Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Memory of Water

Water is pretty interesting stuff.  It’s made up of two gas molecules that, when combined, become a liquid. When “condensed” into a crystalline solid, it takes up more space than it does as a liquid. Our bodies are made up of something like 70% water. And some folks reckon water is able to encode a sort of “memory”.

I’m currently reading Lynne McTaggert’s book The Field—a landmark book, by the way—and have just finished Chapter 4 in which she talks about how water seems to have the unexpected and remarkable property of “remembering.”  She tells the extraordinary story of Frenchman Jacques Benveniste and his team and their discovery that even when allergy antibodies were diluted down in water to solutions ranging from 1 x 102 up to 1 x 1036, so dilute that no molecules of the antibodies were likely to be in the water at all, the subsequent product still produced positive reactions.  The conclusion that Benveniste and his team came to is that the water must somehow retain a sort of “memory” of the active substance.

His research was published in the science journal Nature in 1988[i] and—no surprises here, given it wildly defies conventional belief—was rubbished within days, putting the good name of the journal under question. Nature sent in a team to their laboratory to—in Benveniste’s words—prove the work fraudulent. On the 3-man team: fraud-buster Walter Stuart, magician and paranormal skeptic James Randi, and the then-editor of Nature John Maddox.  Not, it is interesting to note, any other researchers. It’s an extraordinary story, worthy of Hollywood.

Here’s a 10-minute clip of Benveniste talking about his experiments and the subsesquent Nature investigation.

Although they continue to be debunked by orthodox science and medicine, homeopathic treatments—which use curing agents diluted down to these sorts of nothing-left-of-the-active-agent doses—have been used for about two centuries as an alternative to orthodox medicine and continue to be popular with many people. 

A few years after the Nature debacle, inspired by magician James Randi’s offer of a million dollars to anyone who could prove that homeopathy works, the BBC program Horizon took on the challenge of replicating Benveniste’s results and establishing scientific credibility for the concept of memory in water.  Here’s the excellent documentary they made, which explains pretty clearly what homeopathy is and how it works, documents their experiment, and reveals their results.

SPOILER AHEAD:  Although their scientific team was unable to score the million dollars, the puzzle of why water titrated down to the point it likely has no molecules of the active substance left  yet still seems to have an active effect on the recipient remains. Some scientists put it down to the placebo effect, but that doesn’t account for its popularity and apparent success with veterinarians, farmers, and pet owners. Cows, after all, can’t logically be affected by placebos.

In spite of two trial “failures”, I think the jury is still out on homeopathy. Perhaps the double blind trials where the technicians’ lack of awareness of which water samples had come from the homeopathic origins and which were of just distilled water made a difference. If consciousness affects results—the idea that the observer cannot help but affect the results is a well-accepted principle of quantum physics—then perhaps simply “knowing” that an active substance has been in contact with the water does the trick. Or perhaps, as McTaggart hints at in her book and based on Benveniste’s later studies, there was someone associated with the research that “scrambled” the memory signals through personal electromagnetic radiation. Randi, for example, was associated with both of the double blind studies that failed to produce significant results.

Leaving that story aside, you may have heard of Masaru Emoto, the Japanese researcher who photographed water crystals and observed that water from different places crystallized into different forms.  Further experiments showed that crystals formed in the presence of music varied with the music, and that even words could alter the form the crystals would take: words of peace and affirmation produced “beautiful” crystals, while words of anger and hatred produced deformed crystals. He believes that “damaged” water can be “healed” with prayer and meditation. For a quick summary of Emoto’s work and a selection of his water crystal photos, click here. It follows on from his work that if music, words, thoughts, and intentions can influence water’s coherence, then the implications for us as humans—with our random mishmash of uncontrolled emotions—is that we have not only may have the power to heal, but are capable of inadvertent harm. Remember, something like 70% of each of us is water.

I’d like to end this blog entry with another youtube find regarding water and memory. This one is just a couple of minutes long, and provides more food for thought on water, whether water has “memory”, and how our quantum universe might be working.

And a last thought, on a purely biological level:  If water is so sensitive to substances, and if the stuff that goes into water “imprints” itself, what sort of messy water are we creating with our effluent?


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