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.
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.
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.
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.