The Grand Prize for Pseudoscientific Gobbledygook goes to…the University of Pittsburgh!

This is an amazingly demented paper, titled Can Traditional Chinese Medicine provide insights into controlling the COVID-19 pandemic: Serpentinization-induced lithospheric long-wavelength magnetic anomalies in Proterozoic bedrocks in a weakened geomagnetic field mediate the aberrant transformation of biogenic molecules in COVID-19 via magnetic catalysis. It’s such a tangle of random inferences and wild-ass leaps, all built on a foundation of disbelief in the germ theory of medicine. And it goes on and on! Just the abstract is nuts enough!

Thoracic organs, namely, the lungs and kidneys in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-associated coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), exhibit silicate/glass-like (hyaline) and iron oxides-like deposits, which are like serpentinization-induced minerals. The discovery of the chiral-induced spin selectivity effect suggests that a resonant external magnetic field could alter the spin state of electrons in biogenic molecules and result in the magnetic catalysis of aberrant molecules and disease. We propose here that carbon dioxide-rich water-peridotite (a ferromagnesian silicate) interactions generate abnormal lithospheric long-wavelength magnetic anomalies (LWMAs) via serpentinization, during conditions with increased terrestrial water storage and atmospheric carbon dioxide, and a weakened geomagnetic field. Furthermore, we provide evidence supporting a hypothesis, which posits, COVID-19 is a pathologic manifestation of resonant LWMAs-induced magnetic catalysis of iron oxides-silicate-like minerals from biogenic molecules and the coronavirus from endogenous viral elements, with the virus particles capable of replication and transmission to other hosts. We propose that those LWMAs are associated with the production of iron oxides-silicate rock minerals in tectonic plates with Proterozoic cratons. Thus, severe COVID-19 outbreaks are/will predominately occur in Eurasia and the Americas and are governed by the spatiotemporal dynamics of terrestrial water storage and the semiannual oscillation of the weakening geomagnetic magnetic field. We propose that the ferromagnetic-like iron stores in humans are the unifying determinant for COVID-19-induced morbidity and mortality. Furthermore, we propose that Nephrite-Jade amulets (a calcium-ferromagnesian silicate) developed by Neolithic Chinese Medicine to prevent thoracic organ disease, may prevent COVID-19.

I read the whole paper by Moses Turkle Bility. It was a wild ride. Let me try to summarize the whole thing in non-gibberish.

  • They had two rooms full of immunocompromised experimental rats.
  • These rats had been surgically implanted with fetal human hematopoietic tissue for reasons unknown, but for an experiment that had been approved by the university.
  • A respiratory disease swept through the colony, affecting one room more than the other. Nothing is made of this observation.
  • COVID-19 is a respiratory disease. Therefore they called this a COVID-19-like disease. Gotta cash in on the hot topics, you know!
  • They dissected the dead rats and found hemorrhagic patches and silicate/glass-like structures in their lungs. These are not clearly evident in the photos, but OK…
  • Silicate/glass-like structures? Surely, this means the phenomenon is similar to the phenomenon of serpentization in geology! (I’m wobbly on what serpentization is, but here’s a short definition.)
  • Therefore, we must immediately delve deep into geological processes and oscillations in planetary electromagnetic fields. Ta da!

  • We assume Long-Wavelength Magnetic Anomalies Induces COVID-19 Via Magnetic Catalysis, not that silly germ theory or zoonotic infection by a zoonotically-derived virus. I guess we know what causes COVID-19 now, and it isn’t a virus.
  • Nephrite-Jade Amulets Interacts With LWMAs (long-wavelength magnetic anomalies) and prevents disease in thoracic organs. I guess we know what cures COVID-19 now.
  • There was no test of the effect of LWMAs on the rats. They also didn’t make itty-bitty jade amulets for them.

That’s all remarkable bullshit presented in a kind of rabid stream-of-consciousness form, with the major conclusions neither tested nor even logically implied by the circumstances that triggered the “study”. It was not so much a “study” as some guy’s rat lab being devastated by a disease, so he retreats to his office to make a lengthy rationalization based on Traditional Chinese Medicine and half-assed geology. No experiments were done, yet he leaps to all these bizarre conclusions. Just look at the diagram above, most of which is irrelevant noise stitched together with unjustified premises!

There is nothing in Bility’s CV to suggest anything but a background in competently executed biomedical research. He’s an untenured assistant professor, though. This is the kind of paper that, if presented to the tenure committee, would instantly call his stability and his ability to do good science into question. Poor guy.

Also, that Elsevier would publish such an idiotic, science-deny paper would question their competence as a publisher if we didn’t already know that Elsevier was an evil, corrupt company.

Uh-oh. This wasn’t a one-off weirdness. Bility has also published Stonehenge as a public health intervention device for preventing lithospheric magnetic field-induced emerging diseases and megadeath during periods of severely weakened geomagnetic field. Way to scuttle a career, guy!


  1. John Harshman says

    What is this journal? Science of the Total Environment? That shouts “woo” all by itself. Elsevier appears to have become a predatory, pay-to-publish publisher, not just a needlessly expensive one. Do they even have a review process?

  2. Stuart Smith says

    What? A large part of the reason we keep getting pandemics out of China is that rural Chinese folk don’t have access to modern medicine, and instead depend on traditional Chinese medicine. If TCM worked, there would be no pandemic, because it would have been treated effectively before it had a chance to spread. The very existence of Covid, not to mention H1N1 and the various other viruses that have emerged from China in the last couple of decades, is an implicit repudiation of TCM.

  3. says

    Careful with that reasoning. Similarly, one could argue that the rise of increasing rates of cancer in industrial societies is a repudiation of Western Medicine, rather than a consequence of environmental degradation and availability of carcinogens.

    (I reject TCM because it fails in tests of its claims, not because Chinese people still get diseases.)

  4. garnetstar says

    How the hell did the rats get silicates in their lungs? That only happens to coal miners, in regions with large amount of silicate minerals, and causes silicosis.

    Silicates are not a mineral found in biology except in diatoms. I question that they were found at all.

  5. planter says

    Science of the Total Environment is a legit journal. Mostly they publish environmental science work from a variety of fields. I have reviewed a few times for them, and not noticed anything awry in the peer review process.

    This paper is way out there relative to the expertise on this journal’s board, so if a couple of woo friendly reviewers got ahold of it I can see how it got by. The associate editor on this looks to be an expert in water contamination. He prob. got this paper to handle because he has a couple of publications from earlier this year showing that early COVID detection can be done by screening sewage.
    Nothing of course to excuse this crap getting through. If the journal is to remain legit, I hope a retraction is coming soon.

  6. microraptor says

    It was not so much a “study” as some guy’s rat lab being devastated by a disease, so he retreats to his office to make a lengthy rationalization based on Traditional Chinese Medicine and half-assed geology.

    Are you sure it’s not just a guy who likes killing lab rats trying to justify it?

  7. says

    Yes, it seems to me this might be one of those scams to expose predatory open access journals. There are multiple co-authors and it’s completely ridiculous. But if as one of your commenters says this journal is generally legit it is odd that something this extremely bizarre could get published.

  8. PaulBC says

    If it’s not a spoof, it fails a test I think is useful for medical claims, namely specificity. Am I off base here? If this treatment is good for COVID, it ought to be good for a lot of other viruses too, or at least ought to be customizable with a few tweaks here and there. Like what are the odds that this newly discovered effect just happens to cure the latest disease of interest and doesn’t do many other wonderful things as well?

    I had a similar reaction to the hydroxychloroquine claims. We know viruses are hard to treat and even the best antivirals are limited in effectiveness. It would be kind of strange if some anti-parasite treatment just worked for the virus we’re worried about right now. (In that case, it’s a little more subtle and maybe there is a therapeutic effect in some cases, but it is not anything that jumps out.)

    This one, of course, doesn’t even sound like medicine, just superstition.

  9. Rich Woods says

    Thoracic organs, namely, the lungs and kidneys

    There seemed little point in reading on after ‘kidneys’.

  10. emery says

    According to the journal’s page articles have to be assesesd by the editor for suitability and are then typically sent to a minimum of two independent expert reviewers. The editor confirmed, according to Retraction Watch, that the paper went through their standard reviewing process.

    Kenneth Witwer who reached out to the department’s chairs and the two senior authors told in the comment section of Retraction Watch that one of the senior authors has requested the paper to be retracted.

    The first author has a list of legit publications on his bio page. Only on web platforms like academia he published strange stuff. I thing something went really wrong here, and it’s more sad than outrageous.

  11. wzrd1 says

    I’d happily accede the serpinitining process when he shows the subject strolling about on the surface of a magetar. Until then, too cold, magnetic field too weak, like the tea that that paper is.
    Nowhere the pressure required, nor the magnetic field strength required and hence, he invokes magic.

  12. nomdeplume says

    Amulets eh, but shouldn’t they be putting uv light or bleach into the lungs? Asking for a friend.

  13. says


    Marijuana doesn’t alter reality, it just makes reality more bearable. And it makes you hungry.

    Can’t speak to LSD, I’ve never tried it (but it’s on my bucket list). I assume, if one were in the right (or wrong) mindset while tripping, and tried to write a scientific paper, one may well get a similar result to this.

  14. stuffin says

    Thoracic organs, namely, the lungs and kidneys in severe acute respiratory syndrome

    I stopped reading at the first sentence, the kidneys are not a thoracic organ.

  15. says

    I see I’m not the only person whose mind rebelled at reading that the kidneys are thoracic organs.

    On a side note, it’s likely that serpentinization is a process that might have led to life on Earth, and elsewhere. I highly recommend Nick Lane’s book, The Vital Question. He’s a great writer, showing the “view” inside the cell if one were the size of an ATP molecule.

  16. says

    He has a whole slew of similar weirdness on Academia, including papers whose titles are just different by one word or phrase from others, and including this one (substituting “indigenous knowledge”). Also, the paper is now Temporary Removal at sciencedirect.

    But then his name is… Mo Bility… i honestly don’t know if this is a troll or a random occurrence or cultural thing.

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