January 18, 2004

Eternal life through cheap magnets

Yet another spammer graced the Bible Versions Discussion Board with his presence yesterday peddling Alex Chiu's "Immortality Devices." Spammers are the scum of the earth to begin with, and these nitwits hawking Chiu's magnetic rings are especially pernicious since they are also apparently motivated by the promise of free products if they can convince enough people to click on their clickthru banners. So, complaints were sent to the usual suspects.

Alex Chiu, for those unfamiliar with him, is a Chinese-American "inventor" who sells ring-shaped clamps containing small magnets. Properly worn on the fourth fingers of each hand while the user sleeps, Chiu claims they will extend life indefinitely because "your fingers are the transistors of your body"; the little energy introduced by the magnets results in a huge flow of energy through the body. He also claims that:

The reason why a person gets healthier if his or her magnetic flux increases is that blood circulation is directly proportional to magnetic flux. Our body circulates blood with its natural turbine, magnet flux, which consists of no moving parts but yet still propels blood into the blood circulatory system.

This is abject nonsense. Blood is not affected by magnetic fields. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine generates a powerful enough magnetic field to suck large metal objects into its chamber. In fact there was a [PDF] fatal accident in 2001 in which an oxygen bottle pulled loose by an MRI smashed the head of a child in the machine. If blood were circulated by magnetism, a magnetic field this powerful would surely suck the blood out of the body - but its effect on the body is negligible.

And in fact it's factually wrong. Blood doesn't circulate because of magnetic flux. The human body has a mechanical pump. It's called the heart.

Stephen Barrett of QuackWatch notes that some peddlers of medical magnets have been shut down by the FDA and FTC for making far lesser claims than immortality. Maybe Alex is off the hook because his claims are untestable, at least until he is in the grave and immune from any fraud litigation. How do you know whether anyone will live forever?

Then again, maybe it can be tested. Give a pair of magnetic pinky rings to someone who has gone beyond his threescore and ten - say, someone 110 years old and still alive and kicking. See how long they stay that way. The question is: Would Chiu take the challenge if posed?