And as imagination bodies forth / the forms of things unknown, the poet's pen / turns them to shapes / and gives to airy nothing / a local habitation and a name.
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act V Scene I

  1. The issue
  2. A theoretical model: resonance, basophils and succussion
  3. Experiments past and future: Hirst et al. , the Burridge report, Ovelgônne et al. , the BBC Horizon "scientific experiment" and more ...
  4. Red herrings in electrochemical high dilutions
  5. Comments
  6. An exchange with Jim Burridge, co-author of Hirst et al. , with some comments by Jacques Benveniste.
  7. Loose ends
7. Loose ends.

You'll find here a jumble of quotes, factoids and considerations that , according to my personal taste, did not fit elsewhere in this site. As they stand, they have no direct relevance to the memory of water controversy. However I find them entertaining and I have a hunch of their contextual relevance to the main topic. Before starting I may declare here that I relie on a semantic model where reality is the locus of intersubjective agreement (see. here on p.4), so that different realities may correspond to different observer constituencies, e.g. homeopaths and non-homeopaths, where dreams are the ultimate instance, as Schopenhauer did not quite state, of a one-man reality (well, there may be multiple people/observers in a dream). In this setting reproducibility is a tool to extend agreement on a phenomenon to a larger community. The reproducibility of phenomena and the corresponding reality may vary in strength across communities, from extremely robust, Hiroshima-type, to exceedingly weak, as MoW currently is. Realities, i.e. loci of intersubjective agreement, may also expand and contract in time, as the history of science teaches us through such vivid examples as the rediscovered water-featuring M'pemba effect. This approach, which is conceptually related to Rovelli's relational quantum mechanics and harks back to Bruno's vinculis, allows to identify the conditions and the obstacles, such us unwitting or wilful use of different standards and semantic models, that may affect reproducibility and hence the scientific validity of a result. Different questions eliciting different answers, as well as semantic equivalence in the eye of the experimenter, are important factors in the practical implementation of reproducibility. The core question is no longer "Is this result reproducible?", but rather "By whom is it reproducible?". The very notion of physical law has to be revised accordingly.

The key issue here is the problem of Being, first raised in Plato's Sophist, which is central to quantum mechanics. The current blabber about the multiverse is a clumsy, but effective as mass memes go, attempt to objectivise the intrinsic multi-subjective nucleus of QM.

Recommended reading for anyone interested in the ambiguities of the scientific paradigm is Felix Franks' immensely entertaining book "Polywater", from which I will quote, chronicling a scientific debacle bearing some vague resemblance with the MoW controversy, The differences are more substantial than the analogies, since the search for polywater engaged mainstream science far more deeply that MoW ever did. Actually polywater was a mainstream phenomenon stretching across continents. It ceased abruptly in 1973, with one curious exception involving a famous name, when the man who had brought it to the limelight, the "eminent and highly respected surface chemist" Boris Deryagin, declared it an artifact, stating in a Nature column that its "properties should be attributed to impurities rather than to the existence of polywater molecules".

At the experimental level, even in the limbo of unproven phenomena, at first sight polywater appears unrelated to MoW, but a similarity can be detected in the analogous quest for mysterious structural properties of water. Another analogy lies in the propensity of both MoW and polywater to spawn barely civilised debates, where the "skeptics were accusing the believers of naivete and undue gullibility, and the believers were accusing the skeptics of arrogance and lack of imagination". Also Deryagin's sniffing "I cannot be responsible for polywater not prepared by us" rings a bell. A significant difference on the other hand is the role of stage-magicians, which were not calling the shots of scientific endeavour at the time of the polywater affair (N.B. This writer feels indebted to the lead character in the BBC Horizon "scientific experiment" for highlighting the true measure of the current scientific community).

Vaguely reminiscent of MoW is the following statement by Deryagin, reported on Ch. 3 of Franks's book: "There are many striking phenomena of the effect of very small concentrations dissolved in water of some compounds, and such small concentration acts for example, on the heart of a frog; the heart of this creature is exceptionally sensitive to some compounds in extremely low concentrations, one molecule per cubic millimeter or even more dilute concentration".

Unrelated but interesting is the following. Polywater grew out of Deryagin's work on a striking experimental observation y by a secretive Russian physicist based in middle-of-nowhere Kostroma, Nikolai Fedyakin. The phenomenon described by Fedyakin was never investigated independently. The polywater bandwagon collapsed in a flurry of dismissive explanations, but, as Franks points out with the lucidity of a true scientist "none of these propositions could explain Fedyakin's original observation of secondary liquid columns which grew spontaneously in sealed capillaries, but by then Fedyakin and all that had all long been forgotten". As far as I know, they are still forgotten.

Now a pretty trivial but necessary remark. It is often loudly claimed that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". To me this is either meaningless crap or it boils down to building bias into the scientific method, where bias has no place. I suggest the following instead: "Extraordinary claims require REPRODUCIBLE evidence". Actually, all scientific claims require reproducible evidence. Or I won't believe them, that is. However, introducing double standards into the implementation of the scientific paradigm may be necessary to maintain the scientific status of "big science" projects, which relie on massive "a posteriori" data-filtering (see e.g. how they " modify things a bit" at CERN) and are so costly that they results can hardly be reproduced by uninvolved observers. The introduction of a separate status for "extraordinary" (i.e. non-mainstream) claims allows mainstream science to protect itself by introducing a separate set of rules. Such double standards allow the liquidation of outsiders' claims, without impacting mainstream research and its considerable network of economic interests.

The claim that "the main aim of the experiment is to show that the results do in fact behave as expected!" may be juxtapposed to this famous pronouncement by Lord Denning: "Just consider the course of events if their [the Birmingham Six's] action were to proceed to trial ... If the six men failed it would mean that much time and money and worry would have been expended by many people to no good purpose. If they won, it would mean that the police were guilty of perjury; that they were guilty of violence and threats; that the confessions were involuntary and improperly admitted in evidence; and that the convictions were erroneous. That would mean that the Home Secretary would have either to recommend that they be pardoned or to remit the case to the Court of Appeal. That was such an appalling vista that every sensible person would say, 'It cannot be right that these actions should go any further.' They should be struck out either on the ground that the men are stopped from challenging the decision of Mr. Justice Bridge, or alternatively that it is an abuse of the process of the court. Whichever it is, the actions should be stopped." Yes, and forgotten. And anyways, what do Denning's words have to do with the Memory of Water? Only a crackpot who took Derrida's lesson seriously could mix the two, spotting a pattern .

I prefer to conclude with another quotation, this time by Gérard Toulouse (who is not a MoW supporter, at least to my knowledge): "The story of the Kondo problem may be seen as an example of a scientifi c process, which has occurred repeatedly; at first only a faint anomaly is observed (in an experiment, or in a theoretical model), and this hint is disregarded as an artefact by most people; a few scientists insist however and, step by step, bring to light a large and novel structure, which so far laid hidden; such a discovery may be dubbed as originating from a `tip of the tail of the cat' process." Needless to say, for MoW both the implications and the hurdles to acceptance are far bigger than those for the Kondo effect. However I like to think that Luc Montagnier's recent profession of faith in high dilutions might be the first sign of a turning tide along the lines described by Toulouse.

More later. In the meantime you may have a look at my blog.

Index