Today a colleague of mine at work brought in a curious black elastic wrist band with two embedded holographic disks in it. A “Power Balance” wrist band, which he found on a path in a park. Such a device, according to testimonials, improves one’s athletic performance (balance, stamina, strength, energy, etc) by “optimizing the body’s natural energy flow” because it “resonates with and responds to the natural energy field of the body”.
Another colleague told me that according to his son, many athletes at Berkeley High School are quite fond of these bracelets, and are willing to shell out the $29.95 to emulate sports heroes such as the handsome ones depicted on the PowerBalance website. http://www.powerbalance.com/powerbalance Bicyclists also reportedly have claimed the bracelets improve their performance.
One might naturally be suspicious of such a claim, and request some evidence that 1) purported energy fields actually flow in the body and 2) this device might have an effect upon such a flow, if it existed, and 3) the device actually improves athletic performance.
And in fact, this is what our sister organization, the Australian Skeptics, have done. They brought pressure on the Australian branch of PowerBalance, even showing on national television in a controlled experiment that such devices are useless (http://www.skeptics.com.au/latest/news/power-balance-test/). See the article for a description of the very siimmple test they put the device through — and how the bands failed to increase strength and balance when the promoter did not know which individuals were wearing the PowerBand devices.
Now we can rejoice that at least one government has had the good sense to smack the purveyors of such pseudoscientific nonsense. The Australian government at the end of December required PowerBalance to refund purchaser’s money, and to stop making unsubstantiated claims of improvement of athletic ability. (see here: http://road.cc/content/news/28766-power-balance-bracelets-dont-work-rule… and here: http://gizmodo.com/5723577/powerbalance-admits-their-wristbands-are-a-scam)
Unfortunately, after the televised expose of the failings of PowerBalance bands, sales increased dramatically, illustrating that in some cases, any publicity is good publicity.
Hmmm — anyone remember Chi Pants? At least they were comfortable.