Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Q-Ray and Critical Thinking

Advertisements for the "Q-Ray" have me shaking my head again.  You've no doubt seen an ad for the metal bracelet that can improve your life in every conceivable way.  How can these metal bands help its wearer navigate life's obstacles, you ask?  Well, they are positively charged you see, and this charge will seep into the wrist it sits on, and then consume the body of the individual.  A better question might be, "How many illicit drugs were the makers of these 'devices' on when they thought people would be dense enough to believe this nonsense?"

I guess the joke's on me, because the Q-Ray, also known as the second dumbest product after 'Head-on', is back.  So profitable are these magic bracelets that they are again being sold, even after suffering a verdict that should have spelled the end of Q-Ray.  As reported by Consumer Affairs, "In November 2006, the court required the defendants to turn over a minimum of $22.5 million in net profits and up to $87 million in refunds to consumers who bought the bracelets between January 1, 2000 and June 30, 2003, when the bracelet was advertised on infomercials and Internet Web sites, and at trade shows."

According to the ruling at that time, Q-Ray was misleading consumers into believing that the bracelets actually did something.  Apparently, this multi-million-dollar slap on the wrist was not sufficient to deter the makers of Q-Ray (they must have been wearing a Q-Ray bracelet at the time the decision was handed down - apparently, Q-Rays heighten one's persistence).

A rational response by the makers of Q-Ray to this court decision would have been to close up shop.  The word is out, our product is crap.  I guess one guy in the room stood up and said, "Hold on guys,  we know our product is terrible and misleading, but if we stay quiet for long enough, perhaps we can then get back into the business of duping people."

While I find the continued sales of these bracelets contemptuous, my empathy for its consumers has its limits.  Where is your critical thinking?  When your $150 magic bracelet arrives in the mail, smash it against your head a few times - this is the most direct solution to what currently ails you.

From the TV ads currently in circulation, the Q-Ray is positively charged.  For my introductory science students, let me describe what this means.  It means that valence electrons have been removed from the metal, leaving it with an excess of protons, and a net positive charge.  While electron removal is not so difficult, it also does not last.  Should the bracelet ever come into contact with a grounded metal, it would be instantly neutralized (it would discharge its excess charge, which in this case means drawing in electrons from the ground).  And, if one is careful to avoid such contact, free ions in the air would eventually render the bracelet neutral anyway.

This is really besides the point though.  Even if the bracelet could magically retain its positive charge indefinitely, why would it cause the wearer to be positive?  This is ridiculous.  The terms 'positive' and 'negative' charge are arbitrary - a man-made convention.  We could have decided that the electron was actually positive and the proton negative a century ago, and carried forth with this convention.  Would Q-Rays then be injected with extra electrons rather than have them stripped?

At the end of the day, it comes down to clinical test trials, in which Q-Ray has failed to give users better results than a placebo (surprise, surprise).

What is surprising to me is the notion that a product like this could sell despite being outed as a fraud.  Today, even those without the ability to deduce that the Q-Ray is bogus on their own can read about the 2006 verdict.  In fact, I think that Q-Ray's website should be forced to have a link to this verdict to be fair to the consumer.  That is called 'disclosure of information'.

Q-Ray is not the first nor will it be the last silly product unleashed on the unsuspecting public.  In the end, it is much like politics.  They say that in a democracy, the public gets the elected officials it deserves.  I suppose that in a free market, the public gets the products it deserves.

In case you are still interested in a genuine Q-Ray product, I am excited to report that they now offer socks laced with bits of positive metal.  This new option allows the consumer to still be a moron, but to hide this fact about them from others.  

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