Quantum Quackery

OK. I admit it.  I’m a dozy dork, not up with what’s been going on on this ridiculous planet. I heard about this freakazoid only last week and he’s been plying his horrible trade in my backyard for over a decade. 

Danie Krugel

Danie Krϋgel is an ex-cop.  He is now head of the security guard detail at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein.  He is not a professor, he is a campus cop, but he claims to have invented a device that would rival in importance the invention of the wheel.  He claims he can find any missing person, whether dead or alive, by passing a sample of that missing person’s hair through his device.  Well, you may think, that’s entirely plausible, hair contains DNA, dunnit, and DNA’s this magic stuff, yeah, you know, like, it’s prolly true.  But he claims to be able to track gold and diamonds too, substances notably lacking in DNA.  Never mind, the hair clippings from which he claims to obtain DNA are similarly short of that commodity, DNA being found only in the follicles, not the dead the stuff found on the barber’s floor.  I don’t wish to be in any way prejuducial to Mr Krϋgel’s case, so let’s look at the evidence.

There is a well known fallacy of “appeal to authority”.  This is the old “Prof. So-and-so says so, and he’s a Nobel Prize winner, therefore it must true” argument.  Less well known is its corollary: “This doofus is a campus flatfoot, therefore he knows nothing, so whatever he says is crap.” Both are different sides of the same coin, and both are fallacious and wrong—the Nobel prizewinner can spout crap just as the the flatfoot or janitor can come up with a universal truth.  We must look at what they actually say, rather than at who they are, in other words eliminate ad hominem considerations.  Well, we’ve seen what he says.  He says if he has some hair he can feed it into his secret machine which will give him a bearing on where the person from whom the hair came is.  It is apparently done using a phenomenon known as quantum entanglement.

Has your bullshit alarm gone off yet?  It should have.   There are enough red flags in the last two sentences of the previous paragraph to stop a train.  Firstly, whenever I see the word “quantum” used by anyone other than a bona fide, card-carrying particle physicist my guard goes up; mention of the poor quantum is almost obligatory in any pseudoscience.  There is such a phenomenon as quantum entanglement, and very interesting it is too, but it is impossible (according to the laws of physics as we know them) to use the phenomenon to transfer information of any kind.  If it were possible, it would open the way to superluminal (faster than light) communication which has far greater applications than finding missing persons.  Why does he keep his machine secret?  He says it’s to prevent others stealing his ideas, but that’s what patents are for.  If his machine actually works, all he’d have to do is patent it and his fortune would be assured.  No, it’s far more likely that it doesn’t work at all and is being kept secret to prevent others finding out that it is nothing more than an empty box.  What of the hair?  We shed hair all our lives in addition to having it hacked off at great expense.  Why would his machine find the hair that is actually on my head rather than the kilos of it that is lying around elsewhere?

The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) has had a long-standing offer of a million US dollars for anyone who can conclusively prove they have “paranormal” abilities of any sort.  There have been plenty of attempts at the prize, but no winners.  The JREF have confirmed that if Mr Krϋgel can demonstrate that his machine works they would fork over the money but he has, unsurprisingly, declined. He’d better be quick if he wants to change his mind because the prize will be withdrawn at the end of the year (it’s been on offer for over ten years and the thinking is that if It hasn’t been won by now, it never will be).

Finally, lets look at the actual results of his searches.  Very few have been successful, and those were not necessarily successful because of Krϋgel’s machine.  Anyone could expect some successes due to chance or “cold reading”.  Occam’s razor slices through all the hype surrounding these successes.  Failures are far more common, go look them up on the intertubes.

It’s all very entertaining until you remember who his clients are.  These are desperate people who have literally lost a loved one.  If you are a parent try to imagine what it must be like if your child goes missing.  You will do anything to get that child back, including hiring any fraud who comes along promising to help.  I believe people should be protected against that, and until Krϋgel shows in independent tests that his method works he should be forbidden from operating it.

Some people think it’s all wonderful, though:

This technique he uses is quite genius descovery, and besides that I am glad he is using the technology to help people, perhaps it could be of more good use in the future, it can also be used to proove the workings of telepathy, one atom interacting with another on a different quantum plain and distance since time and space are never the same.
lots of Love and hugs

Zana Elohim Life Form

The Grumpy Old Man life form thinks it’s crap.  Have a great day.

Creative Commons License
Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

2 Responses to Quantum Quackery

  1. Bell says:

    Mayy I just say wha a rlief to uncover someboy that really understands what they aare talking about oon the internet.
    You actualpy kjow howw tto bring aan isxsue too light
    and make it important. A lott more people really need tto reead this and understan this sside oof
    the story. I was surprised that yoou are not more popuar since you definitely posess tthe gift.

  2. Reeva M says:

    Interesting thhoughts

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