Friday Woo Science Skepticism/critical thinking

Your Friday Dose of Woo: Old MacDonald had a farm, ee-i-ee-i-o, and on his farm he had some (more) woo, ee-i-ee-i-o

I want to apologize to Abel Pharmboy in advance on this one. This is the second time in less than three months that I’ve invaded his territory to a certain extent in Your Friday Dose of Woo, specifically his The Friday Fermentable feature. Last time around, I couldn’t believe it when I encountered some serious farm woo particularly common in wineries known as biodynamics, which involved burying various animal parts (among other things) on the farm in order to promote its life force. Who said that the best woo is found only in medicine?

Certainly not me. At least, not anymore.

This time around, you may be wondering, what sort of woo is going on down on the farm? Trust me, it’s some serious, tasty woo. I realize that I use the term “tasty” a lot when referring to woo, but in this case it’s appropriate, as you’ll see, because we’re talking winery woo again.

There does certainly seem to be something about wineries that inspires oodles and oodles of woo. Maybe it’s because making good wine is difficult and depends on so many factors, both within and outside of the winemaker’s control, that it’s easy to succumb to magical thinking. At least that’s my best guess, not being a winemaker myself. And, boy, oh boy, does the Summerhill Pyramid Winery and Sunset Bistro show a lot of magical thinking, at least on its website.

“Pyramid Winery,” you wonder?

Oh, yes, a pyramid winery! Besides its use of organic farming, which may or may not be woo depending on whether it uses biodynamics, get a load of how the Summerhill Pyramid Winery built its winery:

The site was carefully chosen. First a check of interfering energies was exhausted (i.e. underground streams, electric current exposure, gas line interference, etc.). Then the earth under the pyramid was compacted to 100%. Then a surveyor lined up the square base to coincide with exact True North as it is here in Kelowna. The area was then checked by an astronomer who lines up the foundation to the North Star precisely. It is interesting to note that much excitement took place when we aligned the site because the astronomer’s news that almost to the day, 1997 was “the year of the Great Pyramid”.

The Summerhill Pyramid incorporates a unique “fused frame” concept tying the four hips together with the four bases and the capstone into one solid piece. The density of the concrete is the highest and heaviest ever used in North America being 42 mpa, stronger than tunnels or bridges. Fiberglass rebar used in underwater construction was used in place of steel. By not using ferrous metals, the structure will not reorient back to magnetic north.

That’s right. The Summerhill Winery ages its wines in a specially constructed pyramid, designed as an 8% miniature of the Great Pyramid and aligned with the True North, the better to allow the wine to be infused with “pyramid power.”


So what are the benefits of aging wine in a pyramid. What do you think? Surely, the proprietor of this winery, one Mr. Stephen Cipes, wouldn’t have gone to all this trouble if he didn’t expect a profound advantage in his wine. According to the woo-meisters:

The 14 year experiment is an overwhelming success! The conclusion… There is a definite and profound effect on liquids placed in sacred geometry! Three years of conclusive taste test comparisons in the 900 ft² pyramid led to the building of our new Pyramid that is a 4 story high 3249 ft² 8% replica of the Great Pyramid.

Every day at 2 o’clock, for three years, we toured the smaller pyramid with the general public. We did taste comparisons of the same wine, bottled on the same day, and served at the same temperature. One was stored in the pyramid for 30-90 days and the other never having being put in the pyramid. The results were overwhelming. The tasters chose the pyramid-aged wine almost unanimously every day as being smoother and having a better aroma! These experiments boosted our convictions that indeed, a precisely constructed pyramid (that was oriented to true north versus magnetic north, and that was constructed without the use of ferrous metals so that it would not be reoriented to magnetic north) becomes a chamber for the “clarification” of liquids. For instance, a bad tasting wine, or juice, would become more foul tasting. The chamber seems to bring out flaws as well as exaggerating the qualities.

That certainly sounds perfectly scientific to me. Well, sort of, if you can forget about the probable lack of blinding in this taste test and the utter scientific implausibility that sitting wine in a pyramid would somehow “clarify” liquids, whatever that means. There’s also the issue of where the other wine was aged. There are so many factors to consider that, to me, even if the taste test were properly blinded, the only real control that would be valid would be to age the “control” wine in a building identical to the pyramid, except either it’s not oriented to the true north or perhaps it’s built in the form of a cube using the same materials and construction techniques. And perish forbid the nasty, cynical comment of one visitor who said, “Blind taste tests over pyramid aged versus warehouse aged wines ‘proved’ that the pyramid aged wines were better. I’m still skeptical as none of the wines we tasted were particularly outstanding, especially for their price tags.” (Bad, nasty skeptic!) Of course, our friendly woo proprietors have an perfectly scientific and reasonable explanation for this supposed observation that the pyramid somehow intensifies good wine and bad:

We humans are made mostly of liquid and seem to be affected by the chamber as well. We can actually feel our own “life force energy” strengthen within the Pyramid!

Many experiments have been documented in replica pyramids. For instance, it is well established that rather than rotting, milk turns to yogurt, meat petrifies and razor blades will become sharper in the pyramid (this has been patented). A timed photography experiment, conducted outdoors in an open frame pyramid, revealed that a plant growing inside the pyramid, grew in a clockwise motion, while a twin sister plant nearby, but not in a pyramid, grew “helter skelter”.

Wow. Oddly enough, I was unaware of such compelling “well-established” scientific data. I did some literature searches, but, even more oddly, I couldn’t find anything in the scientific literature about such amazing observations. The only thing I could find is that the TV show Mythbusters has examined claims that pyramids could sharpen razor blades and do all sorts of other amazing things and utterly failed to find any evidence to support them. But, lest you disbelieve that great power descends upon the pyramid, the better to infuse the wine with its essence and make it spectacular, check out this incontrovertible evidence. Check out the story behind this evidence from one Laurie Giles:

On Friday, October 18th, 2002 I noticed that there harvest moon visible before dusk. It was beautiful. During a family dinner, at the Summerhill Estates Winery bistro, conversation eventually turned to the gorgeous moon that evening. My niece suggested that I take a picture of the moon perched on top of the pyramid. After dinner I went outside with my brother in law and I decided to take the picture.

The moon was so bright that I had to hide most of it behind the tip of the pyramid. I took the picture with my Minolta Dimage VII 5.2 mega pixel camera. You cannot imagine my suprise when I downloaded this image to my computer. I was stunned. I have never altered this picture file. I cannot explain it and have not had this happen on my other pictures, before or after.

And here’s the image:


It certainly convinces me. What about you? Maybe I’ll build a pyramid in office and put my partially finished grant applications and manuscripts in it when I’m not working on them, the better to be published in Cell and take that next step in my ability to get funding, to lead a P01 or a SPORE. Hey, given what it does to wine, I can’t fail, rotten NIH funding situation or no rotten NIH funding situation! In fact, maybe I’ll put my laptop in a pyramid, the better to improve my grant applications, manuscripts, and my blogging! Heck, maybe it’ll improve my blogging so much that I’ll rocket up to Instapundit– or Kos-level traffic instantly! After all, the pyramid uses tachyons (oh, yes, more tachyon woo!):

The pyramid effectiveness may also be explained using Einstein’s concept of Tachyons and Tardyons. Tachyons are particles of invisible energy that move faster than the speed of light (that means it is faster than 186,282 miles per second). Tardyons behave in the opposite way, moving below or at the speed of light. This brings about the theory of negative space-time. [Negative space-time is 180 degrees from positive space-time. In positive space-time living organisms change from life to deterioration. In negative space-time, life moves from deterioration to rejuvenation. It is said that the pyramid serves as the interface between positive and negative space-time. It serves as a bridge between matter and anti-matter and becomes the gate or the instrument through which two realities meet and interact. In a precise chamber with perfect geometry such as a pyramid, a dome, or a true Roman arch, (many of the finest “champagne” houses of Europe age their bottles today in ancient Roman arch cellars actually built by the Romans!), the two energies come together at the same rate of speed! If the pyramid can serve as the meeting place for positive and negative space-time, then it would not only be the oldest, largest. and most mysterious instrument invented by the mind of man, it would also be the most useful. If the ancient builders could put together an instrument in which matter and antimatter could interact, they did indeed have all the energy they could ever need. Some scholars have speculated that the builders could not have possibly constructed the large pyramids by moving the huge boulders into place by primitive methods, but that they had some means of levitating stone. (Levitation is said to happen in negative space-time). Other studies on pyramids have claimed that the Great Pyramid was used to elevate human consciousness to other levels of existence.

Tachyon energy being infused into the wine? No wonder it’s so great!

But you know the thing that really makes me think that there might just be something to this whole pyramid thing. This link to the Summerhill Winery had been sitting in my Folder of Woo for several weeks now, and it was only yesterday that I decided that it would be the one this week. It just so happens that I had forgotten last week to peruse The Amazing Randi’s weekly newsletter. In looking for some good skeptical commentary on pyramids while writing this, I headed over first to The Skeptic’s Dictionary to check out its entry on Pyramidiocy. Then I headed over to SkepticWiki and checked out its entry on pyramid power. Then I headed over to The Amazing Randi’s website and searched for “pyramid.”

Guess what?

The Amazing Randi himself had written about the Summerhill Winery just this week! Well, actually, by the time you read this, it will have turned into last week (must be the tachyons), but I was amazed at the coincidence. You have to believe me; I had not seen this Randi column before I set my sights on the Summerhill Winery. Given that, I can only think of two possible explanations for my having serendipitously decided to focus on it so close in time to the master himself. It could either be the power of the Summerhill pyramid itself at work here, using its power to draw me to it. Alternatively, could it have been sympathetic magic? Could it have been The Secret at work?

If given the choice, I’d prefer to believe in pyramid power, thank you very much. It’s far more plausible than The Secret.

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]

Comments are closed.


Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading