Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Masaru Emoto's Hidden Messages in Water

Note: In July I also published a short postscript to this piece.

I recently watched "What the Bleep Do We Know?", a movie which, among other things, features the surprising work of Masaru Emoto on water crystals. I found the images and the thesis fascinating, and wanted to know more about it. Unfortunately, closer inspection seems to show no verification or general support for these results.

Emoto's thesis is that water is sensitive to the expression of human emotion, among other things, and that this influence can be measured in how ice crystals are subsequently formed.

For example, here is an image of ice crystals from water to which has been expressed "love and gratitude":

In contrast, here is an image of crystals from water which has been rebuked with the words "You make me sick!" (in Japanese, I think).

Not so pretty, is it.

He has published several books on the subject including The Hidden Messages In Water.

Who is Dr. Masaru Emoto?

According to the "What the Bleep" site, Emoto has a PhD in Alternative Medicine, from the Open International University in India. I was surprised to find that he didn't come from a physical science discipline. The Wikipedia page has noted that OIU is not an accredited institution. And while that doesn't really say anything about its merits as a school of Alternative Medicine, it is not heartening in terms of his crystallography skills.

General References
  • What's it all about? http://www.whatthebleep.com/crystals/ is the section of the larger "What the Bleep" site that deals with this topic.
  • Wikipedia has an informative page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masaru_Emoto about Emoto with a good assortment of external links.
  • Dr. Emoto has a commercial website https://www.hado.net/. "Hado" is defined by Emoto as "The intrinsic vibrational pattern at the atomic level in all matter. The smallest unit of energy. Its basis is the energy of human consciousness." The Hado website promotes Hado instructional schools and seminars. It used to sell various water-related products, but no longer does so as of this writing (Feb 2008).
  • Dr. Emoto's personal website here: http://www.masaru-emoto.net/english/entop.html

Supportive Comments:

Well, I haven't found many, but I'm probably searching in the wrong places. Most of the supportive comments that I've found for Dr. Emoto tend to simply cite his work, or make supportive claims along the lines of "Dr. Emoto is a great scientist and scores of other scientists have reproduced his work." But in fact I have not yet found anyone who has successfully reproduced his results. Others have searched in vain for any citation in a refereed journal.


Critical Comments:

Serious critics (as opposed to those just taking potshots) generally cite the lack of scientific method and reproducibility in Emoto's work, and thus put it in the category of "pseudoscience" or even "quackery".

http://www.chem1.com/CQ/clusqk.html#EMOTO An interesting and more general page about "clustered water" and various water therapies (including homeopathy), concluding that there is no supporting evidence. He does however point out that the placebo effect alone would account for a 40% success rate in treatment. Lots of good links.

http://is-masaru-emoto-for-real.com/ Mostly discusses Emoto's methods and how they afford large opportunities for observer bias. Notes that his work would be far more widely accepted if he would subject it to normal scientific scrutiny.

"Literate Molecules" http://www.badscience.net/?p=14#more-14. This article by Ben Goldacre at first seems to be just a skeptic's rant. However he closes with some interesting observations regarding "the huge, fascinating field of psychoneuroimmunology":

It presents us with an intellectually challenging, incomplete story, rather than a simplistic, complete one involving nice words on a jam jar. There’s a fascinating and reasonably coherent story about how stress hormones, such as cortisol, can affect depression, illness, and even addiction, through interaction with the amygdala and other parts of the brain. There’s nothing wrong with thinking positively, and there’s no reason to think it won’t work, but why retreat into nonsense?

This post by a high school science teacher in Colorado describes the class's attempt to replicate Emoto's results

Various discussions on PhysicsForums. The main attraction here would be the links that appear in the threads. I'll cite only one http://www.physicsforums.com/archive/index.php/t-96912.html -- it has links to others, and they each have more links. They are probably more useful for discussion of the movie than Emoto's work.

1 comment:

Robert Clark said...

Useful information like this one must be kept and maintained.

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