Rife with confusion, falsehood and dangerous nonsense

WDDTY have excelled themselves again. The latest form of abject quackery to be given a boost by them is the Rife machine,  a quack device from the Golden Age of Science Fiction which makes sense only in the context of the time. WDDTY describe this as “space age”. Space cadet might be closer to the mark.

Reality-based information on Rife machines:

The Rife Machine is indeed straight out of Dan Dare or a book by L. Ron Hubbard. WDDTY’s story is written by Cate Montana, last seen pimping piss therapy. This is worse. I know that’s hard to believe.

The story is actually a rambling and only marginally coherent mish-mash of a number of mutually contradictory quack claims whose common factor is only that their proponents believed “frequencies” to be some kind of magic. These days of course nobody believes a word of that: it’s quantum that allows you to invent any old bollocks you like.

Quotes are direct form the article, edited for brevity.

This is the story of a space-age healing technology with roots 80 years in the past. Commonly known as ‘Rife technology’ because Dr Royal Raymond Rife is the most well-known scientist associated with electromagnetic healing.

Royal Rife was not a doctor or a scientist. He was an inventor and entrepreneur.  He gained a patent for high-magnification time-lapse micrography and, like advocates of live blood analysis, appears to have misidentified an artifact in his films and run off down a rabbit hole with it.

Jimmie Holman and his company Pulsed Technologies in Dallas, Texas, produce an electronic frequency generator that creates electronic signals that he claims can be precisely tuned to the specific cellular frequencies of any given bacteria, viruses and other pathogens to disrupt their ability to cause disease. These specific frequencies are known as the ‘mortal oscillatory rates’ (MORs) for that group of pathogens.

These “cellular frequencies” are at the core of not only Rife’s claims but (as we see below) those of several other quacks.

It is true that you can disrupt the structure of bacteria using electromagnetic radiation. The process is known as microwave cooking, which usually uses a frequency of 2.4GHz (domestic) or in some cases 915MHz (commercial). There’s an erroneous belief that this is the resonant frequency of water and/or fat molecules, but water’s resonant frequency is of the order of 1THz. In fact proteins often have opposite charges at their ends, and act as charged dipoles; the alternating magnetic field causes them to rapidly move from one orientation to another, and the energy expended in doing so manifests as heat.

Can you kill pathogens by applying their resonant frequency? It’s highly unlikely. For a start, pathogens tend to be made of proteins, which are really rather complex. DNA has been measured as resonating between  0.5-4.5THz – and this may mean nothing at all because pathogens are not a single protein.

In fact, the proteins that comprise pathogens are largely the same ones that comprise healthy tissue. That’s another challenge. There’s no credible evidence that the frequencies for healthy tissue have all been elucidated and removed from the devices. In fact this is another case where it’s probably just as well that the quacks can’t do what they claim.

There’s no credible evidence that these machines can selectively kill pathogens, and in fact none (that are legally saleable) are likely to be capable of penetrating the epidermis, the energies are far too low. Just as well: you know how microwave cookers work.

The machines supposedly work by sending electronic signals into the body through electrodes.[…] The only claimed side-effect is an occasional toxic reaction that arises as pathogens are ‘neutralized’ and the body works to flush the devitalized cells from tissues and organs. Does this sound far out?

The active term here is “supposedly”. And yes, it does sound far out. Because, you know, it is far out. Even the purported side-effect is pure wishful thinking.

If yes, the reason is because the medical industry and schools worldwide remain stuck in the rather basic view of the human body as a biochemical machine. But the ‘body electric’ is fact, not fiction—as are the body photonic and the body quantum.


Let’s be absolutely clear here: this is a device that dates back from a “lone genius” with zero medical training in the mid 20th Century, and yet the “medical industry” and “schools worldwide” remain “stuck in the rather basic view of the human body as a biochemical machine”.

It’s almost as if the writer has been living in a commune in the California hills for forty years and hasn’t realised just how much we have learned about the human body in that time.

This sounds more like the “electric universe” wibble than a coherent explanation of anything. The body electric? Body photonic? Body quantum? What do those even mean, aren’t they just sciencey-sounding escape hatches to evade questioning?

Here, have a quick look at this:

Fast forward to 40:00. Does that look simplistic to you? Now go forward to 52:30 and marvel. In fact, I urge you to watch all of James E. Rothman’s Nobel acceptance speech: his acknowledgment of his debt to prior work is a marvellous demonstration of the falsity of the WDDTY mantra of medical science as a field devoted to fending off the advances of quacks, and the talk overall shows how someone who really understands a topic can explain it to an educated lay audience in a way that does not resemble Chopralalia.

The “medical industry” is a contributor to a world of medical, biochemical and physiological research that intertwines clinical and academic, theoretical and practical, everything from quantum physics to classical anatomy. Rothman trained as a physicist before moving into biochemistry.

We’re intended to believe, then, that all these people, any one of whom could have scored a massive lead in a fiercely intellectually competitive world by simply pretending to have discovered this “truth” in isolation, all of them, whether funded by charities, governments, corporations or whoever, would rather deny the “truth” than accept it. That they lack the wit, the integrity or the determination to pursue something they know to be a profound truth and a route to curing the most intractable diseases.

The alternative explanation is that Rife was wrong.

Which seems more likely? Seriously?

The conspiracy theory is utterly irrational and not even remotely plausible. Hundreds of thousands – millions – of intelligent, motivated, resourceful people would, as a body corporate, have to either deny the facts or fail to spot them in their own experimentation, and conspire to keep this hidden, thus leaving the field to quacks and charlatans alternative healers.

Researchers have established that endogenous direct-current (DC) electric fields are involved in all sorts of bodily processes. In the 1960s, many researchers, most notably orthopaedist Robert O. Becker, professor at Upstate Medical Center at the State University of New York, Syracuse, and director of orthopaedic surgery at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Syracuse, experimented with using electric currents to assist the healing of bone fractures and wounds.

Robert Becker was a genuine pioneer: he made discoveries that contributed meaningfully to understanding of the effects of electrical potentials on biological systems. Unfortunately the author is sufficiently ignorant of physics and medicine that she fails to spot the difference between piezoelectricity and – well, magic.

What’s never made clear is how the disconnect between the experts cited from mainstream medical science, and the quack claims, is supposed to have arisen. If we are to believe WDDTY, the switch is flipped as soon as any part of a chain of discovery is made by someone outside the establishment – at which point the establishment immediately ceases any and all investigation and declares the field nekulturny. Science not only doesn’t work that way, it can’t work that way – there are too many actors. Every single one of the breakthroughs WDDTY champions would have to be studiously ignored by a diverse group of vast numbers of highly intelligent people with a bewildering variety of backgrounds and motivations, all because the discoverer was not “one of us”.

The only remotely close parallel I can think of is phage therapy, and even there the reason is closely tied not to conspiracy or ideology, but to the checks and balances required in modern medicine: phages are so specific that it’s really hard to run properly controlled trials. And with antimicrobial resistance, even that barrier is being chipped away.

Most recently, increasing evidence shows that electric fields guide and regulate normal developmental cell processes such as embryogenesis, while extremely low-frequency (ELF) oscillations play a role in the synchronization of neurons in the brain, circadian rhythms and biochemical (stress) reactions.

Sounds sciencey! Did you see the bit where she showed how this is relevant to Rife machines?

No, neither did I.

The body’s innate energy fields (‘biofield’) may even be involved in self-healing. “You’ve got to understand that all chemical reactions are also electrical,” says Dr Steve Haltiwanger, an independent researcher and former practitioner of orthomolecular neurology and environmental medicine […]. Cells in the body are basically crystal radio sets . . . cell membranes possess electrical potential and transport energy . . . you have proteins which are semiconductors. The body is electronic in nature down to the smallest level—like a series of nested energy fields.”

Wait, “innate energy fields”?

Energy is measured in Joules. Fields are quantifiable, they obey certain laws, their flux is measurable and their effect can be predicted mathematically.

Haltiwanger is not a physicist, not a scientist at all actually, he is a psychiatrist – and a Rife quack. “Orthomolecular” is vitamin quackery, “environmental medicine” is also quackery. The term “independent researcher” almost always means crank. It is semantically equivalent to “lay activist”.

Cells are not radio sets. Rothman’s lecture shows the extremely complex mechanism by which cells transmit charge. There is no parallel between cell membrane potential transport and the operation of a crystal set, which requires, apart from anything else, crystals, very simple structures that have coherent modes of vibration, making them useful for things like elementary radios.

Proteins are not really semiconductors. Semiconductors are essentially crystalline, the physics of semiconductor behaviour would break down in an amorphous solid or in a complex chain like a protein.

That paragraph makes as much sense as an explanation of “quantum” by Deepak Chopra.

All the words make sense, just not in that order.

Many researchers, notably the late German physicist Fritz-Albert Popp, have demonstrated that all living things, including us humans, emit tiny currents of light […] believed to be central to intercellular communication.

You can’t have a “current of light”, photons are essentially uncharged. You can have a biophoton, a very low magnitude form of bioluminescence, but it doesn’t do much.

And no, they are not essential to intercellular communication, as Rotheman’s Nobel talk shows. V.P. Kaznacheyev thought they were, but failed to persuade the rest of the scientific community, and subsequent work has added a great deal to our understanding.

When Ms. Montana says they “are believed”, she engages in a classic crank gambit of failing to qualify who believes it. The answer, of course, is that it is believed by those who have a vested interest in believing it, and pretty much nobody else. These are things which, if true, would show up in numerous other lines of research. But they don’t.

Haltiwanger frequently lectures on the complex properties of the cell communication that takes place through light and quantum processes.

I bet his lectures would be hilarious to anyone who actually understood the field. They can “resonantly absorb energy as well as information”, eh? Well I never. And I bet their neutrinos have mutated as well.

So, not only are electronic signals capable of affecting and disabling pathogens, says Haltiwanger, but there are also very specific frequencies that can help the body to heal by strengthening cell membrane conductivity and overall cellular function. Which is how Jimmie Holman (co-founder of Pulsed Technologies) got into the picture.

It is probably just as well that these quack devices can’t strengthen cell membranes, or the delicate mechanisms that transport nutrients around the body would stop working.

Making a better TENS

The second of two car accidents in the early 1990s—both caused by uninsured drunk drivers—had brought Holman’s 25-year freelance electronics research career to an abrupt close. A year of almost daily conventional physical therapy had failed to reduce the excruciating pain and debilitation. He couldn’t sleep except in a straight-backed chair or on the floor. He couldn’t walk without a cane—and this, he was reassuringly told by his doctor, “was as good as it would ever get”.

Nothing is more compelling than an N=1 study told by someone profiting from a quack device.

I say nothing, but obviously the average school student’s excuses for not handing in homework are substantially more plausible…

Even though transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy—which uses low-voltage electrical currents from electrodes placed near the injury sites—did give temporary pain relief, by the time he got home from the doctor’s office, the pain was usually so bad he had to resort to medication.

Well, yes, that’s about right: TENS is short term and low strength, so medication is what you need for long term relief.

[I]ntrigued by the short-term effectiveness of the TENS device and asked his doctor how it worked. The doctor had no idea.

Really? The clue is in the name: transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. An electrical current is used to block pain signals to the spinal cord. OK, a simplistic explanation, but no doctor could fail to have any idea of how it works. That’s an approximation : last time I looked it was not clear precisely how it works, or even how much of its effect is real versus placebo.

At that point, desperate for relief and disenchanted with conventional medicine’s approach, Holman started looking for alternative ways to not just endure his situation, but actually to heal. Seeking out a local chiropractor was his first step.

Ah yes, chiropractic. The bastard child of massage and mesmerism. So here we have the classic Damascene conversion of the quackery cultist.

Like his doctor, she also used a TENS device as well as other therapies and, one day, Holman asked her the same question. “She had no hesitation answering,” he said. “The TENS created [electronic] ‘noise’ that interferes with pain signals being sent to the brain. It doesn’t do anything to heal. It just effectively masks the pain.”

A first: medically sound advice from a chiro. Irrelevant to the bogus claims to kill pathogens, of course…

Because of his background in government surveillance systems using exotic signals and supercomputers for domestic and foreign governments, figuring out the technicalities of the TENS device was child’s play. Within a couple of days, Holman had duplicated the device from equipment lying around the house. He also made some improvements, including a programme that ran through a wide range of high-frequency signals.

Electronics 101, then. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that nobody else with a background in electronics has done the same thing? It is, after all, child’s play. He just invented the frequency generator, basically, and most electronics labs have one of those.

After a few days of using his souped-up TENS, he noticed a difference. Not only was he enjoying significant pain relief, but he could tell something else was happening. His body was actually starting to heal.

And how did he know his body was starting to “heal”? Because he believed he had improved the TENS device, in a way that the people who actually devised the TENS device (and have massively much more relevant experience) apparently couldn’t. The thing about neurological pain is that there is very often no directly observable physiology, so it’s hard to say when something is really better rather than the patient merely feeling better; it’s also well established that even the illusion of control can reduce the symptoms of chronic pain.

Two things are infinite: the universe, and the human capacity foe self-delusion.

This was the beginning of what for Holman has been a 20-year sojourn into the realm of energy healing and a new technology with potentials so vast that he likens it to space exploration.

It’s like space exploration only without the involvement of multi-disciplinary scientific teams, and the occasional real-world test of whether your rocket actually flies or not.

So, not like space exploration at all.

A difficult path

Growing evidence suggests that Holman’s and Haltiwanger’s devices have a solid basis in science. Published research reveals that biological cells have electrical properties, certain biomolecules acting like superconductors may be involved in nerve growth, and “biological systems in general exhibit non-local, global properties which are consistent with their ability to function at the quantum level.”

This is only true if you believe that dumpster-diving through the literature looking for superficially supportive statements is the same thing as testing your hypothesis.

The “growing evidence” line is a repeated feature of Montana’s writing and also seems common in WDDTY more generally. What it means is simply that the quacks have not given up trying to prove their beliefs. There’s “growing evidence” for homeopathy, all of it worthless, all of it soundly contradicted by much more robust science. Volume of evidence is not the same thing as weight of evidence.

There are even studies revealing that “short, sharp, magnetic-field pulses of a minimal amplitude” as treatment “are fasting-acting, economical and in many instances have obviated surgery” (italics ours). There is also a mountain of testimonials from patients and practitioners (see boxes, pages 55 and 56). Nevertheless, there continues to be resistance within the research community against investigating the potential implications these discoveries suggest and tremendous reluctance within the medical community to investigate electromagnetic (EM) healing.

The boxes and the article generally list a number of sources. Some are mainstream, but don’t support the Rife thesis. Others are supportive of the Rife thesis but are published in journals like Frontier Perspectives and Explore, with a long history of publishing abject nonsense.

The resistance among the research community is easy to explain: there is no remotely plausible reason to think these devices should work, such objective tests as have been conducted show them not to work, and the fact of something being widely believed by the coherently-challenged has never scored highly among the review criteria used by ethics committees. In order to test a device on human subjects there has to be a good reason to think it will work, and here, there is none.

And this really is the heart of the problem: the various frequency generators being promoted here, have no plausible mechanism. The fields they generate are too weak to have the effects they claim, the effects they claim are in any case entirely speculative, and the explanations of how they purportedly work are incoherent.

‘Black-box’ technology fares even worse than most complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies in the eyes of conventional medicine. The suppression of electrical engineer Antoine Priore’s EM therapy machine, funded by the French government and developed during the 1960s and early 1970s, is probably among the more recent and telling examples.

Prioré’s machine wasn’t suppressed, it was exposed. He did have the advantage of using fields strong enough to have a plausible effect, but it turned out that his research methods were dubious and his results were not independently replicated.

The fact that Prioré was funded by the French government is actually a point against the conspiracy theories. He was given every opportunity to prove his case – and failed.

After demonstrating “conclusive, total remissions of terminal tumours and infectious diseases in hundreds of laboratory animals” by using a mix of multiple EM signals, Priore’s work was suppressed because of threats from the conventional oncology community, a change in France’s government and, as described by nuclear engineer Thomas Bearden, a proponent of energy medicine, a “complete inability of the physicists and biological scientists to even hypothesize a mechanism for the curative results”.

That might be how  a proponent of “energy medicine” describes it, but that doesn’t make it true. Why is it that WDDTY’s habitual appeal to vested interest is never applied to those who have a vested interest in the quackery they peddle? Answers on a postcard, please…

In science, “inability of the physicists and biological scientists to even hypothesize a mechanism” is really quite a strong point against you. In science, it is perfectly legitimate to ask “oh yes, how does that work then?” and to refuse to take the person seriously until they have at least a marginally plausible answer.

You have a thing, you insist it works, your research methods are dodgy, and you can’t come up with a plausible mechanism. Only in the world of quackery does a failure to license this device constitute “suppression”. In science, the onus is always on the proponent to prove their case to a legitimately sceptical audience. That is how science works. That’s why quantum theory has become dominant in particle physics: despite its weirdness and implausibility, it fits the observed facts far better than any other explanation, it has persuaded the sceptical.

Aside from scepticism, a major lack of funding and the threat this technology represents to the pharmaceutical industry, there is another reason the technology hasn’t caught on. Some CAM enthusiasts with little or no electronic background jumped on the bandwagon and started marketing equipment that, while based on Rife’s work, produces low-frequency audio-range signals as low as 15,000 Hz—despite the fact that the vast majority of pathogens function at frequencies over 300,000 Hz, says Holman.

This is purest conspiracist claptrap. There is no conflict between medical devices and drugs, many companies make both or have cross-holdings, but even if there were, there are so many medical scientists around the world who are independent of the pharmaceutical industry that suppression would be impossible.

We’re expected to believe that when the pharmaceutical industry says not to tough that thing which, it it worked, would cure cancer and make your reputation and probably an untold fortune, that all doctors, scientists, government regulators and the like, meekly obey.

How likely is that, really?

Now to the question of the “frequencies” at which pathogens “function”. Says who? According to what objective measurements? How and why? Who independently verifies the findings? Where’s the proof these are distinct from the frequencies that apply to healthy tissue? Where are the figures?

Oh, wait, no, I see now: these are POOMA numbers. And that’s why it’s a really good thing that these devices don’t do what the quacks claim, because they have no idea at all what they would do to healthy tissue.

The most popular argument for why these low-frequency devices can still be effective is that they make square waves—frequencies that jump from one fixed value to another, spending equal time at each, so producing a wave pattern like a Norman castle’s crenellations—which automatically create harmonics with frequencies that can reach many hundreds, even thousands, of times higher than the original base frequency.

Popular with whom? Quacks? The most plausible explanation is that all the devices, whatever the frequency, whatever the waveform, are equally bogus.

But we can check that by reference tot he objective tests used when the curative claims were submitted to licensing authorities, as every medical device must be.

What? Oh.

It turns out that most of these boxes are either unlicensed or licensed as TENS machines, and any curative claims are made either illegally or using astroturfing so that regulators can’t pin them on the device maker.

This is actually pretty remarkable, because if you could objectively prove some of the curative claims they make, then you could get licensed for those indications, and you would become very very rich.

I know this is much harder than making a TENS machine and then claiming that Big Pharma are suppressing a cure, while quietly selling the device with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink based on the hyperbolic claims of websites and delusional books. It is, however, the only ethically defensible route to market, as well as being the only legal one.

And remember, as the article notes, that the Fourier series shows exponentially decreasing magnitude for these harmonics.

That’s where the energy medicine quacks generally fall down: they talk about frequency, but rarely about amplitude, still less attenuation. One of these devices will work on a pathogen in your body about as well as a DAB radio will work at the bottom of a mineshaft, because the signal will be absorbed by all the water, fat and proteins between the surface of the skin and the actual pathological problem..

There is also a tremendous lack of frequency accuracy, but there’s no way for the consumer to know this unless he hooks his device up to an oscilloscope, a lab instrument used to analyze the waveform of electronic signals. In addition, few marketed devices are able to fine-tune the signal enough to hone in on the specific MORs of pathogens—which can and do frequently alter their internal frequencies in an attempt to “dodge the bullet”, says Holman—just as bacteria become resistant to antibiotics.

That’s really funny. The idea of pathogens evolving resistance to quack devices! The thing is, while a bacterium can evolve resistance to an antimicrobial, physical properties such as resonant frequency are inherent. You can’t change them without changing the physical or chemical structure of the organism.

What he’s selling, then, is the New! Improved! quack device. A quack device that does its quackery more accurately than any previous quack device.

Holman claims his company Pulsed Technologies, which he co-founded with software developer Paul Dorneanu, and now has labs in Texas and in Romania, builds equipment that can generate pure signals reaching up to a million hertz, with over 980,000 pulses per second, and alter the shape of the waves produced by fine-tuning individual frequencies down to thousandths of a decimal point (see www.pulsedtech.com).

I hope the elctrosmog folks and the energy medicine folks never turn up to the same pub on the same night, there would be a hell of a set-to.

I’m almost in awe of this guy. He has put a prodigious amount of work into doing something entirely worthless, very accurately indeed.

The human body has an astonishing ability to recover from disease when given a chance, and normal healthy cells typically run at around 85–100 microvolts—which, for a single cell, is an enormous amount of voltage. But because of our modern toxin-laden stress-filled lifestyles, most people’s cells lack sufficient energy. When we’re unhealthy, our cell membranes may be as low as 50 microvolts, says Haltiwanger. (A cancer cell carries a charge of about eight to 15 microvolts, he says.)

This is almost entirely meaningless. The Volt is a unit of potential difference – a cell can’t have a “charge” of anything in Volts, charge is measured in Coulombs, dimensionally these are Ampere-seconds. Cells would have to have a potential of microvolts with respect to something else. The language sounds like batteries, with which readers will be familiar, but there is no meaningful sense in which you can say that normal cells “run at” any voltage.

As Haltiwanger says, you can get a potential difference across a cell membrane, due to the ion concentration gradient. This is a result of the behaviour of the cell wall itself, and artificially increasing the potential would result in only a short term effect before equilibrium was restored. However:

according to these bioelectricity pioneers, applying the correctly tuned waveforms can allow cells to reenergize and revitalize. The technology also helps in the delivery of supplements and medicines at the cellular level.

Well, that’s pure technobabble.

Another application with enormous potential is molecular emulation, or copying, especially of the signaling molecules that assist cells in repairing tissues and protecting chromosomes from the deterioration believed to contribute to ageing.

Hence the interest of the “Life extension”charlatans.

The nick of time?

If the practitioners making use of this technology are to be believed, the possibilities with the use of EM signaling are endless for health and healing.

Indeed. What a shame that they are not to be believed.

Given the recent rise of resistant superbugs, resulting from the overprescription of antibiotics and the overabundance of antibiotics in our foods, it would seem this technology has finally arrived on the medical horizon none too soon.

It’s been around since the 50s. It was quackery then, it is quackery now, it will always be quackery.

[anecdotes of reality-based docs describing antimicrobial resistance]

And now we come to the point where a real health or science journalist’s spidey-sense would be twitching like crazy.

For most people, this news must border on the terrifying. Yet, for scientists like Haltiwanger, Holman, Payne and dozens of others in the EM healing field, there is also a definite upside. The current poor batting average of conventional medicine and the proliferation of doctor-caused illness and death are prompting many to take their health into their own hands.

Yup. What they see is a market. A big market. A market made of desperate people who will pay anything for a cure that medical science can’t deliver. By the time they find out the energy medicine cranks can’t deliver either, it will be too late.

And remember, this is really about the US. In the US, if you get cancer you’re likely to die broke. Is it any wonder that quacks resent the doctors’ monopoly on raiding the retirement funds of terminal patients? Of course they want a piece of the action! They always have wanted it, they always will.

All Holman needs now is for some independent laboratories to test and confirm what many practitioners are claiming for his Rife-inspired machines

Yes, all he needs is what we in the reality-based community call “credible evidence”. If you’re selling something that only works when you test it, not when others do, you are a quack.

[The balance of the article is more testimony from the faithful, and an uncritical history of the life of Royal Rife]

Cate Montana is an author, editor and freelance writer specializing in health and science

Cate Montana is a credulous shill for quacks, frauds and charlatans, specialising in sciencey-sounding bullshit which she clearly does not understand.

Holman and Haltiwanger have a business selling these fraudulent devices. Follow the money.

2 thoughts on “Rife with confusion, falsehood and dangerous nonsense”

  1. Your snide commentary makes it impossible to read or take anything you say seriously- no matter how much “data’ you have to support your claims.
    It’s liking listening to Fox News. I guess it sells though…

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