Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bamboo Charcoal

A friend recently expressed his interest in buying a bamboo charcoal product, which was said to be able to reduce electromagnetic waves and radiation emitted from daily electronic products such as monitors. I gave him a dressing down.

It is pseudoscience, I said. It only requires a basic understanding of physics to know that the product cannot achieve what it pretends to do. Buy a lead sheet, and that would be more effective at blocking radiation.

A simple test for detecting pseudoscience products is to ask whether there is a plausible mechanism for action. If the action of the product cannot be explained, that it is no different from a magic bauble. If one thinks that a bag of bamboo charcoal, placed somewhere near the monitor, is somehow able to attract and absorb the electromagnetic radiation, then one must either presume that the bamboo charcoal is a black hole, hence bending local space to redirect the path of radiation, or has an immense electromagnetic field by which to alter the waves. This does not seem sound.

It might improve health, or at least the perception of health, by the placebo effect. But then again, after my cruel lecture, even that effect may be lost.

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