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I was visiting a missionary helps group in Pennsylvania one time, and they put me up overnight.  Helping the people running the place was an elderly couple.  They were obsessed with their health, which is not unusual among the elderly.  They are often having struggles due to the passing of the years.  

As I was eating in the dining area, the older lady was using a strange device to pour water into her drinking cup.  It was a red donut shaped magnet, rather large, with a handle.  She poured the water through the hole in the round magnet.  I asked about it.  She said it changed the water in some way, and the result was better health in all departments of physical troubles.  She said that she would invert the magnet for pouring fruit juices through it.  This would also make the juices more nutritious.  

As I left the dining room for my room that night, my heart groaned for the older couple who had been bilked of some much needed cash for their piece of junk.  It did cost I believe over $30.  What follows is a easily understood discussion of water and the Mother Goose health scam called "Clustered Water."

Clustered Water

Snake Oil by any other name.
by Ian Woolf

People with chronic illnesses that are not currently curable by medical science are easy prey for snake oil merchants. However, a closer examination reveals that their claims are much closer to magic, than science.

Ten years ago a famous racing car driver was promoting a water and petrol polariser. It was a magnet around a pipe, which was supposed to revitalize any fluid going through it by polarizing the molecules. The Australian Consumers Association fitted a polarizer in a car, and found that petrol going through this pipe-magnet didn't go any further or faster than ordinary petrol. Water going through the gadget was in no measurable way any different to ordinary water.

Polarized water has come back this year in the form of "clustered water". Let's examine the claims. It's supposed to be energizing. In promotional email I saw, it said that drinking a litre of clustered water - which weighs a thousand grams - only results in an increase of four hundred grams to your body weight, because the six hundred grams left over… has turned into energy! According to Einstein's famous E equals MC squared, six hundred grams of water turns into the same amount of energy as a thirteen megaton nuclear explosion, or thirteen million tonnes of TNT. Sounds like too much of a good thing. Liberating that much energy in the time it takes to drink a few glasses of water, wouldn't just vapourize the drinker but the entire city they were sitting in. The world's energy problems would be solved for the foreseeable future.

The email went on to claim that placing pure mountain spring water near a container of ordinary water that has passed through the magnetic system, will cause "entrainment" of the ordinary water, simply by being close to it, to become as pure as the mountain spring water. This entraining hypothesis is based on the old laws of sympathetic magic as outlined by anthropologist James Frazier in "The Golden Bough". Things in contact tend to remain in contact, and like things become more like each other. Sadly double-blind tests have shown that this form of magic simply doesn't work. It would be dangerous to assume that dirty water could become clean by putting it through a tube with a magnet and then sitting it near some pure water. If entrainment worked, then all sick people would have to do is lie next to a healthy person, and their body would become "entrained" to good health. As much fun as this experiment is to perform, and for the sake of Science its certainly worth testing - it is unlikely to produce reliable results even just as a pickup line.

As for the structure and polarity of water, well it's a Vee shape, with two positive hydrogen atoms on the ends of the Vee, and a negative oxygen atom at the point. This shape means that it's polarized with a positive end and a negative end … that balance out. Passing these molecules through a magnet will not change their charges or their shape.

The claim is made that body cells have to work hard at "magnetically restructuring" water, so that buying a magnetic system saves your body this work. This is simply not true. The only way to restructure water is to heat it or cool it or combine it chemically with something. If our cells did have such a delicate magnetic mechanism in place, then the giant magnets in nuclear magnetic resonance imagers in hospitals would cause people to explode when they were scanned!

It's also claimed that water has a memory. If water did have a memory, then we could use it instead of iron oxide on disks and tapes. It would be a boon for the computer industry. Pipes of data instead of wires! Bit buckets instead of hard disks! Homeopaths do still claim that they can exploit the memory of water to dilute active drugs down until the water is pure again, and still affect your body. If this were true, it would save the drug industry billions of dollars in raw materials. All they would have to do is produce a single drop, once, and then endlessly dilute it to sell to the public. Its such a shame it doesn't work.

They then talk about "reversing the polarity" of "negative substances" in the water, so that they pass harmlessly through our bodies when we drink the poisoned guck. Dr Who would have been proud of a device that worked by "reversing the polarity", but he wouldn't have been foolish enough to drink contaminated water supposedly purified by magnets. Unless the water is contaminated with iron filings that stick to the magnets, there will be no purification of the water. Sadly, magnets don't affect most "negative substances" that we would be concerned about passing through our bodies.

Of course at this point the supporters of "clustered water" will talk about not rejecting things simply because they fall outside the parameters of current science - and that the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. However there simply is no method of acquiring understanding of the Universe that works as consistently and well as the scientific method. Unexplained phenomena don't make science redundant, they simply mean that the work of science is not yet finished. However, there don't appear to be any unexplained phenomena at work here. I have tried the taste test with "structured water" and I wasn't able to tell the difference, and I didn't vapourize.

To the people promoting structured water I say: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. You can't think clearly if your mind is so open that your brains fall out!