Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Nexus Nonsense & Photonizer phoolishness

Breaking the laws of science is becoming quite an artform. From time to time, goodly nerds send me websites and adverts demonstrating how you too can somehow create energy, beat an uncurable disease, become immortal etc. As the quack market gets ever crowded, newer and more exciting bullshit comes along, clambering to show the world how elegantly it can dispose of scientific rigour and dust its feet of evidence.

There is a problem though for the slick, lithe marketeers whose tempting fruit so many are captivated by, (only to be found later, heavy of heart and light of wallet) - the number of tricks they can pull are limited, obvious and well-documented.

The picture above is of a Photonizer Bottle Cover, sold by Accapi UK LLP in their Accapi Nexus range of products.

For a mere £20, you more efficiently hydrate your body during work-outs helping you beat your personal best in the pseudoscientific weightlifting. The Advertising Standards Authority has today ruled that the website advertising this product breaches its code on misleading advertising, substantiation and making unfounded medicinal claims. A quick look at the website shows why:

The top of the page has a quote from Simone Moro, so we can tick Argument from Anecdote and Argument from Authority straight away.

Next we have the name of the product itself - Nexus Photonizer. To me this sounds like one of Professor Frink's products, but ASA precedent has shown that if you use an invented word in your marketing, even though it sounds like another word with a defined meaning, you aren't implying that meaning. It's a very sensible marketing ploy.

Now we get to the product description, bit-by-bit:
Photonizer 4-14 is a revolutionary bottle cover, made using the exclusive Nexus fabric. Thanks to its constant natural emission of infrared rays, it has a beneficial effect on the properties of water and water-based liquids.

And there goes the science mangle, mangling its way to sillyness - Is there any evidence for this wonder material that can impart magic through plastic to water?

Accapi LLP provided ASA with a summary of a study that assessed the effect on the characteristics of water when exposed to NEXUS material. (The Nexus material, by the way, turns up in ZERO references in PubMed, the massive scientific literature searcher). Note the evidence - a summary (i.e. no methods, results etc) of a study which exposed water to the material. But water never touches the material if it's a bottle cover, so this evidence, even though minimal and flaky, is not even relevant. The ASA are too clever to miss that sort of wool-pulling and concluded the study was not robust enough to make any claims about "beneficial effects of water". Hence it was deemed misleading and unsubstantiated.
The effect of the Photonizer 4-14 bottle and flask cover on water and water-based liquids is very fast.

Unhelpful and meaningless, and Accapi LLP couldn't provide evidence to ASA - again considered misleading and unsubstantiated.
Scientific studies demonstrate that the natural infrared emissions of Nexus fabric have an important effect on a litre of water just ten minutes from the moment the Photonizer is applied to the bottle. Liquids reach optimum and stable hydration levels at 30 minutes and these properties and maintained. When the Photonize is removed, it takes a further 30 minutes for liquids to return to their original state.

Without any evidence, and with what has be shown above, there's no reason to give that any credence.
Benefits of Photonizer 4-14:
Improves the hydration of the body during training, competition and recovery
Speeds up and optimises the absorption and digestibility of nutrients contained in supplements (for example, salts)
Stimulates diuresis, resulting in a more rapid elimination of waste products

It appears from ASA evidence, that this is based on anecdotes from users, so the level of evidence is that of astrologers and faith-healers. Not surprisingly, the ASA concluded they were misleading and were medicinal claims which are not allowed in authorised products.

So, it's a new form sexy product full of exciting science, but it has the same old tricks of bullshittery concealed within:
1. Arguments from authority
2. Arguments from anecdotes
3. Not providing any robust scientific evidence
4. Provide unrelated scientific evidence perhaps in the hope that it will not be noticed
5. Use scientific words liberally and confidently - meaning is irrelevant
6. Get it seen on TV by making sure you get celebrity endorsement

In reality, it's a similar set-up to Dr Kenzo Kase's Kinesio Tape which was recently in the Observer as an advertorial, and an embarassment to the science journalists at the sister paper, the Guardian.

There are plenty of products in all different guises out there, but I'll warrant those tricks above (whether unintentionally or otherwise) will be used time and time again to sell you, the person they treat as an idiot, a worthless product.

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