Complementary and alternative medicine Friday Woo Medicine Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Your Friday Dose of Woo: Woo even more potent than quantum homeopathy?

It’s back.

Yes, I was wondering what would be the best way to start out a brand new year of Your Friday Dose of Woo. Once again, as is all too unfortunately the case, there was an embarrassment of riches, a veritable cornucopia of woo out there, each one seemingly just as worthy of Orac’s loving attention as the other. And, after having taken a week off from this, there was even a backup of woo. (I wonder if a little cleansing might be in order to relieve the backup.) Then it occurred to me. I started YFDoW with a very special treatment of some truly spectacular woo known as quantum homeopathy. I had always been meaning to revisit some of Lionel Milgrom’s most delicious woo.

That’s not what I ultimately decided to do.

Instead, I came across yet another variant of homeopathic woo, one that I hadn’t heard of. This variant was just as woo-ey as quantum homeopathy, but in a way even better. It has lots and lots of equations, which means it must be science, right? Worse, like quantum homeopathy, this particular variant of homeopathic woo appeared in an ostensibly “scientific” journal. Here’s the abstract:

On Chemical Medicine, Thermodynamics, and Homeopathy
Sep 2006, Vol. 12, No. 7:685 -693

William A. Tiller, Ph.D.
The William A. Tiller Foundation for New Science, Payson, AZ.

The author indicates why homeopathic medicine is an example of future information medicine, a member of the more general psychophysiologic medicine group. Using standard chemical thermodynamics, it is readily shown that the driving force for all chemical reactions involves the logarithm of chemical activities for the different species involved. Because chemical activity is given by the product of concentration and thermodynamic activity coefficient, such reaction driving forces involve the sum of ln γj and ln cjfor the j-species. Homeopathy involves the dilution of cj and succussion, which can increase γj ; thus, when cj goes to the ultradilution state, the thermodynamic driving force for change does not disappear as is assumed by many and, in fact, can even increase through the ln γj terms. Going to a more complex reference frame for viewing nature, one can, at least, qualitatively show how oscillating and decaying properties in time can occur for homeopathic remedies.

Any chemists out there? Heck, anyone who’s ever taken freshman chemistry out there? The flaws are painfully obvious. But before we have our traditional weekly fun with this particular “scientific” article as the jumping off point, I was curious to find out who this Dr. William A. Tiller is, as I had never heard of him before. So I decided to see what I could find about him. Boy, oh boy, did I hit the jackpot. Dr. Tiller is an Emeritus Professor of Materials Science at Standford University, has his own “research foundation” (the Tiller Foundation), and has appeared in that infamous woo-fest of a movie What the Bleep Do We Know? The reason he was featured in such a credulous pile of crap is because, well, he’s peddling some truly serious woo. For example, he claims to have discovered a new class of natural phenomena known as “subtle energies” and believes that these “energies” manifest themselves in the “powers” of healers and paranormal phenomena. Indeed, he’s even termed the topic of his studies “psychoenergetics.” Basically, Tiller calls psychoenergetics the interaction between consciousness and matter, and seems to think that a person’s “intent” can alter, much as our old friend Dr. Emoto thinks that he can alter the properties of water by thinking at it with “intent.”

Oh, yes, Dr. Tiller could be the topic of several weeks’ worth of YFDoW. Indeed, I’m bookmarking his site as a reference for when things get slow. But let’s get back to this particularly delectable piece of woo:

Begin by considering what this author calls his “silver colloid” metaphor because it delineates three different kinds of medicine.

If one takes a beaker of water with some bacteria in it and then shakes some silver (Ag) colloid particles into the water, the bacteria will probably be killed via the bactericidal action of the Ag particles. The general conclusion drawn from this observation is that the physical contact between Ag and the bacterium is a necessary condition for illing of bacteria. This, in turn, has led to the assumption that pharmaceuticals do their work in the human body via contacttypes of chemical reactions, and this has led to what is labeled as today’s chemical medicine.

What most people do not know is that, if one takes a fluorescent tube held horizontal and places silver colloid particles in it and then focuses the output light from the ignited tube onto the beaker of water containing bacteria, one also kills the bacteria.1 Such an experiment shows that it is not the physical contact between Ag and the bacterium that is necessary for the killing process to occur. Rather, it is one or more different types of photons from the electromagnetic (EM) emission spectrum of Ag, that entangle with the EM carrier wave from the fluorescent tube and are transported to the beaker of water that are the actual killing mechanism involved in the demise of the bacteria. Pursuing this line of research will inevitably lead to tomorrow’s EM medicine.

And this guy is a materials science professor? I mean, he apparently can’t seem to understand that the two mechanisms of bacterial killing he describes are quite different. It is indeed physical contact (a.k.a. “chemical” contact) between the bacteria and the silver that results in the death of the bacteria. No invocation of photons, quantum theory, or radiation is necessary to explain it. Exciting that same silver molecule can produce photons that can kill the bacteria by an entirely different mechanism. Not an auspicious start. But the woo gets thicker:

Over the past few years, this author and his colleagues have shown that one can imbed a specific intention, from a deep meditative state, into a simple electronic device and have that device, in turn, “condition” a laboratory space wherein the proper experiment is running to test the efficacy of this intention procedure. This procedure has been successful with four uniquely different target experiments: (1) increase the pH of highly purified water by one pH nit, (2) decrease the pH of the same type of water by one pH unit, (3) increase the in vitro thermodynamic activity of the liver enzyme alkaline phosphatase (ALP) by 25% at p=0.001, and (4) increase the in vivo [ATP]/[ADP] ratio in the ells of fruit fly larvae by 15% at p=0.001 to make them more physically fit and significantly reduce the larval development time to the adult fly stage. Replication of the first of these target experiments at 10 other laboratories in the United States and Europe shows that this is a viable procedure that will ultimately lead to the day-after tomorrow’s information medicine. By this labeling, it will come into common practice and usage.

Did I hear this right? Is he claiming to be able to increase or decrease the pH of water by a full pH unit by “intent”? That he can increase the activity of alkaline phosphatase and increase the [ATP]/[ADP] ratio by mere “intent”? Shades of Dr. Emoto and his water woo! I note that the works referenced that supposedly show that Dr. Tiller has actually observed this consisted of either books by Dr. Tiller or articles published in the very same woo-filled journal or other similar journals of woo. All of this shows where this guy is coming from, and it explains a lot about how he can come up with what he writes next:

All processes in nature appear to be driven by differences in thermodynamic free energy functions that involve energy (enthalpy), entropy, and temperature. For chemical reactions between multiple species, the free energy change, G0, defines the reaction at thermodynamic equilibrium. As such, it is always given by a relationship between the natural logarithms of the various equilibrium chemical activities, aej, for the j’th species (see Equation I-2a of Appendix I). The actual thermodynamic driving force for change, ΔG, is given in terms of G0 and the same logarithm relationship between the actual chemical activities. However, it is the definition of aj that is important here; i.e.,

aj = γjcj (Equation 1a)


ln aj = ln γj + ln cj (Equation 1b)

Here, cj = the concentration of j-species in the solvent, j = the thermodynamic activity coefficient of the j-species and ln is the natural logarithm. As such, j relates to the sum of all the environmental effects stored in the solvent that act on this j-type of molecule. Such environmental effects could be electric field, E, and magnetic field, H, effects or a wide variety of anomalous chemical potential effects. In most chemical texts, it is assumed that, as the chemical, concentration of j goes to very small values, the solution becomes an ideal solution, so j = 1. However, this need not be so when special environmental thermodynamic effects have been mathematically convoluted into a modified activity coefficient.

I included all the equations to show that sometimes the most outrageous woo is the woo with lots of equations. So far, this isn’t quite wrong but it’s not quite right either. Chemical activity is indeed a real value used in chemistry. There is also such a thing as an “activity coefficient“, but–surprise, surprise!–Dr. Tiller doesn’t seem to be using it in the same way that most chemists would use it. In chemistry, the activity coefficient is indeed an estimate of how individual chemical species interact with each other in a non-ideal gas or solution. In “ideal” gases or solutions, where it is assumed that the concentration of gas particles or solutes is so low that there are no other effects, activity is proportional to the concentration of an individual molecule. Activity coefficients are nothing more than fudge factors that are used to account for solutions or gases that are nonideal. Moreover, these coefficients can actually be measured by measuring partial gas pressures, ionic activities, or other methods. Their existence does not in anyway make homeopathy any less woo than it is.No woo is needed to explain them, but woo you will get (oh, boy, will you get it!), starting with the “thermodynamic effects” being “mathematically convoluted” into a modification of the activity coefficient; that reference is a foreshadowing of the amazing woo to come. And how does Dr. Tiller’s invocation of the term γj relate to homeopathy? Read on:

In homeopathic remedy preparation, one does two things: (1) one sequentially dilutes the solution of j-species; that is, reduces cj, and (2) one, simultaneously, sequentially successes the solution; that is, one alters j via the succussion process and, because a specific intention underlies this process, the infrastructure stored in the solvent can increase significantly. Thus, instead of Equation I-1 in Appendix I, one has

water + cj becomes water* + cj (Equation 2a)


aj becomes a’j (Equation 2b)

where cj is reduced to c’j by dilution, whereas water goes to water* by succussion and dilution. The most compelling message to note from Equations 2 is that, even when cj drops below one j-molecule per cc via dilution, j can increase significantly via intention-directed succussion. Thus, from Equation 1b, ln aj can increase significantly even when ln cj is negative. Both chemists and allopathic medical practitioners tend to focus their attention on the ln cj term and generally neglect the environmental information storage latent in the ln γj term, and yet a standard thermodynamic treatment says it can become the dominant term as dilution continues.

This is, of course, as Douglas Adams so famously said in his books, a load of dingo’s kidneys. If there are any chemists or biochemists (or even first year chemistry students) out there, I apologize. Please stop clutching your head; the pain will eventually stop, and you’ll build up a tolerance for this woo. I promise. It’s really not so bad. As you can guess, Tiller’s just making chemistry up as he goes along. He presents no justification that γj can or will increase as the concentration of a solute decreases to very low levels. There is no experimental evidence that this happens, much less that γj can ever becomes the “dominant” term in the equation as concentration approaches zero, at least not in any way that he means. “Intent-directed succussion” won’t do it. Tiller’s argument doesn’t make any sort of scientific sense. After all, as the concentration goes to zero, in order for the aj term to remain even detectable, much less retain a high value that could cause any sort of measurable effect on surrounding molecules, γj would have to increase to incredibly high levels, higher than any activity coefficient ever observed or calculated. Does Dr. Tiller present any evidence that it can do that or has ever done that for any homeopathically diluted molecule? Of course not.

But Dr. Tiller isn’t through. Oh, no. He’s got one last spectacular flourish of woo that outdoes all the rest! See:

From an overly simplistic viewpoint, one could say that, for the past 400 years, establishment science has dealt with multiple aspects of the reaction equation:

MASS ←→ ENERGY (Equation 6a)

with one quality convertible to the other via Einstein’s E=mc2 equation. This research shows that psychoenergetic science, which includes homeopathy, must deal with an expanded reaction equation:


although the word “consciousness” here is used in a way quite different than the normal dictionary usage of awareness, awakeness, and so on. Here, every term is considered to be convertible to another even though the quantitative connection to energy is not yet known. Perhaps, instead of asking what consciousness means, one should ask what consciousness does. When this is done, one realizes that consciousness manipulates information in the form of at least numbers, alphabet letters and, most generally, symbols. Thus, Equation 6b becomes more acceptable when it is phrased in the format


Geez, it’s so obvious when you make a diagram of it! Sadly, just adding the word “information” to this woo-ey equation doesn’t make it more “acceptable.” Not any more than this diagram does:


Wow! This guy has actually proposed (with apparently a straight face, yet) “A higher-dimensional-level substance, labeled deltrons, falling outside the constraints of relativity theory and able to move at velocities” faster than the speed of light and that acts as “a coupling agent between the electric monopole types of substances and the magnetic monopole types of substances to produce both electromagnetic (EM) and magnetoelectric (ME) types of mediator fields exhibiting a special type of ‘mirror principle’ relationship between them.”

Aaaaagh! My brain hurts.

You know what. I propose that we take the quantum homeopathy guy, Lionel Milgrom, and the information theory homeopathy guy, William Tiller, and have them battle it out in a steel cage match to see whose woo is stronger. On second thought, scratch that. The titanic clash of two such potent forms of woo might rip a hole in the very fabric of space-time (perhaps allowing deltrons to quantumly couple) and destroy the universe.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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