National Geographic apparently sent glass water bottles filled with “healing crystals” to a number of science writers in an effort to promote a new series about Earth.
The once-great Nat Geo, which became a part of Rupert Murdoch’s empire in 2015, sent the magical water bottles to several journalists, including Ryan F. Mandelbaum of Gizmodo. He questioned whether the science and nature magazine had been turned into a “high-budget Goop,” referring to Gwyneth Paltrow‘s repository of pseudoscience.
The huge box Nat Geo sent me contained a book, some press material, and this glass water bottle with their name printed on the side. The >$70 bottle’s package advertises that it contains “carefully selected and ethically sourced gemstones representing the building blocks of earth,” including “wood,” “water,” “earth,” “metal” and “fire.” It came with an instruction and information manual.
Why does my water bottle have an instruction manual? It reads: “For the most precious moments in life! Gems raise the energy level of water. That’s been known for hundreds of years and scientifically proven. VitaJuwel Gemwater Accessories are not only Jewelry for Water, they’re a great tool to prepare heavenly gemwater like fresh from the spring.” The instructions are: screw in the gemstone vial, fill with water, and then wait 7 minutes.
Good luck finding the scientific paper that proves “gems raise the energy level of water.”
Mandelbaum also pointed out that the water bottle contains “a sealed jar of gemstones” — which means the water wouldn’t even come into contact with the magical rocks.
Further, the package contains a warning to discard the bottle if the water does seep in with the gems.
So what exactly is the science backing up these irrational claims?
All of the “science” cited in the brochure comes from widely debunked research from the likes of Japanese author Masaru Emoto — you know, the researcher who claimed humans could impact the chemical structure of water with their thoughts — or unnamed “German scientists.”
Some of the claims are really wild. At one point, the pamphlet says: “Everything in nature vibrates. Gems naturally act like a source of subtle vibrations. These vibrations inspirit water, making it more lively and enjoyable.” This is nonsense, and any reference to electricity in crystals (like piezoelectricity, when charge accumulates on some structures in response to physical stress) is neither exclusive to crystals nor relevant to healing or enlivening drinking water. (“Ha! Yeah. Nah,” astrophysicist Katie Mack told me in a DM.)
Mandelbaum’s article asks Nat Geo why they sent him this bottle, and the response lacked any substance. The company mostly deflected from the nonsensical claims, basically saying it was all in good fun.
Chris Albert, EVP of Communications, National Geographic Global Networks, sent me the following statement:
Clearly you missed the entire point of the kit, which is really disappointing. We were sending you an entertaining mailer to grab your attention for what I believe will arguably be one of the best science television series produced in recent years, from the creative minds of Darren Aronofsky and Nutopia.
The water bottle was just meant to be a clever and harmless representation of some of the themes of the show, and nothing more. Sure, the accompanying guide might read a little silly to some — but I think you are missing the point. It’s a glass water bottle — a great alternative to using plastic! Really no need to be so literal.
This isn’t just some “silly” gift.
The water bottle is meant to be taken literally because it makes literal claims about its powers while citing bogus “scientific” research in an effort to get others to believe it.
This may seem “harmless” to Nat Geo, but when a once-credible organization promotes liquid bullshit, there are plenty of people who will fall for it. There’s potential for actual harm, and it’s irresponsible.
Or, as Nat Geo refers to it, “clever.”
(Image via Shutterstock)