Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Death by sucker

It's an old story. Somebody slaps together a box with some dials or an antenna on it. They make all sorts of incredible claims about it—it diagnoses/treats all forms of disease, enables you to talk to aliens or prevents your ass crack from growing shut. It finds drugs, explosives, Jimmy Hoffa. And some sucker will buy the damn thing. Hook, line, and sinker.

Recent incarnations have included various "bomb sniffing" devices such as the Sniffex and the ADE 561™, hi-tech versions of dowsing rods. Some idiot in the Iraqi military fell for the latter in the worst way (I wonder if he got a kickback?) James Randi openly challenged the manufacturer to put up or shut up. Jim McCormick, "inventor" of the ADE 561, was arrested and charged with fraud in the UK. 

Today the British government issued a mea culpa:
The government has admitted that the Army and UK civil servants helped market so-called "bomb detectors", which did not work, around the world.

I wonder how many people are dead now because of this shit?

As I said, this is an old story. In the early 20th Century the king of the blackbox quacks was Albert Abrams, M.D.:
According to ERA, all diseases have there own "vibratory rate" which can be measured and treated with his electronic boxes. He began publishing the journal Physico-Clinical Medicine and invented instruments for diagnosis and treatment by the ERA method. Abrams went on to perfect his technique so that only a drop of blood or even a sample of the patient's handwriting would suffice as a specimen for his machine. Once diagnosed, the patient required several weeks of treatments with appropriate vibratory waves from the oscilloclast, at a cost, of course.
3500 practitioners were using Abrams machines at the height of his popularity, in 1923. The oscilloclasts were leased for $200 down and $5 per month ($250 down if for DC current). The oscilloclast was sealed and the lessee had to sign a contract not to open it.
Abrams' diagnostic equipment consisted primarily of a variety of simple resistance boxes, often called Reflexophones, wired in series. A typical setup included the "dynamizer", which was a sample holder with 3 electrodes. The patient's blood sample on paper was placed on two electrodes to ground and the third electrode was connected to the "rheostatic dynamizer". This, in turn, was connected to the "vibratory rate rheostat", which was connected to the "measuring rheostat". The final connection was to an electrode on the forehead of a healthy third party.
The healthy stand-in, called the "reagent" would face west with an electrode on his forehead, and standing on a rubber mat. The quack then percussed the "reagent's" abdomen to detect areas of resonance or dullness. Exactly where this dullness was detected and at what "rate" (as measured in Ohms by varying the resistance in the system) determined which disease was diagnosed. This technique allowed diagnosis of all diseases. Abrams began to make other astounding claims for his rheostat boxes - he could tell the religion of a person from one drop of blood by percussing someone else's belly. If a drop of blood was not provided, he could also use a slip of paper with the patient's handwriting or a strand of hair, or even a photograph.
To cure the patient, he would set the oscilloclast to the same rate as the disease diagnosed and the vibrations from the machine would annihilate the disease vibrations. For this reason, the oscilloclast was sometimes referred to as the "wave smasher". Several serious diseases were usually diagnosed for each patient - but - no problem - the oscilloclast could cure all.
American Artifacts

Dr. Abrams now claims that, for the drop of blood, he can substitute the autograph of an individual, living or dead, and subject it to his tests and declare whether or not the individual is or was a sufferer from syphilis, etc. He has, in fact, reported the results of subjecting the autograph of Samuel Pepys to his "electronic reactions" and finding that this famous diarist suffered from congenital syphilis; of finding the same for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and also for Edgar Allen Poe and, in the case of the latter, adding that he also got the "reaction of dipsomania." The autograph (written in 1775) of that stern old moralist Dr. Samuel Johnson gave the "reaction" for acquired syphilis and tuberculosis...
Museum of Questionable Medical Devices

The purpose of the lights would be a mystery, were it not for this page of US patent 6684108 issued in 2004 for a box that looks startlingly similar. After reading the patent, the purpose of the lights is even more a mystery, but they look cool.

The Lindan Collection

Same song yesterday. 


George said...

These devices are the biggest pieces of fraud ever invented. I've read the articles a long time ago and it's funny because they are still used here (Lebanon). Not even the security guards who use it take it seriously they just wave it about and tell you to go in lol. Some other serious places have portal x-ray scanners.

This is one of those scams that end up biting the originator in the ass.. especially when its used in places like Iraq to protect Americans from car bombs :O

Anonymous said...

Since it is a dowsing device, it will only work if the person using it has the right electrical properties (in other words, just because it doesn't work for you, does not mean it will not work for someone else; there has to be an electrical compatibility or tolerance). However, when it works, as I have witnessed, it should detect explosives in EVERY car because air bags contain explosives.