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”
By Mason I. Bilderberg
If you have a hardcore interest in the conspiratorial mind like i do, i think you’ll enjoy what i have to offer today.
There is an internet radio broadcast called The Bob Charles Show that broadcasts 5 days a week at various times.
I mention this show because i’m having fun sifting through their audio archive listening to some of the craziest conspiratorial-woo crap you’ll find anywhere. This is pure entertainment. Where else can you find this kind of rambling nonsense?
To whet your appetite, below is an excerpt from the 11/10/13 The Bob Charles Show that i had transcribed.
Do note, i have highlighted every instance where these conspiracists use the catch-all, abstract phrase “they” to reference the faceless, nameless matrix masters.
Conspiracists are notorious for blaming “them” or “they” for every woe, unanswered question or mystery in the world.
- Don’t feel well? “They” are spraying us with something.
- Who did it? “They” did it.
- Who controls the world? “They” do.
- Corn Flakes soggy? Damn “them!”
You want to piss off a conspiracist? When they refer to “they,” ask them who “they” are. Two days ago a conspiracist told me “they” were the FBI, NSA, CIA, etc. I asked him to stop blaming buildings and get more specific (Who? What? When? Where?). He went nuts. To him i was suddenly one of “them.”
If you hear “they,” ask for specific names, dates and locations. Who (specifically) talked to who (specifically)? Who (specifically) is a member of the illuminati? Who (specifically) within the NSA? Who (specifically) within the government? Who (specifically) within the pharmaceutical industry? Who (specifically)?
No more blaming buildings and talking in abstract concepts about nameless, faceless people.
But i digress …
Here is the excerpt from the 11/10/13 The Bob Charles Show with the word “They” highlighted:
The entire interview is approximately 58 minutes long. Like i said, i have a hardcore interest in these loons, so this may not be for you if your interest is more casual.
- Same Sh**, Different Year. (illuminutti.com)
- Conspiracists busy fighting the NWO! (illuminutti.com)
- The CIA, JFK and Clay Shaw: Paranoia and the Conspiratorial Worldview (deadcitizensrightssociety.wordpress.com)
- More JFK denialism: CNN fails to credit source for Air Force One tape story (jfkfacts.org)
This is the third in a series of pieces debunking the scaremongering and hysteria regarding the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant. I believe the anxiety about the meltdown and its aftermath comes from a mix of negativity toward nuclear power, hostility toward plant operators TEPCO (which is well-deserved in most cases), a lack of knowledge about basic science, distrust of experts (who are seen as dishonest shills) and the common habit of sharing social content that’s driven by strong negative emotions – often without understanding it, and sometimes without even reading it.
Using links to good science and some basic concepts in logic, I’ve demolished two of the most prominent lies about Fukushima already, one that Pacific Ocean fish is unsafe to eat and the other that the West Coast is being “absolutely fried” by radiation from the disaster. This time, I’m not going to debunk one single post, but address a grab bag of myths, exaggerations and scaremongering racing around social media. Some of it you’ve probably seen many times, and some of it might be brand new, but all of it needs to be dealt with.
CLAIM: The ocean is broken. This is the title of an October article from Australia’s Newcastle Herald, chronicling the journey of Ivan Macfadyen, a yachtsman who retraced a voyage between Melbourne and Osaka, and ten years later found the Pacific Ocean virtually devoid of life but teaming with floating trash. With its attention-grabbing title and compelling content, it went viral, with over half a million views in three days. People connected the dots and linked the dead, garbage-filled ocean that Macfadyen encountered on his trip to Fukushima, and the piece has been used as part of the exaggerated story since then.
But the link between the two doesn’t appear to exist. As the ocean conservation blog Upwell points out, the story in the Newcastle Herald isn’t a hard science piece, and has no citations or links to relevant research. It’s not meant to. It’s a human interest story, the relaying of a personal anecdote, and rooted in emotion. It’s full of phrases like “nauseous horror” and “astounding volumes” – compelling writing, but not science.
The story is also not at all about the nuclear plant, but the damage done from overfishing and plastic pollution. It doesn’t even mention Fukushima by name. As such, it’s worth reading, but not useful for any discussion about the meltdown.
CLAIM: David Suzuki’s Dire Warning. The removal of the spent fuel rods from Fukushima could have apocalyptic consequences if done incorrectly, warn activists around the world. Chief among them is David Suzuki, a Canadian environmentalist, scientist and author, well known in his native country, but not elsewhere. A post containing video of him discussing the fuel rod removal, called “David Suzuki’s Fukushima Warning is Dire and Scary” went up on Huffington Post and was a viral hit. So what is his warning, and is it accurate?
- More Fukushima Scaremongering Debunked (illuminutti.com)
- Typhoons spreading Fukushima fallout (abc.net.au)
- Radioactive debris spread through Fukushima after typhoons (nuclear-news.net)
- Typhoons Keep Spreading Radioactive Material From Fukushima Around Japan (businessinsider.com)
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)
Free energy is to physics was creationism is to evolutionary biology. Both offer a teaching moment when you try to explain why proponents are so horribly wrong.
Free energy proponents have been abusing the laws of thermodynamics (come to think of it, so have creationists), and more recently quantum effects ala zero-point-energy. Now they are distorting a new principle of physics to justify their claims – the Casimir effect. Apparently this was a hot topic at the Breakthrough Energy Conference earlier this month.
Before I get into the specifics, I do want to address the general conspiratorial tones of the free-energy movement. I wonder if anyone influential in the free-energy subculture realizes that their conspiracy-mongering over free energy is perhaps the greatest barrier to their being taken seriously. There is also the fact that they get the science wrong, but if they think they are doing cutting edge science (rather than crank science), then convince us with science and ditch the conspiracy nonsense.
Here is the opening paragraph from a recent blog pushing the Casimir effect as a source of free energy:
Who is benefiting from suppressing scientific research? Whose power and wealth is threatened by access to clean and free energy? Who has the desire to create a system where so few have so much, and so many have so little?
OK – you lost me right there. This is a naive child’s view of the world, where “the adults” form a monolithic inscrutable force controlling the world. When you actually become an adult you may realize that no one has total control. No one and no institution is that competent, powerful, and pervasive. It would take an obviously totalitarian state to exert that much control.
If free energy were real, someone would be making it happen. Ironically the very existence of the free-energy movement proves their own conspiracy theories wrong. If a company could produce a genuine free-energy machine, they would, and they would become the wealthiest company in the world. Further, free energy would improve everyone’s quality of life. No matter who you are, your life would become better with free energy.
Free energy proponents, apparently, would rather believe the world is run by megalomaniacs who are simultaneously brilliant (in executing their conspiracy) and idiotic (in wanting to execute their conspiracy) rather than entertain the possibility that they have the science wrong.
The Casimir Effect
Scientific American has a good quick discussion of what the Casimir effect is. The Casimir effect is related to zero point energy, which refers to the fact that a perfect vacuum in space still contains energy in quantum fluctuations. This is sometimes referred to as the quantum foam, out of which virtual particles are created and destroyed.
This quantum vacuum energy exists as various wavelengths – in fact, infinite wavelengths. When you place two mirror facing each other in a vacuum, some of these waves will fit in the space between and some will not. This creates a situation in which there is more energy in the vacuum outside the mirrors then between them, which in turn results in a tiny force attracting the two mirrors together.
This effect was predicted by Dutch physicist Hendrick Casimir in 1948, and later confirmed by experimentation. I must emphasize that this force is extremely tiny.
Here is where the free-energy gurus, however, have their fun. Our current understanding of quantum effects predicts that there is an infinite amount of this zero-point energy in the vacuum. Imagine if we could somehow tap into that energy – infinite free energy. You can see why this is an exciting idea.
There are two problems with zero-point energy as a source of free energy, however.
- Free Energy and the Casimir Effect (theness.com)
- Nanoscale structures could be used to control the Casimir effect (wired.co.uk)
- The reins of Casimir: Engineered nanostructures could offer way to control quantum effect (sciencedaily.com)
Just imagine: a car that could run entirely on water. Clean energy that could revolutionize the automotive industry – if, of course, it works. Tune in to learn more about the so-called water-powered car, the man who allegedly invented it – and why some people believe it was purposefully suppressed.
- WATER POWERED CAR UNVEILED: Yes It’s Real [W/VIDEOS] (secretsofthefed.com)
- MOVIE The Truth Behind The Energy Lie (What The Energy Cartels Don’t Want You To See) (disclose.tv)
- Water Powered Cars – Some Of The Prevalent Myths About Them (xoyjhrq4.wordpress.com)
The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Project(HAARP), known for it’s Ionospheric Research Instrument(IRI), is a High Frequency(HF) antenna array using radio transmission as a manner of heating atmospheric layers. With it’s 18 different instruments HAARP performs ionospheric research by means of transmitting and receiving HF radio waves, using the IRI to transmit and the rest for either radar detection or receiving atmospheric data. The projects construction began in 1993, was completed in 2007, and is located in Gakona, Alaska. HAARP is one of many scientifically open source IRIs which grabs the attention of researchers, universities, students, militaries, defense programs and conspiracy theorists alike. Perhaps many people may become confused when reading the terms ‘open source’ and ‘HAARP’ within the same sentence, after reading this article, with hope, that confusion should end.
Conspiracy Theory Origins
The origination of the HAARP conspiracy theories all began in 1993 when a man named Nick Begich had read a notice about HAARP in a conspiracy magazine named Nexus. He went on to write a popular book published in 1995 titled Angels Don’t Play This HAARP. This book seems to intentionally convince the public that all theoretical uses for HAARP were already possible and/or in action during the time of it’s writing. Unfortunately, for the book, the theories described in it’s text are just that, untested assumptions of just what a device of this nature may be able to do. It was, after all, self published in 1995 a mere two years after the initial prototype IRI had been established.
The military document titled Owning The Weather was a conceptual theoretical layout for what IRI devices may one day be capable of, little did the military know that this unclassified document would spark conspiracy theories across the globe. It seems that even the government of Russia had become concerned of the capabilities of this device. In the year 2002 a Russian news media site revealed that even the Russian Federation believed the conspiracy theory that HAARP can affect the weather! In September of 2002 the Russian parliament addressed the United Nations with their concerns as to the possibility of geo-physical weapons, they were suggesting the global ban of HAARP.
The largest propagators of HAARP conspiracy theories were, of course, none other than public mass media propaganda and entertainment. HAARP conspiracy theories have been propagated by local newspapers, CBC, by other leaders such as Hugo Chavez, the very first episode of Jesse Ventura’s show Conspiracy Theory, countless made for television documentaries and hundreds of other sources. Conspiracy theorists all over the internet also spread the mainstream media HAARP propaganda, which seems contradictory to the normal work of a conspiracy theorist. It’s highly unfortunate that most sources spreading this propaganda have no idea that HAARP has never had any classified experiments take place there, university students studying radio were able to attend workshops at HAARP every summer and learn about the equipment.
Explaining HAARP and Common Myths
- HAARPing mad – an assessment of the HAARP conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists. (illuminutti.com)
- Weather control conspiracy theories: scientifically unjustifiable (illuminutti.com)
- The chemtrail conspiracy nonsense (illuminutti.com)
- HAARP Facility Shuts Down (illuminutti.com)
- HAARP Geo-physical Weaponry Theory (thecontroversialfiles.net)
- Weather control conspiracy theories: scientifically unjustifiable (washingtonpost.com)
- The Top Ten Modern Wonders Of The World – HAARP (americanlivewire.com)
- Snowden LEAKS Evidence of HAARP’s Global Assassination Agenda [W/ VIDEO] (globalalliance2018.wordpress.com)
- HAARP Closes Down Due to Budget Cuts, EPA Regulations (silverunderground.com)
Did the US Navy make an entire ship disappear in a 1943 experiment that went awry?
- Time Travel and the Mystery of the Philadelphia Experiment (starshake.wordpress.com)
- Mysteries: Top 5 Wildest Conspiracy Theories (theepochtimes.com)
By Dennis Mersereau via The Washington Post (Commentary)
Major disasters attract major attention. Whenever a plane crashes or a hurricane makes landfall, the event draws international news coverage and countless internet postings. Most of the time, people take experts at face value when they try to explain the science behind why a certain event happened, but for a small and vocal segment of society, the “truth” is hardly that at all. Enter the conspiracy theorists.
No matter how silly or factually incorrect they seem, conspiracy theories represent a very real strain of thought. Most of these theories involve politics – President John F. Kennedy’s assassination is perhaps the most famous example – or other seemingly curious events, such as the “Roswell UFO incident” back in 1947. But some of these theories challenge very basic science.
The two main weather control conspiracy theories revolve around the thought that the United States government controls the weather through a technology called HAARP, as well as airplane-produced “chemtrails.”
HAARP, an acronym for High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, is a large array of high frequency radio antennas located in Gakona, Alaska. The program and all associated antenna equipment, which was forced to shut down and go on hiatus this past May due to sequestration, was funded by the Air Force, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the University of Alaska.
The purpose of HAARP was to determine how the ionosphere, or the upper layers of the atmosphere, affects radio signals, with the ultimate goal of helping to develop more advanced radio communication technology. The project accomplished this by transmitting “a 3.6 MW signal, in the 2.8–10 MHz region of the HF (high-frequency) band, into the ionosphere,” which was then studied by various instruments on the ground to see how the ionosphere affected these radio communications.
Conspiracy theorists beg to differ. A quick Google search (which returns over 7,000,000 hits) shows that HAARP has been blamed for pretty much everything bad that’s happened since the mid-1990s – terrorist attack, car accidents, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, nightmares, toothaches, bad dates, you name it – but the project is most popularly associated with its alleged “weather control” capabilities.
Several popular for-profit websites claim that they have hardware that can detect HAARP-generated energy across the contiguous United States and that severe weather will occur where these “hot spots” show up on their detectors. I’ve made a point of clicking over to these HAARP weather websites near several predicted severe weather outbreaks this year, and found that the so-called HAARP activity maps always show up a few hours after the weather models are run and the Storm Prediction Center releases their latest forecasts. Funny, that.
Before the project was suspended due to lack of funds, the University of Alaska ran HAARP’s official website, but the website no longer works as of early August. The site had the array’s exact address (Google Maps even shows that the array is located off of “H.A.A.R.P. Access Road”), pictures, information, and even several 24/7 webcams focused on the arrays with a beautiful view of the mountains in the background. The large amount of openness surrounding HAARP takes the wind out the argument that the government conducted this project in secret, like many HAARP theorists assert.
HAARP does not and cannot control the weather. While the frequencies are high powered, it doesn’t have nearly enough energy to do anything over the Lower 48, let alone specifically target communities for destruction like one would see in a science fiction movie. Both common sense and a basic understanding of meteorology debunk the conspiracy theory surrounding HAARP’s alleged ability to control the weather. But what about something closer to home; say, right above us?
Contrails, short for condensation trails, form when the hot, moist exhaust from aircraft flying at high altitudes condenses when it meets the extremely cold upper atmosphere and forms a long, narrow cirrus cloud. Contrails can make for a beautiful sky, especially during sunrise or sunset, and are indicative of particularly cold air aloft.
Contrails are harmless (as they consist of water vapor) and tend to stick around for minutes or hours, depending on how favorable the atmosphere is for sustaining such clouds. Conspiracy theorists, however, call these innocuous contrails something more sinister – “chemtrails.”
They believe that contrails are really trails of chemicals (hence the name) sprayed by aircraft for nefarious purposes, usually to control the weather, make us sick, control our minds, or cause general mischief.
The idea that aircraft that produce contrails are really spraying “chemtrails” is preposterous on its face.
- HAARPing mad – an assessment of the HAARP conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists. (illuminutti.com)
- The Government is Not Poisoning You With ‘Chemtrails’ (illuminutti.com)
- Weather control conspiracy theories: scientifically unjustifiable (washingtonpost.com)
- Crazy weather? You can’t blame HAARP anymore (earthsky.org)
- HAARP Facility Shuts Down (illuminutti.com)
- Alaska’s controversial HAARP facility closed — will it come back online? (davidicke.com)
- HAARP Facility Shuts Down (arrl.org)
- HAARP Facility Shuts Down And Will Be Dismantled – 16 July 2013 (lucas2012infos.wordpress.com)
- HAARP Facility Shuts Down (blacklistednews.com)
This is just plain cool! Check it out 🙂
High speed dynamic target tracking camera system keeps its eye on the ball.
I never used to write much about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) before. I still don’t do it that often. For whatever reason, it just hasn’t been on my radar very much. That seems to be changing, however. It’s not because I went seeking this issue out (although I must admit that I first became interested in genetic engineering when I was in junior high and read a TIME Magazine cover article about it back in the 1970s), but rather because in my reading I keep seeing it more and more in the context of anti-GMO activists using bad science and bad reasoning to justify a campaign to demonize GMOs. Now, I don’t have a dog in this hunt, (Forgive me, I have no idea why I like that expression, given that I don’t hunt.) I really don’t. I was, not too long ago, fairly agnostic on the issue of GMOs and their safety, although, truth be told, because I have PhD in a biomedical science and because my lab work has involved molecular biology and genetics since I was a graduate student in the early 1990s, I found the claims of horrific harm attributable to GMOs not particularly convincing, but hadn’t bothered to take that deep a look into them. It was not unlike my attitude towards the the claims that cell phones cause cancer a few years ago, before I looked into them and noted the utter lack of a remotely-plausible mechanism and uniformly negative studies except for a group in Sweden with a definite ax to grind on the issue. Back then, I realized that there wasn’t really a plausible mechanism by which radio waves from cell phones could cause cancer in that the classic mechanisms by which ionizing radiation can break DNA molecular bonds and cause mutations don’t apply, but I didn’t rule out a tiny possibility that there might be an as-yet unappreciated mechanism by which long term exposure to radio waves might contribute to cancer. I still don’t, by the way, which has gotten me into the odd kerfuffle with some skeptics and one physicist, but I still view the likelihood that cell phone radiation can cause cancer as being just a bit more plausible than homeopathy.
As was the case for the nonexistent cell phone-cancer link, there has now been a steady drip-drip-drip of bad studies touted by anti-GMO activists as “evidence” that GMOs are the work of Satan that will corrupt or kill us all (and make us fat, to boot). Not too long ago, I came across one such study, a truly execrable excuse for science by Gilles-Eric Séralini at the University of Caen purporting to demonstrate that Roundup-resistant genetically modified maize can cause horrific tumors in rats. I looked at the methods and conclusions and what I found was . . .
By any measure Mark Zuckerberg’s social media site is an enormous success. But who actually owns Facebook, and why do some people believe it’s owned by the U.S. government? Listen in to learn more about Facebook conspiracy theories.
Could the world’s militaries really build lethal sonic weapons? Could infrasound really destroy a human being? How far away are we from the space-age sonic weapons of science fiction? Join Ben and Matt as they explore the rumors, fact and fiction surrounding the strange world of weaponized sound.
The Institute for Responsible Technology, an organization opposed to crop biotechnology, has published a list of reasons to avoid GMOs—that is, genetically modified food. It’s a mish-mash of misinformation and disinformation. All of the institute’s assertions are unfounded, but here are the five most dubious claims on the list.
1. GMOs Are Unhealthy
Every independent scientific body that has ever evaluated the safety of biotech crops has found them to be safe for humans to eat.
A 2004 report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concluded that “no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.” In 2003 the International Council for Science, representing 111 national academies of science and 29 scientific unions, found “no evidence of any ill effects from the consumption of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.” The World Health Organization flatly states, “No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”
In 2010, a European Commission review of 50 studies on the safety of biotech crops found “no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms.” At its annual meeting in June, the American Medical Association endorsed a report on the labeling of bioengineered foods from its Council on Science and Public Health. The report concluded that “Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.”
Unfortunately there is no shortage of fringe scientists to gin up bogus studies suggesting that biotech crops are not safe. My personal favorite in this genre is Russian researcher Irina Ermakova’s claim, unpublished in any peer-reviewed scientific journal, that eating biotech soybeans turned mouse testicles blue.
One widely publicized specious study (also cited by the IRT) was done by the French researcher Gilles-Eric Seralini and his colleagues. They reported that rats fed pesticide resistant corn died of mammary tumors and liver diseases. Seralini is the president of the scientific council of the Committee for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering, which describes itself as an “independent non-profit organization of scientific counter-expertise to study GMOs, pesticides and impacts of pollutants on health and environment, and to develop non polluting alternatives.” The Committee clearly knows in advance what its researchers will find with regard to the health risks of biotech crops. But when truly independent groups, such as the European Society of Toxicologic Pathology and the French Society of Toxicologic Pathology, reviewed Seralini’s study, they found it essentially to be meretricious rubbish. Six French academies of science issued a statement declaring that the journal should never have published such a low-quality study and excoriating Seralini for orchestrating a media campaign in advance of publication. The European Food Safety Agency’s review of the Seralini study “found [it] to be inadequately designed, analysed and reported.”
Sadly, such junk science has real-world consequences, since Seralini’s article was apparently cited when Kenya made the decision to ban the importation of foods made with biotech crops.
2. GMOs Increase Herbicide Use
First, so what? This claim is simply an attempt to mislead people into thinking that more herbicide use must somehow be more dangerous. As a U.S. Department of Agriculture report has noted, planting herbicide resistant biotech crops enables farmers to substitute the more environmentally benign herbicide glyphosate (commercially sold as Round Up) for “other synthetic herbicides that are at least 3 times as toxic and that persist in the environment nearly twice as long as glyphosate.” Glyphosate has very low toxicity, breaks down quickly in the environment, and enables farmers to practice conservation tillage, which reduces topsoil erosion by up to 90 percent. So the net environmental effect is still positive.
Second, it must be admitted that there are few honest brokers when it comes to this issue. Most of the research on biotech crops and herbicides is underwritten by either activist groups or industry. I have drawn my own conclusions, but I provide a fairly comprehensive review of the various studies on this question below.
When it comes to biotech crops and pesticide use data, the go-to guy for anti-biotech activists is Charles Benbrook. After a long career with various anti-biotech groups, Benbrook now serves as a research professor in the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University. He has a long history of publishing studies allegedly showing that the adoption of biotech crops boosts the use of pesticides. Four years after commercial biotech crops were first planted in the United States, for example, he concluded in 2001 that herbicide use had “modestly increased.” Benbrook’s article contradicted research published the year before by scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who had found that biotech crops had reduced pesticide applications.
In a 2004 report funded by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Benbrook asserted that “GE [genetically engineered] corn, soybeans, and cotton have led to a 122 million pound increase in pesticide use since 1996.” In contrast, a 2005 study in Pest Management Science, by a researcher associated with the pesticide lobby group CropLife, reported that planting biotech crops had “reduced herbicide use by 37.5million lbs.” A 2007 study done for the self-described non-advocacy think tank National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy, founded in 1984 by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, reported that planting biotech crops in the U.S. had reduced in 2005 herbicide use by 64 million pounds and insecticide applications by about 4 million pounds. Another 2007 study, by a team of international academic researchers led by Gijs Kleter from the Institute of Food Safety at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, concluded that in the U.S., crops genetically improved to resist herbicides used 25 to 30 percent less herbicides than conventional crops did. In 2009, Benbrook issued a report for the anti-GMO Organic Center claiming that “GE crops have been responsible for an increase of 383 million pounds of herbicide use in the U.S. over the first 13 years of commercial use of GE crops.”
Benbrook’s latest study, issued last year, found that the adoption of pest-resistant crops had reduced the application of insecticides by 123 million pounds since 1996 but increased the application of herbicides by 527 million pounds, an overall increase of about 404 million pounds of pesticides. The media—including Mother Jones’ ever-credulous anti-biotech advocate Tom Philpott— reported these results unskeptically.
Benbrook largely got his 2012 results by making some strategic extrapolations of herbicide use trends to make up for missing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In fact, the USDA does not provide herbicide use data for corn in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, or 2011, for soybeans in any year after 2006, and for cotton in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, and 2011. (The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service is expected to issue a report updating national herbicide and insecticide usage later this year.)
As the University of Wyoming weed biologist Andrew Kniss points out, in order to get an increasing herbicide trend, Benbrook’s extrapolations turned a negative herbicide use trend for corn positive. He did the same thing to a neutral use trend for soybeans. Meanwhile, a 2012 study by Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot at the PG Economics consultancy found planting modern biotech crop varieties had globally cut pesticide spraying by 997 million pounds from 1996 to 2010, an overall reduction of 9.1 percent. Brookes and Barfoot calculated the amount of pesticide used by multiplying the acreage planted for each variety by the average amounts applied per acre.
3. Genetic Engineering Creates Dangerous Side Effects
The Institute for Responsible Technology’s list simply fearmongers on this one, claiming, “By mixing genes from totally unrelated species, genetic engineering unleashes a host of unpredictable side effects.” Not really.
All types of plant breeding—conventional, mutagenic, and biotech—can, on rare occasions, produce crops with unintended consequences. The 2004 NAS report that I alluded to above includes a section comparing the unintended consequences of each approach; it concludes that biotech is “not inherently hazardous.” Conventional breeding transfers thousands of unknown genes with unknown functions along with desired genes, and mutation breeding induces thousands of random mutations via chemicals or radiation. In contrast, the NAS report notes, biotech is arguably “more precise than conventional breeding methods because only known and precisely characterized genes are transferred.”
The case of mutation breeding is particularly interesting. In that method, researchers basically blast crop seeds with gamma radiation or bathe them in harsh chemicals to produce thousands of uncharacterized mutations, then plant them to see what comes up. The most interesting new mutants are then crossed with commercial varieties, which are then released to farmers. The Food and Agriculture Organization’s Mutant Varieties Database offers more 3,000 different mutated crop varieties to farmers. Many of these mutated varieties are planted as organic crops. Among of the more recent new mutant offerings are two corn varieties, Kneja 546 and Kneja 627. Whatever genetic changes wrought in these corn varieties by induced mutagenesis, they must be far less known to researchers than any changes made to standard-issue biotech crops, yet these mutants get practically no regulatory scrutiny or activist censure.
The point here is . . .
- Mark Lynas, environmentalist who opposed GMOs, admits he was wrong (iLLumiNuTTi.com)
- Debunking the Anti-Monsanto/Anti-GMO claims (iLLumiNuTTi.com)
- Genetically Modified Crops. Why the big fuss? (iLLumiNuTTi.com)
- European Agency’s Final Verdict on Controversial GM Study: Not Scientifically Sound (iLLumiNuTTi.com)
- Millions March Against Monsanto: A Global Awakening Covered Up by the Media | From Agent Orange to Pesticides and Genetically Engineered Crops. Why Not to Trust Monsanto (truth11.com)
- So What If Unregulated Genetically Engineered Wheat Is Found Growing on a Farm in Oregon? (reason.com)
- Anti-GMO leaders withdraw from ‘Great Biotech Debate’; Forum will go on (catalyzingillinois.com)
- Organic Consumers Association Calls for Immediate End to Field Testing GM Crops (dprogram.net)
- Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Has Links to GMOs (stateofglobe.com)
- The 10 Biggest GMO PR Disasters of 2012 (thelibertybeacon.com)
- U.S. discovery of rogue GMO wheat raises concerns over controls (reuters.com)