Putting Homeopathy Into Perspective
Homeopathy is an odd concept. Its two main principles are:
1. Like cures like. So, for example, if you have headaches, confusion, vomiting and/or diarrhea, a homeopath might prescribe a preparation of arsenicum album (arsenic) because, y’see, arsenic causes those same symptoms. Yeah.
2. The more dilute the preparation, the more potent it is. Homeopaths use a method called serial dilution to reduce the amount of active ingredient, usually to the point where it’s unlikely that even a single molecule is left. So, y’know, don’t sweat that whole arsenic thing.
Just how dilute are these preparations? Well, it depends. They start at 1X (1 part in 10) and range up to (or possibly down to) 200C (1 part in 10400) but are typically 30C (1 part in 1060). Some of these numbers are hard to grasp, so we’re going to enlist the help of…
Why Felicia Day? Why not? I’d originally thought of using Colin Firth because I’d just seen “The King’s Speech” and then briefly considered Ben Affleck, just so I could use the “Powers of Ben” pun but finally settled on Felicia Day for no particular reason. Just… go with it.
1C is usually the starting point for serial dilution. You start with a 1:100 dilution (1C), then dilute some of that 1:100 (2C), and again (3C) and so on. So, each additional C becomes 100 times more dilute than the previous.
OK, sure, the world population isn’t quite 10 billion yet and probably won’t be for a couple more decades but we’re in the ballpark at least. Most of these illustrations are within an order of magnitude or so.
Now, let’s skip ahead a bit…
12C is about the point where a beaker of the stuff has about a 50/50 chance of having even one molecule of active ingredient. Note: The number of planets in the universe isn’t actually known and 1 septillion is probably on the high side, estimation-wise.
At this point, I ran out of increasingly bizarre comparisons to illustrate the numbers involved. But the recommended dilution for most purposes is 30C, which is 8 orders of magnitude more dilute than 26C. That means you’d need 100 million universes per Felicia Day. That’s a lot of universes.