Schneier on Security
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April 30, 2010
This is funny:
The world has been placed on a heightened security alert following reports that New Age terrorists have harnessed the power of homeopathy for evil. "Homeopathic weapons represent a major threat to world peace," said President Barack Obama, "they might not cause any actual damage but the placebo effect could be quite devastating."
Homeopathic bombs are comprised of 99.9% water but contain the merest trace element of explosive. The solution is then repeatedly diluted so as to leave only the memory of the explosive in the water molecules. According to the laws of homeopathy, the more that the water is diluted, the more powerful the bomb becomes.
"A homeopathic attack could bring entire cities to a standstill," said BBC Security Correspondent, Frank Gardner. "Large numbers of people could easily become convinced that they have been killed and hospitals would be unable to cope with the massive influx of the 'walking suggestible.'"
It's a little too close to reality, though.
Posted on April 30, 2010 at 2:28 PM
• 49 Comments
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I wonder if anyone's assembled Arthur Clarke's "Osmotic Bomb" yet?
One of these babies could blow your chakras off!
"New Age terror threat level being raised from ‘lilac’ to the more worrisome ‘purple’ aura"
Purple! Do you know what purple means? Seriously, what does purple mean?
I wonder what potency they would use for the bomb, C4 seems eerily appropriate :P
(That's a four times repeated dilution of 1 part in 100. It's a bit low for homeopathic standards though.)
Does this mean they'll put minimum instead of maximum limits on liquids you carry aboard a plane?
Best not to use nitro-glycerine I guess. Might cause an accident when succussing :-)
On the other hand...
Oh dear, I hope the author does not get a summons to appear in front of High Court Judge Justice Eady (who should have his head examined) as Simon Sing did for suggesting that some alternative therapy claims where "bogus"...
As the article shows even though he won in the end he is still likely to be a loser (the article does not mention the outrageous "doubling of costs" when the legal brethren take on liable as pro-bona)
Oh and read the comments by "Dotty Jones", at the bottom of the article but please do not be consuming anything I would not wish to be responsible for the consequences...
Wow, a few more dilutions and they could crack the planet, or even put out the sun! I say it's time to ban homeopathy...you know, for the children. Remember, if it saves one life it's worth it. Maybe the TSA would help?
I think this means the threat level is Mauve.
@ peri, allochthon,
"I think this means the threat level is Mauve."
How about Lavender?
Have you heard what those "Lavender Ladies" can do to you especially with their "green ink" for poisoned prose.
I'm more worried about the Homeopathic Arsonists. They use Homeopathic fire-accelerants, which have the unfortunate property of burning all the more fiercely when fire-crews dilute the active component by squirting with fire-hoses!
Unfortunately, the article misses the essential point of homeopathy: "like cures like". So, if you think of "explosion" as a cure for non-explosions, then you'd actually need to dilute a mere trace element of a non-explosive to infintesimal concentrations (obtaining infinite potency).
Which, if you think about it, is what all of the homeopathic remedies to date are.
... oh... my... GOD!
Oh no! He's armed with sugar pills! Duck and cover!
Simon Singh has the misfortune to live in a country where, if you are accused of libel or slander, you are presumed guilty and most prove the accuracy of every single word you said. So if (for example) you correctly demolish almost everything about homeopathy, but you include any statements you can't back up, you can be forced to pay damages.
Does this mean that if it's dropped into the ocean that it'll blow the solar system apart?
So THIS is where Dr Goldfoot went after he left Venice Beach.
This is insane, but small-time placebo attacks are possible. Should I use the word "pranks"? I remember designing a prank someone pulled on some college kids. We had them thinking we were giving them a cheap, 6% beer in our kegs. Odoul's is actually around 0.5%, classified as non-alcoholic. A few glasses of that "hard shit" and people were, "F***ED UP!" It didn't affect everyone. It was just a few people at first, then more, then it just stopped. Eventually, the unaffected minority ruined it for everyone. However, at least one guy claimed to "get laid" by a chick with (0.5%) beer goggles. It was a week before we told them it was non-alcoholic beer. The placebo effect is totally rad!
excuse me, but I think your karma just ran over my dogma.
No, the solar system will not blow up - because then you will be diluting it with salty water!
@Nick P: that reminds me of something the theater students did at my college. They knew their cast party would get busted, so they served non-alcoholic beer until the campus cops showed up. Once the campus cops were satisfied no underage drinking was going on, they left. Then the theater students pulled the keg out from under the sink.
Now *that* sounds like a good idea! hehe
Yeah, most warnings like that are bogus. I trust virtually nothing that comes from my email unless I authenticate it. Even the Onion News Network is more reliable...
Of course, we did leave dry ice-filled coke bottles in the bushes of park one day. They went off every few minutes. We got the idea from a widely circulating prank text, so I bet we weren't the only one's doing it. I wonder if that was the inspiration for this particular urban legend. Quite a few start out partially true. Another is the one where gang members start a murder/initiation by leaving their headlights off and going after the first to flash them. This happened to my mom and a few friends, who were fortunately only a few minutes from a popular cop joint. They stopped chasing them. Was this an example of the urban legend or was it gangbangers copycatting one? Either way, it happened.
Aside from dry ice, there are a few ways to make bottles more fun. A few years ago, two friends and I tried the Mentos and Diet Coke thing in many variations. We saw videos where it not only exploded out of the bottle, but sent the bottle flying like a rocket. We emptied an entire convenience store's 2 Liter rack trying to consistently pull this off. We were successful, our highest going it seems about 10-12 feet.
Just a candy and diet coke mixed together... and people wonder why I'm careful about what I eat these days...
@Nick P: his is insane, but small-time placebo attacks are possible.
I guess you don't regularly read this blog. Very large scale placebo attacks are possible -- Homeland Security is a response to placebo attacks, a self-perpetuating cycle of placebos and placebo-supporting responses. Don't you remember the guy with the blowtorch "attacking" the Brooklyn bridge? Or the folks pulled off of airplanes for praying? Or the kid rejected from a flight because he had the Arab word for BOMB on a flashcard?
Yes -- the word BOMB is a threat! That's placebo effect.
The human mind's functioning might be rational -- but it's relationship to reality isn't. GIGO.
Dude, this is MAY 1st, not April 1st. Is your watch running 30 days slow?
Once I almost overdosed on homeopathic medicine. Luckily for me a life guard was on duty.
"I think your karma just ran over my dogma."
Homeopathic != Hippy
(them Homeopath's are just so up tight)
Otherwise this idea would bring an entirely new meaning to the old "hippy hippy shake"...
Too true. I was trying not to talk about this because, as TSA and people of this blog know, security through secrecy/obscurity/bureaucracy is a foolproof strategy. ;)
@ Nick P,
"Of course, we did leave dry ice-filled coke bottles in the bushes of park one day."
Which reminds me of "experimental cookery" that sort of went wrong some thirty odd years ago...
You probably know that you can also make ice cream with "dry ice" (or Liquid Nitrogen), and as some of you might know there is a desert dish made of meringue and ice cream which in the US is called Baked Alaska but was originally called "bombe surprise" (there is a simpler version simply known as "ice cream bomb cake" google it if you doubt my word).
Well lets just say that the two ideas (dry ice exploding cola bottles and bombe surprise) got mixed together in an overly inventive young mind and the result whilst spectacular was well let's just say messy in the extreme...
I still remember being surprised when young about the first plastic cola bottles in the UK with their little silver metal caps. I had a student job working in the stores of a "super market" and after seeing one fall off of a pallet and land on it's cap and spin around like a demented dervish we started experimenting.
After some experimentation we found that if you really shook one of these bottles up and then dropped it just just right from the roof of the store so it landed on the metal cap, it would occasionally take off like a water rocket. For some reason the store could not understand why the "breakages" on these plastic bottles was so high at weekends...
And a really dangerous experiment NOT TO BE REPEATED at home or anywhere else for that matter in this day and age...
Have you ever noticed those little light metal aerosol can style butane gas bottles for refiling pocket lighters, that are a little over an inch in diameter and about six long?
Have you ever taken an old one apart after seeing that the valve is made of plastic that melts at quite low temperatures?
Ever though that with a paper nose cone and thin cardboard fins it looked like a rocket?
Ever made one up and put it above a lit "tea light" candle to see what happens?
Take my advise if you are fond of your hair and other bodily parts DON'T do it...
We got it to work eventually but you need to make up a "Bunsen Venturi" and it needs to be about 3/4 used...
Now a reasonably safe little prank... Take a new rubber party balloon and a ping pong ball. Put the ping pong ball in the balloon, then put the neck of the balloon around the cold water tap and put about 40-60 fluid ounces in. You will notice that when you turn the tap off and the water stops flowing into the balloon the ping pong ball floats up to the top and stops the water coming out of the neck.
That is the ping pong ball acts just like a float valve. Now taking care not to touch the balloon around the ping pong ball turn the balloon the other way up (ie neck facing down), due to the pressure in the balloon the ping pong ball valve stays shut.
Now you can pass the balloon around from person to person provided they know where not to touch...
However the first person to touch the ping pong ball area with only just a little force will find the ball floats up breaking the seal, and the balloon empties all it's water on them very very rapidly...
Finally a fun game for all the family to play...
With practice you can also inflate the balloon with air and still get the ping pong ball to act as a valve, if you take a dozen or so of these into a place where a family party is going to take place and just leave them around...
Once the party has got going you know at some point somebody (usually a teenage girl) is going to be "whimsical" (ok childish ;) and play "pat it up" with a balloon and when they touch the ping pong ball in just the right way "whoosh" off it will fly, then after a moment the party really starts to get lively as everybody joins in 8)
Back in the 70's and 80's I was maintenance manager in a pharmaceutical plant. There were two women who worked in accounting in a cubical off in the corner. Both were pregnant at the same time and the temperature was never right. If it wasn't too hot, it was too cold. They kept bugging us to adjust it.
Finally we came in on a Saturday, mounted a thermostat on the wall in their cubical and ran and empty conduit up into the ceiling. On Monday, I told them we had put in a control that was specifically for their corner, gave them a key so they could adjust it and swore them to secrecy.
Never had another complaint from them.
Does this count as homeopathic maintenance?
I wonder if a homeopathic bomb is what happened with the Boston water supply?
If the homeopathic terrorists are relying on dilution with water 00 I wonder when the DHS and all will catch on that this is just a diversion so we won;t realize they are actually playing with something even worse... DIHYDROGEN MONOXIDE!!! We've all seen the warning notices before about its potential lethality, it's major contribution to acid rain and soil erosion, it's presence in polluted streams and lakes, and the daily use of this dangerous material by the world's most powerful navies!
I think the homeopathic bomb is just a distraction from the real weapon they've been working on: the *homo*pathic bomb. The latest product in the evolution of the infamous "gay bomb." We need to be ready for it. The only countermeasure seems to be straight porn, promiscuous women and aphrodisiacs.
Better yet, just poor a cup of homeopathic fire accelerant into the town water reservoir.
Wait a second,, a homeopathic bomb would help CURE bomb, so explosion victims would be able to take that and be cured of explodedness.
If I can get the funding, I have plans to develop a triple-strength, ultra-high-potency placebo.
Just make sure it's thoroughly tested for unwanted side effects. You don't want your triple-strength placebo to be the next Vioxx. ;)
In fact, I plan to guarantee that there will be no side effect so severe that it would detract from the benefits.
I'm also going to create a cure for homeopathy by combining all the homeopathic preparations into a single preparation according to homeopathic principles.
Hilarious Bruce. Thanks for posting that one!
"combining all the homeopathic preparations into a single preparation"
Sounds promising! Many of those homeopathic weapons are quite potent, though. Your homeopathy vaccine should probably be strengthened by diluting it about a million times.
Alas in Dutch, but links to references are in english but Google/Microsoft can translate that I think
I googled somewhat around and found an informative link in English: http://skepdic.com/homeo.html in which a nice statement: If homeopathy works, then obviously the less you use it, the stronger it gets. So the best way to apply homeopathy is to not use it at all. --Phil Plait
Indeed, triple-strength means "diluting it about a million times" *thrice*. But, there isn't much point in going beyond this, as this clearly gives new meaning to the concept of "diminishing returns".
If I'm not mistaken, the homeopathic conceit is that substances that affect the human body, when highly diluted, will in fact provoke the opposite reaction in a human body. So they take diluted ipecac to prevent nausea, and presumably, homeopathic bombs are the most effective means of absorbing explosive force.
Did you hear about the guy who died of an overdose of his homeopathic medicine because he forgot to take it?
All this mainstream ANFO nonsense is really harshing my mellow...
@ Ike Ahnoklast
LMAO! Dude, it's too late for me to read shit like that! I about spit my drink on this rather expensive LCD.
Kidding aside, I think the point of "diminishing returns" for homeopathy begins when one first uses it. ;)
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