765: Dilution

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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.


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 known to be completely ineffective, with countless scientific studies repeatedly showing it to have no more effectiveness than a placebo. Keep in mind that homeopathy was invented when standard treatments included blood letting, drugs made with mercury and arsenic, and natural remedies made with nightshade and hemlock. So doing effectively nothing like homeopathy had better results than doing harm to an individual.

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-nonillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) 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 to the next generation, which is why the comic states that "the belief in homeopathy is not, evolutionarily, selected for".

According to the belief of homeopathy, diluted sperm should not help in getting pregnant, but help to cure the symptoms, e.g. pregnancy, caused by it. So even if diluting it 30X, would have a homeopathic effect, it would be the opposite of the one Cueball states he wants to achieve.

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.


[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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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. (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? 17:47, 13 April 2014 (UTC)
No, the previous user is correct. The "theory" of homeopathy is that to cure a symptom you provide something that would cause that symptom diluted into some ridiculously small dose. Any products that are marketed with the label "homeopathy" but are primarily an active ingredient that would have a detectable effect are using the label incorrectly. For example, there are two kinds of zinc in Zicam, both diluted at 2x, which means they're 1% of their original solution strength. The label doesn't indicate the original solution strength and doesn't indicate how much zinc is actually present in the medicine. Zinc is known to improve the immune system, so taking a diluted zinc supplement to stop a cold would, if homeopathy were true, would be the opposite of what you'd want to do. Contrast this with the homeopathic remedy Belladonna, prepared at 30X concentrations (preparation is 1x10^-30 of original concentration) supposedly cures the circulatory system, because in normal concentrations Belladonna causes tachycardia, among other things. Ioldanach (talk) 14:16, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
Any marks for realising why scientists can't replicate homeopathy's results? :))
Maybe Cueball is Sterile? 00:07, 17 May 2015 (UTC)

I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 21:40, 26 January 2015 (UTC)

Can we conclude that the woman is Megan? 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)

I find it more likely that the female is Danish, as she has longer hair.--Forrest (talk)09:41, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

Except Danish is actually smart. 20:21, 30 May 2018 (UTC)

I wrote out 1 nonillion, because #1162 also applies to quitters who don't have enough text space to make their point properly. International Space Station (talk) 23:26, 18 December 2015 (UTC)

You still used a log scale. That’s approximatwly what place-value system is, as was pointed out in a few What-Ifs. There has not been enough hard drive space yet manufactured to make your point properly (assuming at least one bit per part water). -- 02:50, 16 June 2017 (UTC)

I like homeopathy, and enjoy talking to its proponents. I find it incredibly entertaining. 20:51, 15 May 2016 (UTC)

If Semen is mixed long enough with water, especially in lower temperatures (below body heat), sperm will break down and die. So even if cueball got that 1 nonilionth chance of having a sperm cell in there, it would be long dead by now. 03:30, 2 February 2021 (UTC)