Pseudoscience of the day: Energy Armor

I caught this via the gaming site Shacknews, which reported that video game giant Electronic Arts is suing California sports-performance company Energy Armor over use of their logo, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Electronic Arts' iconic "EA" logo.

Energy Armor specializes in what they call "negative ion" wrist bands which they claim improve balance, performance and energy levels. Here's their promotional video:

There all kinds of products like this on the market, including the ever-popular magnetic wrist bands advertised for many of the same reasons. They are, without exception, placebos.

The supposedly amazing balance test that is displayed here is one that magnetic bracelet manufacturers also used, and it's not difficult to explain. The body adapts very rapidly to tasks in which some measure of resistance is required. For example, try holding out your hands and having a friend drop a heavy book into them. You'll find your hands dropping quite far as they compensate for the unknown weight of the book.

Now, say the word "FOOGALAGABAGA!" and repeat the experiment. You'll find the second time that your hands drop only a fraction of the original distance in response to the impact of the book. Your body has very quickly adapted to the task. Is this a simple motor-neural adaptation, or is it because you said "FOOGALAGABAGA!"?

That's more or less all that's happening in these videos. The subjects quickly adapt to being gently pushed by the Energy Armor "specialist", but the exact same adaptation would occur with or without the $25 piece of plastic on their wrist.

Importantly, these bracelets bear the hallmark of all pseudosciences: nonspecific claims. Notice that they never tell you exactly how "negative ion technology" actually works, or what exactly they're supposed to do. You're supposed to feel better, have more energy, etc. etc. Well, whoopdeedoo. The exact same result can be achieved through positive thinking or even by munching on a bowl of cereal. Real science requires specific claims and specific mechanisms of action.

Unfortunately, by the time these things are ever tested and debunked, the makers will have made a killing by selling tons of plastic wristbands for $25 a pop.


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