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After reading a Youtube comment, I started reading on Luc Montagnier's research on electromagnetic signals from DNA. I haven't been able to find a source that would clearly explain what it's about. I would like to know, if possible,

  • what the claims are exactly;

  • what experiments were carried out;

  • whether the results have been replicated independently;

  • whether the results contradict anything considered firmly established scientific knowledge (it seems Montagnier says they do) and, if so, how;

  • what the criticism is.

I know it's a lot to ask, but if you could make your answers accessible, it would be great. Please don't refrain from using technical language where it's necessary, but do try to give a general picture for those (including me) who might not understand it.

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Have you read the stuff at his webpage, where three papers on the topic have been posted: montagnier.org/Electromagnetic-signals-DNA? –  fileunderwater Oct 27 '13 at 22:05
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This question is rather broad, I'd suggest to read the papers and make your question more specific. On the other hand you might not bother with this topc at all, the entire thing is complete nonsense. –  Mad Scientist Oct 28 '13 at 7:47
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@TomD Being a Nobel laureate doesn't make him immune from criticism. I read the paper a while back, and it is just extremely bad. He makes an absolutely extraordinary and implausible claim, but the experiments and setups described in the paper (rather badly and without enough detail) are prone to noisy results or contamination. –  Mad Scientist Oct 28 '13 at 11:17
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Pharyngula has a nice explanation (and a scathing criticism) here: scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/01/24/… –  Chinmay Kanchi Oct 28 '13 at 15:17
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@TomD Karry Mullis is a Nobel laureate who believes in astrology and James Watson is a Nobel laureate who believes that black people are less intelligent than white. Having a Nobel just means you had at least one idea that a group of people considered good. It does not make you an infallible genius. Silly claims are silly claims Nobel notwithstanding. –  terdon Oct 28 '13 at 16:56
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1 Answer

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I think that ymar poses an excellent set of questions that should be discussed on these forums. It brings back memories (sic) of the memory of water controversy.

I'll quote from Andy Coghlan's excellent article published in New Scientist in 2011

Draw your own conclusions. (The emphases are mine).

... So what have Montagnier and his team actually found? Full details of the experiments are not yet available, but the basic set-up is as follows.

Two adjacent but physically separate test tubes were placed within a copper coil and subjected to a very weak extremely low frequency electromagnetic field of 7 hertz. The apparatus was isolated from Earth's natural magnetic field to stop it interfering with the experiment. One tube contained a fragment of DNA around 100 bases long; the second tube contained pure water.

After 16 to 18 hours, both samples were independently subjected to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a method routinely used to amplify traces of DNA by using enzymes to make many copies of the original material.

The gene fragment was apparently recovered from both tubes, even though one should have contained just water (see diagram).

DNA was only recovered if the original solution of DNA - whose concentration has not been revealed - had been subjected to several dilution cycles before being placed in the magnetic field. In each cycle it was diluted 10-fold, and "ghost" DNA was only recovered after between seven and 12 dilutions of the original. It was not found at the ultra-high dilutions used in homeopathy.

Physicists in Montagnier's team suggest that DNA emits low-frequency electromagnetic waves which imprint the structure of the molecule onto the water.

This structure, they claim, is preserved and amplified through quantum coherence effects, and because it mimics the shape of the original DNA, the enzymes in the PCR process mistake it for DNA itself, and somehow use it as a template to make DNA matching that which "sent" the signal

I always knew there was something suspect about genetics! Stick to biochemistry, that's what I say :-)

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So...since this is bunk, here are some obvious pitfalls. These results are good old fashioned fraudulent claims. There's so much DNA in the original concentration that it prevents PCR amplification (or some other non-optimal condition). Lastly, they were just sloppy and didn't prevent contaminating aerosolized DNA fragments. –  leonardo Nov 1 '13 at 0:01
    
It seems to me that there is no evidence for fraud here, just as there was is no evidence of fraud in Pauling's famous claim that high doses of Vitamin C cures the common cold. We are surely dealing with yet another case of an imminent scientist making an extraordinary and implausible claim that is not supported by the evidence, and where the experimental results are open to many other much more plausible explanations. –  TomD Nov 1 '13 at 12:33
    
If it were the case of having conducted rigorous experiments, but not coming to a reasonable (or parsimonious conclusion, or even over-stating the results, then I would agree it is not fraudulent. If I have understood the summary correctly, that DNA-free water (was it DNAase treated?) is supposedly carrying a sufficient mass of DNA to accomplish PCR, I would regard this as either an over-stated conclusion, sloppy experimental work, or fraud. As they say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. –  leonardo Nov 2 '13 at 19:19
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protected by Chris Apr 10 at 18:00

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