Category Archives: Uncategorized

Power Balance Against the Ropes

By now you’ve all heard about the ACCC’s ruling against Power Balance, and the statement they had to put on the Australian Power Balance website.

This of course generated tons of buzz around the world. It’s caused enough of an issue that the US Power Balance website posted this statement.

Power Balance products work. The existing reports out there are fundamentally incorrect. Power Balance did not make any claims that our product does not perform.

We are committed to bringing our performance technologies to every athlete in the world from professional to amateur to recreational. Our community of believers continues to grow each week. While our previous claims in marketing ads are not up to Australia’s ACCC standards – we stand behind our products. The belief of thousands of consumers and athletes who wear our products are not wrong.

A preliminary study recently conducted on the product’s performance variables was commissioned and the findings have determined that the product does in fact provide a “statistically significant” result on the wearer’s performance. We are committed to further evaluating the product’s performance parameters so that we can continue to provide products that enhance the wearer’s lifestyle.

Numerous actual consumer testimonies supporting the wristbands’ performance were provided to the ACCC by Power Balance. Despite that, they requested Power Balance remove marketing claims until it could provide them with their narrow criteria of randomized, double-blind scientific studies that supports the use of those marketing phrases.

Power Balance voluntarily agreed to stop using those phrases. Power Balance believes and wants users to believe that we will do whatever it takes to appropriately, and with honor and integrity make our products available to every consumer in every market in the world.

Hrm, a study? I ended up emailing the company asking them for more information about this study. The reply was filled with lots of marking talk and skating the law about what they can actually claim, but here’s the important bit in the email I got from Power Balance.

Currently the only scientific studies that have been done were measuring lead content and also measuring radiation to insure there are no harmful effects. One done by a Professor at Yale Testing for radiation and the other by a Texas based 3rd party organization called Intertek. Both studies came back with no harmful effects.

So, the official website says they’ve done studies on the effectiveness, but when you email them about the studies, none exist. Only studies on safety have been done.


Power Balance products work. The existing reports out there are fundamentally incorrect. Power Balance did not make any claims that our product does not perform.

We are committed to bringing our performance technologies to every athlete in the world from professional to amateur to recreational. Our community of believers continues to grow each week. While our previous claims in marketing ads are not up to Australia’s ACCC standards – we stand behind our products. The belief of thousands of consumers and athletes who wear our products are not wrong.

A preliminary study recently conducted on the product’s performance variables was commissioned and the findings have determined that the product does in fact provide a “statistically significant” result on the wearer’s performance. We are committed to further evaluating the product’s performance parameters so that we can continue to provide products that enhance the wearer’s lifestyle.

Numerous actual consumer testimonies supporting the wristbands’ performance were provided to the ACCC by Power Balance. Despite that, they requested Power Balance remove marketing claims until it could provide them with their narrow criteria of randomized, double-blind scientific studies that supports the use of those marketing phrases.

Power Balance voluntarily agreed to stop using those phrases. Power Balance believes and wants users to believe that we will do whatever it takes to appropriately, and with honor and integrity make our products available to every consumer in every market in the world.

My thoughts on a skeptical year…

2010 has been a relatively uneventful skeptical year for me.  When I say uneventful, I personally have not done much in the way of promoting skepticism.  However, I have finished my first semester of grad school, attended my first Australian TAM, my second TAM Vegas, and finding myself getting more involved in the workings of skepticism.

I am attending the University of Buffalo via the Internet.  It is amazing to me how much technology lets you find out.  I have spent a semester nose to texts/screen and learning!  I know a real revelation right!  Learning how to read a study has been one of the best things.  If I learned nothing else in my years in grad school, this will do me a huge service.  Turns out you should probably ignore the television reports on the latest study that comes out.  Far better for you to read the study yourself, too much room for interpretation from the vague reports depending on the type of study.

Read the study your self, read the study from beginning to end.  You would be amazed how many of them do a 180 from what the results actually show.  The ones that are just poorly done would also amaze you.  What is an example of a good study?  One where the author states his or her study’s limitations stays true to what the results show, and one that offers up suggestions for further study.  One of the better studies I read was written by Mathew Johnson and Massimo Pigliucci, they were very thorough and fully explained their results in the discussion.  Well worth a read if you get a chance.

TAM Australia was FANTASTIC!  The trip itself was fantastic, but the organizers did a wonderful job of pulling off their first TAM.  I mean they really made it look flawless.  They were quick on their feet with the surprise changes that needed to be made with speakers suddenly canceling.  The little details like the name tags with the logo, the itinerary folds up and fits into the name tags so people don’t have another thing to hold.  The speakers were quality Dr. Karl, Eugenie Scott, SGU, Dr. Simon Singh, Dr. Robert Morrison, and many others.  Many people have said some very good things; I just wanted to add two more… Travis and I!  We were on panels for TAMOz!  That was very exciting experience for both of us.  I hope I was informative and answered the questions with relevant responses.  I can tell you when there is a microphone and cameras in front of your face, you get a little nervous.

Are there some things that could be done differently?  Sure.  However, these are minor things and not a reflection on the overall conference.  The over all conference was very impressive and the amount of time and effort put in by all was apparent!

TAM8 in Vegas, was one of the biggest meetings yet.  This was the JREF’s new president DJ Grothe’s first time in charge of TAM and he did a good job.  All of the usual things an experienced TAMer have come to expect. Two things that could be done differently, I would have like to have seen the keynote speaker actually speak rather then a question/answer session.  The other is during the cocktail hour, I would have liked to seen the James Randi interview of Richard Dawkins happen at the end of the cocktail hour.  Not so close to the beginning, people had not seen each other in a while.  people wanted to talk and to be shushed was kind of off putting.

For me it was a wonderful experience, almost as awesome as my very first one.  Once again the speakers were quality.  People like Dr. Simon Singh, Richard Dawkins, SGU, my personal favorite Adam Savage, and again many other notable people.  The effort and the planning was apparent and I think the JREF overall did a good job as well.

I am increasingly finding myself getting more and more annoyed by the obvious false claims out there.  I am finding myself becoming more intolerant of people getting mislead and ripped off as a result.  Lets talk about my Energy Armor Experience.  Travis tells me they have a kiosk and to make matters that much better, they have the ability to count the ions in their bracelets!!  Needing to see this, I head over to the kiosk.  They are doing the same physical tests that Power Balance does; only they are worse at it.  I can see the direction they are pulling their subjects.  I go through their tests and call them on their flaws.  I end up with three sales people trying to test me; the last one is apparently the manager or the guy “in charge” that day.  He tests me about ions, how they add energy to my body, how the FDA has approved negative ions for years!  I ask, “How do negative ions add energy to my body?”  I don’t get any real answers.  I ask again, I keep pushing for two answers: 1. This is exactly how ions do their job or 2. You know I wasn’t trained for this; here is someone you can contact.   Instead what I get is accusation of working for someone, and sworn at.  “Go f’n Google negative ions” “My name is none of your f’n business”.  Real nice.

Complaint letter sent to the director of the mall.  Here is the letter ** Only changes made was the recipients name.

I get what I would consider an unacceptable response back.  Here is the response. ** Only changes: removal of name and header of the email.

I send back the following letter: Here is the letter ** Changes made, removal of name of recipient

The good news is, people saw and heard the man swearing and getting angry with me.   The good news is Travis has a contact at the FDA from prior experiences and this has resulted in the FDA looking into Energy Armor’s claims.  This can only result in what I hope is Energy Armor having to do the same thing as Power Balance; report their false claims!

I have now found out that a local schoolteacher is selling Energy Armor to the students via the school store.  Talk about a lack of business ethics!  I am working out a way to word this properly and effectively.  It will be dealt with; I am just working out the proper language.  I do not want to burn bridges with the school, which will not be helpful or effective.  I will keep you all posted on the results and lets see what happens!

I am enjoying what I am doing so far.  I love my training in proper information seeking! I have a lot of work to go, but I feel I have improved far beyond what I use to have for skill.  I am really looking forward to seeking out a career that involves this sort of work.  I will work on figuring out my future career path when I am further in.

2011 should prove to be a more interesting year for Granite State Skeptics.  We are looking for ways to be more involved and active.  Several things in the works: We are working on our first skepticamp, I will be blogging more (resolutions you know), A certain charlatan will be coming to NH and we hope to be there, working on future speakers for SITP, and of course there is the standard events to attend NECSS and TAM9!



FDA Warnings – A Skeptical Tool

Over the past few months I’ve been using a new tool in my skeptical toolbox. The FDA Warnings Website. This website is a wealth of information and can help the average skeptic in a number of interesting ways.

The first, and of course the most obvious is to get a feel for what’s going on and what the FDA seems to be cracking down on. It does seem to come in waves, recently there was a large amount of “detox” items getting letters, this week it seems to be chelation therapies.

Another thing is to see what can be reported. You can see who crossed the line and how. You can use this information to find other people in violation and report them to the FDA.

But the real power with this tool is awareness. Using the website you can sign up for email alerts and you will get 1-2 emails a week telling you that the list of offenders is updated. You can then send this information out to friends that may use the products or post them on a blog. What I do is post them on Google SideWiki. You don’t need to have Google toolbar to use this Google product, they also have a bookmarklet.

While Google Sidewiki is not in widespread use, it is helpful just to keep track. There have been more than a few cases where I’ve gone to put in a new FDA Warning to find out that they already had one or two. If they’re the same complaint I will usually shoot the FDA an email to remind them that they have already notified these people for the same offense.

In closing, the FDA Warning website is an easy tool to use and another to throw in your skeptical toolbox in order to combat pseudoscience on the web.

Halloween Event

The Granite State Skeptics invited Martha Taylor of the Henniker Historical Society to talk to us about the infamous ghost of Henniker, Ocean Born Mary. We will meet at 6:00 pm at Daniel’s Restaurant on Main Street, Henniker, on Sunday, Oct. 31. After the talk, we will visit Ocean Born Mary’s grave at the Town cemetary.

This event will be limited to the people that RSVP. To do so email me to let me know how many travis@granitestateskeptics.org

Granite State Skeptics Tour of Salem

Granite State Skeptics will be doing a tour of Salem, MA on Sunday October 3rd. We will be meeting at the Salem Visitors Center at 9:30am. There should be plenty of parking in the parking garage and parking lot near the visitors center. If coming from Boston you can take the Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail from North Station that leaves at 8:30am and gets to Salem at 9am.

Please sign up at our Facebook events page. If you don’t have Facebook, just RSVP here so I can get an idea of how many people will be coming.

Special thanks to Jeff Wagg and Liz Gaston for their help preparing and researching this event.

Remote Speakers – How we do it, and you can too!

A couple months ago we did our first remote talk with Richard Saunders all the way from Australia. It went very well and since then we’ve also had Tim Farley. Now that the word is getting out there people have been asking me about our setup. It’s not very complicated and as long as your venue has good wifi you can do it too.

First a quick pic of our setup:

As you can see, it’s nothing fancy. I of course hope to replace the bucket with a more proper stand. So the laptop to the left of the bucket (in this pic it’s my wife’s MacBook Pro, for Tim Farley’s talk it was my work PC Laptop) runs the presentation. The video for that is jacked into the flat panel TV above. I’m able to control it via wifi using my iPod Touch with either Keynote Remote or Airmouse. The laptop on the bucket has the presenter, full screen, via Skype. They can see us and hear us, and the audio is plugged into the TV above.

Originally I was going to have a microphone, but due to technical problems the first night I couldn’t but Richard ended up being able to hear questions just fine and it gave him the ability to hear anything going on in the room and he even ended up talking to our waitress for a bit.

So if you have speakers a few states away or on the other side of the planet that you want to give a talk at your local SitP, but can’t afford to have them travel this is a good alternative. Nothing would replace having the speaker there live of course, but this is a workable alternative.

That whole Atheist/Skeptic thing

So this is hitting the rounds again since DJ Grothe posted a Swift Blog about Atheism and the JREF. I’ve been involved in some of the debate and conversation online about this issue and I thought I should blog about it.

First let me say that I’m doing this as a personal post. Granite State Skeptics’ official stance is that while specific religious claims that are testable are up for scrutiny, the idea of “god” is generally avoided. That doesn’t mean you can’t discuss it at our meetings, just that as a group we don’t take an official stance.

Because of that you may be able to figure out where I’m going with this post. I think there’s a number of issues with this debate that are missed, or misunderstood and that nobody fully grasps everything involved, including myself. But lets look at a few things.

First is what we are talking about exactly, so lets look at some terms and try to define them.

Skepticism is not a belief system, it’s a process of using critical thinking to come to a conclusion.

Atheism is the rejection in a belief in god. I know a lot of people add on that thing about evidence and how they’d change their mind.. More on this later.

Agnosticism is the idea that the existence of god is unknown or can not be known.

I think Agnostics get a bad wrap in the skeptical community, that they are wishy-washy. I find their stance to be more skeptical than that of an atheist, and I say that as an atheist… Well, because of all the battles going on now I don’t even like to use that term anymore to describe myself. I heard Jeff Wagg use the term “Scientific Naturalist” once and I really like it and try to use that to explain my beliefs (or lack there of).

Atheist also seem to have a problem with identity due to the spectrum. Most that I’ve met at TAM and other skeptical events explain themselves as being able to change their mind, that they’ve come to this conclusion based on evidence (or lack of evidence). But then you have popular skeptics like Penn Jillette who will come out and say that they don’t -believe- in a god, that’s something quiet different.

Then there’s the religious, and I think this is where things get REALLY muddy. An individual’s beliefs can be a huge range. From the Catholic who goes to church every Sunday to the guy who thinks that there was “something” they call god that set things in motion and caused the big bang. To pigeon hole everybody that believes in god into one area is just crazy in my opinion.

Then there’s the idea that skepticism = atheism. This is just an insane argument and I don’t see how anybody can actually claim this with a straight face. There are many skeptics that believe in some kind of god and there are may atheists that are into a lot of crazy woo-related ideas. Is Kitty Mervine of BadAlien and our Director of Investigations a “bad” skeptic because she’s a Deist? Is Bill Maher a “bad” atheist because it’s sucked into anti-vax nuttyness? I don’t think so in both cases.

Then I saw some tweets going around about if somebody can be an Astrologer and skeptic. I say why not, only because that also is a wide ranging question. I’ve talked to many people that believe in astrology, including a couple that would do readings and have studied astrology that didn’t know about thinks like wobble and how our signs don’t match up anymore. How can somebody that doesn’t have all the information make an informed decision? How many people have you met that think Homeopathy is something herbal and had no idea that it was just water. If they think it’s herbal, of course they’re going to think it could have an effect, because a lot of herbal medicine does. This doesn’t make them bad skeptics, it makes them uninformed.

In closing I just want to say that we shouldn’t close out anybody to the community or set conditions on it. We all have our “sacred cows” and I know I’ve learned things and changed my minds a lot over the past few years being an active skeptic. To set conditions on being a skeptic is silly, it turns us into something we shouldn’t be. There is disagreement, debate, discussion in the community and that’s what makes it good. What makes it great is we do it with respect and tolerance for each other and we help each other learn. We don’t call people stupid or say they’re delusional, we give them the tools and information they need to reach their own conclusion based on the facts at hand, and because we’re all individuals with different life experience they may come to a different conclusion. In doing so they may even change our minds by seeing things from another point of view.

So please comment, I want this to be a discussion.

September Skeptics in the Pub

Tim FarleyThis month’s Skeptic in the Pub will be with Tim Farley from whatstheharm.net

This will be another remote talk like last month. There will be a Q&A segment after the talk.

Along with whatstheharm.net, Tim is an active member of Atlanta Skeptics and also runs the great site skeptools.

So join us at 7pm, Monday September 13th at Wings Your Way in Manchester, NH.

Please RSVP on our facebook events page. We’re also testing out Meetup.com