The Invisible Rainbow
A History of Electricity and Life
by Arthur Firstenberg
Acute Electrical Illness
ON MARCH 10, 1876, seven famous words sent an even greater avalanche of wires cascading down over an already tangled world: “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.”
As though living in a desert that was waiting to be planted and watered, millions of people heard and heeded the call. For although in 1879 only 250 people owned telephones in all of New York City, just ten years later, from that same soil, fertilized by an idea, dense forests of telephone poles were sprouting eighty and ninety feet tall, bearing up to thirty cross-branches each. Each tree in these electric groves supported up to three hundred wires, obscuring the sun and darkening the avenues below.
The electric light industry was conceived at roughly the same time. One hundred and twenty-six years after a few Dutch pioneers taught their eager pupils how to store a small quantity of electric fluid in a glass jar, the Belgian Zénobe Gramme gave to the descendants of those pioneers the knowledge, so to speak, of how to remove that jar’s lid. His invention of the modern dynamo made possible the generation of virtually unlimited quantities of electricity. By 1875, dazzling carbon arc lamps were lighting outdoor public spaces in Paris and Berlin. By 1883, wires carrying two thousand volts were trailing across residential rooftops in the West End of London. Meanwhile, Thomas Edison had invented a smaller and gentler lamp, the modern incandescent, that was more suitable for bedrooms and kitchens, and in 1881 on Pearl Street in New York City he built the first of hundreds of central stations supplying direct current (DC) electric power to outlying customers. Thick wires from these stations soon joined their thinner comrades, strung between high branches of the spreading electric groves shading streets in cities across America.
And then another species of invention was planted alongside: alternating current (AC). Although many, including Edison, wanted to eradicate the invader, to pull it out by the roots as being too dangerous, their warnings were to no avail. By 1885, the Hungarian trio of Károly Zipernowsky, Otis Bláthy, and Max Déri had designed a complete AC generation and distribution system and began installing these in Europe.
In the United States, George Westinghouse adopted the AC system in the spring of 1887 and the “battle of the currents” escalated, Westinghouse vying with Edison for the future of our world. In one of the last salvos of that brief war, on page 16 of its January 12, 1889 issue, Scientific American published the following challenge:
The direct and alternating current advocates are engaged in active attack upon each other on the basis of the relative harmfulness of the two systems. One engineer has suggested a species of electric duel to settle the matter. He proposes that he shall receive the direct current while his opponent shall receive the alternating current. Both are to receive it at the same voltage, and it is to be gradually increased until one succumbs, and voluntarily relinquishes the contest.
The State of New York settled the matter by adopting the electric chair as its new means of executing murderers. Yet, although alternating current was the more dangerous, it won the duel which was even then playing out not between individual combatants, but between commercial interests. Long-distance suppliers of electricity had to find economical ways to deliver ten thousand times more power through the average wire than had previously been necessary. Using the technology available at that time, direct current systems could not compete.
From these beginnings electrical technology, having been carefully sowed, fertilized, watered, and nurtured, shot skyward and outward toward and beyond every horizon. It was Nikola Tesla’s invention of the polyphase AC motor, patented in 1888, enabling industries to use alternating current not just for lighting but for power, that provided the last necessary ingredient. In 1889, quite suddenly, the world was being electrified on a scale that could scarcely have been conceived when Dr. George Beard first described a disease called neurasthenia. The telegraph had “annihilated space and time,” many had said at the time. But twenty years later the electric motor made the telegraph look like a child’s toy, and the electric locomotive was poised to explode onto the countryside.
In early 1888, just thirteen electric railways had operated in the United States on a total of forty eight miles of track, and a similar number in all of Europe. So spectacular was the growth of this industry that by the end of 1889, roughly a thousand miles of track had been electrified in the United States alone. In another year that number again tripled.
Eighteen eighty-nine is the year manmade electrical disturbances of the earth’s atmosphere took on a global, rather than local, character. In that year the Edison General Electric Company was incorporated, and the Westinghouse Electric Company was reorganized as the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. In that year Westinghouse acquired Tesla’s alternating current patents and put them to use in its generating stations, which grew to 150 in number in 1889, and to 301 in 1890. In the United Kingdom, amendment of the Electric Lighting Act in 1888 eased regulations on the electric power industry and made central power station development commercially feasible for the first time. And in 1889, the Society of Telegraph Engineers and Electricians changed its name to the now more appropriate Institution of Electrical Engineers. In 1889, sixty-one producers in ten countries were manufacturing incandescent lamps, and American and European companies were installing plants in Central and South America. In that year Scientific American reported that “so far as we know, every city in the United States is provided with arc and incandescent illumination, and the introduction of electric lighting is rapidly extending to the smaller towns.”1 Also in that year, Charles Dana, writing in the Medical Record, reported on a new class of injuries, previously produced only by lightning. They were due, he said, to “the extraordinary increase now going on in the practical application of electricity, nearly $100,000,000 being already invested in lights and power alone.” In 1889, most historians agree, the modern electrical era opened.
And in 1889, as if the heavens had suddenly opened as well, doctors in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia were overwhelmed by a flood of critically ill patients suffering from a strange disease that seemed to have come like a thunderbolt from nowhere, a disease that many of these doctors had never seen before. That disease was influenza, and that pandemic lasted four continuous years and killed at least one million people.
Influenza Is an Electrical Disease
Suddenly and inexplicably, influenza, whose descriptions had remained consistent for thousands of years, changed its character in 1889. Flu had last seized most of England in November 1847, over half a century earlier. The last flu epidemic in the United States had raged in the winter of 1874– 1875. Since ancient times, influenza had been known as a capricious, unpredictable disease, a wild animal that came from nowhere, terrorized whole populations at once without warning and without a schedule, and disappeared as suddenly and mysteriously as it had arrived, not to be seen again for years or decades. It behaved unlike any other illness, was thought not to be contagious, and received its name because its comings and goings were said to be governed by the “influence” of the stars.
But in 1889 influenza was tamed. From that year forward it would be present always, in every part of the world. It would vanish mysteriously as before, but it could be counted on to return, at more or less the same time, the following year. And it has never been absent since.
Like “anxiety disorder,” influenza is so common and so seemingly familiar that a thorough review of its history is necessary to unmask this stranger and convey the enormity of the public health disaster that occurred one hundred and thirty years ago. It’s not that we don’t know enough about the influenza virus. We know more than enough. The microscopic virus associated with this disease has been so exhaustively studied that scientists know more about its tiny life cycle than about any other single microorganism. But this has been a reason to ignore many unusual facts about this disease, including the fact that it is not contagious.
In 2001, Canadian astronomer Ken Tapping, together with two British Columbia physicians, were the latest scientists to confirm, yet again, that for at least the last three centuries influenza pandemics have been most likely to occur during peaks of solar magnetic activity—that is, at the height of each eleven-year sun cycle.
Such a trend is not the only aspect of this disease that has long puzzled virologists. In 1992, one of the world’s authorities on the epidemiology of influenza, R. Edgar Hope-Simpson, published a book in which he reviewed the essential known facts and pointed out that they did not support a mode of transmission by direct human-to-human contact. Hope-Simpson had been perplexed by influenza for a long time, in fact ever since he had treated its victims as a young general practitioner in Dorset, England, during the 1932–1933 epidemic—the very epidemic during which the virus that is associated with the disease in humans was first isolated. But during his 71-year career Hope-Simpson’s questions were never answered. “The sudden explosion of information about the nature of the virus and its antigenic reactions in the human host,” he wrote in 1992, had only “added to the features calling for explanation.”3
Why is influenza seasonal? he still wondered. Why is influenza almost completely absent except during the few weeks or months of an epidemic? Why do flu epidemics end? Why don’t out-of season epidemics spread? How do epidemics explode over whole countries at once, and disappear just as miraculously, as if suddenly prohibited? He could not figure out how a virus could possibly behave like this. Why does flu so often target young adults and spare infants and the elderly? How is it possible that flu epidemics traveled at the same blinding speed in past centuries as they do today? How does the virus accomplish its so-called “vanishing trick”? This refers to the fact that when a new strain of the virus appears, the old strain, between one season and the next, has vanished completely, all over the world at once. Hope-Simpson listed twenty-one separate facts about influenza that puzzled him and that seemed to defy explanation if one assumed that it was spread by direct contact.
He finally revived a theory that was first put forward by Richard Shope, the researcher who isolated the first flu virus in pigs in 1931, and who also did not believe that the explosive nature of many outbreaks could be explained by direct contagion. Shope, and later Hope-Simpson, proposed that the flu is not in fact spread from person to person, or pig to pig, in the normal way, but that it instead remains latent in human or swine carriers, who are scattered in large numbers throughout their communities until the virus is reactivated by an environmental trigger of some sort. Hope-Simpson further proposed that the trigger is connected to seasonal variations in solar radiation, and that it may be electromagnetic in nature, as a good many of his predecessors during the previous two centuries had suggested.
When Hope-Simpson was young and beginning his practice in Dorset, a Danish physician named Johannes Mygge, at the end of a long and distinguished career, had just published a monograph in which he too showed that influenza pandemics tended to occur during years of maximum solar activity, and further that the yearly number of cases of flu in Denmark rose and fell with the number of sunspots. In an era in which epidemiology was becoming nothing more than a search for microbes, Mygge admitted, and knew already from hard experience, that “he who dances out of line risks having his feet stomped on.”4 But he was certain that influenza had something to do with electricity, and he had come to this conviction in the same way I did: from personal experience.
In 1904 and 1905, Mygge had kept a careful diary of his health for nine months, and he later compared it to records of the electrical potential of the atmosphere, which he had recorded three times a day for ten years as part of another project. It turned out that his incapacitating migraine-like headaches, which he had always known were connected to changes in the weather, almost always fell on the day of, or one day before, a sudden severe rise or drop in the value of the atmospheric voltage.
But headaches were not the only effects. On the days of such electrical turmoil, almost without exception, his sleep was broken and unrestful and he was bothered with dizziness, irritable mood, a feeling of confusion, buzzing sensations in his head, pressure in his chest, and an irregular heartbeat, and sometimes, he wrote, “my condition had the character of a threatening influenza attack, which in every case was not essentially different from the onset of an actual attack of that illness.”5
Others who have connected influenza with sunspots or atmospheric electricity include John Yeung (2006), Fred Hoyle (1990), J. H. Douglas Webster (1940), Alexander Chizhevsky (1936), C. Conyers Morrell (1936), W. M. Hewetson (1936), Sir William Hamer (1936), Gunnar Edström (1935), Clifford Gill (1928), C. M. Richter (1921), Willy Hellpach (1911), Weir Mitchell (1893), Charles Dana (1890), Louise Fiske Bryson (1890), Ludwig Buzorini (1841), Johann Schönlein (1841), and Noah Webster (1799). In 1836, Heinrich Schweich observed that all physiological processes produce electricity, and proposed that an electrical disturbance of the atmosphere may prevent the body from discharging it. He repeated the then-common belief that the accumulation of electricity within the body causes the symptoms of influenza. No one has yet disproven this.
It is of interest that between 1645 and 1715, a period astronomers call the Maunder Minimum, when the sun was so quiet that virtually no sunspots were to be seen and no auroras graced polar nights—during which, according to native Canadian tradition, “the people were deserted by the lights from the sky,”6 —there were also no worldwide pandemics of flu. In 1715, sunspots reappeared suddenly after a lifetime’s absence. In 1716, the famous English astronomer Sir Edmund Halley, at sixty years of age, published a dramatic description of the northern lights. It was the first time he had ever seen them. But the sun was still not fully active. As though it had woken up after a long sleep, it stretched its legs, yawned, and lay down again after displaying only half the number of sunspots that it shows us today at the peak of each eleven-year solar cycle. It wasn’t until 1727 that the sunspot number surpassed 100 for the first time in over a century. And in 1728 influenza arrived in waves over the surface of the earth, the first flu pandemic in almost a hundred and fifty years. More universal and enduring than any in previously recorded history, that epidemic appeared on every continent, became more violent in 1732, and by some reports lasted until 1738, the peak of the next solar cycle.7 John Huxham, who practiced medicine in Plymouth, England, wrote in 1733 that “scarce any one had escaped it.” He added that there was “a madness among dogs; the horses were seized with the catarrh before mankind; and a gentleman averred to me, that some birds, particularly the sparrows, left the place where he was during the sickness.”8 An observer in Edinburgh reported that some people had fevers for sixty continuous days, and that others, not sick, “died suddenly.”9 By one estimate, some two million people worldwide perished in that pandemic.10
If influenza is primarily an electrical disease, a response to an electrical disturbance of the atmosphere, then it is not contagious in the ordinary sense. The patterns of its epidemics should prove this, and they do. For example, the deadly 1889 pandemic began in a number of widely scattered parts of the world. Severe outbreaks were reported in May of that year simultaneously in Bukhara, Uzbekistan; Greenland; and northern Alberta.11 Flu was reported in July in Philadelphia 12 and in Hillston, a remote town in Australia,13 and in August in the Balkans.14 This pattern being at odds with prevailing theories, many historians have pretended that the 1889 pandemic didn’t “really” start until it had seized the western steppes of Siberia at the end of September and that it then spread in an orderly fashion from there outward throughout the rest of the world, person to person by contagion. But the trouble is that the disease still would have had to travel faster than the trains and ships of the time. It reached Moscow and St. Petersburg during the third or fourth week of October, but by then, influenza had already been reported in Durban, South Africa 15 and Edinburgh, Scotland.16 New Brunswick, Canada,17 Cairo,18 Paris,19 Berlin,20 and Jamaica 21 were reporting epidemics in November; London, Ontario on December 4;22 Stockholm on December 9;23 New York on December 11;24 Rome on December 12;25 Madrid on December 13;26 and Belgrade on December 15.27 Influenza struck explosively and unpredictably, over and over in waves until early 1894. It was as if something fundamental had changed in the atmosphere, as if brush fires were being ignited by some unknown vandal randomly, everywhere in the world.
One observer in East Central Africa, which was struck in September 1890, asserted that influenza had never before appeared in that part of Africa at all, not within the memory of the oldest living inhabitants.28 86s
“Influenza,” said Dr. Benjamin Lee of the Pennsylvania State Board of Health, “spreads like a flood, inundating whole sections in an hour… It is scarcely conceivable that a disease which spreads with such astonishing rapidity, goes through the process of re-development in each person infected, and is only communicated from person to person or by infected articles.”29
Influenza works its caprice not only on land, but at sea. With today’s speed of travel this is no longer obvious, but in previous centuries, when sailors were attacked with influenza weeks, or even months, out of their last port of call, it was something to remember. In 1894, Charles Creighton described fifteen separate historical instances where entire ships or even many ships in a naval fleet were seized by the illness far from landfall, as if they had sailed into an influenzal fog, only to discover, in some cases, upon arriving at their next port, that influenza had broken out on land at the same time. Creighton added one report from the contemporary pandemic: the merchant ship “Wellington” had sailed with its small crew from London on December 19, 1891, bound for Lyttelton, New Zealand. On the 26th of March, after over three months at sea, the captain was suddenly shaken by intense febrile illness. Upon arriving at Lyttelton on April 2, “the pilot, coming on board found the captain ill in his berth, and on being told the symptoms at once said, ‘It is the influenza: I have just had it myself.’”30
An 1857 report was so compelling that William Beveridge included it in his 1975 textbook on influenza: “The English warship Arachne was cruising off the coast of Cuba ‘without any contact with land.’ No less than 114 men out of a crew of 149 fell ill with influenza and only later was it learnt that there had been outbreaks in Cuba at the same time.”31
The speed at which influenza travels, and its random and simultaneous pattern of spread, has perplexed scientists for centuries, and has been the most compelling reason for some to continue to suspect atmospheric electricity as the cause, despite the known presence of an extensively studied virus. Here is a sampling of opinion, old and modern:
Perhaps no disease has ever been observed to affect so many people in so short a time, as the Influenza, almost a whole city, town, or neighborhood becoming affected in a few days, indeed much sooner than could be supposed to spread from contagion.
Mercatus relates, that when it prevailed in Spain, in 1557, the greatest part of the people were seized in one day.
Dr. Glass says, when it was rife in Exeter, in 1729, two thousand were attacked in one night.
Shadrach Ricketson, M.D. (1808), A Brief History of the Influenza 32
The simple fact is to be recollected that this epidemic affects a whole region in the space of a week; nay, a whole continent as large as North America, together with all the West Indies, in the course of a few weeks, where the inhabitants over such vast extent of country, could not, within so short a lapse of a time, have had the least communication or intercourse whatever. This fact alone is sufficient to put all idea of its being propagated by contagion from one individual to another out of the question.
Alexander Jones, M.D. (1827), Philadelphia Journal of the Medical and Physical Sciences 33
Unlike cholera, it outstrips in its course the speed of human intercourse.
Theophilus Thompson, M.D. (1852), Annals of Influenza or Epidemic Catarrhal Fever in Great Britain from 1510 to 1837 34
Contagion alone is inadequate to explain the sudden outbreak of the disease in widely distant countries at the same time, and the curious way in which it has been known to attack the crews of ships at sea, where communication with infected places or persons was out of the question. Sir
Morell Mackenzie, M.D. (1893), Fortnightly Review 35
Usually influenza travels at the same speed as man but at times it apparently breaks out simultaneously in widely separated parts of the globe.
Jorgen Birkeland (1949), Microbiology and Man 36
Before 1918 there are records of two other major epidemics of influenza in North America during the past two centuries. The first of these occurred in 1789, the year in which George Washington was inaugurated President. The first steamboat did not cross the Atlantic until 1819, and the first steam train did not run until 1830. Thus, this outbreak occurred when man’s fastest conveyance was the galloping horse. Despite this fact, the influenza outbreak of 1789 spread with great rapidity; many times faster and many times farther than a horse could gallop.
James Bordley III, M.D. and A. McGehee Harvey, M.D. (1976), Two Centuries of American Medicine, 1776–1976 37
Flu virus may be communicated from person to person in droplets of moisture from the respiratory tract. However, direct communication cannot account for simultaneous outbreaks of influenza in widely separated places.
Roderick E. McGrew (1985), Encyclopedia of Medical History 38
Why have epidemic patterns in Great Britain not altered in four centuries, centuries that have seen great increases in the speed of human transport?
John J. Cannell, M.D. (2008), “On the Epidemiology of Influenza,” in Virology Journal
The role of the virus, which infects only the respiratory tract, has baffled some virologists because influenza is not only, or even mainly, a respiratory disease. Why the headache, the eye pain, the muscle soreness, the prostration, the occasional visual impairment, the reports of encephalitis, myocarditis, and pericarditis? Why the abortions, stillbirths, and birth defects?39
In the first wave of the pandemic of 1889 in England, neurological symptoms were most often prominent and respiratory symptoms absent.40 Most of Medical Officer Röhring’s 239 flu patients at Erlangen, Bavaria, had neurological and cardiovascular symptoms and no respiratory disease. Nearly one-quarter of the 41,500 cases of flu reported in Pennsylvania as of May 1, 1890 were classified as primarily neurological and not respiratory.41 Few of David Brakenridge’s patients in Edinburgh, or Julius Althaus’ patients in London, had respiratory symptoms. Instead they had dizziness, insomnia, indigestion, constipation, vomiting, diarrhea, “utter prostration of mental and bodily strength,” neuralgia, delirium, coma, and convulsions. Upon recovery many were left with neurasthenia, or even paralysis or epilepsy. Anton Schmitz published an article titled “Insanity After Influenza” and concluded that influenza was primarily an epidemic nervous disease. C. H. Hughes called influenza a “toxic neurosis.” Morell Mackenzie agreed:
In my opinion the answer to the riddle of influenza is poisoned nerves… In some cases it seizes on that part of (the nervous system) which governs the machinery of respiration, in others on that which presides over the digestive functions; in others again it seems, as it were, to run up and down the nervous keyboard, jarring the delicate mechanism and stirring up disorder and pain in different parts of the body with what almost seems malicious caprice… As the nourishment of every tissue and organ in the body is under the direct control of the nervous system, it follows that anything which affects the latter has a prejudicial effect on the former; hence it is not surprising that influenza in many cases leaves its mark in damaged structure. Not only the lungs, but the kidneys, the heart, and other internal organs and the nervous matter itself may suffer in this way.42
Insane asylums filled up with patients who had had influenza, people suffering variously from profound depression, mania, paranoia, or hallucinations. “The number of admissions reached unprecedented proportions,” reported Albert Leledy at the Beauregard Lunatic Asylum, at Bourges, in 1891. “Admissions for the year exceed those of any previous year,” reported Thomas Clouston, superintending physician of the Royal Edinburgh Asylum for the Insane, in 1892. “No epidemic of any disease on record has had such mental effects,” he wrote. In 1893, Althaus reviewed scores of articles about psychoses after influenza, and the histories of hundreds of his own and others’ patients who had gone insane after the flu during the previous three years. He was perplexed by the fact that the majority of psychoses after influenza were developing in men and women in the prime of their life, between the ages of 21 and 50, that they were most likely to occur after only mild or slight cases of the disease, and that more than one-third of these people had not yet regained their sanity.
The frequent lack of respiratory illness was also noted in the even deadlier 1918 pandemic. In his 1978 textbook Beveridge, who had lived through it, wrote that half of all influenza patients in that pandemic did not have initial symptoms of nasal discharge, sneezing, or sore throat.43
The age distribution is also wrong for contagion. In other kinds of infectious diseases, like measles and mumps, the more aggressive a strain of virus is and the faster it spreads, the more rapidly adults build up immunity and the younger the population that gets it every year. According to Hope-Simpson, this means that between pandemics influenza should be attacking mainly very young children. But influenza keeps on stubbornly targeting adults; the average age is almost always between twenty and forty, whether during a pandemic or not. The year 1889 was no exception: influenza felled preferentially vigorous young adults in the prime of their life, as if it were maliciously choosing the strongest instead of the weakest of our species.
Then there is the confusion about animal infections, which are so much in the news year after year, scaring us all about catching influenza from swine or birds. But the inconvenient fact is that throughout history, for thousands of years, all sorts of animals have caught the flu at the same time as humans. When the army of King Karlmann of Bavaria was seized by influenza in 876 A.D., the same disease also decimated the dogs and the birds.44 In later epidemics, up to and including the twentieth century, illness was commonly reported to break out among dogs, cats, horses, mules, sheep, cows, birds, deer, rabbits, and even fish at the same time as humans.45 Beveridge listed twelve epidemics during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in which horses caught the flu, usually one or two months before the humans. In fact, this association was considered so reliable that in early December 1889, Symes Thompson, observing flu-like illness in British horses, wrote to the British Medical Journal predicting an imminent outbreak in humans, a forecast which shortly proved true.46 During the 1918–1919 pandemic, monkeys and baboons perished in great numbers in South Africa and Madagascar, sheep in northwest England, horses in France, moose in northern Canada, and buffalo in Yellowstone.47 There is no mystery here. We are not catching the flu from animals, nor they from us. If influenza is caused by abnormal electromagnetic conditions in the atmosphere, then it affects all living things at the same time, including living things that don’t share the same viruses or live closely with one another.
The obstacle to unmasking the stranger that is influenza is the fact that it is two different things. Influenza is a virus and it is also a clinical illness. The confusion comes about because since 1933, human influenza has been defined by the organism that was discovered in that year, and not by clinical symptoms. If an epidemic strikes, and you come down with the same disease as everyone else, but an influenza virus can’t be isolated from your throat and you don’t develop antibodies to one, then you are said not to have influenza. But the fact is that although influenza viruses are associated in some way with disease epidemics, they have never been shown to cause them.
Seventeen years of surveillance by Hope-Simpson in and around the community of Cirencester, England, revealed that despite popular belief, influenza is not readily communicated from one person to another within a household. Seventy percent of the time, even during the “Hong Kong flu” pandemic of 1968, only one person in a household would get the flu. If a second person had the flu, both often caught it on the same day, which meant that they did not catch it from each other. Sometimes different minor variants of the virus were circulating in the same village, even in the same household, and on one occasion two young brothers who shared a bed had different variants of the virus, proving that they could not have caught it from each other, or even from the same third person.48 William S. Jordan, in 1958, and P. G. Mann, in 1981, came to similar conclusions about the lack of spread within families.
Another indication that something is wrong with prevailing theories is the failure of vaccination programs. Although vaccines have been proven to confer some immunity to particular strains of flu virus, several prominent virologists have admitted over the years that vaccination has done nothing to stop epidemics and that the disease still behaves just as it did a thousand years ago.49 In fact, after reviewing 259 vaccination studies from the British Medical Journal spanning 45 years, Tom Jefferson recently concluded that influenza vaccines have had essentially no impact on any real outcomes, such as school absences, working days lost, and flu-related illnesses and deaths.50
The embarrassing secret among virologists is that from 1933 until the present day, there have been no experimental studies proving that influenza—either the virus or the disease—is ever transmitted from person to person by normal contact. As we will see in the next chapter, all efforts to experimentally transmit it from person to person, even in the middle of the most deadly disease epidemic the world has ever known, have failed.
Mystery on the Isle of Wight
In 1904 THE BEES began to die.
From this quiet island, 23 miles long and 13 miles wide, lying off England’s southern coast, one looks across the English Channel toward the distant shores of France. In the preceding decade two men, one on each side of the Channel, one a physician and physicist, the other an inventor and entrepreneur, had occupied their minds with a newly discovered form of electricity. The work of each man had very different implications for the future of our world.
At the westernmost end of the Isle of Wight, near offshore chalk formations called The Needles, in 1897, a handsome young man named Giuglielmo Marconi erected his own “needle,” a tower as tall as a twelve-story building. It supported the antenna for what became the world’s first permanent radio station. Marconi was liberating electricity, vibrating at close to a million cycles per second, from its confining wires, and was broadcasting it freely through the air itself. He did not stop to ask if this was safe.
A few years earlier, in 1890, a well-known physician, director of the Laboratory of Biological Physics at the Collège de France in Paris, had already begun investigations bearing on the important question Marconi was not asking: how does electricity of high frequencies affect living organisms? A distinguished presence in physics as well as medicine, JacquesArsène d’Arsonval is remembered today for his many contributions in both fields. He devised ultra-sensitive meters to measure magnetic fields, and equipment to measure heat production and respiration in animals; made improvements to the microphone and the telephone; and created a new medical specialty called darsonvalization, which is still practiced today in the nations of the former Soviet Bloc. In the West it has evolved into diathermy, which is the therapeutic use of radio waves to produce heat within the body. But darsonvalization is the use of radio waves medicinally at low power, without generating heat, to produce the kinds of effects d’Arsonval discovered in the early 1890s.
He had first observed that electrotherapy, as then practiced, was not producing uniform results, and he wondered if this was because of lack of precision in the form of the electricity being applied. He therefore designed an induction machine capable of putting out perfectly smooth sine waves, “without jerks or teeth,”1 that would not be injurious to the patient. When he tested this current on human subjects he found, as he had predicted, that at therapeutic doses it caused no pain, yet had potent physiological effects.
“We have seen that with very steady sine waves, nerve and muscle are not stimulated,” he wrote. “The passage of the current nevertheless is responsible for profound modification of metabolism as shown by the consumption of a greater amount of oxygen and the production of considerably more carbon dioxide. If the shape of the wave is changed, each electrical wave will produce a muscular contraction.”2 D’Arsonval had already discovered the reason, 125 years ago, why today’s digital technologies, whose waves have nothing but “jerks and teeth,” are causing so much illness.
D’Arsonval next experimented with alternating currents of high frequency. Using a modification of the wireless apparatus devised a few years earlier by Heinrich Hertz, he exposed humans and animals to currents of 500,000 to 1,000,000 cycles per second, applied either by direct contact or indirectly by induction from a distance. They were close to the frequencies Marconi was soon going to broadcast from the Isle of Wight. In no case did the subject’s body temperature increase. But in every case his subject’s blood pressure fell significantly, without—in the case of human subjects at least—any conscious sensation. D’Arsonval measured the same changes in oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production as with low frequency currents. These facts proved, he wrote, “that the currents of high frequency penetrate deeply into the organism.”3
These early results should have made anyone experimenting with radio waves think twice before exposing the whole world to them indiscriminately—should have at least made them cautious. Marconi, however, was unfamiliar with d’Arsonval’s work. Largely self-educated, the inventor had no inkling of radio’s potential dangers and no fear of it. Therefore when he powered up his new transmitter on the island he had no suspicion that he might be doing himself or anyone else any harm.
If radio waves are dangerous, Marconi, of all people in the world, should have suffered from them. Let us see if he did.
As early as 1896, after a year and a half of experimenting with radio equipment in his father’s attic, the previously healthy 22-year-old youth began running high temperatures which he attributed to stress. These fevers were to recur for the rest of his life. By 1900 his doctors were speculating that perhaps he had unknowingly had rheumatic fever as a child. By 1904 his bouts of chills and fevers had become so severe that it was thought they were recurrences of malaria. At that time he was occupied with building a permanent super-high-power radio link across the Atlantic Ocean between Cornwall, England and Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Because he thought that longer distances required longer waves, he suspended tremendous wire net aerials, occupying acres of land, from multiple towers hundreds of feet tall on both sides of the ocean.
On March 16, 1905, Marconi married Beatrice O’Brien. In May, after their honeymoon, he took her to live in the station house at Port Morien on Cape Breton, surrounded by twenty eight huge radio towers in three concentric circles. Looming over the house, two hundred antenna wires stretched out from a center pole like the spokes of a great umbrella more than one mile in circumference. As soon as Beatrice settled in, her ears began to ring.
After three months there she was ill with severe jaundice. When Marconi took her back to England it was to live underneath the other monster aerial, at Poldhu Bay in Cornwall. She was pregnant all this time, and although she moved to London before giving birth, her child had spent most of its nine months of fetal life bombarded with powerful radio waves and lived only a few weeks, dying of “unknown causes.” At about the same time Marconi himself collapsed completely, spending much of February through May of 1906 feverish and delirious.
Between 1918 and 1921, while engaged in designing short wave equipment, Marconi suffered from bouts of suicidal depression.
In 1927, during the honeymoon he took with his second wife Maria Cristina, he collapsed with chest pains and was diagnosed with a severe heart condition. Between 1934 and 1937, while helping to develop microwave technology, he suffered as many as nine heart attacks, the final one fatal at age 63.
Bystanders sometimes tried to warn him. Even at his first public demonstration on Salisbury Plain in 1896, there were spectators who later sent him letters describing various nerve sensations they had experienced. His daughter Degna, reading them much later while doing research for the biography of her father, was particular taken by one letter, from a woman “who wrote that his waves made her feet tickle.” Degna wrote that her father received letters of this sort frequently. When, in 1899, he built the first French station in the coastal town of Wimereux, one man who lived close by “burst in with a revolver,” claiming that the waves were causing him sharp internal pains. Marconi dismissed all such reports as fantasy.[yeah so were his 9 heart attacks DC]
In what may have been an even more ominous warning, Queen Victoria of England, in residence at Osborne House, her estate at the north end of the Isle of Wight, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died on the evening of January 22, 1901, just as Marconi was firing up a new, more powerful transmitter twelve miles away. He was hoping to communicate with Poldhu the next day, 300 kilometers distant, twice as far as any previously recorded radio broadcast, and he did. On January 23 he sent a telegram to his cousin Henry Jameson Davis, saying “Completely successful. Keep information private. Signed William.”
And then there were the bees.
In 1901, there were already two Marconi stations on the Isle of Wight—Marconi’s original station, which had been moved to Niton at the south end of the island next to St. Catherine’s Lighthouse, and the Culver Signal Station run by the Coast Guard at the east end on Culver Down. By 1904, two more had been added. According to an article published in that year by Eugene P. Lyle in World’s Work magazine, four Marconi stations were now operating on the small island, communicating with a steadily growing number of naval and commercial ships of many nations, steaming through the Channel, that were equipped with similar apparatus. It was the greatest concentration of radio signals in the world at that time.
In 1906, the Lloyd’s Signal Station, half a mile east of St. Catherine’s Lighthouse, also acquired wireless equipment. At this point the bee situation became so severe that the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries called in biologist Augustus Imms of Christ’s College, Cambridge, to investigate. Ninety percent of the honey bees had disappeared from the entire island for no apparent reason. The hives all had plenty of honey. But the bees could not even fly. “They are often to be seen crawling up grass stems, or up the supports of the hive, where they remain until they fall back to the earth from sheer weakness, and soon afterwards die,” he wrote. Swarms of healthy bees were imported from the mainland, but it was of no use: within a week the fresh bees were dying off by the thousands.
In coming years “Isle of Wight disease” spread like a plague throughout Great Britain and into the rest of the world, severe losses of bees being reported in parts of Australia, Canada, the United States, and South Africa.4 The disease was also reported in Italy, Brazil, France, Switzerland, and Germany. Although for years one or another parasitic mite was blamed, British bee pathologist Leslie Bailey disproved those theories in the 1950s and came to regard the disease itself as a sort of myth. Obviously bees had died, he said, but not from anything contagious. [That pesky mite still being blamed by 21st century shills for the digital industry,nothing to see here folks . DC]
Over time, Isle of Wight disease took fewer and fewer bee lives as the insects seemed to adapt to whatever had changed in their environment. Places that had been attacked first recovered first.
Then, in 1917, just as the bees on the Isle of Wight itself appeared to be regaining their former vitality, an event occurred that changed the electrical environment of the rest of the world. Millions of dollars of United States government money were suddenly mobilized in a crash program to equip the Army, Navy, and Air Force with the most modern communication capability possible. The entry of the United States into the Great War on April 6, 1917, stimulated an expansion of radio broadcasting that was as sudden and rapid as the 1889 expansion of electricity.
Again it was the bees that gave the first warning.
“Mr. Charles Schilke of Morganville, Monmouth County, a beekeeper with considerable experience operating about 300 colonies reported a great loss of bees from the hives in one of his yards located near Bradevelt,” read one report, published in August 1918.5 “Thousands of dead were lying and thousands of dying bees were crawling about in the vicinity of the hive, collecting in groups on bits of wood, on stones and in depressions in the earth. The affected bees appeared to be practically all young adult workers about the age when they would normally do the first field work, but all ages of older bees were found. No abnormal condition within the hive was noticed at this time.”
This outbreak was confined to Morganville, Freehold, Milhurst, and nearby areas of New Jersey, just a few miles seaward from one of the most powerful radio stations on the planet, the one in New Brunswick that had just been taken over by the government for service in the war. A 50,000-watt Alexanderson alternator had been installed in February of that year to supplement a less efficient 350,000-watt spark apparatus. Both provided power to a mile-long aerial consisting of 32 parallel wires supported by 12 steel towers 400 feet tall, broadcasting military communications across the ocean to the command in Europe.
Radio came of age during the First World War. For long distance communications there were no satellites, and no shortwave equipment. Vacuum tubes had not yet been perfected. Transistors were decades into the future. It was the era of immense radio waves, inefficient aerials the size of small mountains, and spark gap transmitters that scattered radiation like buckshot all over the radio spectrum to interfere with everyone else’s signals. Oceans were crossed by brute force, three hundred thousand watts of electricity being supplied to those mountains to achieve a radiated power of perhaps thirty thousand. The rest was wasted as heat. Morse code could be sent but not voice. Reception was sporadic, unreliable.
Few of the great powers had had a chance to establish overseas communication with their colonies before war intervened in 1914. The United Kingdom had two ultra-powerful stations at home, but no radio links with a colony. The first such link was still under construction near Cairo. France had one powerful station at the Eiffel Tower, and another at Lyon, but no links with any of its overseas colonies. Belgium had a powerful station in the Congo State, but blew up its home station at Brussels after war broke out. Italy had one powerful station in Eritrea, and Portugal had one in Mozambique and one in Angola. Norway had one ultrapotent transmitter, Japan one, and Russia one. Only Germany had made much progress in building an Imperial Chain, but within months after the declaration of war, all of its overseas stations—at Togo, Dar-es-Salaam, Yap, Samoa, Nauru, New Pomerania, Cameroon, Kiautschou, and German East Africa—were destroyed.6
Radio, in short, was in its faltering infancy, still crawling, its attempts to walk hindered by the onset of the European War. During 1915 and 1916, the United Kingdom made progress in installing thirteen long-range stations in various parts of the world in order to keep in contact with its navy.
When the United States entered the war in 1917, it changed the terrain in a hurry. The United States Navy already had one giant transmitter at Arlington, Virginia and a second at Darien, in the Canal Zone. A third, in San Diego, began broadcasting in May 1917, a fourth, at Pearl Harbor, on October 1 of that year, and a fifth, at Cavite, the Philippines, on December 19. The Navy also took over and upgraded private and foreign-owned stations at Lents, Oregon; South San Francisco, California; Bolinas, California; Kahuku, Hawaii; Heeia Point, Hawaii; Sayville, Long Island; Tuckerton, New Jersey; and New Brunswick, New Jersey. By late 1917, thirteen American stations were sending messages across two oceans.
Fifty more medium and high powered radio stations ringed the United States and its possessions for communication with ships. To equip its ships the Navy manufactured and deployed over ten thousand low, medium, and high powered transmitters. By early 1918, the Navy was graduating over four hundred students per week from its radio operating courses. In the short course of a year, between April 6, 1917 and early 1918, the Navy built and was operating the world’s largest radio network.
America’s transmitters were far more efficient than most of those built previously. When a 30-kilowatt Poulson arc was installed at Arlington in 1913, it was found to be so much superior to the 100-kilowatt spark apparatus there that the Navy adopted the arc as its preferred equipment and ordered sets with higher and higher ratings. A 100-kilowatt arc was installed at Darien, a 200-kilowatt arc in San Diego, 350-kilowatt arcs at Pearl Harbor and Cavite. In 1917, 30-kilowatt arcs were being installed on Navy ships, outclassing the transmitters on most ships of other nations.
Still, the arc was basically only a spark gap with electricity flowing across it continuously instead of in bursts. It still sprayed the airway with unwanted harmonics, transmitted voices poorly, and was not reliable enough for continuous day and night communication. So the Navy tried out its first high-speed alternator, the one it inherited at New Brunswick. Alternators did not have spark gaps at all. Like fine musical instruments, they produced pure continuous waves that could be sharply tuned, and modulated for crystal clear voice or telegraphic communication. Ernst Alexanderson, who designed them, also designed an antenna to go with them that increased radiation efficiency sevenfold. When tested against the 350-kilowatt timed spark at the same station, the 50-kilowatt alternator proved to have a bigger range.7 So in February 1918, the Navy began to rely on the alternator to handle continuous communications with Italy and France.
In July 1918, another 200-kilowatt arc was added to the system the Navy had taken over at Sayville. In September 1918, a 500-kilowatt arc went on the air at a new naval station at Annapolis, Maryland. Meanwhile the Navy had ordered a second, more powerful alternator for New Brunswick, of 200- kilowatt capacity. Installed in June, it too went on the air full time in September. New Brunswick immediately became the most powerful station in the world, outclassing Germany’s flagship station at Nauen, and was the first that transmitted both voice and telegraphic messages across the Atlantic Ocean clearly, continuously, and reliably. Its signal was heard over a large part of the earth.
The disease that was called Spanish influenza was born during these months. It did not originate in Spain. It did, however, kill tens of millions all over the world, and it became suddenly more fatal in September of 1918. By some estimates the pandemic struck more than half a billion people, or a third of the world’s population. Even the Black Death of the fourteenth century did not kill so many in so short a period of time. No wonder everyone is terrified of its return.
A few years ago researchers dug up four bodies in Alaska that had lain frozen in the permafrost since 1918 and were able to identify RNA from an influenza virus in the lung tissue of one of them. This was the monster germ that was supposed to have felled so many in the prime of their lives, the microbe that so resembles a virus of pigs, against whose return we are to exercise eternal vigilance, lest it decimate the world again.
But there is no evidence that the disease of 1918 was contagious.[and neither is there evidence that big old bad covid 19 is any more contagious than it's counterpart from 1918 DC]
The Spanish influenza apparently originated in the United States in early 1918, seemed to spread around the world on Navy ships, and first appeared on board those ships and in seaports and Naval stations. The largest early outbreak, laying low about 400 people, occurred in February in the Naval Radio School at Cambridge, Massachusetts.8 In March, influenza spread to Army camps where the Signal Corps was being trained in the use of the wireless: 1,127 men contracted influenza in Camp Funston, in Kansas, and 2,900 men in the Oglethorpe camps in Georgia. In late March and April, the disease spread to the civilian population, and around the world.[yeah and there is no 5G connection folks, here in 2020 the best scientists $$$ can buy said so DC]
Mild at first, the epidemic exploded with death in September, everywhere in the world at once. Waves of mortality traveled with astonishing speed over the global ocean of humanity, again and again until their force was finally spent three years later.
Its victims were often sick repeatedly for months at a time. One of the things that puzzled doctors the most was all of the bleeding. Ten to fifteen percent of flu patients seen in private practice,9 and up to forty percent of flu patients in the Navy 10 suffered from nosebleeds, doctors sometimes describing the blood as “gushing” from the nostrils.11 Others bled from their gums, ears, skin, stomach, intestines, uterus, or kidneys, the most common and rapid route to death being hemorrhage in the lungs: flu victims drowned in their own blood. Autopsies revealed that as many as one-third of fatal cases had also hemorrhaged into their brain,12 and occasionally a patient appeared to be recovering from respiratory symptoms only to die of a brain hemorrhage.
“The regularity with which these various hemorrhages appeared suggested the possibility of there being a change in the blood itself,” wrote Drs. Arthur Erskine and B. L. Knight of Cedar Rapids, Iowa in late 1918. So they tested the blood from a large number of patients with influenza and pneumonia. “In every case tested without a single exception,” they wrote, “the coagulability of the blood was lessened, the increase in time required for coagulation varying from two and one-half to eight minutes more than normal. Blood was tested as early as the second day of infection, and as late as the twentieth day of convalescence from pneumonia, with the same results… Several local physicians also tested blood from their patients, and, while our records are at this time necessarily incomplete, we have yet to receive a report of a case in which the time of coagulation was not prolonged.”
This is consistent not with any respiratory virus, but with what has been known about electricity ever since Gerhard did the first experiment on human blood in 1779. It is consistent with what is known about the effects of radio waves on blood coagulation.13 Erskine and Knight saved their patients not by fighting infection, but by giving them large doses of calcium lactate to facilitate blood clotting.
Another astonishing fact that makes no sense if this pandemic was infectious, but that makes good sense if it was caused by radio waves, is that instead of striking down the old and the infirm like most diseases, this one killed mostly healthy, vigorous young people between the ages of eighteen and forty— just as the previous pandemic had done, with a little less vehemence, in 1889. This, as we saw in chapter 5, is the same as the predominant age range for neurasthenia, the chronic form of electrical illness. Two-thirds of all influenza deaths were in this age range.14 Elderly patients were rare.15 One doctor in Switzerland wrote that he “knew of no case in an infant and no severe case in persons over 50,” but that “one robust person showed the first symptoms at 4 p.m. and died before 10 the next morning.”16 A reporter in Paris went so far as to say that “only persons between 15 and 40 years of age are affected.”17
The prognosis was better if you were in poor physical condition. If you were undernourished, physically handicapped, anemic, or tuberculous, you were much less likely to get the flu and much less likely to die from it if you did.18 This was such a common observation that Dr. D. B. Armstrong wrote a provocative article, published in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, titled “Influenza: Is it a Hazard to Be Healthy?” Doctors were seriously discussing whether they were actually giving their patients a death sentence by advising them to keep fit!
The flu was reported to be even more fatal for pregnant women.
A further peculiarity that had doctors scratching their heads was that in most cases, after the patient's temperature had returned to normal, their pulse rate fell below 60 and remained there for a number of days. In more serious cases the pulse rate fell to between 36 and 48, an indication of heart block.19 This too is puzzling for a respiratory virus, but will make sense when we learn about radio wave sickness.
Patients also regularly lost some of their hair two to three months after recovering from the flu. According to Samuel Ayres, a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, this was an almost daily occurrence, most of these patients being young women. This is not an expected after-effect of respiratory viruses either, but hair loss has been widely reported from exposure to radio waves.20
Yet another puzzling observation was that so few patients in 1918 had sore throats, runny noses, or other initial respiratory symptoms.21 But neurological symptoms, just as in the pandemic of 1889, were rampant, even in mild cases. They ranged from insomnia, stupor, dulled perceptions, unusually heightened perceptions, tingling, itching, and impairment of hearing to weakness or partial paralysis of the palate, eyelids, eyes, and various other muscles.22 The famous Karl Menninger reported on 100 cases of psychosis triggered by influenza, including 35 of schizophrenia, that he saw during a three-month period.23
Although the infectious nature of this illness was widely assumed, masks, quarantines, and isolation were all without effect.24 Even in an isolated country like Iceland the flu spread universally, in spite of the quarantining of its victims.25 [ the irony of it all,nothing learned by the so called pro's in 100 years, except how to bury one's head in the sand DC]
The disease seemed to spread impossibly fast. “There is no reason to suppose that it traveled more rapidly than persons could travel [but] it has appeared to do so,” wrote Dr. George A. Soper, Major in the United States Army. 26
But most revealing of all were the various heroic attempts to prove the infectious nature of this disease, using volunteers. All these attempts, made in November and December 1918 and in February and March 1919, failed. One medical team in Boston, working for the United States Public Health Service, tried to infect one hundred healthy volunteers between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five. Their efforts were impressive and make entertaining reading:
“We collected the material and mucous secretions of the mouth and nose and throat and bronchi from cases of the disease and transferred this to our volunteers. We always obtained this material in the same way. The patient with fever, in bed, had a large, shallow, traylike arrangement before him or her, and we washed out one nostril with some sterile salt solutions, using perhaps 5 c.c., which is allowed to run into the tray; and that nostril is blown vigorously into the tray. This is repeated with the other nostril. The patient then gargles with some of the solution. Next we obtain some bronchial mucus through coughing, and then we swab the mucous surface of each nares and also the mucous surface of the throat… Each one of the volunteers… received 6 c.c. of the mixed stuff that I have described. They received it into each nostril; received it in the throat, and on the eye; and when you think that 6 c.c. in all was used, you will understand that some of it was swallowed. None of them took sick.”
In a further experiment with new volunteers and donors, the salt solution was eliminated, and with cotton swabs, the material was transferred directly from nose to nose and from throat to throat, using donors in the first, second, or third day of the disease. “None of these volunteers who received the material thus directly transferred from cases took sick in any way… All of the volunteers received at least two, and some of them three ‘shots’ as they expressed it.”[This does prove though that the researchers were insane DC]
In a further experiment 20 c.c. of blood from each of five sick donors were mixed and injected into each volunteer. “None of them took sick in any way.”
“Then we collected a lot of mucous material from the upper respiratory tract, and filtered it through Mandler filters. This filtrate was injected into ten volunteers, each one receiving 3.5 c.c. subcutaneously, and none of these took sick in any way.”
Then a further attempt was made to transfer the disease “in the natural way,” using fresh volunteers and donors: “The volunteer was led up to the bedside of the patient; he was introduced. He sat down alongside the bed of the patients. They shook hands, and by instructions, he got as close as he conveniently could, and they talked for five minutes. At the end of the five minutes, the patient breathed out as hard as he could, while the volunteer, muzzle to muzzle (in accordance with his instructions, about 2 inches between the two), received this expired breath, and at the same time was breathing in as the patient breathed out… After they had done this for five times, the patient coughed directly into the face of the volunteer, face to face, five different times… [Then] he moved to the next patient whom we had selected, and repeated this, and so on, until this volunteer had had that sort of contact with ten different cases of influenza, in different stages of the disease, mostly fresh cases, none of them more than three days old… None of them took sick in any way.” [And you thought I was trying to be funny with my insane comment? DC]
“We entered the outbreak with a notion that we knew the cause of the disease, and were quite sure we knew how it was transmitted from person to person. Perhaps,” concluded Dr. Milton Rosenau, “if we have learned anything, it is that we are not quite sure what we know about the disease.”27
Earlier attempts to demonstrate contagion in horses had met with the same resounding failure. Healthy horses were kept in close contact with sick ones during all stages of the disease. Nose bags were kept on horses that had nasal discharges and high temperatures. Those nose bags were used to contain food for other horses which, however, stubbornly remained healthy. As a result of these and other attempts, Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Watkins-Pitchford of the British Army Veterinary Corps wrote in July 1917 that he could find no evidence that influenza was ever spread directly from one horse to another.
The other two influenza pandemics of the twentieth century, in 1957 and 1968, were also associated with milestones of electrical technology, pioneered once again by the United States.
Radar, first used extensively during World War II, was deployed on a spectacular scale by the United States during the mid-1950s, as it sought to surround itself with a triple layer of protection that would detect any nuclear attack. The first and smallest barrier was the 39 stations of the Pinetree Line, which kept vigil from coast to coast across southern Canada and from Nova Scotia northward to Baffin Island. This line, completed in 1954, was the roots, as it were, for a huge tree of surveillance that grew between 1956 and 1958, whose branches spread across mid- and high-latitude Canada, sent shoots into Alaska, and drooped down over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to guard the United States on east, west, and north. When it was complete hundreds of radar domes, resembling golf balls the size of buildings, littered the Canadian landscape from ocean to ocean, and from the American border to the Arctic.
The Mid-Canada Line, extending 2,700 miles from Hopedale, Labrador to Dawson Creek, British Columbia, consisted of 98 powerful Doppler radars 30 miles apart and roughly 300 miles north of the Pinetree Line. Construction of the first station began on October 1, 1956, and the completed system was dedicated on January 1, 1958.
The 58 stations of the Distant Early Warning or DEW Line kept their frozen watch roughly along the 69th parallel, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in a chain extending from Baffin Island to the Northwest Territories and across Alaska. Each main site, of which there were 33, had two pulsed transmitters, one controlling a pencil beam for long-range precision tracking, the other a wider beam for general surveillance. Each beam had a peak power of 500 kilowatts, so that each site had a maximum peak capacity of one million watts. The frequency was between 1220 and 1350 MHz. The other twenty-five “gap-filler” stations had continuous wave Dopplers rated at 1 kilowatt and operated at 500 MHz. Construction began in 1955 and the completed system was dedicated on July 31, 1957.
The DEW Line extended down into the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in lines of Navy ships—four in the Atlantic and five in the Pacific—supplemented by fleets of Lockheed aircraft that cruised in twelve- to fourteen-hour shifts at 3,000 to 6,000 feet in altitude. The radar-bearing ships and planes of the Atlantic Barrier were based in Maryland and Newfoundland and patrolled the waters out to the Azores. Atlantic operations began testing on July 1, 1956, and were fully deployed one year later. The Pacific Barrier, based in Hawaii and Midway, scanned the ocean off western North America and patrolled roughly from Midway to Kodiak Island. Its first two ships were assigned to Pearl Harbor in 1956, and the Barrier became fully operational on July 1, 1958.
In addition, three “Texas Towers,” equipped with long-range radars, were placed about 100 miles off the Atlantic coast and affixed to the ocean floor. The first, 110 miles east of Cape Cod, began operation in December 1955, while the third, 84 miles southeast of New York Harbor, was activated in early summer 1957.
Finally, every one of the 195 initial radar sites blanketing Canadian skies had to be able to send surveillance data from mostly very remote locations, and so high power radio transmitters were added to each site, typically operating in the microwave spectrum between 600 and 1000 MHz, with broadcast powers of up to 40 kilowatts. These used a technology called “tropospheric scatter.” Huge antennas the shape of curved billboards aimed their signals above the distant horizon so as to bounce them off particles in the lower atmosphere six miles above the earth, and thereby reach a receiver hundreds of miles away.
Another complete network of such antennas, called the White Alice Communications System, was installed throughout Alaska at the same time. The first ones were put into service on November 12, 1956, and the complete system was dedicated on March 26, 1958.
The “Asian” influenza pandemic began about the end of February 1957 and lasted for more than a year. The bulk of the mortality occurred in the fall and winter of 1957-1958.
A decade later the United States launched the world’s first constellation of military satellites into orbit at an altitude of about 18,000 nautical miles, right in the heart of the outer Van Allen radiation belt. Called the Initial Defense Communication Satellite Program (IDCSP), its 28 satellites became operational after the last eight were launched on June 13, 1968. The “Hong Kong” flu pandemic began in July 1968 and lasted until March 1970.
Although there had already been a few satellites in space, they had all been launched one at a time during the 1960s, and at the beginning of 1968 there had been a total of only 13 operating satellites orbiting above the earth. In one fell swoop the IDCSP not only more than tripled the number, but placed them in the middle of the most vulnerable layer of the earth’s magnetosphere.
In each case—in 1889, 1918, 1957, and 1968—the electrical envelope of the earth, which will be described in the next chapter, and to which we are all attached by invisible strings, was suddenly and profoundly disturbed. Those for whom this attachment was strongest, whose roots were most vital, whose life’s rhythms were tuned most closely to the accustomed pulsations of our planet—in other words, vigorous, healthy young adults, and pregnant women—those were the individuals who most suffered and died. Like an orchestra whose conductor has suddenly gone mad, their organs, their living instruments, no longer knew how to play.
Earth's Electrical Envelope
All things by immortal power,
Near or far,
To each other linked are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star.
FRANCIS THOMPSON, in The Mistress of Vision
WHEN I LOOK at a flower, what I see is not the same as what a honey bee sees, who comes to drink its nectar. She sees beautiful patterns of ultraviolet that are invisible to me, and she is blind to the color red. A red poppy is ultraviolet to her. A cinquefoil flower, which looks pure yellow to me, is to her purple, with a yellow center luring her to its nectar. Most white flowers are blue-green to her eye.
When I look upon the night sky, the stars appear as points of color twinkling through earth’s atmosphere. Everywhere else, except for the moon and a few planets, is blackness. But it is the blackness of illusion.
If you could see all the colors in the world, including the ultraviolets that honeybees can see, the infrareds that snakes can see, the low electric frequencies that catfish and salamanders can see, the radio waves, the X-rays, the gamma rays, the slow galactic pulsations, if you could see everything that is really there in its myriad shapes and hues, in all of its blinding glory, instead of blackness you’d see form and motion everywhere, day and night.
Almost all of the matter in the universe is electrically charged, an endless sea of ionized particles called plasma, named after the contents of living cells because of the unpredictable, life-like behavior of electrified matter. The stars we see are made of electrons, protons, bare atomic nuclei, and other charged particles in constant motion. The space between the stars and galaxies, far from being empty, teems with electrically charged subatomic particles, swimming in vast swirling electromagnetic fields, accelerated by those fields to near-light speeds. Plasma is such a good conductor of electricity, far better than any metals, that filaments of plasma— invisible wires billions of light-years long—transport electromagnetic energy in gigantic circuits from one part of the universe to another, shaping the heavens. Under the influence of electromagnetic forces, over billions of years, cosmic whirlpools of matter collect along these filaments, like beads on a string, evolving into the galaxies that decorate our night sky. In addition, thin sheaths of electric current called double layers, like the membranes of biological cells, divide intergalactic space into immense compartments, each of which can have different physical, chemical, electrical, and magnetic properties. There may even, some speculate, be matter on one side of a double layer and antimatter on the other. Enormous electric fields prevent the different regions of space from mixing, just as the integrity of our own cells is preserved by the electric fields of the membranes surrounding them.
Our own Milky Way, in which we live, a medium-sized spiral galaxy one hundred thousand light-years across, rotates around its center once every two hundred and fifty million earth years, generating around itself a galactic-size magnetic field. Filaments of plasma five hundred light-years long, generating additional magnetic fields, have been photographed looping out of our galactic center.
Our sun, also made of plasma, sends out an ocean of electrons, protons, and helium ions in a steady current called the solar wind. Blowing at three hundred miles per second, it bathes the earth and all of the planets before diffusing out into the plasma between the stars.
The earth, with its core of iron, rotates on its axis in the electric fields of the solar system and the galaxy, and as it rotates it generates its own magnetic field that traps and deflects the charged particles of the solar wind. They wrap the earth in an envelope of plasma called the magnetosphere, which stretches out on the night side of the planet into a comet-like tail hundreds of millions of miles long. Some of the particles from the solar wind collect in layers we call the Van Allen belts, where they circulate six hundred to thirty-five thousand miles above our heads. Driven along magnetic lines of force toward the poles, the electrons collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the upper atmosphere. These fluoresce to produce the northern and southern lights, the aurora borealis and australis, that dance in the long winter nights of the high latitudes.
The sun also bombards our planet with ultraviolet light and X-rays. These strike the air fifty to two hundred and fifty miles above us, ionizing it, freeing the electrons that carry electric currents in the upper atmosphere. This, the earth’s own layer of plasma, is called the ionosphere.
The earth is also showered with charged particles from all directions called cosmic rays. These are atomic nuclei and subatomic particles that travel at velocities approaching the speed of light. From within the earth comes radiation emitted by uranium and other radioactive elements. Cosmic rays from space and radiation from the rocks and soil provide the small ions that carry the electric currents that surround us in the lower atmosphere.
In this electromagnetic environment we evolved.
We all live in a fairly constant vertical electric field averaging 130 volts per meter. In fair weather, the ground beneath us has a negative charge, the ionosphere above us has a positive charge, and the potential difference between ground and sky is about 300,000 volts. The most spectacular reminder that electricity is always playing around and through us, bringing messages from the sun and stars, is, of course, lightning. Electricity courses through the sky far above us, explodes downward in thunderstorms, rushes through the ground beneath us, and flows gently back up through the air in fair weather, carried by small ions. All of this happens continuously, as electricity animates the entire earth; about one hundred bolts of lightning, each delivering a trillion watts of energy, strike the earth every second. During thunderstorms the electric tension in the air around us can reach 4,000 volts per meter and more.
When I first learned about the global electrical circuit, twenty five years ago, I drew the following sketch to help me think about it. Living organisms, as the drawing indicates, are part of the global circuit. Each of us generates our own electric fields, which keep us vertically polarized like the atmosphere, with our feet and hands negative with respect to our spine and head. Our negative feet walk on the negative ground, as our positive heads point to the positive sky. The complex electric circuits that course gently through our bodies are completed by ground and sky, and in this very real way the earth and sun, the Great Yin and the Great Yang of the Yellow Emperor’s Classic, are energy sources for life.
It is not widely appreciated that the reverse is also true: not only does life need the earth, but the earth needs life. The atmosphere, for example, exists only because green things have been growing for billions of years. Plants created the oxygen, all of it, and very likely the nitrogen too. Yet we fail to treat our fragile cushion of air as the irreplaceable treasure that it is, more precious than the rarest diamond. Because for every atom of coal or oil that we burn, for every molecule of carbon dioxide that we produce from them, we destroy forever one molecule of oxygen. The burning of fossil fuels, of ancient plants that once breathed life into the future, is really the undoing of creation.
Electrically, too, life is essential. Living trees rise hundreds of feet into the air from the negatively charged ground. And because most raindrops, except in thunderstorms, carry positive charge down to earth, trees attract rain out of the clouds, and the felling of trees contributes electrically towards a loss of rainfall where forests used to stand.
“As for men,” said Loren Eiseley, “those myriad little detached ponds with their own swarming corpuscular life, what were they but a way that water has of going about beyond the reach of rivers?”1 Not only we, but especially trees, are the earth’s way of watering the desert. Trees increase evaporation and lower temperatures, and the currents of life speeding through their sap are continuous with the sky and the rain.
We are all part of a living earth, as the earth is a member of a living solar system and a living universe. The play of electricity across the galaxy, the magnetic rhythms of the planets, the eleven year cycle of sunspots, the fluctuations in the solar wind, thunder and lightning upon this earth, biological currents within our bodies —the one depends upon all the others. We are like tiny cells in the body of the universe. Events on the other side of the galaxy affect all life here on earth. And it is perhaps not too far-fetched to say that any dramatic change in life on earth will have a small but noticeable effect on the sun and stars.
When the City and South London Electric Railway began operating in 1890, it interfered with delicate instruments at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich four and a half miles away.2 Little did the physicists there know that electromagnetic waves from that and every other electric railway were also radiating into space and altering the earth’s magnetosphere, a fact that would not be discovered until decades later. To understand its significance for life, let us return first to the story of lightning.
The house we live in, which is the biosphere, the roughly 55- mile-high space filled with air that wraps around the earth, is a resonant cavity that rings like a gong every time a lightning bolt strikes. In addition to maintaining the static electric field of 130 volts per meter in which we all stand and walk, and in which birds fly, lightning sets the biosphere ringing at particular low frequency tones—8 beats per second (or Hz), 14, 20, 26, 32, and so forth. These tones are named for Winfried Schumann, the German physicist who predicted their existence, and who, with his student Herbert König, proved their constant presence in the atmosphere in 1953.
It so happens that in a state of awake relaxation, our brains tune in to these precise frequencies. The dominant pattern of a human electroencephalogram, from before birth through adulthood—the well-known alpha rhythm, ranging from 8 to 13 Hz, or 7 to 13 Hz in a newborn—is bounded by the first two Schumann resonances. An old part of the brain called the limbic system, which is involved in emotions, and in long-term memory, produces theta waves, of 4 to 7 Hz, which are bounded above by the first Schumann resonance. The theta rhythm is more prominent in young children, and in adults in meditation. These same frequencies, alpha and theta, with surprisingly little variation, pulsate, so far as is known, in all animals. In a state of relaxation, dogs show an alpha rhythm, identical to ours, of 8 to 12 Hz. In cats the range is slightly wider, from 8 to 15 Hz. Rabbits, guinea pigs, goats and cows, frogs, birds, and reptiles all show nearly the same frequencies.3
Schumann’s student König was so impressed by the resemblances these atmospheric waves bear to the electrical oscillations of the brain that he conducted a series of experiments with far-reaching implications. The first Schumann resonance, he wrote, is so completely identical to the alpha rhythm that even an expert is hard pressed to tell the difference between the tracings from the brain and the atmosphere. König did not think this was a coincidence. The first Schumann resonance appears during fair weather, he noted, in calm, balanced conditions, just as the alpha rhythm appears in the brain in a calm, relaxed state. The delta rhythm, on the other hand, which consists of irregular, higher amplitude waves around 3 Hz, appears in the atmosphere under disturbed, unbalanced weather conditions, and in the brain in disturbed or disease states—headaches, spastic conditions, tumors, and so forth.
In an experiment involving nearly fifty thousand people attending a Traffic Exhibition in Munich in 1953, König was able to prove that these latter types of disturbed waves, when present in the atmosphere, significantly slow human reactions times, while the 8 Hz Schumann waves do just the opposite. The larger the Schumann signal in the atmosphere, the quicker people’s reactions were on that day. König then duplicated these effects in the laboratory: an artificial field of 3 Hz (delta range) slowed human reactions, while an artificial field of 10 Hz (alpha range) accelerated them. König also noted that during the 3 Hz exposure some of his subjects complained of headaches, fatigue, tightness in their chest, or sweating from their palms.4
In 1965, James R. Hamer published the results of experiments along these same lines that he had conducted for Northrop Space Laboratories, in an article which he titled “Biological Entrainment of the Human Brain by Low Frequency Radiation.” Like König, he showed that frequencies above 8 Hz quickened reaction times, while lower frequencies had the opposite effect. But he went further. He proved that the human brain could distinguish between frequencies that differed only slightly from each other—but only if the signal was weak enough. When he reduced the signal strength to 0.0038 volts per meter, which is close to the value of the earth’s own fields, 7½ Hz had a significantly different effect than 8½ Hz, and 9½ Hz than 10½ Hz.
Lightning is not yet done with its repertoire. In addition to the static field that we walk in and the low frequencies that speak to our brains, lightning also provides us with a steady symphony of higher frequencies called atmospherics, or just “sferics,” which reach thousands of cycles per second. They sound like twigs snapping if you listen to them on a very low frequency (VLF) radio, and usually originate in thunderstorms that may, however, be thousands of miles away. Other sounds, called whistlers, resembling the descending tones of a slide whistle, often originate in thunderstorms on the opposite end of the earth. Their falling tones are produced during the long journey these waves have taken as they are guided along magnetic field lines into outer space and back to earth in the opposite hemisphere. These waves may even bounce back and forth many times from one end of the earth to another, resulting in trains of whistles that seemed so unworldly when they were first discovered in the 1920s that they generated newspaper articles with not-so-inappropriate titles like “Voices From Outer Space.”5
Among the other sounds one may hear, especially at higher latitudes, originating somewhere in the electrical environment of our planet, are a steady hiss, and a “dawn chorus,” so named because of its resemblance to chirping birds. Both of these sounds rise and fall gently every 10 seconds or so with the slow pulsations of the earth’s magnetic field.
This VLF symphony bathes our nervous system. Its frequencies, ranging roughly from 200 to 30,000 Hz, span the range of our auditory system and also, as König observed, include the frequencies of the impulses that our brains send to our muscles. The effect our VLF environment has on our well-being was resoundingly demonstrated by Reinhold Reiter in 1954 when he tabulated the results of a number of population studies that he and his colleagues had conducted in Germany, involving about one million people. Births, deaths, suicides, rapes, work injuries, traffic accidents, human reaction times, amputees’ pains, and complaints of people with brain injuries all rose significantly on days with strong VLF sferics.6
Our VLF environment regulates biological rhythms in both humans and animals. Golden hamsters, which have been popular pets since the 1930s, live in the wild near Aleppo, Syria where, every winter for about three months, they go in and out of hibernation. But scientists who have tried to use hamsters as a subject for hibernation studies in the laboratory have been puzzled by their inability to trigger hibernation in these animals by exposing them to prolonged cold, reducing hours of daylight, or controlling any other known environmental factor. 7
In the mid-1960s, climatologists Wolfgang Ludwig and Reinhard Mecke took a different approach. They kept a hamster during the winter in a Faraday cage, shielded from all natural electromagnetic waves, and without any alteration of temperature or hours of daylight. At the beginning of the fourth week they introduced the natural outdoor atmospheric frequencies by means of an antenna, whereupon the hamster promptly fell asleep. During the following two months, the researchers were able to put the animal into and out of hibernation by introducing, or removing, either the natural outdoor frequencies, or artificial VLF fields that imitated the natural winter pattern. Then, at the beginning of the thirteenth week of the experiment, the frequencies in the enclosure were changed so as to imitate the natural summer pattern, and within half an hour, as if panicked by the sudden change in season, the animal woke up and began a “movement storm,” running day and night for an entire week until the experiment was terminated. In repetitions of this experiment on other hamsters, the researchers found that this high level of activity could not be induced unless the state of hibernation had been triggered first. The artificial fields they used were extremely weak—as small as 10 millivolts per meter for the electric field and 26.5 microamperes per meter for the magnetic field.
One way to find out if the earth’s natural fields are as important to people as to hamsters would be to place human subjects in a completely shielded room for a few weeks and see what happens. Which is exactly what behavioral physiologist Rütger Wever did at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. In 1967 he had an underground building constructed containing two isolation chambers. Both were carefully shielded against outside light and sound, and one was shielded also against electromagnetic fields. During the next two decades hundreds of people had their sleep cycles, body temperature, and other internal rhythms monitored while they lived in one or the other of these rooms, usually for a month at a time. Wever found that even without any variation in light and darkness, and without any clocks or time cues, the body’s sleep cycle and internal rhythms remained close to 24 hours, so long as the earth’s natural electromagnetic fields were present. However, when those fields were excluded, the body’s rhythms usually became longer, erratic, and desynchronized with each other. The average “free-running” sleep cycle was 25 hours, but in individual cases was as short as 12 hours and as long as 65 hours. Variations in body temperature, potassium excretion, speed of mental processes, and other rhythms drifted at their own separate rates, completely different from one another, and no longer coinciding with the sleep-wake cycle at all. But as soon as an artificial 10 Hz signal—close to the first Schumann resonance— was introduced into the shielded room, the body’s rhythms all immediately resynchronized to a 24-hour period.
Life, residing between heaven and earth, partakes of both polarities. As we will see in the next chapter, the distribution of electric charge in living beings has been measured and mapped externally. In plants this was done by professor of anatomy Harold Saxton Burr, at Yale University, and in animals by orthopedic surgeon Robert O. Becker, at the State University of New York, Upstate Medical Center, Syracuse. The areas of greatest positive voltage in animals are the center of the head, the heart, and the lower abdomen, and in trees the crown. The places of greatest negative voltage, in trees, are the roots, and in animals, the four feet and the end of the tail. These are the places where the global electrical circuit enters and leaves the body on its way between heaven and earth. And the channels through which the electricity travels inside living beings, distributing the electricity of heaven and earth to every organ, were precisely mapped several thousand years ago, and are part of a body of knowledge that we know today as Chinese acupuncture. It was written down in the Huangdi Neijing, the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, between 500 and 300 B.C.
The very names of key acupuncture points reveal an understanding that the circuitry of the body is continuous with that of earth and sky. Kidney 1, for example, the point underneath the foot, in the center of the sole, is known in Chinese as yong quan, meaning “bubbling spring,” because earth energy bubbles up into the feet through these points and climbs up the legs into the rest of the body toward the heavens. Governing Vessel 20, the point on top of the head, in the center, is called bai hui, the “hundred convergences.” This is also the “thousand petal lotus” of Indian traditions, the place where the energy of heaven descends into our body toward the earth, and the flows of our body converge and reach toward the sky.
But not until the 1950s did scientists, beginning with Yoshio Nakatani in Japan and Reinhold Voll in Germany, begin to actually measure the electrical conductivity of acupuncture points and meridians, and to finally translate the word “qi” (formerly spelled “chi”) into modern language: it means “electricity.”
Hsiao-Tsung Lin is a professor of chemical and material science at National Central University in Taiwan. The qi that flows through our meridians, he tells us, is an electrical current that brings both power and information to our cells, current whose source is both internal and external. Every acupuncture point has a double function: as an amplifier for the internal electrical signals, boosting their strength as they travel along the meridians; and as an antenna that receives electromagnetic signals from the environment. The dantians, or energy centers of Chinese medicine, located in the head, heart, and abdomen—equivalent to the chakras of Indian tradition—are electromagnetic oscillators that resonate at particular frequencies, and that communicate with the meridians and regulate their flow. They have capacitance and inductance like oscillators in any electronic circuitry. The body, says Lin, is a super-complex electromagnetic oscillation network, enormously intricate and delicate.
In 1975, Becker and his colleagues at Upstate Medical Center found that, in general, acupuncture points are not only places of low resistance, but of high potential, averaging five millivolts higher than the surrounding skin. They also found that the path of a meridian, at least on the surface of the body, has significantly greater conductivity and lower electrical resistance than nearby skin.
As a result of the work of Nakatani, Voll, Becker, and others, electroacupuncture, using microampere currents, has taken its place alongside traditional acupuncture, and commercial point locators, which find acupuncture points by measuring the electrical conductivity of the skin, have come into use among nontraditional practitioners here in the West.8 In China, electroacupuncture devices have been in use since 1934. They are a tacit acknowledgement that the body is an electrical instrument, and that its health or sickness depends on the proper distribution and balance of the electrical energies that constantly flow around and through us. But ironically they also prevent that scientific knowledge from becoming true knowledge, for to substitute artificial electricity for atmospheric electricity in replenishing the body is to forget that the electricity of the air is there, nourishing us and giving us life.
At the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Fujian Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and elsewhere in China, scientists continue to confirm that the substance that flows in our meridians is electricity, and that electricity is not only a force that moves locomotives, but is the incredibly complex and delicate stuff of life. Typically, the electrical resistance of an acupuncture point is two to six times lower than the resistance of the surrounding skin, and its capacitance—its ability to store electrical energy—is five times as great.9 Commercial point locators do not always work, because sometimes—depending on the internal state of the individual—an acupuncture point can have a higher resistance than its surroundings. But the meridians always respond in an active and nonlinear way to electrical stimulation, and they react, say modern researchers, exactly like an electrical circuit.10
The physical structures of the conductive points and meridians have been tentatively identified. In the 1960s, a North Korean physician, Bong Han Kim, published detailed photographs of an entire network of tiny corpuscles, and threadlike structures that connect them, that exist throughout the body in our skin, in our internal organs and nervous system, and in and around our blood vessels. These ducts, he found, were electrically conductive and the fluid within them, surprisingly, contained large amounts of DNA. Their electrical pulsations were considerably slower than the heartbeat: in the skin of a rabbit, the pulsation rate was between 10 and 20 per minute. The pathways of the superficial ducts in the skin matched the classical pathways of the acupuncture meridians. The reason Kim succeeded in identifying this system is that he worked only on living animals, because the ducts and corpuscles, almost transparent to begin with, disappear shortly after death. He stained the living tissue with an unspecified blue dye that was absorbed only by this network of ducts and corpuscles. Kim’s book, On the Kyungrak System, was published in Pyongyang in 1963. The reason his work has been so completely ignored has partly to do with his relations with the North Korean government—Kim was expunged from official records in 1966, and rumor has it that he committed suicide—and partly with the fact that the outside world does not want to find physical proof of our electrical nature. But in the mid1980s, Jean-Claude Darras, a French physician working in the nuclear medicine department at Necker Hospital in Paris, replicated some of Kim’s experiments. He injected a radioactive dye containing technetium-99 into various acupuncture points on the feet of volunteers, and found that the dye migrated precisely along the meridian pathways of classical acupuncture, just as Kim had found.11
In 2002, Kwang-Sup Soh, who had already been investigating the electromagnetic properties of acupuncture meridians, headed up a team at Seoul National University in South Korea, which looked for and found most of the threadlike duct system described by Kim. A breakthrough came in November 2008 with the discovery that trypan blue, a dye that was previously known to stain only dead cells, if injected into living tissue, will stain only the nearly invisible threads and corpuscles they had painstakingly begun to identify. The “primo vascular system,” as it was now called, suddenly became a subject of research in other centers in South and North Korea, as well as in China, Europe, Japan, and the United States. The ducts and corpuscles of this system were found, just as Kim had described, resting on the surface of and penetrating inside the internal organs, floating inside the large blood and lymphatic vessels, winding along the outside of major blood vessels and nerves, traveling inside the brain and spinal cord, and following the paths of the known meridians within the deep layers of the skin.12 When the surface of the skin was stained with the dye, only points along the meridians absorbed it.13 In September 2010, at the First International Symposium of Primo Vascular System, held in Jecheon, Korea, Satoru Fujiwara, retired professor of anatomy at Osaka City University, Japan, reported tentative success at surgically identifying a superficial primo node—an acupuncture point—in the skin of a rabbit’s abdomen.14 And in 2015, researchers at Seoul National University used a commercially available staining kit to reveal a threadlike vessel running just beneath the abdominal skin of anesthetized living rats.15 The vessel, colored dark blue from the stain, followed the pathway of the acupuncture meridian called the conception vessel, and connected discrete corpuscles corresponding in location to the known acupuncture points on that meridian. The fine structure of this system of nodes and ducts was revealed by electron microscopy. The staining process, they noted, takes less than ten minutes.
In the early 1970s, atmospheric physicists finally woke up to the fact that the earth’s magnetic field was highly disturbed. Not all of those whistlers, hiss, chorus, lion roars, and other colorful sounds they had been listening to for half a century were caused by nature! This discovery came about as a result of efforts to deliberately alter the earth’s electromagnetic environment—efforts that have culminated, today, in the operation of Project HAARP, located in Gakona, Alaska (see chapter 16).
Under contract with the Office of Naval Research, scientists at Stanford University’s Radio science Laboratory had built a 100- kilowatt VLF transmitter at Siple Station, Antarctica, broadcasting in the 1.5 to 16 kHz range. The purposes of the 13-mile-long antenna that stretched over the frozen ice, according to Robert Helliwell, one of the members of the Stanford team, included “control of the ionosphere, control of the radiation belts and new methods of v.l.f. and u.l.f. communication.”16 It had been discovered accidentally in 1958 that VLF transmissions originating on the earth interact with particles in the magnetosphere, stimulating them to emit new VLF waves, which can then be received at the opposite end of the earth. The purpose of the Stanford project was to do this deliberately—to inject sufficient quantities of very low frequency energy into the magnetosphere so that it would not only trigger new waves, but that these triggered waves might in turn cause electrons to rain out of the earth’s radiation belts into the atmosphere, altering the properties of the ionosphere for military purposes. A primary goal of the Department of Defense was to devise a method of stimulating the ionosphere to emit VLF (very low frequency), ELF (extra low frequency), or even ULF (ultra low frequency) waves in order to communicate with submarines submerged beneath the oceans.17 The VLF transmitter at Siple, and a VLF receiver in northern Quebec, at Roberval, were part of this early research.
The data they collected were surprising. First, the signal received in Quebec, immediately after transmission from Antarctica, was larger than expected. The waves broadcast from Antarctica were not only triggering new emissions from particles in the magnetosphere, but were being amplified more than a thousandfold in the magnetosphere before returning to earth and being received in Quebec. Only half a watt of broadcast power was required in order to be detected near the opposite pole of the earth after being relayed from the magnetosphere.18 The second surprise was that Roberval was receiving frequencies that were unrelated to the frequencies that originated at Siple, but that were instead multiples of 60 Hz. The Siple signal had been altered, on its journey through outer space, to bear the imprint of the electric power grid.
Since those first discoveries, scientists have learned a great deal about this form of pollution, now known as “power line harmonic radiation.” It appears that harmonics from all of the world’s power grids leak continuously into the magnetosphere, where they are greatly amplified as they bounce back and forth between the northern and southern hemisphere, generating their own rising and falling whistlers just like radiation from lightning.
But there is a fundamental difference. Before 1889, whistlers and other lightning-triggered sounds played continuously over the entire range of the terrestrial instrument. Today the music is stilted, dulled, often confined to multiples of 50 or 60 Hz. Every component of the natural symphony has been radically altered. The “dawn chorus” is quieter on Sundays than on other days of the week, and the starting frequencies of most chorus emissions are power line harmonics.19 “It seems likely that the entire hiss band is caused by power line radiation,” wrote Helliwell in 1975. And the natural, slow pulsations of the earth’s magnetic field, below 1 Hz, which are also important to all life, are strongest on weekends, evidently because they are being suppressed by radiation from the power grid, and this radiation is stronger on weekdays.20 Antony Fraser-Smith, also at Stanford, by analyzing geomagnetic activity data collected since 1868, showed that this is not a new phenomenon but has been happening since the first use of alternating current, and has been increasing over time.21 Data collected between 1958 and 1992 showed that Pc 1 activity, representing geomagnetic pulsations between 0.2 and 5 Hz, has been fifteen to twenty percent greater on weekends than in the middle of the week.22
The structure of the Van Allen radiation belts seems also to have been altered. What the Department of Defense had wanted to do intentionally was apparently already being done massively by the world’s electric power grids. Why, physicists had long wondered, are there two electron-filled radiation belts around the earth, an inner and an outer, separated by a layer that is virtually empty of electrons? This “electron slot,” some think, is continually drained of its electrons by their interaction with radiation from power lines.23 These electrons, in turn, rain down over the earth, modifying the electrical properties of the atmosphere.24 Not only may this increase the frequency of thunderstorms,25 but it may shift the values of the Schumann resonances to which all living things are attuned.26
In short, the electromagnetic environment of the entire earth is radically different today from what it was before 1889. Satellite observations show that radiation originating from power lines often overwhelms natural radiation from lightning.27 Power line radiation is so intense that atmospheric scientists lament their inability to do fundamental research: there is almost nowhere left on earth, or even in space, where a VLF receiver can be used to study natural phenomena.28
Under natural conditions, as they existed before 1889, intense VLF activity, leading to electron rain and the shifting of the Schumann resonances, occurred only during geomagnetic storms. Today, the magnetic storm never ends.
Influenza If the atmosphere is, at times, electrified beyond the degree which is usual, and necessary to preserve the body in a due state of excitement, the nerves must be too highly excited, and under a continued operation of undue stimulus, become extremely irritable, and subject to debility.
NOAH WEBSTER, A Brief History of Epidemic and Pestilential Diseases, 1799, p. 38
A large, rapid, qualitative change in the earth’s electromagnetic environment has occurred six times in history.
In 1889, power line harmonic radiation began. From that year forward the earth’s magnetic field bore the imprint of power line frequencies and their harmonics. In that year, exactly, the natural magnetic activity of the earth began to be suppressed. This has affected all life on earth. The power line age was ushered in by the 1889 pandemic of influenza.
In 1918, the radio era began. It began with the building of hundreds of powerful radio stations at LF and VLF frequencies, the frequencies guaranteed to most alter the magnetosphere. The radio era was ushered in by the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918.
In 1957, the radar era began. It began with the building of hundreds of powerful early warning radar stations that littered the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere, hurling millions of watts of microwave energy skyward. Low-frequency components of these waves rode on magnetic field lines to the southern hemisphere, polluting it as well. The radar era was ushered in by the Asian flu pandemic of 1957.
In 1968, the satellite era began. It began with the launch of dozens of satellites whose broadcast power was relatively weak. But since they were already in the magnetosphere, they had as big an effect on it as the small amount of radiation that managed to enter it from sources on the ground. The satellite era was ushered in by the Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1968.
The other two mileposts of technology—the beginning of the wireless era and the activation of the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP)—belong to very recent times and will be discussed later in this book.
Porphyrins and the Basis of Life
Chapter 7. Acute Electrical Illness
1. Scientific American 1889d.
2. Stuart-Harris 1965, fig. 54, p. 87.
3. Hope-Simpson 1992, p. 59.
4. Mygge 1930, p. 10.
5. Mygge 1919, p. 1255.
6. Hogan 1995, p. 122.
7. Here is a sampling of opinion as to the time span of this pandemic: 1727-34 (Gordon 1884); 1729-38 (Taubenberger 2009); 1729-33 (Vaughan 1921; van Tam and Sellwood 2010). Some authors divide it into two separate pandemic periods: 1725-30 and 1732-33 (Harries 1892); 1727-29 and 1732-33 (Creighton 1894); 1728-30 and 1732-33 (Arbuthnot 1751 and Thompson 1852); 1729- 30 and 1731-35 (Schweich 1836); 1729-30 and 1732-37 (Bosser 1894, Leledy 1894, and Ozanam 1835); 1729-30 and 1732-33 (Webster 1799; Hirsch 1883; Beveridge 1978; Patterson 1986).
8. Thompson 1852, pp. 28-38.
9. Ibid., p. 43.
10. Marian and Mihăescu 2009.
11. Parsons 1891, pp. 9, 14.
12. Lee 1891, p. 367.
13. Parsons 1891, p. 43.
14. Journal of the American Medical Association 1890a.
15. Parsons 1891, p. 33.
16. Brakenridge 1890, pp. 997, 1007.
17. Parsons 1891, p. 11 note.
18. Clemow 1903, p. 198.
19. Parsons 1891, p. 20.
20. Ibid., p. 16.
21. Ibid., p. 24.
22. Clemow 1903, p. 200.
23. Parsons 1891, p. 15.
24. Ibid., p. 24.
25. Ibid., p. 22.
26. Ibid., p. 22.
27. Ibid., p. 19.
28. Bowie 1891, p. 66.
29. Lee 1891, p. 367.
30. Creighton 1894, p. 430. See also Webster 1799, vol. 1, p. 289; Hirsch 1883, pp. 19-21; Beveridge 1978, p. 47.
31. Beveridge 1978, p. 35.
32. Ricketson 1808, p. 4.
33. Jones 1827, p. 5.
34. Thompson 1852, p. ix.
35. Mackenzie 1891, p. 884.
36. Birkeland 1949, pp. 231-32.
37. Bordley and Harvey 1976, p. 214.
38. McGrew 1985, p. 151.
39. Beveridge 1978, 15-16.
40. Parsons 1891, pp. 54, 60.
41. Lee 1891, p. 367.
42. Mackenzie 1891, pp. 299-300.
43. Beveridge 1978, p. 11.
44. Schnurrer 1823, p. 182.
45. Webster 1799, vol. 1, p. 98; Jones 1827, p. 3; Journal of the Statistical Society of London 1848, p. 173; Thompson 1852, pp. 42, 57, 213-15, 285-86, 291-92, 366, 374-75; Gordon 1884, p. 363-64; Creighton 1894, p. 343; Beveridge 1978, pp. 54-67; Taubenberger 2009, p. 6.
46. Beveridge 1978, p. 56.
47. E.g., Lancet 1919; Beveridge 1978, p. 57.
48. Hope-Simpson 1979, p. 18.
49. Kilbourne 1975, p. 1; Beveridge 1978, p. 38.
50. Jefferson 2006, 2009. See also Glezen and Simonsen 2006; Cannell 2008.
Chapter 8. Mystery on the Isle of Wight
1. d’Arsonval 1892a.
2. d’Arsonval 1893a.
4. Underwood and van Engelsdorp 2007.
5. Carr 1918.
6. Baker 1971, p. 160.
7. Nimitz 1963, p. 239.
8. Annual Report of the Surgeon General 1919, p. 367.
9. Berman 1918.
10. Annual Report of the Surgeon General 1919, pp. 411-12.
11. Nuzum 1918.
12. Journal of the American Medical Association 1918e, p. 1576.
13. Pflomm 1931; Schliephake 1935, p. 120; Kyuntsel’ and Karmilov 1947; Richardson 1959; Schliephake 1960, p. 88; Rusyaev and Kuksinskiy 1973; Kuksinskiy 1978. See also Person 1997; Firstenberg 2001.
14. Jordan 1918.
15. Berman 1918, p. 1935.
16. Bircher 1918.
17. Journal of the American Medical Association 1918g.
18. Armstrong 1919, p. 65; Sierra 1921.
19. Journal of the American Medical Association 1919b.
20. Firstenberg 1997, p. 29.
21. Annual Report of the Surgeon General 1919, p. 408.
22. Ibid., pp. 409-10.
23. Menninger 1919a.
24. Annual Report of the Surgeon General 1919, pp. 426-35.
25. Erlendsson 1919.
26. Soper 1918, p. 1901.
27. Rosenau 1919. See also Leake 1919; Public Health Reports 1919.
Chapter 9. Earth’s Electric Envelope
1. The Immense Journey. NY: Random House, 1957, p. 14.
2. Burbank 1905, p. 27.
3. Rheinberger and Jasper 1937, p. 190; Ruckebusch 1963; Klemm 1969; Pellegrino 2004, pp. 481-82.
4. König 1974b; König 1975, pp. 77-81.
5. Helliwell 1965, p. 1.
6. Reiter 1954, p. 481.
7. Lyman and O’Brien 1977, pp. 1-27.
8. Brewitt 1996; Larsen 2004.
9. Xiang et al. 1984; Hu et al. 1993; Huang et al. 1993; Wu et al. 1993; Zhang et al. 1999; Starwynn 2002.
10. Wei et al. 2012.
11. de Vernejoul et al. 1985.
12. Jiang et al. 2002; Baik, Park, et al. 2004; Baik, Sung, et al. 2004; Cho et al. 2004; Johng et al. 2004; Kim et al. 2004; Lee 2004; Park et al. 2004; Shin et al. 2005; Johng et al. 2006; Lee et al. 2008; Lee et al. 2010; Soh et al. 2012; Avijgan and Avijgan 2013; Park et al. 2013; Soh et al. 2013.
13. Lee et al. 2009.
14. Fujiwara and Yu 2012.
15. Lim et al. 2015.
16. Helliwell 1977.
17. Davis 1974; Fraser-Smith et al. 1977.
18. Park and Chang 1978.
19. Bullough 1995.
20. Fraser-Smith 1979, 1981; Villante et al. 2004; Guglielmi and Zotov 2007.
21. Fraser-Smith 1979.
22. Guglielmi and Zotov 2007.
23. Bullough et al. 1976; Tatnall et al. 1983; Bullough 1995.
24. Boerner et al. 1983.
25. Bullough 1985.
26. Cannon and Rycroft 1982.
27. Bullough et al. 1976; Luette et al. 1977, 1979; Park et al. 1983; Imhof et al. 1986.
28. Kornilov 2000.