Nowadays many people are familiar with the legend of the Philadelphia Experiment — but how did it all begin?
Not conspiracy related, just fun stuff. I like seeing how special effects are done in movies.
VSauce blows my mind. I love it. 🙂
Everyone’s familiar with the idea of UFOs, those mysterious airborne objects often linked with extraterrestrials — but what if there weren’t any aliens involved? Tune in and learn why some people believe Nazis may be responsible for modern UFO sightings.
The galvanic skin response
I was recently asked to look into a product called Zyto technology. This is an electronic device that you place your palm on top of so that it can read your “galvanic skin response” (GSR) to specific stimuli. It then uses your responses to prescribe a specific treatment.
“The potential danger from EM fields is making millions of human beings into test animals,” Ted Koppel solemnly intones in a 1990 Nightline report on electromagnetic fields from power lines. But two decades and hundreds of studies later, there has been no great cancer epidemic caused by power lines. Why did we get so scared in the first place?
The latest video from Retro Report, a series reexamining the breathless news coverage of yore, delves into the late 80s and 90s panic over electromagnetic fields. A small number of suggestive—but inconclusive—studies showed a possible link between the presence of power lines and cancer in children. With power lines threading through every neighborhood, parents naturally panicked.
Retro Report tracks down David Savitz, one of the first epidemiologists to find a link between power lines and childhood cancer. Savitz now disavows that link, dismissing those early studies as aberrations in what is now a huge body of literature that finds no risk from electromagnetic fields. This is just how science works— with contradictions and in fits and starts.
The evening news may no longer be yammering about power lines and cancer, but the same story is still playing out with GMOs and cell phone radiation. [Retro Report]
Well, isn’t that a relief? In case you were still worried that little box you hold in very close proximity to your head almost all day every day was quietly warping your brain tissue, you can relax. A lengthy programme of research into the possible health risks of mobile phones has found that, surprise surprise, there’s no evidence of any adverse effects.
The research was conducted by the UK-based Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research programme, and was funded by the government and the telecommunications industry to the tune of £13.6 million ($22 million). It involved projects over 11 years (taken together with a previous report in 2007), which resulted in 60 peer-reviewed papers. This thing is pretty comprehensive.
If all that work into an issue many would regard as little more than superstition and technophobia seems a little over the top, we have to remember that back when the project was started, landlines and fax machines were still a thing. MTHR chairman David Coggon, a professor of occupational and environmental medicine at Southampton University, acknowledged this in a release announcing the report: “When the MTHR programme was first set up, there were many scientific uncertainties about possible health risks from mobile phones and related technology.”
He went on to effectively sum up the 50-page report in a sentence: “This independent programme is now complete, and despite exhaustive research, we have found no evidence of risks to health from the radio waves produced by mobile phones or their base stations.”
While that result might not be unexpected, it at least helps quash some of the conspiracy theories and is more satisfying than previous studies that came to that annoyingly common catch-all conclusion of “more research needed.”
Specifically, the programme included projects that debunked rumours like “base stations give pregnant women’s future kids cancer” and . . .
Nikola Tesla has become something of an Internet hero. According to legend, he was a mad genius who almost never got the credit he deserved in the money-hungry world of science. It’s easy to argue that Tesla didn’t make it further because of his eccentricities: He hated everything, suffered from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, and might have been autistic. The truth, however, is far simpler: Many of his ideas just weren’t viable. Although many people would like to believe otherwise, Tesla was far from perfect.
10 • Alleged Eidetic Memory
It’s often claimed that Tesla never needed to write anything down because he had either a photographic or eidetic memory. While scientists have not ruled out the claim, the researchers who have studied the phenomenon have admitted that they can’t even prove its existence, although others have pointed out flaws in their methodologies.
As a brilliant scientist and inventor, it’s quite possible that Tesla had excellent visual memory, but it was never tested. It’s certainly not true that he never needed to write anything down—Tesla kept copious notes on his inventions and ideas, many of which have survived to this day. Scientists were thrilled by the possibilities they might contain, but upon examination, these notebooks were found to be highly speculative and contain no useful scientific knowledge.
9 • Irresponsibility With Money
Many people claim that Tesla died penniless, and some go so far as to say he always was. This is decried as a great injustice against such a brilliant mind. The truth, much like the man himself, is a little more complicated. There is some evidence that he could have made more money if his patents had been secured better or he had not been exploited by people like Thomas Edison. Tesla never cared much for the business aspect of his work, though, and even if he had made a fortune, he likely would have blown it.
Tesla had a reputation for hemorrhaging money. He lived in fancy hotels and sunk the rest of his money into increasingly ambitious—and expensive—projects. He had a history of borrowing money from friends and getting evicted from those hotels. He would sometimes even leave some of his notebooks behind as collateral for the debt when he moved out.
Tesla once commented on his poverty when the city tried to force him to pay a tax bill, admitting that he had no money and “scores” of other debts he owed. He explained that he had been living on credit at the Waldorf for several years. He had plenty of opportunities to pay off his debts and keep his patents from lapsing, but instead, he maintained his lavish lifestyle until the day he died.
8 • Wild Claims
Thanks to the Tesla revival, every absurd claim he made to newspapers back in the day is now being repeated as fact. The truth is that Tesla made many claims so far out of left field that they would destroy a scientist’s credibility even today, often with no evidence or results to back them up. But if Tesla was crazy, he was crazy like a fox. Oftentimes, his claims were reported shortly before the historical experiments of other scientists.
For example, when Marconi was gearing up for some important radio signal tests, Tesla told the media that he had already received radio transmissions that he believed were from Mars. With his technology, he claimed, we would soon be able to communicate with other planets almost instantaneously. Other projects he claimed to be working on included a torpedo that could be recalled even after being fired and a powerful death ray.
As bizarre as these claims sounded, they gave the impression that Tesla was light-years ahead of everyone else. But if the general public was impressed, the scientific community was decidedly not, regarding Tesla as being mostly full of hot air. While this is an overreaction—Tesla certainly did contribute to our body of scientific knowledge—the plausibility of many of Tesla’s inventions is greatly exaggerated.
7 • Strange Visions
Tesla’s tall tales weren’t confined to his inventions or supposed interactions with Martians. He also believed that he received a variety of important visions. The first occurred when he was walking in the park with a friend after suffering a nervous breakdown due to his constant lack of sleep.
According to Tesla, he had a vision of the entire model for his AC motor and started drawing it in the dirt. Considering that he had already stated that he had been thinking about the idea for about six years, he probably wasn’t being entirely truthful.
His second “vision” occurred much later in life, involving his beloved pigeons. He claimed that he was alone in his hotel room one night when a white pigeon for whom he harbored particularly great affection came to see him. He was then suddenly blinded by two powerful beams of light that communicated to him that he had finished all of his life’s work and would die soon.
6 • Insomnia And Addiction To Work
Tesla’s visions could probably be more reasonably attributed to his lack of sleep than any mystical properties. He was known to be a workaholic, to the point that any kind of rest was inconceivable. He claimed that he went to bed at 5:00 AM and rose only five hours later, and only two of those hours were spent sleeping. Once a year, he indulged himself and actually slept all five hours. He never stopped thinking about his work, even when he was snoozing.
There’s no doubt that Tesla’s insomnia had a profound impact on his physical and psychological health for his entire life, but it’s likely that its extent was another of his exaggerations. Humans simply aren’t capable of maintaining such a lack of sleep and remaining alive. However, it is possible Tesla had simply deluded himself. The hotel employees who attended his room said they often found Tesla standing silently, apparently awake but totally unaware of his surroundings. It’s likely that he slept more than he realized, falling into these nap-like trances as a natural reaction to that level of sleep deprivation.
by Gordon Bonnet via Skeptophilia
In order to avoid falling for whatever absurd nonsense happen to be in the offing, you not only need to have some good critical thinking skills, you also need a basic knowledge of the sciences.
This is especially critical given the penchant that pseudoscience hacks have for using scientific-sounding terms in bogus ways. Given that said hacks are quite good at sounding convincing, and can throw around random vocabulary words with the best of ’em, if you don’t understand the basic laws of science, as well as a few solid definitions, you’re going to fall for whatever tripe they’re offering.
Take, for example, the article from Prevent Disease that I’ve now seen several times on social media, called “12 Facts About Microwaves That Should Forever Terminate Their Use.”
This piece, written by one Marco Torres, is so full of false statements and specious science that it’s hard to know where to start. Here’s a sample, picked more or less at random:
Microwaves are a source of electromagnetic energy (a form of nonionizing form of radiation) electronically generated. When penetrating the aliments, they trigger an inner rotation of the water molecules inside the food. This rotation triggers a friction between the molecules and the result is a rapid growth in temperature.
Okay, he starts out well. Microwaves are a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation that is electronically generated. But so is the light from a light bulb. And I don’t know what an “inner rotation of the water molecules” even means — since microwaves are good at making water molecules (and also fat molecules) spin, maybe this was just a slip. But the water molecules are not experiencing “friction” — they’re simply moving. Because that’s what an increase in temperature means. The faster molecules move, the higher the temperature, whether that temperature increase is caused by a microwave, a conventional oven, or just sitting out in the sun.
Then, though, we start hearing about all the bad things this can cause:
Microwaves use super-fast particles to literally radiate the contents of water inside food and bring it to boil. Not only has microwave use been linked to causing infertility in men, but it also denatures many of the essential proteins in the food making them virtually indigestible.
“Super-fast” — sure, given that all electromagnetic waves travel at the speed of light. And what’s the alternative to “literally radiating” the food? Figuratively radiating it?
And there is no connection between using microwaves and infertility, as long as you keep your genitalia outside of the microwave oven. So guys — if you’re microwaving your lunch while naked, don’t accidentally shut your junk in the door and then turn the oven on.
Then we have this unintentionally funny statement . . .
Many times have the annals of the paranormal been graced with descriptions of Frank’s ghost box, an electronic device that is claimed to allow ghosts to communicate with us through randomly tuned radio broadcasts. Imagine turning the tuning knob on a radio (first, imagine a radio that still works that way), and recording the sound output. You’d expect a bunch of random noise from across all those stations you just swept past, and that’s exactly what Frank’s Box produces. But inventor Frank Sumption, and many imitators who have built similar devices, believe they receive intelligent communication in that noise. It’s basically an iteration of what ghost hunters call Electronic Voice Phenomena, the idea that ghosts communicate with us through electronics.
I should note that the impetus for this episode was an email I received from Frank Sumption’s niece. I won’t give her name or what she said in the email, but her point is that Frank is a good, honest, average guy who is notable only in that he believes he’s stumbled onto something. He doesn’t scam anyone; he’s neither selling his box with unproven claims, nor is he charging people money to talk to their dead relatives. Frank makes the plans to build his device available for free as a downloadable PDF file, and he has a page on SoundCloud where he posts his most interesting recordings, for everyone to hear. He’s a guy who has some bad information, and has failed to apply critical thinking to it within the context of scientific literacy. In other words, he’s exactly like 99% of the people out there. Nevertheless, most of the time when Frank Sumption has been mentioned anywhere, online, in print, or on a radio program or podcast, he’s dismissed as a crazy nutcase — and that’s precisely what prompted his niece to write. So today we’re going to look at the phenomenon of Frank’s ghost box and talk about how and why it occupies the place it does in pop paranormal culture, and hopefully find something more intelligent to discuss than hurling personal insults.
So let’s get to what you really want to hear, some of Frank’s received messages. Let’s get started with one just to get the idea. On his SoundCloud page, Frank posts clips that he has already edited down to just the moment that he considers significant, and then repeats each one several times as he adds equalization and/or changes the pitch to make the speech more distinct. Here’s one, and I’ll just tell you in advance that Frank has identified the words “Frank we’ll save you” in here:
Frank’s Box, or the “ghost box” as Frank prefers it to be called, is often described as a random radio tuner, but there’s a bit more to it than that. He first developed the idea in 2002, and there are three basic parts to his device. First is a component that generates either white noise, like this:
Or, a sweeping tone like this:
Then the voltage of that signal is moderated to the correct voltage that can be used to control the tuner of a radio taken from a car stereo, which is the second component. Car stereos are used whose tuners are voltage controlled, which in their original factory condition, would have come from the tuning knob; but in Frank’s case, it’s either a random signal that constantly tunes the radio all over the dial, or a sweeping signal that tunes the radio all the way from one end to the other. Frank has said he believes that the sweeping method gives better results than the random, or white noise controlled, method.
The third component is what he calls the echo box. It’s a box about the size of a shoe box with speakers and a microphone inside. The radio’s audio output is played over the speakers inside the chamber, and picked up by the microphone. The signal coming from this microphone is what produces the final product. So what you hear from the box is not the direct output of what the radio tuner picks up; you’re actually hearing it one generation away. It’s played over speakers into a small box and then that live audio is recorded and played for you.
Frank describes the purpose of the echo box . . .
Always depressing to see the level of scientific illiteracy in the mainstream media and in many cooperation.
So Fox News, CBS, The Weather Channel and USA today all had articles on ‘aircarbon’ which purports to pull carbon out of the air through a hose.
They generally try to be as vague as possible, but claim they are making carbon out of the air, and that this will be cheaper than regular plastic.
Thats Bullshit on every level:
Firstly if they are making a polymer out of carbon dioxide, you need to put a load of energy into it. More than you would have gotten from burning the oil and creating that carbon dioxide in the first place.
If they are talking about pulling methane out of the air, they are so full of bull it beggars belief. Methane in the air runs at about one part per million. Just pumping enough air to do this would cost more energy than just making a polymer out of oil.
Thirdly, if they are talking about making this polymer from biogas/ biomethane.. then all their claims about making it out of the air are outrageously misleading!
Some ball park figures:
1kg of oil makes ~ 1kg of plastic.
Methane is about 1 part in a million in air. So to make 1kg of plastic requires 1 million kg of air (1000 tons). Air is about 1kg per cubic meter so to extract 1kg of ‘air plastic’ from the air would take about 1million cubic meters of air. About the volume of the empire state building!!
Via Depleted Cranium
First, a basic primer on what RFID’s are:
An RFID is a small computer chip which holds a very small amount of information, typically just a string of numbers, letters or other symbols. The chip has a tiny radio transmitter in it, and when a reader is brought near it, it will broadcast that data so it can be read by the reading device, which contains a radio receiver.
Importantly, RFID’s are not self-powered. They are far too tiny for any kind of battery capacity. Instead, the RFID reader energizes the RFID with an electromagnetic field. When the RFID is placed in the field, it becomes activated and transmits the code it contains. As a result, RFID’s can’t be read from any substansial distance. But they can be read even if they are covered, such as if they are on the inside of a box or embedded in an object.
They also do not have any actual computing power. They can’t receive GPS signals or transmit data, because they lack sensors and receivers. They simply spit out their internal code when energized.
RFID’s are therefore analogous to bar codes. The major difference is that a barcode needs to be visible, on the outside of an item and reading it requires finding it and directing a scanner at it. RFID’s have the advantage of working when obscured and of being readable by running the reader over an item, even if the exact location of the RFID is unknown. They can therefore be used to inventory merchandise while it is still on the shelf or to track multiple items as they move through a system. They can also be embedded in things like credit cards or security passes, allowing them to be used by just holding them near a reader.
RFID’s can also be implanted. A typical RFID implant is about the size and shape of a grain of rice. It contains the chip inside a biologically inert material which is shaped to allow it to be inserted through a very small incision or even injected with a thick needle. A few individuals have chosen to have an RFID implanted as a way of accessing secure systems. This works a lot like biometrics, but may be more robust. When implanted with an RFID, an individual can do things like open locks and sign onto secure computers by just waving their hand infr0nt of a reader. (Presuming, of course, that their hand is where it is implanted.)
This is rare, however. Only a few people have RFID’s in their body and it’s largely just a way of being a super early-adopted. It will earn you some definite nerd points.
Implantable RFID’s are common for pets, however. The RFID acts as a tag that cannot be easily removed or lost. Once implanted, the pet can be tracked back to its owner if it ever gets lost and is picked up by an animal shelter. Animal shelters typically have RFID readers on site and will scan a dog or cat when they are found without identification. If the animal has an RFID, then the unique code it carries is displayed on the reader. This code can be used to find the owners in a database.
But what about mass implantation in people without their consent?
This is a common thread in conspiracy theories. Some have claimed that the government (or some other evil organization) is planning on or has already begun putting RFID’s in the bodies of unsuspecting citizens. Allegedly this is to track their movements and keep tabs on them. Others claim it is part of a mind-control system.
Of course, despite claims that they can be used for realtime tracking, an RFID cannot be used for this at all. As mentioned, it is only energized when it comes in close proximity to the receiver. It could, however, be used to identify individuals when they entered certain areas which are equipped with readers for the RFID’s.
Arguably this could be done without RFID readers at all. A simple fingerprint scanner and identify and individual from a database of fingerprints. However, RFID’s would have the advantage of allowing it to be done more covertly, perhaps without the subjects knowledge.
There is no evidence that this has ever been done, however… or is there?
Has technology ever been able to reliably discriminate between lies and truths?
A lot of people, like police officers and gamblers, think they can tell when a person is lying. But what we’ve always longed for is hard data; testable, mechanical proof that a subject is telling the truth or lying. For a long time, the standard has been the polygraph machine. Unfortunately it’s also widely believed to be unreliable and to be inadmissible in a court of law, so today we’re going to look at the hard data to see what polygraphs can and cannot do, and what other lie detection techniques may be on the immediate horizon, and how they fare in comparison. So put out that fire on your pants, and sit back.
Polygraph machines haven’t changed much since the earliest versions were introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century. They combine readings of blood pressure, respiration, pulse rate, and skin conductance, graphing these out with moving needles on a paper scroll. The idea is that these readings will change based on your stress level as you tell a lie. While that basic concept is sound, the problem — and it’s a big one — is that any real effect is lost under a sea of other variables. Not only can the subject manipulate all of those readings with simple actions (biting the tongue, poking oneself with a hidden sharp object or fingernail, or even clinching the anal sphincter muscle), but the results are highly dependent upon the interaction between the subject and the polygrapher.
A large part of a polygraph test consists of the presentation. The machine is intended to be intimidating, as are all the wires and sensors attached to the subject’s body; as are actions by the polygrapher such as marking with a pen on the scroll at mysterious intervals. The polygrapher always begins by making you feel that you are very easy to read; for example, by asking you to lie to an innocent question like whether you’re wearing blue jeans, and then looking at the results and reacting as if you are the most comically easiest person to read ever. The whole show is designed to make you anxious about lying; so that if you do lie during the test, your stress will hopefully rise high enough above the noise level to actually give a useful reading. If you go in knowing all of this, knowing that you’re not overmatched and that this is a fair fight, you’ve got a great chance of yielding no useful results, whether you have anything to hide or not.
But more than that, the reading of polygraph results is completely subjective. There was a famous case in 1978 of a man named Floyd “Buzz” Fay, arrested for a murder he had nothing to do with, and who was convicted based on a polygrapher’s analysis of a lie detector test. Fay’s appeal included reports from four other polygraphers who examined the same charts and concluded there was no evidence of any deception. Fay was ultimately released when other investigations found the true killer, and he then became a keystone of the fight against the use of polygraph tests in courts.
Fay was not the only data point. In 1983 . . .
Intro by Mason. I. Bilderberg
This is the third video in the Solar Roadways series. If you’re not familiar with this topic, you might want to two previous videos:
If you want some background information, click one of the links above. Otherwise, enjoy 🙂
From the video description:
So the solar roadways has a page up to ‘answer’ its critics.
Previously I had suspected that they have no technical expertise, now Im sure.
They claim that asphalt is softer than glass.
They claim LEDs will be fine for roads because of powerhungry LED billboards or LED traffic lights that work in the shade.
People gave them over 2 million dollars for this. You really have to laugh or cry at this.
This video was supported by donations of viewers through Patreon:
Intro by Mason. I. Bilderberg:
This video is a followup to the video we featured here on iLLuMiNuTTi.com in a story titled “Solar FREAKIN Roadways, are they real?” and this followup video is just as enjoyable as the first.
If you want some background information, click the link above. Otherwise, enjoy 🙂
From the video description:
Ball park numbers: 25 000 sq miles = 90 bn square meters.
At about 4 tiles per m2, thats 240 billion tiles.
At 50 LEDs each, thats 12 trillion LEDS.
These need to be light up ALL the time you want road markings!
300 LEDs takes about 60 Watts.
Cheap electricity is about 0.06 dollars per kW Hr
So to run 300 LEDs for 1 hr coast about half a cent.
To run 12 trillion LEDs for 1hr costs about 150 million dollars!
4 billion dollars per day,
1.4 trillion dollars per year.
They will take more power just to run the LEDs than will be generated by the road!!!
And thats not including the cost of building the infrastructure, or the fact that the LED probably will need to be replaced about every 5 years.
This video was supported through Patreon:
Intro by Mason. I. Bilderberg
Or i’ll just give you the basics: There is an Indigogo fundraising campaign called Solar Roadways. There is a video for the campaign. The campaign has raised more than $1.7 million.
Problem is, many people are starting to question the legitimacy of the campaign. Why? Watch the video below.
I’m not the type to sit through lengthy videos (this video is almost 29 minutes long), but this one was an exception. I really enjoyed the tear down. I think you will too.
From the video description:
Solar FREAKIN roadways is a nice idea, but then again is a pogostick that can hop to the moon as a cheap, reusable trans-orbital vehicle.
Is it plausible though. Well it basically proposes the union of 3 or 4 technologies. LED lights, solar panels, and glass roads.
Glass really isn’t a feasible material to make roads out of.
- its too expensive. Just coating the US road system with roads would cost many times the federal budget.
- Its too soft. Even with a textured surface for traction, it will wear away too quickly. Dirt on roads is basically small rocks, which are generally much harder than glass. Imagine taking a handful of dirt and rubbing it a window. Now imagine doing that with the wheels of a 20 ton tractor/trailer.
- I have doubts about the physical properties of the glass to take the load and mechanical heat stress required of a road making material.
Solar panels under the road is a bad idea from the start. If they are under the roads, they are hard to maintain. They will have reduced light from parked cars etc. They are fragile. Not really congenial to the conditions you are likely to get on a road. In many ways building a shed over the road, or just having solar panels by the side of the road is a far better idea. However the power transport really isnt practical. One of the most efficient ways to transport electricity around is as high voltage AC. However to build those lines would probably double the cost of any construction. To bury the cables is even more expensive.
LEDs for variable road marking have been partially implemented. They are usually only cost effective in dynamic traffic management systems. For most roads its utterly pointless as the road markings almost never need to be altered. These LED are usually not easy to see (especially in full daylight when the solar panels are meant to be generating power).
However solar powered roadways has generated well over a million dollars for Julie and Scott Brusaw (a therapist and an engineer).
I’m still on the fence as to if they are just delusional dreamers or (now millionaire) con artists. A lot of this looks like just direct ‘what if’ daydreaming, but then you get the part of the promotional video where they are shoveling ground up coloured glass into a wheelbarrow, while narrating that they use as many recycled materials as possible in this project. It’s very difficult to not see that as a direct lie. They must know full well that they did not use any of that material in the construction of their glass tiles.
Many thanks to all those who supported this video through Patreon:
Last month in Washington state, local residents protested the installation of smart meters on the grounds that the devices’ wireless signals could pose a health threat. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, parents’ health concerns about wireless internet (wifi) in schools prompted a government field test.
This is a growing trend. Small groups have protested the roll-out of smart meters in at least 17 states, and there are at least 30 international support groups for those who believe they suffer health effects from them and other devices. In West Virginia, there’s even a small community who’ve fled to a radiation-free zone to avoid the effects of wifi and cell phones.
Why people are freaking out about wireless devices
The worries are driven by belief that in some people, the invisible waves of electromagnetic radiation emitted by our modern devices can cause all sorts of immediate health effects, like headaches, dizziness, and chest pains. This is most commonly referred to as electromagnetic hypersensitivity.
(By the way, this is distinct from the worry that cell phones can cause long-term problems like cancer — which, according to our best data, is unlikely.)
But here’s the thing: no matter how reasonable the idea might seem, scientists have tested it for decades, and have found no evidence that the radiation produced by cell phones, wifi, or smart meters actually makes people sick.
“The question is relatively easy to address with experiments,” says James Rubin, a psychologist who’s tested the idea, “and the evidence says that EMF [electromagnetic frequencies] don’t cause symptoms.”
Clinical trials show wifi won’t make people sick
The most common way of testing whether electromagnetic signals cause health problems is pretty straightforward: Researchers put a purported sufferer in a room and secretly turn on and off a device that generates an electromagnetic field (say, a cell phone). The participant is then asked to identify when the symptoms surface. If the participant is correct more often then chance would dictate, that could suggest a link between the radiation and immediate health effects.
The dozens of these studies that have been conducted have uncovered zero people who can report symptoms reliably over time.
The controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMO) has intrigued me for some time, and recently I have been reading everything I can on the topic. It is an excellent topic for skeptics – it is mainstream (not a fringe topic), it has real importance for society, there are complex scientific and logical issues to sort through, and the topic is rife with misinformation and motivated reasoning.
I wrote recently about the fact that beliefs concerning GMO tend to be dominated by two opposing narratives: GMO critics despise corporate control and greed, and fear the unnatural, while GMO advocates see this technology as an example of the triumph of human ingenuity and science. I admit that with regard to this issue my bias is toward the latter narrative, however, I can understand caution regarding huge corporations (the tobacco industry comes to mind).
But, as a skeptic I have really tried to follow a critical thinking process and pull back from my initial gut reactions. Here, then, is my overview of the issues regarding GMO.
A Brief History of GMO
GMO advocates are quick to point out that pretty much all the food consumed by humans have already been extensively modified by human activity. Corn, for example, was cultivated from teosinte, which looks nothing like modern corn. In fact, it took some detective work to figure out that they are essentially the same species.
Cultivation is mostly about artificial selection – saving the best plants from one year’s crop to provide the seeds for the following year. Repeat that a few thousand times, and you have the development of agriculture and all the food you recognize today.
Cultivation can also involve cross-pollination, creating a hybrid species in an attempt to get the best traits from closely related species. Using a combination of cross-pollination and artificial selection, breeders have created countless varieties of common plants. The black or purple tomato, for example, of which there are about 50 varieties, is high in flavanoids, which give them their color. Orange carrots were developed by a fortuitous mutation resulting in high levels of beta-carotine. This turned carrots into an important staple crop as a source of vitamin A.
Breeders who are impatient to wait for a fortuitous mutation to occur developed what is called mutation breeding – exposing plants to chemicals or to radiation that increases the mutation rate. Between 1930 and 2007, 2540 mutagenic plant varietals have been released.
Genetic modification is the latest technique for changing organisms to suit our wants and needs. The technology involves various techniques for inserting one or more specific genes directly into a target organism. There are two basic types of GMO – transgenic and cisgenic. Cisgenic involves inserting genes from closely related species, ones that could potentially cross breed with the target species. Transgenic refers to inserting genes from distant species – even from different kingdoms of life, such as putting a gene from a bacterium into a plant.
There are four types of GM plants currently approved for use: herbicide tolerance, pesticide production, altered fatty acid composition (for canola oil), and virus resistance. Many other potential applications are in various stages of development.
GMO advocates are quick to point out that GM technology is nothing new, and that it is simply an extension of the various technologies we have used for thousands of years to alter organisms. This is overstating the case, however – transgenic GMO is not just a new technique, it also opens up new possibilities, like putting a gene from a bacterium into corn. But it is legitimate to put GMO in its proper historical context. It is not entirely new. Contamination of genes from other kingdoms even occurs in nature through horizontal gene transfer.
In any case, the “it’s not natural” argument is fallacious. Meanwhile, GMO should be looked upon as a powerful technology, and such technologies can have both powerfully good and powerfully bad consequences depending on how they are used.
Via The Conversation
So it appears we are to be treated to another pointless examination of a manufactured controversy in the name of health science. One can only guess at the motivations for the Federal Government announcing a NHMRC-led review of the science around the purported health effects of wind farms, but you can be sure it’s not being driven by scientific curiosity.
In fact this review is probably the most futile bit of spending yet announced in the term of the Abbott administration and is exactly the sort of tomfoolery you might expect of a cabinet which has no room for science. Why? Because there is no controversy about the so-called Wind Turbine Syndrome. It doesn’t exist as a thing. It has not, as the philosophers might say, been reified.
Wind turbines have no health effects on the surrounding populations. That’s not just my personal opinion. It’s the overwhelming scientific consensus. The book is closed, the story is written, the circus has folded its tents and moved on.
It would, however, potentially suit the Abbott Government politically to keep this manufactroversy going. The conservative side of politics in this country has a well-documented preference for fossil fuel production, largely based on economic arguments and the hope of carbon capture technology to reduce carbon emissions from current coal-fired power stations. Using fringe science to advance political ends is nothing new, but this is not a political comment column so I don’t propose to stray too far from discussing that science.
The proverbial musty tomes of medical history are full of such exotic diagnoses as Railway Spine or the Vapours) not to mention Fan Death in South Korea. Why not investigate those as well? After all, it has been a long time since the NHMRC had a look at them as well.
This facetious rhetorical question has a serious answer. Why does it seem ridiculous to have a Government enquiry into Fan Death, which is after all reported as the 5th most common cause of serious injury during summer in Korea, according to the Korean Consumer Protection Board?
I submit that there is no scientific justification for any further investigation of ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’ just as there is no reason to investigate Fan Death or Railway Spine, because they are not real diagnoses. They are cultural responses to new or unfamiliar technology.
Some ideas are so compelling and seductive it seems there will always be those who succumb to their siren song. We easily understand how transformative these technologies will be and can’t help feeling that if we work hard enough, we can achieve them – the panacea, free energy, anti-gravity, and regeneration to name a few.
Free energy and anti-gravity machines attract engineers and tinkerers who cannot help but think that if they can figure out the proper arrangement of moving parts, they can bypass the laws of physics. Over the decades they have produced often complex and sometimes elegant machines that seem like they might work, but always always they miss something subtle.
The pattern by now is very clear, and depressingly repetitive. The inventor spends years developing a machine to exploit some physical property, such as the interaction of magnets, or the seemingly funny physics of rapidly rotating systems. Their scale models seem to do what they are supposed to – usually they spin. At some point the inventor believes they are ready to show their incipient invention to the world, perhaps now they are ready to attract major investors to help build the full scale operating versions of their technology.
What they present to the world are complex diagrams, and scale models that do something, but never what they are claimed to do. We never see a free energy device actually producing energy and running electrical devices without any outside input or burning of fuel. We never see anti-gravity devices levitating.
Of course, if the inventors could actually produce what they claim, they would garner serious attention. Instead they are largely ignored and criticized – their years, even decades, of loving labor dismissed. How can this be? They must simply be too far ahead of their time for the rubes to understand their genius. Plus, there must be some sinister conspiracy working against them – Big Oil or whatever.
It’s sad – another mind, perhaps even brilliant in their way, lost to the allure of the impossible.
There are many phrases that are used to refer to impossible technologies. What seems to happen is that proponents come up with a term for their invention. Their invention is found to be nothing but a fantasy, and the term becomes associated with negative connotations. The next generation of proponents then come up with a new technical term, and the cycle continues.
So perpetual motion machines become free energy machines, then zero-point energy, then over-unity machines, etc.
Last year, January of 2013, an inventor by the name of Rick R. Dobson revealed his “closed loop propulsion” technology – the product of 27 years of development. Closed-loop propulsion is a synonym for inertial propulsion, or massless propulsion. He also calls his technology centrifugal propulsion.
The idea behind such technologies is to produce propulsion without any propellant. Propellant is one of those annoying necessities of physics.
Paul Hellyer was Canada’s Minister of Defense in the mid-1960s. He is now a critic of the United States’ willingness to trigger an interstellar war with aliens—aliens who might give us more advanced technology if only we were less belligerent.
“They’ve been visiting our planet for thousands of years,” Hellyer told RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze in a televised interview.
“There’s been a lot more activity in the last few decades, since we invented the atomic bomb. and they’re very concerned about that, and about the fact that we might use it again,” added Hellyer, who said that a cold-war era commission determined that at least four alien species had come to Earth. “The whole cosmos is a unity, and it affects not just us but other people in the cosmos, they’ve very much afraid that we might be stupid enough to start using atomic weapons again. This would be bad for us and bad for them too.”
Scientists are at fault for dismissing the evidence of “authenticated” alien contacts, added the longest-serving member of Queen Elizabeth Canada Privy Council. “This information is top secret in the way that government isn’t talking about it, but if you talk to the whistleblowers … there’s a lot of information and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to find it”
It’s true: The KGB really did have deep cover spies in the United States – and they weren’t the only ones. So how does infiltrating a government work? Who’s done it, and why?
- Keith Thomson: Oh, By the Way, Germany Spies on Us (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Logic behind Mass Spying: Empire and Cyber Imperialism (nsnbc.me)
- Why America spies on its allies (and probably should) (washingtonpost.com)