Technology


While Violet Towne and I were out on our bikes yesterday, our conversation turned to philosophy and politics, as it sometimes does. Specifically, I was defending the Mars Lab/Curiosity program against her assertion that it was a waste of money when there were so many much more important issues on the political plate. Well, I agree that there are numerous pressing matters that need our attention (and money) but I was most vehement that there are a lot of other things that could lose a few pounds (metaphorically speaking) before we should start carving up great and inspiring science projects.

“For instance,” I said, “Do you realise that the 2012 Olympics cost more than twice as much as Curiosity? And that the US bank bailout was more than ten times the budget of the Mars Science Lab mission?”

I don’t think she believed me.

“Show me the numbers!” she said, defiantly.

Well, Acowlytes, you all know it’s best not to challenge the Reverend when he’s on his soapbox, even if you’re the Reverend’s wife.(i) When we had pedalled homewards, I went straight to Captain Google, and plugged in my questions. You might understand, dear Cowpokes, my utter amazement when I found my figures were wrong. Wrong by an order of magnitude. But not in the direction VT had hoped. It’s FAR worse than I had even imagined. Here ya go. I made a graph:

As you can plainly see, the budget for the Curiosity/Science Lab project is not even one pixel high on this comparison scale.

So, in order to get some perspective on how much that little rover trundling around on the surface of Mars costs, let’s examine some of those figures and related issues. First of all, it’s obvious that the military budget for the US for one year (2012) and the amount of money spent on the bank bailout are each in a completely different league to the kind of expense put aside for Curiosity. It isn’t hard to see that even NASA’s entire budget for 2012 is hardly a blip on the radar for the government accountants when compared to sums like that. What’s even more gobsmacking is that each of these figures (that is, ONE SINGLE YEAR of US military spending, or the humoungous pile of money forked out to save the US economy from the destruction wrought by the excesses of greedy and morally reprehensible assholes) exceeds the budget of NASA’s entire 50 year existence.(ii) The yearly outlay for military air-conditioning alone exceeds NASA’s annual budget by 4 billion dollars.(iii)

The London Olympics cost, in fact, nearly 6 times more than Curiosity – not merely double as I’d thought – and we’re only talking about the money spent to stage the games.(iv) It’s plain that large amounts are poured into the Olympics from elsewhere as well, including every participating nation’s competition expenses, and not insubstantial amounts from all the bids made by countries attempting to secure the Games every four years. That’s a frikkin’ ginormous pile of cash for a sporting event. Even if you amortize the London expense over 4 years, the yearly figure still exceeds that of the Mars Science Lab mission. Of course if we permit that, it should be fair to amortize Curiosity’s cost over the Mars Science Lab program’s lifetime (9 years), making the contrast even greater and returning an expense to the US taxpayers of $277m per year (or, less than a dollar per person per year). For 2012/13 the Australian government has budgeted over 10 times that figure for sport.(v)

To put that per-person/per-dollar/per-year expense into perspective, Americans(vi) spent 4 times the cost of the Curiosity mission at the cinema in 2010(vii), and are spending something like $137 billion dollars a year on alcohol(viii) and somewhere in excess of 30 billion dollars a year on cigarettes. In 2011, the US government spent 313 billion dollars(ix) on ameliorating the problems caused by the abuse of all that alcohol & tobacco. And, while we’re on the subject of substance abuse, coming in at a staggering 30 billion dollars,(x) America’s so-called ‘War on Drugs’ costs the nation over 10 times the budget of Curiosity (or, nearly twice the annual NASA budget) every year and that is widely argued to be a complete waste of money.(xi)

I could, of course keep going with this – I haven’t touched on gambling, or government inefficiency, or tax breaks for religion or a half dozen other areas where large amounts of money seem to slush around without a proper degree of scrutiny. But what does all this mean, in the end?

For me, it’s simple. As humans we can, of course, choose to put our resources wherever we like. So far, I believe that choice has always leaned far too heavily towards the things at which animals are good – being the fittest, the strongest, the fastest. Or being the greediest, the most aggressive, the most dominant. It has not served us well. The result is that we have become powerful animals facing an existential crisis, and the traits that we carry as animals – the aggression, the greed, the power-mongering – are the exact opposite of what we need to get us out of this crisis. We are starting to encounter problems that we will not conquer by being fast, or strong or fit.(xii) Being better at animal things was once enough. Now it isn’t.

The things that humans alone are good at – the things that our brains enable us to do such as imagining the possibilities of the future, pondering the poetry of our existence, turning our curious gaze onto the mechanics of the very universe itself – occupy the very tiniest parts of the minds of most people (and therefore most governments). This ability that humans have to plan for the future by creating a mental vision of it is more-or-less nonexistant in all other animals.(xiii) So what do we do to the people who are very good at this kind of inspirational far-thinking? We vilify and undervalue them. When they tell us ‘There is a big problem with the climate and we should do something about it!’ the powerful apes get up on their boxes and beat their chests, so that they might remain popular and powerful, and the greedy apes use all the cunning that their superior brain has given them to make arguments that everything is OK and we should all just kick back and consume, and the fit and fast apes run around entertaining everyone. If we cannot use the leverage that nature has given us to come to terms with the world-destroying problems we now face, we are truly doomed. We have squandered the one advantage that we have over other animals. Our difference will have enabled us to wipe ourselves out, rather than allowed us to achieve that future which we alone can imagine.

So what has all this to do with a little vehicle pottering around in the dust of a cold world some 225 million kilometers from our home? Well, in my opinion, projects like Curiosity help us turn our gaze outward – out of ourselves and away from our tiny little human preocupations. Indeed, I think that this curiosity to know stuff that has no direct consequence to our animal existence is a marker that says that we may, perhaps, have a chance after all.

There are, of course, many areas where we might have directed the 2.5 billion dollars that went to Curiosity. Violet Towne considered that it would have been better spent going towards helping solve the climate change problem, for example. Well, I agree that climate change research is an area that could really use that kind of money. And there are numerous pressing compassionate issues that are desperately in need of money also. I hope my argument has convinced you (and her), though, that stealing the funds from visionary human endeavours like the Mars Science Lab is entirely the wrong tactic if you want to help address these probems. I want to make it quite clear that I’m not advocating doing away with sport, or stopping everyone from imbibing reality-altering substances, or even saying that we could conveniently curtail all our military spending, but to me it seems that all these pursuits – these profoundly ‘ape-like’ pursuits – are where we should look first for money that could be better off spent elsewhere. I’m pretty sure they could spare a little of the quite exorbitant amounts of cash that are currently rained down on them.

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Violet Towne fears that I have portrayed her as a Luddite here, and as somewhat anti-science. I want to assure you that she is not, and that I respect her views, and her willingness to challenge me on my own, very much. You all know that it’s unlikely I would last long with a partner who didn’t have a vibrant and informed worldview. But I think I am right in saying that, like many people, she had formed an opinion – almost entirely concocted by irresponsible and ignorant media reporting, in my view – that NASA spends excessive amounts of money on things no-one really cares about. My intent with this post is simply to demonstrate that, in the grand scheme of things, NASA’s budget is relatively well spent. It seems to me that robbing Peter to pay Paul by redistributing NASA’s budget to areas of more pressing need is a kind of madness fanned by a perplexing and distressing anti-science sentiment creeping across the world.

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Footnotes:

  1. You’d've thought she would have figured this one out by now… []
  2. Here. Do the sums. []
  3. The Pentagon rejects this figure, which was calculated by Brigadier General Steven Anderson, a military logician for operations in Iraq. They have, however, not put forward an alternative anywhere I could find. I’m open to correction on this. []
  4. Arguably, some of that expense is recouped in benefits of one kind of another by the British taxpayers, but not the majority of it by any means. Equally as arguably, the Mars Science Lab program has benefits of one kind or another for the human race. []
  5. I had trouble finding out how much the US government spends on sport. It’s either a well kept secret, or they don’t care to support the same ridiculous level of sports fantaticism as ours does. []
  6. Canadians are also included in this figure, but even cutting it by, say, a generous third, that’s still a shitload of money. []
  7. I couldn’t find anything more recent, but I think it’s safe to say that 2011 & 2011 will track that figure. []
  8. 2002 figures, but I think we can probably assume that has trended upwards rather than down. []
  9. This is probably a conservative estimate – it’s hard to get an exact figure due to the nature of defining the field, but I’m quoting on the conservative side. Stats here and here. []
  10. Depending who you ask. It’s variously quoted at somewhere between 20 and 40 billion. It’s certainly not less than 20, but it may be more than 40. In any case, I’ve erred on the probable side of conservatism and just taken the median. []
  11. Here, here, and here, for just three examples of hundreds you can find. []
  12. Or religious. []
  13. To all intents and purposes it is completely non-existant as far as we know, but that’s an area of research that is still contentious. []

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I just paid a whole heap of money to have some American air freighted to Australia. Well, pretty much. I ordered a couple of tiny connectors from Amazon and this is the box they shipped in. Note the matchbox for scale:

This is all I actually needed:

The BBC reports this week that soon we won’t need to build robots any longer. Instead we can simply print them. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania have attracted a 10 million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation to help them realise a printable robot, a concept which would mean robots could be beamed directly into your home via the internet and assembled in your lounge room.

Well, we all know how that’s likely to turn out, right?

Of course, it’s not something that’s likely to happen overnight – unless you have the resources of the Tetherd Cow Ahead Laboratories behind you. When I ran the idea past the boffins downstairs they were of the considered opinion that achieving a printable robot would be a doddle, and true to their word, this morning they had one all ready to go. And let me tell you, there was no $10 million dollar grant involved.

It is therefore, my dear Acowlytes, my pleasure to present for your technological delectation, the Tetherd Cow Ahead Printable Robot:

Just click on the pic above and a printer friendly pdf will appear. Print it on a piece of card, cut it out, and you’re well ahead of those lamers from MIT and Harvard. All that remains is for you to find some useful jobs for your robot to undertake. I have provided a few suggestions to set you on your way to the new Printable Robot Future!

The possibilities are literally infinite! (BTW – anyone from MIT or one of those other thinktanks reading: we are prepared to make our technology available at a suitable price. Don’t feel embarrassed that we beat you to the draw – we have some pretty sophisticated tech at work down here.)

Copyright Image Tetherd Cow Ahead

Acowlytes! Do you suffer from quivering? Nervousness? Fear? A compulsion to flee? Visual blurring? Panic? Nausea? Can you rule out having glimpsed Tony Abbott in budgie smugglers as the cause of these ailments? Then it is possible, dear friends, that you may have Wind Turbine Syndrome, or WTS. A more fitting acronym for this affliction would probably be WTF? but I digress.

Wind Turbine Syndrome is aligned with other forms of paranoia-induced woo such as EHS (electrical hypersensitivity) which evince a plethora of diffuse and non-specific symptoms(i) attributed to technology of which the sufferers (and their doctors) are afraid and/or ignorant (or just plain don’t like).

WTS is rather more irritating than EHS, though, because of its implementation in a political agenda. The story generally goes like this:

A land owner makes a deal with a power company to host (usually for a reasonably healthy figure) a bunch of wind turbines on a nice windy ridge on his/her property. Other people who are within visual distance of the turbines (and sometimes not even that) who are not making any money out of them, claim to have developed WTS. There is not one single case of WTS being developed by the franchisee of a wind farm operator.(ii)

For reasons that are not at all clear to me, many country people seem to have taken against wind turbines with an amount of vitriol that is perplexing. Personally speaking, I think the lazy rotating blades are quite elegant and attractive, and the airy whooshing sound they make fairly inoffensive.

But WTS is not, of course, about common sense. It’s about political agendas, ignorance and NIMBYism.

You will recall that the first push by objectors to wind farms took the form of ‘Oh noes!! The horrible mincing blades are killing all the birds!’ This, from people who up till then had pretty much never even noticed the green speckled parrot or the golden-throated lark.(iii) Well, it turns out that on the list of things-that-birds-need-to-worry-about, wind farms are pretty damn far down, so, with these newly-adopted eco concerns of the anti-wind lobby not getting much traction, another bogeyman was needed to put the scare into folks. They found one with WTS. Deciding without evidence that something is, a priori, bad, and then finding multiple, disparate reasons to attempt to support your supposition, is, as you will all know by now, a glittering trademark of irrational thinking.

I was going to tell you next about exactly what it is that’s supposed to be the cause of WTS, but after reading pages of print about it, I’m finding that difficult. Mostly, though, the Big Bad is infrasound: sound frequencies that are so low they are literally inaudible to humans. Other sources claim that it’s ultrasound – high frequencies that are above the range of human hearing.

Dr Nina Pierpont, a New York paediatrician and self-styled expert on Wind Turbine Syndrome (she lays claim to coining the term) says:

…infrasonic to ultrasonic noise and vibrations emitted by wind turbines cause the symptoms

To be clear, she is saying that the problem is all the sound they make, from the highest part of the audio spectrum to the lowest. This kind of catch-all generalizing should immediately ring your woo-woo alarm bells.

In The Independent where the above quote originates, Dr Pierpont goes on to say that:

…the wind turbine companies constantly argue that the health problems are “imaginary, psychosomatic or malingering”. But she said their claims are “rubbish” and that medical evidence supports that the reported symptoms are real.

‘Rubbish’? That would be an effective scientific rebuttal if ever there was one. Professor Gary Wittert, the head of Medicine at the University of Adelaide, would be one person who would take exception to to Dr Pierpont’s claims that medical evidence supports WTS. Using data from the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Professor Wittert has demonstrated that a sampled population of around 10,000 people living in the vicinity of wind farms in Victoria and South Australia shows no variation in quantities of usage of sleeping pills or cardiovascular medications from that which can be seen in the overall general population. Either people who live near wind farms aren’t seeking treatment for their WTS, or it doesn’t exist. This kind of data is, of course, exactly what would expect to see if WTS was a psychosomatic condition experienced by a small number of impressionable people rather than a discrete medical phenomenon in the community at large. Prof Wittert’s figures have still to be published and peer-reviewed, but we know that even when they are found to be solid (as they will be) the anti-wind farm campaigners will simply start crying that he’s a wind farm shill.

Copyright Image Tetherd Cow Ahead

Setting aside the statistical science for a moment, and wandering briefly into my own field of expertise, let’s consider that claim that infrasound is the cause of the WTS. First, there is no medical evidence at all to suggest that infrasound has any impact on human health. When you know that low frequency sound can be detected in your bones, it’s the sort of thing that seems like it might be possible, but that’s about it – no-one has collected data on such speculations.(iv) So to prove that wind farms are producing infrasound that affects human health detrimentally, you need to do three separate things: show that wind turbines produce infrasound in the first place, demonstrate that infrasound has adverse effects on humans and then establish that the amount of infrasound coming from the turbines is sufficient to trigger those adverse effects. So far, the data accumulated for each of these scenarios is not at all promising for advocates of WTS.

Without even doing that, though, there is a much more persuasive argument against infrasound being harmful to humans. Let’s take a situation that arises in nature where large volumes of infrasound (and ultrasound and everything in between for that matter) are generated in a constant and repetitive manner, just as wind turbines are supposed to do…

Yes, that’s right – the sea. Crashing ocean waves create at least as much infrasound as a wind turbine, probably more by several orders of magnitude. And yet, living by the ocean has not been demonstrated by any science I’ve ever seen to cause people to exhibit any of the symptoms of WTS. On the contrary, the sound of the surf is considered, by anyone who is lucky enough to have a beach house, to be restful and relaxing.(v)

Another insidious aspect of the anti-wind farm lobby when it comes to WTS is their habit of attempting to align the wind power industry with the tobacco and asbestos industries. This is, of course, the cynical employment of the logical fallacy of Weak Analogy (mixed with a bit of conspiracy-theory style paranoia). In other words, they’re saying that because the tobacco industry and the asbestos industry claimed their products were causing no human health problems and were found to be engaged in coverups, then it follows that the wind power industry is doing the same. There is no logical equation that you can make between those two things – it’s nothing more than a semantic trick designed to befuddle sloppy thinkers. What will speak here, is the science, as it did in the cases of tobacco and asbestos. So, what’s the state of the science on the side of the WTS advocates? Not very persuasive at all.(vi)

Nina Pierpont, who is a vocal objector to wind farms, bases all her science on one small self-generated study (10 families who were already ‘diagnosed’ as having WTS), that was sloppy in protocol, was based on subjective self-reporting and was not controlled. It’s the kind of experiment that would get you a C- if you handed it in to your science teacher. In the UK, the NHS found that Dr Pierpont’s study:

…provides no conclusive evidence that wind turbines have an effect on health or are causing the set of symptoms described here as “wind turbine syndrome”. The study design was weak, the study was small and there was no comparison group.

In Australia, Sarah Laurie, an unregistered doctor and ‘Medical Director’ of the climate denialist affiliated Waubra Foundation is the chief ‘expert’ campaigner for people who supposedly have WTS. Laurie claims to have conducted research into the causes of WTS, but what she offers up is embarrassingly spare and scientifically awful. This article at Crikey examines Sarah Laurie’s claims and highlights an hysterical ‘Explicit Cautionary Notice’ from the Waubra Foundation that effectively challenges wind farm companies with a series of claims that are highly dubious. It is without doubt designed as a propaganda tool rather than as a document of sincere concern. The notice refers to Nina Pierpont’s study, incorrectly endorsing it as ‘peer reviewed’ which it was not.(vii) It also raises the spectre of ‘Vibroacoustic Disease’, a malady which is not recognized by scientific medicine as any kind of genuine affliction.

Now, I want to make it clear that I do believe it is quite likely that most sufferers of so-called WTS are experiencing the symptoms they claim. Based on a rational appraisal of the science we have, though, it’s just not reasonable to conclude that those symptoms have got anything at all to do with any mechanical effects of wind turbine operation. An extremely balanced examination, by commentator Dave Clarke, sets out the state of play in the WTS debate with amazing clarity. Clarke examines every facet of the WTS phenomenon in thoughtful detail. It is effectively distilled down into one simple sentence:

It seems that complaints regarding nearby wind farms, regarding illness or simply annoyance, are often related to negative feelings about the wind farms.

In other words, for reasons that are hard to determine (but are most likely to do with politics or NIMBYism), people who don’t want the wind farms near them get stressed enough about it to make themselves ill. That is all.

At the very least, this explanation must be unequivocally ruled out before the promoters of Wind Turbine Syndrome can even begin to make claims that wind turbine technology is, by some unknown mechanism, causing the illness, and that ‘Big Wind’ is conspiratorially endeavouring to make it look like it’s not.

[Many thanks to Dr Rachael Dunlop for some of the source materials for this post]

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Footnotes:

  1. Symptoms of electromagnetic radiation sickness are for example sleep disturbances, dizziness, heart palpitations, headache, blurry sight, swelling, nausea, a burning skin, vibrations, electrical currents in the body, pressure on the breast, cramps, high blood pressure and general unwell-being.” []
  2. As far as my research has been able to determine, anyway. If anyone has heard of one I’d love to get a link. []
  3. Fictional birds because there are so many that are supposedly affected by wind turbines that you may as well say ‘any bird’ []
  4. It’s perfect territory for woo – a vaguely plausible mechanism that is ‘sciency-sounding’ enough to give it a sort of ersatz currency. []
  5. But God made the sea, right, so that’s OK. []
  6. And, like all pushers of pseudoscience, when the science is not on their side they freely wheel out the anecdotal evidence, the testimonials and the conspiracy theories. []
  7. Well, not in the properly understood scientific sense of the term, anyway. Pierpont showed her results to some friends, and then published the positive things any of them said. This is the same kind of peer review that made me Scientist of the Year in 2011. []

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With many many thanks to Atlas, who spends far too much time making me laugh.

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Just suppose, dear friends, that someone gave you (for your birthday, perhaps) a quality bottle of wine, but of a rather current vintage. You would probably know that the wise thing to do is to lay it aside for a couple of years in which time its component parts would do that magical aging thing that wine components do, and, upon opening it in 2020, say,(i) you would have a tipple that was superior to that same wine opened today.

If, however, you are a mildly impatient person like myself, the temptation to open that bottle in confluence with some other circumstance (such as running out of other available bottles, for example) might cause you to reach for the corkscrew somewhat prematurely, depriving you of the optimal wine experience.

Well, Faithful Acowlytes, at last that dilemma is solved forever! I herewith present to you, the Vintage Express Wine & Liquor Aging Accelerator.

The VEWLAA takes your infant brew and, using ‘powerful Neodymium magnets’ ages your drink 10 years in 10 seconds. No, no, seriously, it does! With magnets. Look, here’s the science behind it:

I must admit I was quite skeptical, but this product is amazing. You can take a mid-range bottle of wine and in a few minutes, spectacular bottle of wine!

~Trina from Florida.

We used the wine ager on Christmas Eve on some delicious NYS Finger Lakes Red. We did not do an official before and after taste test but the wine seemed to taste richer and smoother on the palate.

~Reb395.

How does it work? Not sure. Do I believe the explanation? Not really. All I know is that the accelerator really changes things somehow, and makes wine/whiskey taste much more smooth and mellow.

~Ethan.

Well, OK, not science, but testimonials, and that’s exactly the same thing, right?

I’m a Believer says:

We haven’t try with just a glass but with the entire bottle let it age overnight in the accelerator

Overnight! Crikey, that must have aged the damn stuff some several centuries. How great would that taste, eh? KnuckleheadBBQ(ii) from Montana and his wife have even gone so far as:

… routinely leaving a bottle of wine in it for several days before opening it…

Man – that would have to be like drinking something fermented in the Mesozoic!(iii)

Ah yes, it is yet another wine scam, this time one that invokes that age-old pseudoscientific notion that magnets confer beneficial properties on anything that comes within their field of influence. In this case, the powerful neodymium magnets, through some completely unspecified action have the fortunate effect of making wine taste better.(iv)

OK, well, all the above came from Skymall (which sells the ‘accelerator’), via a link thoughtfully provided to me by acce245. But a little detective work turns up the people responsible for the VEWLAA. And w00t! They have a science page. Oh how I LOVE a science page. Let’s find out how the VEWLAA really works:

The earth’s magnetic field helps create the great taste of fresh fruits. During the long growing season, fruit is held in a relatively constant position in relation to the earth’s magnetic field, aligning the liquid particles much like tiny compass needles. This natural balance gives fresh picked fruit its smooth, natural flavor.

The delicate magnetic alignment of the liquid particles is destroyed during the crushing, straining, pasteurizing, fermenting and distilling used to manufacture beverages, and much of the smooth natural taste is lost. The traditional slow aging process of wine and distilled spirits allows the particles to once again become aligned by the earth’s magnetic field, but this process takes years, and dramatically increases the cost of the finished product.

Oh, how much does my stomach hurt from the laughing? Of course, once you had your polarities are re-aligned, you’d want to be mighty careful about swirling your glass, right? ‘Cos then you might ruffle its molecules’ nap. I don’t think neodymium magnets would fix that.

But hey – the VEWLAA is supposed to work on other beverages too. Why, Ethan, above, proclaims:

We tested juice, coffee, red bull/vodka. Someone even was convinced that crystallized ginger was more potent after being aged.

Are you following this Acowlytes? 10+ year-old coffee, juice, Red Bull and crystallized ginger are superior to their fresh equivalents! My own personal experience tells me that four-day-old coffee tastes disgusting, let alone coffee that’s been standing for 10 years, so I think you could consider me a little skeptical of these claims.

My favourite part of the Vintage Express site, though, is their own testimonials page. It features glowing reports from ‘Jeff’ a ‘wine & spirits appreciator’ and a ‘female taste tester’. Wow, am I SOLD!

Oh, and there’s also sommelier Michael Hanke from Morton’s Restaurant, Seattle, who has probably destroyed his credibility beyond all hope of salvation by appearing in a video endorsing the VEWLAA. After watching it, I’m inclined to conclude that the reporter who declares ‘I don’t know much about wines’ at the beginning of the story is more of an expert than the expert.

So, is there any real science behind the idea that magnets can age wine? The answer is no. But does this does stop a proliferation of devices like the VEWLAA? The answer is also, quite unsurprisingly I think you will agree, no.

There is:

The Wine Clip (‘Using magnets to treat fluids – water, fuel, wine, etc. – is not a new idea.’ No, but it’s a frikkin’ stupid one.)

The Wine Cellar Express (‘We can’t explain it ourselves… will the wonders of science never cease to amaze us!’

The Wine Enhancer (You really have to visit this site)

The Perfect Sommelier (‘How it works is a mystery!’)

Dozens of sites, claims that overthrow the laws of physics, hyperbole that makes PT Barnum look modest, veritable rivers of gushing subjectivity and not one single, spare, scrap of science. It is to make one want to bash one’s head on the table in sheer despair. Is there no skepticism of these stupid gadgets? Well, it turns out that not all wine drinkers are quite as brainless as the ones providing testimonials for the abovementioned devices. One sensible wine site that I found – The Winelover’s Page – had this to say about the Catania Wine Enhancer:

After an extended E-mail correspondence, Mr. Catania talked me into trying a Wine Enhancer for myself. I duly set up a double-blind tasting for a group of local sommeliers, comparing treated and untreated glasses of wines in unmarked glasses, revealing the identity of the treated glass only after the scores were in. I tried it again with other groups, and at home, repeatedly, always tasting “blind.” The results were never better (or worse) than random, suggesting that the device has no effect on wine at all.

Similar tests by myself and others with the other products [Some of these are mentioned above - Rev.], including a rather hilarious “offline” session in NYC with a group of our forum members and the inventor of the Wine Cellar Express, showed consistently similar results: Zero, zip, nothing, nada.

At last, the voice of reason. As always, when the science is correctly applied, the truth will out.

And that’s something to which you can reliably raise a glass. Slàinte!

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Footnotes:

  1. Should the world not have ended in 2012, needless to say… []
  2. A fitting nom-de-plume if ever there was one. []
  3. Of course, the more astute among you will have grokked the exponential scale implied by the writing on the gadget: 10 seconds for 10 years, 3 minutes for 20 years. You can work it out if you can be bothered, but basically the ramification is that the improvement scale is self-limiting. After a relatively small number of hours, the effect of further time in the prongs is negligible. Even if the damn thing did work, leaving your wine in it for several days is to all intents and purposes pointless. []
  4. And, in the case of the Wine Enhancer, also eliminating ‘those horrible wine headaches’. []

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