Thursday, January 13, 2011

This just in: a Nobel in medicine does not imply knowledge of basic physics.

Having read something about this online, I had to see for myself.  Take a look at this paper.  One of the 2008 Nobel laureates for medicine is the lead author, and he claims that simply having certain kinds of DNA in water (1) creates electromagnetic waves at very low frequencies, like 7 Hz; (2) those waves are sufficiently strong that a simple pickup coil of copper wire can be used to detect them inductively; and (3) somehow those waves continue to self-propagate in a weird way so that repeated dilution of the solution preserves the "imprint" of those waves.  Wow.  The science here is so unbelievably bad, it's hard to imagine that this is serious.  A pick-up coil?!  No serious discussion of the magnitude of the effect, and whether it's even remotely credible that detectable inductive signals could be produced?  Silly numerology demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of quantum mechanics?  Impressive.  Can we make a deal?  Medicine laureates won't make crazy, misinformed claims about physics (which then naturally get picked up by the media, who love to report "the controversy", as if there is no such thing as a right or wrong answer to a scientific question), and physics laureates won't make crazy, misinformed claims about biology.  Please?

11 comments:

MisterBee said...

Thanks for the post. I just finished reading section 3 and my mind is reeling (love the analogy with phase locked Josephson junctions though). Finally, something more worthless than homeopathy. I'm curious to know where you came across this?

MisterBee.

bob said...

The paper is badly written in addition to being highly fanciful. How could a nobel prize winning scientist be tempted to put their name on it?

Schlupp said...

MisterBee, this paper is cited in the media as supporting homeopathy, of course. Memory of water and all that.

Doug Natelson said...

MisterBee, I heard about this by reading an interview with Montagnier in Science.

DanM said...

The phrase "not even wrong" springs to mind...

But I am tickled that you used the word "please" in your post. As in, "Please stop being a moron." I'm sure the "please" will make all the difference. Giggles.

Doug Natelson said...

Dan, to paraphrase Tom Lehrer, there are some people in the world who are intolerant to the views of others, and I hate people like that.

Charles Day said...

Thanks, Doug, for the post. I had the same reaction when I read the Science interview.

For a satirical take on homeopathy, check out this hilarious clip from That Mitchell and Webb Look. (A&E means Accident and Emergency, in case you didn't know)

mike said...

Figure 2 is a screenshot from Windows! And they didn't even crop out the taskbar - you have to be kidding me! This has to be a joke.

market said...

I just finished reading section 3 and my mind is reeling . Finally, something more worthless than homeopathy.

Anonymous said...

If this isn't a joke, I can only attribute it to two things:

- Hallucinogens: Imprinting can occur under the influence of drugs such as ketamine, LSD, etc. generally at high doses. This phenomenon left John Lilly, M.D. with a lifetime belief in invisible aliens. Initially, he called the White House to warn the president about the true reason for the cold war. He worked with it over time, and by his death, it was ECCO (Earth Coincidence Control Office), which is still on his web site. (Or was. When I began citing his web site for the calling the White House account, someone removed it. But the Wayback machine has it.

- Senility: There have been multiple people who attained honor in science and went downhill toward the end. An embarrassing video lecture comes to mind in which an Oxford professor gives a lecture to a room full of students and professors. He demonstrates anti-gravity by whirling a rotating disc around while standing on a scale.


Relative to the content of the paper, it is a basket of junk worthy of The Onion. The original phenomenon is obviously just uncontrolled contamination. Having done cell culture, it's very hard to do it without getting microbial growth. Once, I did a plasmid transfection of E. coli for a construct. After expansion and antibiotic selection, what I realized I had was not what I intended. Sequencing showed that it was a plasmid for a measles vaccine last handled in that lab years before. How it survived somehow, and managed to out compete my intended construct is astonishing. Microbial contamination in cell culture? Gonna happen. A lot.

Brian said...

If this isn't a joke, I can only attribute it to two things:

- Hallucinogens: Imprinting can occur under the influence of drugs such as ketamine, LSD, etc. generally at high doses. This phenomenon left John Lilly, M.D. with a lifetime belief in invisible aliens. Initially, he called the White House to warn the president about the true reason for the cold war. He worked with it over time, and by his death, it was ECCO (Earth Coincidence Control Office), which is still on his web site. (Or was. When I began citing his web site for the calling the White House account, someone removed it. But the Wayback machine has it.

- Senility: There have been multiple people who attained honor in science and went downhill toward the end. An embarrassing video lecture comes to mind in which an Oxford professor gives a lecture to a room full of students and professors. He demonstrates anti-gravity by whirling a rotating disc around while standing on a scale.


Relative to the content of the paper, it is a basket of junk worthy of The Onion. The original phenomenon is obviously just uncontrolled contamination. Having done cell culture, it's very hard to do it without getting microbial growth. Once, I did a plasmid transfection of E. coli for a construct. After expansion and antibiotic selection, what I realized I had was not what I intended. Sequencing showed that it was a plasmid for a measles vaccine last handled in that lab years before. How it survived somehow, and managed to out compete my intended construct is astonishing. Microbial contamination in cell culture? Gonna happen. A lot.