Happy Fun-with-Evidence Friday. Let's take a look at the Power Balance bracelet, which some people claim can improve athletic performance. PB is described as "performance technology that uses holograms embedded with frequencies that react positively with your body’s natural energy field".
PB uses a 'test' to convince people that the technology will work (more about that below). PowerBalance.com says a test video is coming soon. But they already have a heck of a testimonial: Shaquille O'neal says “I came across Power Balance when someone did the test on me. That night, while playing for the Phoenix Suns, there were about three of my teammates with the product on and we won that game by 57 points! I kept feeling something when I wore the bracelet, so I kept wearing it. When I took it off I went back to normal. I’ve been wearing the bracelet ever since.”
The lucky charm effect? It could be that these work - at least temporarily - because the wearer believes they work. Thursday's Wall Street Journal had an excellent story on The Power of Lucky Charms. There is peer-reviewed evidence that "a belief in good luck can affect performance." An article in the upcoming June issue of Psychological Science reports a study in which "participants on a putting green who were told they were playing with a 'lucky ball' sank 6.4 putts out of 10, nearly two more putts, on average, than those who weren't told the ball was lucky. That is a 35% improvement." Positive thinking can make a difference in cases where someone has the ability to influence an outcome.
As shown here, Power Balance pendants are also available, made of "sterling silver from Bali.... equipped with two PB holograms embedded on the back under a clear epoxy resin window for easy viewing." SLAM, a basketball web site, recently did a Q&A with Josh Rodarmel, one of the Power Balance founders, who explained that his father "was into this technology that was similar to Power Balance, but it was like $500-600." So Rodarmel's brother, Troy, "started researching what Mylar bags were made of and figured out that it was basically a hologram. That’s how we became able to mass produce it at an affordable rate."
Just a stage trick? The bracelet is available for $49 US from amazon, with mostly negative reviews (amazon marketplace merchants offer it for under $30). My favorite product review says "'Applied Kinesiology', which is the demonstration used to sell these bracelets, is an old stage magician's trick. If you fell for it, you've been had. This product is a con. There is no plausible hypothesis behind it, and well established stage trickery explains why the demonstration is always successful." (More about applied kinesiology demonstrations here.)
The site Rat Bags granted PB a 2009 Millenium Award, saying the product is effective only in that "The judges tried some of the wristbands on and they unanimously agreed that the bracelets certainly increased the strength of their laughter." Rat Bags recaps a television story featuring a "special bracelet that a skeptic could not explain", and quotes the company's Australian distributor as saying that the Mylar is supposed to restore the body's frequency to somewhere near the 7.83 hertz required.
Not so fast. But there's positive feedback also. On Examiner.com there's a review saying "the Power Balance bracelet - reviewed by triathletes and others - you have to try it". The story says "Research has shown that the cells of the body are capable of finding their own frequency. Other objects can also match a frequency." Quoting VibeLife.net: "For example, if you tap a 440 Hz tuning fork and move another 440 Hz tuning fork near it, the second tuning fork will duplicate the same tone (or oscillate) with the same tone as the one that was tapped." So the PB supposedly allows the body's cells to operate at their optimal level. Does this mean Shaq will score more 3-pointers in his next NBA game?
What's your frequency? This frequency stuff is huge. The researchers behind an addiction therapy site, NewWayClinic.com, explain that "The human body has a normal frequency range of 62 Hz to 68 Hz, as the frequency range lowers due to the constant use of alcohol or drugs, the worse the health condition becomes." Their reported findings include: normal brain frequency (head) 72-78 Hz, brain frequency at 80-82 MHz indicates a genius, healthy body (neck down) 62-68 Hz, disease begins & colds invade 59-60 Hz, ascending colon 58-60 Hz, cancer can set in 42 Hz, death begins at 20 H. Meanwhile, fresh produce is supposed to have up to a 15-Hz frequency, while canned foods have zero. ("Invading pathogenic frequencies (toxins & viruses) are low. Positive beneficial bacterial frequencies are higher.")
The clinic claims that "By using the principles above it is possible to the remove the frequency patterns of nicotine, alcohol or drugs from the body and so help to the stop the physical dependency for that substance(s)." They apply a phase-cancellation technique to treat addiction ("By correctly analysing a substance and applying Formula 23®, we can create a wave, which is 180° out of phase.... [As] each wave cancels the other out, as a result the body requires less substance(s) each day to feel 'normal' until clean.")
Show us the evidence. According to New Way, "there have been clinical studies conducted on the effectiveness of using the above techniques for asthma, allergies & skin disease." They list "success rates" in the range of 78%-93%, but the links they provided were broken, and all I got was 404 errors.