765: Dilution

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Dilution
Dear editors of Homeopathy Monthly: I have two small corrections for your July issue. One, it's spelled "echinacea", and two, homeopathic medicines are no better than placebos and your entire magazine is a sham.
Title text: Dear editors of Homeopathy Monthly: I have two small corrections for your July issue. One, it's spelled "echinacea", and two, homeopathic medicines are no better than placebos and your entire magazine is a sham.

[edit] Explanation

Homeopathy is the belief that poisons, bacteria, and other harmful substances can actually cure the diseases they normally cause, if they are administered in sufficiently dilute form. The normal procedure is to prepare a solution, then successively dilute it with water or alcohol by multiple factors of 10. (There's also a "succussion" step between rounds, which basically consists of shaking or striking the mixture, but no serious mechanism for how this would affect anything has been provided.) In the medical world, it's widely believed to be total bunk, with countless scientific studies repeatedly showing it to have no more effectiveness than a placebo.

Here we find Cueball, a firm believer in homeopathy, applying the idea to fertility by diluting his semen. 30X means that the semen has been diluted with water at a 1:10 ratio 30 times, so the solution contains 1 part semen to one-novillion parts water. Since the average ejaculation contains 200 to 500 million sperm cells, this means the solution Cueball is holding has a 3.5x10-20% chance of containing even a single sperm cell. Clearly, Megan will not be getting pregnant from this, so she and Cueball will not be passing on their genes, which is why the comic states that the belief in homeopathy is not selected for.

Echinacea is a genus of flowers commonly used in herbal remedies to stimulate the immune system. Scientific studies have not shown that such an effect exists. The title text is intended to represent a letter to the editors of fictitious journal 'Homeopathy Monthly', starting with a minor complaint that they seem unable to perform the basic proof-reading and fact-checking necessary to correctly spell one of the most well-known herbal remedies. This is followed up by a complete dismissal of homeopathy as a whole and the magazine in particular.

[edit] Transcript

[Cueball stands at a desk with a beaker in one hand and a turkey baster in the other. Megan lies in a bed in the same room.]
Cueball: Okay, this time I've diluted the semen 30x.
Megan: We'll be sure to get pregnant now!
Belief in homeopathy is not, evolutionarily, selected for.
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Discussion

Technically, however, homeopathy states that diluted semen should act as a contraceptive. To get pregnant, they would have to dilute a birth-control pill or something. 134.94.171.148 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I remember someone complaining that homeopathic medicines are labeled similarly to the real thing on drug store shelves. Wouldn't this mean that, at least in some interpretations, it's the medicine which can be diluted into a cure?173.245.52.135 17:47, 13 April 2014 (UTC)

Can we conclude that the woman is Megan? 67.188.195.182 21:32, 5 September 2013 (UTC)

The woman is in fact Megan, I did edit the transcript.--Dgbrt (talk) 22:38, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
I found this explanation of the wording helped: "Traits that cause greater reproductive success of an organism are said to be selected for, whereas those that reduce success are selected against." (From http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_selection) --Insomniac (talk) 05:59, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
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