Jan 12 2021

SmartDot Scam

Would you be willing to pay $35 for a sticker you put on the back of your phone? What if it had “magical” properties that protect you from something that is not harmful in the first place? That is the idea (it seems to me) behind the SmartDot product, made in the UK. On Amazon they claim: “smartDOT Radiation Protection is a low powered magnet programmed with an intelligent combination of natural harmonizing frequencies which reduces harmful EMF radiation emitted by your wireless devices and alleviate symptoms of electro-stress.”

This is now boilerplate EMF pseudoscience. What are “harmonizing frequencies”? Nothing – this does not even exist as a concept in science. It’s just nice-sounding jargon for the scientifically illiterate. Also, EMF from smartphones are not dangerous and do not cause any known health issues. Further still there is no such thing as “electro-stress”.

One thing I wanted to point out is what happened when the BBC investigated these stickers. They report:

“But University of Surrey tests for BBC News found no evidence of any effect.”

Total lack of surprise there. The stickers were just stickers, with no energy, no field, and no apparent effect that could be detected. The company responded in a typical way – to make their claims essentially unfalsifiable, or at least as difficult as possible to falsify.

“The Devon-based company told BBC News the stickers were programmed with “scalar energy”, which the scientists’ equipment would be unable to detect.”

What is “scalar energy”? Legitimately, it is simply an energy field that exists in a scalar field, which has a particular value at every point in space. So temperature is a scalar field.  But “scalar energy” has become the new “zero point energy” for healing woo. It is simply a phrase borrowed from science that sound impressive and most people don’t know what it actually means – classic pseudoscience.

Here’s the thing – energy that exists in a scalar field should be detectable. What kind of energy is it? Electromagnetic energy is easy to detect. We can even detect weak gravitational fields (these are technically vector fields). I’m assuming they are not talking about weak or strong nuclear forces here. What type of energy is it? They don’t say – just that it’s “scalar energy” which is meaningless. Further, if scientific equipment is unable to detect this mysterious energy, how do makers of these smartDots know the energy exists? A reliable red flag for flagrant pseudoscience is that, if the claims were true, one or more Nobel prizes would be in the making, and the implications would go way beyond stickers for your smartphone.

Then there’s this:

And a spokesman for the lab said: “We could not find any evidence that these products had any effect on frequency or power when used as instructed.”

An Energydots spokeswoman told BBC News: “We state clearly that our products harmonise the fields.

“And the way to test this is to assess via biological testing.”

This is how they make their claims unfalsifiable. The dots do not have any measurable effect on the EMF produced by the phones tested, so the company claims that their product “harmonises the fields”. Apparently this is something that cannot be detected (again, raising concerns over quality control at the factory – how do you quality control something undetectable?). Then they pull something very familiar to skeptics of alternative medicine – they wave off concerns about basic things like physics and retreat to “biological testing”. They want to move into the realm of the squishiest science possible (and I say this as a clinician) because there they can engineer soft findings that are scientifically worthless but can be used to create the false impression of an effect.

We see this with many things, like acupuncture. Forget the fact that there is no evidence for chi, or meridians, or acupuncture points. Let’s look only at clinical outcomes in poorly designed studies with subjective outcomes. We also see it with therapeutic touch (or Reiki or other healing touch version) – forget that the “human energy field” is undetectable, has no theoretical underpinning, and no reason to think it exists. Let’s just look at subjective studies looking to see if people feel better. Perhaps the company will do an in-house study where they get the exact results they pay for. Or a doctor who works for and profits from the company will do a worthless “study” to show something the marketers can use.

Just don’t worry about the fact that the “scalar energy” is theoretically meaningless, and cannot be detected. Don’t think too much about what “harmonise the fields” actually means.

This is a scam, pure and simple. Amazon should remove these products from their site. UK regulators need to shut this down. If regulations don’t protect consumers from blatant scams and pseudoscience, then what are they for?

No responses yet