Field of Science

Stoopid! Dilution works!

Apparently the city of Portland Oregon thinks homeopathy works. After a security camera caught some fellow taking a piss into the city's reservoir, they flushed 8 million gallons of water down the drain. Now let's suppose this fellow really needed to go, and deposited 8 oz of urine into the city water supply. That comes out to something like a few millionths of a percent. In common parlance, that amounts to nothing, unless of course you think water has a memory and no amount of dilution matters, the basic premise of homeopathy. This is the problem when people can't think. Here's a demonstration of the problem that's totally appropriate to the problem, ah, but bet they didn't shake the reservoir to invoke the magic of water. The correct solution is to tell everyone you drained the water, and then just not do it because no one can ever tell the difference. Although in a very counter intuitive thought experiment, if you throw a glass of water into the reservoir, and it disperses evenly, what are your chances of getting at least one molecule of your original water back if you dipped in your glass?


Eric said...

Did you listen to the television coverage posted in that piece? Reporters can be so thoughtless in their choice of words. Instead of reporting (fairly) that the man peed in the water and then the city flushed it, our reporter takes the loaded-word path and tells us that the man peed in the water, forcing the city to flush it. No wonder some of the public gets it wrong when the media merrily leads them along the way. At least a lot of Oregonians saw through the silliness of it.

The Phytophactor said...

Eric - Did you see the blog on Gnu Math? That was a communications major who couldn't make change.