Skepticism

The Great Apple Experiment

Last week I tweeted a link to a ridiculous Daily Fail article where a woman named Nikki Owen tries to convince us that saying nice things to apples will make them prettier, and therefore saying nice things to your face will similarly make it less hideous.

She claimed to have done real SCIENCE to back this up, so I thought it only fair to attempt to replicate her results. Since she has asked all her followers to also do the experiment and post results, I’m asking my audience of scientists (pro and amateur alike) to have a go using proper blinding and controls:

I’ve set up a Facebook page where you can post your results. As I mention in the video (above), Nikki has also posted pics on her page, though it’s not a group page so she controls all the results.

After the jump, see what Nikki’s fans are saying about me! I’ve also posted the transcript of the video.

My favorite is that someone thinks the mustaches on the jars will affect the results. If it’s that easy, just wear a mustache to bed every night and wake up looking like a million bucks! Forget Nikki Owens’ seminars (£595); just invest in my mustache set (£1 £30 £50)!

To be fair, though, I did choose the most hateful mustache I had for the hate apple.

Transcript:

Last week the Daily Fail published an article in which some moron named Nikki Owen told the world that saying nice things to yourself in the mirror will make you prettier. Nikki claims this is backed up by science, because she did an experiment with apples.

Nikki’s experiment involved cutting an apple into pieces and placing each piece in a different jar. She said mean things to one apple and nice things to the other apple, and after one week the hate apple was more decayed than the love apple.

I’ll give you a moment for that to sink in.

Nikki says that apples and the human body are both 60% water. This isn’t true…for humans, it’s anywhere from 45 to 75% with an average percentage of about 57, and for apples it’s about 85%, but let’s ignore reality for a moment and go back to Nikki. Because apples are pretty much the same as faces, she says that her experiment proves being nice to your face will make it better looking.

Her little theory is based on Dr Emoto, a guy who published a thoroughly debunked study in which he spoke to water crystals in petrie dishes and found that nicer words made prettier crystals.

I decided to test Nikki’s hypothesis myself. First I bought three nice jars from the local 99-pence store, a magical place that also sold a whole pack of mustaches for the low low price of 99 pence.

Then I found a nice, fresh, bruise-free Gala apple at my local farmer’s market and cut it into quarters. One piece would be the love apple, one would be the hate apple, and the other would be the control apple of indifference. The fourth quarter was smeared with peanut butter and consumed, marking yet another way that human faces are different from apples.

Finally, I talked to my apples.

[TO HATE APPLE] Apple, I never really thought you would come to much.

[TO LOVE APPLE] Apple, you look marvelous today!

[TO APPLE OF INDIFFERENCE] Hey.

I’ll do this every day and I’ll film it, and at the end of the week I’ll show you the results. You can decide which apple looks the worse for wear, and then I’ll reveal which apple is which.

If you’d like, you can play along. Upload your own video as a response to this one, just please remember to use a control apple and let someone who doesn’t know which apple is which tell you which looks better. I’ve also started a Facebook page where you can upload pics if you’d like.

Nikki’s followers have posted their own successful anecdotes on her Facebook page, so I’d like to see if skeptics using proper controls come to the same conclusion.

I guess we’ll see.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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24 Comments

  1. The mutaches are definitely a problem since effects of mustaches on apple tins is a completely pristine field within science. The tins, happy or unhappy about the mustaches attached to them, might in turn affect the apples inside them, throwing off the results completely! After all, the hate and love words are filtered through the tins and the mood of the tins at the time could bias what the apple can hear. Just as for faces, mustaches might have a big effect that should not be underestimated!

    Writing “hate” and “love” on them can be considered neutral, I guess, unless somebody proves that tins can read…..

  2. This, right here, is why I gave up Facebook. Just being near that degree of fanatic fantasism (not to mention woowoo passive-aggression) at once breaks my heart and sickens my stomach. It’s a walled garden where idiocy like this thrives.

    However, I’m a musician/composer who enjoys taking random phrases and using them for titles and inspiration, and I feel a trilogy coming on: “The Hate Apple, The Love Apple, and The Apple of Indifference”. When I’m done I’ll play them to an audience of apples and see which one they applaud the loudest. ;)

  3. Wait… because human beings and apples are both made up of 60% water (let’s just pretend that’s accurate for now for the sake of argument), something that has an effect on one will have the same effect on the other? What kind of logic is that?
    Also, Rebecca, that mustache is totally you. Tres sexy.

  4. I had to register to reply. I’m a fan of your stuff, Rebecca, since about two years btw.

    This has to be one of the funniest things you’ve ever done. But what made me totally ruin my blouse with coffee a few minutes ago was reading the transcript. I read it before watching the youtube video. When I got to the part with The Apple of Indifference, I couldn’t stop laughing for five minutes. =)

    “The Apple of Indifference” – it sounds like something out of a Monty Python skit. I swear, that’s gotta be one of the most randomly funny things I’ve read this last month. =) I totally love it. =)

    Anyway, I think Nikki is a total idiot too btw. Talk about moronic woo! I hope your experiment shows everyone what a clueless fool she is.

    And maybe *her* face looks like an apple, but mine sure doesn’t! =)

  5. @Endrju: I’m going to go stick myself in the freezer to preserve my freshness and flavor!

    Then I’ll take my MacBook Pro, which i made out of largely the same materials as my bicycle, and give it a good oiling to make it run more smoothly.

    What’s sad about this, of course, is that as monumentally idiotic as it is, it still makes more sense than homeopathy.

  6. So Rebecca’s experiment was flawed because she didn’t write Love and Hate on the jars. Does that mean apple’s know how to read English writing? Or can you use any language? What about Klingon?

  7. I’m sorry to say your experiment is invalid.

    Clearly this study is not double-blinded. The apple slices were aware of their role in the study, and even of their projected outcome.

    Furthermore, you spoke to each container well within earshot of the other jars. That’s just sloppy science.

    Irrelevant variables (mustaches) were also introduced, and all of the slices were unnecessarily traumatized (having witnessed the consumption of the fourth quarter).

    I’m really surprised and disappointed by your lack of scientific integrity. But I guess we can’t all be Nikki Owen, can we?

  8. AAAGGHH Too many Variables. — Who’s to say the Mustache Color (Colour to you Rebecca) isn’t having an effect.

    Or maybe the control apple is lonely and depressed, being ignored the way it is..

  9. Why is my mustache being used for the hate apple? Since I’m going gray, I suppose I’m creeping towards indifference. I’m not sure if that’s an improvement, though. This still won’t tell me if my looks are due to the mustache or the vicious personal arguments I get into with my reflection.

  10. @RthrTylr:

    This, right here, is why I gave up Facebook. Just being near that degree of fanatic fantasism (not to mention woowoo passive-aggression) at once breaks my heart and sickens my stomach. It’s a walled garden where idiocy like this thrives.

    Hate to tell you, but that’s the internet as a whole, not just facebook.

  11. I am a big fan of the Apple of Indifference. Maybe I will make a bag with the Apple on it. Hmm.

    I really don’t see how this is supposed to work. I mean, telling yourself good things in the mirror IS a good idea if you’re trying to build self-esteem. You will be prettier if you are confident, but nothing short of major surgery is going to correct that lazy eye or your Picasso nose, so maybe you should just make the best of what you have and focus on being healthy and happy.

  12. Just wanted to thank you for providing for the captioning and transcripts of your videos. I’m deaf, and the automatic captioning on YouTube isn’t quite good enough for me to rely on it. (Granted, it is the beta version, and I’m happy that Google is working on the issue at all.)

    I will hoist a pot of very good tea in your honor tonight.

  13. The problem is that apples are the fruit of the devil. They are after all responsible for the fall of man in the garden of Eden. It is possible that the apples know that you are preforming an experiment, and since it is a well-established fact that they are evil, since they keep well meaning doctors away, they might purposely be throwing you results off. The love apple might be rotting itself out of pure spite. Next time try using less evil fruit , like the athiest-nightmare-causing banana or the fun- to-say kumquat or the completely-indifferent-to-the-world turnip, which I know isn’t technically a fruit.

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