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Bill Nye Selling Out to The Man?

by Brian Dunning, Apr 22 2010

If you’re like me, and most other human beings, you’ve been a longtime fan of Bill Nye the Science Guy. With his wonderfully entertaining personality, he’s always been able to interest nearly anyone with some fascinating little snippet of science. His influence on the world has been an overwhelmingly positive one. He gets people excited about what’s real in our world, something that has trickle-down benefits through many aspects of our lives.

So it was with a bit of surprise that I first saw some notes on Twitter that he is now promoting a product based on, shall we say, “interesting” principles. He is the spokesman for Activeion, a cleaning product that is a spray bottle of ordinary water, with some impressive-looking electronics in the not-surprisingly-transparent spray top. It claims to “ionize” the water, thus endowing it with magically powerful cleaning ability. I saw one Twitter post that aptly described it as “homeopathy for dirt”. Bill hosts a promotional video on their site, and spews a stream of scientific-sounding words, most of which don’t mean a damned thing to anyone who understands chemistry, but that sound amazing and impressive to an innocent layperson — the oldest sales trick in the book for snake-oil products. Dazzle them with sciencey words! Here’s Activeion’s explanation of how it works:

1. Charging
A water cell applies a slight electrical charge to the tap water.

2. Transforming
The charged water passes through an ion exchange membrane, creating an oxygen-rich mixture of positive and negative nano-bubbles.

Gotta love the “nano-bubbles”. Are you impressed yet? Ask a chemist what a “nano-bubble” is.

3. Cleaning
The ionized water now attracts dirt like a magnet and lifts it from the surface, enabling it to be easily wiped away.

There’s an excellent web site, Aqua Scams, run by Dr. Stephen Lower, a chemist from Simon Fraser University. I cited it pretty extensively when I did my Skeptoid episode about fraudulent “water ionizing” filters. One of Aqua Scams’ money quotes:

“Ionized water” is nothing more than sales fiction; the term is meaningless to chemists.

Are you ready for Activeion’s pricing? The cheapest version is $169.00 per bottle, and the fanciest version is $329.00 per bottle. Yes, per bottle. Yes, it’s water. Yes, you’re right to fall down on the floor laughing.

So, not surprisingly, Twitter was all a-twitter with people lamenting the loss of Bill Nye, their favorite science spokesman, now selling out and going over to the dark side. People are saying he can no longer be trusted. People are expressing genuine sadness, after having loved him so much for so many years.

After some consideration, I think the way to react to this is probably not to criticize Bill personally. There are realities that we all have to live with in this world, and one of those is the need to earn a living. There is, unfortunately, little or no money in science journalism (or in critical thinking outreach), and if you check Bill’s IMDB page, you’ll see that not even he has been nearly as busy in recent years as we’d all hope. My guess is that Activeion made him a much-needed offer, and I think we’d be jumping to conclusions to say that he accepted it lightly or without reflection.

There’s an obvious benefit in being able to live to fight another day. The Activeion product is a bottle of water; it’s not going to hurt anyone except in their wallet. If you have to choose a snake-oil product to promote, this is as harmless as it gets. There is probably a number that Activeion could offer me and I’d have done the same thing Bill did. I’d reason that if I took that job, it could fund Skeptoid and my other projects for some time. It could pay my kids’ tuitions, and there’s value in that — there are certainly snake oil salespeople out there whose money I’d be glad to leverage to my own advantage under the right circumstances. I’m not saying I would, I’m not saying I wouldn’t; I’m saying I’d definitely weigh the pros and cons. Whether or not you agree with the choice Bill made, you at least owe him the benefit of the doubt and recognize that it’s neither a simple nor an easy decision.

I should stress that I don’t know Bill Nye, I don’t know anything about the guy personally (except that I’ve always enjoyed his work), so I could well be way off the mark here. This is based only on my own observation and assumptions. But I do know something of the junk science promoted by Activeion, and can offer you a recommendation based on solid chemistry that you should save your money. Let’s hope Bill got his money up front, and do him the favor of letting this episode fade into obscurity as quickly as possible.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skeptologist Partners, the Skeptics Society, aliens, Bigfoot, or ionized water.

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161 Responses to “Bill Nye Selling Out to The Man?”

  1. Marc D says:

    I saw your post about this yesterday and was outraged. After further reflection I came to a similar conclusion you did. SGU has interviewed him in a past episode, and I’d like to think they could dialogue with him about this, but he’s probably under contractual obligations that prevent him from saying anything.

    That price, though. That is insanity.

    • Cohen says:

      insanity? did you do any research? the process he explains actually does work to disinfect more efficiently, in a way that isn’t too far from the the same conceptual vein as how soap works… it seems like this article was written under the assumption that the ad is snake oil. real skepticism would be to do… idk.. research or something.

      • Anthony says:

        So you know that all soad does is make water wetter(as simple an explanation as possible). it seems like the article has research done behind it. ““Ionized water” is nothing more than sales fiction; the term is meaningless to chemists” thats about all i need … im not saying that the idea is completely incorrect or impossible (its used very commonly on air purifiers that charge the incoming particles and pass them over a negatively charged tray to trap them) the technology does not exist to ionize water in the palm of your hand. especially enough to pick up a significant amount of dirt particles. do yourself an experiment and pick up a bottle and use it next to plain old water. bet you there is no difference!

  2. Carl says:

    Well said. I, too, am disappointed to see The Science Guy as a snake oil salesman, but I still enjoy his other work and appreciate all he’s done in getting people interested in and excited about science.

  3. Travis Roy says:

    “I think the way to react to this is probably not to criticize Bill personally. There are realities that we all have to live with in this world, and one of those is the need to earn a living. ”

    Cutting him slack because the economy is bad is a bad excuse. Just because he can’t earn a living doing what he wants to do doesn’t mean he should go to the other side.

    Perhaps Sylvia Brown, or James Van Prague have no other marketable skills and what they do is the only way they can make money and live their lifestyle.

    • Robert Boucher says:

      I concur on this opinion.

      I hate working as much as the next guy. But I like to think I wouldn’t try to bilk my fellow humans out of their hard earned money to buy a $0.79 spray bottle full of $0.01 worth of water for $169.

      My respect for him as an entertainer may not be tarnished, but my respect for him as a person is….unless he pays back that little old lady who saw this thing and is eating cat food for a month to afford it.

      • David says:

        Oh come on, are you serious? Do you really think that old ladies forced to eat cat food are the ones buying this thing? I doubt it. I think its much more likely that high income earners germ-a-phoebes are the target demographic.

        In the real world allot of people are struggling to get mortgages paid, even to feed their families. This includes allot of people that were very successful even two years ago, including executives, lawyers, and yes, even science entertainers. Give the man a break. No one is forcing anyone to buy this product.

      • Non-skeptical says:

        In that case, I’d like to take that to the ridiculous extreme. No-one is forcing people to adopt theistic beliefs. No-one is forcing people to listen to psychics. No-one is forcing people to deny Global Warming. That doesn’t meant that it’s ok to accept these things. Bill Nye has done appreciable harm to people by marketing this product. This is as bad as the “I was a skeptic until” articles. It’s an outrageous scam, and the man deserves no respect. “Allot” Please, learn to spell. You make the assumption of the key demographic, but realise this: Anyone who buys it has been scammed. By your rational, Scientology is a morally defensible position. Now, the true test of a person’s convictions is what they do when something’s at stake. It’s easy to defend science when you get money for it. It’s hard when you have no money to refuse to participate in pseudoscience. The true test of a man’s character is not what he does when he’s well off, but what he does when he has no option.

  4. BillMassey says:

    I follow your (hypothetical) reasoning that may have gone on in Mr. Nye’s head. And I get that financial need can drive these decisions.

    But you and Bill are smart enough to know that by making such decisions, you burn down your own house. If Brian Dunning endorsed a garbagey, pseudoscientific product, you can bet Skeptoid would lose at least half of its core audience overnight, with little chance of ever getting it back.

    Bill Nye has spent years – nay, decades! – building his reputation, and with this one endorsement, he brings it crashing down. His followers now distrust him, so he no longer has his base… which ironically, will make him LESS valuable for vendors to offer him a second, or third, such endorsement deal. And his credibility for real science journalism contributions plunges, so that market dries up, too.

    So I’m guessing I’m saying I don’t get it at all. Unless that check was big enough to sustain his lifestyle forever, he made a seriously flawed decision that will damage his long term earning potential. And I had him pegged as much, much sharper than that.

    (and if he’s gonna sell out and start endorsing stuff, we’re entering the era of companies selling green products and services that ARE scientifically sound! I see GE ads every day trumpeting all the sciency stuff they’re doing to make life better – how cool would it be to see Bill’s smiling face pop up there?)

  5. CharlesP says:

    This may be me not wanting to give up on Bill… but, I read most (and skimmed all) of the Aqua Scams page and it primarily addresses the claims regarding Ionized Water as health aid and not a cleaning aid. The only thing it seems to address that would relate to the ActiveIon product is their claim of disinfecting (fair game that is… though in the video Bill seems to be saying more that it would wash away bacteria, and not kill them).

    From a consumption/health standpoint the idea of slightly “ionizing” water for a few seconds would make no sense… but would it from a cleaning standpoint (where really all you want to do is break surface tension right? which is why all the fanciest of detergents and soaps are generally a waste of money unless you like their smell)?

    Bill talks about tap water (which usually has a bit of chlorine in it from standard water treatment right?), and the Aqua Scams page talks about ionizing only working w/ a bit of bleach to create a temporary chemical mixture, and that you wouldn’t want to drink it… In fact the direct bit I’m looking at says:

    “If some of this chlorine is allowed to combine with some of the hydroxide ions produced at the cathode, it disproportionates into hypochlorous acid HOCl, a weak acid and an oxidizing agent. Some ionizer devices allow the user to draw off this solution for use as a disinfecting agent. In many cases the two streams can be combined to form a mixture consisting of both HOCl and sodium hypochlorite ”

    Which, sounds sort of like a cleanser?

    Again, maybe I just don’t want to give up on Bill, but I’m not sure you’ve stated a clear-cut case against him (not that I’m going to drop $100+ on a water bottle)… though it doesn’t look good for Bill.

  6. blorgbeard says:

    “Needing the money” is not an excuse to take it from other people who also undoubtably need it.

    “Hurting people in their wallets” is not harmless.

    He is taking dirty money. It might not legally be fraud, but he is lying to people in order to get at their money.

    This is not morally ambiguous in my book.

    And regardless of the morality of it, we all now know that Bill Nye cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

    He has lost his credibility. I sincerely hope that you would not really do the same under any circumstances.

  7. But does it work? These are highly testable claims. Why not ask ActiveIon for a test unit?

    Nye’s a CSI Fellow. Without direct investigation, I wonder if this is qualifies as a canoe paddling situation?

    • Brian M says:

      Thats a great idea. It has 3 possible outcomes:

      A: They know its a scam, and ignore him.
      B: They know it works, Brian proves it does actually work, and all of us skeptics just STFU and open our wallets. Then ActiveIon can raise their prices because they have the backing of the skeptic community too.
      C: They think it works, Brian proves it does not work, and all of us skeptics lol at Bill Nye.

      I would enjoy either scenario B or C. Do it up!

    • I’m with you, Daniel. There is no reason to speculate to high heaven about it. I’d throw in $5 to see if it’s real. I smell bogus marketing too…but, hey. We aren’t being very skeptical if all we do is assume that it’s junk.

      Before we all worry and sigh about the loss of Bill Nye to the “dark side”, maybe we should determine if what we have here is really “dark”. It is not *completely* unbelievable that there is a modicum of an increase in cleaning ability. I feel safe in saying it is horribly overpriced. However, I don’t think we can immediately dismiss it as woo without someone testing it.

    • Robert Boucher says:

      Er…even if it works, you can get your own “ionized water” unit from Home Depot for about $0.79. Look for those empty spray bottles hanging from a hook.

      If you like, I’ll go get you one and you can pay me $169.00.

    • AmSci says:

      Yeah, I don’t understand the point of this post. As pointed out elsewhere in this thread, the Aqua Scams site used as the source link specifically says this particular product may not be making any false claims. And the bit about charging hundreds of dollars per bottle of water is false. You pay once for the spray bottle and can refill it with tap water. And a Google search of the word “nanobubbles” turns up plenty of scientific references. It’s a bubble that’s smaller than a certain diameter.

      I don’t know if this product works or not, but it seems pointless to worry about whether Nye’s ends justify his means when it’s still an open question if there’s anything wrong with those means.

      • MadScientist says:

        Selling something which doesn’t work is OK by you? Various comsumer protection groups and pro-consumer laws disagree with you.

      • AmSci says:

        Don’t know where you got that from. My point is that no one here knows whether this thing works or not. It’s only wrong of Nye to promote it if it doesn’t work. So until that question is answered, there’s no reason to speculate as to his motivations.

      • Robo Sapien says:

        You are jumping to conclusions there, and taking AmSci out of context. He/she said it is wrong to prejudge Bill because no conclusion has been reached about the efficacy of the product.

        Also, I should point out that the product DOES work as they say it does. It a) temporarily ionizes the water, and b) sprays that water on to surfaces so you can clean them. The usefulness of that is entirely subjective.

        Another thing is that even though the water rapidly disperses the charge, it isn’t just spraying out water; the water contains lots of bubbles of oxygen, which do hold that charge for a longer period of time.

        Yeah I know that sounds like semantics, but we have to be fair here.

    • Max says:

      It only works with a ShamWow ;-)

      If the Discovery show PitchMen is to be believed, pitchmen Billy Mays and Anthony Sullivan tested products before pitching them. Would Bill Nye pitch something that he knows doesn’t work? That would be downright immoral.

  8. Michael M says:

    I think I may be with CharlesP on this one. When something like this happens I’m always left wondering what information I’m missing. It just seems illogical to me that someone who has devoted so much time (not to mention his entire reputation) to promoting science to the public, would just completely flip his agenda to scamming those he previously informed. Maybe there is some credibility to the product like CharlesP suggests, or maybe Bill got duped, or maybe they are blackmailing him. I will say this though, I don’t think that this product is completely harmless if it indeed does not work. What if someone is counting on this to clean up after cutting raw meat or fish? Seems like some pretty serious health risks could be a consequence. I also will say this, if Bill is indeed knowingly promoting a falsehood for money, then I think there is no excuse for him. How many fake products does he have to sell before he crosses the line that makes him an official scam artist and no longer a friend of science?

    On a side-note, wouldn’t it be pretty simple to test something like this to see if it works better than tap water as well as comparably to chemical-based products? I mean water just isn’t even close to being as effective as glass cleaner, soaps, etc… It doesn’t seem like a placebo effect would have any effect on how streak-free your windows are or how greasy your stove feels. Shouldn’t there be some sort of consumer backlash over such an outrageously-priced product if it doesn’t work? Not saying that would prove it does work mind you, I’m just saying that it would make me consider its validity further than face-value if there wasn’t such a backlash.

  9. As a seventies-born Australian, I’ve never heard of Bill Nye. The chances are good that most non-American readers of SkepticBlog haven’t. I may have to challenge you to a duel over your insinuation that only (or mostly) Americans are truly human.

  10. Fred E. says:

    Bill Nye is not just promoting this product. According to the company’s website, he is on the board of directors.

    • I think that probably is part of the promotion. It’s common to list impressive personalities on your board for marketing purposes; in most privately held companies, boards don’t mean all that much.

  11. Citizen Wolf says:

    I had never heard of Bill Nye until a couple of years ago when I started listening to podcasts. Other than references to him in skeptic podcasts, he’s of absolutely no consequence in this part of the world. I still haven’t a clue what he looks like, having never seen any of his material.

    Of course it’s disapointing to hear of a slip-up like this, but just to reassure that I think it’s of little global significance to evidence-based thinkers around the world.

  12. Methos says:

    I feel compelled to agree with Travis Roy and blurgbeard. Regardless of what Nye has done in the past, he is now conning people to take their money. The fact that he knows better makes this MORE egregious, not less. The fact that he has trouble finding work in the field he wants does not excuse it. Why doesn’t he get a job pushing a broom at his local elementary school? Or better yet, as a science teacher? They don’t pay enough? Boo hoo – and welcome to the real world.

  13. See what my one little tweet about this product has started? :)

    • Sarcastic Boy says:

      Thanks for pointing that out. Bill Nye’s reputation is at stake, but the most important thing to all of us is who gets the credit for this story.

  14. Brian M says:

    I wouldn’t call this little venture “harmless”. They are targeting schools directly in the video, and show a hospital using it (clearly staged). Effectively, they are saying that schools and other public places should stop using chemicals to clean the areas. That has a seriously detrimental effect if you consider how easily bacteria and viruses spread in a school. Imagine a school using this that has an outbreak of cholera. Under normal circumstances, they clean up and move on. Those few kids that have it get treated and get better. Now imagine if they use ActiveIon products and the spread isn’t stopped. Now more kids are infected, and may spread it to elderly or infant family members. Some of them may not have health care. You could be looking at very serious consequences for something that could be very minor.

    I’m a big Bill Nye fan. In junior high I went to a catholic high school where we watched an episode of bill nye the science guy. The teacher apologized for him, even though I found the video far more informational and interesting then the teacher, and I couldn’t figure out why at the time. Then I realized it was because he wasn’t “godly”. They just discounted him because of that. Fortunately I’m out of that cult now.

    But even though I am a fan of Bill Nye, this is a lapse in his judgement that puts him into question. But, as with all things, we have to take each event or circumstance on its own. If Duane Gish came out with some scientific finding, we would have to take it on its own, and perhaps some day he will produce something of real merit (I doubt it, but who knows). Same goes for Bill Nye; sometimes he gives a real stinker, but we have to take this on its own merit (or lack thereof). Nobody is perfect, and nobody is a perfect expert. I think this push back over this is just a symptom of people putting Nye up as some type of unquestioning authority, when he is just another person that can be wrong, like all scientists.

  15. Don B says:

    Bill has been in the science world for years, and I’ve seen him on TV shows as the “skeptic” voice. I’m sure someone (Shermer or Randi or someone like that) must have his phone number in their rolodex. I would love to hear Bill’s response. Let’s give him a call and get his take on it, if he’s game.

    If it is the fact that he’s peddling woo-woo, I’ll be as disappointed as anyone. My kids understand evolution from his videos better than they did from my explanations, and I learned a lot from him as an adult about a lot of science topics. I miss his TV shows and hope he continues to support and teach science.

  16. skeptologic says:

    @Daniel Loxton:
    I don’t think I would call this a canoe paddling situation. Brian cut Mr. Nye a lot of slack in this post. That said, I would like to hear what the science guy has to say for himself about this. It is quite disappointing to see someone like Bill Nye promoting pseudoscience.

  17. I think we are neglecting another possibility here – Bill Nye was snookered by a clever scam. No one is infallible, and this one can be missed if you don’t dig deep enough. I think that is more likely than he chose to turn to the dark side.

    I also must say – I don’t think you can justify knowingly shilling for pseudoscience, especially someone who has made a reputation teaching and promoting science. I have spoken to Bill before – he is a truly passionate about science.

    Regarding the product itself, I think this page has the definitive info. http://www.chem1.com/CQ/ionbunk.html Here is the money quote:

    “Electrolytic “bleach generators” are legitimate devices for use in industrial and institutional settings in which large quantities disinfectant are required. They are considered a “green” alternative to shipping or handling chlorine gas (dangerous) or hypochlorite solutions (mostly water, and thus heavy). In early 2009, a widely-reprinted article by an LA Times reporter touted the use of machines that produce this “miracle water”. But for home use, it hardly seems economical; one could probably buy a supply of laundry bleach that would last several lifetimes for the cost of a “water ionizer”!”

    So – the product works, it’s just a really expensive way to make a small amount of cheap bleach. I can see Bill being fooled by that.

    Also – just to clarify, I think the price quoted is not for one bottle of product, but for one bottle, which can make a continuing supply of product from tap water.

    • Weird. Steve, I was in the middle of typing a reply saying essentially the same thing you said here. Suddenly my screen refreshed and your post appeared. (Seriously.) This is proof of aliens, psychic powers, and rods.

      • CharlesP says:

        you know Brian, you mock the Nano-bubbles in your post… but the Aqua Scam page he actually says:

        “But in fairness, recent research does has shown that tiny nanobubbles of oxygen can be formed during electrolysis, and there is some evidence that they may be able to attach to hydrophobic surfaces and thus exert some kind of a detergent-like action.”

        So… apparently you COULD ask the chemist you linked to what nanobubbles are.

        I missed that he specifically talks about the ActiveIon system on that page… and doesn’t fully discount it, though he does ding them for possibly marketing buzzwording the ionized water woo.

      • Yeah – the story is a bit complex. The aqua scam guy equivocates a bit. He essentially says there may be some detergent like effect, but the pseudoscientific hype on the website is dubious.

        I think we really need some empirical testing – is there hypochlorite in the treated water, does it work with well water or just city water treated with chlorine, and – does it work? Is it better than ordinary water, or a very dilute solution of bleach?

        The industry has no incentive to explore these questions – they have incentive to sell green hype.

      • The “alkalized water” devices require that you add mineral salts so there will be something in the water that can be ionized and will make it alkaline. I believe that part is chemically necessary for the “weak bleach” effect, and to my knowledge, the Activeion does not involve the addition of mineral salts. So without more information I can’t yet concede that the “weak bleach” thing is part of this product.

      • Michael M says:

        Steve,

        Just for clarity’s sake, if the product actually works then what is Bill getting fooled by? If what that site says is true then it seems that Bill is not guilty of making fraudulent or misinformed claims, but at worst, intentionally and dramatically overstating the cost-effectiveness and overall value of the product, which seems somewhat subjective anyway. Either way, this makes me think less of him though…

        Brian,

        I read Steve’s post as disagreeing with what you wrote in your article. You asserted that the product is aptly referred to as Homeopathy for dirt (i.e. useless), and Steve references a site that shows the product technically works, but just that it is falls quite short of living up to the hype. You stated that you feel it is unfair to personally criticize Bill as we don’t know his personal situation and may have needed the cash, and Steve stated that he feels there is no legitimate justification for knowingly shilling for pseudoscience. I swear I’m not trying to be a smart-ass :), maybe I just misread something. Can you clarify; have you changed your position?

      • Changed my position on what? I’ve made a number of other replies on here that may answer your question, just search the page for my name. If not let me know.

        Re-reading my article, it does sound like I was saying “It’s OK to sell BS if the price is right,” which anyone who knows me knows is not what I believe. I believe the facts of this case will probably turn out to be more subtle and complicated than what any of us on here have been able to speculate.

      • Michael M says:

        Brian,

        The only thing that made me wonder if your position had changed is that you seemed to be agreeing with what Steve wrote by saying “I was in the middle of typing a reply saying essentially the same thing you said here,” and Steve’s position seemed to be different from yours. Granted, you said “essentially” so there’s room for interpretation, and at the time of my writing that post, I was replying to your only comment thus far so I had nothing else to compare to. In reading your later posts however, it’s clear that your position is still consistent with your stated position in the article, but I still say I don’t see how it is essentially the same as what Steve wrote. Steve’s points were:

        1. Bill could have also been fooled, and does not necessarily have to be actively deceiving anyone to be involved in the promotion of this product. This seems more likely than completely “turning to the dark side.”
        2. You cannot justify in any way, knowingly shilling for pseudoscience, and previously having a reputation for promoting and teaching science makes it all the worse.
        3. The product itself does work, but it’s only function is to create a small amount of bleach in the water. As such, this product is very overpriced. This makes it more likely that Bill was fooled.
        4. The price quoted is per device and not per refill as you can readily refill from tap water.

        1 and 4 seem in line with what you have said thus far and merely clarify and addend your article. 2 and 3 seem significantly different from your stated views. You clearly stated that you see this product as nothing more than a fancy way of spraying water, and from your replies still seem to feel this way (not saying I disagree with you, mind you), and while in later replies you leave open the possibility of Bill having been fooled, it also seems pretty clear from your post that you consider it most likely that he actively considered knowingly shilling for pseudoscience. Seeing as you clarified that you are not saying it’s ok to sell BS if the price is right (Which did throw me by the way, as it did not seem consistent with your usual message), I now read your article to be essentially saying “There, but for the grace of god, go I,” and that since he has done so much good for science in the past, we should forgive and forget. Isn’t giving him a pass after-the-fact the same thing as justifying it before-hand though? It seems much the same as giving a police officer a pass for robbing a store since he has been enforcing the law for so long. I think that makes it worse, not better.

      • Brian M says:

        Or proof of a good web designer… ;)

        Why don’t you do a special Skeptoid on this? Raise a bit of capital and do some research on it? Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. In either case, I’m sure it would be extremely entertaining to hear a podcast, or read an article, about the processes of finding the facts instead of speculating. Isn’t that what skeptoid is about?

      • I think it is more gray if the product works at all (which would make it better than homeopathy). But there are still significant problems with hyping an overpriced product with pseudoscience or questionable science. It is still ultimately deceptive. What if I sold what is essentially aspirin for pain, at 100 times the cost, and justified it with a bunch of mumbo jumbo? And also made false claims – like it is “chemical free”, “organic”, “all natural” etc. ?

      • Michael M says:

        So in otherwords, it’s more comparable to Chiropractic than Homeopathy? I can buy that, though I think that the claims made about this bottle seem significantly easier to test than the claims of Chiropractic. I would think that if this product doesn’t work that Bill would have to either not tested it himself, be fully aware of the lies, or have been deliberately deceived by the company replacing or mixing the water in his test bottle with an actual chemical.

    • Travis Roy says:

      I agree with Steve that he could have been fooled. That’s a much better reason than “the money”. Frankly that’s not a good excuse, and the one that Brian put fourth.

    • MadScientist says:

      I don’t know what an “electrolytic bleach generator” is, but if electrolysis is involved and chlorine is the bleaching agent then they may genuinely be electrolytic – feed in table salt and electricity and get some bleach. So do these spray cans contain salt to generate a bleach? I doubt it.

      Another bleaching agent used in industrial processes (and generated in situ with the aid of electricity) is ozone but I doubt these spray cans generate any significant amount of ozone.

  18. Personne says:

    I’m the person who tipped Derek off on this. I have a review unit which I received from Amazon because of my participation in their Vine program. If you look on the Amazon product page, you’ll see my review along with some reviews that look like they were placed.

    My wife likes the product, but not because it cleans (it doesn’t). It makes a nice mister for her orchids. In that sense, it’s easily worth fifteen dollars ;-)

  19. Skepdude says:

    Let us be careful with the “they probably gave him too much money and that’s ok” attitude though. I don’t think that’s the right attitude for skeptics. If money justifies endorsing woo, and if we all “have a price” then just what is it that we’re doing here?

    • You’re completely correct: if a skeptic or science communicator is shown to knowingly promote pseudoscience, that is a serious ethical issue that should not be easily set aside.

      I don’t think that sort of fault has been demonstrated in this case, however.

      • Robo Sapien says:

        I’m with you on that, Daniel. The technology definitely does SOMETHING, it is just the level of efficacy that is debatable. If the “nano-bubbles” are indeed just ozone molecules, that would give the water some antibacterial effect, making it more effective than plain water, and equally effective to mild surface cleaners but without the danger of eye irritation.

        Any kind of cleaning solution still requires some degree of scrubbing, you can’t just spray-n-forget. So the real item of comparison between this and other cleaning products is not what it removes, but what it leaves behind.

      • BillMassey says:

        Whoever does invent “Spray-N-Forget” will have this customer for life.

    • I don’t believe anyone can truthfully say they don’t have a price. “Endorse this spray bottle or we’ll kill your family” is an absurd example, but it does represent one end of a spectrum that we’re all on. If you gave me a billion dollars I’d do it. With a billion dollars you can vaccinate a lot of kids, you can fund stem cell research. What’s your number?

      I do believe Bill is probably comfortable with the science. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe he’s wrong, probably the truth is somewhere in between. But it’s certainly not fair to leap to the conclusion that he is knowingly bullshitting us for money. Given the price of the thing, it is fair to say he’s knowingly endorsing a ripoff. We all have a price.

      • tmac57 says:

        “What’s your number?”
        I guess its the old “now that we’ve determined that you’re a prostitute,we just have to negotiate the price” idea.

      • Robo Sapien says:

        Brian, you and a lot of skeptics will probably frown on my view here, it is dark but ultimately humanistic. The old adage “A fool and his money are soon parted” still rings true in these times. Our entire way of life is based on money changing hands from the gullible to the enterprising.

        I just don’t see this product appealing to people who really can’t afford it. There is a large body of Greeniacs in the population who are well to do and can easily afford to piss away $180 on a super eco-friendly cleaning gizmo that will surely impress their dinner guests, that seems to be the target market here. Bill could simply be playing the Robin Hood of science. It may be hard to imagine someone like Bill taking such a sinister approach, but in my experience it is always the most unassuming people that you need to keep your eye on.

        I’m reminded of that scene from Batman Begins:

        Chief Gordon: “The people will despise you”

        Batman: “I’ll be whatever Gotham needs me to be.”

  20. Churba says:

    As for the question of Bill making money, many of you seem to be forgetting one important thing – he’s an accomplished mechanical engineer. Just because he’s lacking entertainment jobs does not nessassarily mean that he’s hard up for work – nor that a solution to lack of funds is something like becoming a science teacher, or as someone said(though propably not seriously), pushing a broom at a high school. It is not unlikely that he could pick up at least a decently paying mech eng job, though admittedly, if he hasn’t kept up to date, his knowlege might be out of date and reqire some updates and retraining, that’s hardly an impossible endeavor.

    • Churba says:

      Er, clarification – on the topic of him making money in general, rather than specifically with this activeion mob. I’m saying that even if he was hard up for entertainment or science journalisim jobs to pull in the cash, he could possibly or even propably go to mech eng to sort that out.

  21. Eric Morey says:

    It seems that Dr. Stephen Lower on his Aqua Scams website (http://www.chem1.com/CQ/ionbunk.html) has added a comment about ActiveIon:

    “Active ions clean up!

    The dubious Tennant technology described above bears a strong similarity to to this ActiveIon™ hand-held cleaning device which “frees you from chemicals”. Their “Science of Activeion™” page says that the device adds an electrical charge to tap water, resulting in an “oxygen-rich mixture of positive and negative nanobubbles” which “attracts dirt like a magnet”. But another page tells us that the charge is applied to the dirt, breaking it down and loosening it from the cleaning surface. I have no idea of whether the product is any more effective than an ordinary detergent or whether it will work with pure water, but the rather dubious hype they invoke does leave me highly skeptical.”

    Dr. Stephen Lower’s work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

  22. Switters says:

    Maybe he’s going in as a mole?

  23. Chris says:

    There could be other things happening with Bill Nye lately that might imply a change in personality. I have read media reports of odd things going on with his girl friend (which include his vegetable garden being deliberately damaged).

  24. Matt Morgan says:

    Oh, it just broke my heart to see Bill Nye pimping that useless product and using pseudoscientific jargon. I couldn’t watch the entire video. I would rather be an adjunct chem lab instructor at the local community college for peanuts (and I have) than get big $$ to promote a product like that. Since water is a polar solvent, it doesn’t need help to dissolve ionic solutes. Soap helps water get rid of non-polar stains like oil.

  25. Robo Sapien says:

    The ethical:
    I see a lot of idealism in these comments. If you think that the ends never justify the means, ask yourself what is the point of taking the high road if it leads you off the edge of a cliff? Even if the product is hokey, it is indeed harmless, so I see no wrong in what Bill is doing, I just wouldn’t buy one myself. Money is a resource, I’d rather see it in the hands of someone who will do some good with it.

    The technical:
    This product appears to work the same way as ionizing air purifiers. Ionized gas passing over oppositely charged collection surfaces causes dust particles and such to stick to it, so a similar process could be taking place in the water.

    From Wikipedia

    A positively-charged ion is produced when an electron bonded to an atom (or molecule) absorbs enough energy to escape from the electric potential barrier that originally confined it, thus breaking the bond and freeing it to move

    I’m really crappy at science, but wouldn’t that allow the positively charged water molecules to break the surface tension that makes dirt stick to surfaces? I could use some clarification here.

    Also, it is possible that these “nano-bubbles” are simply ozone molecules suspended in the water, which would kill bacteria without leaving trace chemicals on surfaces.

    Like I said, I’m really bad at science. If anyone can help clarify on any of these points, please speak up.

    • MadScientist says:

      Well, that would be great if we wanted to remove dust from water – except that electrostatic precipitation will not work like that in water because electrical charges are dissipated far too quickly compared to air; in fact moisture in air ruins the fun of a Van de Graaf generator because it’s so good at dissipating that charge. In water I’d simply put a high pressure on one side of a porous ceramic filter.

      There are also electrostatic paint sprayers; at best you may be able to apply a small charge to microscopic water droplets but the end result would be to produce a more even layer of water on a surface and with less of the aerosol lost to the environment; any charge is pretty much instantaneously lost on contact with the surface. Translating that to cleaning power: an elecrostatic nozzle will be more efficient at getting something wet than a normal uncharged nozzle. For close to $200 I’d rather just spray more water to get the same wetting result.

      • Robo Sapien says:

        I did read that bit about discharge some time after I posted that. What about the ozone part? I wasn’t able to turn up much info in my investigoogling.

  26. BubbaRich says:

    At our gym, at Georgia Tech, they use Activeion’s “Ionator” handheld spray machines (http://www.activeion.com ) to wash and disinfect equipment. It seems to be doing something electrical at the spray nozzle, so it’s certainly not as silly as the shelf-stored bottles of water you seem to be describing above. I can’t find any direct analysis of their claims about cleaning and disinfecting, and some of the things mentioned above make the claims at least plausible. Has anyone seen an analysis of these claims? Bill Nye’s name does carry some weight in this, absent contradicting analysis! However, a HUGE point against them is the fact that their “Resources” section contains nothing supporting their cleaning method, but dozens of Jenny-McCarthy-style attacks on the horrible chemicals used to effectively clean and disinfect.

  27. Jamie says:

    It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, and but a moment to destroy it. I don’t know if I have lost all respect for him until I hear his side, but really, damage done.

  28. As far as I’m concerned…

    R.I.P. Bill Nye’s Credibility
    April 22, 2010

  29. Karen says:

    in reading the reviews on amazon.com it appears the people who have tested this product along side of regular tap water find it to work no better than the tap water.

    this is most definitely a $180 spray bottle…its depressing to see Bill Nye lend his name to something such as this.

    • CharlesP says:

      It looks like two of the reviews are very negative (and one seems to be reading here as they just updated it) and the rest are positive. Incidentally at least one of the negative ones has some replies by somebody who claims to be using the Pro version (instead of the HOM one) and says it works well… also 1 star reviewer who seems to be reading here said something is happening to that water as it tastes funny right after spraying, but not as funny after it sits for a while. Though on further testing they didn’t feel it cleaned any better than plain water (though they are the minority of reviewers, they are also the one who lays out exactly how they tested it).

      • Karen says:

        but you notice the positive reviews aren’t testing it against plain water. They just talk about all the chemicals they use to clean. I’m suspicious of the excessive positive reviews though, who knows if it isn’t the company boosting up their rating? (though the same could be said of negative reviews, people dragging down the rating)

        I wonder how many stains could just be wiped up with water and a good scrubbing? how often do people actually try that? They may just go straight for the soap 99% of the time.

        They may filter it through something causing the taste to change though. Doesn’t mean it cleans better though. Someone should take one of those things apart and see what’s inside!

      • CharlesP says:

        True, the others are all rather generically positive (though somebody has gone through and posted a link on every review that points to come govt review rule). I’m curious about the Pro vs Home versions functionality… though I suspect it won’t make all that much difference in the answer to “our” questions.

      • Personne says:

        I am the guilty negative reviewer. I posted a little earlier today, but that post is still waiting to be moderated. I suppose this one is as well. There seems to be a consensus among Vine reviewers (that’s the program that provided the test unit), that most of the positive reviews are plants. I’d suggest looking at the review history of the reviewers and you can come to your own conclusions. Here’s the product page:
        http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0031QPQN6

        As I tried to show in my review, there may be some effect. But it’s simply too minor to make any practical difference. I’d love to share the unit with someone else, but that’s a violation of my agreement with Amazon. I can tell you there’s a small circuit board with not much on it. Perhaps I’ll pull it about at some point.

        In fairness, I think it’s more wishful thinking than it is scam. There is some real technology in it. But I think it relies on purchasers’ confirmation bias: they’ll scrub until it’s done.

  30. AmSci says:

    Found some links to actual scientific studies that seem to at least back up the basic technology of this doodad.

    Here: http://www.mrs.org/s_mrs/sec_subscribe.asp?CID=2468&DID=140676&action=detail

    Also here: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/la981153r

    And here: http://www.cababstractsplus.org/abstracts/Abstract.aspx?AcNo=20053071986

    So, is this just a question of the degree of effectiveness? This doesn’t necessarily seem like woo to me.

    • I wouldn’t characterize it as woo; they’re not claiming it’s supernatural. It’s just pseudoscience. You can add a drop of bleach to a liter of water for less than a penny. Why pay $300 to do it (if that is indeed what’s happening here, as with the “alkaline water” filters, as I stated above)? And any reasonable cleaning solution contains a hell of a lot more than one drop of bleach. I’d call this product a ripoff more than woo. It’s the intentionally impressive-sounding pseudoscientific babble used to sell it that I call Bill out on more than anything else.

      • AmSci says:

        I guess I just have a different definition of “pseudoscience.” I agree this is a rip-off, but the product seems to do what it says it does. It’s just unnecessary if, like you said, you want to use a much cheaper bleach solution.

        But I think Nye’s motivation is exactly what DoctorAtlantis describes in his comment below. It’s a product for people who don’t want to use bleach.

        I think it’s silly that Ed Begley, Jr. powers his toaster with a treadmill, but there’s nothing embarrassing about that as it relates to science promotion. As long as Nye isn’t promoting lies, I don’t see the problem here.

      • tmac57 says:

        Why silly, you get toast (mmmmmm) you get exercise, (people pay hundreds of dollars a year to go to gyms), and you don’t need commercial electricity to do it. And, best of all, you can have your own TV show paying you to do it. Win,win,win,win,and BIG WIN $$$! By the way, didn’t he use his bicycle to power the toaster?

      • AmSci says:

        Sorry, yes. He uses his bike to power the toaster. He uses his treadmill to stay in shape for that sure-to-happen “Transylvania 6-5000″ sequel.

      • MadScientist says:

        A toaster would draw anywhere from 1 to 2KW; that’s actually a hell of a lot for a human – you’d have to be in top condition and pushing yourself for the minute that it takes to make the toast. That’s roughly 240 to 480 calories per second, so 0.24 to 0.48KCal per second. In that one minute you’re expending a minimum of almost 29 KCal (using the 0.48KCal/s). That’s about 1/4 of my daily target over a period of 30-40 minutes. With a small but moderately efficient generator you’d have an efficiency of about 85%, so you’ll generate a total 34KCal of work in 1 minute. We’re talking somewhere between 1.3 and 2.7 horsepower here.

      • tmac57 says:

        Check out what this guy claims to be able to do with pedal power:
        http://www.los-gatos.ca.us/davidbu/pedgen.html

      • MadScientist says:

        Hi tmac57: That website you link makes no extraordinary claims (though some things are presented in an overly optimistic way). His claim for example of 425W generated can actually be sustained by a reasonably fit human for 10 minutes or so and those endurance bikers out there can probably run at that level for over an hour. As you start pushing for more – for example, 745W, ~1HP, you tire out much quicker. I also find the friction coupling inefficient, but it’s a cheap coupling and pushbike dynamos have been coupled that way for generations. There are some sloppy claims not backed up by reality such as the answer to the question of attaching a generator to the back wheel of a stationary bike but otherwise as weird as people might think it sounds, most of those claims are actually well within the realm of what’s possible (and so even without demonstrations I can at least say it’s not guaranteed to be nonsense, those as I said many claims are overly optimistic).

      • tmac57 says:

        Here’s to human pedal power! (that’s me making a toast). I found some antique toasters online, that typically were rated between 450w to 600w. Some of them are works of art.

  31. Mark says:

    I have actually used an ActiveIon and have tried it on a 2 greasy plates – one sprayed with ActiveIon and one with a water bottle. I’ll say that the ActiveIon was able to remove the grease unlike the water bottle. I still don’t get the anti-microbial properties, but it does seem to work for me…

  32. Of course if there is science behind the claim, meaning if the stuff has any mechanism for working, then it might be that it is Bill Nye’s prejudice in favor of green technologies that got him involved rather than the money alone. As a vegetarian, green-energy promoting person the idea of a way to use plain water rather than dumping detergents and chemicals to get cleaning done might be very persuasive.

    The natural fallacy seems as plausible as the “baby needs a new pair of shoes.”

    • Karen says:

      if that’s the case he should promote the Method cleaning products, which contain more than just water.

    • MadScientist says:

      I do it cheaper – there’s this little invention called the damp sponge.

  33. Andrea says:

    I don’t think it’s right to put this in the same category as homeopathy and psychics if in fact it does what they say it does, even to an ineffectual degree. And the odds that people’s lives are going to be endangered by institutional replacement of disinfectant with water as a result of this marketing seem vanishingly slim. If the money Bill gets from flogging this product, even if it’s a total fraud, goes to save one child from believing in ID for lack of learning about evolution, then it’s worth a thousand suckers getting mildly stiffed, in my opinion.

  34. Kaleena says:

    Yes. It is hugely expensive but also you never have to buy chemicals to refill it. (So cheaper over time) It’s better for the environment too! I worked at a zero-waste hotel that used these sprayers and I thought they were fantastic!

  35. Jeffery2010 says:

    Let’s just talk to Bill. Steve N., couldn’t you please try and get him on SGU and let him explain his side. I have to admit I reeeeealllyy want to give him a way out. I appreciate all he’s done for my kids understanding of science.

  36. Max says:

    “If you have to choose a snake-oil product to promote, this is as harmless as it gets.”

    But why did he have to choose a snake-oil product? Couldn’t he find anything better to advertise?

    It’s like Dr. Monita Poudyal, a Yale-trained nephrologist who “interviews” Kevin Trudeau’s clone Peter Apatow in the Supple arthritis cure infomercials.
    In a way, she’s worse than Bill Nye, because he only tarnishes himself but Dr. Poudyal tarnishes her profession.
    What’s her problem? She couldn’t find a job shilling for a drug company like a real doctor?
    At least her ratings took a hit.
    http://www.ratemds.com/doctor-ratings/399387/CO/Denver/Poudyal

    • Totally agree, and I’ll bet Bill Nye would as well. Unfortunately endorsement opportunities are rare. Can you think of a single science-based product that needs celebrity endorsers? It’s a tool of the woo promoters, not of science.

      • tmac57 says:

        How about Katie Couric endorsing colonoscopy screening?

      • CW says:

        If she endorsed a product that did colonoscopy screening then that would be interesting. Raising awareness on an issue is not the same thing, in my opinion.

      • AmSci says:

        Doesn’t almost every product use celebrity endorsements? Luke Wilson is pimping AT&T. Ashton Kutcher pushes Nikon. Tiger Wood’s father’s ghost is trying to sell you Nike.

        Unless you’re talking about science-promoting products. In which case, I’m not sure what any of those products are. Chemistry sets? Microscopes?

      • Robo Sapien says:

        I agree, that was a bit more presumptuous than I’ve come to expect from Brian (no offense dude!). When you think about it, all “products” are science-based.

        I think what he meant was products that are marketed using descriptions of the science behind their workings, i.e. “This revolutionary product uses electro-thingamajig technology to improve…” That could also be something as simple as Gatorade (its got electrolytes!)

      • kabol says:

        um .. DNA tests

  37. Aaron says:

    The product seems iffy, but it doesn’t look like outright bunk. We should give Bill the benefit of the doubt on this one and investigate further before mourning his loss to the dark side.

  38. Jo says:

    Oh dear. I’m really really hoping that this is going to work out in his favour or at least be on the milder side of disappointing me. I grew up during the years his show was broadcast on television. Bill Nye is THE reason I decided I wanted to be a chemist and educator. He is absolutely my hero, and I one day want to be as significant of a science educator as he is.

    I really hope I won’t have to change my opinion of him. :(

  39. MadScientist says:

    I’d understand if Bill had to go flipping burgers for a clown, but selling this bogus crap is inexcusable. Move on Bill, find another honest job.

  40. Bill says:

    Bill Nye The Pseudo-Science Guy!

  41. Carl says:

    An electrolytic bleach generator would not work with tap water. Red herring. Dissolved chlorine gas (or hypochlorite ion) can’t be broken down by current passing through the solution, as Brian implies above.

    Yeah, one of you should talk to Mr. Nye.

  42. Assuming that my integrity does have a price, does the fact that I’d most likely spend the money on myself make me morally inferior to those who think they will help the widows and orphans?

    I have no particular feelings about Bill Nye. I never watched his show, so I know him as the nerdy neighbor on “Living with Ed”. As for the product he’s pitching, it sounds perfect for the greener than you types. An expensive product with overblown green hype is just the thing for smug I’m saving the planet environmentalists. Next there will be a campaign to ban bleach and force the rest of us to buy one of these.

  43. MadScientist says:

    Anyone else reminded of Tom Lehrer:

    It’s good to have integrity, I’ll tell you why:
    ‘Cause if you’ve got integrity it means your price is very high!

  44. Letodan says:

    Hmmm… I wonder if Phil Plait is in need of money. Maybe, I could pay him to write an astrology book!! They sell very well apparently. It wouldn’t make sense at all but, if he is in need of a job, that should be ok right? WRONG!! I’m quite sorry but, I can’t accept the argument of this article. If Sylvia Browne would be selling the same water, I’m sure the reaction would be different so, I can’t say that what he is doing is fine. With all those years, I’m sure he must have some connections that could help him if he is so much in need!! He certainly will have some explaining to do!!

  45. tmac57 says:

    I think many skeptics have a lot of good will toward Nye,knowing his track record for successfully popularizing science.His approach is using fun,humor,wonder,and enthusiasm to make science more accessible.He has also shown in the past,that he favors science over pseudo-science.So,if it turns out that this product is not what it claims to be,it will be a huge disappointment for his fans,but it shouldn’t undo the good things that he has already done.

    • kabol says:

      i couldn’t agree more.

      seriously — given the load of majorcrap that daily TV produces when it comes to “paranormal” or such BS….

      if a “public” skeptic goes woo and starts praising or promoting bullshite, the shite starts swirling.

      if the skeptic has something to actually praise or promote, well — ouch.

      (myself, i like a drop of lavender oil to take down the swelling and itch of bug bites.)

      ouch.

  46. Much like James Randi’s recent post about global warming, it is not enough to erase the track record of a lifetime, though it is very disappointing in the extreme.

    It’s always disappointing to be forced to acknowledge the reality that everyone fails to meet the standards of perfection, and your respect and admiration for any given person usually needs to be qualified or tempered in some way. It would be very convenient if you could just close your eyes and ask “What would X do?”, and go with it, but skepticism requires critical thinking, not blind trust and unqualified, unquestioning deference to a respected authority.

    If you insist on perfection from anyone you want to respect or admire, you’re going to find yourself either without any heros or only having heros for which you haven’t yet found the flaws.

    It is a good reminder for the skeptical community that we should not define ourselves or our “movement” by any individual, whether that be Bill Nye or James Randi.

    • Zenn says:

      Hey, it is now Global Cooling! Warming is over. Didn’t you hear?

    • tmac57 says:

      That’s a very good point Karl. This whole issue,is a great study in what skepticism should be about.For example: 1)Is Nye selling out? 2)Does the product have any valid science behind it? 3)Even if it has some science behind it,are the claims exaggerated?
      4)Did Nye believe the claims before endorsing the product? 5)Are the people who have been criticizing Nye, acting in a knee jerk reaction without having all the facts? 6)Are the Nye defenders being swayed by their positive image of him?
      7)Can you really toast bread by pedaling a bicycle?

      • kabol says:

        1)Is Nye selling out?

        mebbee

        2)Does the product have any valid science behind it?

        dunno

        3)Even if it has some science behind it,are the claims exaggerated?

        dunno

        4)Did Nye believe the claims before endorsing the product?

        dunno

        5)Are the people who have been criticizing Nye, acting in a knee jerk reaction without having all the facts?

        likely so

        6)Are the Nye defenders being swayed by their positive image of him?

        probably so

        7)Can you really toast bread by pedaling a bicycle?

        sure

  47. Robo Sapien says:

    Just a thought.. All the reports seem to indicate that this cleans no better than normal tap water, including results from an ATP test (see the reviews on Amazon). Has anyone tested it to see if it actually kills bacteria?

    If it does kill bacteria and does so without having to manufacture a chemical (and its packaging), which would have some environmental impact, it might have some purpose after all. Plus it would be better for people with allergies.

    Really though, I don’t see myself using one for anything besides watering my veggie garden.

    • Max says:

      It was advertised on “The Doctors” as a substitute for antibacterial wipes.
      http://www.activeion.com/resources/resource_video_the_doctors_2_2010.aspx

      It would be great if it works, since antibacterial chemicals lead to resistance, but according to the website Steve referenced
      http://www.chem1.com/CQ/ionbunk.html
      “Electrolysis devices are generally worthless for treating water for health enhancement, removal of common impurities, disinfection, and scale control.”

      Now, if people rely on it to kill bacteria and it doesn’t, then people might get sick as a result.

      My guess is that a steam cleaner is more likely to kill bacteria, though not the kind that withstands several minutes of boiling.

      • Max says:

        Were it would really go wrong is if some hospital decides to go green by substituting ionized water for bleach.
        That would be akin to minesweeping with a dowsing rod.

      • Max says:

        Oops, the first word should be ‘Where’.

      • Robo Sapien says:

        Somehow I doubt that any hospital would do that without knowing for sure if it were safe. Sanitization is always their top concern, being full of sick people and all. Maybe in Canada, but not in the grand ol’ USA.

        Just kidding, Canadians.

      • tmac57 says:

        Check out this press release/commercial for Activeion’s relief efforts in Haiti:

        http://powerplants.einnews.com/article.php?nid=514

        “In addition, Activeion has provided ionator EXP units to medical teams to assist with clinic cleaning in Haiti. “Our planet deserves to be a clean, healthful place to live, and everyone deserves access to clean, healthful water,” says Todd Schaeffer, vice-president and general manager, Activeion Cleaning Solutions. “Activeion is very proud to support these essential Haitian relief efforts.”

        Well, for the sake of the Haitians, I hope it works.

      • Robo Sapien says:

        They were just devastated by a massive earthquake, somehow I don’t think a water ionizer is going to wreak too much havoc, lol. The clinics will already be carrying normal (and proven) cleaning products, so I can see where it could be of use in areas where sanitation needs are less stringent, allowing them to save the chemical stuff for where they need it, like surgical tools etc.

      • Max says:

        Do you also doubt that any security force would dowse for bombs?

      • Robo Sapien says:

        Hmm, good point. Although I would contend that the Iraqi security forces weren’t already equipped with something proven to work. That seems to be a case of ill-informed beaurocratic decision making, i.e. “These dowsing rods are cheaper, lets buy those instead, then we’ll have more money for weapons.”

        There is a vast chasm of difference between them and the Haiti relief effort. While it is not impossible for the humanitarians to do something that foolish and dangerous, I find it highly unlikely.

    • Personne says:

      I’m afraid the negative review with the ATP test is no more to be trusted than the probably-planted positive reviews. It turns out that the author of that review works for a competing company: http://www.tersano.com.

      • Robo Sapien says:

        Ah, good find. I really hope a reliable lab study turns up some good results on this one. A lot of people are readily dismissing it (and Bill Nye), but I have a little bit of faith (gasp!) in old Bill. Despite all the expertise of the commenters here, I don’t think anyone is qualified to condemn this thing without proper testing.

      • tmac57 says:

        This would be a good one for the Consumer Reports ‘Up Front’ section.

  48. Larry Gessner says:

    The last time I saw Bill Nye it was on Larry King and he was totaling debunking UFOs. This broke my heart. The first thought that ran through my head was ” Has he lost his mind?” Then I thought about it and figured that he was being paid to debunk UFOs. After seeing this post, it makes sense now. I believe he has an agent and the agent is getting him work where ever he can find it. This is a sad day for all of the people who have loved him all of these years.

    • Janice says:

      Yes, Nye has an agent, two publicists (one of whom also handles Kate Gosselin if that’s a clue), a secretary, and two rabid attorneys.

  49. slickerwick says:

    A cheap green alternative is to put white vinegar in a spray bottle. And for tough cleaning jobs I mix baking soda with vinegar. Dissolves dirt and kills germs.

  50. Zenn says:

    Maybe Bill Nye fell off his roof while cleaning his solar panels and suffered brain injury. He was on Nova this week competing with Ed Begley on being green (repeat show from Jan 2009).

  51. Zenn says:

    I use plain water all the time to clean stuff! I get yelled at by the wife when I do because she thinks you need cleaners to do it. Grease and oils need a soap though!

    Just watched the video – very good production and very convincing. He seems to believe it himself. I like the green light and the battery operated pump. He did say the effect only lasts for 30 seconds though.

    I think it is a little bit woo and definately not as effective as chemical cleaners. I doubt that it is effective against germs and bacteria more than water is.

  52. Moochie says:

    Sorry, but if this fellow is prepared to put his reputation on the line like this then he deserves a proper drubbing. I need to earn a living, too, but I have principles. Now, can I interest you in a bottle of Nactiveion — de-ionized water for undoing the harm Activeion does to your environment? A short spray of Nactiveion is guaranteed to make your environment positively filthy, just the way you like it! Contact me for pricing.

  53. Beelzebud says:

    This is pretty disappointing… I’ve known of Bill Nye since before he was the Science Guy. He used to be in a fairly funny sketch comedy show called Almost Live. When he transitioned from that to the Science Guy I always thought he was pretty cool.

    After endorsing some woo-woo nonsense like this, I’m afraid in my mind he’ll be known as Bill Nye the Pseudo-Science Guy.

    It takes a lifetime to build up a solid reputation, and only one bone-headed thing to tear it all down. Unfortunately that is true.

  54. karl schuch says:

    This is not a small error in judgement by Nye, this is an egregious violation of truth, science, and morality. Reputation is everything to a person of integrity, who among us would sell out our reputations so cheaply?

    The true character of Bill Nye has been laid bare for all to see.

  55. Jim Simms says:

    I am ionized, have been for years! And it rained on me today at the Cherokee Triangle Art Fair.

  56. Personne says:

    It’s been a very interesting Monday morning. As I’m sure you all know, on Amazon it’s easy to see the count of people who think a review has been helpful and those who think it hasn’t. Over the weekend, the negative reviews of the Ionator (another reviewer calls it the Scaminator) garnered a lot of helpful votes. It’s all changed on Monday, I suppose because the Activion people got back in the office and saw what was going on. The negative reviews have suddenly gotten many more negative votes and there are additional positive reviews.

    The positive reviews are laughable. They’re often the only review written under that identity. They also make outlandish claims–barely short of asserting that the Ionator cures leprosy and allows the mute to speak. There’s little doubt that this is a marketing tactic of the company.

    I’ve been inclined to give BIll Nye the benefit of the doubt on this. But I hope that SGU or Skepticality can persuade him to speak on the subject. Even if he’s gone into it with a clear conscience, I don’t think the tactics of the company are doing him any good.

  57. Trimegistus says:

    He went off the deep end of Greendom a while back. Is it really surprising that having swallowed one set of anti-scientific claptrap he’s now opened his mouth for more?

  58. James says:

    Nye got $150,000 plus stock options for the endorsement.

  59. Matt says:

    What a pathetic post. Doesn’t Brian realise the implications of this hypocritical defense? Glad to see the responses in the comments.

  60. Janice says:

    There is now a response from Nye at http://www.billnye.com

  61. Zenn says:

    My comment,

    I don’t know if your personal tests were properly performed and reproducible with comparisons with plain water. Is there evidence those cells photographed after the spray were the result of the spray? It sure sounds like Woo Woo to me and at the very least, it will force people to do more with a whole lot less money left in their wallet if they do decide to buy this battery powered water spray bottle.

    Sorry but that is how I see it. Although, I did get some entertainment value watching that 9 minute video.

  62. A-gti says:

    Sensing a lot of groupthink here. Can we not be skeptical about our skepticism?

    I’m in agreement that this product is marketed in a woo-ey way. However, Nye’s right that Tennant has been selling this technology in its floor cleaners now for some time, and I really can’t imagine them selling this if it didn’t work in some way, shape, or form. They’re a very established company – not that the fact that an established company selling some technology automatically makes it valid, but it does lend a certain ethos to it.

    I’m skeptical myself – but I’m not going to dismiss the technology outright or make final judgments until there is more scientific evidence to prove this one way or the other.

    My point is maybe more accurately, for those who say this is bogus, how is your outright dismissal any more scientific or valid than those who just accept it blindly? Is there a bias here just because the product just seems so much like other woo-woo products in the past?

    What it sounds like to me is someone needs to get a third party to test these in a scientific manner with off-the-shelf models, to compare dirt removal, disinfection, degreasing ability, etc, and to compare this technology with the usual cleaners and plain water.

    • Zenn says:

      McCheese, your links do not make any conclusions or valid testing!
      1st post shows a pH of 2.3 to 2.6 – that is a very strong acid and is not what that Activeion produces. The other 2 links say nothing because ActiveIon made it!

      So moron yourself, do you have something else. That $169 device is bogus and a scam.

      http://www.billnye.com/for-the-nanobubble-skeptics/ Read some of the comments and you don’t see Bill responding!

  63. Paul Shin says:

    The promotion of something pseudoscience based for profit at the financial loss of someone else is unethical and unacceptable for many reasons in this society. I have been trying to wake up the public about pseudoscience based water products for a number of years- and have even been cited by Stephen Lower (see “Hexagon hucksters” at http://www.chem1.com/CQ/clusqk.html). It’s such a shame for such well established scientists or science promoters “turning to the dark side” for profit at the expense of their credibility and society- for shame!

  64. Michael says:

    Bill Nye will be hawking this product in an embarrassing carnival display to make him some big bucks, at a restaurant convention May 24 in Chicago. It’s at the McCormick Center at 10 am and 12, booth 6300. Go cheer him on lol.

  65. Bernhard says:

    http://www.activeion.com/does_it_work/index.html

    Maybe do some research before jumping to your conclusions.
    But then you wouldn’t be able to maintain your righteous indignation.

  66. Blaine says:

    I have read through quite a few comments and I am curious to see how many that don’t find the product satisfactory have ACTUALLY tested the product.

    Their track record and staying power seem to show the product has to be somewhat effective, Dozens of colleges and universities across the nation have begun switching over to this technology including Harvard, Yale, Duke, UCLA, and more. One would have to assume that purchasing 100 hundred or more machines would be a large capital expenditure requiring proof and testing. If these entities switched to the technology you have to assume that thorough testing took place.

    I recently saw an ATP Meter test the unit on a surface and it reduced the ATP further and much faster than your normal sanitizer. Why? Because those sanitizers need time to “dwell” if you compare them to the 6 seconds needed with the Activeion – they cannot compete.

    I know quite a few people using them and they all seem to have been skeptics until they spent some time with the units.

    Feel free to send me money and I will test one for us! ha

  67. ruko says:

    The video did show the “treated” water wets a surface better than “untreated” water. This is essentially what surfactants do. I would like to see it sprayed on a teflon coated fry pan side by side.

  68. Frank says:

    Bill Nye always attempts to simplify and explain scientific concepts in lay persons’ and young students’ terms. As a former teacher I appreciated his ability to open minds as to what was actually taking place scientifically. He usually “hammed” things up to draw student interest. Sometimes his “concrete” illustrations did not exactly match the underlying scientific principal but gave the general idea of what was taking place. I think in this situation Bill comes closest to the true principal when he shows apparatus producing the hydrolysis of water. The Ionator basically breaks down water into the separate atoms of hydrogen and oxygen. The water becomes two separate gasses. Thus “nano bubbles” ARE created. When the oxygen is separated out it acts like chlorine bleach and “oxidizes” germs and breaks down dirt and grease. I have a non-chemical swimming pool device that does this same thing on a larger scale so I don’t need a “salt pool” or a chlorine pool. I agree with some of the other contributors: buy and test a Ionator. Then you can give more than an opinion. You can then sell the device or give it away in a lottery for those who contributed their comments. Bill is not selling a bottle of water as you imply, but a device. If it does what it claims to do, many people would be benefited by it, particularly those who are hyper-sensitive to chemcials. If it does well in sales, some other company will ‘clone’ it and the price will become affordable to many other people.

  69. Brian says:

    So, basically, the ends justify the means and there is no harm in pseudoscience as long as the peddler is someone you like? What if someone gets sick or even dies from e.coli or salmonella poisoning because they thought the activeion water cleaned their counter top? That would make Bill partially responsible in the same capacity that Jenny McCarthy is partially responsible for the children dying of easily-preventable disease due to not being vaccinated. Plus, this company is ripping people off, which is another wrong in of itself.

    One could say that it doesn’t matter because there are people who are going to die from those infections anyway, but then you might as well say Jenny McCarthy doesn’t matter because there was an anti-vaccine movement before her. What Bill is doing is lending his credibility to something that we fight against. Same with Jenny McCarthy, and same with Bill Maher.

    What I can’t stand is that there are those in the Skeptic community who won’t hesitate to throw Bill Maher under the bus for his beliefs on vaccination, yet are insisting on treating Bill Nye with kid gloves. I understand that he might be hurting for dough, and the survival instinct often overrides our moral center, but this is more than just mere toleration. What upsets me the most is that the JREF invited him to speak at TAM, undoubtedly KNOWING he was promoting woo on the side.

    What saddens me the most is a quote from Bill himself: “I too was quite skeptical of the existence of what we now call nanobubbles.” Was. Was skeptical. This bugs the hell out of me. Because you accepted a claim based on good, empirical evidence does not mean you ceased being skeptical. Skepticism is not knee-jerk, automatic denial of every fantastic claim. It is the refusal to believe claims without a good reason, and it is ALSO the acceptance of claims when they are supported by evidence. For example, it is skeptical to accept evolution. It is not skeptical to deny it. Unless you have excellent empirical evidence against it, you are not a “skeptic of evolution,” you are a biology denier. If you deny the holocaust, you are not a “holocaust skeptic,” you are a holocaust denier.

    That said, I’m sure Mr. Nye knows this and knows it all too well. But another thing that saddens me is that he passes off his poorly-constructed experiment as “scientific,” despite not being double-blind and having no control. He knows (or should know) the problem with that as well, and yet he still sticks to promoting the product.

    He may be just trying to survive, but don’t do the skeptic community a disservice by pretending that he’s still principled.

  70. cynthia post says:

    Re: the comment “max” made about Monita Poudyal, M.D. who hawks Supple – ran across this paid advertisement and immediately recognized her but couldn’t recall from where – I am a physician as well and she looks around my age so i thought maybe we had run into each other during residency etc – except she trained in the Northeast whereas I trained in the south (as a dermatologist). In any case was driving me crazy and then it came to me – she was valedictorian of my high school class – paid advocacy for a magic drink with a dubious name (who’s the freak who came up with “supple”) aside, this gal is absurdly intelligent, and has an impressive educational background and professional resume including her scientific publications. Find the whole thing bizarre…wouldn’t stop me from recommending her in a heart beat to anyone with a kidney problem however…

  71. Nate B says:

    I like how scientific you guys are, I haven’t heard anything but a bunch of speculation coming out of your mouths, science is experimentation and observations, and I haven’t seen/heard either of these from anyone, so shut the hell up until you have EVIDENCE, half of what I heard from you wannabe intellectuals is pasted from other sites, and not even with a couple words flip flopped to hide the fact all you know how to do is copy and paste. I plagiarized better when I was in elementary school. I am not defending anything or anyone, I’m just pissed that you all can sit here and regurgitate the same shit without any experimentation and consider yourself part of the scientific community. And for those who wanna say this company is just stealing money from people, that’s what every company does, that is my definition of a corporation. Do you really think anyone on this planet has done enough of anything to earn millions or billions of dollars? My opinion is if you have multi millions or even billions of dollars you have definately ripped off a bunch of people somewhere down the line. There are exceptions, plz don’t respond with a bunch of examples, rather take that enthusiasm or whatever, think about what I said and make some sort of intelligent insightful comment that helps further something other than your denseness. P.S. Please don’t bash any grammer spelling mistakes, this isn’t English class

  72. ThorGoLucky says:

    Perhaps Mr. Nye has developed a level of disdain towards the kind of people that would buy such a product for actual use (not just a gag), as what has happened to me with Placebo Mart.

  73. Dwight Be says:

    I agree with Nate B. No one here has any sound arguments based on observation.
    http://www.billnye.com/for-the-nanobubble-skeptics/

  74. Bullet says:

    FYI – EVERYONE becomes a “sell-out” eventually, making money is like a cocaine addiction, you start out small and harmless, and end up a MONSTER!! It is also called “greed”.

    ONE DAY SOON, people will realize what a mistake it is to become a “sell-out” and value money over all. ALL the greats from our history WARNED of this, like Nikolia Tesla for example who died with not even one cent in his pocket. He spent all his money on research and study to provide “mankind” with almost everything you see around you today that runs on electricity…..how could that be??

    They ALL warned that man was putting way to much value in the monetary system and there were things MUCH MORE IMPORTANT in LIFE!!

    And they were ALL right!! Look around you and see what putting such high values on money has gotten us. NOTHING is safe from the corruption of money!! NOTHING!!

    Political campaign’s that generate MILLIONS of dollar to BUY the next elected official is a perfect example of a system becoming “corrupted” due to the importance of money……HOW SAD IS THAT!!!

    Even our judicial system can be BOUGHT for a price!!

    The paths have been chosen unfortunately and we have given up ALL our power of unity which is stronger than ANY FORCE on this planet……we gave it ALL up for money, for a job, for a “career”…..

    Now we must FACE the music…..now we will be fighting for our very lives just to obtain something like “drinking water”….now we will LIVE in the HELL that WE CREATED BY CHOICE!!!

    Proud to be an American??? I am ASHAMED to be a American or even to be apart of this human species of GREED! We will be looked back upon by future generations as the MOST BARBARIC and IGNORANT species to have EVER LIVED!! CONGRATS!!