AntiBio, AntiSense (7/8/2004)
My local non-commercial television station, run by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, has a weekly show named "The New Inventors". (The word "new" is in there because there was a similar program called "The Inventors" several years ago.) The premise of the show is to provide a forum for inventors to display their creations, and the public perception is that it is a way for amateur inventors to publicise their work. Another public perception is that the ABC is somewhat more reliable than the commercial networks when it comes to fact checking, particularly when anything scientific is involved. Both these perceptions were damaged a couple of weeks ago when the show featured a blatant piece of pseudoscience which has been on the market for about three years. The AntiBio System is supposed to purify water, and has been sold to several operators of public swimming pools where it is supposed to kill micro-organisms, reduce the need for chlorine, and make sand filters more efficient.
It doesn't take long looking at the AntiBio web site to see that this is pure crackpottery. The thing is supposed to use sound waves to disrupt the breeding cycles of bacteria and viruses (ignoring the fact that a virus has no independent means of reproduction outside a host cell), tear electrons off calcium molecules (sic), and keep the water sparkling clean, and to do this for an Olympic sized pool by apparently using the power of just one of those little nine-volt batteries that last for about six months in the smoke detector in my kitchen. It demonstrates the sorry state of science education and knowledge that nobody associated with the program even suspected that this device might not work. Here is the message I sent to the producers of the show. (To their credit, my message was published on the show's web site.)
When I first heard about this thing I thought that it was something to treat a domestic water supply, like a Britta filter. While I suppose it is possible to kill germs with sound (we have a brown dog who has to be kept away from some of my daughter's CDs in case the noise kills him), an AntiBio device on your kitchen tap would just be a financial scam.
When I read the ABS web site, however, I find that it works by stripping electrons off calcium atoms. This reduces the need for chlorine in pools. Perhaps it also rips out some protons, turning calcium into chlorine (this would require the release of some neutrons as well, but perhaps it's a way of making helium: Ca -> Cl + He + H). When I think of the sound level on the grid at the start of a Formula One race and the fact that Michael Schumacher can finish a race without jellied bones and green gas coming out of his nostrils, I'm not sure that I would like to be near anything with this much sound energy.
Did I mention that the sound from the ABS makes particles agglutinate better in the filter?
They call it ABS. Correct – All BS.
In early 2005, I was informed that the AntiBio device no longer uses a little transistor radio battery to provide the enormous amount of power necessary to clean up Olympic pools. It now uses mains power. An inspection of the pictures of the equipment on the AntiBio site showed that this was correct. No longer do municipal authorities have to keep a box of spare batteries on hand, because they can now power the equipment using one of those small transformers that we all use to charge our mobile phone batteries.
Did I mention that the AntiBio device is a fraud, and the people who have been stealing money from town councils should be made to pay it back before they go to prison?
The AntiBio scam (5/3/2005)
Each year, Australian Skeptics presents the Bent Spoon Award to "the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudoscientific piffle". The 2004 award went to a television show which had uncritically promoted a pseudoscientific electrical device which was supposed to clean the water in swimming pools using principles unknown to science. One of the things I do in my spare time is manage the web site for Australian Skeptics, and a complaint was received about the site this week. The complaint came from the Chief Executive Officer of AntiBio Technologies Pty Ltd. His objection was to the following words, which appear on the Bent Spoon Award page:
The winners for 2004 were the producers of the ABC television show The New Inventors, principally for giving consideration to an obvious piece of pseudoscience, the AntiBio water water conditioning system.
According to the CEO, the statement is preposterous and damaging to his business and unless it is removed from the site his company will take serious action. I have suggested that as soon as he supplies AS with the scientific studies demonstrating the power of a speaker driven by one of those little transformers you use to charge your mobile phone battery to a) sterilise an entire Olympic-sized swimming pool by using sound to disrupt the breeding cycles of pathogenic organisms and b) strip electrons from calcium molecules (sic) then something might be done about people saying bad things about his company on the web. As his company claims to have received several grants of taxpayers' money from the government, I feel that the appropriate parliamentary audit and oversight committees will have to be notified that someone is using bluff and unscientific nonsense to rifle the cash box.
You can read some more about the AntiBio scam here. Did I say "scam"? Well, what else would you call selling a box of wires and saying that it can do impossible things?
[Note: I stopped managing the web site for Australian Skeptics in early 2009, but I have left the mention in this article for historical accuracy.]
I am chastised (15/1/2011)
Someone didn't like what I had to say about a scam that supposedly cleans water by applying all the force of a phone charger to make noises which kill things. My responses are in itallics.
Date: Mon, 10 Jan 2011 09:08:54 +1000
From: "pool family"
Subject: Anitbio feedback
I write to let you know about an out of date page on your website. https://ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/antibio.htm
I don't see anything there which is out of date, other than the statement that I manage the Australian Skeptics web site. I no longer do this and this fact is now noted. I have checked the AntiBio web site and there doesn't seem to be anything there which would make me change my mind about anything else I said.
It might be worth your while revisiting this item given 6 years has past since you posted this baseless information. It would seem that gathering facts is something you don't do very well so I write to inform you that I've had an Antibio system treating the water in my domestic pool for six continuous years without issue. My pool contains 82,000 litres of pure fresh water and the only treatment it has received in six years is from the Antibio system. No other antibacterial additions – without fail.
I congratulate you on the robustness of your immune system. I assume you are still filtering the water. By the way, an Olympic-sized pool is about 30 times as big as yours so one would assume it would take 30 AntiBio gadgets to keep one of them clean, but the AntiBio web site still shows only one mobile phone charger being used. It is normal for treatment things like this to scale with the application and the fact that it seems that "one size fits all" is evidence that the thing doesn't do much at all. If you doubt me, compare the size of your sand filter to the one at the local council pool.
My local pool shop were very interested when I installed this system and collected weekly water samples for the first three months of operation. They were shocked that this technology works and departed muttering about having to charge me for future water analysis because they doubted being able to make money from me by selling chemicals. My local pool shop undertakes more assessment than you appear to!
I'm surprised that they haven't signed on as distributors of the AntiBio device. Perhaps they thought that selling tested methods of controlling pool water quality was preferable to selling kits consisting of some wires, a couple of hose clamps and a mobile phone battery charger.
By the way, have you had any water quality checks done since the initial six months? Your filter can make the water look clean but most of the bugs are invisible even when a lot of them are in the water.
I also notice that you continue to speak on behalf of the Australian Skeptic Association, a group to which I belonged until I visited your website six years ago whilst deciding to buy an Antibio unit. I was your website and one eyed ideology that lead me to feel that this was not something I wanted to be part of. I'm an engineer, a practical person who is not prepared to disregard a new idea until it can be tested. Apparently, you are not of the same mind.
I do not speak for Australian Skeptics (there is no Australian Skeptic Association) and never have unless I have specifically said so at the time. If my comments about AntiBio drove you away from the organisation then you could not have been much of a fan in the first place.
While I can't tar all Skeptics with the same brush, your website does contain some relevant and valid social comment but the overwhelming smell of arrogance is enough to turn me off.
Thank you. Constructive comment is always welcome.
I don't expect you'll reconsider your position, although a little more objective factual homework wouldn't hurt.
I've had a look at the scientific "research" conducted on behalf of AntiBio and I would say that they are the ones to do some more objective factual homework. As an example, if you are doing a study to test the ability of something to reduce microbiological population and a seperate system monitoring chlorine injection fails allowing more chlorine than usual to enter the water you cannot then claim that the device under test had any effect on microorganisms. If the research cited on the AntiBio web site is indicative of what passes for PhD-level standards in some parts of Griffith University then I can only feel sympathy for the friends of mine who work or study there or who are alumni, because their work will be devalued by such amateurism.