Hmmm…


xxx

Today’s interesting tidbit comes to you, dear readers, courtesy of Acowlyte Essence De La Grenouille who I’m sure will not mind being affectionately referred to as Froggy.

Froggy’s local news source carried this rather intriguing advertisement which promises the delights of an Australian skincare product called MooGoo, an unguent which, the makers say, is ‘adapted’ from a cream used on dairy cow’s udders ‘to keep them in good condition for milking’. For reasons which are not entirely clear, this gives it excellent credentials as an effective skin treatment for humans.1

Apparently MooGoo is ‘an Australian phenomenon’. It’s not phenomenal enough to have reached my ears, but I guess I’m not really in the target market so maybe it’s not overly surprising that I’ve never even heard of it. The MooGoo makers like to wax lyrical about the product’s use of ‘natural’ ingredients. Here, let me quote from the text of the MooGoo advertisement in Froggy’s newspaper:

[MooGoo] is made from only natural ingredients including edible oils such as almond oil, olive oil, rice bran oil and lots of other skin repair ingredients…

Well, not really much news there if you know anything about skin creams. In essence, MooGoo is selling a compound based on vegetable oils rather than on the petroleum-derivative oils that some other skincare products use.2 Since there are about, oh, a BILLION skincare concoctions that use vegetable oils, the main selling point of MooGoo basically still comes down to the cow udder thing.

Of course, being the good researcher I am, I visited the MooGoo site. It’s pretty harmless as these things go. They make a big deal about how their product is ‘natural’3 and harp on rather a bit too much about their lack of gimmicks. I think they must own a dictionary that has a different definition of the word ‘gimmick’ to mine, because I’m not really all that sure what they mean when they say things like:

MooGoo does not use gimmick ingredients and marketing…

You can, perhaps, see my amusement here: using vegetable oil ingredients is no big thing for a skin lotion, so the main point of difference between MooGoo and other similar products is the marketing angle that this marvellous substance comes from a treatment for cow udders. Which is, by any account, a gimmick.

As part of the MooGoo ‘we’re completely natural’ pitch, the front page of the MooGoo site features a video which claims to show ‘how most moisturisers are made’. It’s light-hearted and funny, but when the pretty-but-amiably-goofy spokeswoman starts talking about the evil that is in products-that-are-not-MooGoo, it becomes deceitful.

She gives us a demonstration of how sorbolene, commonly used in a variety of cosmetics, is made from paraffin oil, water and an emulsifier. But, she warns us sternly:

Paraffin oil is actually a flammable petroleum oil. Let me demonstrate.

… and then sets fire to a wick saturated with paraffin, which burns obligingly.

You’ve gotta wonder how many people are aware that those nicely packaged creams are made from a flammable petroleum oil. I’m sure that if they did know, they wouldn’t be very comfortable putting this on their skin, let alone their baby’s.

You’ve gotta wonder how many people fall for the old ‘scare-them-with-hellfire’ ploy.

Ms MooGoo continues:

We aren’t saying this cream is dangerous…

Really? Then it’s a little perplexing as to the point of the fiery demonstration and the conjoined images of a burning wick and a naked baby that follow. The implication is, by any reckoning, that the stuff you find in ‘other’ skin care lotions is related to petrol and therefore ouchy burny. MooGoo, we learn, is made from much less threatening stuff – like sweet almond oil, evening primrose oil and olive squalane.

Let’s see now… would that be the same sweet almond oil that is not merely combustible, but poisonous and a highly dangerous eye irritant? Or the evening primrose oil which is, like most hydrocarbon-based substances, also combustible? Or perhaps the olive squalane which, aside from also being a flammable hydrocarbon, is a saturated analog of squalene, a biochemical precursor to steroids? Would you be comfortable putting these on your baby’s skin? If that’s not scary enough, MooGoo almost certainly contains DHMO (Dihydrogen monoxide) a substance which can be highly toxic to humans.

Did you see what I did there, Acowlytes? I selectively chose negative consequences of the substances concerned and presented them as the most important aspects of those substances. I mixed my argument with conflated associations and a little scary-sounding scientific language et voilà! – a picture of MooGoo that makes it sound as daunting as the products it derides. In the same way that the MooGoo video is careful to not actually lie, nothing I wrote is untrue. It’s just couched in such a way as to give the reader a strong unfavourable image.

As these things go, MooGoo is a pretty harmless example of flim flam. I really have nothing against this kind of product. It probably works as well as anything else you could buy of this nature. What annoys me, though, is the way the makers of MooGoo claim to be different to (and superior to) the other products they compete with, but then go and use pretty much exactly the same hocus pocus as everyone else to sell it. The fact is that every single one of these kinds of ‘moisturizing’ products, be they derived from paraffin or olives or almonds or turtles,4 works on the exact same basic principle – putting oil in your skin. Aside from a thousand relatively trivial differences, the major thing that differentiates one from another is the hyperbole and sleight-of-hand that advertisers use to sell them.

  1. This falls in the same category as the ‘Baby’s Bottom’ analogy. It’s an advertising ploy that works on the principle that if it’s kind to a baby’s bottom/cow’s tender udder, then it must be gentle on your skin! []
  2. Petroleum derivatives are essentially vegetable oils anyway, formed as they are from the compressed deposits of million-year-old plants. It’s all just carbon semantics in the end. []
  3. The use of the word ‘natural’ in relation to these kinds of products is banal and stupid, and a pox on our modern sensibilities. The definition of mineral oil that makes it ‘unnatural’ also renders evening primrose oil unnatural. They both ultimately come from plants, and are acquired through a mechanical process. In the same way that it’s not wise to drink a glass of mineral oil, it would be inadvisable to drink a glass of evening primrose oil. Likewise, a dab of evening primrose oil on your hand is likely to have about the same consequences as a dab of paraffin. []
  4. Oh yes… []

Some tips for phishermen:

1. A spell-check is probabbly a good idea.

2. When speaking language other than your own, learn how plural work.

3. Proper (companies)hire professionals to make surethat type spacing is correct.

4. Try not to invent wordis that don’t exist in your target language. Also, to use correct grammar.

5. Sense it might good idea be to appear to make.

6. avoid Arbitrary capiTalization.

7. Humour is generally best avoided. Oh, sorry, I see – that wasn’t intentional.

8. A number pulled out of your ass is meaningless and impresses nobody (ref:198550)

When the maker of some web app or another doesn’t know how to make money out of a popular idea, the go-to concept is of course to somehow shoe-horn advertising into the user experience. Those of you who have a Facebook account will be familiar with the little panel of ads that runs down the side of the page – a little panel that seems to increase in length every time you log on. Personally, I think it’s completely daft way for an advertiser to spend their bucks – I must have ‘seen’ several thousand of those damn things displayed on my Facebook page and I hardly even notice them. Someone has convinced advertisers otherwise, though, or they wouldn’t be paying for them.

If I do notice one, though, it’s usually because it has an overly-high annoying factor. An offering that popped up this morning was a shining example. Ladeez and Gentlemen, I bring to you today…

The AMAZING TINNITUS MIRACLE™

Ah yes. Your flim-flam detectors just went ping, right. If they didn’t, get off my blog!

Now, I must confess that until this morning I didn’t really have a great deal of insight into tinnitus. Well, not of a scientific kind, anyway. I know what it is, of course, being a professional sound person & all, and I’ve even experienced it myself in my youth when I was much less careful of my hearing, but I’ve never known much about it physiologically. After reading the Tinnitus Miracle™ website, though, one thing of which I was entirely certain is that you need absolutely no knowledge of tinnitus to get the feeling that this site is designed to fleece easily-deceived and desperate folks of their money by convincing them that it has the absolute, failure-proof, 100% guaranteed cure for their affliction.

And, as a prospect for a scam – for a scam it surely is – it makes sense. Tinnitus is a medical condition with all the requirements that make it ripe for the pickings of those who would greedily make money from exploiting others: it’s a poorly understood, highly subjective condition with diffuse symptoms, and it can have dozens of causes. It’s distressing, persistent and can even be painful, but it’s not life-threatening. Best of all for the woo merchants, it’s a sad fact that science-based medicine doesn’t offer much in the way of relief for many sufferers of tinnitus.1

Even though I did go on to spend a little time reading about the condition, you really don’t need a lot in the way actual knowledge to get a strong sense that the Tinnitus Miracle™ ‘phenomenon’2 is decidedly fishy.

Skimming down the MASSIVE landing page starts the alarm bells ringing fast.3 The amazing Tinnitus Miracle™ is an eBook that you can buy for the handy dandy price of $39, and which unequivocally offers to ‘give you the secrets to eliminate virtually all types of Tinnitus within 8 weeks.’ It’s the enterprise of one Thomas Coleman,4 who purports to have suffered from tinnitus for 14 years and to ‘have tried every tinnitus treatment known to science and natural health’, including, but not limited to, ‘herbal remedies, Cellfood Oxygen, tonics, habituation, detox diets, vitamin therapy, hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, macrobiotics, reflexology, Chinese Medicine, vegetarianism, the Wai diet, magnetic therapy, the mucus-less diet, the blood type diet, psychiatric treatments and whatnot.’

The outcome is that none of these (not even ‘whatnot’) were effective. Even surgery didn’t help the poor chap, nor did ‘dietary’ advice nor white noise CDs. Eventually we learn that the unflappable Mr Coleman was cured after discovering ‘a simple holistic system [that] opened the door to my new and much brighter Tinnitus free life.’ The site spares no effort to attempt to impress upon us exactly what a MIRACLE this discovery was. There’s the familiar liberal use of exclamation marks, copious underscoring, oodles of hyperbolic claims, excitable slashes of yellow highlighter and then… THE SCIENCE. Well, no, I lied. There’s no science. None. Nada. Nuttin’. What we have is that ol’ reliable science substitute though: testimonials! Everyone KNOWS a testimonial is MUCH better than science. Let me show you how it works:

Tetherd Cow Ahead is the best blog in the universe, bar none. I read it once and it completely cured my cancer! ~ Landon from Illinois

I used to have trouble keeping it up, but thanks to Tetherd Cow Ahead I can now go all night! Tetherd Cow rocks! ~ Raymundo

I purchased the Tetherd Cow Virtual Glass of Water and I’ve never had a computer virus since! Awesome work TCA! ~ Kofi Anan

Now brace yourselves, Acowlytes: those are not real endorsements, and they hold no credibility whatsoever! I just made them up! I know it seems shocking that someone should do such a thing, and I know you wouldn’t, dear friends, but the internet is, alas, not completely populated by good honest folks such as yourselves.

The point is of course that a fistful of internet testimonials is worth about as much as the paper they are printed on. Unfortunately there still exist out there a substantial number of people who seem to think that if something is written down in words, why, it must be true! Or something. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that the endorsements could easily be as phoney as the names attached to them.5 What’s more, it seems that such people of limited perspicacity are unable to infer that fifty fake testimonials are no more persuasive than one. I could’ve written dozens above had I been so inclined – it’s not exactly difficult to make that shit up.6

But it’s not until you try to find some more information about Tinnitus Miracle™ that you begin to see the real depth of this racket. Performing a Search™ on the term returns a veritable truckload of spew. Hundreds, maybe thousands of links that duck and dive through the tinnitus world, inevitably making their way back to a site selling Tinnitus Miracle™.

And not even the merest hint of proper science on a single one of them.

Searching for tinnitus+miracle+scam is an even more enlightening experience. Now we see dozens of hits in the vein of this site, returning search abstracts like ‘There is no basis for the tinnitus miracle scam’ and Is Thomas Coleman’s Tinnitus Miracle Book A Scam? My Opinion … – all couched in such a manner as to appear to be a critical appraisal of the product. If you click through, though, they all go on without exception to overwhelmingly promote Tinnitus Miracle™ in some way or another, often with direct links to the main TM™ site. There are pages of these duplicitous offerings – I clicked through a few dozen and I couldn’t find one that wasn’t some kind of endorsement of Tinnitus Miracle.7 In fact, try as I might, I couldn’t find any negative critique of the Tinnitus Miracle at all. Lest you think that might be because the thing actually works, let me add that I also couldn’t find a single site that looked like it was a genuine unsolicited recommendation of the product either. To my eye, these sites all look like part of the Tinnitus Miracle empire – a vast and comprehensive attempt to stake a presence wherever anyone with tinnitus might search for some help. Now, there are two reasons I can think of that negative (or even mildly critical) reviews aren’t returned high-up in the search results. The first is that Coleman’s strategy is simply to super-saturate the SEO so that other links are just pushed way down, and you won’t easily come across adverse criticism, and the second rather more sinister one is that Mr Coleman is actively litigious and has aggressively quashed any unflattering press.8

Another frustration I had was in attempting to find out exactly what might comprise the substance of the Tinnitus Miracle. After reading pages of mind-numbing verbiage, I was concluding that the book offering the wondrous Tinnitus Miracle was probably just a mish-mash of anything and everything that might pertain to tinnitus, with not much ‘miracle’ content at all. This site (another TM™ promotion, despite its efforts to appear to be something else), supposedly penned by one ‘Britni Dorman’ gives some support to that conclusion:

Here are some things you can learn from Tinnitus Miracle:

• Eight food items that are best for you in this condition
• Ten foods you must learn to avoid like the plague since they can worsen your condition
• The name of a powerful herb used in homeopathy that can reverse the condition quickly
• The 100% natural secret vitamin supplement that can impact your condition dramatically in just a few days
• Medications that can worsen the condition
• How you can diagnose your condition with the help of a multi-dimensional approach
• Effective breathing techniques and strategies that allows your body to begin the process of healing

Ah, right. Good foods, bad foods, vitamins, homeopathy and Evil Big Pharma drugs that you can blame. Uh-huh. And some yoga & meditation thrown in for good measure (‘cos it certainly can’t hurt, right?) As miracles go, this is looking about as impressive as producing a coin from behind a kid’s ear.

There’s lots more of the same on this site, which purports to be a tinnitus ‘treatment advice’ hub, but which is revealed by even a cursory exploration to be crammed to the gills with links to the main Tinnitus Miracle site. Perhaps the most hilarious part is the the ‘Pros & Cons’ section. Breathless raving about the pros, but the cons, well:

• Cons – When it comes to the cons, I have to admit that Tinnitus Miracle barely has any.

Mr Coleman may as well have appended his signature to that one.

I did turn up one comment on a tinnitus relief discussion group from someone who seems to know what the book entails. The main thrust of this thread is another tinnitus scam called Quietus,9 but several sufferers ask if anyone has tried the Tinnitus Miracle. Well, someone called MissionCMD has done so, and had this to say:

I have purchased the book and read it twice. I have tried numerous things in it, but there is no ‘miracle’. There are numerous sections in the book that are duplicated (copy and paste) from one chapter to another… not to mention numerous spelling mistakes. Perhaps the ‘e-book only’ option was because the author could not get a publisher to edit? Overall, there were a few good suggestions, but there was no ‘miracle cure’ if that was what you were trying to ask. Essentailly just ways to try to manage the noise. I did a detailed search for almost three hours to try to find a reputable review before I purchased anything, and could find none. I could find many websites that had supposed reviews, however it looked much like the similar advertisement off of the original site. Suprisingly (or not) none of those sites were accepting comments anymore due to spam… hmmm. I did purchase the book anyway. You do have to keep in mind it does state ‘holestic’ in the sub-title. So the book did what it said… mentioned everything under the sun you can try to manage the tinnitus. That means recommendations ranging from therapy sessions, to extreme detoxification, to accupuncture. I personally did not find anything close to a ‘miracle’ though.

And that’s about as succinct a wrap-up as you could ever expect; the Tinnitus Miracle™ eBook appears to be nothing more than a diffuse hodge-podge of vague suggestions and both conventional and speculative treatments offered as options to address an affliction with multiple possible causes and a wide range of diverse symptoms. It seems to me, in fact, that Thomas Coleman is offering the very same solutions in his book that he says he tried in vain to cure his own tinnitus, just re-heated and served with a sprig of parsley.

A miracle, not so much.

I guess some of you are saying at this stage ‘It’s not really selling anything bogus – what’s the harm here?’

Well, this is the kind of scam that irks me for numerous reasons. First and foremost, it’s targeting vulnerable miserable people and offering them a ‘miracle’, when by any reasonable reckoning that’s not what they’re going to get when they fork out their money. ‘Eliminate Your Tinnitus Within 2 Months!’ the site declares, a promise that, as far as my reading indicates, is unlikely to be fulfilled for the majority of tinnitus sufferers. Tinnitus Miracle ‘…gives you the power to Cure Tinnitus permanently’, we hear: weasel language that deftly transfers any failure to deliver a result from the product itself to a responsibility for the sufferer to be capable of harnessing the supposed ‘power’. The site is full of such duplicity.

Another tactic that I find highly questionable is Tinnitus Miracle’s liberal us of scare tactics, another staple of scamdom:

WARNING: TINNITUS CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS IF LEFT UNTREATED

Well, no, for most sufferers that’s unlikely, despite the blood red fright caps. It is completely true that tinnitus can sometimes herald other more serious problems, but one thing is for sure – buying this book is not the way you’d want to handle that particular circumstance. As with most medical problems, if the symptoms persist, the most sensible thing you can do is to promptly see your doctor (and that information I’m providing totally free of charge).

Elsewhere:

One should only consider surgery for tinnitus if you were diagnosed with a tumor, osclerosis, or fistula . Even so the success of the surgery is 50%, with the inevitable consequence of irreversible deafness.

…which is a piece of negligent generalization bordering on criminality. The success of tinnitus surgery depends entirely on the circumstances of any individual, and the reasons for their problem. To scare all people who may be facing tinnitus surgery with the spectre of the ‘inevitable consequence of irreversible deafness’ is highly irresponsible, and demonstrates clearly that Thomas Coleman cares not one whit about your wellbeing – he just wants your $39.

My reading about tinnitus over these last few days has shown me that for an unfortunate few of those afflicted, the condition is utterly debilitating, and for the greater number it is, at the very least, distressing and uncomfortable. What these people really need to be doing is consulting knowledgable health care providers and getting the best help available. What they don’t need is a whole lot of baloney about the ‘wrong’ food and homeopathy. Even if some of what the Tinnitus Miracle book offers might be helpful (there are indications that meditation, for instance, may be of some benefit to some sufferers, depending on the cause of their tinnitus) it looks like it’s wound up with a lot of crap that’s irrelevant, of arguable efficacy or just plain hogwash.

Aside from that, the marketing campaign for Tinnitus Miracle™ is plainly full of misdirection and flimflam. As a ‘Small Sample Of What You’ll Learn When You Download Your Copy Of The Tinnitus Miracleâ„¢ System Today’, the site reels off dozens of specious claims, lame observations and tips such as these:

• Discover EVERYTHING you need to know about tinnitus, EXACTLY what causes the noise in your head. [Caps are theirs]

No-one knows EXACTLY what causes tinnitus. It can be the result of several different pathologies – physical hearing damage, biochemical interaction, neurological damage or problems, or the effects of other illness. In some cases it has a psychological component. Thomas Coleman is promising to give sufferers something that no doctor on the planet can. Why on earth should anyone believe him?

• What Personality characteristics do tinnitus sufferers share?

Oh, I dunno? The same star signs? A morbid fear of hummus? This is a stupid and irrelevant question, and is so wide in its scope that you could factor just about anything in here.

• The most powerful homeopathic herb (that can quickly reverse most tinnitus conditions) that the Tinnitus and drug industries hope you will never find out!

Of course!! The ‘drug industries’ WANT you to have tinnitus because they are EVIL. Mwahahahaha!

Please. Even the dimmest of the dim can see that this is complete rubbish. If such a ‘homeopathic herb’ even existed, only one altruistic tinnitus sufferer would need to publish its name on the net and the whole world would know. BAM! Take that Evil Big Pharma Mad Scientists. But guess what? No-one has. They obviously all feel so indebted to Thomas Coleman for revealing it to them that they don’t want to see him lose any of the money he would otherwise make on his eBook!

• The cardinal sin of every tinnitus treatment almost every tinnitus sufferer is guilty of, which instead of curing your tinnitus, weakens and destroys your body’s natural ability to defend itself, thus putting your health in serious risk and making your Tinnitus worse in the long run (and more than 92% of tinnitus sufferers are doing it!)

And you thought that masturbation just made you blind!

It’s all smoke & mirrors designed to deflect anyone from asking the question: ‘But what, exactly, am I getting for my $39?’

Which is, by all indications, nothing that’s likely to help you much, and certainly nothing that can compare to the advice that you will get from a good medical practitioner. If you have tinnitus, you have my immense sympathy. Having only experienced it as a fleeting annoyance brought on by my own carelessness, I can only imagine how awful it must be as a chronic condition. I hope that this post has helped you avoid spending money on something that would probably offer you little in the way of relief.

  1. Something that people who advocate ‘alternative medicine’ seem not to understand this situation too well, and you’ll often hear it put forward as a criticism. Science-based medicine never pretends that it has all the answers, because sometimes it doesn’t. There are some things science doesn’t understand very well. That doesn’t make science faulty – it just means that a complex world is not easily understood all at once. It’s a process. And the fact that science doesn’t have an answer to a complex problem doesn’t lead logically to the proposition that ‘alternative’ medicine does. Having no solution to a problem sometimes means, quite harshly unfortunately, that we don’t have a solution to the problem. We simply don’t know everything, and there is no imperative says we should. That’s not an easy thing to tell someone who is in pain, or who has a chronic debilitating condition. Unfortunately, as much as we don’t like that reality, reality really doesn’t care what we like. []
  2. Because that’s the way it’s promoted WIDELY across the interwebs. []
  3. Of course, if you have severe tinnitus, maybe the noise in your head might drown out said alarm bells. Perhaps this is what the makers of the Amazing Tinnitus Miracle are counting on… []
  4. Coleman may or may not be a real person. For the purposes of this post, I will accept that he is, although I did discover a number of things that made me suspect that he may be a fictional concoction. []
  5. I’ve long pondered why this should be so. I mean, I totally understand how you might buy a product that was recommended to you by a close friend. I can even stretch to understanding how you might buy a product endorsed by someone who you don’t know personally, but whose opinion you respect for some reason. But I can’t for the life of me even remotely comprehend why you would trust the opinion of some anonymous (and probably fictitious) name from woop-woop! []
  6. It is vaguely possible that the testimonials are written by actual people, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they are genuine. Lots of people are willing to lend their name and photo out for a fiver. And, being extremely generous, even if the people are real, and the testimonials unsolicited, it still doesn’t mean that the information in them is necessarily accurate, nor representative of most tinnitus sufferers. Tinnitus does, in many cases, clear itself up spontaneously. If you have a few thousand people reading your book, it is quite likely that a small few will have spontaneous natural remission of the symptoms, and attribute it in some way to your magical cure. You only need a handful of those kinds of ‘miracles’ to make something look impressive… []
  7. This in itself is an intriguing indictment of the Tinnitus Miracle™ It shows clearly that the people behind it are completely aware that what they are promoting has every indicator of being a scam to those searching for tinnitus relief, and have shaped their marketing strategy accordingly. They are, in essence, predicting that they will be called on their scam, and then flooding possible criticism with noise. []
  8. I’d like to think this is not the case, but I guess we will see if that speculation has any substance if he finds this post. []
  9. Another sure marker for scams of this kind is the appearance of other players on the field. You can bet that where there’s an opportunity to bilk vulenerable people, there’ll be more than one opportunist with his finger in the pie. []

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,1 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? KnuckleheadBBQ2 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!3

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.4

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!

  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’. []

This rather bizarre email arrived in my inbox this morning. It didn’t seem to be pitching anything in particular1 and had nothing but a return email address. I present it here for you in full (I have marked points of interest):

Urgent Prayer – My jamaican neighbor next door is bringing all these people with these white exotic cars trucks and especially white mercedes bens people to live with them and throwing yellow sponges on my porch and other stuff in my yard. I want and pray that The Lord will make these people with this white mercedes ben car to move away from next door with marie and michelle right now because they are really getting on my last nerves. Marie and michelle are causing so much trouble for me and trying to make me jealous of them and make other neighbors in our neighborhood jealous of them by having all of these people that they know and do not know to come to their townhouse with white cars and trucks. The Lord Blessed me with a white truck because i was involved in a hit and run accident in 12/10 and i was walking 18 blocks to catch the bus and now marie and michelle next door is so jealous of my white truck and have these people with a white mercedes ben to come and live with them causing trouble for me and trying to make me and the other neighbors in our community jealous. Marie is getting on my last nerve and I am so sick of marie and michelle and all of these other jamaicans who come over to their house next door. Please Pray with me that The Lord will make now the people with this white mercedes ben move and never come back now and nobody else never come there In Jesus Name Amen

Here is a pictorial aid to help you get a better grasp of the scenario:

  1. Unless it’s a cunningly clever advertisement for yellow sponges or Mercedes. Or Jamaican holidays. []

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