Your Ions. They Make Me Feel So… Confident 6

Recently a friend of mine – who wishes to remain nameless at this time – saw a product marketed at a CU Buffs football game. It’s the Power Force Wrist Band.

I will note that the Power Force website is actually fairly unimpressive, particularly since it looks like a lot of the pictures are badly trimmed. But even more unimpressive is the description of the product in question:

Power Force’s Innovative Products were developed to work with your body’s natural inner force. Within each Power Force powerband are ions that work with your body’s energy to give you confidence from within. Your inner force is limitless. Channel this force with Power Force powerband. Power Your Inner Force.

Emphasis mine. Now, it could be that I just haven’t gotten far enough into chemistry, but what I do recall about ions tells me that they’re ubiquitous, important, and have absolutely nothing to do with one’s self-confidence1. The phrases “your body’s natural inner force” and “your body’s energy” are essentially meaningless. They also strongly call to mind the justification behind many types of “alternative medicine,” which is that the body has some sort of energy field that permeates it and can be manipulated. (Reiki is one example of this.)

I will also note that, upon inspecting the site, the products look eerily like another silly energy bracelet, the Power Balance Wrist Band, which claims:

Power Balance is based on the idea of optimizing the body’s natural energy flow, similar to concepts behind many Eastern philosophies. The hologram in Power Balance is designed to resonate with and respond to the natural energy field of the body.

The claims of Power Balance have been thoroughly taken apart by Dr. Harriet Hall at the Science-Based Medicine Blog and Device Watch.

To be fair, there is no solid proof that Power Balance and Power Force come from the same company; both are owned by LLCs of different names, and the two sites were registered to different people. Rather it’s just the similarity of the claims and the look of the products that caught my attention. And frankly, it’s an alt-med rip-off whether the silly plastic bracelet is claiming to optimize your body’s non-existent energy flow or promote your “inner force” with ions. Both statements are the sort of thing that cause physicists (and biologists) to laugh uncontrollably or curl up in a corner, sobbing, because it’s just not any fun to watch somebody torture your beloved science.

For more science and less sarcasm on this topic, I urge you to go read Stuart’s post over at Exposing PseudoAstronomy.

Beyond the normal skeptic grumbling about ridiculous products, there’s another reason this silly “ion” wrist band is upsetting. CU Boulder is most well known for two things – our football team, and our research. The University of Colorado at Boulder is a Research I University, which means we award a lot of doctorates and get a lot of federal research funding. We have three Nobel laureates in the physics department – a poster outside of the physics building advertises this fact.

So to advertise the brain power and research acumen of CU in one breath and then advertise a bunch of pseudoscientific crap in the next seems like a real problem to at least this little nerd.

It also sounded like a problem to my friend, who wrote an unhappy e-mail to the Chancellor of the University and the Athletics Director. The answer they got back was most unfortunate:

Dear [Name redacted at request of original e-mail recipient],
I asked our athletic department for an explanation for you regarding how products receive permission to use the CU logo and its endorsement. Buffalo Sports Properties owns the rights to all the advertising and sponsorship opportunities so this is their response.

” The company Powerforce went through all of the appropriate channels for approval to use the CU marks and logos. They applied for the CU license through CLC and based on the company’s information, goals and objectives, a license was granted. Additionally, the company has paid for a sponsorship with CU Athletics, which is the product was promoted on the video board.

As for the actual product, there has been research about magnetic therapy and its effects on pain, stress, fatigue, and concentration. While I don’t have access to our campus library (which may have better access to scientific research), here are two links to websites with articles about magnetic therapy.

[Name and contact info also redacted by request of the e-mail recipient]

Thank you for your interest and support of CU.

Go Buffs!

Philip P. DiStefano, Chancellor
University of Colorado Boulder

Okay, I have no idea where this magnet therapy thing came from, considering the Power Force website only mentions ions. But lest we forget, magnet therapy is also largely crap as well. Dr. Steven Novella has a nice historical overview at the NeuroLogica Blog, which ends on this lovely research note.

I’ll be writing my own e-mail to the office of the Chancellor shortly, just to add my voice. I ask that you consider doing so as well.

Oh, but it’s just a silly little plastic bracelet. Really, Geek, what’s the harm?

1 – Well, except maybe for the tungstate ion. It makes me feel all warm and squishy whenever I think about it.

6 thoughts on “Your Ions. They Make Me Feel So… Confident

  1. Reply Anonymous Oct 28,2010 19:07

    Unfortunately there is a sucker born every minute who will join some cult, call some late night info scam, or buy one of these bracelets. Sad – but oh so true.

  2. Reply Anonymous Oct 29,2010 02:10

    You really have to respect the guy who had the guts to send the original mail to the CU Administration. I want to have his babies.

  3. Reply Rachael Oct 29,2010 02:13

    I respect him to bits, and I’m glad he let me know about this. I’ve sent my own unhappy e-mail to the Chancellor now, framing my complaint as “this is pseudoscience and I’m worried that this will harm the academic reputation of the school.” Hopefully other people will do so as well.

  4. Reply rationalrevolution Oct 29,2010 17:04

    I was just about to give them a million dollar donation, BUT NOT NOW!!! ;)

  5. Reply Shawn Y. Nov 10,2010 07:13

    Holy Crap. I certainly hope that Mr DeStefano didn’t actually read the first article linked at the end of his letter. Not only does it appear to be a poorly designed study (very small numbers, no mention of double–blinding), but the language is so poor, one would have to wonder what the level of education of the author would be.

    Mr DeStefano could at least have looked up the original study which was done in 1997. While the study does indeed show that magnets “cure” pain, a rather scathing rebuttal to the research was publish a couple months later (see, where the letter’s author says, among other things, “However, closer scrutiny nullifies many of their conclusions,” and “Symptom amelioration within 15 minutes has not been reproduced by others, and the alleged benefit in far field suggests a placebo effect.”

    Apparently, the chancellor of a major research university doesn’t understand what “research” consists of. It doesn’t speak well for his academic prowess.

  6. Reply Marty Acks Nov 13,2010 14:52

    I checked the website for these power bands and I am thrilled to see my alma mater, University of Illinois, is not listed… but more schools are coming soon. Guess I will consider that a threat.

    But fear not, you can buy University of Illinois ion bands from at least one other place. There appear to be oodles of these companies out there. In this case, they are just licensing the school name and logo to stamp on a commercial product. I am actually ok with that. The line I have problem crossing is where the product is seemingly endorsed and becomes the official sponsor, as was the case here. Otherwise, do I get up in arms about about all the other silly over-priced items I can (and do) buy from my alumni association with a U of I logo.

Leave a Reply