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Your Friday Dose of Woo: When a mad mathematician meets quantum homeopathy

I’m a connoisseur of woo.

It’s true. Back when I first started blogging, I came across outrageous bits of pseudoscience such as the ones I feature periodically on Your Friday Dose of Woo, and I wasn’t sure quite what to do with them. Indeed, I had a hard time deciding if some of them were massive Sokal-type hoaxes or evenif the person writing them really believed in them. Of course, I had a lot of fun taking them on. How could I not? After all, what else can one make of something like, for example, DNA Activation or “healing sounds,” or even for that matter that unholy alliance of acupuncture and voodoo, Tong Ren?

I finally figured out what to make of these extravagant bits of woo. While deploring them and their potential for causing harm to the unwary (or at least to delay their seeking effective therapy), I started to appreciate the artistry, the imagination, the utter skill that it takes to produce such gems of concentrated woo. Truly, it takes an extraodinarily imaginative ability to twist logic, reason, and science into a pretzel, and then twist it just that much more. That extra “twist” is what elevates garden variety woo into YFDoW material. It is the ability to recognize that extra twist that elevates woo into art, rather than the extra twist that’s just plain brain dead (and it isn’t always obvious what’s genius or stupid) that makes a connoisseur.

As a connoisseur of the finest woo, I have to tip my hat to someone who is one of the finest woo artists there is. The man is a veritable grand master of woo, a Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Rafael, and Botticelli all rolled into one. The tapestries of bizarre imagery that he can blend together to “explain” how that quackery of quackeries (homeopathy) “works” truly take my breath away, although instead of Renaissance painters, perhaps I should compare him to Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dali, given the nature of his work. You’ll see what I mean in a moment.

The man I am talking about is, of course, Lionel Milgrom, he of “quantum homeopathy” and a “quantum gyroscopic circle.” These two pieces of woo remain among the very finest that I have ever encountered. I am not sure that I will ever see their like again. The sheer head-scratching hilarity to be found in reading those previous efforts is beyond belief. In essence, extrapolating subatomic particles to macrospic phenomena in a manner that would make Steven Hawking’s brain explode in protest were he to read Milgrom’s work, Milgrom postulates a quantum coupling of homeopathic practitioner, homeopathic remedy, and patient as the mechanism by which homeopathic remedies gain their potency. That’s boiling a whole lot of woo down into one sentence; you’ll have to read the posts above to get the full flavor of Milgrom’s quantum wackiness. Indeed, I recommend that you do that right now as a prelude to this installment of YFDoW. There’s a reason, of course.

That’s right. Milgrom’s back, and he’s surpassed even himself. Be very careful before proceeding. Your fragile mind may well not be able to handle it the concentrated waves of woo that will wash over it if you continue.

As usual, Milgrom has published in his favorite stomping grounds, that repository of pseudoscience for which no woo is too out there, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine entitled A New Geometrical Description of Entanglement and the Curative Homeopathic Process. Oh, yes. Milgrom is continuing down the same road that he trod when he came up with the concept of a quantum gyroscopic circle as a mechanism of homeopathy. I thought he couldn’t go any further with this concept. O fool, me! The abstract alone is black hole density woo, sucking in all reason and science into its insatiable maw, the better to digest it and excrete it as verbiage like this:

Introduction: The Memory of Water, a “local” explanation of homeopathy’s efficacy, has been supplemented recently by complementary “nonlocal” hypotheses. One of these envisages “quantum macro-entanglement” among patient, practitioner, and remedy to form a “PPR” entangled state, from which the possibility of cure may manifest.

Methods: Semiotic analysis affords a geometrical description of this entangled state as a patient-centered chiral tetrahedron. Its four corners depict three different types of symptoms (of the patient, the dis-ease, and the remedial substance) and the potentized remedy.

Results: Reflecting this state in a practitioner-derived mirror-like “therapeutic state space” generates two notional patient-centered chiral tetrahedra: cure may be thought to arise from their patient-driven combination “through the looking glass” of the therapeutic state space, into one polyhedron called a stella octangula or stellated octahedron; in essence, a 3-dimensional Star of David.

Conclusions: The practitioner helps in forming these notional semiotic polyhedra, but the patient is at their epicenters (i.e., the practitioner facilitates but ultimately does not control the curative process).


Just wow.

I have to hand it to Milgrom; he’s surpassed himself this time. Instead of a quantum gyroscopic circle to describe homeopathy, he’s incorporated his concepts into a chiral tetrahedron, and his addition of the quackmaster version of the word “dis-ease” is just the little flourish that distinguishes a master from the merely talented, like the little bits of detail that a fine master architect will place no a building. But Milgrom goes even beyond that by using the term “beyond the looking glass.” It’s almost as though at some level he realizes that he really has gone “through the looking glass” but it later becomes obvious from what comes next that he’s as utterly clueless about just how deep his woo runs as he’s ever been when he reveals that what he really means is a mirror image symmetry between his “quantum entanglements.” Truly, he is serious about this stuff. Indeed, get a load of his introduction, from which I will quote liberally:

Homeopathy’s claims of clinical efficacy and cost effectiveness1 are regarded with suspicion and contempt. Evidence other than that framed within the (sometimes biased) reductionism of evidence-based bedicine (EBM) and the double-blind randomized-controlled trial (DBRCT) is rejected.

EBM and the DBRCT, like much of biomedical science, are rooted in the reductionist philosophy of logical positivism combined with local realism. The latter states that: (a), the universe is real and it exists whether we observe it or not; (b), legitimate conclusions and predictions can be drawn from consistent experimental outcomes and observations; and (c), no signal can travel faster than light.

In questioning (a) and (c) above, quantum theory transcends local realism and the reductionism of biomedicine. Attempts at explaining homeopathy’s efficacy have made use of concepts generalized from the discourses of semiotics and quantum theory.

Thus, nonlocal entanglement among patient, practitioner, and remedy (PPR entanglement), could form a descriptive basis for the healing interaction. It combines from physics the algebraic formalism of Greenberger- Horne-Zeilinger (GHZ) 3-particle entanglement, a generalization of orthodox quantum theory called weak quantum theory, and semiotics14,15 to generate a three-way PPR entangled state. This has been depicted geometrically as a hexagonal bipyramid.”Cure” results from the combination of this state with its “twisted reflection” in a notional two-dimensional mirror-like “therapeutic state space” (an analogue of the complex mathematical Hilbert space more familiar from orthodox quantum theory).

Though at this stage still hypothetical, PPR entanglement Homeopathy Research Institute, London, United Kingdom. This is Part 11 in a series of papers entitled Patient-Practitioner-Remedy (PPR) entanglement. affords a post hoc explanation of the observed “leakage” between verum and placebo groups during recent double- blind provings of homeopathic remedies, suggesting its possible experimental verification. In addition, and when viewed semiotically, the PPR entangled state’s geometrical projection into a notional “therapeutic state space” has been used to understand the concept of miasms in homeopathy, 35 and the action of remedies and diseases on the Vital Force.

Yes! It’s all there. The masterful jabs of contempt at evidence-based medicine and the randomized clinical trial. The dismissal of “materialism” combined with carefully chosen physics and mathematical gobbledygook. Truly we are witnessing a woo master at work. Even more amazingly, this is the eleventh installment. Truly, Milgrom is like Homer or Virgil, creating an epic poem of woo! Or maybe a better analogy is J.R.R. Tolkien or J. K. Rowling, both of whom imagined intricate and believable fantasy worlds. Of the two, Tolkien is probably the better comparison. Not only did he create Middle Earth but he created an incredibly intricate history of Middle Earth, complete with timelines of events spanning thousands of years; detailed maps of continents, nations, and cities; and intricately described histories, of which the events in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, although important, make up relatively small parts. Think of Milgrom as being the Tolkien of woo, able to put incredible effort into constructing a self-coherent and internally consistent world of utter fantasy. Like the example of Tolkien’s world, I can see how it could be possible to become utterly immersed in Milgrom’s world of fantasy quantum homeopathy. The only difference–and it is admittedly a huge difference–is that Tolkien based his vision of Middle Earth on his scholarly knowledge and study of English and European history and mythology. Indeed, his analysis of Beowolf is still highly regarded. Milgrom, on the other hand, bases his fantasy world on a pseudoscholarly parody of quantum physics. Even so, nobody–and I mean nobody–does it better! And he does it with illustrations, starting with this one:


According to Milgrom, this represents the “semiotic notion that the homeopathic remedy is a “sign” working simultaneously in and for two different but connected meaningful contexts: (1) the symptoms of a sick person signify a certain disease state (first meaningful context), while simultaneously signifying (2) a homeopathic remedy in the materia medica (second meaningful context), the two contexts of illness and remedies being connected by the Law of Similars.”

Whatever that means. But it sure looks official and “science-y.” So does the next figure, which attempts to explain the quantum coupling relationship between homeopathic practitioner, patient, and remedy:


Once again, this illustration shows just why Milgrom is the master. See how he takes the quantum homeopathic “entangled state function” (ΨPPR) and finds a way to have its representation look like the Star of David. It almost makes me wonder whether Milgrom is Jewish. Here’s just a sampling of Milgrom’s explanation:

Such ideas can used to interpret part of a practitioner’s role, which is to be an “active” mirror, reflecting back to the patient the possibility of cure (see Box 212,16,17,20,27,35,54,58-60). Thus, the PPR entangled state, ΨPPR| suggests its mirror image complex conjugate, |ΨPPR arises out of the active reflecting activity of the practitioner acting as homeopathic operator, IIr (see Fig. 2D), while at the same time being part of the entangled PPR state. In other words, the practitioner creates the conditions for cure (i.e., the therapeutic state space), and then operates within that space as the homeopathic operator, IIr, and as part of the PPR entangled state. Finally, bringing the PPR entangled state and its reflection together, results in a change in symptoms (leading to cure)…

Imagine several pages of this, complete with illustrations like the one above and equations relating the parts of the “PPR” entangled state. Truly, it has to be seen to be believed. Such artistry is rare even in woo. I could go on, but why don’t I jump straight to the Discussion section instead? (After all, a “Results” section based on fantasy is only useful for its entertainment value, and if I quote too much I might risk going beyond fair use.) If you don’t believe that homeopathy is pure magic, check out magical master at work, someone who would put Doctor Strange to shame:

Since the time of their discovery by Pythagoras, some people have regarded the Platonic solids as imbued with mystical significance, with four of them used to represent the classical four elements. Thus, the cube was associated with the earth; the octahedron with air; the icosahedron with water; and the tetrahedron with fire. The dodecahedron represented spirit or the universe. It is in this context that the stella octangula, has a long history in esoteric thought, especially in Jewish Hasidic philosophy where it is known as the Merkabah or “chariot.”

Well, that explains the the Star of David. Who but Milgrom could throw together a glob of random equations and then come up with the Star of David and references to Jewish mysticism later in the article? Maybe the DNA Activation guy, but precious few, if any, others. I would show you the rest of the illustrations, except that Figure 3 takes up an entire page and would be very hard to show properly on a blog. Also, it might blow your fragile eggshell mind. Instead, let’s continue with Milgrom’s “insights”:

Here, the Merkabah was considered a multilayered analogy that offered insight into the nature of man and his relationship to God, the ecosystem, and the world. In current “New Age” circles, the stella octangula is thought of as a “vehicle” for transporting consciousness between different dimensions. The two superimposed tetrahedra are imagined as counterrotating, which, when combined with specific breathing techniques, certain eye movements and prayer, are supposed to generate a spine-anchored energy field around the human body. This, when activated, is supposedly the carrier of consciousness directly to higher dimensions.

More in keeping with modern ideas of quantum entanglement and its use in quantum information theory, the stella octangula has recently been invoked by Aravind to explain in the context of group theory a so-called “twirl” or twist operation. This was first introduced by Bennett, in order to allow more convenient discussion of entanglement purification protocols, used in distilling pure entangled states from a larger number of impure states (perhaps shared through a noisy channel), and so more reliably transmit quantum information via quantum teleportation. Also, the stella octangula has been shown to be relevant in a new geometric representation of the fundamental relationship between physics and biology.

Given the already-mentioned multidimensional nature of the Vf discussed in this and other papers, especially in describing the Vf’s behavior in terms of notional quantized gyroscopic dynamics, then perhaps the semiotic formulation of the curative state as a stella octangular (and all it implies in terms of rotation, consciousness expansion, and the use of entanglement in the quantum teleportation of information) could be an appropriate and compelling metaphor with which to represent healing during the homeopathic process.

Sheer genius! But that’s not all. Check out how he explains why homeopathic effects can’t be measured and why scientists have been unable to quantify the “memory of water”:

The state functions representing each of the Px, Pr, Rx, and the PPR entangled state are not related to quantifiable physical observables as they are in orthodox quantum theory. As such, the known rapid decoherence (“disentanglement”) of entangled states that occurs on their interaction with the environment, would be likely to have altogether different parameters than in orthodox quantum theory. Though still to be thoroughly investigated, it is clear that the nature of the therapeutic process requires its initial separation and “isolation” from the usual external environment, as a necessary prerequisite for the coherence of entanglement to occur, and cure to begin. One could expand on this idea to include the notion of monastic communities that might use isolation from normal society as one part of a strategy for achieving some form of inner “coherence.”

That’s right. Quantum homeopathy is not like real quantum theory. For one thing, it apparently doesn’t make an testable predictions and there is nothing physical is observable that can be used to quantify its effects or validate its predictions. Of course, this makes me wonder just what, exactly Milgrom proposes to investigate further. I suppose he means he’ll make more shit up as he goes along, just as he’s been doing for ten parts before. On the other hand, he seems to be implying that it is the very inability to detect physical evidence for homeopathy that makes his concept of PPR entanglement a valid model. That’s right, taking this together with his “post hoc” explanation for “leakage” between experimental and homeopathically treated groups, I conclude that Milgrom is saying that his quantum woo is why scientific and clinical trial tests of why homeopathy “works” can’t detect an effect and that that very inability to find an effect means that homeopathy works.

I stand in awe of Milgrom’s genius.

Thinking back on all the stuff by Milgrom that I’ve read, I’ve come to the conclusion that what truly separates him from the merely talented woo-meister and puts him into a class of his own is is ability to construct an elaborate set of mathematical models that sound very convincing to someone without a strong scientific, physics, or mathematical background. It’s like building a complex circuit board with none of the circuits connected to anything except each other. It’s like building an elaborate model based on equations that have no relation to reality. Imagine a building built on engineering equations made up from whole cloth. Oh, Milgrom’s clever in that he makes them sound very reasonable, but it’s blatantly obvious that they’re just made up. They have no basis in reality. His PPR entanglement has no basis in reality and, worse, is based on an obvious misunderstanding of quantum theory in which he tries to apply it to macroscopic phenomenon.

Milgrom is truly a master. Indeed, his construction of fantasy worlds and equations is unparalleled. In fact, I propose a new title for him: Homepathic Woo-meister Supreme, much as Doctor Strange is the Sorcerer Supreme.

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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