Why I am Nominating Luc Montagnier for an IgNobel Prize

montagnier Luc Montagnier is an interesting and strange character. Last year he was a shared winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine. A remarkable achievement. However, his latest research can only really be described as quite bizarre and some of his statements, are desperately and deadly worrying. So much so, that I think Montagnier ought to be the first recipient of both a Nobel and IgNobel prize. Let me explain.

In the past few weeks we have seen the announcements for the winners of the 2009 Nobel Prizes for Science. They are the highest accolade achievable by a scientist and are given to honour outstanding contributions to their field. Last year, French scientist Luc Montagnier shared the award for medicine for his part in the discovery of the HIV virus – something that has undoubtedly resulted in many lives being saved.

A few days before, we also saw announcements for the winners of the 2009 IgNobel Prizes. Lesser known, these prizes honour research that ‘cannot or should not be replicated’. The idea of the prizes is to ‘make people laugh and then make people think’. Previous winners have included decidedly odd but sensible papers on the side effects of sword swallowing and the the word "the" — and of the many ways it causes problems for anyone who tries to put things into alphabetical order, to the completely batty papers, such as for the ‘discovery’ that “not only does water have memory, but that the information can be transmitted over telephone lines and the Internet”, from homeopathic researcher Jacques Benveniste.

In January of this year, Montagnier published quite a remarkable paper entitled, “Electromagnetic Signals Are Produced by Aqueous Nanostructures Derived from Bacterial DNA Sequences” in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Sciences: Computational Life Sciences. The headline makes a bold claim: that diluted DNA from pathogenic bacterial and viral species is able to emit specific radio waves. Furthermore, there are claims that these radio waves might be associated with ‘nanostructures’ in the solution that might be able to recreate the pathogen. These radio waves do not appear to be emitted by ‘probiotic “good” bacteria’. After diluting solutions to the point to where no DNA could remain, it is claimed these ‘nanostructures’ somehow emit radio waves and recreate the pathogens. Luc Montagnier makes startling claims that,

In patients infected with HIV, EMS can be detected mostly in patients treated by antiretroviral therapy and having a very low viral load in their plasma. Such nanostructures persisting in the plasma may contribute to the viral reservoir which escapes the antiviral treatment, assuming that they carry genetic information of the virus.

The claims in the paper are simply unbelievable: that by serially diluting and agitating solutions of infectious agents, ‘nano’ structures can be set up in water that can emit specific radio frequencies and that even after filtration that should remove all traces of biological molecules, the pathogens can be cultured and detected, somehow by recreation.

At least, I think that is what is being claimed. The paper, it is fair to comment, lacks any rigour. It is a sequence of ad hoc assertions, hypotheses and post hoc rationalisations. Important experimental steps are described dismissively in a sentence and little attempt is made to describe the detail of the work.

There are many problems with the paper, not least that it is pretty much self-published in a journal without rigorous peer-review (it took two days from ‘receipt’ of the paper to publishing) and the journal was set up and edited by Montagnier himself.

I am not sure where to begin. But let me start with one massive problem that should have resulted in the paper ending up in the compost bin of science. It appears to fly in the face of one the greatest traditions of post-enlightenment thinking in that it seeks to reintroduce an anthropocentric view of the universe. The great early strides in scientific thought removed human beings from their special place in the universe. Primitive views placed us at the centre of creation with all things placed around us for our care. We were special. Gradually, we learned that the Earth was not the centre of the universe, and neither even was the Sun. We learned that we were not separate from creation, but part of a continuum of biological existence that joined all living things together. Our minds did not make us different from the rocks as we could see that biological processes differed merely in complexity and scale from the more mundane chemical and physical processes around us.

So, Montagnier is proposing that these electromagnetic signals are only given off by pathogenic organisms. This assertion cries out the question – pathogenic to whom? Are we to believe that these DNA signals are only given off by infectious agents to humans? That would be a most staggering claim. What about infectious agents for other species? Do they not get handy radio signals too? And what if a particular human has specific immunity to a virus? Does the DNA sequence somehow know that it much switch off its broadcasts?

Bonkers.

This is to leave aside how DNA could actually transmit radio waves. The generation of such a signal would require an oscillating current at the right frequency. How this could be achieved by a sequence of DNA is unanswered – probably because it is physically absurd.

The experimental apparatus itself looks decidedly amateurish with a the central detection mechanism appearing to be a coil of wire plugged into the soundcard of a PC via a device claimed to be invented by another infamous Frenchman, J Benveniste (previous IgNobel winner). Few details are given about this device.

It would appear, at first glance, to be a device designed to pick up background radio emissions. Indeed, the signals appears to be strong around the frequencies emitted by mains equipment and the paper does indeed mention that these signals disappear when attempts are removed to reduce background noise (such as by switching off other equipment). However, rather than conclude that the device is merely picking up noise, the paper asserts that the background noise is required to induce ‘resonance phenomena’. Your chin should be beginning to itch here. It does indeed look as if the experimental result are the result of digging around in the noise and finding signals at the limit of detection – a classical hallmark of pathological science where an unblinded researcher keeps probing noise until they convince themselves they are seeing signals. (see N-rays for a parallel, ‘discovered’ by yet another Frenchman, the physicist René-Prosper Blondlot.)

The paper takes even stranger twists when we look at the background to the paper. The Telegraph reported that Montagnier was in a legal battle with inventor Bruno Robert over the rights to the device that can detect the fantastical radio waves. Both Montagnier and Robert submitted patent applications for the same device:

device The Telegraph makes no mention that the device is clearly crackpot. It is worth reading the patent examiner’s scathing assessment of the application, who concludes,

The invention is based on phenomena which contradict the fundamental principle of physics and of chemistry, i.e. the existence of biological or effect without an active molecule and no explanation or theoretical basis makes it impossible at the current time to explain the results obtained.

The story takes another breathtaking turn when it is realised that the device pictured above is identical to the one used by Jacques Benveniste to ‘digitise’ homeopathic signals and send them by email. IgNobel prize winning stuff. This research was replicated using the same device at the request of the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and no signal was detected.

It would appear that neither Montagnier or Robert were the inventor, but instead, the late, great, discredited Benveniste – homeopathic apologist and experimenter into nonsense. So, the French appear to fighting over the legacy of their greatest pseudo-scientist. Montagnier is clearly dabbling in the black arts of homeopathy and the homeopaths are crowing about it. My old friend Dana Ullman, whose academic thoroughness I took apart when he declared homeopathy had saved Charles Darwin, is jumping for joy over Montagnier’s research. He is not the most self critical thinker around. Harriet Hall demolishes his claims.

So, no doubt Montagnier deserves an IgNobel prize. His research makes us laugh. His apparatus has already earned the prize when the prize is clearly for research that ‘should not be repeated’. The IgNobel committee need to ram the message home.

But the award should be also for research that then makes is think. And what I see makes me think that Montagnier could lead to seriously bad consequences.

Not content with merely trying to perpetuate the discarded nonsense of previous homeopathic quacks, he appears to picks up the ideology of the homeopathic mindset. Montagnier appears in the AIDS denialist film House of Numbers saying that HIV can be ‘cleared naturally’ by nutritional means. All it requires is to have a ‘good immune system’. I see no evidence to support such claims. Now, many scientists were misrepresented in this disingenuous film, but it looks hard to see how Montagnier was. These views are not without terrible potential consequences. Such views lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people who are dependent on governments to provide a decent level of care for people with HIV.

Montagnier’s status as a Nobel Prize winner lends a level of credence to these views that they do not deserve. His authority will be used by those who wish to exploit the vulnerable with quack cures. This is life and death stuff. Nobel prizes are the greatest scientific honour, but they also create false authorities and science, unique in human endeavours, does not need authorities. It runs on evidence, reason and critical thinking. And that is dangerously missing from Montagnier’s work.

Nobel Prize winners often feel a sense that they are freed to dream thoughts that others cannot. That is, on balance, a good thing. Science can make huge strides when people are able to think the unthinkable. But all Nobel unthinkable thoughts need not be true. In fact, very few will be. We need to be on our guard against those that exploit the false authority of the Nobel Laureate and examine all scientific claims with equal dispassion.

93 comments for “Why I am Nominating Luc Montagnier for an IgNobel Prize

  1. Dr Aust
    October 20, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Of course, if you were really trying to pick up very weak electromagnetic signals you would presumably have to shield the equipment very thoroughly from RF and other electrical interference – so by analogy with, say, electrophysiology you would expect a large Faraday cage over the whole kaboodle, earthing all metal bits to a common point and thence to the amplifier etc etc.

    • Dr Guest
      July 11, 2010 at 8:33 am

      Do you perhaps think that it may seem illogical in this day and age and it may seem quackery but back in the day when there were pioneers who could not prove a lot or were trying to prove things that everyone else refused to believe.

      Many top scientists that we believe today and were EVENTUALLY proved to be correct were outcast by their peers in their time.

      Er, once upon a time we believed the world to be flat. You can say perhaps this guy also thinks the worl is flat but is it so hard to believe that some things are not yet explained and that oerhaps he should be left alone to do further research to completely prove his theory. No theory should be disproven so early in case something good comes of it.

      Think of this, everything is made up of atoms and there is quantum theory. Is it so far off?

      How do you explain the existence of all of us and wher we came from how is it all possible? When you were conceived where didyou come from and where do you go after this?

      Man only just set foot on the moon in 1969! For crying out loud that was not that long ago. Kids were playing pac man and pong a few decades ago. The internet did not exist pre 1950.

      If his theory were to be proved correct and you were just like one of the peers of one of the many pioneering scientists would you be willing to swallow your pride?

      So many advances have been made in many medical fields. If you think him to be a ‘quack’ then let him be to continue his research and if he can prove it you will be patting him on the back. Have an open mind.

      Don’t forget there are a million unexplained mysteries. Stop shaking your head and start solving one rather than criticising the guy.

      • Andy
        July 11, 2010 at 9:09 am

        Dear Dr Guest

        I am afraid that giving up critcism is not an option. It is only by applying critical appraisal to ideas can we find out which are the good ideas and which ones are wrong.

        It is true that many good ideas were initially shunned by other scientists. It is also true that many bad ideas were also shunned. Being shunned is not a predictor of being right.

        So, the only way to tell if Montagnier is correct is to carefully examine the claims – by being thoughtful and critical. And it does not look good for him.

        You appear not to want to take part in that critique. In my experience, that leaves you open to believing what you wish to be true rather than what is actually true.

        If Montagnier and others can start producing strong evidence to back up what he says, I will embrace it wholeheartedly. Until then. I will keep my guards up against error.

  2. seborgarsen
    October 20, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Wow. I don't know what to say. I am waiting for the always amusing and always delusional Dana to slip in here, half drunk, with his usual gibberish.

    But he is also the scrupulous Dana, him and Mess. Montagnier. No doubt these fellows know what is what. They just don't care. And, I am sure, are not to be led off their path. That's just how greed and ambition work when they go hand in hand.

    They should be ashamed of themselves. But since they won't admit their failures (I know Dana has been told over and over again why his "beliefs" are simply idiotic nonsense. Nobody can be so incredibly dim witted), I am glad that there are scores of skeptics keeping an eye out. Let's not forget that these people are ultimately highly dangerous in reverse proportion to the diluted snake oil they so eagerly peddle.

    Thanks for a great post, twittered, facebooked, Google Readered and spread throughout.

  3. Tom
    October 20, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    My interpretation of Montagnier's comments in House of Numbers was that simple exposure to HIV doesn't guarantee infection – the virus can be prevented from taking hold. As far as I know, this is true (of HIV and most other viruses), and indeed the basis of PEP. I don't think he was suggesting that someone who had seroconverted could shake it off if they had a bit of vitamin C.

  4. Dr Aust
    October 20, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    When I read the paper a couple of weeks back the things that most struck me was that the journal was brand new, and the Montagnier paper – which appear in the first or possibly second issue – had been "referee-d", as you noted, in a day or two (which almost certainly means not referee-d at all). Harriet Hall has also done a post on the paper at the Science Based Medicine blog (no link as the site seems to be down) and notes inter alia the, er, suspiciously short review period. There are other pointers to this not being a journal to be taken terribly seriously which Hall discusses.

    A classic problem with new scientific journals is how to fill your first few issues. The usual solution to this in scientific publishing is:

    "The Editors and Their Mates Scrape Their Various Barrels".

    This plus the turnaround time suggest "Vanity paper" – which is precisely what the paper itself screams.

  5. Le Canard Noir
    October 20, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Tom

    Look at the video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLabpKFfDNI

    I am not so sure his views are just about preventing the virus taking hold.

  6. seborgarsen
    October 20, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Oh, hang on!

    I know what they are really trying to do!

    They are taking this concept

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJYho56INKU

    a step further and make it a distant-over-the-interwebs healing device! Whoohooo!

  7. Le Canard Noir
    October 20, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    Just a footnote to say one of the problems here is that there does not appear to be a prominent French sceptical movement. Am I wrong? Is there a Paris version of les sceptiques au Le Pub?

  8. Le Canard Noir
    October 20, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    I hope that is zetetic as in 'by enquiry' and not zetectic as in 'flat earther'.

  9. seborgarsen
    October 20, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    I had forgotten about them, damn you :-)

  10. Chris Noble
    October 21, 2009 at 12:03 am

    The youtube video from House of Numbers is obviously not the complete interview. It's difficult to tell whether the individual questions are in the same sequence and without context being cut out. The editing definately attempts to give the impression that Montagnier believes that good nutrition can clear the virus in a few weeks. I strongly doubt this is what he meant. What he did mean is anybodies guess.

    Just remember, if you get an email from Luc Montagnier, don't click on the attachment! Warning this attachment may contain electromagnetic signals of HIV!

  11. Le Canard Noir
    October 21, 2009 at 12:05 am

    I hope you are right, Chris.

  12. apgaylard
    October 21, 2009 at 6:38 am

    Great critique. But isn't it showing anthropocentric rather than anthropomorphic reasoning?

  13. Le Canard Noir
    October 21, 2009 at 7:53 am

    Yes – slip! – changed.

  14. Peter in Dundee
    October 21, 2009 at 8:07 am

    As someone with more than a passing familiarity with Faraday cages, shielded rooms and the tendency of very fine tips with mega-ohm resistances to act as radio antennas I agree with Dr Aust that that setup is guaranteed to detect radio waves, from thin air.

    Breathe deeply folks and you shall be healed!

  15. Mojo
    October 21, 2009 at 9:33 am

    This also got waved around on the talk page of Wikipedia's homoeopathy article a few weeks back.

  16. Orac
    October 21, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    It's the Nobel disease. Other victims:

    Linus Pauling
    Louis J. Ignarro
    Nikolaas Tinbergen

  17. Warhelmet
    October 21, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    It's Radionics. No two ways about it. And I'm surprised that no-one has served that up as a critique. Radionics has been tested time and time again and has been shown to be useless in diagnosis and treatment. I can really see that Montagnier's "experiment" is any different to certain Radionics that have gone before.

    I find it a bit odd that the homeopaths are excited but the Radionics bods aren't shouting.

  18. apgaylard
    October 21, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    @Orac. And there's also Brian Josephson …

  19. Paul Claessen
    October 21, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Interesting post, but jeepers: how hard is it to read your post back (out loud for best result) and fix all those silly typos and incomplete sentences, before posting it for a large audience?
    Sloppy language like this really detracts from the point you're trying to make.
    Speaking of 'lacking any rigour'!

  20. Anonymous
    October 22, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    i agree the the HON comments dont say anything besides that exposure does not equal infection. the editing and then the qackish interpretations seem to make it say something else. doesn seeem that montagnier cas commented on it anywhere?

  21. Beatis
    October 22, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    "…Just a footnote to say one of the problems here is that there does not appear to be a prominent French sceptical movement. Am I wrong? Is there a Paris version of les sceptiques au Le Pub?…"

    http://www.pseudo-sciences.org/

  22. Peter in Dundee
    October 22, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    @Orac

    How about we add Roger Penrose for 'quantum' consciousness?

  23. Dr Aust
    October 23, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Warhelmet:

    I was going to suggest we christen this "Nobel Quantum Radionics", but I'm worried that the next thing I will see is the phrase on a website selling something.

  24. John Arthur
    October 23, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Actually if the diagram of the way the apparatus is set up is correct then the PC sound card should get absolutely nothing at all. The detector coil is plugged into the OUTPUT of the amplifier and the PC into the INPUT. Amplifers are unidirectional beasts and it is connected the wrong way round. Is that also true of the original Beneveniste apparatus?

  25. Mojo
    October 23, 2009 at 9:37 am

    There's also the Nobel laureate who Lionel Milgrom "continually run[s his] ideas passed", although it is possible that it is one of the ones already mentioned, I suppose.

  26. Ulrich
    October 24, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    To add to the new journal's credentials, the very first paper it published (after a hard peer-review process of three days), says in the Abstract:

    It is well known that equilibrium in a thermodynamic system results from a competition or balance between lowering the energy and increasing the entropy [...]. This is remarkably similar to the Taoist concept of yin, a downward influence, and yang, an upward influence, where harmony is established by balancing yin and yang.
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/t3136g4024583118/fulltext.pdf

    To me this sounds like wooooooo…

  27. PalMD
    November 13, 2009 at 3:01 am

    Ullman and folks like him are religious fanatics whose overheated rhetoric eventually becomes dangerous.

  28. Pareidolius
    November 15, 2009 at 6:49 am

    And let's not forget HIV denialist (and alien abductee) Kerry Mullis, Nobel Laureate for inventing the PCR . . .used to detect HIV antibodies. The irony, it burns!

  29. Anonymous
    December 2, 2009 at 12:54 am

    Why the hostility? Because it is so foreign to today's science? Same attitude that scientists have held for centuries. Today, spectral profiles are taken of liquids to see what is in them. What is so different from a UV signature and a radio signature of a molecule? X-ray crystallography is a very similar concept.

  30. Le Canard Noir
    December 2, 2009 at 8:18 am

    You clearly have no idea about physics to be asking such questions.

  31. Anonymous
    December 2, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Perhaps he does not, but it would be better to enlighten him than to dismiss him. The answer lies in that he tries to say that his device can map out a pathogen from radio waves generated when a solution of DNA has been diluted to the point that none is left. Contrast that with the principles behind the mentioned techniques, which happen to require that the matter in question actually be there and not removed.

  32. Le Canard Noir
    December 2, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    It may be better to enlighten him. But I find engaging in lengthy explanations to people who post comments as 'Anonymous' as an exercise in frustration and futility. See my comments policy and the note at the start of the comments box.

  33. Anonymous
    December 2, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Well Black Duck, just as single atoms may act as coordination centers for much larger ionic structures in liquids, it is certainly possible that small numbers of pathogenic molecules may act as coordination centers for water molecules. Would these have different EMF signatures depending on the different molecule? They certainly would. Even water itself can have different EMF signatures depending on the coordination of the molecules in the same volume. I wouldn't dismiss this device at all, even if it may be an early stage model of an EMF signature detector.

    Sincerely,
    "idiot"

  34. Le Canard Noir
    December 2, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Well come on then "idiot" anonymous. What do you mean by "pathogenic molecules" and "EMF signatures"?

    I am calling your bluff to see if you have the slightest clue about what you talk. Be prepared for some detailed questioning to see if you are not simply talking out of your homeopathic hole.

  35. Anonymous
    December 3, 2009 at 12:01 am

    Black Duck in Britain: Are you so obtuse? Who ever mentioned homeopathy?

    If you take a soup of molecules, and subject it to a spectrum of frequencies, it will resonate and excite at various amplitudes throughout that spectrum. A unique phonograph so to speak. It's not homeopathy, Mr. Black Duck.

  36. Le Canard Noir
    December 3, 2009 at 7:11 am

    First of all anonymous. Give yourself a pseudonym or you really are an idiot.

    Secondly, homeopathy? Read my article.

    Thirdly, what do you expect the radio spectrum would look like for DNA?

    Fourthly, (if you are the same idiot anonymous), what do you mean ny 'pathogenic molecules'.

  37. Howie Firth
    December 18, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I have a particular interest in the history and philosophy of science and the way in which scientific issues are discussed, particularly the subject of climate change, and I am trying to understand to what extent the traditional scientific method is or is not the deciding factor in public and scientific policy. One aspect tbat I have noticed is coming to the fore in attacks on science is emotion, which of course runs counter to the nature of the scientific process, which is objective and unemotional, and indeed self-critical rather than aggressive. But the strange thing is that on looking further, I also notice the same kind of emotion being expressed in various public statements by scientists. This has both surprised and interested me, so I'm now trying to probe further to find out more as to what makes stirs them up in this way. I've found that discussions on alternative approaches to medicine seem to be particularly prone to this, and I've been quite interested to come across this site and follow some of the exchanges, for instance in this discussion between you and 'anonymous'. So I wonder if I can ask you both some questions raised by the discussion, which seems to involve aspects of physics in particular? First of all, may I ask each of you if you are physicists, and if so to what level? Second, do either of you plan to follow up the research in this paper by either practical investigation or desktop study? Third, what would you both say would be a definitive experiment to establish and refute the claims in it?

  38. Le Canard Noir
    December 18, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Hello Howie

    It surprises me that you find it strange that scientists can talk with emotion! One of the reasons here of course is that this is highly charged area where groups of homeopaths, vitamin pill sellers and cranks want to deny the science of HIV and flog their own magic cures. It has been estimated that some 300,000 people have died unnecessarily in South Africa because government became infatuated with AIDS denialists and quackery. One might indeed get angry about that.

    Secondly, the whole point of this article is that we should not be swayed by awards and qualifications when assessing ideas. Science should not depend on the authority of the speaker, but on the strength of the evidence and arguments. The qualifications I hold and the exams I have sat make no difference to my analysis of this Montagnier paper. The arguments either hold or they do not. If my arguments are unsound then it might become interesting to understand how I came to be mistaken – I may be speaking outside of my field of expertise, for example. But you do not need my exam certificates to assess if I am good in my analysis or not.

    To ask if I intend to follow up this paper with my own studies is again missing the point. This paper hardly counts as science – it is pseudoscience. Self published, incoherent and nonsensical. Its appeal is to quacks and homeopaths – not science. I cannot see if there are any real testable hypotheses in there at all. The experiment used a proprietary black box of electronics – which is inadequately described. There is nothing here that could be describes as lending itself to replicability by independent parties – an essential requirement of any bold claim.

    Just as Benveniste's homeopathy experiments were discredited by replication and proper blinding, I would suggest that it was incumbant on Montagnier to publish in a peer-reviewed journal (not his own), to invite in independent experts to evaluate what he has done and allow observers to ensure that he could repeat whatever claims he is making under properly blinded and controlled conditions. Until such time, further third party work with not be warranted. Montagnier is making some claims – it is up to him to make those claims clear to the world. Until he does, this paper is just fodder for homeopathic quacks to obfuscate with.

    Anyway.

  39. Jean-Denis Muys
    July 5, 2010 at 4:20 am

    also http://www.union-rationaliste.org is a skeptic organization in France, with quite a number of prominent scientists.

  40. Lynda
    July 15, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Healthy sceptism is good but downright rejection of hard to believe research findings (yet to be replicated) is not. Surely we should keep an open mind as history has shown over and again that what ‘scientists’ thought was impossible at one time has later been shown to be possible. Not everything is easily explained or can be scientifically proven – for example, take something as abstract as distant healing, yet reviews of empirical studies shows its efficacy http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10836918

    • Daniel
      July 17, 2010 at 4:38 pm

      With all due respect, the study that you mention shows nothing of the sort. It says that, I paraphrase, “we’ve reviewed a number of studies on distant healing, and they had not few methodological problems. We cannot safely draw any conclusion, but at least the majority of the studies we reviewed were positive.”

      Sounds to me like a classical case of publication bias.

      • Mojo
        August 6, 2010 at 5:18 pm

        Well, that’s about as good as it has ever got for homoeopathy as well. See, for example, the four systematic reviews that homoeopaths routinely claim (for example in evidence submitted to the House of Commons Science and technology committee “Evidence Check”) to have positive conclusions. The first one concluded that “the evidence of clinical trials is positive but not sufficient to draw definitive conclusions because most trials are of low methodological quality and because of the unknown role of publication bias” and called for better quality research. Two others (actually different publications of the same research) came to much the same conclusion but added that better quality research was more likely to come to negative conclusions, and the fourth had its conclusion effectively retracted by its authors, who have commented that it “has unfortunately been misused by homoeopaths as evidence that their therapy is proven.”

  41. Jean-Denis Muys
    July 27, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    The original paper is not available any more, except behind a pay wall. Could somebody send it to me? Many thanks.

    jdmuys at mac dot com

  42. Green Duck
    September 22, 2010 at 12:49 am

    This site becomes more of a cynical parody of itself the bigger and longer it gets. I’m sure that you’ll be the de facto referee in scientific affairs around the world one day.

    • le canard noir
      September 22, 2010 at 6:29 am

      Green duck, I am guessing you are member of the species homo nonsapiens homoeopathicus

  43. Thiezz
    October 13, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Based on highschool physics;

    1 describe the medium (human body) the pathogen operate in.
    -
    Water, minerals and salts. The same matter as you can find on earth and in space. Not sure about the crystal structure though.

    2. describe the properties of the medium.
    -
    37 degrees celcius, electric, magnetic, pressumably electromagnetic and chemical phenomena.

    3. describe the properties of these fields.
    -
    Resonant waves roughly arround 0 to 300 hz similar to propagation of electric and magnetic waves in seawater.

    4. Any input energy?
    -
    Yes, Schumann resonance in the magnetic field, electromagnetic radiation of the sun and most of the times the surrounding temperature. Electric field:—?

    I am a empiricist, I dare you to respond, you big duk quakey.

    • Le Canard Noir
      October 13, 2010 at 9:46 pm

      I am not sure what I have to respond to?

  44. Thiezz
    October 14, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Do you acknowledge the properties of the medium?

    Besides that my friend, you are not a scientist, you did not read that much about the topic, besides that being critical on ideas is very welcome…but statements like

    “To ask if I intend to follow up this paper with my own studies is again missing the point. This paper hardly counts as science – it is pseudoscience. Self published, incoherent and nonsensical. Its appeal is to quacks and homeopaths – not science.”

    “This is to leave aside how DNA could actually transmit radio waves. The generation of such a signal would require an oscillating current at the right frequency. How this could be achieved by a sequence of DNA is unanswered – probably because it is physically absurd.”

    Oh really? Because you say so?

    …is an opinion based on nonfacts. It is really nice to see you join the discussion, but please do not attack this man personally but please use empirical facts.

    Try to search facts on Schumann resonance and report back with the facts please.

    By the way, you are invited to have a little discussion with me about the poor state of affairs in the medical sciences.

    • Le Canard Noir
      October 14, 2010 at 5:23 pm

      What has the Schumann resonance got to do with the price of fish?

  45. Thiezz
    October 14, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Im not finished yet.

    Do you actually know what the device is doing? Are there any examples of phenomena in reality that have similar properties as this device?

    Try to answer this and will have another fact to discuss about.

    • Le Canard Noir
      October 14, 2010 at 5:28 pm

      I am not sure you have started either. What the hell are you on about?

  46. Thiezz
    October 14, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Thanks for the “honest” discussion.

    Luckily, some people will read my comments and find out for themselves that the human body has electric properties which can be proven again and again by empirical research.

    • Le Canard Noir
      October 14, 2010 at 9:57 pm

      Let’s hope so. If anyone else can make head or tale about whatyou are on about then pleas post here.

  47. Thiezz
    October 14, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    “What has the Schumann resonance got to do with the price of fish?”

    You clearly did not read Montagniers papers.

    • Le Canard Noir
      October 14, 2010 at 9:56 pm

      Oh, I did.

      But the Schumann resonance is often used by quacks to ‘explain’ whatever odd idea they have. Its all nonsense of course. And I ask, what has it got to do with anything?

    • co
      January 2, 2011 at 5:37 am

      Thiezz, I’ve read the paper of Montagnier which is in question. It’s quackery. Your Schumann resonances are very low frequency; they’d couple to things much shorter than their wavelengths (about 3000 km) only as DC forcing functions, and appear as (at best) a periodically tilting potential in diffusive systems.

      Montagnier didn’t even Faraday-shield his samples (apparently; the experimental controls are nonexistent and unmentioned in the paper). He could have been picking up power-system interference, switching sub-harmonics, or practically anything else. It’s an awful paper, and it’s no wonder it’s so hard to find online now.

      If you’d explain what you’re on about, you might get the kinds of responses or dialogue you’re seeking. As it stands, though, you’ve brought nothing to the table except your own brand of noise. Give us something concrete.

      • Feltz
        October 8, 2011 at 8:34 pm

        It was shielded by mu-metal. Would that do it?

        Please read the “godam” thing before you blast it :)

      • October 8, 2011 at 10:49 pm

        Even if it was shielded by mu-metal, the answer is no, that would not be sufficient. Anyway, are there measurements for the shielding effectiveness in the paper? If not, why not? This is pretty basic stuff.

  48. Thiezz
    October 15, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    So this is where it ends. The facts I bring to the table are from quacks and yours are wise and empirical. If people want to read and discuss about science they should NOT do it here.

  49. October 27, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    I don’t have anything to add, I just wanted to say thank you for a great article, which quickly debunked some nonsense I had come across.

  50. Jonathan George
    January 13, 2011 at 11:56 am

    What is absurd about a physical shape imparting changes to the electromagnetic field – even oscillations to the electromagnetic fields? Have you studied Maxwell’s equations? DNA could easily be considered a complex media. I find your article laughable in its ignorance. All physical shapes impart information into the EM field. If these shapes are smaller than the near field their influence within the near field is not as simple as a Helmholtz equation and ray tracing and optics that you seem to assume. Consider a molecule whose shape is influenced by magnetism. In the presence of a changing EM field the change in shape will reflexively influence the wave. Beyond that it is a known fact that heated mass produces radiation. Infrared and Terahertz radiation surround us. By this we see that DNA in your body is already producing electromagnetic wave. I wouldn’t be so quick to discount this man’s research.

    • Greg James
      January 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

      And what’s so special about DNA that makes this plausible? Is it because it’s a polymer? Proteins are much more complex polymers than DNA. What about plastics? Seriously, learn some chemistry and biology before defending this type of baseless claims. If any of this was true, the polymerase chain reaction would be totally useless as you wouldn’t be able to be sure if you’re amplifying your DNA template or just some random “water nanostructure” that got “imprinted” by some DNA in the past (whatever that means).

      Again, the magic phrase here is “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”. An unreplicated experiment does not constitute extraordinary proof, so you’ll have to do better than that before anyone dismisses everything we do know to believe in crazy theories.

  51. Frank
    January 26, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    A bit of topic, but someone already won both (ig)nobel-prizes:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andre_Geim

    The ig-nobel-prize is for real research, so this guy doesn’t deserve it.

  52. Mark
    February 16, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    This is like Einstein declaring late in life that he is an astrologer. I think that like Pauling, Montagnier’s belief in the power of his own prejudices has led him into a trap that lesser minds (and egos) easily avoid. That is the “charitable” view.

    The colder assesment is that he may be getting senile.

  53. M
    April 27, 2011 at 6:24 am

    I came across this article in Wired, “Bacteria on the Radio: DNA Could Act as Antenna”. Could you please explain your viewpoint at the moment?

  54. Feltz
    October 8, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    …so i came across this article from Jan 2011: http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/Articles_2011/Winter-2010/Montagnier.pdf

    and this recorded discussion on LaRouchePAC: http://www.larouchepac.com/node/17802

    it seems to me that some of the credibility issues adressed by the sceptics in this discussion are resolved by a more indepth description of the procedures and apparatus employed in these experiments. I wonder if I could get the sceptics’ reactions to this material.

    Also; I find it important that neither Montagnier, nor the author of the article claim that the electromagnetic waves which were recorded from the seemingly sterile filtrates and water have no phisical source. At one point during the discussion in the video, Laurence Hecht actually suggests the source of this EMF might simply be too small for us to see. Surely lady and gentlemen critics you do not propose that we can now discern the presence of the smallest of particles in existance. No so long ago, you probably would have dismissed the existance of bacteria as nonsense.

    Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was met with disbelief by the scientific community and the church upon making public his dicovery of microorganisms. He did this using “proprietery equipment” (much like Montagnier, for which he was criticised by black duck) – a microscope lens which was created by a special method known only to van Leeuwenhoek himself. (it was just recently reproduced)

    Personally I believe Luc Montagnier’s research has merit and that he might one day be called the father of wave biology or nonparticle biology. Much like van Leeuwenhoek (who was not even a real scientist by the standards of his contemporaries) is the father of microbiology. I really don’t understand why it is so hard to believe that DNA molecules have a wave aspect – wouldn’t this be in conjuction w/ quantum physics?

    As someone here mentioned, a certain number of Nobel Prize winners for science, including Albert Einstein turned towards unorthodox research towards the end of their careers (the Nobel sickness, or sthg to that effect). I believe this correlation comes simply from the fact that great minds are usually open minds. Nearly every great discovery has met with closed minded scepticism from “mid level scientists”. This is exactly what happened with cold fusion in 1989. Now there is alot of funding for research into it again and breakthroughs are being made.

    I am saving this page on my HDD. Hopefully in a decade or so, when Montagnier’s lab in China makes a couple of breakthroughs i will be able to publish it somewhere and people can have some laughs reading Black Duck’s uppity criticism of one of the most interesting discoveries in the history of biology.

  55. tuputamadre
    March 4, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    I can see Newton here in this fucking publication, something like:

    here’s a guy who claims that there should be a force attracting things all around, JUST BECAUSE SAW AN APPLE FALLING, HOW STUPID!!?? ISN’T!!!!

    you are soo stupid

    • Chris
      March 4, 2012 at 6:45 pm

      Only if you think that is the whole story with Newton. He did a bit more than claim that there was gravitational force, which is actually a very weak force.

  56. graham ewing
    March 26, 2012 at 10:13 am

    a black swan is the title used by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to discuss unexpected, unforeseen or inexplicable events. The explanations given for Homeopathy and the explanations listed above given by Luc Montagnier are often considered to be non-sense by the sceptics i.e. by comparison with what is currently known………

    Sherwood Rowland: Chemist whose warnings on CFCs and the Ozone layer saw him labeled as ‘some kind of nut’. Awarded 1995 Nobel Prize for Chemistry (with Mario Molina and Paul Crutzen for research that suggested CFCs were creating a hole in the ozone layer)

    “If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” Einstein

    “Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.” — Dr. Lee DeForest, “Father of Radio & Grandfather of Television.”

    “The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives.” – - Admiral William Leahy , US Atomic Bomb Project

    “There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom.” — Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1923

    “Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” — Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

    “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers .” — Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

    “But what .. is it good for?” — Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

    “640K ought to be enough for anybody.” — Bill Gates, 1981 ”

    This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us,” — Western Union internal memo, 1876.

    “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” — David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

    “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible,” — A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

    “I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper,” — Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in “Gone With The Wind.”

    “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out,” — Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

    “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible,” — Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.

    “If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this,” – - Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M “Post-It” Notepads.

    “Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy,” — Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.

    “Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” – - Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University , 1929.

    “Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value,” — Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre, France .

    “Everything that can be invented has been invented,” — Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899.

    “The super computer is technologically impossible. It would take all of the water that flows over Niagara Falls to cool the heat generated by the number of vacuum tubes required.” — Professor of Electrical Engineering, New York University

    “I don’t know what use any one could find for a machine that would make copies of documents. It certainly couldn’t be a feasible business by itself.” — the head of IBM, refusing to back the idea, forcing the inventor to found Xerox.

    “Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.” — Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse ! , 1872

    “The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon,” — Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria 1873.

    “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” — Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

    • Le Canard Noir
      March 26, 2012 at 11:48 am

      I am sorry to see you have gone to so much effort to provide so many examples when your argument is dismissed in a sentence.

      How about this one? “They laughed at Einstein, they laughed at Newton, but they also laughed at Coco the Clown.”

    • Nash
      March 26, 2012 at 4:03 pm

      “Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.” — Dr. Lee DeForest, “Father of Radio & Grandfather of Television.”

      A lot of people still don’t believe man got there.

    • saucyturtles
      March 26, 2012 at 8:50 pm

      Some impressive people were wrong about something once, therefore you are wrong now. A reverse argument from authority. Nice.

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