Yelling at rice for fun and profit

Masaru Emoto has convinced a lot of gullible people that human intention can change how molecules of water behave and affect how rice ferments. He does this by staging experiments where he criticizes or praises jars of water and rice for weeks on end.

It will probably not surprise you to learn that Emoto's "experiments" are set up in such a way as to render the results all but meaningless. This isn't really about understanding how the world works — it's about getting people like Gwyneth Paltrow to buy coffee table books that tell them they are powerful spritual beings. Nevertheless, I always kind of enjoy seeing someone take a crap demonstration like this and try to set it up in a truly scientific way. At Skeptical Inquirer, Carrie Poppy tried out Emoto's rice experiment. The results were less than compelling, but the process is worth reading about simply for the comedy.

The experiment had Emoto pouring water over cooked rice in three different beakers, then labeling one “Thank You!,” one “You’re An Idiot,” and leaving one unlabeled (the control). Every day for one month, Emoto spoke whatever was on the bottle to the rice inside (since this is about intentionality, it doesn’t matter whether the other rice “overhear”). And after thirty days, what happened? Well, the “Thank You!” rice “began to ferment, giving off a strong, pleasant aroma.” The “You’re An Idiot” rice turned mostly black, and the control rice “began to rot,” turning a disgusting green-blue color. Well, the jig is up when your control rice rots, right? Apparently not. According to Emoto, the “ignored” rice fared the worst because negligence and indifference are the absolute worst things we can do to water, rice…and ourselves.

I decided to try it myself. I got out three jars, and labeled two of them “Thank You!” and “You’re An Idiot,” and left the third blank. I was tempted to think of this third jar as a control, but since Dr. Emoto decided that controls are merely victims of neglect, I thought I would add another type of control: a fourth jar, bearing the name “Michele Bachmann.” Every day, I would read to Jar #4 a quote from Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Depending on the rice’s political affiliation, perhaps it would be inspired, or perhaps it would commit suicide.

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