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.

Notable Replies

  1. Some of us yelled at rice before it was profitable. Some of us did it for the passion.

    That scene is so over now.

  2. I do see a flaw in the way Poppy conducted the experiment. She put all the jars of rice together, so "Thank you", "Unlabeled", and "Michelle Bachmann" all heard her yelling at "You're an idiot". As Dave Barry once said, "A person who's nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person."

    Technically, though, all the rice should have rotted. I think she should repeat this experiment, this time keeping the samples separated, if only for the hilarity that will follow when she goes to great lengths to not yell in front of the rice.

  3. Paltrow: "*I am fascinated by the growing science behind the energy of consciousness and its effects on matter. *"

    -

    It's easy to see why people want Emoto's results to be real. Most folks, myself included, don't really know much about the physical details of how ice freezes or rice ferments. These are just mysterious things that happen when we're not looking. Our emotions, on the other hand, are all too familiar

    I think it's simpler than that: we want to live in a world where consciousness affects reality. We want to live in a world where we could measure our auras and chakras and souls. We want to live in a world where, someday perhaps, those of us who have attained enough enlightenment can bend reality to our wills.

    Given such a desire -- how else to explain the wonderful escapism of this notion in sci-fi and fantasy books and films? -- some people will cling to any science that seem to show that this is real: it's true! the universe DOES bend to human consciousness!

    Sure, people who believe that being angry at water affects it's molecular structure may be gullible, but consider how many quite smart people misinterpret Heisenburg's Uncertainty Principle -- actually really the Observer Effect -- to believe that observing something with human consciousness affects quantum particles. So many people have this misperception that the Wikipedia article even has to mention and cite the fact that "the observer" doesn't need to be conscious.

    We really want this to be true, and so grasp at anything that makes it think it's true. Who doesn't magic to be real?

  4. I have a great use for all The Secret stuff, but it's really targeted.

    If you have a friend/family member/acquaintance that A) believes in The Secret + affiliated baloney, and B) likes to complain a lot, it is possible to craft and speak a sentence which will alleviate some of your irritation:

    "Your negative energy is really painful and triggering for me, so can you please go the fuck away?"

    Your mileage may vary, but I've been happy with the results.

  5. Ah! Do I detect a fellow wheat-whisperer! Or are you of the millet-murmuring camp? Fellow travelers, one and all!

     

     

    No matter your affiliation, I'm sure we both agree that corn-callers are a disgusting and debased aberration.

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