mention the biggest problem with treating cancer with homeopathy, which is you're trying to cure cancer by drinking plain old water. The efficacy of this when dealing with cancer is pretty obvious: none.

The Merseyside Skeptics posted a good roundup of this, and Ben Radford also has an article up at Discovery News. And I want to point out that the majority of homeopathic groups almost certainly honestly think that what they are doing will help people. They think (despite all evidence) that not only does homeopathy work, but that the method itself has basis in fact. That means it can work for any ailment, and that would include cancer and radiation poisoning. Despite whatever initial (or learned) reaction we have to these claims, we have to remember that these people are not by and large frauds and scam artists. They really do think this will work.

More's the pity. If they were frauds we could take legal action against them. But either way, our best defense is knowledge. Homeopathy doesn't work... unless you're thirsty.

Related posts:


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Republicans Like Scott Walker Are Building Campaigns Around Problems That Don’t Exist

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

The World

Iran and the U.S. Are Allies

They’re just not ready to admit it yet.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 2:11 PM Spare the Rod What Charles Barkley gets wrong about corporal punishment and black culture.
Sept. 16 2014 2:35 PM Germany’s Nationwide Ban on Uber Lasted All of Two Weeks
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 1:27 PM The Veronica Mars Spinoff Is Just Amusing Enough to Keep Me Watching
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 1:39 PM The Case of the Missing Cerebellum How did a Chinese woman live 24 years missing part of her brain?
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.