Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Homeopathic plutonium? Now there’s a hot time in the old town tonight!

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on June 17, 2009


In keeping with Homeopathy Awareness Week (which still runs until June 21), I can’t resist commenting on this gem of a story that was sent to me the other day. I mean, we’re talking super duper heaving shopping in the very heart of London. It turns out that the Helios Homeopathy Shop right in Covent Garden will fix you up with homeopathic plutonium if you need it:

Dr Fiona Barclay, a chemist at RGB Research in west London, made this discovery. Her company specialises in selling collections of the periodic table elements (with the exception of those elements that are illegal or are so very short-lived – a few seconds or less – that they invite frustration). Some elements are easy to purchase: carbon, sulphur, iron. For others, one can turn to eBay, where arsenic, uranium (in the form of uranium-tipped missiles), and other elements of ill repute are commonly on offer.But plutonium proved hard to find … until Barclay turned to Google, which directed her to the Helios shop. She explains what happened next:

“I went to Covent Garden and went into the shop and said, ‘Please, may I have some plutonium.’ And the lady behind the counter said, ‘I shall fetch the chemist.’

“The chemist was duly fetched, and I said, ‘I’d really like a sample of plutonium.’ She asked, ‘And how strong would you like it, madam?’

Now there’s customer service! When told to jump, smile and ask how high! Of course, there’s one catch:

“I had gone in there with the very good intention of asking what their original source was, because it’s my understanding that, although they dilute everything until there’s not even a molecule left, they do start off with one drop. But I got frazzled, and forgot to ask.”The chemist gave me pillules, which very entertainingly have a ‘best before’ date of the 31st of March, 2013. And as I was leaving she pointed out that there was no plutonium in it.

Indeed, that’s what homeopathy is all about: not a trace of anything, therapeutic or otherwise, left in it. Of course, given that several isotopes of plutonium have half-lives on the order of thousands of years, one wonders why Helios’ homeopathic preparation would have only a four year useful life. Maybe the water “decays” faster. Or maybe the sympathetic magic that is homeopathy has a half life. Who knows?

I was intrigued; so I had to look up plutonium nitricum, which is the homeopathic version of plutonium being sold. Of course, at this point it is worth noting that, even if Helios (or any other homeopathy seller) did use plutonium to start out with, by the time it’s diluted to 30 C, it’s incredibly unlikely that there is even a single atom of plutonium left, which is convenient if you don’t want to be flooding your body with highly radioactive metal. On the other hand, if dilution and succussion truly does make the plutonium stronger, as homeopathic principles teach, then wouldn’t homeopathic plutonium be a great starting point for an unlimited supply of fuel for nuclear reactors or for the most powerful nuclear bomb ever? Truly, homeopathic plutonium would be dangerous stuff! One has to wonder why nuclear physicists and the military aren’t more interested. This could be a major breakthrough in unlimited civilian power and in military technology. I also have to wonder whether it would even be safe to succuss the mixture between each step, so potent would the plutonium become. And what would one do with all the waste water from the process of dilution and succussion? After all, if water has memory, the discarded water at each step would have a memory of the plutonium, wouldn’t it? True, it wouldn’t be as potent as the final remedy, but, following the law of infinitesimals, each succeeding set of waste water would be imbued with more plutonium goodness. Truly, it would be a horrible radioactive waste disposal problem.