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Pyramid blade sharpener - real or urban legend?
February 20, 2005 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I remember reading a while back, possibly in Cosmic Trigger or some other such book, that the pyramid shape is naturally conducive to the sharpening of blades. According to this source, if you put dull blades inside a pyramid-shaped object, they will naturally sharpen over time. I don't think it matters what material the pyramid is made from, or how big it is. Anyway, as implausible as this idea seems, I know that I've heard it at least a few times, and cannot find anything about it on Snopes. So my question to the MeFi Mythbusters- real or urban legend?
posted by afroblanca to Science & Nature (24 answers total)
 
One of the attributes of "pyramid power" is that if you put a razor blade, aligned correctly, inside a pyramid made of anything, it'll stay sharp 1/3 longer or something like that. Now read that again, and decide whether it's true ;) Anyway, yeah, it's just New Age hokeyness.
posted by abcde at 11:57 AM on February 20, 2005


I wouldn't even dignify this with "urban legend," it's just hokum. I'd hunt up a source to disprove it but that wouldn't accomplish much - either you believe in physical explanations or you don't. And if you believe in esp, cairvoyance, ghosts, etc., then no amount of sourcing will convince you otherwise.

So ... consider this. How does a knife get sharper when we use a whetstone? By removing some of the steel. What physical process could take place that would remove steel from a knife edge merely because it's placed under a pyramid? Does the pyramid generate some sharpening "force?" You've got four to choose from ...

In most versions of this "pyramid scheme" the material the pyramid is made from is irrelevant. So you can rule out electromagnetism. The strong and weak forces operate on extremely small scales (subatomic). Gravity is an option, but you'd need a truly massive pyramid. Consider that the earth, big as it is (relative to us) can't generate enough gravity to pull a knife out of your hand, let alone strip steel molecules from it.
posted by zanni at 12:01 PM on February 20, 2005


if you put dull blades inside a pyramid-shaped object, they will naturally sharpen over time

Of course not.
posted by Nelson at 12:02 PM on February 20, 2005


I don't have conclusive proof, but I'm going to have to go with "urban legend" because it's the stupidest thing I've heard in a long time. It flies in the face of the reality we observe every day. And if it were true, don't you think there would at least be some market for pyramid-shaped storage?
posted by mkultra at 12:02 PM on February 20, 2005


My dad was always into this kind of stuff so I remember various books around the house as well a few pyramids made from cardboard and such. This was during the pyramid power craze during the late 70's, if I remember right it's when King Tut made his visit to North America. In particular I remember one article in Playboy that made a lot of grandiose claims with photographs that you could actually try to prove pyramid power (they all failed for me). It's all pseudoscientific bullshit.

Suppose that you believe it to be true though. A razor properly oriented in the pyramid will stay sharp 1/3 longer. Obviously whether the blade is in the pyramid or not it's not losing sharpness from lying unused. So if the blade actually lasts longer there has to be some physical change in the steel. An easy experiment would be to take one of those circle cutting saw blades and store it in the pyramid. By default some portion of the cutting surface will be oriented correctly. Because of this, if pyramid power works, some part of your cutter will be hardened compared to the rest (two parts of the blade I guess).

If you then cut holes in a piece of wood until the blade stops working very well you should see a couple of spots on the blade that are mysteriously less dulled separated by the radius of the circle.
posted by substrate at 12:23 PM on February 20, 2005


pyramids have ancient powers beyond the understanding of modern science. just east of where i work is the elqui valley, where many people build pyramids so that they can meditate within the shape and so harness this same energy. they have to be very careful to make the base of the pyramid perfectly flat so that they can sit there for meditation without risk of injuring theselves - otherwise the slightest variation in the base is slowly sharpened until it becomes a dangerous knife edge. also, i suspect it's not a coincidence that the same word - sharp - can be used to describe an acute mental awareness (as in "he is very sharp"). ufos are often seen in the valley, too, (you may think it's surprising that i - an astronomer working nearby - have never seen one but, as an estate agent told me once, scientists have very closed minds; they don't want to find out anything really new). oh, and recently the capel pisco processing plant in the valley was bought by gilette - they are going to start a razor recycling project there, using the natural energy in the valley (and, of course, pyramids) (it might not be recycling, but producing a new extra-sharp razor, better than the mach 3 - it's very secret and still in development, but will revolutionise the world of men's grooming products).
posted by andrew cooke at 12:32 PM on February 20, 2005 [1 favorite]


As I recall, the proponents of the idea claimed that razor blades didn't stop working well because they were dull, but because the sharp edge got bent over. The pyramid was supposed to 'realign' the edge so it would cut properly.

I sincerely hope that none of those proponents ever made a nickel selling their ideas.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:43 PM on February 20, 2005


pyramids have ancient powers beyond the understanding of modern science

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Care to back this up with some actual evidence?

Other than Gillette's purported Area 51?
posted by Vidiot at 12:45 PM on February 20, 2005


In the seventies, there was a fad in the US around the concept of "pyramid power." Its' absence from Snopes must be a reflection of the pre-internet time frame. Interestingly, this reflected in the relative paucity of debunking sites.

After sifting through a huge pile of skeptic sites that generally simply treat pyramid power as a shining example of quackery, I found an article from "The Skeptic, 1988 No. 3" which goes into greater detail.

The Watchman Expositor debunks the beliefs from the perspective of the Mormon faith.

I seem to recall some stuff by Randi on the topic from when I was a kid. The concept appears to have originated with this 1959 Czech patent.
posted by mwhybark at 12:45 PM on February 20, 2005


Vidiot: andrew neglected the <sarcasm> tags; n.b.
posted by mwhybark at 12:48 PM on February 20, 2005


ah, you're right. Sorry. I really shouldn't read AskMe at work while I'm distracted.
posted by Vidiot at 12:50 PM on February 20, 2005


oops, i have no idea where that "1959" idea came from. Let's just say "mid-century" and call it good.
posted by mwhybark at 12:58 PM on February 20, 2005


mwhybark - does that 'The Skeptic, 1988 No. 3' link work for you?
posted by dash_slot- at 1:34 PM on February 20, 2005


There are pyramids in my head
There's one underneath my bead
And my lady's getting cranky
Every possible location
Has a simple explanation
And it isn't hanky-panky

I had read
Somewhere in a book, they improve all your food and your wine
It said, that everything you grow in your garden would taste pretty fine
Instead, all i ever get is a pain in the neck and a
Yap yap yap yap yap yap yap

I've consulted all the sages
I could find in the yellow pages
But there aren't many of them
And the mayan panoramas
On my pyramid pajamas
Haven't helped my little problem
I've been told
Someone in the know can be sure that his luck is as
Good as gold, money in the bank and you don't even pay for it
If you fold, a dollar bill in the shape of the pyramid that's printed on the back
It's no lie
You can keep the edge of a razor as sharp as an eagle's eye,
you can grow a hedge that is vertically straight over ten feet high,
all you really need is a pyramid and just a little luck
I had read, somewhere in a book, they improve all your food and wine
I'd been told, someone in the know can be sure of his good luck
It's no lie, all you need is a little bit of pyramidic help
Alan Parsons.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:34 PM on February 20, 2005


Thanks for your response, mwhybark. Unfortunately, for me, the Skeptic link is a dead link. Do you know where else I could find that material?
posted by afroblanca at 1:37 PM on February 20, 2005


The article that, I think, mwhybark was linking to.
posted by jimfl at 2:13 PM on February 20, 2005


I got interested enough in this question to spend some time a-googlin', and I note that pretty much everything I found asserts one of two things:

1. (Unspecified) experiments have shown that it works!
2. It's obvious crap, therefore it's false.

Notably lacking, so far as I can tell, is an experimental trial. Does anybody know of one? It seems straightforward enough to design a double-blind test, if you allow "sharpness" to be measured subjectively, and I would think that, even if researchers don't want to be bothered with it, it's the sort of thing that students in science fairs would have done. If they shaved.
posted by bac at 4:57 PM on February 20, 2005


Nope, I'm an idiot. Sorry all!

The good link is here.
posted by mwhybark at 6:30 PM on February 20, 2005


say, Jim, you can be my wingman anytime.
posted by mwhybark at 6:31 PM on February 20, 2005


It was definitely a 1970s fad. In the 1976 NHL playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leaf's coach placed pyramids in the dressing room and under the player's bench which worked at keeping the players sharp -- Sittler scored 5 goals in one game that playoff year. Correlation still doesn't equal causation though.
posted by Rumple at 9:01 PM on February 20, 2005


It seems straightforward enough to design a double-blind test, if you allow "sharpness" to be measured subjectively, and I would think that, even if researchers don't want to be bothered with it, it's the sort of thing that students in science fairs would have done.

You're totally right. I may actually have to send this one into Snopes.
posted by afroblanca at 10:06 PM on February 20, 2005


...razor blades didn't stop working well because they were dull, but because the sharp edge got bent over

That much is true. Which is why people who shave with straight razors should have a strop handy.

But the pyramid thing is a bunch of hooey.
posted by Uncle Ira at 1:22 AM on February 21, 2005


Notably lacking, so far as I can tell, is an experimental trial.

I think the obvious reason is that there's utterly no reason at all to even imagine it to be true. Do we need to do an experimental trial to see whether doing the funky chicken cures cancer?

If anyone wants to take this idea seriously - ie, if anyone thinks it's true - they ought to do a double blind test to attempt to show it. But with no hypothesis for why it would work, it just seems like a completely random claim and in need of no further investigation. Basically, you should generally be doing trials to prove results rather than debunk (that is, it's up to the supporters of a claim to show its validity).

Perhaps Randi's million dollar prize is a good half-way, since it gives believers an incentive to prove their claims scientifically, when they may not be otherwise inclined to bother.
posted by mdn at 12:34 PM on February 21, 2005


Yeah, I know all about extraordinary claims and extraordinary evidence. But the debunkers aren't, for the most part, saying "this is unproven; there is no evidence for it." They're saying "this is false." I assume that they wouldn't say that without evidence, so I was asking what evidence they had, especially since, as I noted, the trial seems easy enough to do.
posted by bac at 8:11 PM on February 21, 2005


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