Posted by: Ticktock | March 10, 2012

Power Imbalance

A funny thing happened to me at the corporate chain restaurant for which I slave away as a server. One of my fellow employees found a “Power Balance” bracelet laying at one of her tables. “What is this thing?”

Oh man! Did you just ask Mr. Skeptic himself to explain “Power Balance” nonsense? “Would it help if I said that it’s complete hogwash?”

“Um… no.”

Right. I didn’t think so. Probably not the best way to answer the question. “Well, it’s a plastic bracelet with a simple hologram that supposedly provides balance to the person wearing it, but studies have shown that any effect that it has is based on a placebo effect. There’s no plausible scientific reason that it should work.”

She jokes, “Well, I”m going to try it, and if I don’t trip for the rest of the shift then I’m going to say it works.”

Exactly! That form of confirmation bias has been the very process that has stoked the flames of this sort of crap. She may have been joking, but there are plenty of reasonable individuals who don’t care whether their pseudo-scientific accessories are plausible or not as long as they perceive a benefit. I would be fine with consumers making their own decisions on how they spend their money if the businesses who sell these bracelets weren’t profiting from deliberate deception. Not only are these products proven to be bogus, but part of their sales pitch involves deception using body mechanics. I took a picture at a mall kiosk to show the tricks they use to manipulate their customers…

Imager

See how the customer has his arms out? That’s where the magic trick comes in. The guy working the kiosk will push down on his arm and make him fall over, then give him the placebo band and push down again (in a subtly different way) to prove how his balance is restored.

You can see a shark from Shark Tank fall for a similar trick in this video (featuring some snarky commentary from another skeptic). Kudos to Mark Cuban for calling out the guy for trying to sell the sharks useless crap…

So, how do these tricks work? Check out this video of Australian Richard Saunders for more information on the trickery involved…

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Responses

  1. Things like this make me wish episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy were required viewing in every elementary school. It’s disgusting how con artists like him are given free reign, but the educational system is so lacking in giving the US population a thriving understanding of the way the world works.

  2. One of the related videos to the second one is “how to spot a fake power balance” from a real one. Am wiping tears from my eyes. 😀


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