The Today Tonight a current affairs show on TV Ch.7 recently (Dec. ’09) ran a story on the amazing and instant results to improve one’s balance, flexibility and strength, by simply wearing (anywhere on the body or even in a pocket) the Power Balance Bracelet. This bracelet, made from plastic, is embedded with a tiny hologram much like the ones found on credit cards. It is this hologram that, according to the promoters, somehow ‘tunes’ the body.
To quote from the Power Balance Australian web site:
POWER BALANCE’S Mylar Holographic Disk (the same substance used to keep static electricity from damaging electrical components) has been imbedded with an electrical frequency that restores your body’s electrical balance, promoting a free exchange of positive and negative ions and align your body’s energy pathways. (ref)
These claims alone are more than enough to raise a skeptical eyebrow with meaningless terms like “imbedded with an electrical frequency” and “align your body’s energy pathways“.
It was, however, the seemingly amazing and instant results achieved by the promoters when demonstrating the device on TV that really caught our attention. At once members of Australian Skeptics noticed that the “tests” used by the promoters were nothing more than simply body tricks, mainly to do with balance, used by the practitioners of the pseudoscience of Applied Kinesiology.
“It all depends on the person giving the demonstration” says Richard Saunders, a vice president of Australian Skeptics. “If they use only a tiny amount of force directed slightly away from the subject, it can easily put the subject off balance. However if they direct that force towards the subject then they can carry on with great effort and go red in the face and not topple over the subject.” (See video at end of this page.)
Richard Saunders was asked by Today Tonight to investigate and test the claims of Power Balance by meeting with Tom O’Dowd who is the Australian distributor. The result was another report which you can watch here:
The tests (there were five carried out on the day) devised by Richard Saunders, were performed with the complete agreement of Tom O’Dowd who tested each subject before hand to ensure that the hologram worked to his satisfaction. However once Mr. O’Dowd was ‘blind’ as to who had the hologram, the results were five failures out of five tests.
So, what is really going on here? It seems to be a classic case of the Ideomotor Effect where, in this case, the practitioners unconsciously either tip the subject off balance or not depending on whether they think the subject has the hologram. A similar type of effect, seen with water diviners, is well known to Australian Skeptics.
It’s important to note that almost anyone can be fooled by these tests and it is no surprise that the subjects were initially amazed at the apparent increase in balance. However Richard Saunders was also able to demonstrate that the same results could be achieved using a $1 Australian Skeptics’ pen and also with nothing at all.
We note from the report that Dr Matt Bateman, a Melbourne Chiropractor, has “…staked his reputation on it [Power Balance]” and claims “500% increased strength and stability.”
Australian Skeptics challenge Dr Bateman to indeed put his reputation on the line and submit to a very simple set of tests to show that a hologram can really achieve the amazing results touted.