Are certain, specific sonic frequencies the key to love, intuition, and spiritual order? Do the sounds we hear have a real physiological effect?
First, 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]
Now, 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.
Yet 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  and the secret was lost. Or hidden on purpose, depending on who you read. Some even blame the change, darkly, on a Nazi plot.
by 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.
I 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.”
But 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?
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. My 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.
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 . . .
Also See: How Jack the Ripper Worked (howstuffworks)
Here 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 . . .
There is a small, elite group of skeptics who know their Bigfootery. That’s right, the Bigfoot skeptics.
Scoff 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).
Ketchum’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.
- The Bigfoot Files and Melba’s big idea (doubtfulnews.com)
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.
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.
This 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.
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 . . .
- Humans do NOT come from Earth – and sunburn, bad backs and pain during labor prove it, expert claims (illuminutti.com)
- Humans do NOT come from Earth – and sunburn, bad backs and pain during labour prove it, expert claims (sott.net)
- Humans Are NOT From Earth – Dr Claims Our Bodies Are Evidence (humansarefree.com)
- Humans Came From Another Planet, New Book Claims (disinfo.com)
As 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.
- 10 Counter conspiracy theories (illuminutti.com)
- David Icke’s Secrets: How to Spot the Reptilians Running the U.S. Government (disinfo.com)
- How To Spot The Reptilians Running The U.S. Government (theatlanticwire.com)
- Evil Reptilian Aliens Have Clone Forms (planet.infowars.com)
- Some Quick Bits on Malevolent ET’s (planet.infowars.com)
The artificial sweetener aspartame is falsely accused of being the cause of nearly every disease
Read podcast transcript below or Listen here
As 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?
THE FDA, THE INTERNATIONAL FOOD INFORMATION COUNCIL (IFIC), PUBLIC VOICE AND OTHERS ARE SCAM NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS AND PAWNS OF THE NUTRA-SWEET COMPANY.
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.
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 . . .
- Diet – sugar free – is a killer term (drelainemcnally.wordpress.com)
- The Truth about Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi (theislandjournal.wordpress.com)
- Coca-Cola’s New Ad Campaign Is Hazardous to Your Health (readersupportednews.org)
- Aspartame is GMO Poop (southweb.org)
- Why Coca-Cola’s New Ad Campaign May Be Dangerous to Your Health (alternet.org)
Humans interbred with an unknown hominin in Europe, then crossed the Bering Sea — say what?
When 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.
As 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.
- How the attempt to sequence “Bigfoot’s genome” went badly off track (arstechnica.com)
- Bigfoot DNA results are textbook example of being blinded by belief (doubtfulnews.com)
- What DNA Sequencing Really Found Out About ‘Bigfoot’s’ Identity (theblaze.com)
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 . . .