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James Randi Educational Foundation

August 13, 2000


Though I try to change the general subject on the opening pages each week, the scandalous situation created by the Florsheim Shoe Company - which we introduced to you last week - simply calls for much more extensive coverage. I managed to visit a major Florsheim store at a local mall here in Florida, and I found a large table in front of the store with displays of the MagneForce product, and literature which was being distributed to eager customers. It was appalling.

I also had the opportunity to briefly handle one of these magical shoes - I was being very suspiciously eyed by the employees - and by means of a simple magnetic compass I determined that - as far as I could see - there were only three magnets embedded in each shoe sole. They attracted the "south" end of the compass pointer.

But it was the 4" by 6", 28-page advertising booklet that really got my attention. The front cover proudly proclaimed, "Florsheim introduces the first shoe with its own power supply." Well, a little research showed us that it was the L.A. Gear folks who first did this, some years back - the only difference being that their shoes actually do have a power supply that causes lights at the heel to flash. There is no power supply at all in the Florsheim shoes.

In the booklet, under the title, "About magnets and magnetic therapy," Florsheim makes a series of astonishing statements that can certainly get your attention. An unsophisticated reader might very well believe them to be well-founded. These "scientific" statements are taken from a book "Healing with Magnets," by Gary Null, Ph.D. Dr. Null is armed with lawyers and is fond of brandishing them. He endorses the use of magnets and laetrile for curing cancer, he opposes vaccination, recommends coffee enemas, and declares that "misaligned" bony plates of the skull cause a raft of medical problems - all notions that have been shown quite erroneous. The "Consumer's Guide to 'Alternative Medicine'" comments, "Gary Null is wrong so often that the average person who listens to him might be better off believing the opposite of what he says." He obtained his Ph.D. from Union Graduate School, a "non-traditional" organization in New Jersey which allows the student to decide his own title of the degree he earns as well as the content of the program he follows, which is largely self-administered. Null bills himself as, "America's #1 Health Crusader."

It is painfully obvious that the Florsheim people did nothing to check up on the scientific validity of the "facts" they published, which are simply ludicrous. A high school freshman knows better than the executives at Florsheim who passed this material as acceptable. One can only hope that it was ignorance on their part, rather than a planned deception, that led them to publish this simply astonishing document, a 28-page booklet in English, French, and Spanish. In any language, it's quackery.

Here are a few of the howlers featured.


Magnetism represents one of the most basic powers in the universe. This force keeps order in the galaxy, allowing the stars and planets to spin at significant velocities. The earth [sic] itself is a giant magnet, with north and south poles and a hot liquid core. The hot liquid core creates a magnetic field which at the earth's [sic] surface is relatively weak, but serves to keep humans attached to the earth [sic]. Without this magnetic field, we would spin into outer space.


Magnetism has nothing to do with allowing stars or anything else to spin at a "significant velocity." And there is no magnetic field that keeps us attached to the Earth, which in any case would not work unless you happened to have a large slab of iron fastened to each foot - which I'm sure that Florsheim will next consider producing as yet another scientific innovation. This business of spinning into outer space is just so juvenile and naive that one has to wonder why these booklets didn't burst into flames on the printing press.


In the latter half of the 1900s, numerous scientific journals reported the effectiveness of using magnetic fields in healing, including programs for the astronauts. 90-95% of health problems astronauts experienced after early space flights were eliminated when magnets were put in space suits and space capsules to counter the effects of traveling outside the earth's [sic] magnetic field.


This is a ridiculous statement. It's simply not true. It's a total invention. NASA information officers told us quite plainly that it is a pipe-dream.

Research indicates that in general, magnetic therapy works because of the electromagnetic nature of the body. Functionally, according to biomagnetic researchers, the brain generates an electromagnetic current that controls every motor and sensory response in our body. Every cell in our body consists of electrically charged particles that are either positive or negative ions. All are directly affected by exposure to external magnetic fields.


Sigh . . . Pardon me, but my brain just about liquified, reading that. The last two sentences are meaningless, wrong, and useless. Particles are not ions. The rest follows.


Magnetic fields have also been shown to normalize the body's pH, the acid/alkaline balance which creates an internal environment conducive to good health.


Chemically, physically, in EVERY way, this is not true. Moving on . . .


Physicists estimate that because the earth [sic] has lost some of its electromagnetic field over the past 4,000 years, it is possible that some of us suffer from a magnetic deficiency.


The mind boggles. No comment necessary here . . .


Continuing our 108-year heritage of innovation, Florsheim is proud to be the first shoemaker to offer its customers the benefits of unipolar magnetic insoles permanently embedded in . . . shoes.


How embarrassing for those at Florsheim who know better, but cannot be heard because the marketing department and those who think they have some knowledge of science, have run with this shabby notion and now prominently feature tables bearing this quackery, at their stores! And, as we said last week, there's no such thing as a "unipolar" magnet.


Studies indicate that magnetic fields increase blood circulation, bring natural pain relief and increasing range of motion, leading to an increased level of energy.


No such thing. It's all claptrap - and bad English. But you can express your dismay on all this by taking the Florsheim people up on their offer, which reads:


We value our customers and welcome your comments and feedback on MagneForce and other fine Florsheim footwear. Write to us at:

Florsheim Group Inc.
200 N. LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60601


We had only two correct answers to last week's puzzle. This photograph explains all. The answer was, A=full, B=empty. The first correct answer was from Ryan Koudys. Congratulations!

Believe it or not, when A in this photo is emptied entirely into B (or into C), B (or C) becomes full, and - more startling than that, in this photo, glasses B and C are exactly half-full! A bartender who gives you a portion as in B, is serving you just half of the very full capacity of that glass!


This week's puzzle, submitted by a reader, can be solved without experimentation. Pure thought will do it. Here it is:

A chess (or checker) board consists of 64 squares, on a board 8 squares by 8 squares, alternating black and white. A domino will neatly cover two of these squares. Using any number of dominos, but not covering the two squares diagonally opposite one another - shown by "X" here - can you cover the rest of the board exactly? No overlapping of dominoes, no gaps allowed, no dominoes hanging over the edge, no using the dominoes on edge, etc., and cutting up dominoes is strictly a no-no. And this is not a trick question . . .

Give me your answer with the single reason it can or cannot be done. That should take no more than 19 words to express succinctly.

Answer next week.

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