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10^23: Homeopathy Overdose in Perth

I’m happy to report that I survived the Homeopathy Overdose. Imagine, if you will, about twenty Perth Skeptics standing outside a chemist’s on Beaufort Street, snarfing down tiny white pillules. It was all to highlight the point that homeopathy is bunk, and unsupported by any scientific evidence. Other skeptic groups around the world held similar events.

Many of the Perth skeptics chose sleeping pills (and subsequently failed to fall asleep). But I went for the hard stuff. Arsenicum album is a homeopathic nostrum that is supposedly derived from arsenic. You’d think that if you ate a lot of them, you’d experience some form of arsenic poisoning, but I ate half a bottle of those horribly sweet crunchy things (Oldest Boy ate the other half), and we experienced no ill effects at all. Actually, I’m lucky I didn’t die — who knows what crap they use as filler.

But wait: there’s a reason that I didn’t die of arsenic poisoning. Homeopathics are deluded — sorry, diluted — so that no trace of the original stuff remains. The pills I took had a dilution of 30C. A dilution of 1C is a 1:100 ratio, so 30C would be 10^60 molecules of water — a one with sixty zeros. 10^60 molecules of water is a lot. It’s about 27 billion earth volumes. (Back of the envelope calculations here.) That’s how much you’d have to drink before being certain of getting one molecule of arsenicum album with a 30C dilution. And some dilutions go a lot higher than that. There is no chance any of the original stuff is still there.

Homeopaths admit this, but still claim that the water retains some ‘memory’ of the remedy. Baloney and hogwash. If the water ‘remembers’ the arsenic, then it should also remember the urinary tract of every person it’s passed through, as well as all the effluent carried through it over the years.

Why do people believe this stuff? Probably because homeopaths, with no need to do real research, can spend all their time making up far-fetched explanations for their silly bullshit.

The 2010 Overdose was great fun, and a good way to make the point that homeopathy is a scam. And I shall never forget the look on that motorist’s face as she passed us, gleefully chomping away.

Obligatory YouTube clip.


  1. Your probability calculations are a little fallacious.

    To be certain of getting one molecule of the diluted substance, you would have to drink the entire volume produced (and possibly discarded) during the dilution process. Conversely, drinking a 30C dose has a small but non-zero probability of containing a molecule of the substance.

    Coincidentally, that homeopathy C scale thing is very silly. Negative log of the molarity plzkthx.

  2. I'm using terms like 'certain' and 'no chance' loosely. Let me rephrase.

    Without access to the homeopathy factory (and the liquids contained therein), I'd have to consume planetary masses of the stuff before the probability of getting the lucky molecule gets comfortably close to 1.

    And, yes, there is a vanishingly small (but non-zero) chance that I'll ingest that molecule with a given dose.

  3. At Big Day Out yesterday I saw someone in Muse wearing with one of those shirts. I was confused. Now it's all falling into place!

  4. I'd seen that this was happening in the UK but I had no idea there was an event in Perth. I would have been tempted to come along. Good work!

  5. It turns out all the homeopathy sceptics were wrong after all. See?

  6. Well now I know to save my money in the future. Not that I've used them loads but I have used them. I wonder how many practitioners know that the only benefit from the pills they are prescribing is a placebo one.

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