Amorphous Intelligence

Natural…or Silicone?

Posted in Humor, Logic, Rationalism, Reason, Science, Skepticism, Technology by amorphousintelligence on January 23, 2011

Fool me once…shame on…shame on you?….Ya foo me ya can’t git fooed agin! ~President George W. Bush

Here at Amorphous Intelligence, we’ve always advocated for consumer protection. With that rich tradition under our belts (?), today is no exception.

Let me tell you a true story.

Not long ago, I noticed a co-worker (at my other job) wearing a snazzy-looking bracelet. “Say,” I said, “isn’t that a Power Balance?”

“No,” he said with a grin, “this is iRenew. It gives me energy and restores my sense of balance.”


“All the pro baseball players are wearing these.”

“Really?” I said, I think with a genuine-ish inflection, but pretty sure I thought with ever so slightly an SNL-Weekend-Update-“Really!?! with Seth and Amy”-segment inflection.

“Yeah,” he said, with a little less pep, perhaps noticing my dubious thoughts having inadvertently leaked into my tonal modulation.

I detected a wee lull in the conversation, so picked up the slack: “Pro baseball players are kind of a…superstitious bunch, aren’t they?”


“I heard of some who still play in the same underwear they wore in high school because they had them on during a good game.”


“So it stands to reason.”


“And I’m not talking the same brand. I mean the exact…same…unwashed breeches—brown streaks and all.”



“Anyhow….how much you pay for that thing? 60 dollars?”

“Noooo, no, no, no….It was only $19.99.”

Okay, so I may have over-exaggerated the underwear thing a touch, but it’s in essence true. What’s more, the 60-dollar question wasn’t totally uncalled for. I vaguely remembered hearing about Power Balance who sells silicone wristbands which are basically marketed the same way as the iRenew for some outrageous price that, I honestly thought at the time, was 60 dollars. Which upon further investigation I now see are, in fact, 60 dollars—in Australia. But in the U.S. they’re merely listed at $29.95 (right, 30 dollars).

There are others. Such as the silicone Eken Power Bands which sell for $39.95 USD. (My friend’s iRenew, it turns out, really is a bargain for only $19.99, as it comes with a free second one. Free or not, do we really want a second one, when, according to Kim’s customer testimonial posted on the iRenew website, “…after wearing it for a week, I noticed my middle fingers were hurting, so I took it off and wait [sic] a few days and the pain started to go away….”?) I wouldn’t be surprised if there are many, many more brands—silicone or not.

Regardless, to add perspective to this, while I find them nauseating now, at one point I thought the silicone LiveStrong bracelets were kind of snazzy, too. (And there are other snazzy products made from silicone, some that can be implanted inside the human body, and look totally…natural? But I digress.) However, unlike the iRenew Energy Balancing Bracelets the Power Balance wristbands and the Eken Power Bands, the LiveStrong bracelets sell for $1 USD—in case you missed that, that’s ONE SINGLE STINKING U.S. DOLLAR—a piece. And, rightly so, they make no claim to improving your energy, strength, flexibility, endurance, restfulness, and/or balance.

Alright, enough jibber-jabber. Let’s get down to brass tacks.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about up to this point, then whatevs. If you want to get up to speed, however, spend a few minutes watching these mind-numbing sales pitches.

First, iRenew Energy Balancing Bracelets:

Next, Power Balance wristbands:

Thank you, Shaq. A bastion for rational, scientific thought if ever there was one.

And finally, Eken Power Bands—which really is not much different than the previous two commercials, so I’ll just add the link here. Feel free to skip.

Up to speed? Take note of how slick those videos looked. (Maybe not that last one.) I know what you’re thinking…they weren’t that slick. Granted. But compared to the rebuttal videos I’m going to show….they are. Which only goes to demonstrate how much more powerful the forces are that are out to swindle your hard-earned dough with modern-day snake-oil pitches compared to those trying to protect you. Which has been the case ever since olden times, as is evidenced by the fine documentary of the historical figure—and consumer-protection advocate—The Outlaw Josey Wales, who famously spat tobacco juice on a pristinely-dressed snake-oil salesman’s white suit, then asked him if his miracle elixir was any good at removing stains:

And that’s exactly the kind of consumer-protection activism we advocate here at Amorphous Intelligence: “How’s it with stains?”.

Let me introduce you to a modern-day Josey Wales—Richard Saunders, co-Vice President of the Australian Skeptics, founder of Sydney Skeptics in the Pub, co-host of The Skeptic Zone podcast, and basically no one you would have ever heard of (unless you’re an avid follower of Australian skeptics, which the odds are stacked against). In essence, this is his documentary of “spitting tobacco juice” on the “pristinely-dressed snake-oil salesman’s white suit”:

Okay, the mic work was lacking. And he may be a bit less confrontational than Josey Wales. But like I said.

Anyhow, watch this one which shows it in the context of what skeptics and scientists call a “blind experiment”:

And if you have 10 more free minutes, as we all do, watch this next video which goes into more detail of how the deceptive trickery works, but explained in the context of “Applied Kinesiology” as practiced by mind-body-spirit/new-age types (and not to be confused with the legitimate medical practice just called “kinesiology”):

(For those of you more interested in a legitimate medical examination of these energy bracelets, check out Dr. Harriet Hall’s Science-Based Medicine‘s review.)

Now, as I see it, since I just saved you 60 dollars (as I had absolutely nothing to do with these videos, but I did take the time and energy to post them on my blog), you are indebted to me for, let’s say…half that amount? You can write your check out—to me—for 30 dollars. And scribble in the memo line, “Consider us both 30 dollars richer :-)” (and dot the i’s with little ♥’s), just in case you forget why you’ve cut the check.

You’re welcome.

And when you go out into the cold, dark world, wandering aimlessly about all by yourself not knowing who to trust or who’s deceiving you, just remember to always ask yourself the simple question, “How’s it with stains?”

Into the Rectum and through the Bowels of the Universe with Stephen Hawking

Posted in Current Events, Humor, Science, Technology, Television, Timeless Issues by amorphousintelligence on June 18, 2010

Just finished Into the Rectum and through the Bowels of the Universe with Stephen Hawking, my more-titillating and slightly-longer made-up title of what is really called Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking. Which is a new 2010 cosmology series on Discovery Channel (and not to be confused with Hawking’s also-good but slightly outdated 1997 PBS six-part series Stephen Hawking’s Universe, nor to be confused with the so-so Jon Krakauer book and utterly pointless film adaptation Into the Wild).

It appears, as far as I can discern at this point, to be in three parts: 1. “Aliens” (1 hour), 2. “Time Travel” (1 hour), and 3. “The Story of Everything” (2 hours). It seems to me the order should have been the other way around, but I was not consulted.

Regardless, for those intrigued by the big questions of the universe, where it came from, where it’s going, our place in it, what science currently has to say about such things, and if you have four hours to spare, I highly recommend watching. (Unfortunately, science is unable to answer the “why” question as of now, but many—yes, there are many other highly intelligent scientists alive today who are equal to Hawking in brain-power, believe it or not, they just aren’t as high profile because they don’t have badass synthesized voices—who are working hard at cracking that tough nut, and some exciting breakthroughs seem to be just on the cusp.) It’s well grounded while also being imaginative. With computer-generated imagery of rational extrapolations of possibilities of alien life (highly likely, both primitive and intelligent, though we haven’t found either, yet, sorry V fans), time travel (highly unlikely, or at least possible but traveling back in time does not seem to bode well for the living, sorry Back to the Future fans), and what the future may hold (both good and bad in the short to long term, depending, and definitely bad in the 30-billion-years-away really long term, sorry Jehovah’s Witnesses fans).

I’ve been following Hawking like a hawk since A Brief History of Time in 1988. (I realize this is ambiguous and could just as well mean: 1. I’ve been following Hawking’s work since 1988; 2. I’ve been stalking Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair-bound corporeal body since 1988; or 3. I’ve been following Hawking’s work since I read A Brief History of Time sometime after 1988—maybe 2000ish—which was published in 1988. You choose.) Science has learned much since then (1988? 2000ish? When I allegedly began stalking? Again, you choose)—and will continue to learn much more henceforth. Hawking stays on top of these latest developments and weaves it all together in a sensible framework of empirical realism mingled with childlike dreaming. This documentary also seems to be the pinnacle of his efforts over the past few decades to make these grand, sweeping, complex questions-and-answers easier to understand for as many people as possible. (I say “pinnacle” as I’m unsure he has much longer to live. We’ll see.) He uses the hooks of aliens and time travel to draw us in. Then he sustains that attention by using simple, every-day language, up-to-date analogies, and new cinematic techniques to engross us all visually and stimulate us intellectually.

But if you don’t give a damn about being engrossed or stimulated by a man with no self control over his bodily functions due to an incurable motor neuron disease causing him to drivel incessantly over his personal pictures of Marilyn Monroe (no joke, look it up), then never you mind, my child.

Never you mind.