Turn off all your appliances, devices, and lights!

The other day, I told you that Republicans were trying to legislate against chemtrails in 6 states. I regret to inform you that another state has joined the club, and it’s Minnesota.

Republicans in the Legislature, including Senate assistant minority leader Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids, have introduced legislation (HF4687/SF4630) inspired by the “chemtrails” conspiracy theory.

The bill contains a mishmash of conspiratorial pseudoscience, including references to made-up phenomena like “xenobiotic electromagnetism and fields,” with just enough parroting of actual science to give it a veneer of credibility.

It requires county sheriffs to investigate citizen complaints of “polluting atmospheric activity,” and grants the governor the authority to call up the National Guard and ground any aircraft suspected of spreading pollutants.

To professionals who study and understand atmospheric science, the legislation bears all the hallmarks of the “chemtrails” conspiracy theory, which posits that airplane exhaust is deliberately laced with harmful chemicals for various nefarious purposes, including forced sterilization and mind control.

“Because the text of this bill focuses so much on electromagnetic radiation, you can tell that it is coming from the community of people concerned with chemtrails,” said Holly Buck, who studies geoengineering at the University at Buffalo in New York.

The proposed law says that if anyone alleges that “weather-engineering or other atmospheric experimentation that involves releasing xenobiotic agents or producing electromagnetic radiation” is going on, a sheriff must be dispatched to shut it down. They’ve got a list of electromagnetic criteria that defines unlawful levels that sounds scientific, but has little connection to reality.

(1) radio frequency or microwave radiation, including maser, of signal strength metered at the reported, publicly accessible location in excess of negative 85 dBm for any frequency or channel band specified by a transmitting entity’s FCC transmission license;
(2) extreme-low-frequency alternating current electric fields in excess of 1 volt per 25 meters;
(3) magnetic fields in excess of one milligauss;
(4) ionizing radiation in excess of 0.02 millisievert per hour;
(5) laser or other light with harmful effects; or
(6) any vibration, noise, laser, sonic weapon, or other physical agent exceeding building or biology guidelines.

Uh-oh. Light bulbs put out about 5V/M — we’re already exceeding the legal limit. Watching Fox News on your color TV is criminal, because that’s about 60V/M. If you’re concerned about magnetic fields, one of the deadliest tools in your home is the hairdryer, which generates about 300 milligauss…and you stick that right up next to your brain!

But yeah, that airplane at 20,000 feet that is surrounded by a 1 milligauss magnetic field must be grounded.

Are my lungs really that garish?

A paper in the journal Pharmaceutics, Inhaled Medicines for Targeting Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer by Arwa Omar Al Khatib, Mohamed El-Tanani, and Hisham Al-Obaidi, might be good science, but it’s so far outside my field that I’m not equipped to judge. There are little things that I would have taken a red pen to — the first sentence of the abstract starts, “Throughout the years…” which is vague and clumsy and useless, but OK, we can’t expect literary excellence in everything some nerd writes — which put me on edge, but nothing to obviously indict it as a poor bit of work. That is, until I saw the figure.

Figure 1. Examples of current drug delivery strategies for the treatment of NSCLC.

Wow. What a glorious splortch of utterly useless visual noise. Is the whole paper an equivalent pile of machine-processed nonsense?

I really am wondering what the authors were thinking. Why would you insert a vivid technicolor example of obviously meaningless garbage into the middle of your work? Because you can? It really calls into question the validity of the text, and it makes the journal look like a rinky-tink circus sideshow. Where were the reviewers? The editors? Non small cell lung cancer is a serious concern — imagine a patient researching their disease, and seeing that doctors see their organs as exploding balls of orange and blue, like the contents of a SF movie poster.

Do I need to tell everyone…do not trust the internet?

You’d think if there were anything AI could get right, it would be science and coding. It’s just code itself, right? Although I guess that’s a bit like expecting humans to all be master barbecue chefs because they’re made of meat.

Unfortunately, AI is really good at confabulation — they’re just engines for making stuff up. And that leads to problems like this:

Several big businesses have published source code that incorporates a software package previously hallucinated by generative AI.

Not only that but someone, having spotted this reoccurring hallucination, had turned that made-up dependency into a real one, which was subsequently downloaded and installed thousands of times by developers as a result of the AI’s bad advice, we’ve learned. If the package was laced with actual malware, rather than being a benign test, the results could have been disastrous.

Wait, programmers are asking software to write their code for them? My programming days are long behind me, in a time when you didn’t have many online sources with complete code segments written for us, so you couldn’t be that lazy. We also had to write our code in a blizzard, while hiking uphill.

There’s another problem: AIs are getting their information from publicly available texts written by humans on the internet, and those are the people you should never trust. Here’s a simple question someone asked: how many years did it take to form a layer of sediment that I see in cliffs? It’s an awkward sort of question of the kind a naive layman might ask, but the computer bravely tried to find an answer.

No, the “traditional view of sedimentary layers” is not being challenged. It is not being replaced by a “biblical view.” You can hardly blame the software for being stupid, though, because look at its sources: the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis. Bullshit in, bullshit out.

AI poisons everything

Here we go again. Another paper, this time in Radiology Case Reports, got published while including obvious AI-generated text. I haven’t read the paper, since it’s been pulled, but it’s easy to see where it went wrong.

It begins:

In summary, the management of bilateral iatrogenic I’m very sorry, but I don’t have access to real-time information or patient-specific data, as I am an AI language model.

That is enraging. The author of this paper is churning them out so heedlessly that they provide no time or care to the point they’ve given up writing and now have given up reading their own work. Back in the day when I was publishing with coauthors, we were meticulous to the point of tedium in proofreading — we’d have long sessions where we’d read alternate sentences of the paper to each other to catch any typos and review the content. Ever since I’ve assumed that most authors follow some variation of that procedure. I was wrong.

If I knew an author was this sloppy and lazy in their work, I wouldn’t trust anything they ever wrote. How can you make all the thought and effort you put into the science, and then just hand off the communication of that science to an unthinking machine? It suggests to me that as little thought was put into the research as in the writing.

No wonder there is such a glut of scientific literature.

Jonathan Turley using bogus science as a political bludgeon

Some lawyer named Jonathan Turley has published a bitter diatribe against Joe Biden. Ho hum, don’t care, I’ve got complaints about the guy myself — particularly his unthinking support for Israel — and anyone can write screeds and get them posted somewhere. However, this one tells me more about Turley than Biden. He’s going to turn the power of evolutionary theory against Biden, he thinks, except that he doesn’t understand it at all.

The Bidens have shown a legendary skill at evading legal accountability. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, Biden family members often marshal political allies and media to kill investigations or cut sweetheart deals.

The Bidens swim in scandal with the ease and agility of a bottlenose dolphin. From his own plagiarism scandal to his brother’s role in killing a man to his son’s various federal crimes, Bidens have long been a wonder in Washington.

It turns out that it may be something of a family trait acquired through generations of natural selection.

A historian recently discovered that Joe Biden’s great-great-grandfather, Moses J. Robinette, was accused and found guilty of attempted murder. The case followed a strikingly familiar pattern.

I don’t consider Biden particularly scandal-ridden. The whole system is scandalous, putting politicians in the hands of lobbyists and moneyed special interest groups, but he’s not egregiously bad, especially compared to, for example, Clarence Thomas or anyone with the last name Trump. His son is a major sleaze, but Biden is not his son. Or is he?

Because Turley is clearly committed to the idea of familial criminality. Shades of the Jukes and Kallikaks! Turley is going further and claiming that Biden has inherited the sins of his great-great-grandfather.

The whole article is a recounting of the crime of Moses Robinette, committed in the civil war era, and that’s it. It tries to tar the great-great-grandson with one crime of one of his ancestors. It calls it a “family trait”. It’s pseudo-science. It’s irrelevant libel.

I eagerly await Turley’s next effort to demonstrate the unsuitability of Biden by a detailed phrenological analysis of the bumps and hollows of his skull. Or perhaps he’ll find a distant relative who is willing to submit to some cranial fondlings — that’s close enough, right?

Who is letting these frauds prosper?

Here’s a list of organizations you must not ever trust:

  • Children’s Health Defense
  • Informed Consent Action Network
  • Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance
  • America’s Frontline Doctors

Look at those names! How can you not support them? Those titles are all lies, though — these are fronts for quacks and medicine denialists that are raking in millions of dollars promoting anti-vaccine bullshit. They are busily undermining health care in this country, and somehow they avoid the criminal charges they deserve. They’re big money sinks used to spread misinformation, and perhaps the only salvation we have is that they’re all run by venal grifters who siphon off much of their money to pay themselves overblown salaries.

One of the most prominent grifters is Joseph Ladapo, the stunningly incompetent Florida Surgeon General. Florida is experiencing a measles outbreak — a serious, potentially disfiguring and even fatal disease that is extremely contagious — and Ladapo is basically doing nothing.

Amid an outbreak of measles at a Florida elementary school, the state’s surgeon general has defied federal health guidance and told parents it’s up to them whether they want to keep their unvaccinated child home to avoid infection.

In a letter to parents of children attending Manatee Bay Elementary school in Weston, where six cases of measles have already been reported, Florida surgeon general Dr. Joseph Ladapo said the state health department “is deferring to parents or guardians to make decisions about school attendance.”

That advice runs counter to what Ladapo acknowledged in his letter was the “normal” recommendation that parents keep unvaccinated children home for up to 21 days — the incubation period for measles.

This is not the first time that Ladapo has challenged health recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Last month, he called for halting the use of COVID vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.

Ladapo is supported by Republican conservatives who fast-tracked him into his current position, and…he has an MD and PhD from Harvard! Harvard seems to be losing what reputation they had as a prestigious university, and are fast becoming the MAGA equivalent of a diploma mill.

The opposite of inspire

Oh no. That hideous AI-generated scientific illustration is churning out hordes of copy cats. I do not like this.

I teach cell biology, I am familiar with illustrations of cells, and this abomination is just garbage, through and through. It’s an educational experience, though — now I’m appreciating how bad AI art is. It all lacks that thing called “content”. It makes a mockery of the work of professional medical and scientific illustrators, who work for years to acquire the artistic skill and the biological knowledge to create useful diagrams. There’s no intelligence in these stupid pictures.

New depths in pseudoscience

Creationists have been playing a game for about 60 years. Their claims can’t get published in legitimate scientific journals, so they have created their very own boutique journals that mimic the real things: Answers in Genesis has the Answers Research Journal, which, surprisingly, always comes up with the same answer. The Discovery Institute has Bio-Complexity. The oldest of the bunch is Creation Research Society Quarterly, which proudly announces that it is Peer-reviewed by degreed scientists…with the caveat that in order to be involved in the journal at all, you must be a Christian who subscribes to their statement of belief.

It doesn’t need to be pointed out that real scientists don’t publish in any of those ‘journals’, only kooks who are in the business of rationalizing their superstitions.

But there’s one thing that they haven’t done, as far as I know, and that is creating their own Institutional Review Board to legitimize experiments. One good reason is that they don’t do experiments, especially not experiments on animals or people, so they don’t have to bother. You know who does have to pretend to do experiments? Anti-vaxxers.

They’ve gone and done it. They already have their own fake journals, but now they’ve gone and created a fake IRB so they can rubber-stamp horrible experiments with ridiculous reagents on living people. Orac has the low-down.

Recently, a longtime reader made me aware of a recent podcast episode in which an antivaxxer about whom I’ve written a number of posts over the years, James Lyons-Weiler, revealed a “surprise” announcement a little over halfway through the podcast that his antivax “research” organization, the Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge (IPAK), is planning on forming his own institutional review board (IRB).

Lyons-Weiler has a fake organization and a fake journal, so why not go all the way and create a fake IRB to approve fake experiments?

IRBs are important for maintaining ethical standards and getting expert review of experimental protocols — setting up a fake IRB is a declaration that you want to work around those requirements. Orac has a specific idea of what Lyons-Weiler wants to do — not actual research of his own, but an opportunity to data mine other studies.

In the interview, Lyons-Weiler inadvertently reveals what is likely to be the true impetus and purpose for his IRB when he points out that states are refusing to release public health data, particularly record-level data, to researchers because they don’t have an IRB-approved protocol. My first thought was: How much do you want to bet that the “researchers” to which Lyons-Weiler refers are antivax “researchers” who want to data mine state public health databases in order to seek “findings” that attribute horrific harms to vaccines, particularly COVID-19 vaccines? In other words, how much do you want to bet that Lyons-Weiler’s IRB will exist to rubber-stamp antivax human subjects research protocols, so that antivax researchers can get their hands on that sweet, sweet state record-level public health data on vaccines?

I should confess that for many years I avoided having to get IRB approval, despite working on vertebrate animals, because there was a loophole that allowed experimentation on anamniote embryos — when you’ve got an animal that spews out hundreds of eggs per day, most of which will be cannibalized if they aren’t harvested, it’s hard to justify detailed animal care protocols for embryos (for adult animals, that’s a different story…but I didn’t do experiments on adult animals.) Now, of course, I’m working with spiders and flies, and no one cares what horrible crimes against God and nature I commit on them. I wouldn’t worry if the IRB decided that spiders need protection, because I’m doing entirely ethical work on them…I would just hate all the additional paperwork.

But it’s frightening to think this guy believes he can get approval to do whatever he wants to humans by recruiting a compliant board. Or that he can somehow escape data privacy requirements.

Nobody calls it the “gender chromosome”

Wow. Answers in Genesis falls back on the old simplistic notion that chromosomes determine sex (and gender!) in this video. It’s an amazingly bad clip.

OK, in 40 years of genetics experience, I’ve never heard the Y chromosome called the “gender chromosome” until now. Her absolutist, rigid definition of sex based on chromosome complement is archaic and ignorant. At one point, she rhetorically asks Can you change your chromosomes? Can you change what God knit you to be in the womb of your mother? You cannot “change your chromosomes”, but the pattern of gene activity changes throughout your life. God didn’t do any knitting in anyone’s womb, but you definitely can change — these Biblical ‘literalists’ are denying the reality of biological change, not just over evolutionary timescales, but on developmental timescales. What she is claiming is repulsively stupid.

You may wonder what Jennifer Rivera’s qualifications are. She holds an education doctorate in curriculum and instruction — it’s kind of odd how many creationists hold advanced degrees in education, which is nice, since it means they know how to teach, but they lack any knowledge of what content they should teach. She also has a BA in criminal justice, so AiG has her lecturing on forensic science.

I hope her understanding of fingerprints is better than her understanding of genetics and sex, but I’m afraid to look.

This is some real super-villain shit, you know

Neuralink has begun human trials, we think. The problem is that all we know about it is an announcement made by head jackass Musk on Twitter, which isn’t exactly a reputable source. That doesn’t stop Nature from commenting on it. I’m not used to seeing rumors published in that journal, and if you think about it, this is basically a condemnation of the experiment.

…there is frustration about a lack of detailed information. There has been no confirmation that the trial has begun, beyond Musk’s tweet. The main source of public information on the trial is a study brochure inviting people to participate in it. But that lacks details such as where implantations are being done and the exact outcomes that the trial will assess, says Tim Denison, a neuroengineer at the University of Oxford, UK.

The trial is not registered at ClinicalTrials.gov, an online repository curated by the US National Institutes of Health. Many universities require that researchers register a trial and its protocol in a public repository of this type before study participants are enrolled. Additionally, many medical journals make such registration a condition of publication of results, in line with ethical principles designed to protect people who volunteer for clinical trials. Neuralink, which is headquartered in Fremont, California, did not respond to Nature’s request for comment on why it has not registered the trial with the site.

So…no transparency, no summary of the goals or methods of the experiment, and no ethical oversight. All anyone knows is that Elon Musk’s team sawed open someone’s skull and stuck some wires and electronics directly into their brain, for purposes unknown, and with little hope of seeing the outcome published in a reputable journal. OK.

Besides the science shenanigans, I’m also curious to know about what kind of NDAs and agreements to never ever sue Neuralink the patients/victims had to sign. There has got to be some wild legal gyrations going on, too.