About four years ago attended a bio disc demonstration at Golf Course Hotel, here in Kampala.

Bio_Disc

After spending close to 10 minutes spewing out New Age ‘energy’ slogans (the bio disc ‘harnesses energy’, ‘purifies’ water, creates ‘harmony and balance’ in your body, etc) a marketing official from the company selling the bio disc asked the audience to point out to him fattest/biggest man in the room. When the crowd pointed out such a man, he was asked to come up to the stage for a demonstration. Four other volunteers were also invited onto the stage to participate as well.

The bio disc marketer then poured water from a jug over the bio disc, and let the water spill into a plastic aerosol container. Once the aerosol container was filled, the lid was screwed back on. He declared that the water in the container had been ‘energised’ by the bio disc.

It now was time for the demonstration.

The bio disc marketer asked the ‘fat’ man to sit on a chair situated in the middle of the elevated platform. He then asked the other volunteers to try lifting the fat man with just two fingers each. They failed.

The marketer told the volunteers not to worry. He walked up to each one of them and sprayed them with ‘energised’ water from the aerosol container. After he was done spraying all of them, he once again asked them to try lifting the fat man off the chair.

They were to lift him on the count of three.

‘One’

‘Two’

Three!

This time, the four volunteers swiftly lifted the man off his seat and held him in the air for a number of seconds, to the astonishment of all of us in the conference hall.

At the time I thought their success was more due to something psychological, because it seemed to me to defy all logic that spraying water on people could make them stronger. What the hell does it even mean to ‘energise’ water? It made no sense. I was deeply suspicious about what was going on.

Below is a video showing the man who claims to have invented the bio disc carrying out a somewhat similar demonstration with the bio disc. But instead of spraying ‘energised’ water to strengthen the participants, he uses the bio disc to ‘weaken the effect of gravity’ on the man sitting on the chair (i.e. to make him lighter) to supposedly make it easier for the participants to lift him.

 

This indeed appears impressive.

However, a little research revealed that this bio disc demonstration is nothing more than a common parlour trick!

Even without there being a bio disc to energise people, or to weaken the force of gravity, ordinary people were doing the very same thing – and they were doing it for fun. Many of them have posted their videos on YouTube:

 

 

This trick is called the One-Finger Lift.

Australian science podcaster, Karl Kruszelnicki, explains how it is done:

There are lots of videos of this Finger Lift on YouTube. One of them claims that "it’s an old Romanian trick", while others have Chinese or Africans doing it.

But they all have the timing in common. For the first doomed attempt to lift the subject, there was no effort to get everybody to do the lift at the same instant. In fact, there was deliberate vague misdirection, along the lines of "so go ahead try to lift".

And in all of the videos on YouTube, you can see that the lifters are very much out of time with each other.

That means that for the brief instant each person is trying to lift the subject by themselves, they are fruitlessly trying to lift the entire 50–80kg weight of the subject on one (or two) fingers.

But for the second successful attempt, the timing is very precise.

The purpose of the chanting of the numbers, or the prayer, or song is not to Unleash the Power Within — it’s really to synchronise the four potential lifters into one single lifting unit.

And there is usually a countdown to the final lift. So all four lift as one, and so each one has to lift only 12–20kg with the chosen finger or fingers.

[You can get the mp3 of the full podcast episode dealing with the One-Finger Lift here.]

We had the chance to talk about the bio-disk at the recent Freethinker’s Night, in our discussion of alternative medicine. Much to our amusement we tried to do the One-Finger Lift ourselves (of course, with no bio disc) and were surprised that we could also do it!

The bio disc has been on sale in Uganda for a hefty sum of US$500, and many people bought it, having been told that it can purify drinking water, reduce fuel consumption (if you place it in your car’s fuel tank), treat arthritis and joint pain (by shining a light through the bio-disk and illuminating the part of your body where the pain seems most concentrated), among other things.

As ridiculous as all this sounds, many Ugandans have fallen for it.