Homeopathy – a Useless Treatment

16 September, 2018

Homeopath practitioners believe that by diluting a solution of a substance that mimics the effect of a disease the diluted concoction will cure the disease. The solution is usually diluted so many times that chemists calculate there may be no molecules of the original substance left in the final medication.

Homeopathic Dilution: other diluents beside alcohol are water and sugar

Homeopaths claim this doesn’t matter as the water has a “memory” of the dissolved curative substance.
Scientifically this makes no sense whatsoever. Nevertheless homeopathic treatments have been clinically tested to see if they are effective. When tested under rigorous double blind conditions the results show homeopathy is no more effective than a placebo.

The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia recently released a report on homeopathy. After reviewing over 200 research papers that it considered worthy of inclusion (many studies of homeopathy are of such poor quality that their conclusions are unreliable) the NHMRC concluded:

“The review found no good quality, well-designed studies with enough participants to support the idea that homeopathy works better than a placebo, or causes health improvements equal to those of another treatment.” Read the rest of this entry »

The TGA Complaints (lack of) process

6 September, 2018

Here are reposts from two recent pieces by Dr Ken Harvey: Both examine Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Authority (TGA).

The first is a letter written to Melbourne’s Age newspaper.

The second, published on Dr Harvey’s own website is about Detox Foot Pads and more than adequately demonstrates the contention, made in the first piece, that the TGA is not really interested in consumer protection.

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Letter to The Age 5/9/18 Spotlight on regulators

Your editorial (4/9) says the government should have a more rigorous process to protect consumers from ineffective treatments and products. There are government regulators that are meant to do this job but they are weak and ineffective. Read the rest of this entry »

3D printing, teeth and human evolution

1 April, 2018

Dr Varsha Pilbrow spoke at March’s Skeptics Café. Dr Pilbrow is a Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience at Melbourne University.

She specializes in the dental morphology of the living apes, and is currently working on international research projects in the study of fossil hominids and  in bioarchaeology, studying the physical anthropology of human skeletal remains from archaeological sites at the cross-roads of major human migration routes. Read the rest of this entry »

The Whack – a – Mole Project and the TGA.

8 November, 2017

by Ken Greatorex



Whack-a-Mole was a popular 1970s arcade game which consisted of repeatedly hitting cartoon moles on the head with a cartoon hammer. Moles nevertheless kept cropping up with undiminished energy more or less at random; so the term Whack-a-mole came to signify “a repetitious and futile task.

Problems with Regulation of Therapeutic Goods

The situation regarding the regulation of therapeutic goods in Australia is unsatisfactory. The complaints process is frustrating, exhausting and often ineffectual. Complaints to the Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) must be made against one product or service at a time. Because such complaints are almost invariably made by volunteers, and there is no financial incentive to complain, only a relatively tiny number of questionable products ever get put under the microscope.

An astonishing 87 % of such complaints have historically been upheld. Yet the offending companies rarely receive more than “a slap on the wrists”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Staying Rational in a World of Tweets, Fake News, Alternative Facts and Sound Bites

30 June, 2017

by William P. Hall

( based on a presentation at Vic Skeptics Café, 19 June 2017 at the Clyde Hotel, Carlton, Vic)

Today we are living in a world of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and blogs where anyone (even President Trump) can instantly post their ideas to the world for essentially no cost. We are also living in dangerous times where exploding human populations and technologies are affecting the planet’s climate and natural resources where extreme concentrations of wealth and power, warfare, epidemics, climate extremes, ecological collapses and famine threaten humanity’s survival. Unsurprisingly there are often conflicts between vested interests seeking wealth, power and control versus those concerned with the futures of our descendents and of humanity in general. Both are heavy users of the new media. Read the rest of this entry »

A Skeptic’s Guide to Free Energy Machines

9 May, 2017
This article has been revised and re-posted from August 2011. It first appeared as a Vic Skeptics discussion pamphlet by Peter Barrett of Canberra Skeptics, but it’s up to date: from time to time these machines still get promoted in niche magazines and websites. Vic Skeptics and our interstate colleagues are from time to time called upon to test claims for “Over-parity Engines”, a.k.a Free Energy Machines.
The full range of our discussion pamphlets can be downloaded from the “Useful Info” link at the top of this page.

Imagine you have an ordinary one litre jug. Two things which I’m sure you’d agree with are that you couldn’t pour more than a litre of water into it or empty more than one litre out of it.

Now imagine you had two such jugs, one full to the brim with water and the other empty. Pour the water from one jug to the other and back again. Repeat this process as often as you like. Is there any way you could imagine that you’d end up with more than one litre of water split between the two jugs?

The logical answer is “No.” In fact, due to spillage and evaporation, it’s more likely that you’d end up with less than one litre of water.

This is a fairly accurate representation of one of the most basic principles of physics, known as Conservation of Energy. This principle states that energy can change form, but can’t be destroyed or created. A good example of this is the production of household electricity in Australia. Most electricity in Australia is generated by burning coal. The coal has chemical energy. When it’s burned, it releases heat energy.

This energy heats water to steam, which turns a turbine (kinetic energy). The turbine drives a generator, producing electrical energy. We then use this electrical energy for heating, cooling, running the TV, and so on. Read the rest of this entry »

A Skeptic’s Guide to the Scientific Method

17 March, 2017
This article first appeared here in July 2011. You can also download the latest .pdf version here: Scientific Method . Our full range of  Skeptics Guides can be accessed using the USEFUL INFO tab at the top of this page.

“Science is best defined as a careful, disciplined, logical search for knowledge about any and all aspects of the universe, obtained by examination of the best available evidence and always subject to correction and improvement upon discovery of better evidence. What’s left is magic.

And it doesn’t work.”

– James Randi

The term “Scientific Method” is used to describe the way scientific research is designed, performed and reviewed. Good science depends on rigour – strict and unfailing adherence to basic principles.

In simple terms, as a scientist,  you would:

1. Make some observation about something that is going on in the universe. Read the rest of this entry »