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E-mailed Antigens and Iridium’s Iridescence

Psychic Vibrations

Robert Sheaffer

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 22.1, January / February 1998

Many readers of this magazine will no doubt recall the 1988 fiasco of so-called “memory water” (SI, Winter 1989). According to French biochemist Jacques Benveniste, water that once contained an antigen could somehow “remember” the biological effects of the antigen even after being diluted so greatly that not even a single molecule of the substance was likely to remain. If this principle is correct, then a single aspirin tablet dropped into the world’s oceans would convey to every drop of ocean water the ability to cure headaches. The respected journal Nature cautiously published the paper by Benveniste and others (Nature 333: 816, June 30, 1988) because it could not identify the suspected flaw yielding their improbable result. The matter was then investigated firsthand in Benveniste’s lab by Nature editor John Maddox, NIH chemist Walter Stewart, and magician James Randi. They found major irregularities in the lab’s procedures (Nature 334: 287, July 28, 1988), and for the past nine years the matter has been considered closed, except among the true believers in homeopathy.

But far from admitting defeat, a defiant Benveniste recently challenged the skeptics in a large Internet mailing. In it he boasts, “In our lab, this research has now reached a point way beyond the ‘memory of water.’ We have, we believe, unveiled the hitherto neglected physical nature of the molecular signal, which consists of waves in the kilohertz range, which we have recorded on computers, and sent to any destination of our choice via the Internet network.” Yes, he is claiming that water not only has a “memory,” but that he can store this memory in his computer, and even send it out over the Internet. By way of proof, Benveniste provides the following:

Abstract to the Congress of the American Association of Immunologists (San Francisco, February 1997)


J. Aefssa, P. Jurgens, W. Hsueh and J. Benveniste. Digital Biology Lab-oratory (DBL), 32 rue des Carnets, 92140 Clamart, France, and North-western University Medical School, Chicago, IL 60614, USA.

Ligands so dilute that no molecule remained still retained biological activity which could be abolished by magnetic fields [1-3], suggesting the electromagnetic (EM) nature of the molecular signal. This was confirmed by the electronic transfer to water (W) of molecular activity, directly or after computer storage [4-7]. Here, we report its telephonic transfer. Ovalbumin (Ova), or W as control, was recorded (1 sec, 16 bits, 22 kHz) in Chicago using a transducer and computer with soundcard. Coded files were transferred to DBL’s computer as e-mail “attached documents.” Digitally amplified, they were replayed for 20 min to W (dOva, dW), which was then perfused to isolated hearts from Ova-immunized guinea-pigs. . . .

Benveniste claims that physiological effects of the diluted substance were manifested in those organisms receiving his homeopathy-at-a-distance. If he is correct, in the future your doctor, roused from bed, won't tell you to “take two aspirins and call me in the morning,” but will instead send you e-mail, with the appropriate antigen as an attached document, which gets played through your sound card to work its vibrational miracles. Benveniste complained in his mail missive, “Clearly, the shortsightedness of two high priests of Orthodox Science [John Maddox and Walter Stewart] and a prestidigitator [Randi] have delayed this advance in chemistry and biology by ten years.”

Another advance in science receiving belated recognition involves Professor John Bockris of Texas A&M University, who was recently awarded the celebrated Ig Nobel Prize for Physics by the Annals of Improbable Research at Harvard. Bockris is a leading researcher in the field of cold fusion whose accomplishments have been prominently featured in Infinite Energy magazine. However, the prize was actually awarded for his experiments demonstrating the chemical transmutation of base metals into silver and gold. Bockris did not travel to Cambridge to pick up his prize.

The money to fund Texas A&M University’s 1993 ventures into alchemical research was donated by William Telander. The Houston Chronicle reported last April 3 that Telander was recently released from prison after serving two years for securities fraud. The university still holds $45,000 of his original $200,000 donation, and Telander wants it back unless it is used for its intended purpose -- funding Bockris’s experiments. The university, however, has frozen the funds, apparently as nervous about funding more alchemy as it is about returning the money.

During the first fifty years of Saucerdom we had no shortage of objects in the sky to cause UFO sightings. Now, in the fifty-first year of that era, we suddenly must contend with an entirely new phenomenon guaranteed to bamboozle the casual skywatcher. A new generation of global communications technology is now being developed and deployed, under the name “Iridium.” This is a series of communications satellites developed by Motorola’s Satellite Communications Division to provide direct satellite-to-telephone communications, virtually anywhere on the globe. While the system is not yet operational, the first Iridiums were launched May 5, 1997 (for more information, see

Almost immediately, amateur satellite watchers began reporting remarkable things. While the Iridium satellites are not particularly large and are normally visible only with the aid of binoculars, satellite watchers were astonished to see one or more of the Iridiums suddenly flare up to be as bright as the brightest stars, then fade back to invisibility. Additional skywatching revealed that the Iridium satellites would often flare so brightly as to actually outshine Jupiter, or even Venus. Indeed, experienced satellite watchers have occasionally reported flares from the Iridium satellites so bright as to rival the first-quarter moon, and some have even been observed during daylight.

Mathematical analysis by Rob Matson and Randy John, both authors of satellite-tracking software, quickly yielded an answer to the mystery. The four Main Mission Antennas of an Iridium satellite, developed by Raytheon, are oriented at 90 degrees to each other. While they are not especially large (188 by 86 cm), they consist of highly reflective aluminum flat plates, treated with silver-coated Teflon for thermal control. Each being maintained at an angle of 50 degrees from Earth toward the satellite’s zenith, one always facing in the direction of the satellite’s travel, they probably represent the best flat reflecting surfaces ever to orbit Earth. When the angle is just right between the satellite, the observer, and the sun, sunlight reflecting off the silvered panels results in the sudden appearance of a dazzlingly bright, slow-moving, unexpected object that disappears in about twenty seconds or less -- the perfect culprit to cause UFO sightings. The flare-up lasts just long enough for someone to shout “Look! Up there!", giving the crowd a few seconds of dazzling brilliance, then fading completely from view. (For more information on the Iridium flares and to download software to predict them, see

Flares from the thirty-four Iridium satellites now in orbit are visible sporadically in most locations around the globe, typically occurring during the time of evening or morning twilight. When the Iridium program is fully deployed, it will consist of sixty-six satellites. Hence, the flares can be expected to increase in frequency and continue indefinitely.

While we are on the subject of satellites that mimic UFOs, we should mention Superbird A, a dead Japanese communications satellite now adrift in the satellite graveyard just outside the Clarke belt of geosynchronous orbit, many times more distant than the Iridium satellites. It, too, sometimes reflects the sun from both the front and back side of its huge solar panels as it tumbles approximately once every twenty-three seconds. When the satellite is favorably placed in the sky, for a period of about six minutes per evening observers can see millisecond-duration pulses of light every 11.6 seconds, looking for all the world like a strobe flash hanging in the heavens.

While not nearly as bright as the Iridium reflections because of its great distance, Superbird A is the only object in or near geosynchronous orbit regularly visible to the naked eye. Because of its distance from Earth, Superbird A can be expected to remain in orbit for intervals measured in "eras,” not “millennia.” The night sky will continue to glitter with space junk long after we're all dead.

Robert Sheaffer

Robert Sheaffer's "Psychic Vibrations" column has appeared in the Skeptical Inquirer for the past thirty years. He is also author of UFO Sightings: The Evidence (Prometheus 1998). He blogs at