Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

10:23 – Protesting Nothing?

The demonstrators wore white t-shirts with ???1023 Homeopathy: There???s Nothing In It??? emblazoned in blue. One demonstrator, Athena, had blue hair to match. We assembled at the corner of Franklin & California Streets10:23 T-Shirt: 10:23 T-Shirt in San Francisco with a banner & leaflets to protest the marketing of homeopathic ???remedies??? by Whole Foods, CVS, Walgreens, and others. Similar and simultaneous demonstrations were taking place in 22 other cities on all seven continents around the planet.

We passed out the small information leaflets, took pictures of each other, and chatted in uncharacteristically warm weather. Among the demonstrators were folk from The Exploratorium, the California Academy of Science, Atheist Nexus, Reason 4 Reason, East Bay Skeptics Society, two board members from the Bay Area Skeptics, miscellaneous skeptics, scientists, programmers, and students.

At 10:23 AM, we all quaffed ???over-doses??? of homeopathic remedies ??? sort of. Since ???real??? homeopathic fake medicine costs ???real??? money and we don???t want to support that industry, only a few drank homeopathic concoctions ??? the rest of us drank the equivalent: distilled water.

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In case you found it odd that distilled water is equivalent to homeopathic remedies, allow me to take you on a brief excursion back to high school chemistry and math. [SCREAM!!!] The ???molecular weight??? of a substance is the weight in grams of 6.022 x 1023 molecules of that substance, a.k.a. Avogadro???s number. For aspirin, that amounts to 180 grams, or about 6.3 ounces. To prepare a homeopathic ???remedy,??? a small quantity of the physiologically active substance is diluted again and again with 100 times as much distilled water. After the first dilution, the active substance is present in the solution at a concentration of about 10-2. After a total of 12 such dilutions, the concentration of the active ingredient is about 10-24, which means that there is less than a 50-50 chance that a single molecule of the substance is in 6 oz. of the solution. But homeopaths don???t stop there; they typically dilute the substance a total of 30 times achieving a concentration of about 10-60. That???s pretty dilute. You???d find one molecule of the active ingredient in a quantity of solution about the size of 30 billion planet Earths. Q.E.D., it???s equivalent to distilled water. Of course a homeopathic charlatan will tell you differently; that the process of succussion [hitting the container against a ???special??? striking object] causes the ???vital energy??? of the ingredient to persist irrespective of dilution. This silliness made sense to some folk in 1796 when the process was invented. [John Dalton???s atomic theory wasn???t published until 6 years later.]

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After more photos, interviews for a media project, and getting to know each other, I headed back home promising to write letters to CVS, Walgreens, Food Mill, Whole Foods, and others who are profiting by this quackery.

Special thanks to Jay Diamond, Norman Clevenger, and others for organizing this protest in San Francisco.

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