When a University helps promote nonsense

By Phil Plait | November 9, 2010 11:10 am

skepticalhippoHave you heard about these Power Bands, or Power Balance bracelets? The claims by the manufacturer and at countless demos are that these bands improve balance, flexibility, endurance, and strength by employing holograms which send frequencies that somehow interact with your body’s frequencies or electric field or glaven or some other undefinable manifestation.

Yeah. You can imagine what I think about that. And if you can’t, I’ll be clear: that claim is complete nonsense. Literally, it makes no sense. Holograms don’t emit anything, frequency or otherwise; there’s no such thing as your body’s frequency; and there’s no way inside the laws of physics that a rubber band with a cheap plastic hologram in it can affect your body, unless a) you’re allergic to rubber, or 2) it hits you at meteoric velocities.

We clear? OK.

So why on Earth would such a product be sold with a University logo on it? Yet, that’s what’s happening with the University of Colorado, among other institutions. Power Bands are being sold with the CU logo on them.

Now let me be careful here. These bands are being sold by the Power Force company online, as well as by the CU Athletic Department. The Athletic Department is separate from the University itself, and is the entity that licenses the logo used ("Ralphie" the buffalo).

Still, unsurprisingly, some local skeptics have taken exception to this, and have contacted the University about it. What did surprise me was how dismissively they were rebuffed. You can read about it at Stuart Robbins’ Exposing Pseudoastronomy site (Part 1, Part 2) and by Rachael Acks (Part 1 and Part 2).

Again, the claim that the University is not actually endorsing the product may be literally true. But in practice that justification rests on a razor’s edge. As you can see if you look at the product in question, it has the Buffalo and the letters "CU" on it. It doesn’t say "CU Athletic Department", it just says CU. Any customer buying that product will see that logo and assume it’s the University endorsing the product. If some product making medical and physical claims has a University logo on it, then what is the buyer supposed to expect?

Rachael and Stuart are hoping to drum up some attention about this. I certainly hope they can. This is embarrassing to a University that has global standing in academic, scientific, and medical research. To be honest, I’m not sure what can be done; if the Athletic Department is in charge, I’m not sure that the University itself could stop this even if they wanted to. But given the response letters written on behalf of the university, it’s clear they’re not even interested in trying.

I’ll leave you with this: my friend and fellow skeptic Richard Saunders, who has shown quite clearly how these devices fail even the simplest tests… and just how easily the demonstrations can be faked (his debunking starts at the 2:45 mark).

Comments (93)

Links to this Post

  1. Easy Like Sunday Morning « Galileo's Pendulum | October 9, 2011
  1. Keith Bowden

    I have a friend who swears his is working wonders for him – ah, the power of suggestion. Sigh.

    Love the Skeptical Hippo! I’m swiping it…

  2. Calli Arcale

    there’s no way inside the laws of physics that a rubber band with a cheap plastic hologram in it can affect your body, unless a) you’re allergic to rubber, or 2) it hits you at meteoric velocities.

    or iii) you swallow it and it causes a bowel obstruction, or Δ) you wear it on the job in a high-tech manufacturing plant and get fired for wearing a silicone bracelet against regulations.

    :-P

    When money is involved, it seems sponsorship is easy to get. I’m sure the university isn’t so much afraid of people thinking they endorse pseudoscience as they are “meh” about the effect this would actually have on their reputation. As far as they’re concerned, this is probably about like somebody selling novelty license plate frames with the university’s name on it.

  3. Mike

    I hear the bracelets were recently subjected to a blinded trial and reported on ESPN: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=5699811

    Yeah, I guess you all know how well the $30 band performed against a 30cnt rubber band.

  4. I have also been amazed at the completely dismissive attitude by University officials in regards to this, at least on their public face. Amazing the excuses the Marketing Director and Spokesperson (Bronson Hilliard) makes in mine and Rachael’s second posts.

    I would like to encourage any and all who are unhappy with this to contact the administration of a local university to you that licenses these products. On my second post that Phil linked to, Reed put in the comments the current list of universities that PowerForce has licensed logos. I’m sure that in any standard contract there are escape clauses for fraud or deceit.

  5. Matt B.

    CU is my alma mater, so I’ll have to see if I can figure out how to get a letter to them, because I find this personally insulting.

  6. The dealer in this video seemed to genuinely in it. I was convinced that he did until the debunking proved he was deliberately tricking people with his demonstration.

    I find the people who con people with nonsense gimmicks far more despicable than the true believers. The believers are responding to our first nature to accept what we experience. It is to be hoped that with education they could be brought to face reality.
    But the cons, are manipulative bastards.

  7. Chris

    Ever seen an MLB game? It seems 3/4ths of the players are wearing them. I was watching the LLWS this year, and what do ya know, they are of course mimicking their heroes, and sporting these things as well.

  8. Matt B.

    CU is my alma mater, so I’ll have to see if I can figure out how to get a letter to them, because I find this personally insulting.

    Oh, and the tag needs to be edited to say “magnetic therapy”, unless “magetic” is a pun on “magic + magnetic”.

  9. Tom

    ….and for an additional $49.95, we’ll name a star after you and include a chart to find your 18th magnitude stellar gem!
    *ugh*

  10. Mike

    While the rubber bands may not affect your body directly, the psychological factor should never be underestimated – especially in professional sports. Or, as one coach of a local team put it in newspaper interview when asked about the Power Balance things some of his players wear:
    “At first we were a bit puzzled and laughing about them, but when the players said they feel it makes them perform better on the field, I said ok, if you think so, use two”.

    They may be nothing more but plasebo, but in sports even plasebo can help to give you that little edge you need to win. I can’t quote any research, but I think many if not most teams and also some individual athletes have rituals and customs bordering on the superstitious they use when competing.

    A powerband may be a bit more expensive, but it’s no less silly than always putting your shoes on in the same order or touching the ground before going on the field or whatever and thinking it makes you win or lose.

  11. Katharine

    Mike, the problem is that this stuff keeps people stupid.

  12. Floyd

    Superstitions are common.

    I was in Little League when I was a kid a(early 1960s). Lots of the kids had superstitions that included how many practice swings they should take before they went up to bat, and so forth.

    Besides rubber bands, there are a lot of older people that wear copper armbands to supposedly help ward away arthritis. That doesn’t work either, but people think they help. It’s all psychological.

  13. Bigby

    Katherine, some people need no help staying stupid.

  14. Frag971

    This sounds like those enchanted items from fantasy games.
    If it gives me +2 Agility and +4 Endurance I want it! :D

  15. MadScientist

    In a lawsuit it is a very important point that the logo used is indistinguishable (or at least not easily distinguishable by non-experts) from the University’s logo. No matter how much some administrator with no knowledge of the law may claim that CU does not endorse the bands, a judge may see things differently.

    @Non-believer #6: That’s not quite right – even if the sales person is using what some (like myself) would think of as obvious party tricks, that person is not necessarily aware of it themselves.

  16. Bill Rockenbeck

    My daughter has been considering CU for college. Not sure I want her going there if they’re quite THAT woo-woo.

  17. evinfuilt

    This is horrible superstitious nonsense, and as my dad always said “its bad luck to be superstitious.” Worst, is that my Ralphie is on it, bad CU.. bad bad..

  18. Eric

    Crass commercializtion by a university athletic department? Imagine that. Seems a bit odd to single this out for all the other trash you can buy with logos on it.

  19. I accidently a rubber band.

  20. DrivethruScientist

    Yeah, but, where’s the harm.

    (shruggies unite! ;) )

  21. Lamont Cranston

    The very existence of an “athletic department” is antithetical to the goals of a university. To be clear, I am referring to an entertainment company operating under the name of the university, not to physical training of the student bodies. When you have a quasi independent entertainment company using the school’s name, and filling the ranks with incompetent students via athletic “scholarships” (if they were qualified, then you could get them an academic scholarship, you know, the kind for scholars?)

    That the entertainment company is further diluting/polluting the school’s “brand” by selling fraudulent pseudo-scientific trinkets is hardly noteworthy – you are worried about acne on a cancer patient.

  22. Chris

    I want the cute little wombat.
    Too bad he didn’t point this out to the guy at the stand.

  23. Gary Ansorge

    10. Mike

    “in sports even plasebo can help to give you that little edge you need to win. I can’t quote any research, but I think many if not most teams and also some individual athletes have rituals and customs bordering on the superstitious they use when competing.”

    Superstition seems related to OCD (my estimation, not from research). Like the OC personality that has too touch every parking meter they pass or can never step on a sidewalk line or crack. At least the superstitious person has a belief that it helps them win. Wearing a special shirt or a rubber band may diminish anxiety and allow them to play better.

    Having said that, I think the university is just looking at the bottom line. I wonder how much that outfit is paying for use of their logo?

    Gary 7

  24. kirk

    Those damn “Live Strong” wrists bands are going to give me testicle cancer? Kill it with fire!

  25. Holy hologram hoax!

    Really? Holograms affecting your body’s EM aura? I thought they were supposed to be magic magnets or something like that. Equally silly, of course, but come ON. :/

    How is it that, in this age of amped-up technology, people are slipping further and further back towards superstition, snake-oil and pseudoscience? Have we bombarded people with so many new advancements that (understandably) they can’t quite understand the science involved and therefore have opened their minds up to basically anything someone might propose, even if it’s clearly a get-rich-quick scheme? (Hint: anything that’s available in “3 easy installments of $19.95″ probably isn’t real cutting-edge science.*) Or do people just like to believe in things, no matter how advanced the technology around them gets?

    I like to wear a string of BuckyBalls for a bracelet sometimes (gotten from ThinkGeek http://www.thinkgeek.com/geektoys/science/bbe8/ …these are wickedcool) and they are basically super-strong rare earth magnets. 35-40 of them surround my wrist right at a pulse point for 8-10 hours. I feel absolutely no differently, other than the fact that they give me something to futz with if I get bored in a meeting. But as of yet I haven’t discovered any newly-bestowed super powers.

    Maybe my aura is broken.

    *This does not apply to my Salad Spinner or Kitchen Chopper. I love them and they were worth every cent. :)

  26. MHS

    There are a number of players in the Dutch soccer team who swear that these bands do miracles for them. When they reached the finals of the World Cup last summer, tens of thousands of the bands were sold in The Netherlands alone.

    Because reaching a World Cup final could not possibly be the result of… you know… skills.

  27. JR

    My girlfriend almost got taken in by this nonsense.

    I pretended to do some online research, and uncover their mechanism of action. I put some tap water in a metal water bottle, and made up some nonsense about it being filled with salt water, and the metal bottle doing something to your body’s electric field and blah blah blah.

    I did the same test they did in that video, asking her to hold the water bottle. I got the exact same “results.” I then took a big drink from the water bottle.

    I like to think of this as tough love.

  28. David K.

    I just ordered some Placebo Bands, http://skepticbros.com/store/. Since CU is in my back yard, I hope to have some interesting conversations here in Boulder!

    @Mike: A lie is still a lie. In this case, it’s a lie with a 95+% profit margin. But even if it were a simple rubber band from the office supply store and sold for $0.10, it would still be a lie. If we, as humans, value things like honesty and integrity then we should not accept any lie.

  29. One Eyed Jack

    These same demonstrations have been used to sell similar products for decades. This is just the latest wave of them. Honestly, I don’t understand how anyone can fail to see the trick involved. It’s blatantly obvious.

    It doesn’t matter how low you set the gullibility bar. Someone will dig a hole to crawl under it.

  30. NAW

    Sigh of relief seeing my backwoods local college not on the list. But on the schools behalf, it is just to make money. They don’t really care if something works or not.

  31. viggen

    Sheesh. This university never ceases to amaze me; three Nobel Laureates on the grounds (two for optical physics, mind you!) and the admin side does stuff like this.

  32. AJ in CA

    Oh lord I friggin’ HATE those things. The gym I go to (24 Hour Fitness, no less – not a hole-in-the-wall place!!) is selling those in a display on the counter. Every time I pass it I want to rip it open and try to fit one of those bands around the neck of the manager (or whoevers idea it was to sell those there). RAWR!!!

    I think the thing I hate most about woo devices like these are the fact that I’m sure I could make metric ass-tons of money inventing/selling them, and yet my personal scruples prevent me from trying to do so.

  33. Oli

    They might as well just stick their logo on placebo pills. What a way to make yourself credible as a university.

    @23. MHS: Well, the team itself isn’t that good. Mostly a bunch of big egoes and a few good defenders. They got so far because their trainer is so damn good at his job.

  34. @Matt B and other CU alumni

    Contact the university’s Development Office and let them know that you are not going to give them any money if they continue to support that nonsense. Also let them know that you will be telling your friends from college and urging them not to donate.

    It may not make much of an impact, but then again, money talks.

  35. AJ in CA

    I always wanted to find one of the assh0les “demonstrating” these in shopping malls.

    My plan: during the first “balance test” I’d do my best to stay standing, of course. Then, after putting the band on, I’d flop over on the floor just as soon as the guy touched me, howl with pain and threaten to sue him.
    “It made my balance worse!!!”
    I’d angrily totter away, falling into benches and walls :D
    A guy can dream…

    I’ve always wondered what would happen if you asked the guy hawking the thing to put it on and have YOU try to push ‘im over :P

  36. @32. AJ: HAHAHAHA ha. Right! Or be like, “OMG I CAN SEE THROUGH THINGS!” And then stare at your own hand for a while, muttering “my bones….I can HEAR them….” :)

    Or…

    YOU (shocked look): “Boy this thing sure does give you an erection, doesn’t it.”
    GUY: “Well…um no, that’s not really part of the effect…”
    YOU: “Wanna bet?” And wink knowingly.

  37. AJ in CA

    Haha! Maybe stare at the guy’s crotch for a few seconds and then start snickering loudly :D

    (I’m not being sexist by refusing to say “he/she,” I just think most women aren’t stupid or unethical enough to wind up selling these things.
    And sure enough…)

  38. AJ in CA

    @J Major: Hahaha, better yet, kinda sidle up and say “I just wanted to thank you! These c0ckrings have done wonders for my sex life! I’m starting to get a bit of a rash, though – is that normal? I can show you… ”

    Ah, these demos must be a comedy goldmine if you know what you’re doing ;) I wish I could find one!

  39. Larry

    There’s an old saying that would be appropriate here. Something about an old fool and his money.

  40. QuietDesperation

    Have you heard about these Power Bands, or Power Balance bracelets?

    Didn’t the Wonder Twins use those? Form of… a Skeptical Hippo!

    Or, no, the Planeteers, maybe?

    That right there is one big reason I am *NOT* much of an environmentalist. Yeesh! Although Linka was a cute math whiz.

    My plan: during the first “balance test” I’d do my best to stay standing, of course. Then, after putting the band on, I’d flop over on the floor just as soon as the guy touched me, howl with pain and threaten to sue him.

    Maybe some of their web sites say when and where some demos will be? Make sure to video it and post on YouTube.

  41. Matthew N

    I am a CU grad student. I have emailed the Denver Post, the Colorado Daily, and the Boulder Daily Camera about this. In addition, I am going to draft a letter to the university along with some of my fellow students.

    This is sad and embarrassing.

  42. Firemancarl

    I love CU, and to be honest I’m not surprised. This is the very same AD that won’t can Dan Hawkins. Maybe they hope the Power Bands will bring back CU and its’ dormant football team.

  43. David K.

    @41 Firemancarl: Breaking news! This just in, CU just canned Dan Hawkins! But still, point taken.

  44. Hargmarglin

    If you’ve got some free time try this.

    Practice a bit at home until you have the balance test technique down. Then go to the store and offer to test the sales person or potential customers. Bring your own set of “power bands” and sell them
    for $1.00 and donate the proceeds. Put these schmucks out of business.

    You also might bring the debunking video along with you.

  45. Neeneko

    Grrrrr… looks like both University of Pittsburgh and Penn State have lent their logos to these scam artists….. Pitt, and it’s massive medical connections I am esp disappointed in.

  46. Keith (the first one)

    I haven’t seen these around. But I’m sure they’re not far off. Just another way for people to make money off those who don’t know any better. What’s the world coming to?

  47. Alan in Upstate NY

    And we laugh at the “snake oil” salesmen of old. Amazing what dumb things folks will believe and will spend their money on. At almost $30 a band the company must be laughing all the way to the bank. “Collect them all.” Fat chance of that. I’ve got some rubber bands that will work just as well.

    Clear skies, Alan

  48. Grimbold

    So the university has two Nobel laureates in optical physics?

    I’d be emailing THEM.

    “Hey Professor,
    did you know that people are selling bracelets with the university’s logo on them that purportedly use holograms to bestow super powers, and that the university is OK with this? Since optics is your discipline, I thought you would be interested.”

  49. Keith Bowden

    My nephew (in second grade) gave me some animal-shaped rubberbands to wear. Does this mean I’ll get animal powers now? :)

    Anyway, this is what really confuses me… it’s the University of Colorado, right? Why is their logo “CU“?

  50. Steve

    I suspect this is not the CU Athletic Department’s biggest concern right now…

  51. Damn, gotta buy one of those bracers to go with my homeopathy therapy. Yeah, i’m using it to cure a rash i got from sitting in church too long. I was asking for god’s help to save me from the aliens, cause they are out there and surely they are coming for me! Gotta stay cool… eh, its gonna be easy, since there’s no global warming anyway. Seriously, who would ever believe those silly claims made by scientists?

  52. John Paradox

    Wait. If ‘holograms affect you’, then what does that mean about the ones on my ATM and Credit Cards?

    J/P=?

  53. Colin

    @49: UC was co-opted by us Californians.

    This kind of junk pisses me off with the fraud undertaken to convince the uninformed and uneducated of something inaccurate and untrue. Like someone else pointed out, if they seriously believed that this stuff worked, great, but they have to trick people into believing that it works.

    But, that’s college for you.

    (: (Kidding btw. College is good for you, as long as the first thing you learn is to think for yourself and not for what your teachers tell you to think).

  54. Rob

    WELL! Skeptic120 posts on youtube that, as a mechanical engineer (University of Spurious, I think) that these bands DO WORK! Athletes use them! Disses the interviewer, Richard Saunders, because he isn’t a scientist, just an out-of-work actor. But…he’s in this video…looks like he might be working. Well, he IS a mechanical engineer.
    Now, I’m in a REAL quandary! Do I believe Skeptic120? Do I believe Phil Plait? What to do? What to do?

  55. AJ in CA

    @#40 Quiet Desperation: *rofl* Wow, you brought back some memories. I know what you mean, though – ugh. That show’s heart was in the right place (the little kid’s finger?) but I think it’s a bit disingenuous to teach impressionable young children that the rainforests are being cut down by ONE really fat white guy, just for the deliciously evil fun of it.
    Also, thanks to that show, I learned that drugs always make you think that you can fly by jumping off a roof.

    As far as the demo-crashing, I’m a crappy actor and I live in a small town that’s kinda out of the way. I do hope someone tries something like this, though.

    @#48 Grimbold: Hah, that’s actually a great idea. I’m sure they’d be a lot less likely to put up with this nonsense then someone who’s (indirectly) profiting from it.

  56. I bought one of those, wrapped it around my car’s fuel line, and the mileage went up by 800%!!!
    Plus, my car’s no longer depressed.

  57. AJ in CA

    @#49 Keith Bowden: Because U C sounds too pedantic? :P

    @#51 John Paradox: Hell, when I was in third grade I had a lunchbox with a giant 3D dragon hologram on the front! It must have have 10 times the… holographic-ness of those little button thingies on the bracelets. And yet, I was always picked last in sports.
    I probably should have taken my lunchbox onto the field with me.

  58. AJ in CA

    @#25 J. Major: I think that’s a big part of it – we’re so surrounded by nifty new gadgets that seem to be able to do anything, and at the same time the exact technology that makes them tick is becoming more and more incomprehensible to anyone by specialists in those fields. It’s not THAT surprising that people might see something stupid like this and think “Sure, energy fields. That’s how my iPad knows where my hand is, right?”

  59. The Other Ian

    @#6 Non-Believer:

    The dealer in this video seemed to genuinely in it. I was convinced that he did until the debunking proved he was deliberately tricking people with his demonstration.

    While he’s clearly doing it, I’m not convinced that he is doing it deliberately. There’s not a lot of difference between the two types of pushing, so it would be easy not to realize that there even is a difference. If he were doing it deliberately, I think he likely would have succeeded in unbalancing Mr. Saunders on the first attempt. Instead, his first attempt appears to have been pushing pretty much straight down, and so it took him a couple tries.

    My mother once did a somewhat similar demonstration on me that was supposed to show qi flow. When I tried it on my wife, I got the same results. I figured that we must be doing something differently between the “open qi” and “closed qi” variations, but I wasn’t able to work out exactly what it was, even though I was clearly doing it myself.

    As in that scenario, all this is really demonstrating is the critical importance of double-blinding.

  60. Mark Hansen

    Perhaps Arthur C. Clarke’s 3 laws need to be redone as:

    1) When a distinguished but elderly snake-oil salesman states that something is possible to sell, he is almost certainly right; when he states that he can sell it honestly, he is probably wrong.

    2) The only way of discovering the limits of what it is possible to sell to the gullible is to venture a little way past them into the illegal.

    3) Any sufficiently advanced scam is indistinguishable from magic.

  61. Donovan

    We should just resort to mocking CU. “Make the power bands go away, or we’ll taunt you a second time,” says I in an outRAGeous French accent.

    Every bit of medical and sport woo, when mocking that, add “endorsed by the University of Colorado.” Show up to CU sporting events with signs showing crystal healing and accuse the opposition of being reptoids. Once CU is treated more like Phoenix University, they might get the picture. They’re in the business, after all, of selling a RESPECTABLE education.

  62. Cairnos

    Oh God! Just reading thier explanations of how it worked made my eyes want to bleed. It felt like it was sucking the vibration right out of them causing my cells to stop sticking together. The anguish it caused my poor little brain was like a thousand voices suddenly crying out in terror.

    Off topic, I heard that the LHC has started smacking lead ions together. Can someone let me know if it’s destroyed the world yet?

  63. I wrote about the iPower bracelet a few months ago. Much the same piece of trash. Prepare to be inundated with tons of comments telling you that it actually works!

    Note to my alma mater the Univ. of Oklahoma. You start doing this and you will be wasting the stamps on that letter you send me asking for money every year…

  64. Donkeyotee

    There’s a similar product, already discredited and literally deconstructed by Ben Goldacre in the UK, that’s rearing its scammy head again in Australia at the moment, the “Qlink pendant”:

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/11/steven_fenech_and_the_daily_te.php

    Last week saw a newspaper article written by the brother of a guy who promotes the device, and a national morning show segement by an “I.T.” reporter who looks embarrassed at what he’s spruiking.

  65. Jeffersonian

    The CU athletic dept is entirely separate and self-supporting? Including building maintenance, salaries, hiring, scholarships and…(ahem) complimentary degrees?

    Caveat Emptor for $30 rubber bands as long as they make no claims that it’s a medical device.

    CU probably has no power over licensing contracts they’ve already signed. Shame.

    I think the name PowerBand is hilarious. I wonder what the other choices were that came up.
    Quantum Ring?
    Earth Circle?
    Energy Loop?

    @49. Historically they didn’t want to be confused with Conn or Cal so they reversed the letters.

  66. Jesper

    It’s incredible how easily people fall for such an obvious scam.

    It certainly lowers my confidence in the intelligence of the average person… :(

    Why are people so easy to fool? It’s annoying…

  67. Nigel Depledge

    AJ in CA (58) said:

    I think that’s a big part of it – we’re so surrounded by nifty new gadgets that seem to be able to do anything, and at the same time the exact technology that makes them tick is becoming more and more incomprehensible to anyone by specialists in those fields. It’s not THAT surprising that people might see something stupid like this and think “Sure, energy fields. That’s how my iPad knows where my hand is, right?”

    Too true.

    A part of this is the way the manufacturers of electronics (PCs, ipods etc.) are making the user interface ever more flashy while trying to keep the user ever more distant from the actual operation of the device.

    If you don’t believe me, install QuickTime viewer on a Windows PC, and then try to take it out of the “begin at startup” list. It goes away … and then comes back!

  68. Dunc

    It certainly lowers my confidence in the intelligence of the average person

    George Carlin: “Just think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are even stupider!”

    I suspect the internal University position is “Go away, we’re trying to make a buck here.”

  69. MarcusBailius

    Doesn’t the FDA have a requirement for effectiveness? And indeed safety? I wonder if the FDA has a position on these things… If they are promoting them as benefiting health etc. the FDA might be able to hit them with all sorts of requirements under the medical device regulations etc…

    Katharine, reply 11: Its the KISS principle, slightly modified.

    Keep It Stupid, Simples!

  70. Terry

    @69 MarcusBailus: The FDA doesn’t have any reason to regulate rubberbands. Or silicon bands. Whatever. The answer to “That person is tricking people!” shouldn’t be “Take away his right to speech!” it should be “Educate the people about it!” like Phil is doing. The University should be shamed for doing this, but it gets away with a lot of other more deliberate manipulation of people that is a lot more harmful than losing 30 bucks on shysters.

    Universities should be a place where the freedom of speech, even speech that the government or the public disagrees with, is unfettered. That way the best ideas come out. You’ll note that while this university has the bands with their logo’s, they don’t have any Majors in Homeopathy or Chiropracty, and there are no classes on the “Autism Epidemic and Vaccination”. The best ideas arise from freedom, not limiting speech, even when that speech pisses you off.

  71. Tom K

    Since it’s CU, shouldn’t they be copper bracelets?

  72. Gary Ansorge

    As fas as snake oil is concerned, the only one I ever liked was Coke,,,the early stuff.

    Drink six or seven of THOSE and the day goes by really fast.

    Gary 7

  73. @MarcusBailius

    Re: FDA regulation

    Since the bands do not pose any significant risk (i.e., classified as a Class I device), the manufacturers can claim a 510(k) exemption, meaning they do not need to get FDA approval to market it.

  74. VJBinCT

    Just think what holographic condoms might do! CU would jump on this, to be sure.

  75. Brown

    Phil says: “[T]here’s no such thing as your body’s frequency.” One of my Physics profs, however, made the point that particles, even really big particles like people, may have some calculable wave-particle properties, including a de Broglie frequency (or wavelength). So this proves that the claims about the body frequency are validated by quantum mechanics, right? RIGHT??

    Well… as a practical matter, not really, no. This is one of many situations in which having a basic understanding of science and mathematics can help a reasonable person sort out fact from fertilizer.

  76. Skeptic Rich

    It should be noted that the universities have signed agreements to promote “Power Force” and not “Power Bands.”. Power Bands claim to work by means of a hologram and frequencies, but the Power Force band makes a vague claim that it is infused with “ions” to boost the body’s inner force. So it is a variation (and not a very good one) on a theme.

  77. Peter Davey

    With regard to the question of education, sport and intelligence, the academic writer, and former Head of Westminster School, Dr John Rae, has written of how sports were first introduced into British schools, some centuries ago, to, rather ironically, “tame the student mob”, coming to take on “all the attributes of a religion”, with the teachers becoming “even greater devotees” than the pupils (Rae quotes a cartoon from a Victorian edition of “Punch”: “Teacher to Pupil: “Of course you needn’t work, Fitzmilksoppe, but play you must and shall.””).

    As Dr Rae put it: “Sports were seen as important for the development of character, and character considered as superior to intellect.”

    The historian, James Morris, in his history of the British Empire, writes of how, as the Empire expanded, and the tasks facing its various administrators became increasingly larger and more complex, so the standard sports-biased education became less and less appropriate to their needs.

    Kipling wrote his famous lines, attacking “the flannelled fools at the wicket; the muddied oafs at the goal”, in protest at the way this country placed sports ahead of other, more significant, priorities.

    In the course of my researches, I have come across numerous complaints on American Websites concerning the way in which “athletes” are considered more popular than “scholars” on American campuses, and how spending on sports facilities is viewed more favourably than spending on facilities for gifted students. As one commentator put it: “If those charged with education are unwilling to defend the importance of education, who should be expected to do so?”

    Those who learn nothing from history may be doomed to repeat it – including those who were taught that sport was more important than history, and those who did the teaching.

  78. ReuniteGondwanaland

    Wish this was an isolated incident, but my favorite college team is also willing to have its logo on this scam. And this one, too, which Colorado also is willing to participate in:
    http://www.amazon.com/Trion-NCAA-Colorado-Buffalos-Wristband/dp/B003JR608W

    Negative ion reducing bracelets. I’m sure I desperately need my negative ions reduced.

    # The negative-ions in Trion:Z’s officially licensed collegiate series wristbands are released in measurable and significant amounts at rates 50 to 100 time higher than competing brands.
    # Trion:Z products will maintain their negative-ion producing properties when wet- they?re functional in the shower, ocean, and the pool.

  79. I know it’s late in the comments so many aren’t likely to see this, but I wanted to let you know I’ve posted a second follow-up to this thing, this time based on a news article about the multi-million dollar deals here.

  80. AJ in CA

    @#60 Mark hanson: I love it!!

  81. AJ in CA

    @Nigel Depledge: That’s why I’m never buying an iPhone or any such thing. I love my Android phone. It’s got a linux command line (usable from the phone itself or as a terminal from your PC), and if you do a little irregular OS upgrading, you can get full root privileges :)

    @Tom K: Ha :D

  82. sorrykb

    Excellent debunking of the power bracelets.

    Now… Where do I sign up to get one of those magic wombats???

  83. Nigel Depledge

    ReuniteGondwanaland (78) said:

    Negative ion reducing bracelets. I’m sure I desperately need my negative ions reduced.

    Hmmm . . . let’s see . . . Oxidation Is Loss; Reduction Is Gain (of electrons). So, to reduce a negative ion, you must give it more electrons . . . which would mean . . . erm . . . it becomes more negative?

    Huh?

    ;-)

    Well, sodium hydride is an example of a powerful reducing agent. Does that mean that the “negative ion reducing bracelet” douses you with sodium hydride? ‘Cos I don’t imagine that would be pleasant.

  84. @Rob, just goes to show that an “out of work actor” (which Richard is not) knows more than an engineer. And the engineer thinks this is something to be proud of? Interesting.

  85. Nigel Depledge

    Sorrykb (82) said:

    Now… Where do I sign up to get one of those magic wombats???

    I want to learn how to play the game of “magic wom”, too!

  86. Gus Snarp

    According to the ESPN Video, two brothers made up the Power Balance bracelet and sold $8,000 worth the first year and now $17 million last year (or whenever the video was made). Again, sometimes I wish I had no scruples so I could make millions selling people $0.30 plastic bracelets for a hundred times what they cost me. Wow.

  87. Wendy Hughes

    I am sorry to hear that any variation on the Power Balance bracelet is being used as a fundraiser for the college campus. It’s not new, though, for that seeming contradiction, the sale of cookies to raise funds for wholesome activities for Scouts, for example, to take place. The worst of it, however, is that the Power Balance bracelets, and their analogs, are in contradiction to science and critical thinking, the very concepts we hope our children would be learning on the college campus — not buying and wearing the bracelets that have the college logo and even suggesting the belief in their power.

    Here is a link to the Independent Investigations Group’s (IIG) preliminary report on our test of Power Balance. Richard Saunders’ explanation of Applied Kinesiology has been awesome! The IIG now has tested Power Balance’s claims of balance, flexibility and strength. The report as shown on Yahoo News, left out a lot; but our final report will be thorough.
    http://www.iigwest.org

  88. Dan

    “Any customer buying that product will see that logo and assume it’s the University endorsing the product.”

    Really?

    The other customers must be really stupid to assume that licensing a logo is the same as providing an endorsement.

    I have dozens of items with licensed logos. I don’t expect that the licensor stands behind any of these products in any way.

    If suckers want to buy $30 rubber bands with licensed logos – let them.

  89. Georges-Émile April

    The placebo effect is obviously what allows con men to cheat their naïve victims for presumably millions of dollars.
    The existence of the placebo effect does not justify the action of using it to bilk the public.
    If these people marketed these things by saying “We have a whole range of placebos which will work wonders for you, provided you believe in them. So send us your money please” I would not mind so much, as long as they said please, of course. They might add that these might become collectibles after they come to be recognized for the swindle that they are.

    As it stands, these people are thieves and should be brought to justice. This is a job for the FBI.

    As for the universities, they are supposed to exist to educate people. This implies a duty to denounce flimflammery, be it or not it is associated with their name or logo.

    If it bears their logo, by not denouncing it, they become jointly responsible for a great disservice to the public, and they should be held accountable.

    Maybe university administrators should start wearing rubber bands to protect themselves, just in case the FBI decides to investigate.

    I hope they are not getting any money for their inaction, the thought is too horrible to entertain, universities aiding and abetting. No, that could not happen, or could it?

    There is a name for this propensity to do anything for money.
    Can’t remember it right now, but then, English is not my native tongue.

    Some refer to that by associating it with “the oldest profession”, I am not sure what that means.

    P.-S. Please feel no obligation to explain it to me, I which to keep my innocence.

  90. Thanks for sharing.Keep posting.

  91. chris

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ie-kzh9gUPw

    you have to see this it explains why the bands work. check it out

  92. “In the course of my researches, I have come across numerous complaints on American Websites concerning the way in which “athletes” are considered more popular than “scholars” on American campuses, and how spending on sports facilities is viewed more favourably than spending on facilities for gifted students. As one commentator put it: ‘If those charged with education are unwilling to defend the importance of education, who should be expected to do so?'”

    I am downright ashamed of my alma mater, Rutgers University. The university administration has spent huge amounts of money to build a gigantic new football stadium that was never needed (the only one was fine) and cut down a lot of trees in the process. The place stands out like a sore thumb. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent on the football program, especially to pay coaches huge salaries. One even had a house built for him. At the same time, every academic support program from tutors to library hours to number of full time professors to health care providers is being cut left and right. Football “stars” get full scholarships including room and board as long as they maintain a C average while A students have to finance their educations almost entirely with loans. A university is an academic institution, not an athletic institution. I will never donate money to any Rutgers organizations until this is reversed.

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