National Geographic purveys more woo: a water bottle containing magic gemstones

I think I’m late to this party, but am putting it here for the record.

I’ve kvetched a lot about National Geographic and its recent penchant for publishing articles on religion—especially articles on Christianity that take for granted that Jesus is real.  This trend seems to have worsened since they were bought by Murdoch.

Now they’re purveying woo as well as faith, as reported in a Gizmodo article by Ryan F. Mandelbaum: “National Geographic just sent me a crystal healing water bottle.”

The story: on March 26, the National Geographic Channel will show the new program “One Strange Rock,” produced by Darren Aronofsky and narrated by Will Smith. It’s apparently the “story of Earth,” featuring a lot of shots taken from space. Here’s the trailer:

As often happens, the announcement of the movie came with a bunch of goodies, or “press kit”, sent to journalists. Mandelbaum reports that his press kit contained an unusual item (my emphasis):

The huge box Nat Geo sent me contained a book, some press material, and this glass water bottle with their name printed on the side. The >$70 bottle’s package advertises that it contains “carefully selected and ethically sourced gemstones representing the building blocks of earth,” including “wood,” “water,” “earth,” “metal” and “fire.” It came with an instruction and information manual.

Why does my water bottle have an instruction manual? It reads: “For the most precious moments in life! Gems raise the energy level of water. That’s been known for hundreds of years and scientifically proven. VitaJuwel Gemwater Accessories are not only Jewelry for Water, they’re a great tool to prepare heavenly gemwater like fresh from the spring.” The instructions are: screw in the gemstone vial, fill with water, and then wait 7 minutes.

Here’s the thing—this is a water bottle containing a sealed jar of gemstones. At no point will the water even come into contact with any of said gemstones. A warning tells you to discard the bottle if there is any way for water to seep into the vial of gems. All of the “science” cited in the brochure comes from widely debunked research from the likes of Japanese author Masaru Emoto—you know, the researcher who claimed humans could impact the chemical structure of water with their thoughts—or unnamed “German scientists.” 

Some of the claims are really wild. At one point, the pamphlet says: “Everything in nature vibrates. Gems naturally act like a source of subtle vibrations. These vibrations inspirit water, making it more lively and enjoyable.” This is nonsense, and any reference to electricity in crystals (like piezoelectricity, when charge accumulates on some structures in response to physical stress) is neither exclusive to crystals nor relevant to healing or enlivening drinking water. (“Ha! Yeah. Nah,” astrophysicist Katie Mack told me in a DM.)

Why 7 minutes instead of 5? How are the Magic Gemstones going to convey their healing vibrations to the water if they don’t touch it? I’m worried!

Here’s the bottle and the associated pamphlet as photographed by Mandelbaum:

Well, this is bullshit, of course, but bullshit purveyed by National Geographic, which has apparently given up on truth. When it’s not touting Jesus, it’s touting Magic Vibration Crystals. Unlike religion, they may not poison everything, or even the water, but what lamebrain thought that sending out a Wooter Bottle would appeal to science journalists, or that someone wouldn’t call them out on it? The magazine is still pushing superstition, but this time in the guise of spirituality rather than religion.

But look on the bright side: unlike Gwyneth Paltrow’s jade egg, at least you don’t have to insert the gems into your vagina.

h/t: Jószef

57 Comments

  1. Barry Lyons
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    “Wooter bottle.” Great!

  2. Christopher
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    But if these magic gems vibrate naturally, wouldn’t you want to insert them like Paltrow’s special eggs?

  3. Posted March 2, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Follow the link to Gizmodo and read Nat Geo’s response.

    Good grief.

    • Jonathan Dore
      Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      Utterly feeble response from NatGeo. Caught out so trying to pretend they didn’t mean it.

    • Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      OMG, that’s brilliant!

      “I think you are missing the point. It’s a glass water bottle – a great alternative to using plastic!”

      *That* is what this is about???

    • glen1davidson
      Posted March 2, 2018 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      At least they acknowledge that it’s bunk.

      But hey, you get all of this woo about crystals, and what you’re supposed to get out of it is that glass is a good alternative to plastic. Because that’s a major controversy.

      You’re shilling woo, NG. Is it really worth selling your reputation for whatever you’re being paid?

      Glen Davidson

  4. glen1davidson
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    It works, but only on a flat earth.

    Wait, is flat-earthism the subject for the next special?

    Glen Davidson

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 2, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      Please, don’t say things like that. You’ll give them ideas.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 4, 2018 at 2:52 am | Permalink

      I am certainly willing to defend the position that the earth is ‘flat’ as an approximation on a local scale (in a similar way that Newton’s Laws work fine as a local approximation of Einstein’s).

      But there is no possible way that these ‘magic’ gemstones could affect the water. Not on a flat earth, not on a spherical one, nowhere in the universe. Purest woo.

      😉

      cr

  5. Jenny Haniver
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    “But look on the bright side: unlike Gwyneth Paltrow’s jade egg, at least you don’t have to insert the gems into your vagina.”

    Oh yeah? I think they have partnered with Paltrow and this is just the first offering. I think those who dreamt this idiocy up need to insert the bottle and gems into their fundaments — and call it fundamental learning.

    This is pathetic and despicable. I know people who’ve taken high school and college science courses and who buy into this kind of bull puckey. I think there must be a lot of pseudoscience taught in secondary schools and the good teachers are fighting against a tide of pseudoscientific woo, now being purveyed by outfits like National Geographic; and with the epistemological and scientific relativism enshrined in postmodernism, there will be more and more of this.

    By the way, the insufferable Bruno Latour is back, he of the ‘scientific truths are social constructions’ — now casting himself as the savior of climate change! He says that scientists have come to him (?!)asking for his help in debunking the climate change nay-sayers.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      For anyone interested, here’s a recent interview with Latour https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/the-critical-zone-of-science-and-politics-an-interview-with-bruno-latour/. He now embraces the Gaia ‘theory’ and this is the basis for his defense of climate change. Re Monsieur Latour, echo the bon mots of inimitable (and loony) Lady Colin Campbell’s words to someone else: “Why don’t you just crawl back into the laboratory you crawled out of.” Of course she pronounced “laboratory” with a haughty high British accent, which made the insult even better.

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted March 2, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      “at least you don’t have to insert the gems into your vagina”

      a relief to the recipient also, since Ryan’s website picture would lead one to believe that the search would be futile 🙂

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 2, 2018 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      hose who dreamt this idiocy up need to insert the bottle and gems into their fundaments — and call it fundamental learning.

      I believe the traditional tool is a radish. A large radish. And a hammer. The hammer can be re-used later, but the only conceivable use for the radish would be to discourage future offenders by “showing them the instruments”.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Buddy o’ mine just passed some gallstones. Can’t say as though they’re magic, but maybe Nat Geo might be interested in them?

  7. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Goodness me. It isn’t even spirituality- it’s just plain magic, plain and simple.

    It reminds me of this excerpt from a Steve Martin monologue on Saturday Night Live.

    “But I quit that! I’ve quit ALL drugs. Well… let me say one thing: I twisted my ankle this morning, and I was in quite a bit of pain… so I went to the doctor, and I asked him to give me some pain pills. And he didn’t want to do it, but I talked him into it. So he gave me some pills — and I shouldn’t have done this, but I took some about an hour before the show tonight, and right now… I am high… as a KITE! [ audience cheers ] I mean, it is unbelievable! And I would NEVER say this to you people, but, in this case: if you EVER get a chance, to take these drugs… DO IT! They’re called… [ he glances from side-to-side cautiously ] Placebos! I mean, I’m thinking that right now I have NO idea where I am at all! It is WILD! Placebo!”

  8. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    The VitaJuwel “Diamonds” Water Bottle is an absolute snip at £224.95 [309.69 USD]!

    And the VitaJuwel Terms of Use

    …9. Medical Disclaimer
    VitaJuwelUK gladly provides information in relationship to gem water and all of the gems that are part of the VitaJuwel gemstone vials. This information is intuitive in nature and not scientifically verified. VitaJuwelUK cannot guarantee results with any stone, mineral or jewellery.

    While this field is speculative and exploratory, individuals are encouraged to use discrimination in diagnosing and treating illness for medical, emotional and/or spiritual conditions. You should never substitute stone or minerals for sound professional medical treatment when indicated for any condition.

    That’s all right then. Should I use my intuition today or my discrimination?

    About page:

    VitaJuwel UK is an independent family-run business here in the UK.

    Husband and wife team Alan and Pauline [Speirs] first became aware of the VitaJuwel products when they trained in an new sound technology in the Dr Emoto European HADO lab and saw first hand the amazing water crystals under the microscope. Pauline, a certified Crystal Healer, fell in love with the products and VitaJuwel UK was born.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 2, 2018 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      Pauline, a certified Crystal Healer,

      Bowf! (*)
      Where is my radish and hammer?

      (*) “Bowf” is Scots for “Seagulls, come and get it!”

      • Posted March 3, 2018 at 8:06 am | Permalink

        All crystal healers should be certified.

        BTW, how do you heal a crystal?

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted March 4, 2018 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

          The annealing temperatures for repair of radiation damage in both natural minerals and artificial materials has suffered plenty of attention. Some is for the obvious implications for materials behaviour in high-radiation environments (inside nuclear reactors, for example), but non-trivial amounts of work have been done with respect to radioactive absolute dating methods.
          Say you have a “two mica granite” and the radiation damage halos around zircon grains in muscovites average 250 microns diameter while those in biotites average 200 microns. That implies that the biotites annealed at lower temperatures than the muscovites (less time for radiation damage) and between the experimental work on radiation annealing and the dating inferences from the halo diameter, you can get a cooling rate.
          It’s a fair chain of inferences, but that’s how you come up with statements like “it took 80 million years for the Caledonian mountain range to be eroded from Himalayan proportions to present day sizes.
          A paper (paywalled) floated past my eyes while I was having my lunch, implying ~2km of uplift of the UK Lake District, coincident in time with the initiation of the Icelandic “hotspot”. That used radiation annealing temperatures in apatites not micas, but same logic. The UKCS (UK Continental Shelf) oil field has at least two billion-barrel oilfields hosted in sands that came off the Caledonides during that rejuvenation. And now you know who pays to have people chase these arcana.

          • Posted March 4, 2018 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

            Sorry I asked.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted March 4, 2018 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

              But dating by halos is such a subtle subject! It raises so many hopes in the … organs … of creationists, and then they just can’t bear to find out the details.

  9. Liz
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    It’s my understanding that the wine decanter for $210 uses the special sparkle rocks to transform the water to wine. So maybe there’s hope there.
    http://store.vitajuwel.us/store/p/42-Wine-decanter.aspx

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      I see you have to buy the jewel thingamajig separately for $144!

      • Liz
        Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        Oh no. I think you are referring to the Gemstone Vial Wine. Ha. I prefer the aesthetic appeal of the second accessory, the VitaJuwel Droplet – Amethyst, for $60. It must not be as potent because it has fewer gems.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted March 2, 2018 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          So which one makes you more drunk do you think? Does the more expensive one allow you to drink more and still be in full control of your faculties? I wonder if using one could be a defence against a DUI charge?

          • Liz
            Posted March 2, 2018 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

            I think those are questions for the experts at VitaJuwel. The “Balance” Gemstone Vial might help to stay in control of your faculties. I have no idea. 🙂

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted March 2, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

              🙂

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted March 2, 2018 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

          the Gemstone Vial Wine … second accessory, the VitaJuwel Droplet – Amethyst, for $60

          Aw for flying … radishes!
          Someone, somewhere in that advertising agency must know some mineralogy, to have got it so comprehensively [rude words for “wrong”].
          The Greeks had a myth that a goblet carved from AMETHYST (pretty pink-purple quartz ; utterly unremarkable ; but pretty ; very common) would stop poison in wine drunk from it from working, and also stop the drinker from getting drunk. Hence the name : “A-” (negator) “-METHY-” (of or to do with drunk and wine) “-ST” (because of something). It’s such complete bovine excrement that if I ever see one for sale, I’d jump at an amethyst goblet to sip fine single malt from. Though I’d still use my uranium glass tumblers too.

  10. Heather Hastie
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    FFS! Un-effing-believable! How anyone believes this crap us beyond me. I didn’t do science past the 4th form (year 10) and I know this is rubbish. WTF is wrong with people that they believe this?

    It’s completely irresponsible of Nat Geo to promote this. They are a voice of authority, and it’s natural for people to think that if they say it, it must be true.

    On another note, the words of the narration made me wonder where this show might go. There was the argument for a god – it’s amazing we’re even here, as well as the comment that we might be the most amazing place in the universe. That goes back to the religious argument they reverted to when science proved that the Earth wasn’t the centre of the Universe. Instead we’re now the centre of life, the spiritual centre of the Universe according to religion, so scripture is true after all.

    Btw, can anyone from a Biblical literalist background answer this question for me? Do those who read the Bible literally and deny all science, history etc that contradicts it also/still believe we’re at the centre of the Universe and everything revolves around us, Mars goes into retrograde etc?

    • darrelle
      Posted March 2, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      I’ve long thought that susceptibility to wooism of all sorts doesn’t correlate well with education. At least not until you get to the most rarefied heights of education, for example members of the NAS and similar. There is some other trait or combination of traits that results in people being predisposed to be easy marks that over-shadows education.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted March 2, 2018 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately because I’ve come back into contact with a friend from high school who’s become a devout Seventh Day Adventist. We were both middle of the road Christians back then. Talking to her, she’s still basically the same person she was then, and I can’t see why she’s gone down this road. I don’t understand it.

      • rickflick
        Posted March 3, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

        I’m guessing susceptibility to woo could be inherent in the brains of some people. At least there is indication that emotion is more important for some.

        “Persons with a larger or more active amygdala tend to have stronger emotional reactions to objects and events, and process information initially through that … This heightened sensitivity to emotional faces suggests that individuals with conservative orientation might exhibit differences in brain structures …”

        This principle may influence one’s level of skepticism.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 3, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

          Andrea Kuszewski? THIS ARTICLE? It’s a fairly long walk between the two halves of your ellipsis’d quote.

          I’m really not a fan of these ‘research’ papers that assign personality types based on brain scans. Probably as useful as feeling the bumps on my skull! We haven’t got the first clue about brains/minds/personality – it’s one vast dark continent & we’ve only canoed up a few of the minor inlets.

  11. Roger
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Is that a paid product placement or something? What the…

  12. Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  13. Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    “scientifically proven.”

    Obligatory _Princess Bride_ reference.

    The “building blocks” listed are the classical Chinese elements. Does that tell us anything?

    • Posted March 3, 2018 at 12:51 am | Permalink

      It tells us this is a horrendous case of cultural appropriation. Leave the Chinese woo to the Chinese!

  14. Hempenstein
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I think they may have written a song about this.

    Maybe it’s about time for a return of Brinkley’s goat testicle injections, too, altho Viagra may have made that one a tough sell anymore.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted March 2, 2018 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      I must read that book. Hadn’t known about those guys. I did know about Dr. Niehans, a Swiss physician who developed his version of “cell therapy” using embryonic sheep cells, and based on his interpretation of the doctrine of signatures http://www.jameslefanu.com/articles/history-of-medicine-the-monkey-gland-secret. He treated the rich and famous, including Pope Pius XII. I read somewhere that Pius XII was treated with foetal sheep cells, including gonads, and that this treatment was responsible for his developing hiccups and rotting teeth. That he was treated by Niehans is established, though I have no idea if these last two assertions are factual, but I distinctly recall the protracted case of hiccups he developed as he moved toward death.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted March 4, 2018 at 3:07 am | Permalink

        “this treatment was responsible for his developing hiccups and rotting teeth.”

        One can only hope… 😉

        (Sometimes I don’t think I’m a very nice person)

        cr

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 2, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      “Special Goat Testicle Injections – we give the goats Viagra before slitting their throats and mashing up their balls for you to drink.”
      My career in copy-writing didn’t last long.

    • Posted March 5, 2018 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      That would be even worse – as an injection of anything makes it far more dangerous.

  15. josh
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    “Gems” seems an incredibly generous description. Those look like polished river rocks, with maybe some quartz.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 2, 2018 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      They’ll be the cheapest polished rocks that they can get. Brought by the 10kg sack, the shipping cost is a major component. (Well,it was the last time I was buying goods from a commercial jeweller ; I was buying gold “findings” for making Mum’s 80th birthday pressie.)
      The rocks will be carefully selected – with a sieve. You don’t want stones that will be heavy enough to jam as you tip them into the vial. Vials were also in the catalogue at a few tens of pennies a piece.

  16. Mark R.
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Vitajuwel? And it’s trademarked! That’s good, don’t want anyone pilfering such a meaningless word.

  17. nicky
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Maybe it is just a study to investigate how much crap we humans can swallow? I could have answered that just like that: virtually any amount.
    I guess the “everything vibrates” thing is derived from the “Brownian Motion”.
    I’m sure though , pace Paltrow, that some nuts will try to insert it into the less attractive parts of their paltry anatomy.

  18. mfdempsey1946
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    The constantly increasing number of stories like this one shows why “crazy” stopped being an adequate adjective.

    Which is why “batshit crazy” had to be coined.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 2, 2018 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      Which is why “batshit crazy” had to be coined.

      I never understood that. Surely it should be “rat piss crazy” – leptospirosis has far more mental side effects. Bat shit just makes most people cough. Not that it’s easy to spot bizarre mental effects in cavers, that being considered normal in that tribe.
      Or am I being figuratively literal where I should be literally figurative?

      • mfdempsey1946
        Posted March 2, 2018 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        I have heard that “batshit crazy” may derive from an expression I recall from the 1950s: He [who is considered crazy or nutty or weird] has “bats in his belfry.”

        The transition may derive from what happens if a real belfry is infested with many real bats: walls covered in their shit.

        So, if this origin story is true, “batshit crazy” intensifies “bats in his belfry.”

        It certainly applies to National Geographic and Goop and…

        • Derek Freyberg
          Posted March 2, 2018 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

          For lots more batshit, see Cool Hard Logic’s YouTube videos, for example this one on homeopathy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dFYfeADX7g (and I don’t mean the videos are batshit, they’re actually very good; but the term “batshit” does appear frequently).

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 2, 2018 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

          The below doesn’t contradict bats in the belfry as an explanation. From Google I gather “batshit” is a ’50s US military informal word equating to going “apeshit” [violently losing control]

          Lt. William Calley of Mi Lai Massacre [1968] notoriety:

          “Most of America’s males were in Korea or World War II or I. They killed, and they aren’t all going batshit”

          Thus “batshit” seems to mean the same as “batshit crazy” from the mid-20th C. Then there’s the Google Books Ngram for “batshit” [books are usually late picking up a usage of course]:
          batshit

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted March 4, 2018 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

          “bats in the belfry” is a perfectly well known phrase on this side of the Pond. It wouldn’t be the first or last phrase to be actually based on nothing of substance. Or, indeed, misattribution of substance. There are probably few belfries which have bats and don’t have a noticeable rat population too. I can certainly remember noticing rat poison stations around lots of churches, cathedrals, art galleries and (recently) a newly built university campus. now that you make me think of the point, I’ll try to remember to notice their presence or absence. I’d take their absence as a sign of incompetent grounds management not the absence of rats. Which raises a discriminatory point – if rats are everywhere, how do you tell if rats are a contributor to a situation?

  19. Posted March 2, 2018 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    If I hadn’t already cancelled my subscription to National Geographic, I would do it now. Maybe I can send them requests for cancellation even though I no longer subscribe to the magazine. I already have sent back all requests for me to subscribe again with messages telling them never to contact me until they get rid of the religious drek.

  20. Greg Geisler
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if Aronofsky (producer of the series) knows about this. He is an atheist and skeptic. I doubt he would approve. His films Noah and Mother! were both despised by the Christian establishment.

  21. Posted March 3, 2018 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    Someone should convince the crystal healing people that pitchblende has healing properties.

  22. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 4, 2018 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    Maybe the publicity department got a bit carried away by the title “One Strange Rock” and thought sending out a bunch of allegedly strange (if not downright weird) rocks might be appropriate.

    Or maybe it’s just the publicity department that’s downright weird…

    cr


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