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10 Great Snake-Oil Gadgets 429

The Byelorussian Strikes Again writes "Wired offers up 10 of the most awesome snake oil gadgets, from industrial cables sold as $200 ionized pain-relieving bracelets to a plastic chip that cures anything, improves gas mileage and cleans swimming pools. One truly sad development: the infamous $500 wooden volume knob is no longer on sale."
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10 Great Snake-Oil Gadgets

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  • Not to mention... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bananatree3 ( 872975 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @12:24PM (#21408347)
    multi thousand dollar EPFX machines that run off random number generators [nwsource.com]. Apparently this William Nelson fraud character lives in a multimillion dollar house in budapest because of it.
    • Quote: (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bananatree3 ( 872975 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @12:26PM (#21408393)
      "Bergstein said the device offered a false hope that consumed his wife and robbed the family of precious remaining time with her. A retired Microsoft manager, Bergstein looked at the source code in the EPFX's software. It appeared to generate results randomly." quoted from the article [nwsource.com]
      • Re:Quote: (Score:5, Funny)

        by syrinx ( 106469 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @12:34PM (#21408531) Homepage
        "Bergstein said the device offered a false hope that consumed his wife and robbed the family of precious remaining time with her. A retired Microsoft manager, Bergstein looked at the source code in the EPFX's software. It appeared to generate results randomly."

        Bergstein went on to say, "and as a Microsoft employee, I'm extremely familiar with software that generates results randomly."
    • Re:Not to mention... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by garlicbready ( 846542 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @12:51PM (#21408797)
      The link reminds me of an article I saw recently in the Fortean Times
      (couldn't find a link sorry)
      during the early days of X-Ray's they were often used as a method for hair removal
      (you'd place an exposed body part in front of a wooden box / machine and the hiar would drop out)

      it was only later on that they discovered the slight problem with cancer
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by xtracto ( 837672 )
        X-ray hair removal [hairfacts.com]:

        The discovery of x-rays in 1895 captured the imagination of both scientists and the general public. Before the effects of x-rays were fully understood, x-rays also captured the imagination of quacks, who began opening women's hair removal clinics almost as soon as x-ray researchers began reporting they were losing their hair.
    • by moderatorrater ( 1095745 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:56PM (#21409829)
      Sadly, selling false hope to the terminally ill is one of the easiest frauds possible.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lord Ender ( 156273 )
        Selling false hope is among the most profitable and longest operating businesses in human history.

        Face it, religious people: You won't be reincarnated. You won't go to heaven. When you die--when the electrical activity in your brain ceases--that's it. No more you. Quit burning money at the alter of false hope.

        There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that any sort of consciousness exists in any form after neural death. The only reason people believe it is because they want to believe.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          The only reason people believe it is because they want to believe.
          what about the mushrooms that give people the most spiritual experience of their life? Or the helmet that can stimulate the brain in such a way that a person feels God/some other entity is in the room? Isn't it more likely that, for whatever reason, religion is built into humans?
  • by GreatRedShark ( 880833 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @12:25PM (#21408371)
    I've seen a list of audiophile gadgets here:
    http://www.ilikejam.dsl.pipex.com/audiophile.htm [pipex.com]
  • Pear cables (Score:2, Informative)

    by MacDork ( 560499 )
    In related news... the Pear cable calls James Randi's million dollar challenge a hoax. [gizmodo.com]
  • I'll be happy to sell someone a wooden knob for $500.


  • by path_man ( 610677 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @12:28PM (#21408435)

    Warning: Troll Alert!! I'm sure I'll get modded down for this but...

    I would think that the latest spate of HiFi speaker wires would be right up there. The key difference between dowsing rods and these cables, is that once in a while dowsing rods seem to work. The multi-hundred dollar cables, time and time again in double-blind tests, have been shown to perform more poorly than the cheap utility speaker wire. And yet, there's a whole industry out there that argues (and markets) to the contrary.

    Snake Oil indeed.

    • by Linker3000 ( 626634 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @12:37PM (#21408581) Journal
      I will only use oxygen free, litz-wound snake oil.
    • The Giz has recently been on a tear about high-priced audio stuff. I wonder if as much ignorance will be displayed here as over there?
    • Dowsing (Score:5, Interesting)

      by plover ( 150551 ) * on Monday November 19, 2007 @12:46PM (#21408699) Homepage Journal
      My father in law showed me how he uses dowsing rods. He takes hefty copper wire (about 8 gauge or so,) cuts it into two pieces each about half a meter long, bends a right angle in each roughly in the middle, and then walks around with one held very loosely in each hand with the wires pointing forward as he walks. When he crosses a water pipe, or electrical wire, or whatever he's looking for, the wires in his hands swing together.

      He believes this with all his heart.

      So one day I had him do it over a stretch of ground we both knew to have some old pipes buried under it. And then I had him repeat it, blindfolded. He couldn't hit the same spot twice. Not even close. (The pipes were indeed buried roughly where he said they were when his eyes were open.)

      I tried to explain to him that he was simply remembering where he had buried the pipes, and that it was his subconscious mind that was causing the wires to cross, but he really didn't want to hear that. He'd rather believe in dowsing.

      • Would you want to admit that you were an idiot that believed in dowsing?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          If someone was able to prove me wrong scientifically to my satisfaction (which such a test would be, if I couldn't get the dowsing to work blindfolded then it's obviously not working at all) then yes, I would. Better to admit to once having been a fool than to continue to fight when even you know that you're wrong.

          Fun article. I hadn't heard of most of those, just the Q-Link bracelets.
          • Re:Dowsing (Score:5, Insightful)

            by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:24PM (#21409303) Journal

            Better to admit to once having been a fool than to continue to fight when even you know that you're wrong.

            Not really; you're neglecting a huge part of the psychology that makes snake oil work.

            "You've proven nothing to me as long as I can refuse to admit being wrong."

            The game's not over when objective reality says it's over; it's over only when the self-deluded stops deluding himself or herself, and that's a pretty tall hurdle to get over. Particularly if personal ego or public "face" is involved.

      • I had some problems with my sewage pipes (got crushed when they repaved my street), but the lines didn't show up on the maps that WSSC (DC area water authority) had.

        One of the guys walked around, and pinpointed the water coming into the house, using dousing rods similar to what you describe, but he had the copper wire inside a tube. (I'm not sure if it was metal or plastic, as it was night time ... they spent hours trying to find it). Although he still could've influenced the wires (tipping to a direction
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Ed Avis ( 5917 )

        My father in law showed me how he uses dowsing rods. He takes hefty copper wire (about 8 gauge or so,) cuts it into two pieces each about half a meter long,
        Clearly he'd get much better results with Monster cable rather than unbranded copper wire.
    • I would think that the latest spate of HiFi speaker wires would be right up there. The key difference between dowsing rods and these cables, is that once in a while dowsing rods seem to work. The multi-hundred dollar cables, time and time again in double-blind tests, have been shown to perform more poorly than the cheap utility speaker wire. And yet, there's a whole industry out there that argues (and markets) to the contrary.

      Clearly you haven't heard speakers where the electrons are flowing the wrong wa
      • Clearly you haven't heard speakers where the electrons are flowing the wrong way through the wiring...

        I found a Monster coax cable in with the surplus cables at work a couple of weeks ago. It has arrows on it that mark the direction the signal is supposed to flow. I'm torn between keeping it (it *is* a 12+ foot coax cable) and cutting it open to see if there is an inline diode or something.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by fishbowl ( 7759 )
      I'm with you on Hi-Fi cables, but I do have a couple of "devil's advocate" observations.

      1. One of my tech jobs involved wiring a TV station. I have never before or since seen any wiring scheme so complicated, or with so many genuinely mission-critical components. They long ago realized that it was more cost-effective in the long run to buy versus build for the wiring. So they paid top dollar for really well QC'd, precisely fitted wiring, with a very sophisticated numbering scheme. We are talking thousa
      • I remember seeing a description of an excellent test done on some audiophiles some years ago (this was back in the old vinyl days, so no url, unfortunately).

        A number of audiophile "experts" were invited to a public test of various brands of loudspeaker. The test was done by playing the same music through several well-known brands of speakers, some reasonably cheap and some extremely expensive, all laid out on a stage. There was an arrangement with a big knob and some indicator lights to switch the music fro
    • by LM741N ( 258038 )
      I have found a new type of speaker wire that is great, but not really better sounding. It is a flat adhesive tape with two hefty flat wires attached. Monster sells some I believe, but I picked mine up at Best Buy. Comes in 100ft rolls and is colored white. Supposed to take paint well. So you can hide the zillion cables in those Dolby systems. I stuck mine right to the walls. (I approximated the wires at 14AWG using tables of gauge vs. circumference in mils)
  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @12:30PM (#21408465) Journal
    Next year's list will include MS Vista operating software !
    • No, because Vista does something: Via the UAC, it shifts blame from a virus infection from Microsoft to the User who has already been conditioned to just click "OK" by years of Windows use.

      So it's got that going for it, at least.

    • No, no. You got it wrong.

      With snake oil, there's some charlatan who sells the product as a "cure-all miracle" backed by some dubious crackpot pseudo-science research, and at least achieves to magically teleport money out of the victims pocket.

      Meanwhile, with Vista, Microsoft is still [slashdot.org] struggling [slashdot.org] on the the "Sell" [slashdot.org] part.
  • by Shambly ( 1075137 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @12:32PM (#21408499)
    The number of comments supporting dowsing rods based on anecdotal evidence on the article page makes me realize that we have a lot of work to do before anything like an educated majority will happen.
    • As far as I know, no-one has done a massive study on dowsing involving thousands of dowsers to see if the technique is legit. Sure, there are the couple-of-dozen-participant studies which have "proven" that it doesn't work. Statistically speaking, a few dozen participants is not worth much when there must be tens or hundreds of thousands of "dowsers" in the world.

      Dowsing I think is in sore need of a proper, large study

      • by Shambly ( 1075137 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @12:43PM (#21408669)
        James Randy Swift is offering 1 million dollar to show that they can accuratly dowse. I would like to assume that anyone actually able to do it would have claimed the prize. The fact that no one can replicate it in a controlled setting makes claim that it is possible dubious at best.
        • James Randy Swift is offering 1 million dollar to show that they can accuratly dowse. I would like to assume that anyone actually able to do it would have claimed the prize. The fact that no one can replicate it in a controlled setting makes claim that it is possible dubious at best.

          James Randi has a significant personal investment in not being proven wrong above and beyond the supposed million dollars. If you'll read some of the accounts of how he runs his little 'challenge', you will quickly see that he
          • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:42PM (#21409595) Homepage
            Christ, what a foolish argument.

            1. Everybody has a personal investment in not being proven wrong about this crap. But the lying/fools that think Dowsing works have a MUCH GREATER personal investment in not being proven wrong than James Randi does. Even claiming the personal investment arguement makes you look foolish.

            2. The Let me get this straight, you are complainging that his tests are too strict? I got news for you kid, every scientific experiemnt has FAR stricter tests than the relatively easy thing James Randi does. Why? Because CON MEN DO EXIST. You have to be pretty moronic to complain about someone making it dificult to be conned. As a stage performer, Randi KNOWS how to trick people and he is NOT stupid enough to let someone use those same methods on him.

            3. Real things work no matter what kind of strict tests you do. You light a match, it works. It works if 'non-believers' are present. It works if cameras are watching you. It works if a CHILD does it. It just works. Dowsing simply does NOT work.

            4. The thing to remember is that people claiming that Dowsing work: a. make money doing it, so they have LARGE incentive to lie and cheat. b. If they did work, they would make SO money by actually doing it for real that the million dollars from Randi would be small potatoes.

            5. You admit that there ARE shysters and frauds. Fine. Believe it or not but that puts the burden of proof on you. Because the rest of us do NOT admit that anyone can do it for real. The existence of shysters and frauds means there is PLENTY of doubt that ANYONE can really do it. Why? Because for a real product, the shysters and fraud get OUTSOLD by the people doing it for real. When you go buy a new car, you do not have a real chance of getting something that has no engine. The existence of REAL cars make it very hard to sell fake ones. If Dowsing etc. was real, the real people would outcompete the fakes and it would be hard to find one of the shysters and frauds. The fact that there are so many many shysters and frauds is not 100% proof that no real ones exist, but it pretty darn close to it that no real ones existed 10 years ago (because if one real one existed 10 years ago, he and his students would have put the fake ones out of business by now.

            Stop attacking the guy that proves you wrong and just prove yourself right. Otherwise, everyone will continue to laugh at your foolishnes.

      • by kebes ( 861706 )

        Dowsing I think is in sore need of a proper, large study

        I disagree. By that logic, everything would be in need of a proper, large study... otherwise one could argue "it could be true." The simple fact is that proper, large studies are only required when there is at least a little bit of evidence that something is true. So for instance when small-scale studies provide some evidence (but maybe the error bars need to be smaller for it to be convincing), or when various small-scale studies contradict each other, then a larger study may be appropriate.

        And, to be

      • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:02PM (#21408943) Journal
        The Randi challenge is open to everyone, you know, so it's hard to argue with a straight face (and an undamaged brain) that somehow the real dowsers just mysteriously slipped through the cracks, and all the thousands of studies picked just the wrong ones.

        It's open to everyone. If anyone thinks he's a real dowser (or a real telepath, or anything else "paranormal"), he can register, prove it and walk with a cool million dollars for their efforts. That's more than they make out of finding water for some farmer too, so it should be incentive enough to register if they actually have the gift. Heck, a million dollars isn't bad at all a deal for a couple of day's work even for someone who's in the business of dowsing for oil or minerals. Plus they'd get the free publicity of it all. People went through a lot more effort for a lot less gain.

        To my mind that's as close as testing literally everyone as it gets. If at least one person on the whole Earth had such powers, they're not just free to get it tested, but actually invited and promised a nice reward.

        And the first test there is: do they even genuinely believe they have those powers, or do they know that they're running a scam? If they don't even try to register there, you can already know in which category to file them. The _vast_ majority of dowsers, magicians, clairvoyants, mind-readers, etc, fall in that category by their own hand.

        But of course that still won't stop gullible people from believing in fairy tales, just because they feel a need to believe in fairy tales.
    • The number of comments supporting dowsing rods based on anecdotal evidence on the article page makes me realize that we have a lot of work to do before anything like an educated majority will happen.

      Do you have any indication that dowsing doesn't work based on anything other than anecdotal evidence? Heck, do you even have that, or are you simply making assumptions?

      Talking about educating the masses is pointless until one's sacred cows are put to rest. Dyed in the wool materialists are just as bad as the R
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drxenos ( 573895 )
        He doesn't need any proof. The burden of proof is on the one making the claim that dowsing works to prove it so.
  • Admit that why you're mad is that you didn't think of it first!
  • Worth (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Setherghd ( 942294 )
    A product is worth exactly what it's purchaser will pay for it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kebes ( 861706 )

      A product is worth exactly what it's purchaser will pay for it.

      True enough. But the free market ideal of "every product ends up costing exactly what it is worth" is based in some ways on informed producers and consumers. In reality information is imperfect, so a consumer may purchase something that has a perceived utility, when in reality the product does not have that utility.

      You may say: "So what, it's the buyer's fault for being stupid." However there is a point where it goes from "stupid buyer" to "fraudulent seller." If you bought a DVD player, brought it home

      • Wrong: The brick is worth exactly the satisfaction of throwing it through the store's window.

        Unfortunately, the fraudster lobby has convinced the CA state legislature to enact brick microprinting laws, making all bricks traceable to their original owners.
    • Price/n (Score:3, Insightful)

      by C10H14N2 ( 640033 )
      That one person may be willing to pay a million bucks for something is less indicative of worth than the fact that a million people wouldn't pay a penny.
    • Not that simple (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:23PM (#21409283) Journal

      A product is worth exactly what it's purchaser will pay for it.


      Bringing free market theories into it is good and fine, but only if you also realize the context in which they apply. The free market is a bit more complex of abstraction. There are a heck of a ton of assumptions there, such as that the products are interchangeable, there are many suppliers, etc. And most importantly in this context: the buyers are perfectly informed.

      That last part is crucial here: a product is worth exactly what you paid, only if you knew _exactly_ what you're buying. I.e., that doesn't apply to scams and cons.

      If you think you bought Product A, but instead you got Product B, then that whole "is worth exactly what the purchaser paid" assumption falls flat on its face. Your judgment of whether or not it was worth it was based on Product A, not on product B.

      E.g., if I offer to sell you, say, Porsche Carrera, how much is that worth to you? Even second hand it's still worth tens of thousands. Now imagine that you pay that money and I give you a toy car. That's just not the product you thought you were buying. Saying that it's worth exactly as much as you paid for it, would just be stupid.

      Now that's a case where the fraud is easy to spot. This kind of snake oil is the same kind of fraud, only it's a lot harder to spot for the uninitiated.

      E.g., if you had cancer and I promised you a medicine that can cure you, how much is that worth to you? Quite a lot, I'd bet. People have been known to blow their life's savings on such a miracle medicine or cancer-curing gizmo, in that situation. But that was worth the price only assuming that it is what I assured you it is. If instead I give you coloured water or a box that displays random numbers, then it's just not the product for which that price was judged.

      It's the same fraud as in the car example: you were promised Product A and were given ample assurance that it is indeed Product A. That's what you judged that price for. But instead you were given Product B, which isn't even remotely the same thing. That's what makes it a fraud.

      Now if those things were sold honestly as snake oil (think, "this bracelet won't do jack shit for your health, but we think that industrial cable looks cool and we're charging 500$ for it anyway"), _then_ that "it's worth what the purchaser paid" idea would apply. Sure, then the buyer knew exactly what he's getting, judget it worth every cent. Fair enough. If someone knew they're buying just a piece of steel cable, and was ok with paying that price for it, I can't argue with that.

      But as long as the buyer was deliberately mis-led into thinking they bought something completely different, sorry, no. Just no.
  • I love this one, every now and then it appears on TV between the various Road and Track, Trucks! and Horsepower.TV programs on Saturdays.. http://www.tornado-fuelsaver.tv/default.asp [tornado-fuelsaver.tv]

    It's basically a piece of plastic that you put behind your air filter. It claims to 'twist the air going into your engine...' when in reality all it does is reduce your cash flow.
    • Similarly, I've seen magic clothes-washing balls for sale that "break up the water molecules" so you don't need to use laundry detergent. I figured you would know right away if they worked or not, due to all that hydrogen and oxygen potentially floating around near the motor.
  • by sa1lnr ( 669048 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @12:38PM (#21408603)
    "there's no engineer out there dedicating his life to polishing wooden volume knobs."

    Well as far as I'm concerned, anyone that spends that amount of money on a volume knob IS a dedicated knob polisher. ;)
  • When we had our main water line in Herefordshire replaced, Welsh Water had a great deal of trouble finding the original pipe valve in order to shut it off. Our house is an Edwardian Rectory about 500 metres off the road so after consulting the old maps of the area proceeded to dig a series of pits across our front field. This went on for a couple of weeks resulting in a fairly good recreation of a WWI battlefield.

    It was pretty odd, we knew where the pipe entered the house and where the junction was to the m
    • and behold he found the pipe after a couple of days.

      I believe you mean "lo" and behold, although "low" may be more appropriate in this case. But more to the point: if magic pipe-finding methods worked, wouldn't they work... right away? I mean, two days? What good is magic if you have use the same way you'd use luck and patience? Oh... right.
  • by SnoopJeDi ( 859765 ) <snoopjedi@NOSPam.gmail.com> on Monday November 19, 2007 @12:50PM (#21408755)
    I think there's some kind of error with Slashdot, the article link is not working for me.

    It's just taking me to the Skymall catalog.
  • There's just no reason to pay this much for wood, even for committed audiophiles. Look at it this way: unlike speakers, signal processors or even cables, there's no engineer out there dedicating his life to polishing wooden volume knobs.
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @12:55PM (#21408851) Journal

    This is after all about snake-oil, not overpriced rubish. The other 9 don't do what they claim to do, the article doesn't mention that the knobs claim to do anything except that they are made of wood and can be used as a volume knob. I see no reason why they cannot be used as such.

    Might as well put diamonds there as well then, overpriced when cut glass can be made to sparkle just as pretty.

    Unless these knobs make some idiotic claim, they are just overpriced toys.

    • by CrankyFool ( 680025 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:20PM (#21409217)
      You're right, there's a missing context.

      I remember seeing the original hype around the knobs. At the time, there were in fact claims being made that the beech knobs, and the specific way they were made, had a notable impact on the quality of the sound your sound system outputted. Ah, found the link:

      ---
      They are custom made with beech wood and bronze where the bronze is used as the insert to mount to the stem of the volume pot. The beech wood is coated several times with C37 lacquer for best sound as pointed out by Dieter Ennemoser. How can this make a difference??? Well, hearing is believing as we always say. The sound becomes much more open and free flowing with a nice improvement in resolution. Dynamics are better and overall naturalness is improved. Here is a test for all you Silver Rock owners. Try removing the bakelite knobs and listen. You will be shocked by this! The signature knobs will have an even greater effect really amazing! The point here is the micro vibrations created by the volume pots and knobs find their way into the delicate signal path and cause degradation (Bad vibrations equal bad sound). With the signature knobs micro vibrations from the C37 concept of wood, bronze and the lacquer itself compensate for the volume pots and provide (Good Vibrations) our ear/brain combination like to hear way better sound!!"
      ---

      See http://www.bostonaudiosociety.org/past_pres_msg/06-11_pres_msg.htm [bostonaudiosociety.org]

      • Thanks for providing the full background, I thought they were just expensive blingbling. Not one of those "add X to your sound installation for improved sound quality by (insert mumbojumbo)".

        Amazing. I should get some for my iPod. Are they touchsensitive?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DougWebb ( 178910 )

        Wow, that's just about almost believable. If the sound from the speakers is able to act on the knobs with enough force to make the volume pots vibrate, then the volume will fluctuate at the frequency of the sound. That's an interesting way to introduce distortion, and I could definitely see how loose pots and off-balance knobs could make it worse, perhaps even audible.

        Turning the volume down would probably help more than new knobs, though... especially since the real problem in such a setup would be the l

    • Unless these knobs make some idiotic claim, they are just overpriced toys.

      The site where they were sold claimed that they would improve the sound coming out of your stereo. You can probably still find some reviews if you google it.
  • And always have. Good check out early newspaper ads from the early 1900's and late 1800's. All full of crap, yet someone bought enough of them that the ads continue to this day in the back pages of the paper and magazines. They were the forerunner of the $5.00 Breitling watch and big dick spam.

    They are some kind of weird consumer guilty pleasure. Sort of like reading the National Enquirer while in the checkout line.
  • Where's it's suckered more people in... though, the CBC did a show [www.cbc.ca] about it. They covered the US FTC complaint, and how the Q-Ray Canada guys are trying to avoid the same here. (Marketplace is an interesting show... caught onto it from that "Geek expose" thing they did a few weeks ago posted on /.).
  • They forgot to mention those stickers that you can put on your cell phone battery that will magically boost your reception. While they aren't as expensive as a Q-ray bracelet, I'm sure they make up for it in volume.
    • I can imagine selling "snake oil supplements" would turn off most customers. Imagine going to your local healthfood store, and along with the regular Vitamin-C, Tea Leaf Extract, etc. you see a bottle labeled "Snake oil". However according to the article omega-3 fatty acids are found in it, so it does have some supplementary benefit.
  • Especially the Ionic Breeze which is not a HEPA air purifier, and produces Ozone which can actually be DANGEROUS to people with asthma.
  • by h.ross.perot ( 1050420 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:32PM (#21409427)
    I wandered in to Radio Shack the other day for a TOSLINK cable. Young "not quite a geek" spys me and approaches. "How may I help you?" he says. "I need a few TOSLINK cables" says I.. and reach for the Radio Shack house brand.. "OH" he interrupts; "You don't want those; you want these" and reaches for a brand name that will remain nameless. I see a 59.00 dollar price tag on a 3 meter cable and look at the fellow. "So; what's the difference" I ask (Knowing he has not clue) "Well"; said the young not quite a geek; "these have better insulation". "Oh?" I counter; "Insulation from what; sunspots?" "No" he replies; "for all of the electronic gear around your house. The better insulation blocks hum and pops". Sad thing was the young lad had no idea why his argument was pointless. I remember the day when I could walk into a Radio Shank and hob-nod with my fellow wizards.. Now; I could probably go to 7-11 and get better advice. Rant mode off ..
  • Didn't that promise the world, and umm....is just a gadget for people with too much money?
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @01:38PM (#21409517) Homepage

    A few years ago, I received many stock spams for "XLPI.PK" [yahoo.com], or Xcel Plus [xcelplus.com], which sells fuel and lubricant additives. Such additives are referred to in the automotive industry as "mouse milk"; they usually don't do much, and may make things worse. That whole category of products is mostly bogus.

    Back then, their web site contained endorsements from the FAA and the US Army. [archive.org] The web site reproduced a a letter of endorsement appearing to be from an FAA representative. [archive.org] I thought this was a bit strange, so I sent off a note to the regional FAA office asking if it was legitimate.

    A few weeks later, I got a call from an anti-terrorism investigator at NCIS. Someone at the FAA had looked at the letter and the web site. They apparently didn't like what they saw, and referred the matter for investigation of the use of unapproved lubricants in military equipment. That comes under the "sabotaging the war effort" laws, which brings in military investigators.

    I'm not sure what happened thereafter, but the spamming stopped and "XLPI.PK" is now trading at $0.001.

  • by Anomalous Cowbird ( 539168 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @02:06PM (#21409963)

    . . . go quite a non-meterian distance to obtain a device which emits "non-Hertzian frequencies."

    Especially if I can pay for it with non-monetary currency.

  • by gamer4Life ( 803857 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @02:13PM (#21410047)
    From wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

    It appears that the Chinese snake oil made from Chinese water snakes is very high in EPA. This substance is known to be a pain reliever, as EPAs are absorbed through the skin and are the parent of the series 3 prostaglandins which inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory series 2 prostaglandins, and the Chinese snake oil products may contain up to 4% of it. Snake oil does not have the dubious reputation in China that it has in the US and elsewhere in the Western world, and it is used widely in traditional Chinese medicine. However, it is not seen as a panacea in China either; there it is used only as relief for arthritis and joint pain.

    From a purely pharmacochemical perspective, it is likely that the genuine Chinese snake oil is not fraudulent, at least for its intended purpose, since EPA indeed is an effective anti-inflammatory agent. On the other hand, American products made from rattlesnake fats, which have at most 1/3 of the EPA concentration of Enhydris chinensis fat, are likely to have been inferior or even useless for similar purposes because of their lower or even nonexistent anti-inflammatory contents - aforementioned Stanley's snake oil containe no EPA at all! 19th century snake oil peddlers and apothecarians seldom had any serious knowledge of chemistry or pharmacology. It is likely that they did not understand the action mechanism of the Chinese product, or even know its functional ingredient.[citation needed] Instead of analyzing and reverse engineering the authentic remedy, they tried to imitate it with unimpressive results. Such inferior or even fraudulent products gave snake oil the reputation it has today.

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