Sunday, January 23, 2011

Homeopathic DNA

Okay, enough already! Who drugged me into a coma for three months last January? And why did they think it funny to wake me up on April 1st? This is silly ... or is it?

A Nobel Prize winning biologist has ignited controversy after publishing details of an experiment in which a fragment of DNA appeared to 'teleport' or imprint itself between test tubes.


According to a team headed by Luc Montagnier, previously known for his work on HIV and AIDS, two test tubes, one of which contained a tiny piece of bacterial DNA, the other pure water, were surrounded by a weak electromagnetic field of 7Hz.

Eighteen hours later, after DNA amplification using a polymerase chain reaction, as if by magic the DNA was detectable in the test tube containing pure water.

Oddly, the original DNA sample had to be diluted many times over for the experiment to work, which might explain why the phenomenon has not been detected before, assuming that this is what has happened.

15 comments:

Chris said...

Ockham's Razor says either cross-contamination of samples or just plain old, headline-hunting lying.

Neal Asher said...

Yeah, my first thought was 'did he wash the test tubes?'

Jacques Hughes said...

Contamination. you'd think a Nobel Prize laureate would use Occam's Razor wouldn't you?

The real test comes with reproducibility. As with cold fusion.

Ryan said...

The fact that the test was so bizzare means im still struggling to get over why they did it. Under their hypothesis of DNA teleporting when placed in the contraption they build should be able to place a rat and a seperate test tube of some viral RNA and then observe it get sick and die.

Indeed, repeated tests by different people. Peer review all the way, just because hes a nobel laureate doesnt mean he hasnt done something stupid.

Jebel Krong said...

sounds like classic contamination to me...

always wash the test-tubes AT LEAST 3 times with distilled water!

Ryan said...

Dont wash the test tube at all. Get several sealed sterile tubes and do the whole experiment in an aseptic lab within a fume cuboard. Use new tubes etc every single time

Stephen said...

Well, I have a friend who's former wife claimed she got pregnant via teleportation of his DNA to her womb. Seeing how he was out of the country for 3 months whe she turned up pregnant.

Friso said...

PZ Myers has an article up about this: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/01/it_almost_makes_me_disbelieve.php

It was a sloppy experiment which was then peer-reviewed by the author himself, it seems.

Friso said...

http://tinyurl.com/6cytjmn

Neal Asher said...

Hah, Steven - the modern version of an angel did it!

Friso, just the extreme example of the big problem with peer-review, which is that your peers are doing the reviewing.

Jebel Krong said...

better your peers than yourself, methinks. at least with peer-review if you try and fix it, 99% time you will get caught eventually.

there's too much politics in science (obviously) but there's enough institutions that someone'll look at your work objectively before too long, and once debunked it doesn't take long to get revised.

Ryan said...

Peers doesn't mean it's your mate thou, it's other experts on the field and the vast majority of the time there's no problem with that. It's not perfect but how else could we do it? I dont think there's any current way of checking the validity of someones work that have experts look at it

Neal Asher said...

"and once debunked it doesn't take long to get revised"

Uhuh, and yet Mann's hockystick is still swinging.

"Peers doesn't mean it's your mate"

The problem is that if it is a narrow field it often does.

Ryan said...

Perhaps Neal, it could also mean that in a narrow field it'd more likely to be reviewed by a rival (who may delay your publication because they are working on something similar and want to publish first). With the majority of fields though its not a problem.

I honestly don't see a better way than peer review other than the extension that if the science is wrong the technology wont work. The latter is a far longer and costly way of working things out but if we had no peer review in cold fusion, climate change, evolution etc technology based on the faulty assumptions would fail. That's a pretty sure fire way of discovering if something is science or ideology based but it's better to nip things in the bud before that

Jebel Krong said...

yeah some don't get caught - that just means there's not much interest (or commercial application/money) in it in the first place - but all the important stuff where multiple teams are on it, anything amiss gets caught out pretty quickly (like the S Korean geneticist who faked a lot of his research). 'course politics also causes some good research to be debunked as well - no system is perfect - but most scientists (that i've met at least, and as i used to be one i've known a few) engage in rigorous scientific method which is about as good a system as you can get under rigorous scientific peer review.