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Your Friday Dose of Woo: The quantum homeopathic gyroscopic circle is complete

In my rigid, Western, scientific way of thinking, things generally have a beginning, a middle, and and end, the arrow of time marching relentlessly onward. However, it occurs to me that this is the very last edition of Your Friday Dose of Woo of its first year. Last June, when I started this, almost on a whim, I had no way of knowing how it would take on such a life of its own. Indeed, I fear that all the woo to which I subject myself on a weekly basis may be having an effect. I’m ceasing to see life as a straight line any more; such rigid thinking no longer suits me.

Instead, like the more Eastern-oriented philosophies teach, I’m starting to see that life is indeed a circle. And because life is a circle, I came to realize that so too is woo a circle. In fact, it’s more of a circle than even I imagined, as you will see. Think back now to the very first edition of Your Friday Dose of Woo. That’s when we met one Lionel Milgrom, a man who served up a heapin’ helpin’ of the most incredible woo, namely quantum homeopathy. As if to reinforce the circularity of life, the universe, and everything, not to mention woo, a few days ago, while I was looking for a suitable victim–I mean topic–for the finale of this, the inaugural year of YFDoW, to what should my wondering eyes appear? No, it wasn’t St. Nick (for one thing, it’s June). Rather, it was Lionel Milgrom coming back at me with more quantum homeopathy. But that alone wasn’t enough to convince me that woo is a circle. The title of the “paper” was:

“Torque-Like” Action of Remedies and Diseases on the Vital Force and Their Consequences for Homeopathic Treatment

The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Nov 2006, Vol. 12, No. 9 : 915-929
Lionel R. Milgrom, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., R.S.Hom.
Department of Chemistry, Imperial College London, London, UK.

This woo isn’t just a circle. It’s a spinning, gyroscopic circle. No, it’s more than that. It’s a spinning, quantum, homeopathic, gyroscopic circle!

I can’t begin to encompass the amazing woo that this paper represents. It’s just not possible; this paper alone could be fodder for at least three editions of YFDoW. I can only manage to hit a few of the high points. Fortunately, the paper is indeed available for download for free. It’s also a 10.85 MB file. I’m not sure why. I can only speculate that it’s amazing mass of woo compressed down to almost black-hole density and then packed into a single PDF. Be that as it may, Milgrom begins:

Introduction: Within the developing theoretical context of quantum macroentanglement, a mathematical model of the Vital Force (Vf) has recently been formulated. It describes the Vf in terms of a hypothetical gyroscope with quantized angular momentum. This enables the Vf’s state of health to be represented in terms of a “wave function” derived solely from secondary symptom observables produced in response to disease or homeopathic remedies. So far, this approach has illustrated the biphasal action of remedies, resonance phenomena arising out of homeopathic provings, and aspects of the therapeutic encounter.

Method: In this paper, the effects of a therapeutic remedy and disease states on the gyroscopic angular momentum characteristics of the Vf were investigated by mathematical manipulation the Vf “wave function.”

Results: The formulation of the Vf in terms of a quantized gyroscope permits disease to be represented as a braking “torque” decreasing the Vf’s angular momentum, causing it to “precess” (i.e., express symptoms). The therapeutic remedy, however, provides an accelerating “torque,” increasing the Vf’s angular momentum and decreasing precession (i.e., reducing symptom expression).

Conclusions: According to this model, symptom expression corresponds to precession of the Vf “gyroscope.” Conversely, complete removal of symptoms is equivalent to cessation of Vf “precession.” However, if overprescribed or given in unsuitable potency, the curative remedy (which may also be formulated as a wave function but this time derived solely from changes in Vf secondary symptom observables) may cause the Vf to express proving symptoms. Thus, with only observation of symptoms and changes in them to indicate, indirectly, the state of a patient’s Vf, the safest treatment strategy might be for the practitioner to proceed via gradual removal of the symptoms. This is congruent with Hahnemann’s later development and use of the LM potencies, as described in his final 6th edition of The Organon.

That’s right. I wasn’t kidding when I said that this was quantum homeopathic gyroscopic woo. Milgrom starts out beautifully with a defense of homeopathy that incorporates–well, take a look:

Homeopathy is arguably the most controversial form of complementary and alternative medicine. With no molecules of the original substance present, the perennially asked question is how could a highly potentized homeopathic remedy (i.e., one serially diluted beyond Avogadro’s Number and violently agitated after each dilution step) exert any effect, let alone a therapeutic one? Critics of homeopathy therefore consider it either delusional, cynical “quackery” or, at best, an exercise in the “placebo” effect. What seems to be at issue here is not so much whether homeopathy “works” but how the putative therapeutic activity of highly potentized substances is seen to challenge accepted materialistic thinking concerning the fundamental primacy of atoms and molecules.

See what I mean? He totally ignores the fact that there’s no real evidence that homeopathy does anything therapeutic for any disease. The studies that show an effect of homeopathy are almost without exception poorly designed and/or contain too few patients. Larger, better studies almost universally fail to find any effect of homeopathy greater than that of placebo. Does that bother Milgrom? Not at all! When faced with no clinical evidence to show that homeopathy is anything more than a placebo ritualistically prepared and administered by homeopaths, he decides to do what only the most talented woos do: Retreat into theory of “how homeopathy works,” delving deeply into quantum mechanics with no evidence to support his application of quantum mechanics in the manner that he does. Better yet, he does it with lots and lots of equations, equations that I hope the physicists and mathemeticians among my readers will have some fun with. (Calling Mark Chu-Carroll!) Best of all, like any good crank, be he a creationist or a dualist, he appeals to a “challenge to materialism.”

Beautiful. But it gets even better:

Belief in the therapeutic power of homeopathy, however, need not necessarily mean denial of atomic theory–that would be tantamount to believing in a flat earth.

That’s right. You can believe that diluting a substance until there isn’t a single molecule is left will somehow magically transform it so that the water retains a memory of the substance and “works” accordingly on illness, and that’s OK. But denying atomic theory is “tantamount to believing in a flat earth.” Come to think of it, I think Milgrom has just admitted that he does believe in a flat earth, given that to believe in homeopathy does require one to ignore or reject a considerable amount of what atomic theory tells us. But that’s just me. Milgrom thinks that we’re all too limited in our understanding, and, like the very best woos, he knows how to tell us just why:

A more thorough reading of physics (in particular, quantum field theory), however, reveals that a particle view of the universe cannot be considered fundamental: It is contingent on complex quantum field interactions that, as a first approximation only, may be thought of as giving rise to particles. Consequently, the idea that homeopathic remedy preparation somehow impresses on trillions of solvent molecules longrange dynamic coherence (also known as a “memory” effect) might not be so implausible after all. However, quantum theory (QT) could have a far more important role to play in phenomenological explanations of the homeopathic process than merely supporting the “memory of water” concept, an idea that, on its own, is, in essence, a positivist and pharmacologically confining view of the therapy.

Ah, yes, when it’s pointed out how chemically and physically implausible homeopathy is, how utterly ridiculous it is as a concept, what’s a homeopathy supporter to do? Invoke quantum theory and nonlocality, of course! And, the aspect of quantum mechanics that homeopaths love most of all is the concept of quantum entanglement, which, as he did in the original YFDoW, Milgrom once again invokes. The problem with quantum entanglement is that it occurs only on the subatomic level. Indeed, quantum entanglement is usually used to describe the behavior of photons. Two or more such particles, under certain conditions, cannot be described without reference to the other(s), no matter how far apart in space they are; their behavior is said to be “entangled,” although quantum entanglement does not, contrary to a common misconception, allow the transfer of information at faster than the speed of light. The problem is that, as the scale on which observations are made increases, the effects of vast numbers of atoms and subatomic particles tend to cancel out, which is known as decoherence, which is why, as Prometheus once so drolly put it, ” we don’t see footballs (“soccer” balls, to those raised in the US) changing into waves during the World Cup.” So how does Migrom get around this rather basic problem that confronts any woo wanting to claim QT as the “explanation” for why his woo supposedly works? Easy, invoke “weak quantum theory” (WQT)! But he does more than that. He likens a concept of a “vital force” (Vf) to the wave function of a quantum system:

Thus, in homeopathy there is the concept of the Vital Force (Vf) that, like the wave function description of a quantum system may only be inferred, not directly observed.* As a wave function is observed indirectly via experimental effects, so the Vf is only observed indirectly via the symptoms it produces.

Note that he assumes that this Vf actually exists, without presenting any evidence that it does, in fact, exist. Certainly, if it does exist, we have not not been able to measure it, but Milgrom fails in that he can’t even explain how it has been “inferred” from other measurements, as the wave function of quantum theory has been inferred from experimental measurements. He simply assumes that the symptoms of disease are observations from which one can reasonably “infer” the existence of Vf. How these symptoms are supposed to be evidence for the existence of Vf, I have no idea. But here’s where Milgrom really shows a brilliant ability to spin some wondrous woo:

Based on this conjecture, it has been possible to develop a model of the Vf as if it behaved like a gyroscopic entity. This began life as a qualitative metaphor that used the well known properties of gyroscopes to illustrate the actions of the Vf in response to disease and remedies.18 Thus, once its flywheel is set spinning at high speed, a real gyroscope stands erect with respect to the Earth’s gravitational field and will strongly resist any external lateral forces that try to topple the gyroscope…A healthy Vf may be likened to a fully upright gyroscope with a rapidly spinning flywheel. Lateral forces, therefore, are akin to those stressors that can push the organism into disease states that are resisted easily by a healthy Vf and thrown off centrifugally to the organism’s extremities. Acute disease expression may be likened to the wobbling of the Vf gyroscope after being acted upon by a strong force, prior to the Vf gyroscope resuming its healthy upright stance. A weaker Vf, however, is more like a gyroscope whose flywheel has slowed down so that it is less stable in an upright position. In this situation, the Vf is less able to resist those stressors that push the organism over into disease states. Consequently, the Vf begins to precess (i.e., express symptoms of disease): The greater the amount of precession, the more chronic the disease state and the greater its symptom expression will be. And the slower the Vf gyroscope’s “flywheel” spins, the less able it is to throw off the disease.

Within this qualitative metaphor, the therapeutic homeopathic remedy can be seen as that force that, when applied to the Vf gyroscope’s flywheel, causes it to speed up, spin faster, and throw off the disease state. Also, the term “diseased” may be applied to those inherited and environmental stressors that could exert a braking effect on the Vf gyroscope’s flywheel. These would include constitutional factors that could give rise to “friction in the bearings” (e.g., inherited imperfections in the Vf gyroscope’s manufacture) and environmental factors giving rise to “friction on the flywheel” (e.g., poor diet, housing, and air quality, and dysfunctional relationships, etc.)

Wow. I mean, really. Wow. This is the shit, as they say. It’s really fantastic woo. Your life force is like a gyroscope, maaaann! It’s spinning away, maaaan! As long as you’re healthy, it keeps standing upright and resists any attempts to knock it over. Homeopathy, according to this model of Milgrom’s, is the application of more torque to make the gyroscope that is your life force spin faster, the better for it to be able to throw off disease trying to knock it to the side and to stop precessing so much. It’s all very clear to me now! After all, I love a good metaphor as much as the next guy. The problem with this one, of course, is that it assumes that (1) there is such a thing as a “life force”: (2) that disease is a manifestation of decreases in that life force; and (3) that homeopathy does anything at all to that life force. Other than that, it’s just perfect.

So far, this entire metaphor can be described by nothing more than classical mechanics. So where’s the quantum theory? Glad you asked! Here it is:

However, the main difference with an ordinary gyroscope is that the Vf may be thought of as obeying not classic but quantum rules of physics. In addition, these rules are seen as those of WQT, not conventional QT.

Yes! But there’s more. Milgrom describes three aspects of his model:

  1. An individual’s Vf can be imagined as behaving like a gyroscope: The faster it “spins” on its axis, the more easily it resists the effects of dis-ease
  2. These changes in gyroscopic angular momentum corresponding to changes in the Vf’s state of health do not occur smoothly but in a stepwise (“quantized”) manner. What this means is that, unlike a real mechanical gyroscope, the theoretical Vf gyroscope is not observed to experience gradual decreases and increases of its spin angular momentum. Similar to the way orbiting electrons in atoms are thought to jump instantaneously between energy levels when absorbing and emitting quanta of energy, the Vf jumps between states of health depending on its reaction to “quanta” of diseases and remedies.
  3. This idea can be extended to define mathematical operators that describe how these changes in a Vf’s angular momentum/state of health are brought about by disease states and remedies.

You know, I had thought that Milgrom couldn’t improve on his previous woo, lo, those many months ago, but he’s done it. By describing homeopathy as, in essence, a quantum torque device that speeds up the spinning of your life force when it slows down, well, he’s outdone himself this time. Of course, what woo-meisters invoking quantum theory in this manner frequently forget is that they’re putting the cart before the horse. Quantum theory was developed in order to explain experimentally observed phenomena that just couldn’t be explained any other way. Experiments were being done that challenged the very foundations of physics at the time, and theory had to change. In this case, there is no compelling experimental evidence that homeopathy “works” (or, really, no experimental evidence at all). There is no “challenge” to our current understanding of physics, chemistry, and pharmacology that requires a new theoretical framework to explain, at least certainly not from homeopathy. The best you could say about Migrom’s quantum homeopathic gyroscopic woo is that it’s an interesting thought experiment that has no basis in physical phenomena. As such, it’s essentially useless, other than as a topic for YFDoW.

Like the very best woo-meisters, though, Milgrom isn’t satisfied yet. He goes far beyond his descriptions above. Like the guy who swears that he can make a perpetual motion machine that produces energy, he packs his paper with three solid pages worth of equations based on this concept, complete with explanations and diagrams. To give you a taste of this woo, just look here:


This purports to show how the application of homeopathic quantum torque is making the life force become more like the remedy. I’m convinced. How about you? But Milgrom’s not through. Here’s where he builds to his crescendo of woo, woo so fabulous, that I, as the woo connoisseur, must tip my hat to him. It’s so good that it must be experienced to be believed. Indeed, I encourage everyone to download the paper and experience it in its complete loony glory, as it builds to a quantum-shattering climax of woo:

Finally, it is probably time to begin considering what the Vf really means in the context of a spinning gyroscopic entity. The representation of vitality as possibly having the properties of energy in rotation is not an entirely new idea, and is probably better known through the Hindu concept of chakras. Thus, the body is energetic, living, feeling, and ultimately intelligent. It also consists of matter but not in the classic sense. In terms of classic physics, matter itself is seen as some inert substance that is incapable of movement unless acted upon by external forces. Hahnemann refers to diseases, remedies, and the Vf as “spirit-like” in their action as if they suffuse and act upon the matter of the body. This is more in line with dualistic Cartesian thinking, in which spirit and matter are considered to be separate but interacting entities.

Perhaps an alternative description of this spirit-matter duality is that they are both entangled parts of the same multidimensional monistic entity. This means that although the Vf might still be described as spirit-like, it could also have certain properties of physical mass (e.g., translational and rotational inertia). In fact, the notion of the Vf would be meaningless without it being an entangled part of a flesh-and-blood physical reality. What is perceived as flesh-and-blood reality is simply the physical four-dimensional part of a multidimensional totality. Consequently, just as the “spirit-like” Vf may now be perceived as a physical entity, so the physical body must also be considered spirit-like: Vf and physical body are entangled parts of the same thing, like the two ends of a stick. A possible mathematical development of this idea in the future might be to use complex multidimensional Clifford algebras to investigate the nature of the Vf further.

Truly the circle of woo is complete. We have the circle of life. We have the circle of the gyroscopic quantum life force, spinning away. And we have a rotational or angular force applied around a circle in the form of quantum homeopathic remedies. It’s a perfect circle of woo.

And it also completes the circle of the first year of Your Friday Dose of Woo.

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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