« Ahem: "Sell Gobs of Dope"? |
| XMRV: It's Ugly, But That's Science »
January 10, 2011
Has Luc Montagnier Lost It?
I truly don't know what to make of this one. Virologist Luc Montagnier has announced that he's heading off to Shanghai, to found an institute and investigate. . .mysterious electromagnetic signals from extremely diluted pathogens.
What we have found is that DNA produces structural changes in water, which persist at very high dilutions, and which lead to resonant electromagnetic signals that we can measure. Not all DNA produces signals that we can detect with our device. The high-intensity signals come from bacterial and viral DNA. . .
. . .I can't say that homeopathy is right in everything. What I can say now is that the high dilutions are right. High dilutions of something are not nothing. They are water structures which mimic the original molecules. We find that with DNA, we cannot work at the extremely high dilutions used in homeopathy; we cannot go further than a 10 to the minus 18th dilution, or we lose the signal. But even at 10 to the minus 18th, you can calculate that there is not a single molecule of DNA left. And yet we detect a signal. . .
Well, Montagnier believes that he's chasing something real, and all I can do is wish him luck as he tries to chase it down. I'd be extremely interested to see something reproducible come out of such ideas, not least because it would open up whole new areas of science. But at the same time, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting on success.
That's because this whole homeopathy/high dilution/water signature business isn't just another wild new idea that might or might not pan out. Even if it were that, this would be tricky stuff - any of the edge-of-detection phenomena are. But this area is a known swamp full of quicksand (and inhabited by various strange swamp creatures) which has claimed careers before. There are huge sunken deposits of quackery and self-delusion to be found out there, and before you announce you're digging up something valuable, you'll have to be very sure that you're not just dedging up more of the same swampy stuff.
Montagnier, as a famous researcher past retirement age in his own country, might be (from one perspective) just the sort of person who can investigate such things. But there have been a lot of eccentric dead ends pursued by famous researchers past retirement age, too. Bring us back some numbers, I say, and some reproducible experiments. Then we'll have some serious talks indeed.
Blog housekeeping note - I'm provisionally assigning this to the "Snake Oil" category, since many other discussions of this sort of thing can be found there.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Snake Oil
POST A COMMENT
- RELATED ENTRIES
- A Last Summer Day Off
- The Early FDA
- Drug Repurposing
- The Smallest Drugs
- Life Is Too Short For Some Journal Feeds
- A New Look at Phenotypic Screening
- Small Molecules - Really, Really Small
- InterMune Bought