Shake it, baby, shake it

In which homeopathy (spelling optional) gets a new theme tune (and it even rhymes).

If I could have had any talent I wanted, I think I would most like to have been able to write witty satirical comic songs, like my musical comic hero Tom Lehrer.

Unfortunately I have only ever been able to be snide in a small and juvenile way, but you make do with what you have.

Today was a quiet day in Dr Aust’s office. Summer has gone – you can tell because it has stopped raining – the conference season is pretty much over, and there are still a couple of weeks until the students return. Anyway, as I sat there at 4.40 pm, wondering if it was early enough to go home, something came drifting unbidden into my head.

First came an old tune

…and then the words.

So without more ado I give you:


The Homeopath’s Song (Super calibrated shaking)

(with apologies to the Sherman Brothers and Mary Poppins)


Super calibrated shaking makes the magic potions

Even though the logic here is frankly quite atrocious

If you say it loud enough you’ll always sound precocious

Yes super calibrated shaking makes the magic potions!


Um diddle diddle diddle um diddle ay

Think of Sam Hahnemann shaking away


Because I learned some chemistry when I was just a lad

Our complementary therapist said I was very bad

But then one day I learned something that saved my aching brain

If you embrace parallel reality this can be your refrain:


Oh – super calibrated shaking makes the magic potions

Even though the logic here is frankly quite atrocious

If you say it loud enough you’ll always sounds precocious

Super calibrated shaking makes the magic potions!


Um diddle diddle diddle um diddle ay

Think of Sam Hahnemann shaking away


I like to talk and theorize to sound quite erudite

Invoking Quantum Theory in terms most recondite

So when crowned heads and celebrities consult me for their health

I can sell them magic water and relieve them of their wealth


Oh – super calibrated shaking makes the magic potions

Even though the logic here is frankly quite atrocious

If you say it loud enough you’ll always sounds precocious

Super calibrated shaking makes the magic potions!


Um diddle diddle diddle um diddle ay

Think of Sam Hahnemann shaking away

Shout until it makes you hoarse

Disturbance in the Vital Force

Um diddle diddle diddle um diddle ay

Um diddle diddle and shake away


So when the scientists put you down there’s no need to dismay

Just summon up this magic phrase and you’ll have lots to say

But better shake it carefully or it may make you ill

For with too much wristy potentizing ignorance can kill


Oh – super calibrated shaking makes the magic potions

Even though the logic here is frankly quite atrocious

If you say it loud enough you’ll always sound precocious

Yes super calibrated shaking makes the magic potions!


(repeat ad nauseam)


46 Responses to “Shake it, baby, shake it”

  1. Svetlana Says:

    :) :) :) :) Bravo! :)
    Doc, and what about to sing? ;) Can you sing it yourself? I would be glad to listen to you! :)

    By the way (sorry for off-topic), I long wanted to ask you question, but there was no opportunity – who has depicted for you such charming avatar? ;) Has your eldest child made it or were you a painter yourself? Does this depicted lad really look like you, eh? :)

  2. Madsadgirl Says:

    Absolutely brilliant. I’ve missed you over the last couple of weeks, but this more than makes up for it.

  3. dvnutrix Says:

    Exellent fun, Dr Aust! That settles it – Bad Science – The Musical. Because homeopathy is crying out for an updated version of a pill made of sugar with no medicine goes down…

  4. draust Says:

    I hadn’t thought of A Spoonful of Sugar, but you’re absolutely right, dvn, it’s crying out for some new lyrics along those lines.

    And somewhere on the blocks I have a 2/3 completed “Nutritionist’s Song” patterned after another musical comedy favourite. I shall have to try and get it properly finished.

    Svetlana, sadly, being English, I can’t / don’t sing. Except to Junior Aust, who is too young to tell exactly how awful my singing is.

    And the avatar is an idealized version of me a decade or two back… cartooned by me.

  5. Svetlana Says:

    Oh, you are too modest, Doc ;) If you sing as interestingly as you depict the cartoons (say nothing of your poetic abilities), you are quite talented guy :)

  6. thejobbingdoctor Says:

    This really made me smile.

    I started singing it to myself at 6 in the morning (family think I’m Bonkers!) but it is so much better sung.


    Now how about some of the other songs: ‘Spoonful of sugar’ etc.?

  7. elaine Says:

    Of course, I had to sing it (but not out loud or the neighbours would complain)

    Great stuff!

  8. Teek Says:

    :-) ROFL!! great effort Dr. Aust!!

  9. Claire O'Beirne Says:

    Excellent! And branching out from Mary Poppins, surely the Ugly Duckling offers possibilities for a rewrite (great refrain!).

    But…”Summer has gone – you can tell because it has stopped raining – ”

    Never fear, Summer has returned, at least to this part of the Home Counties. Bucketing down.

  10. seenoevil Says:


  11. draust Says:

    Thanks again for the kind words, gang. Always good to know someone is amused.

    Anyway, emboldened by the virtual calls of “Author! Author!”, I will redouble my efforts to produce some more musical comedy moments in the future. May be a while, though, as I have a conference next week (a rare one pretending to be a serious scientist – well, a scientist, anyway) and then soon after that the students are back.

  12. DMcILROY Says:

    Hey, I wonder if you could re-work Lehrer’s Irish Ballad, to give a taste of several different Woo therapies? I suppose you would have to tone down the effects on the protagonist’s unfortunate family members, though.

  13. draust Says:

    Ah yes, the Irish Ballad – another good one. Gilbert and Sullivan, of course, are another potential source of comic songs to adapt. And rather mystifyingly I always had a soft spot for Sondheim and Bernstein’s “Gee Officer Krupke”.

  14. She-Liger Says:

    Oh, yes! So – don’t teach our Doc to live, DMcILROY ;) His opus is a new word in music and art! He has an original viewpoint about this world and he goes by only unfooted ways ;) :) :)

  15. She-Liger Says:

    Russian “Great cynicism” compared to your tiny, weak scepticism…


  16. DMcILROY Says:

    To She-Liger, I thought you meant this one

  17. draust Says:

    Ah yes… Lobachevsky

    Let no-one else’s work evade your eyes!
    Remember why the good lord made your eyes!
    So don’t shade your eyes!
    But plagiarise, plagiarise plagiarise!

    …but be sure, please, to always call it “research”….

    Class stuff

    ..though we should say that Lehrer was making a joke about all scholars of the more unscrupulous variety, not just Russian ones

    PS Is it too geeky to admit that as a teenage Chemistry dweeb I once used to be able to sing the whole of the Elements Song from memory? Yep… thought so.

  18. She-Liger Says:

    No, DMcILROY, I meant this:

    By the way, most of Americans are former Irishmen :P :P
    Besides, it can seem to be strange, but most of quacks in the world are Celts. Why, eh?

    And what I “thought”…
    Firstly, I thought that you, Doc, are more clever than you are in reality. But probably I’ve understood you wrongly… And you don’t know Russian language. Did you read Solzhenytsyn in English? And I read Bernard Shaw in English. Difference… ;) By the way, name “solzhenytsyn” is produced from russian verb “solgat’ “, i.e. to tell a lie. He spoke with tongue in cheek with you, using some narrow-mind-ness of your people in his interests.
    And secondly, I thought that all you are a bit cleverer.

    I guess that now all you will start to take offence because of my words ;) Well.. Than – I’ll explain.. I am forced to do it, if all you are so… mmm… odd.

    Your answer, DMcILROY is stupid compared to my challenge. Brodsky has said in this video NOTHING offensive and hurtful for you ( unlike Lehrer). Simply his intellect is more powerful and deeper that all abstruse reasonings in all blogs of quackbasters ;) Though he was merely sporting in this piece. If you wanted to answer me properly, you had to answer with Bernard Shaw’s words, for example. It would be close to Brodsky. But your Lehrer is an equivalent of our Mikhail Zadornov – he is clever and venomous, but vulgar and non-deep.

    As for you, Doc… You are good and kind lad. And you are clever and reasonable. But often I feel that there is something I would like to find in you, but I don’t find it. You are scant of “size”, greatness. Actually, you are merely Dr. (F)aust! Small person. Merely… :( It is boring. Do you know what I dislike most of all abroad? Some “primitivism” of your people. Linearity. It is so boring! I saw never such bore in Russia! In our country even plumbers are more interesting and wise than your professors.

    And certainly, none of our people will waste time writing whole site for criticism of the IDIOT such as your Holford, for example.


  19. DMcILROY Says:

    She-Liger, I didn’t expect you to take it personally, I just made a kind of “Russian – Tom Lehrer – vaguely about science” connection.
    I should also say that I share your dismay concerning Americans, but how is it that they have all the top science universities and keep on producing great science? There’s got to be something there that we in Europe, and I daresay in Russia too, can learn from.

  20. draust Says:

    Sorry to disappoint, She-L.

    Of course, great anythings (and certainly people) are rather thin on the ground. Most of us have to settle for being what we are, and hopefully trying to be a bit better than that once in a while. Like many bloggers I am a frustrated writer, but I don’t think I’m one of nature’s novelists – more of a frustrated Private Eye staffer.

    Ah well – know your limitations, as they say.

    You’re quite right that I can’t read or understand Russian, so of course I did read Solzhenitsyn (and other Russian writers) in the English translations. I would love to be able to read any other language well enough to read the original books, but unless English people actually live in foreign countries they rarely get fluent, and I am no exception.
    [My personal repertoire is plodding German, not quite as good French, basic Spanish and a few words of Russian from a long-forgotten O-level.]

    Anyway, unless the Univ sends me off to Europe on Sabbatical, I imagine that is as far as I am going to get, language-wise. C’est la vie.

  21. She-Liger Says:

    MacILROY, what can you know about Russian science, if you NEVER read Russian scientific journals? You don’t know Russian.
    And USA is simply aggressive state, playing a role of world policeman. Does USA have best science in the world? Oh, yes!! Second university in the world – Yale – has huge Department of Integrative Medicine, i.e. QUACKERY COURSES!
    Is it BEST science?!!!

  22. She-Liger Says:

    And generally! Doctor! Stop to close my real name! I have written a lot of comments to your blog under my own name, but you don’t want to publish them! :(
    I am afraid NOTHING unlike you!

  23. She-Liger Says:

    By the way, why are you afraid? Who/what are you afraid of?

  24. draust Says:


    I didn’t publish the one you sent under your real name because while it was in the spam filter awaiting approval you sent me another one saying:

    “you can leave [the last one] non-published! I shall publish it in my own blog!”

    …so I assumed you wanted me not to publish it. You can post under your real name if you want.

    As for me, I don’t really want to blog under my real name mainly so that I don’t get tons of vitriolic emails from cracked alternative therapists, anti-vaccine warriors and conspiracy crazies, the way David Colquhoun and (especially) Ben Goldacre do.

  25. She-Liger Says:

    Aha! And you better say that you don’t disclose your name, because you don’t want (M)Ephistopheles to steal your soul! :) :P
    In brief – you confess that you are merely small young Dr. (F)Aust, which is afraid evil quacks and terrible Devil :) :P :)

    Doc, answer, please, are you German? It seems to me constantly that you are German… ;) It resembles some Hoffmaniada….

  26. She-Liger Says:

    Aha! And besides, say also, that you don’t publish my comments under my real name because you like very much huge thick tigers :) :)

  27. draust Says:

    I am happy to state for the record that “Ich bin nicht Berliner… oder andere Art Deutsche”. …so definitely not German. I did study German until the end of high school, and once worked for a few months in Heidelberg, so maybe it has had an influence.

    And Jr Aust (age 4) is the one who likes tigers.

  28. She-Liger Says:

    “And Jr Aust (age 4) is the one who likes tigers.”

    It is a strain, Doc, believe me! ;) Genetically hereditable :) From father… ;)

    Hmmm… Heidelberg?…. And maybe are you Colquhoun? :) By the way David is Great actor and mystificator… ;)

  29. draust Says:

    I’m not David Colquhoun either, S-L, though I do know him as we belong to one of the same professional scientific societies – the Physiological Society – and work in slightly related fields. But he is a far, far more eminent scientist than me. He is top division, while I am sort of a third division scientist who aspires to the second division.

    Re. tigers, a paternal influence is possible, but the question is – nature or nurture? As a child of not-all-that-long-past-but-still-remembered Imperial Britain, I was brought up on Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, so I was interested in animals as a kid. But it was Mrs Dr Aust who bought Jr Aust the second-hand toy tiger from the Oxfam shop, not me.

  30. She-Liger Says:

    Not Colquhoun? ;) OK! I believe, because he is afraid of tigers unlike you :) Particularly if it is Liger.. :)

    “ in slightly related fields…”
    Indeed? And do you work with ion channels? Oh! And I thought that you are “mitochodriologist”. And maybe are you “photosynthetist” and work with patch-clamping?

  31. She-Liger Says:

    Dear Doc, it seems have you established here censorship? ;)

  32. Ephistopheles Says:

    Hi, Doc!
    I have come to remind you our Contract! ;) And don’t say that it is impossible!
    Look at this:

    What an example! Only think!
    Clearest and honest Professor Colquhoun has sold his soul!

    So, Doc… C’est la vie!
    I am waiting for you here…. ;)

  33. Dr Aust Says:

    She-L / (M)Ephistopheles / Svetlana

    Directly abusive comments will not be posted, or will have the abuse removed. Is that censorship? I wouldn’t say so myself.

    As for DC selling his soul, he explains why he offered to sign up on the CNHC in the comment you linked to. We will doubtless find out if it proves to have been a mistake.

  34. Svetlana Perstovich Says:

    Dear Doc, and why are you angry so with ME? ;)
    It is not me, who has sold a soul… ;)

    And it is not mistake. He has done it.
    And probably now perennial youth waits for him actually…

  35. Sceric Says:

    Now, I know why you’re withholding your “real” name…and I fully understand…another reason not to do a blog myself…if I’m in the need to be abused I talk to my boss about a raise, smile

  36. draust Says:

    I’m not in the least bit angry, Svetlana. I am just saying that I won’t let you use my blog to post personal insults. Comments that have something to say are fine. As we have previously covered, you can post what you like on your own blog(s), but here I expect comments to be kept free from personal abuse.

    Incidentally, for sitting on a Committee of the type David Colquhoun has signed up for, the only reimbursement is usually expenses, or possibly a fairly modest rate per day actually spent attending a Committee meeting. No academic in the UK sits on Govt or Quango committees for the money. If you want to spend a few days in meetings and get paid lots of cash then the way is to become a non-executive director of a company, preferably a large one. This is what many ex-politicians do, commonly collecting several such posts – typical remuneration £ 30,000-40,000 for ten meetings a year – once they are not in office any more.

    Edit: On his blog David notes that being on this Committee is “unpaid”

  37. Svetlana Perstovich Says:

    But what for did he apply for position in Complementary and Natural Healthcare(!!!) Council’s Committee??!! Why??
    If they don’t pay money, then – WHY did he do it? It is treachery! Or don’t you understand it? Maybe is he simply a villain?! Well, he didn’t want money, but maybe did he want an evil?
    I don’t try to offend anybody! Simply I want to UNDERSTAND! Why???

  38. Svetlana Perstovich Says:

    I don’t believe that he is a villain.
    Then – why? What is it? Stupidity?…

    He must come away from here. It is a shame to be there!

    I know what I speak! I worked with quacks. Yes! It was in my life.
    And I know not only quackery. I know dishonest science too. I was a dishonest scientist.

    But I don’t want longer! I shall NEVER do so. And I shall not allow him.

  39. draust Says:

    Well, David can speak for himself, but here is one obvious interpretation.

    The suspicion with the CNHC, at least among the sceptics, is that it is simply going to act as an umbrella (overall co-ordinating) body that will do little more than ratify the “self-regulatory codes” that some of the complementary therapy associations already have.

    However, most of these codes are currently completely toothless.

    For instance, in the case of the homeopaths, several complaints to them have shown that organisations like the Society of Homeopaths do not really enforce their own “professional code” – or perhaps, they define the words in the code in such laughably ludicrous ways that nothing a homeopath does, no matter how ridiculous, will ever be found to breach the code. For a couple of homeopathy examples see here and here. (In fact, the various homeopathy organisations resemble nothing as much as a series of warring religious sects, as Gimpy summarises here).

    The CNHC, of course, protest that that is not at all what they are going to do, they are committed to having real standards for the complementary health professions in order to protect the public etc etc. They are trying to push the idea that they will do something much more like the German Heilpraktikergesetz (non-medical health practitioner law).

    The next thought-step is to say: well, if only alternative practitioners and their friends – and, particularly, only people who do not understand the true nature of scientific and medical evidence and how it is derived – sit on CNHC’s committees, then of course it is a done deal that they will never try and tell the therapist associations that they must have codes of conduct with any real teeth. In this view, someone has to be there to make clear that for “best practice” to have any meaning, the “best practice” must be based on proper evidence and the assessment of the evidence.

    You can find the Chief Exec of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) setting out a similar argument on the Quackometer here, though he has since resigned from CNHC, most likely under pressure from the (dietitian) members at the BDA.

    If you buy this line of reasoning, then you can see there is an argument that experts on medical and scientific evidence, including sceptical ones, need to participate in CNHC.

    PS: Gratuitous Youth Culture Analogy:

    As an old Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, it is tempting to liken sceptical scientists sitting on the CNHC’s committees to Angel and his cohorts taking over the reins at Wolfram and Hart.

  40. Svetlana Perstovich Says:

    Heavens! Doc! What a naivety!
    What “evidence”? Or do you seriously believe that these creatures are capable to understand clever and honest words?! You don’t know them, dear!
    And I worked with them – they are bulletproof idiots and villains.
    Sceptics need no to participate in their gangs at all! They will waste time!

    And David have not the right to hang about there at all! What does he want to “find” there? Maybe he want to gain “experience”? And why then doesn’t he come to brothel or to the war in Irak? The experience would be absolutely same! And if he hugely want to influence on these things actually, let he become Premier-Minister. And I shall be Minister of Foreign Affairs ;))

    And – seriously. Doctor, you are tragically wrong. Sceptics must not participate in such commitees. And David Colquhoun must not do it particularly. Why must good talented scientist plunge in this muck? It is impermissible and inexcusably. Other ways exist to stop quackery. Better!

  41. Svetlana Perstovich Says:

    Nightmare! :) :) “Buffy”… Doc, what a kindergarten! :) I don’t see such “film-products” :)

    And DC is not from this serial at all. He is from other story, if you want to know… ;)

    So I say (seriously say, Doc!) – he must not participate in quackery sh..t! It is NOT “serials”!

  42. draust Says:

    “Buffy….Doc, what a kindergarten!”

    Well, you could sat that, Svetlana but it is/was mightily entertaining.. and funny.. and well-written.

    I suppose what my taste for such ephemeral / silly stuff tells us is that I am not a very serious person, but I suspect anyone who reads this blog has worked that out already.

    And also… one must keep one’s ambitions manageable.. so one of mine is just to one day write something genuinely funny. I realised long ago that I am never going to be a good enough scientist to make the Royal Society, but I might manage a few half-good jokes, and possibly explain some science to a few people en route. Another way of looking at this is that, sometimes, not being serious is more useful than the opposite.

  43. Svetlana Perstovich Says:

    Besides, it is also useful to distinguish non-seriousness and dishonesty.
    And also it is necessary to see a difference between scientific jokes and non-serious attitude to science. As a rule, non-seriousness in science means a mediocrity.
    Sorry. Nothing personal.
    Unfortunately, I must express my opinion – I think that this Colquhoun’s action is the first sign that the fight against quackery in Britain universities starts to lose. I shall be glad to know that my viewpoint is mistake, but now I have no reasons to state the reverse point.
    No matter what – Good luck!

  44. Svetlana Perstovich Says:

    He (DC) persists in his mistake. And it becomes not too funny…

  45. Sean Ellis Says:

    Incensed about the CNHC’s lack of requirements for efficacy or safety? Sign the petition at

  46. Alternative, complementary and holistic health care » Blog Archive » Homeopathy, the musical Says:

    […] > […]

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