3/01/2003

Crystal power? Not likely. Read this in New Scientist during a brief stopover at Partick Library this afternoon, on the way to pick up some stuff at Safeway for tea.
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"CRYSTAL homeopathy combines the principles of homeopathic medicine with the healing power of crystals. That's the claim made in ww.the-crystal-chamber.net, a site offering very special crystals for sale. These crystals, while they were forming in caves over thousands of years, have picked up minute, homeopathic quantities of substances that will benefit you through their influence on your aura.
Does this sound like complete garbage to you? A Feedback reader who we shall call Gareth Thomas thought it did, so he posted a "provocative enquiry" at www.ukpagan.com, a site where believers in all things mystical gather to discuss matters of common interest. Using the pseudonym "disturber", he challenged believers in such therapies to convince him that they had any effect whatsoever other than providing vague emotional satisfaction. He singled out the claims made for crystal homeopathy as being "transparent balderdash".
The response from ukpagan devotees was immediate and irate. Some were so rude the forum's moderators had to remove the posts. All insisted on the validity of their beliefs, some even referring to theoretical physics to support them. None questioned the claims of crystal homeopathy.
Thomas persisted. He copied the full crystal homeopathy text from the Crystal Chamber site into ukpagan and criticised it sentence by sentence, declaring it a cynical, scientifically groundless scam. Still, no one agreed. Yet more people wrote heated posts defending crystal homeopathy and branding Thomas a cynic.
What none of them knew was that Thomas had created the Crystal Chamber site himself and that "crystal homeopathy" was his own invention. Depressed by the abundance of absurd claims for quack alternative therapies, he had set up the site as a credulity experiment.
He continued to have fun with it, posing for a while on ukpagan under a new pseudonym as the Crystal Chamber's proprietor and enlisting enthusiastic support for his site. One "crystal expert" even offered to help him run the business.
But all good things have to end. If you now click on the top left corner of www.the-crystal-chamber.net, you get a statement that begins: "Nothing in this site makes any sense. It was all made up in a few hours to test susceptibility and gullibility." And Thomas has posted a final message on ukpagan explaining that the site and all his previous messages have been hoaxes.
Meanwhile, no wallets have been harmed by his experiment. He has torn up the cheques sent to him by people who wanted to buy his crystals and refunded credit card sales.
His one regret now that it's all over is that he resisted the temptation to claim on his website that his crystals had been "mined by elves".
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Laugh? I nearly died.

Had a nice night Friday, by the way. Actually went out. Gasp. Had a drink with Dave, Kerry and her boyfriend Nick in a pub called Waxy O'Connor's in town, which looks a bit like you'd imagine a Hobbit crack den would look. Must remember to catch last episode of Book Group on Tuesday, since I missed it that night.
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