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The Biotape web site disappeared in July 2009
We've got you taped, you're in the play (10/7/2004)
Those words from the Jethro Tull song A Passion Play came into my head when I saw a quack named Darrell Stoddard on television this week fixing people's pains with what appeared to be electrical tape. This wasn't on some advertorial morning show, but on what used to be regarded as the best investigative journalism show on the box. One of the statements which caught my ear was that this tape conducted electricity because it contained Mylar. This plastic is used as the substrate on audio- and videotape and computer backup tapes where electrical conductivity does not seem like a good idea, so I looked in the logical places and found this safety warning from DuPont, who make Mylar:
Because of its good dielectric properties, a thin plastic film of Mylar™ run at high speed can pick up a strong charge of static electricity. This is usually caused by rapidly separating the film from an idler roll or similar equipment. Unless this charge is dissipated as it forms, by using ionizing radiation devices or special conducting metal tinsel, it can build to thousands of volts and discharge to people or metal equipment. In dust- or solvent-laden air, a flash fire or an explosion could follow. Extreme caution is needed to prevent static accumulation when using flammable solvents while coating Mylar™. Solvent-coating equipment should incorporate the means for detecting and extinguishing fire. Plastic wraps used on rolls of Mylar™ may also accumulate static charges, so caution should be taken when unwrapping a roll in a dust- or solvent laden atmosphere
So this quack is using something which the manufacturer says has "good dielectric properties" to increase the conductivity of bicycle tape. This indicates that his spiel is aimed at scientifically illiterate people and that he doesn't care that one of his major claims for his product can be proved to be a lie with almost no effort at all. The organisation promoting his book and selling his $30/metre tape wouldn't care either, because another product advertised on their web site cannot, as far as I know, be sold legally in Australia. What makes this scam worse is its apparent endorsement by a high-rated, supposedly responsible, reputable television news and current affairs show. The quack's site was displaying the words "As seen on A Current Affair" the next day. (Two nights later the show ran a story about someone curing a child's behavioural problems by "detoxing". I think I know what I will be writing about next week.)
I love the disclaimer on the quack's website, where it says in the smallest possible type that can be displayed on a computer screen: "We make no claims on this web page that Biotape� will stop, heal, or relieve pain. It is offered for sale only for research purposes-to explore the Chinese definition of pain. The only claim we make is that Biotape™ connects the 'broken Chi' (endogenous electrical signals in living tissue) which traditional Chinese medicine defines as the cause of pain". I was trying to think of a suitable nickname for Darrell Stoddard, and I suddenly thought of "tapeworm". How convenient is it that not only does it mention tape, but it is also the name of another parasite?
All of this and some of that's the only way to skin the cat.
And now you've lost a skin or two, you're for us and we for you
I sent the following email to the television program. I do not expect an early answer.
One of the bizarre statements made in the story about Biotape on July 7 was "The tape looks and feels like electrical tape but it contains a polyester substance called Mylar and instead of insulating, it conducts electricity, in this case, our own".
According to DuPont, who make the stuff, Mylar is an insulator. In fact, they have safety advice about how to minimise the danger from static electricity when using it.
Of course, this is just a minor point when the story was about someone who is selling tape for $30 per metre (that he buys for cents a metre) in order to defraud desperate people who are prepared to try anything to ease their chronic pain.
I remember when ACA used to chase crooks through the streets, not give them free advertising.