This is why you should never source Wikipedia

So, who has heard of the Rife Machine? It is a quack device that purports to destroy diseases by homing in on their resonant frequency, and disrupting them with radiofrequency (RF) waves (like a soundwave shattering a wine glass). I’ve met true believers of this stuff before, and there is little you can do to dissuade them of the magical power of these machines, that when dissected reveal they’re little more than batteries with flashing LED-lights – and no capability of generating specific radio frequencies. I just got an email this weekend about recent hucksters selling these in Australia, it’s a woo that just won’t die, possibly because it’s very attractive to cranks.

The story behind the Rife machine has all the perfect components of crankery. You’ve got the miracle cure for cancer, suppressed by the mainstream medical profession, with a visionary hero (Royal Rife) who like Galileo was persecuted for defying the orthodoxy and whose revolutionary inventions were destroyed to prevent him from being validated.

So what quack sites did I have to go to to learn about this absurdity? What den of psuedoscientific iniquity is pushing this story off as fact? Why Wikipedia of course.

The article is an amazing example of hagiography of a quack. Let’s start with the biography:

After a short time he diverted his field of university study to bacteriology. While still at university, he began working part time for Carl Zeiss at their New York offices.[3] After a time he moved to Germany. He worked part time at Carl Zeiss at their Heidleburg offices, while attending University of Heidelberg. He worked for 6 years with Hans Luckel, who was Carl Zeiss’s optical scientist and researcher,[4][5] He learned how to grind parabolic lenses.[6]]

Now, each of these sources links to various sites that provide this information without any sourcing. One, has to be seen to be believed (9/11, UFOs, medical conspiracies etc). When one tries to check into his biography, you see that it’s unclear whether Rife ever got a medical degree, it is alternately called an MD from the University of Heidelberg, a “Doctor of Science” from USC (which is said he threw away without opening his mail so there is no record), others suggest he had no degrees whatsoever and was actually an optician who lied about his credentials. Who to believe? Well, if enough unsourced sites say he had a degree from Heidelberg, it must be true.

Rife apparently developed a series of microscopes with claimed magnifications to rival electron microscopes, even though this is physically impossible with broad illumination by visible or near visible light. There is a diffraction limit to what can be seen due to the relatively long wavelength of visible light compared to the size of cellular structures. While exceptions to this limit have been discovered, it’s been using fluorescence, single-photon and confocal scanning techniques which rely on computers, scanning and other technology to generate an image (later they cherry pick these studies to suggest that UV illumination could violate these boundaries – it could not).

We already have questionable credentials, and a physically-impossible claim. What’s next?

On November 20, 1931, forty-four doctors attended a dinner advertised as “The End To All Diseases” at the Pasadena estate of Dr. Milbank Johnson.[19] This dinner was honoring Dr. Arthur I. Kendall, professor at Northwestern Medical School, and developer of the “Kendall Medium” or “K-Medium,” and Dr. Royal Rife, the developer of the “Rife microscope.”

Sample (selected cancer or other) diseased human tissue was able to be ground-up, diluted with water, then either Berkefeld N or Berkefeld 000 filtered thereby removing the human cells, and then this mixture was able to grow in culture using the “K-Medium” where with prior mediums it otherwise would not. The resulting filtered culture, if injected into a healthy test subject would develop disease. The samples of the filtered mixture were viewable using any of the several working Rife “Virus” Microscopes where moving microorganisms were supposedly seen, still-photographed and motion pictured. A write-up in a medical journal described the procedure and general characteristics of a Rife ‘virus’ microscope.[20]

Ahhh yes. Diseased human tissue was ground up, diluted in water and grown in mysterious K medium. Then microbes were seen. Or were they? One only has to follow the link and one sees that the bacteria came from agar, not human tissue, and, all the photos are of Rife and his microscope! No actual data and lots of silly gibberish about optics that makes no physical sense. The Wiki calls this proof of the Rife “virus” microscope – but he wasn’t looking at virus – he was looking at typhoid bacteria. No one can be bothered to actually fix the most basic errors at this site apparently. The same citation is then used again in the next paragraph as proof of something completely different.

But enough of this silliness, none of the linked claims show anything but testimony about the visualization of bacteria – which are within the range of light microscopy especially with the use of stains. Nothing to suggest he managed to violate the laws of physics and optics with his scope. What about the Rife Machine? What about this cure for cancer that was suppressed by the evil doctors at the AMA?

After purposefully leaving an electric ionized gas tube running 24 hours in close proximity to a cultured sample, the organisms appeared to be dead. Rife experimented with radio frequency radiation to discover how the culture could have been killed. After some experimentation Rife believed that he had then found that there is a particular “Mortal Oscillation Rate” for each particular organism at which the resonance becomes so extreme as to lethally damage (devitalize) and or completely halt their reproduction. The microorganism itself does not vibrate, only constituent chemicals in its structure did so as is currently done with chemical samples in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance analysis.

A PHYSICIST’S VIEW – Gary Wade PhD. indicates that usually viruses are coated with a protein and that the protein structure under resonance conditions will disintegrate:

The Rife frequency instrument when set to the frequency which corresponds to the most stressful oscillation mode for the virus of interest, as illustrated in Figure 8B, will destroy that virus capsid coat and therefore destroy the virus.

Since it is the protein that is disrupted, and not the entire microbe, the resonance must be happening to the chemical bonds. In NMR analysis, the bonds and neuclei are what is induced to vibrate.

Similar resonance destruction can be observed when a human singer is able to shatter fine crystal wine glasses by loudly sustaining a note or frequency which causes the glass to resonate and build up energy levels until it shatters.[24] The destruction happens when the energy absorbed builds faster than it can be radiated, and the resonating part of the structure is no longer able to maintain integrity. The entire wine glass does not shatter, only the weak part that was vibrating the most does so.

As is currently done with NMR? Now this is certifiably insane. Just because there are radio waves used in NMR and the word “resonance” has nothing to do with this proposed mechanism. The amazing thing is they link the NMR wikipedia entry, and then clearly don’t read it. Powerful magnets are used in NMR to align the spin of the nuclei of atoms, this is a quantum effect. The resonance from the RF field that is then applied is perturbing the spin states of atoms. It’s not altering chemical bonds, if it were, MRIs would kill you. Also, you can’t just shoot non-ionizing radiofrequency at people and make their atoms resonate or make organisms or their proteins inside them resonate. This is just BS handwaving. If non-ionizing RF frequencies really could disrupt proteins, it would similarly affect viral and human proteins – proteins in viruses and humans are all made from the same constituent parts people – amino acids. If they were smart, they’d compare it to microwave oven technology which causes water molecules to vibrate (although it’s still a terrible comparison). Their creepy fake expert’s page is worth a visit too.

Let us continue.

Rife came to believe that he could find a Mortal Oscillatory Rate for any pathogenic organism, and directed his research accordingly, culturing and testing various pathogens with his machine. Rife documented, in the course of this work, the precise frequencies which destroyed specific organisms. Working with Dr. Kendall, Rife was able to show that many, if not all, contagious bacterial diseases could be cured using this radiation treatment. These frequencies were typically in the 10-100 MHz range (HF to mid-VHF).[25] A document circulating the internet entitled “Rife Table by frequency 06-30-2001.doc” consists of 46 pages of specific frequencies with pathogen(s) affected.

And here is the meat of the issue. The idea that different bacterial (and cancer cells) have different frequencies of RF to which they are susceptible. Never mind that in the paragraph above the cranks assert that it’s the proteins being broken apart, an idiotic suggestion, now it’s the whole organism that oscillates. There is a significant difference in scale here from molecular bonds of proteins (which aren’t broken by RF and would be the same in both humans and other biological organisms) to a bacterium. And the idea that they can target cancer cells specifically is hysterical. As if the molecular and genetic changes of cancer alter some mystical EM-field – one wonders if you could mis-tune the device and kill all your healthy cells by accident.

But are we done with Wikipedicranks? Nope. Where is all the evidence this revolutionary new system of cures works? Where are all the pictures from this amazing microscope that takes EM-resolution images of viruses?

Well, it was all destroyed by the medical establishment! They couldn’t risk a cancer cure getting out, then they’d be out of a job. It’s a conspiracy!

Rife and his latter-day supporters account for the absence of demonstrable equipment or detailed notes on its construction by reporting that the then-head of the AMA and editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Morris Fishbein, or alternatively the government, raided Rife’s labs, destroyed his microscopes, seized his equipment and notes, and forced him to move on.[citation needed]

Years after the “successful” Dr. Milbank Johnson 1934 clinical trials, Fishbein learned of Rife’s activities. Fishbein knew a man who was dying of cancer. One day he met the man by chance. The man was completely well, a successfully treated patient who had returned back from California to Chicago. Fishbein wined and dined[33] (Search for ‘Fishbein wined and dined’) this person to discover how he could have been cured. Fishbein then learned about Rife from this reluctant man. Before this time, the AMA did not persecute Rife or the M.Ds working in association with him.

According to audio recordings made in the 1950s of the people involved, in 1934 the AMA sent a letter trying to purchase the patent for the Beam Ray, and that Dr. Johnson had kept a copy of the letter on file.[9](Search for 09:00 and mention of AMA).

In 1939 to break up the Beam Ray Corporation, the AMA provided money [34] (search for $10,000) to one of its disgruntled partners, Philip Hoyland, to bring a law suit against them.[35] Hoyland’s intent was to secure a position on the board of directors for Fishbein’s AMA agent.[34][35] Rife wins the court case but begins to abuse alcohol. The presiding Judge Kelly offers to fight the company who represented Hoyland indirectly, the AMA, but Rife has no more money and is now a drunk.[9] (Search for ‘Judge Kelley’). During the time of the trial the AMA threatens all MDs[34] (Search for ‘get rid’) using the Beam Ray equipment with revoking their membership in the AMA, thereby losing their licenses to practice medicine. All MDs comply, surrendering their equipment except Dr. Milbank Johnson, and Dr. James Couche, MD. Rife cannot afford to keep the Beam Ray Corporation going, and there are no MD customers wanting to buy the equipment. Rife shuts the company down, and sells off all of the assets.

After the AMA became involved, the California Public Health Dept. held hearings regarding Rife-like frequency equipment. It is claimed that although declared safe by all scientific labs consulted, the state branch of the AMA supposedly declared such equipment unsafe.[36][37]

Persecution! And then more anecdotes, proof being offered in interviews (ref:guy in a bar – also talks about UFOs), rife-promoting sites used as evidence, and unreferenced claims in websites etc. All the solid evidence is gone because of the persecution and conspiracies of the AMA. Classic crank stuff. What ever happened to the principle that extraordinary claims need extraordinary proof? Maybe Wikipedia needs to institute that as a global policy.

It’s sad, after all this time we should be familiar with this technology but magical thinking still persists about radiowaves. Non-ionizing radiation does not interact with the molecules of your cells in a physiologically meaningful way. Some exceptions – in a 1.5 Tesla magnetic field RF might perturb the spins of atomic nuclei – but this has no physiologic effect. And specific frequencies of microwaves make water vibrate which generates heat. But RF frequencies do not make specific organisms oscillate, the notion is absurd. Remember, organisms on this planet are all made of the same building blocks, even if there were away to damage chemical bonds or proteins with RF, there is no reason it would be specific to one organism vs another, or even more ludicrous, specific to cancer cells over healthy cells.

What is even sadder, is that Wikipedia has psuedoscience entries that while challenged are done so ineffectually. The monkeys are running the zoo. While Wikipedia might be an OK starting point for some things, it certainly should never be cited as a primary source or one of significant authority.

So, if you’re a devoted Wikipedian (I’m not), and would like to rescue the reputation of the online encyclopedia, here’s a good start. Take out some of the psuedoscientific garbage.