Tag Archives: DNA

Why Does Greenpeace Like the Grapefruit?

Superbugs: Infection Apocalypse

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

Source, links & more information in the video description.

Solfeggio Frequencies

waves 738
Are certain, specific sonic frequencies the key to love, intuition, and spiritual order? Do the sounds we hear have a real physiological effect?

skeptoid eyeby Craig Good via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

Proponents on the web speak of Solfeggio Frequencies, musical notes that have great healing power. They claim that these pure sounds from antiquity can liberate us from fear, awaken our intuition, and even repair our DNA. Do specific sounds have such power? Where did these mystical frequencies come from? And what can we learn from them?

tuning forks_300pxFirst, their claims. The idea is that certain notes found in ancient music have special uses. Pitches, or notes, are described in Hertz (abbreviated Hz), which is their frequency in cycles per second.

For example, one of the special Solfeggio frequencies is said to be 396 Hz. It sounds like this. [396 Hz] Named UT, it is supposed to be good for “liberating guilt and fear”.

Next is the one called RE, at 417 Hz. [417 Hz] This is good for “undoing situations and facilitating change”.

Impressed? Wait until you hear MI, at 528 Hz. It does “transformation and miracles”, including DNA repair. [528 Hz]

FA, at 629 Hz, is for “connecting and relationships”. [629 Hz]

SOL, at 741 Hz is for “awakening intuition”. [741 Hz]

And LA, at 852 Hz, is for “returning to spiritual order”. [852 Hz]

brainwaves 739_225pxNow, you may have noticed a couple of patterns. One is that, just like most other woo-y, New Age modalities, the claims are all very breezy and unspecific. If they remind you a little of Deepak Chopra that’s not exactly an accident. Some of the web pages promoting Solfeggio Frequencies use his confused misinterpretations of quantum physics for support.

You may recall from Skeptoid #431 how acupuncture proponents can’t even decide how many meridians exist, nor where they are. Similarly, when we dig into Solfeggio Frequencies there are disagreements. One proponent says that the key frequency is not 417, [417 Hz] but 432 Hz. [432 Hz] Further, he claims that this “purest” of sounds is the same frequency to which both the great pyramids of Giza and the Sun itself are tuned.

solfeggioo_250pxYet another proponent says 528 Hz [528 Hz] is the “love frequency” that not only repairs DNA but can “raise the vibration in our chakra system”. There’s no evidence for a chakra system, and this odd use of the word “vibration” resonates more with woo than science.

In fact, if I play the Solfeggio Frequencies as specified on most of the web sites, the scale sounds a little out of tune. [Solfeggio Mystic Hexachord]

As is typical of woo, proponents make an appeal to antiquity. What makes these notes special, you see, is that they come from a medieval Gregorian chant to John the Baptist. It’s one of those things the ancients “just understood.” But, in modern times, our music was retuned to 440 Hz [440] and the secret was lost. Or hidden on purpose, depending on who you read. Some even blame the change, darkly, on a Nazi plot.

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Warning: DNA is everywhere!


Gordon Bonnetby Gordon Bonnet via Skeptophilia

In yesterday’s post, I stated that I hated hoaxes worse than I hate outright scientific ignorance.  In response, a loyal reader sent me an article referencing a survey in which 80% of respondents said they favored mandatory labeling of foods that contain DNA.

DNA StrandsI kept looking, in vain, for a sign that this was a joke.  Sadly, this is real.  It came from a study done last month by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics.  And what it shows, in my opinion, is that there are people out there who vote and make important decisions and (apparently) walk upright without dragging their knuckles on the ground, and yet who do not know that DNA is found in every living organism.

Or maybe, they don’t know that most of what we eat is made of cells.  I dunno.  Whatever.  Because if you aren’t currently on the Salt, Baking Soda, and Scotch Diet, you consume the DNA of plants and/or animals every time you eat.

Lettuce contains lettuce DNA.  Potatoes contain potato DNA.  Beef contains cow DNA.  “Slim Jims” contain — well, they contain the DNA of whatever the hell Slim Jims are made from.  I don’t want to know.  But get the picture?  If you put a label on foods with DNA, the label goes on everything.

Ilya Somin, of the Washington Post, even made a suggestion of what such a food-warning label might look like:

WARNING: This product contains deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The Surgeon General has determined that DNA is linked to a variety of diseases in both animals and humans. In some configurations, it is a risk factor for cancer and heart disease. Pregnant women are at very high risk of passing on DNA to their children.

Despite the scary sound of Somin’s tongue-in-cheek proposed label, there’s nothing dangerous about eating DNA.  Enzymes in our small intestines break down the DNA we consume into individual building blocks (nucleotides), and we then use those building blocks to produce our own DNA every time we make new cells.  Which is all the time.  Eating pig DNA will not, as one of my students asked me a few weeks ago, “make us oink.”

science cancelledBut this highlights something rather terrifying, doesn’t it?  Every other day we’re told things like “30% of Americans Are Against GMOs” and “40% of Americans Disbelieve in Anthropogenic Climate Change” and “32% of Americans Believe the Earth is 6,000 Years Old.”  (If you’re curious, I made those percentages up, because I really don’t want to know what the actual numbers are, I’m depressed enough already.)  What the Oklahoma State University study shows is:  none of that is relevant.  If 80% of Americans don’t know what DNA is, why the fuck should I trust what they say on anything else even remotely scientific?

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Has Jack the Ripper Finally Been Solved?

steven_novellaBy via NeuroLogica Blog

Jack the Ripper is perhaps the most iconic serial killer in history. Part of the mystique of this dark figure is the fact that he was never identified, leaving room for endless sleuthing and speculation. Every Ripper fan has their list of favorite suspects, usually filled with famous and powerful people of the time to add even more interest. JACK DESTRIPADOR 2My favorite, of course, is that he was a time-traveling friend of H. G. Wells.

Now a private researcher, Russell Edwards, claims that he has finally solved the case. First I will present his story without comment, and then we can take a skeptical look at it.

Edwards claims he acquired a blood-stained shawl in 2007 that is supposed to be from Catherine Eddowes, one of the five fairly accepted victims of the Ripper. The shawl was apparently recovered from the scene of Eddowes murder, and was covered in her blood. Acting Sergeant Amos Simpson took the shawl home as a gift for his wife. She was, apparently, not impressed and stored the shawl away without cleaning it.

The shawl remained in the possession of his family until they auctioned it off in 2007 and Edwards acquired it.

Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes

Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes

Edwards then solicited the help of Dr. Jari Louhelainen, a Finnish expert in historic DNA. Louhelainen found that the 126 year old shawl contained a great deal of blood, likely all from the victim. However, he also found a semen stain on the shawl. Genomic DNA is unlikely to have survived 126 years sufficiently intact for DNA matching. However, mitochondrial DNA is more hardy and likely did survive.

Sperm, however, contain few mitochondria (almost none). Fortunately, Louhelainen was able to isolate an epithelial cell from the region of the semen stain. Epithelial cells line many tissues, and so it is possible that the cell (which would contain mitochondrial DNA) was from the same source as the semen itself.

Louhelainen was able to extract and amplify the DNA, and then type it, finding that it belonged to  .  .  .

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Also See: How Jack the Ripper Worked (howstuffworks)

10 Theories That Will Make You Lose Your Mind

by Jake Anderson via ODDEE

I consider myself a collector of sorts. I collect strange, bizarre notions and theories that warp traditional narratives about reality and existence. The following is a presentation of 10 of my favorite mind-blowing theories. There is compelling evidence for each, but you certainly don’t – and, for the sake of your sanity, probably shouldn’t – need to take them as gospel.

1 • The Singularity: We will transcend biology and live as posthuman Gods

a98991_singularity2_300pxFuturists like Ray Kurzweil say in the coming decades humans will experience a technological singularity by which we will transcend biology itself. Intelligent civilizations such as ours, says Kurzweil, are destined to evolve into super-intelligent, possibly machine-based beings whose computational powers grow exponentially.

After such a singularity, we would be able to harness the power of our own sun in order to accomplish interstellar feats only dreamed of in science fiction, such as creating Dyson Spheres and literally saturating the known universe with consciousness.

Some progressive thinkers like Noam Chomsky have labeled the theory science fiction, while others question the classist undertones of the theory’s transhumanist enthusiasts.

(Source | Photo)

2 • Project Bluebeam: the Government Will Engineer a False Flag Supernatural Alien Invasion

a98991_bluebeam_300pxProject Blue Beam is a highly controversial conspiracy theory. Originally proposed by Canadian journalist Serge Monast in 1994, it holds that the New World Order will use advanced holographic technology in order to create a false flag alien invasion and/or a worldwide religious “awakening” in order to achieve servitude by the masses and acceptance of a one world government and religion and possibly depopulation efforts as well.

There are supposedly 4 parts to the implementation of Project Blue Beam. These stages include:

  1. The dissolution of major religions due to archaeological discoveries disproving them.
  2. A holographic “space show” in which deities and aliens appear as our overlords (it is not clear how these two would coexist).
  3. Telepathic Electronic Two Way Communication, via ELF(Extra Low Frequency), VLF (Very Low Frequency), and LF (Low Frequency) waves, whereby people will think they are being spoken to by the new true God or extraterrestrial overlords.
  4. Use of worldwide microchips to fabricate horrifying supernatural events that will make people desperate for the New World Order.


3 • Our handlers use Predictive Programming To Plan, Communicate, and Brainwash

a98991_PredictiveProgramming_300pxPredictive programming is the idea that society embeds messages into pop culture media and other modes of transmission in order to psychologically prepare and incubate the general population for certain events. It is, of course, a conspiracy theory,

Many people maintain instances of predictive programming are simply coincidences on par with synchronicity and Déjà vu; others say they are sinister calling cards for shadow groups who communicate across media channels through coded signals.

4 • Human DNA contains the signature of an alien creator

a98991_humanDNA_300pxNew evidence is suggesting that instead of searching the stars with telescopes, we should have been searching our DNA with microscopes. Vladimir I. shCherbak of al-Farabi Kazakh National University of Kazakhstan, and Maxim A. Makukov of the Fesenkov Astrophysical Institute claim they have discovered an intelligent signal inside human DNA. In this case, “biological SETI” as it’s known, involves “arithmetical and ideographical patterns of symbolic language.”

In other words, it’s possible that an intelligent species encoded a message or signature into the very structure of our DNA. (Source | Photo)

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GMO foods transfer DNA to humans – another myth

via skepticalraptor

franken-corn-DNA_250pxHere we go again. A pseudoscience pushing website (which occasionally tosses in stories about real science) is trumpeting a primary research study (published 6 months ago) that may, or may not, indicate that plant DNA may survive intact in the digestive tract and show up in the bloodstream. You just know what they’re going to say next.

This will now be all about genetically modified foods.

In case you’ve ignored this area of pseudoscience, genetically modified crops are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs); of course, all types of agricultural breeding induces genetic modification, but in general, GMO usually implies actual manipulation of the genes. Based on some of  the worst science available, anti-GMO cultists have condemned GMO foods as being dangerous. Of course, there is actually no science supporting the anti-GMO claim, and the vast scientific consensus says that GMO foods are safe to humans, animals and the environment.

A paper published in the online journal, PLoS One, seems to indicate that possible DNA fragments pass from the digestive tract into the blood. The authors, Spisak et al., concluded:

…based on the analysis of over 1000 human samples from four independent studies, we report evidence that meal-derived DNA fragments which are large enough to carry complete genes can avoid degradation and through an unknown mechanism enter the human circulation system.

Based on our knowledge of the digestive process, fats, DNA, carbohydrates, and proteins are broken down into their simplest components, and specialized transport systems move these simple components across the barrier between the digestive tract and blood. They have evolved to not transport full size molecules, partially because the blood is incapable of carrying large foreign molecules (and could induce an immune response). Moreover, small constituent molecules, like amino acids instead of the whole protein, or glucose instead of a long-chain carbohydrate, are more easily transported to locations in the body to be then used as fuel or building blocks for new proteins and DNA. We just have not seen a mechanism in the digestive tract that can move large molecules, like gene-length DNA fragments, into the bloodstream.

In fact, the authors admit that the mechanism is unknown . . .

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Bigfoot Files: Science, Skepticism and the True Believers

bigfoot right there
Sharon_hill_80pxBy Sharon Hill via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI

There is a small, elite group of skeptics who know their Bigfootery. That’s right, the Bigfoot skeptics.

bigfoot-2Scoff if you will, but skeptical advocacy through talking about Bigfoot and other cryptozoological creatures is an important job. Those who joke about Bigfoot and how we are wasting our time researching and discussing it must have missed the Internet and popular TV shows lately. Bigfoot is booming.

Thanks to pop culture making this a hot topic, the public finds it more acceptable—people are talking about it, it has its own TV shows, there must be something to it.

Bigfoot is arguably one of the more plausible cryptids out there. While he tends to behave a bit supernaturally at times (can’t catch the bugger in real life or even on camera), a hairy hominoid is not an impossibility—just REALLY unlikely.

I thought it was time to update what has happened in the Bigfoot drum circles in the past year since Melba Ketchum released her astoundingly disappointing and inept study of Bigfoot DNA. You can read the chronology here. It’s quite a story, interesting for reason far beyond that of genetics and a new species (a claim which is not justified based on this one highly questionable set of tests).

finding-bigfoot_250pxKetchum’s credibility faded fast upon the reveal, even though she kept promoting more and more ridiculous events, like the “Matilda, the Sleeping Bigfoot” press conference. If the Ketchum team had sought assistance and advice from knowledgeable scientists, they would have been told in no uncertain terms this is the absolute worst way to appear trustworthy. Science should not be done by press conference, especially if your Bigfoot looks an awful lot like a Wookie (from Star Wars).

I have digressed. Back to the science of Bigfoot. Yes, there is some, it can be done.

All eyes and hopes in the Bigfoot world turned to Dr. Bryan Sykes of Oxford University in the U.K. who was well underway with the Oxford Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project. Sykes accepted samples of what was suspected to be an unknown hominid from around the world. Using his special technique to remove contamination and analyze the inner core of a single hair, he has reached results that have garnered far more weight that the Ketchum results.

Why? Because he had credibility to begin with. Sykes is genuinely interested in the answer, not hung up on a pre-existing conclusion. He has not been deceptive, or continually feeding us a whiney train of gripes about how the world is out to get him. There were no conspiracies mongered in this case. There were tests and there were results. It was objective science.

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Did we come from another planet? No.

by via The Soap Box

Recently I forced myself to read an article about certain claims by made by one Dr. Ellis Silver, an ecologist, about how humans came from another planet (read the article here). Now most people would think that any proof that we do not come from this planet would be in our DNA (and I’ll get to that later) but the article doesn’t even  mention that. In fact, it claims because of certain aliments that humans tend to have that there is only one logical conclusion as to why we have them: We came from another world.

"This earth gravity is killing my back."

“This earth gravity is killing my back.”

One of the first claims made by Dr. Silver is that a lot of us have bad backs, and because of this he believes that humans must have evolve in a lower gravity environment then that of Earth’s.

Even if this was true that we did evolve in a lower gravity environment than that of Earth’s it wouldn’t be the cause of our bad backs. Eventually our bodies would adapt over a few generations to Earth’s gravity, and this guy is suggesting that we have been here for tens of thousands of years (actually between 60,000 to 200,000). This is more than enough time for our bodies to have adapted to Earth’s gravity.

Now the real reason for our bad backs isn’t because of the gravity, it’s actually a number of different things. It can be from placing to much stress on our backs (which other species do not do unless we make them) or injury, or sitting in a chair wrong for to long of a period of time, or being overweight, or a lack of exercise, or lifting up heavy objects in an improper manner. I’m not sure if Dr. Silver ignored these facts or not, but the sheer fact that some humans have back issues is not evidence that humans are from another world.

The second claim made for why humans are from another planet is because it can be difficult for women to give birth due to the size of a baby’s head, and that it can result in fatalities for both the mother and infant. He also claims that no other species on this planet has that problem.

alien-baby-sabina-espinet_250pxThis claim is just weird and flawed on several levels. First we are not the only species that has big heads when we are born. Infact many species of primates have big heads when they are born, as do many other species, and do experience complications from childbirth which can result in the deaths of both the mother and child.

Also, if it is true that having a big head when we are born which makes it difficult for a woman to give birth meant that we didn’t come from this planet, then why would we have evolved this trait on another planet also? We shouldn’t have, and therefore we shouldn’t even exist…

Just because we are born with big heads does not mean we did not come from this planet.

The third claim made for the believed reason why humans cannot have come from this planet is because we cannot stay in the sun for long periods of time, unlike lizards.

Well, we’re not lizards, which are cold blooded and actually need the heat from the sun inorder to function. We’re warm blooded, as are all other mammals, and do not require as much exposure to sun as a lizard does. Infact many mammal species are even less tolerant of the sun than we are, and either spend a lot of time in shaded areas, or are nocturnal and live underground, or in trees and bushes until night time.

Sunburn or alien detection?

Sunburn or alien detection?

Dr. Silver is also suggesting that because we can be harmed by the sun (i.e. get sunburned) that we must have come from another planet.

Actually the reason why we get sunburned isn’t because we evolved on another planet, it’s because we have a lot of exposed skin. Most other mammals have thick hair (i.e. fur) that protects their skin from direct exposure from the sunlight. Infact we’re not the only mammals that have a problem with getting sunburn. Pigs for example are very well known for getting sunburned, which is why they tend to roll around in mud. It’s not because they like it, it’s so they don’t get sunburned.

Now the forth claim that is made is that we have a strong dislike of naturally occurring foods, and for this reason we’re probably not from this planet.

This is completely bogus. A lot of people love . . .

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How to Spot the Reptilians Running the U.S. Government

By Philip Bump via The Atlantic Wire

Icke BSAs 12 million Americans “know,” the United States government is run by lizard people (or, to be scientifically accurate, reptilians). But they never said which members of the government are the reptilians. So we’re here to help.

Piecing together the latest groundbreaking research being conducted by commenters at conspiracy websites, we’ve been able to isolate a number of prominent individuals who possess reptilian-compatible bloodlines. As “ufochick” writes at DavidIcke.com (Icke is a prominent reptile theorist, as evidenced by his book at right), even if a person has compatible bloodlines, “they will not become a reptilian unless a reptilian entity inhabits their physical body.”

Or maybe it isn’t important. UnderstandingEvil.com describes how to tell if you’re “under assault” by reptilians; “Protector of Mankind” writes at Alien-UFOs.com that you can be a “reptilian/human hybrid.” It sort of varies. But according to Icke, this is how it works.

Thousands of years ago, the reptilian beings [from the constellations Orion, Sirius, and Draco] intervened on planet Earth and began interbreeding with humans. Not physically, however, but rather through the manipulation of the human coding, or DNA. Icke states that it is no coincidence that humans have fundamental reptilian genetics within their brain.

Whatever. The point being that it is easy to tell when you have or someone you know has been possessed by a reptile from outer space. While Icke doesn’t describe how to spot someone who has been manipulated by/merged with a reptilian — probably to protect his lucrative speaking circuit revenues — others have. The common signs (according to one source):

“predominance of green or hazel eyes that change color like a chameleon, but also blue eyes” “piercing eyes”
“true red or reddish hair” “a sense of not belonging to the human race”
“low blood pressure” “deep compassion for fate of mankind”
“keen sight or hearing” “physic abilities” (probably meant “psychic”)
“ESP” “unexplained scars on body”
“UFO connections” “capability to disrupt electrical appliances”
“love of space and science” “alien contacts”

Good list! So let’s see if we can pinpoint our lizard overlords based on these hints. For example: Who has eyes that are green or hazel or blue but which may change to be different colors? Maybe you.

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Icke - Remember what you are

The Truth about Aspartame

The artificial sweetener aspartame is falsely accused of being the cause of nearly every disease

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning (2008) via skeptoid

Read podcast transcript below or Listen here

Aspartame_2As a kid I remember hearing that the artificial sweetener aspartame would neutralize your digestive enzymes, and anything else you ate that day would turn to fat. Although this makes no sense biochemically at any level, it sounded scientific enough to me and I was satisfied with it — at least enough to justify my dislike for its awful flavor. It turns out that my fat-producing claim was about the mildest of many arguments made by a growing anti-aspartame movement, and biochemically-nonsensical as it was, it was among the sanest of the arguments. Take a look at websites such as AspartameKills.com, SweetPoison.com, and Dark-Truth.org, and you’ll see that a whole new breed of aspartame opponents has taken activism to a whole new level. Here are a few quotes from those web sites:

Thank you Montel Williams for having the fortitude to say: “Multiple Sclerosis is often misdiagnosed, and that it could be aspartame poisoning”

NutraSweet® killed my mother and has killed and/or wounded millions of innocent people in the US and abroad.

Aspartame converts to formaldehyde in vivo in the bodies of laboratory rats.


Did O J Simpson Have a Reaction to Aspartame that led to the deaths of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman?


After more than twenty years of aspartame use, the number of its victims is rapidly piling up, and people are figuring out for themselves that aspartame is at the root of their health problems. Patients are teaching their doctors about this nutritional peril, and they are healing themselves with little to no support from traditional medicine.

Donald Rumsfeld disregarded safety issues and used his political muscle to get Aspartame approved.

The Nazi Scientist’s Poison Projects: Poison adults with Aspartame

Because of your and/or your forbearers [sic] exposure to toxics like Aspartame, a summation of immune, mitochondrial, DNA, and MtDNA (genetic) damage has occurred in your body that has made your body unable to deal with chemical insults.

The doctor that was in charge of the lab to study Aspartame, reported that the substance was too toxic and he mysteriously dissappeared [sic] and all the paper work somehow was destroyed.

The Nazis actually won the war. They just pretended to lose so that we wouldn’t notice them take over our government.

Why don't you remember this headline?

Why don’t you remember this headline?

Well, that’s enough for now. And if you haven’t heard those, you’ve almost certainly received one of several hoax emails that people have been forwarding around since 1995, according to Snopes.com, giving an equally long list of untrue claims about aspartame being the cause of nearly every illness. One is even falsely attributed to Dr. Dean Edell. Suffice it to say that every possible kind of attack is made against aspartame: Pseudoscientific attacks where they throw out whole dictionaries of scientific sounding nonsense; guilt by association attacks where they mention aspartame alongside Adolf Hitler and Donald Rumsfeld; non-sequiturs like pointing out the evils of the corporate structure of pharmaceutical companies as if that is support for how and why an “aspartame detoxification” program will “heal” you of all disease; and even Bible quotations attacking aspartame. The anti-aspartame lobby appears to include everyone from alternative treatment vendors trying to sell their products, to fully delusional conspiracy theorists. Dr. Russell Blaylock, a retired surgeon turned anti-pharmaceutical author and activist, believes aspartame is part of a massive government mind-control plot . . .

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How the attempt to sequence “Bigfoot’s genome” went badly off track

bigfoot right there
Humans interbred with an unknown hominin in Europe, then crossed the Bering Sea — say what?

by via Ars Technica

finding-bigfoot_250pxWhen we first looked at the report of the bigfoot genome, it was an odd mixture of things: standard methods and reasonable looking data thrown in with unusual approaches and data that should have raised warning flags for any biologist. We just couldn’t figure out the logic of why certain things were done or the reasoning behind some of the conclusions the authors reached. So, we spent some time working with the reported genome sequences themselves and talked with the woman who helped put the analysis together, Dr. Melba Ketchum. While it didn’t answer all of our questions, it gave us a clearer picture of how the work came to be.

The biggest clarification made was what the team behind the results considered their scientific reasoning, which makes sense of how they ran past warning signs that they were badly off track. It provided an indication of what motivated them to push the results into a publication that they knew would cause them grief.

Melba Ketchum and the bigfoot genome

The public face of the bigfoot genome has been Melba Ketchum, a Texas-based forensic scientist. It was Ketchum who first announced that a genome was in the works, and she was the lead author of the paper that eventually described it. That paper became the one and only publication of the online journal De Novo; it’s still the only one to appear there.

The paper itself is an odd mix of things. There’s a variety of fairly standard molecular techniques mixed in with a bit of folklore and a link to a YouTube video that reportedly shows a sleeping Sasquatch. In some ways, the conclusions of the paper are even odder than the video. They suggest that bigfeet aren’t actually an unidentified species of ape as you might have assumed. Instead, the paper claims that bigfeet are hybrids, the product of humans interbreeding with a still unknown species of hominin.

bigfoot_200pxAs evidence, it presents two genomes that purportedly came from bigfoot samples. The mitochondrial genome, a small loop of DNA that’s inherited exclusively from mothers, is human. The nuclear genome, which they’ve only sequenced a small portion of, is a mix of human and other sequences. Some are closely related, others quite distant.

But my initial analysis suggested that the “genome sequence” was an artifact, the product of a combination of contamination, degradation, and poor assembly methods. And every other biologist I showed it to reached the same conclusion. Ketchum couldn’t disagree more. “We’ve done everything in our power to make sure the paper was absolutely above-board and well done,” she told Ars. “I don’t know what else we could have done short of spending another few years working on the genome. But all we wanted to do was prove they existed, and I think we did that.”

How do you get one group of people who looks at the evidence and sees contamination, while another decides “The data conclusively prove that the Sasquatch exists”? To find out, we went through the paper’s data carefully, then talked to Ketchum to understand the reasoning behind the work.

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More bad science in the service of anti-GMO activism

by via Science-Based Medicine

GMO_rice_250pxI 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 . . .

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10 Mysterious Anomalies

By Ron Harlan via Listverse

Science continues to give us a deeper and more convincing knowledge of the universe we live in. But we still only partially understand the mysterious world we inhabit, and many mysteries remain unsolved. Here are ten of the most fascinating of these anomalies:

10 • Dragon’s Cave Anomaly

cave 857_300pxThere are the usual cryptid mysteries that we all wish to resolve, but the implications of some of these are so disturbing that we might rather not know the real answer.

In an unknown year—but likely some time in the early 1900s—land surveyors dropped rope down a cave in Boone County, Arkansas. After the rope had descended two hundred feet into the cave pipes, a horrendous hissing and roaring sound was heard, suggesting that a bizarre and enormous beast had been disturbed. Some believe that the roaring belonged to a cave-dwelling cryptid, or an apparently-extinct or so-far-undiscovered species.

The exact site of the eerie report has not been found, but the explorers of a second Arkansas cave heard a case of a landowner who had apparently gone insane with terror after entering a similar subterranean system and encountering something.

9 • Precognition of American Presidents

abe-lincoln-close-up_300pxPrecognition—including the vague sense of impending doom—is an unexplained phenomenon whereby events are seen before their time. Eerily, Abraham Lincoln reported a dream in which he had seen his own dead body. Only days later, he was fatally shot.

Quantum theorists studying the fourth dimension propose that time can bend, allowing us to glimpse the future. Limiting ourselves to American Presidents alone, we find that John Garfield and William McKinley also “previewed” their own deaths. In a related—albeit slightly different—case of extrasensory perception, John Adams’ last words the moment before he died were simply “Thomas Jefferson.” It was unknown to him, but hours before, his great political rival had indeed passed away…

8 • Hatley Castle Haunting

Front-of-Hatley-Castle_300pxHatley Castle was built on Vancouver Island, off Canada’s West Coast, by the Scottish Coal Baron Robert Dunsmuir. He was a famous but controversial figure in his day, known for his swift-handed approach to decisions concerning the use of land.

The castle, which now forms part of the campus of Royal Roads University, has begun to fall prey to a series of unexplained events, which send chills down the spine of those who venture too close. Terrified observers have reported seeing a white figure drifting around the windows, and they’ve also made reference to hearing the clash of pots and pans.

It is rumored that the maid of Robert Dunsmuir—rejected by her lover—leapt from the window and died. SPIRITS, a charity dedicated to investigating the paranormal, claims that one of its staff members actually saw a female figure clothed in white slipping through the castle corridors. Unfortunately, few sources have less credibility in such cases than a charity dedicated to investigating the paranormal.

7 • Ancient European DNA

dva 857_300pxEuropean culture is extremely diverse; distinct customs and peoples live there side-by-side in relatively small but clearly-defined regions. One would imagine that the development of Europe consisted of historically understandable transitions—but according to research at the Australian Center for Ancient DNA, genetic markers in skeletons sampled for DNA suggest a sudden, drastic change around 4,500 years ago.

According to paleo-anthropologist Dr. Alan Cooper, “Something major happened, and the hunt is now on to find out what that was.” The mysterious event or cataclysm may never be determined, but it’s possible that an unknown plague, or else a mysterious conflict or agreement between ancient tribes, may hold the key to Europe’s anomalous past.

6 • Australian UFO Aberrations

AU ufo_300px“Alien Abductions” have become fairly widely reported, to the point that most researchers have grown somewhat tired of the subject. However, some accounts are much more difficult to disregard than others.

In 1993, Kelly Cahill and her husband were driving at night in Victoria, Australia, when a bizarre form appeared in front of them, apparently in the process of abducting something. The occupants of a second car behind the Cahills also observed the phenomenon. When the Cahills tracked this second group down, they were able to confirm the fact that they too had witnessed the event. Spooky.

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Atacama Specimen

by via NeuroLogica Blog

One persistent theme that skeptical investigators encounter is the fact that true-believers of various stripes often whine about the fact that they are not taken seriously by scientists and that their claims are dismissed out of hand. Ironically they often direct their whining at skeptics, even though we are the ones addressing their claims and investigating them. Mainstream scientists won’t taint themselves by even acknowledging their existence.

What the true believers repeatedly fail to appreciate, however, is that it is not necessarily their claims that relegate them to the fringe, but their atrocious methods. Dunning-Kruger EffectThey giddily squander their credibility by accepting poor-quality evidence, making bad arguments, and dismissing perfectly reasonable alternative explanations.

In short, they are not taken seriously because they are not serious scientists. A version of the Dunning-Kruger effect seems to make them incapable of perceiving their own gross scientific incompetence, and so they have no choice but to whine about those “closed-minded scientists” and the conspiracy of silence against them.

Yet another example of this is the Atacama specimen – a six inch tall humanoid skeletal remains discovered in the Atacama desert, Chile, in 2003.

The Disclosure Project, founded by Steven Greer, has promoted the specimen as evidence of aliens. They make the classic mistake of looking for evidence and arguments to support their hypothesis, rather than properly considering other hypotheses or looking for evidence to disprove their hypothesis.

What they are doing is essentially mystery mongering, as is evidenced by the title of their article on the specimen: Stanford University Research: Atacama Humanoid Still A Mystery.


Atacama Specimen

Their approach is similar to that of the Starchild Skull proponents – take a human specimen and look for anomalies, and then declare those anomalies evidence that the specimen is alien. The problem with this approach is that there are numerous causes of anatomical anomalies, including genetic, developmental, pathological, traumatic, or artifacts of what happened to the specimen after death.

Alien proponents would have to convincingly rule out all such possibilities before Occam would be satisfied that a new explanation was needed. Even then, all we would have in an anomaly – not something alien. That conclusion is a classic example of the argument from ignorance logical fallacy.

One way to address the question of whether or not the specimen is human is to . . .

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Brewer offers $1M Bigfoot reward

via Fox News

bigfoot hideand seek_300pxSasquatch has been on the lam for far too long and brewer Olympia Beer is out to catch the elusive beast.Evan and Daren Metropoulos, owners of Pabst Brewing Company and Olympia Beer, are offering a $1 million reward for “the safe return of Bigfoot.”

“We have been sharing the same backyard for over a century and we believe it’s time to do what has never been done,” the company announced on its website. “That is to offer a one million dollar reward to anyone who can ensure the safe capture of Bigfoot.”

According to the official rules of the contest, the winner must prove “the irrefutable existence of Bigfoot at some time during the period beginning January 1, 1989 through March 31, 2014.”

And they are serious about “irrefutable” evidence.

The rules state that acceptable proof must be in the form of DNA evidence (hair, blood, tissue or saliva) that does not have the same genetic markers and DNA sequence as any known species ever discovered. The evidence may also include ‘Visual Proof’ of a live physical body.

“We have been operating in the Northwest since 1896, so we know firsthand how important Bigfoot is to the people here,” the owners told TheDrinksBusiness.com.

The contest will run for one year, finishing at the end of March 2014. The website states the $1M reward will be payable at $25,000 per year for 40 years. Happy Hunting, folks.


via The Skeptic’s Dictionary – Skepdic.com

electromagnetic-radiation 1005Electro-sensitives are people who suffer from various physical and psychological ailments that they say are caused by electro-magnetic radiation (EMR) from ordinary household appliances, radios, televisions, cell phones, Wi-Fi, computer monitors, overhead power lines, and many other sources. The term is self-descriptive and not a medical term.

Double-blind, controlled studies have repeatedly shown that electro-sensitives can’t tell the difference between genuine and sham electro-magnetic fields (EMFs).1, 2 For example, a research team in Norway (2007) conducted tests using sixty-five pairs of sham and mobile phone radio frequency (RF) exposures. “The increase in pain or discomfort in RF sessions was 10.1 and in sham sessions 12.6 (P = 0.30). Changes in heart rate or blood pressure were not related to the type of exposure (P: 0.30–0.88). The study gave no evidence that RF fields from mobile phones cause head pain or discomfort or influence physiological variables. The most likely reason for the symptoms is a nocebo effect.”

A systematic review of 31 experiments testing 725 “electromagnetically hypersensitive” participants concluded:

The symptoms described by “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” sufferers can be severe and are sometimes disabling. However, it has proved difficult to show under blind conditions that exposure to EMF can trigger these symptoms. This suggests that “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” is unrelated to the presence of EMF, although more research into this phenomenon is required.

cell phone no_200pxTwenty-four of these studies found no evidence supporting biophysical hypersensitivity. Seven reported some supporting evidence. “For 2 of these 7, the same research groups subsequently tried and failed to replicate their findings. In 3 more, the positive results appear to be statistical artefacts. The final 2 studies gave mutually incompatible results….metaanalyses found no evidence of an improved ability to detect EMF in ‘hypersensitive’ participants.1

Some electro-sensitives believe their cancer was caused by EMR. It is very unlikely that the kinds of things that electro-sensitives fear actually cause cancer. All electromagnetic radiation comes from photons. The energy of a photon depends on its frequency. “Roughly one million photons in a power line together have the same energy as a single photon in a microwave oven, and a thousand microwave photons have the energy equal to one photon of visible light” (Lakshmikumar 2009). Ionizing radiation is known to cause health effects; “it can break the electron bonds that hold molecules like DNA together” (Trottier 2009). “The photon energy of a cell phone EMF is more than 10 million times weaker than the lowest energy ionizing radiation” (Trottier 2009). Thus, the likelihood that our cell phones, microwave ovens, computers, and other electronic devices are carcinogenic is miniscule.

Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence against the view that our electronic gadgets are causing our headaches, nausea, Alzheimer’s, or stress, there are organized movements in several countries to enlighten the world about the dangers of EMR.

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Quick Bigfoot DNA Update

by Daniel Loxton, Feb 14 2013 via Skepticblog

bigfoot-2The internet was buzzing [on February 13, 2013] with the long-anticipated1 release of a paper purporting to present DNA evidence that “conclusively proves that the Sasquatch exist as an extant hominin and are a direct maternal descendent of modern humans.”2 With DNA sourced, according to the paper, from among “One hundred eleven samples of blood, tissue, hair, and other types of specimens,” this is the most prominent Sasquatch DNA case to date.

Full expert review of the team’s data and methods should emerge in the coming days. In the meantime, science writers identified several serious red flags within hours of the paper’s release.

To begin with, it seems that the paper was roundly rejected by mainstream science journals. “We were even mocked by one reviewer in his peer review,” complained lead author Melba Ketchum.3 So how did the paper get published? Although Ketchum insists that this fact did not influence the editorial process, it seems she bought the publication.4 In fact, her paper is the only paper included in the inaugural “Special Issue” of the DeNovo Scientific Journal. Benjamin Radford notes that no libraries or universities subscribe to the newly minted DeNovo, “and the journal and its website apparently did not exist three weeks ago. There’s no indication that the study was peer-reviewed by other knowledgeable scientists to assure quality. It is not an existing, known, or respected journal in any sense of the word.”5 Invertebrate neuroethologist Zen Faulkes notes further that DeNovo lists no editor, no editorial board, no physical address—not even a phone number. “This whole thing looks completely dodgy,” he writes, “with the lack of any identifiable names being the one screaming warning to stay away from this journal. Far, far away.”6

Beyond these irregularities, there are also signs of serious problems with the paper’s data, methods, and conclusions.

MORE . . .
Also see: Bigfoot Witnessed in Texas (GhostTheory.com)

Can we at least learn something from this Mayan apocalypse mumbo jumbo?

Fresh Views From Reality

The failed Mayan apocalypse ramblings could be a positive awakening for humanity, but it won’t be. Read on for why I’m not optimistic.

Sorry but I can’t not talk about the supposed Mayan apocalypse hubbub. I just think that we can learn some lessons from this whole thing. I mean, we laughed at Harold Camping for his absurd pronouncements about the end of the world last year (twice as the math was slightly off).

For starters, the Mayans never made such a prophecy. Even if they did — so what!? The obsession with what the Mayans may or may not have said/thought seems in part to be due to the romantic (false) notion that ancient societies were in some sort of wonderful place, in harmony with nature and the cosmos.

My basic premise

Claims such as those made about a mysterious Planet X destroying the Earth or any other…

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Bigfoot totally exists, everybody!

Gravity's Wings

So apparently some “scientist”, and I use the term loosely, has sequenced some DNA that’s totally from a Sasquatch.  Take a look:

A team of scientists can verify that their 5-year long DNA study, currently under peer-review, confirms the existence of a novel hominin hybrid species, commonly called “Bigfoot” or “Sasquatch,” living in North America. Researchers’ extensive DNA sequencing suggests that the legendary Sasquatch is a human relative that arose approximately 15,000 years ago as a hybrid cross of modern Homo sapiens with an unknown primate species.  [From the press release]

Seems legit.  Although wouldn’t it be better to prove that Bigfoot exists before you start sequencing it’s DNA?

Also, how did they get the Sasquatch DNA sample in the first place?

Ketchum says her DNA sample was obtained from a blueberry bagel left in the backyard of a Michigan home that, according to the owner, sees regular visits from…

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