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On Monday night, 9 News ran a story about Power Balance bracelets, the holographic bands that have become wildly popular in recent years.
First question: what are they? Power Balance makes dozens of products that all claim to boost athletic performance. The one thing they have in common is a little circle containing a hologram on a piece of Mylar film.
And how is that supposed to work? I’ll let them tell you (check out their website).
“POWER BALANCE Performance Technology has been embedded with naturally occurring frequencies found in nature that have been known to react positively with the body’s energy field,” according to the website.
I frowned when I read this, as though a stranger had offered me a weasel. They’re saying they’ve “embedded” a frequency on to a little circle of shiny plastic. But a frequency describes how often an event is happening—an object can’t inherently possess a frequency.
“It’s hard to argue with nature and the fact is that everything in nature resonates at a particular frequency,” the website continues. “That is what keeps it all together. We react with frequency because we are a frequency. Most simply, we are a bunch of cells held together by frequency.”
My reaction quickly changed from “has just been offered a weasel” to “has just been offered a lightly toasted weasel on a bun with cheese.” I’m half convinced that they’re just messing with me now, but I’ll address those points anyway.
Nature is an overarching term for the entire world, and it doesn’t talk, so you can’t argue with it. That’s a stupid point. On the other hand, it is very, very easy to argue the “fact” that everything in nature resonates at a particular frequency. That’s not true in much the same way that it’s not true that peanuts are capable of time travel.
They could be alluding to resonant frequency, but that’s not relevant here. Crystal structures can have resonant frequencies, but biological structures can’t. That’s why it’s possible to shatter a glass by screaming in just the right tone, while the same does not apply to, say, a cat. I invite you to scream at a cat to test this.
To say that we “are” a frequency doesn’t make sense either. You can’t “be” a frequency because frequency is a quality, like speed or temperature. The same applies to phenomena like light and sound—they can only have frequencies.
Finally, the statement “we are a bunch of cells held together by frequency” is ridiculous. We are a bunch of cells held together by the extracellular matrix. You’re welcome to Google that, but rest assured that it’s very much a physical substance.
There’s more of that kind of language, but I have to move on. You may have seen these products demonstrated on TV or even in person—companies like Power Balance are practically drooling at the chance to show you how their product works.
The basic format is simple: a volunteer is told to hold his arms out straight and stand on one foot. The Power Balance rep pushes down on his outstretched arm, and the volunteer falls over. Then the volunteer puts on a Power Balance product, the rep pushes down again, and the volunteer stays upright, presumably because of vibrations. Or something.
Not so fast. In the first case (without the bracelet), the rep pushes down and away from the body, pulling the volunteer over. In the second test, the rep pushes down and towards the body, keeping him up. People watching can’t tell the difference, and neither can the volunteer, so it’s pretty convincing. Convincing or not, it’s fake.
Of course, someone’s bound to ask, “what’s the harm?” The harm is that these people are making millions of dollars founded entirely on lies. They are preying on the ignorance of the public to charge $60 for a pack of stickers.
Power Balance has endorsements from names like Drew Brees, Blake Griffin, and others in over a dozen professional sports. These massively influential role models are, intentionally or not, spreading deceptive pseudoscientific bullshit. Even our own Buffs have officially licensed Power Balance to use their logo.
I’m afraid my message here is starting to sound repetitive, but it’s an important one. Do the research for yourself. Ask questions. Find third-party information.
None of the research I did for this column is secret information, nor is it difficult to find. The majority of it comes from blogs that I read regularly, but there are dozens of articles out there by brilliant scientists debunking this claim and many, many others.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If someone tells you they just saw a squirrel outside, it’s probably safe to believe them without going to check. If they tell you that they have invented a magic plastic circle that will improve every aspect of your life, maybe you should Google it first.
And if someone offers you a toasted weasel, just walk away.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Angus Bohanon at Angus.email@example.com