Category Archives: Technology

The Philadelphia Experiment

Nowadays many people are familiar with the legend of the Philadelphia Experiment — but how did it all begin?

VFXcool: Back to the Future Trilogy (1/2)

Not conspiracy related, just fun stuff. I like seeing how special effects are done in movies.

Are There Stargates In Iraq?

$300 000 Self-Filling water bottle, SUPERFAIL!

BUSTED: FREE water from AIR device

Solar Roadways generate ~10 CENTS per day!!

Why Does Greenpeace Like the Watermelon?

Worlds first ‘Solar Roadway’ CATCHES FIRE!

Related:

Hyperloop crashes and BURNS!!!

If you haven’t already, you may want to watch The Hyperloop: BUSTED! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNFesa01llk) before watching the followup video below. Enjoy 🙂

BUSTED: Plastic Roadways!

Is It Okay to Touch Mars?

VSauce blows my mind. I love it. 🙂

Why Does Greenpeace Like the Grapefruit?

DEBUNKED: Waterseer

Thunderf00t crushes the Waterseer Project 🙂

Did Nazis really make “UFOs”?

By Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know via YouTube

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.

Galvanic Skin Response Pseudoscience

steven_novellaby via Science-Based Medicine

Selling snake oil is all about marketing, which means that a good snake oil product needs to have a great angle or a hook. Popular snake oil hooks include being “natural,” the product of ancient wisdom, or “holistic.”
Perhaps my favorite snake oil marketing ploy, however, is claiming the product represents the latest cutting-edge technology. This invariably leads to humorous sciencey technobabble. med_xray_specs_300pxThere are also recurrent themes to this technobabble, which often involve “energy,” vibrations and frequencies, or scientific concepts poorly understood by the public, such as magnetism and (of course) quantum effects. Historically, even radioactivity was marketed as a cure-all.
One category of technical pseudoscientific snake oil measures some physiological property of the body and then claims that this measurement can be used for diagnosis and determining optimal treatment. For example, machines might measure brain waves, heart rate variability, thermal energy or (the subject of today’s article) the galvanic skin response.
These are all noisy systems – they are highly variable and produce a lot of random results that can be used to give the impression that something meaningful is being measured. Systems that rely on these measurements to make highly specific determinations are no different than phrenology or reading tea leaves, but they look scientific.

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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 GSR is actually an older term for what is now called electrodermal activity (EDA), which is simply the electrical conductance of your skin (Harriet Hall has written about such devices before). Skin conductance is primarily affected by sweat, as salty water is an excellent conductor. So essentially the machine is measuring how sweaty your palms are.

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The Chess-Playing Mechanical Turk

The Turk 745_600px
An overview of the amazing chess playing robot of the 1700s.

Brian Dunningby Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

Today we’re headed back in time, all the way back to the Vienna court of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria-Hungary, in the year 1770. There the scientific polymath Werner von Kempelen, then thirty six years old, brought forth a mechanical automaton: the figure of a man seated at a large wooden chess table, the cabinet below filled with clockwork. A volunteer from the audience stepped forward. Kempelen wound up the machine, and it reached out and made the first move, the clockwork whirring and ticking. The astonished volunteer was quickly defeated. Delighted with the mechanical marvel, Maria Theresa ordered many more performances. In fact, the Turk, as it was nicknamed for its Turkish clothing, toured the world for the next 80 years, defeating the world’s top chess players plus luminaries such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin, without anyone ever discovering its secrets. Although many skeptics published fine articles purporting that the Turk actually contained a child, dwarf, or legless adult chess player, or that it must have been secretly controlled by its exhibitor, the workings of the Turk remained one of history’s best kept secrets.

But all secrets are fleeting, and shortly before the Turk’s destruction in an 1854 fire, its last owner’s son, Silas Mitchell, published the revelation, proving that no skeptic had ever correctly guessed how it worked. In fact, no one had even come close. Over the years, three authors in particular had put forth the best known hypotheses, and Kempelen had fooled them all.

But the most intriguing mystery about the Turk would not turn out to be how it worked, but rather why a man like Kempelen would have built it. Kempelen was no Barnum. He was neither a showman nor a magician; he was an inventor and engineer of the highest caliber and held a series of important public works appointments in Maria Theresa’s government. The last thing he’d do would be to construct some sort of sideshow trick. The first of the three most notable proposed explanations came in 1789, by Joseph Friedrich, Freiherr zu Racknitz. He wrote a book based on his many viewings of the Turk and his friendship with Kempelen. Racknitz noted that the Turk’s exhibitor would always first open and close the cabinet’s various doors for the audience’s inspection. He concluded that a very small human operator was inside the cabinet, lying flat during the opening of the doors; and then, during game play, sat up, played the game on a small secondary chessboard, and watched magnetized needles on the bottom of the tabletop to learn what move the opponent had made. By Racknitz’s measurements, the hidden human would have had to be less than five feet tall, and less than seven inches high when lying flat. Kempelen refused to offer any assessment of Racknitz’s proposed solution.

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In 1821, Robert Willis, an engineer of musical instruments, published a pamphlet with his own explanation of the Turk. Willis noted in particular that the order in which the doors were opened for inspection never varied. This, he proposed, was to allow a hidden human operator to move from one part of the cabinet to another, allowing the various cabinets to be shown empty in sequence. Then, to play, the operator would sit up, place his own hand inside the Turk’s arm, and watch the board through the thin fabric shirt covering the Turk’s chest.

The best known analysis was that of Edgar Allan Poe, published in 1835, which ultimately found in favor of Willis’ explanation but differed in that it offered far deeper reasoned analysis of why it must be so. For example, Poe noted  .  .  .

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Does the government build UFOs?

By Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know via YouTube

At this point, witnesses across the world have claimed to see UFOs, even taking photos or video documentation. But where are these strange lights and craft coming from — and why do some people believe the government’s involved?

Remember the 90s Panic That Power Lines Caused Cancer?

By Sarah Zhang via gizmodo

“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]


[END]

11 Years of Research Found Zero Evidence Mobile Phones Cause Cancer

Victoria TurkBy Victoria Turk via Motherboard

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. electromagnetic-radiation 1005_250pxA 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.”

cell phone no_200pxHe 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  .  .  .

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Will robots rule the stock market?

By Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know via YouTube

Is it possible that the future of the world’s stock markets will be decided by increasingly intelligent software programs?

The Antikythera Mechanism and Baghdad Batteries

By Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know via YouTube

The Baghdad batteries and the Antikythera mechanism have puzzled many historians — they just appear too advanced for their time. Where did they come from?

10 Uncomfortable Truths About Nikola Tesla

tesla_125pxBy Gregory Myers via Listverse

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

Eidetic Memory_300pxIt’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

Irresponsibility With Money_300pxMany 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

Wild Claims_300pxThanks 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

Visions_300pxTesla’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

Insomnia_300pxTesla’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.

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Microwave phobia

Gordon Bonnetby 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.

Do-Not-Microwave-Head-230x300This 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.microwave-1960s_250px  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.

genitals 02“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  .  .  .

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The Many Voices of Frank’s Box

2009-12-02-Franks_Box_3_600px
Frank’s ghost box is a radio designed to hear communications from ghosts. What can we actually learn from it?

Brian Dunningby Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

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. FranksBox 844But 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:

GhostBox_300pxThen 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  .  .  .

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Rediscovering Ancient Innovation

By Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know via YouTube

From Greek fire to Roman concrete modern humans are only now beginning to rediscover the secret technology of the ancient world.

Plastic from the Air, Global Warming Solution or SCAM?

By Thunderf00t via YouTube

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!!

One in Three Americans Implanted with RFID’s? Not really

rfid spy eye
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.

rfid inventory_250pxImportantly, 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 finger_250pxRFID’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?

conspiracy-theory-alert_200pxThis 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?

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