Bracelet claims put to the test

Frank Pangallo
Today Tonight

The promoters of the 'Power Balance' bracelet claim it can do amazing things to your body when you're wearing one - things that defy logic or science.

Tom O'Dowd, whose company sells the bracelets in Australia for $60 dollars, says the secret to the bracelet is in a hologram.

"It's a frequency that's been embedded in mylar tech in the hologram and that frequency - when it comes in comes within 2 inches of your skin - reacts with electrical field of your body. You are the battery that powers this product," Tom said.

Richard Saunders from the Australian Skeptics says that's nonsense.

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What is not in dispute is the effect it's had on almost all the people who've tried it, like 80-year-old Joyce Washington.

"I don't know if it gives more energy, but I'm more alert, even round the house I do things thoroughly if I have bracelet on," Joyce said.

Melbourne chiropractor, Dr Matt Bateman, has tried it on hundreds of his patients, even staking his reputation on it.

"I felt it for myself. There is so much you can fake - I am not faking 500% strength and stability, which is what I felt - I can't fake that," Dr Bateman said.

Dr. Bateman demonstrated the bracelet on one of Today Tonight's sceptical reporters, Jonathan Creek, with amazing results.

So who to believe? Today Tonight asked Tom to put his claims to a series of tests using six volunteers with Richard Saunders looking on.

Tom carried out his usual balance and strength routine, using a card embedded with the hologram, then with the bracelet. All six reported a positive reaction, but all the volunteers were aware when they came into contact with the hologram and the bracelet.

Richard thinks the positive results might have had more to do with physics or the angles with which Tom was exerting his force.

Next, Today Tonight made a series of blind tests.

Six cards were randomly placed in the pockets of the six volunteers. Only one, the fifth in line, had the card with the hologram. It was up to Tom to detect who had it - he was unable to do so.

The same experiment was repeated using the bracelet. Tom again failed. He also failed a second time when Richard had a hologram hidden in his pocket.

So, is it mind over matter perhaps?

The human brain is a powerful tool and capable of extraordinary things says Professor David Powers. He runs the Artificial intelligence Unit at Flinders University.

"If you tell a person that its going to do something, then show it can find the placebo effect - which means whatever you say they believe it will happen. Sometimes when you have an object that does have an effect, the placebo effect plus a little more, when they have the object if it is stimulating them in some way," he said.

The power of positive thinking - take American Nick Harris. This week he turned superman when he lifted a car off a six year old girl but he's tried to do it again a few times since, without success.

Professor Powers would like to do more research on the placebo effect of the power bracelet, while Richard Saunders and his sceptics maintain it's up there with snake oil.