Monday, March 03, 2008

Snake Oil - The Experiment

I had a conversation with my Mom on Thursday about this whole Kangen water thing - she was telling someone that if you drink a can of pop (pH of approximately 3-4), you have to drink 32 oz of 8.5 basic water to negate the effects (and the lady who sold it said you might as well not drink it at all - which is the same stance that people have when you say that you can help heart disease by taking drugs, but don't do it because it won't completely fix it). I mentioned that it was the same with orange juice (pH of approximately 3-4). She immediately got defensive about it and said how that wasn't the case. I said it was simple chemistry. If you have an acid and you want to negate it, you put in enough base to counteract it. It doesn't matter what the actual composition of the acid is, if acid A is the same strength as acid B, it will take an equal amount of alkaline C to return the pH to 7. "No, pop is different." No, it's not. "Yes, it is. Just ask the lady who sold it to me." There's no point in asking her, it's not worth the argument. "It's true, this was brought here to the States by the inventor of the colonoscopy." It was at this point in time that I decided it wasn't worth talking about any more. After all, when you pull out the inventor of the rectal exam, you know that the conversation is over because you're in two different worlds. Instead I decided to conduct an experiment using impartial litmus paper. They have pH testing supplies with the water machine, but I honestly don't believe them. It's better to get the old standby testing materials that I've used and that have worked for ages. I'd like to thank my assistant/sister Troy for helping me with the experiment.
Here's the range of water being tested: the machine goes from 2.5-9.5 in pH with a standard cup of water (pH of approximately 7) in the middle.
Here's the pH image sheet for reference. We will be going back to it in each test.
First we tested the 9.5 water.
As you can see, the litmus paper pegged this "9.5" water at somewhere between 6-7, the pH of standard tap water.
Next we tested water that was supposed to have a pH of 9.
Again, you can see that there is no difference in the pH. It's still right between 6-7.
I was going to post my results for 8.5, 7, and 5.5, but suffice it to say that they all turned out water with a pH of around 7. I am including the results of the strongly acidic 2.5 water however.
As you can see, if anything it's a little more basic than the other water. I would chalk this up to slight variations in the pH of the water in Utah instead of it actually doing anything.
Because the water was a complete strikeout, I decided to include some control elements as well. First up is Diet Coke. This should definitely be acidic.
As you can see, it falls within the standard acidic range for a soda, right around 4 on the pH scale.
Here is where I really took it up a notch. I decided to get a strong acid and a strong base (vinegar and ammonia, respectively) to see what the water should look like if it actually worked.
First up was the vinegar.
This is clearly a strong acid, with a pH of about 2. That is right where it's supposed to be.
Next up was ammonia.
Again, this was right on the money, with a pH of right around 11. As a result of this rigorous scientific testing, I think it's fair to say that the water machine was a waste of $4000.

3 comments:

Rob said...

Brilliant! Why why why do people believe this kind of stuff? Did you hear the 1st presidency letter on investing in questionable schemes? I think this should go right up there with it. Never believe that some machine, magnets or magical supplement will make you healthy--and don't believe the salesperson's data. $4000, good grief!

Cheeth said...

You win first prize in the Science Fair!

I love this. Now how are you going to justify your support for Rep. Cannon, an avowed snake oil supporter and client? Just kidding, lots of people who are perfectly fine otherwise are hooked on placebos. I just wish I could be fooled into and thereby healed by one.

Sorro said...

It would be nice to be easily fooled, because it would make me less sick I think.
Also, I certainly couldn't justify my choice in Congressmen based on Cannon's snake-oil salesmanship. I'm glad that I don't have to (and that he might be a little bit responsible for the high concentration of those crazy companies here in Utah's 3rd district.