Fringe Scientists Gather in Columbus I don't know much about science, but I know what I like. I like Nikola Tesla, Wilhelm Reich, L. Ron Hubbard, R.D. Laing. I love Bucky Fuller, Douglas Hofstadter, Richard Feynman, Jacques Vallee?guys that make me think, whether I have linear detailed knowledge of what I'm thinking about or not. I'm in love with the provocateur; I want to be jarred. Call it an Artaudian position. I'm not a scientist. I don't pretend to be. I'm a student. I want to be provoked, to think and feel in new ways as a result of my contacts. When Marshall McLuhan was pressed to explain the occasional contradictions in his media theories, he responded by creating a meme he labeled "probes." He maintained that he was continually uttering these "probes" designed to elicit responses and thereby acquire feedback on new hypotheses. These hypotheses were forever subject to change, as hypotheses should be. This is one way of relieving oneself from labor. McLuhan spouted provocative notions, and let others do the gruntwork of critique. He was the Andy Warhol of Big Science. He was agile. Agility is everything. I was pretty pissed off at Con Ed after the heat wave blackout last month, and was wondering just how it is that puny little circuses of every barbaric shape, size and description can manage to generate power for the 4 o'clock show out on the road no matter what's happening in the world around them, while the power grid operator for the most important city in the known universe can't manage to supply the 85-year-old woman who lives up the hall from me with the energy necessary to get to the ground floor and back with a cartload of good cold meat. As much as I loathe psychiatry, one of my best friends?whom I'll call Dr. Bud?happens to be a semiretired psychiatrist examining alternative science, with a particular interest in alternative energy systems. Dr. Bud called me up on the heels of our recent unpleasantness with Con Ed and suggested that I accompany him to Columbus, OH, of all places, for a conference on alternative approaches to current scientific orthodoxy in a wide range of fields. The conference was being presented under the auspices of the United States Psychotronics Association (USPA), an organization that's been providing a platform for fringe scientists for the past 25 years. I spent a total of 21 hours waiting for this maniac to show up before we actually took off for Ohio on Thursday, July 15, in a borrowed Range Rover. The Range Rover is the worst automobile I have ever driven. The steering is horrible, the dashboard controls are totally anti-ergonomic, there's no headroom whatsoever and the thing only gets 17 miles per gallon. Despite all that, we made it to Columbus intact, arriving at 8:45 a.m. on Friday, leaving enough time for a little nap before the first lecture, scheduled for 1:30. When I woke up, CNN was reporting on a plague of locusts in Russia, Bruce Springsteen in East Rutherford and the annual Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest in San Francisco. There is a great deal of paranoia regarding the press on the alternative science circuit. It's understandable among fringe types. Any challenge to orthodoxy is usually greeted with hoots of derision from the unwashed masses, and this particular range of pursuits lends itself to exploitation by unimaginative attack journalism. Robert Beutlich, the secretary and treasurer of the USPA, was extremely wary of me on the phone when I arranged for my pass. I assured him that I had no particular agenda in mind, and that my biases tend to run against mainstream consensus reality, which I regard as a hoax. The conference was held at the Ramada University Hotel on the outskirts of Columbus. There were 30 speakers on topics ranging from zero-point energy systems to personalized theurgical multimedia events. About 200 people showed up. The lectures were in two conference rooms, and there were booths set up with various gadgets and literature in two larger rooms off the lobby. The demographic profile of the attendees was interesting. There were more women than I'd expected, and there couldn't have been more than five people under 30. Quite a number of retired military personnel are into this stuff. I saw two blacks, one Asian and about a half-dozen Latinos. Alternative science is a very white phenomenon. I'd packed an eighth of an ounce of some very nice hydro, a Dutch hybrid strain. I smoked a joint and wandered around checking out the booths. There were a lot of really peculiar gadgets on display. I got to thinking about Tom Swift and the whole spirit of the 50s with regard to technology?the postwar notion that science could and would solve all human ills, the remarkably idealistic and frankly silly ideas of the future that prevailed at that time. I remember the 1964 World's Fair in Flushing. It was probably the last gasp of that mentality. There was a huge diorama on display in one of the exhibition halls, I forget which. It might have been GM. It was called "Futurama," and it was a hopelessly idealistic George Jetson projection of how we'd be living now. It was very clean and full of robots and flying cars. It seemed quite plausible at the time. Now it's just ridiculous. I avoided the tables with very flashy gadgets on them on the principle that the prettier the gadget, the less likely it is that it actually does anything. I tried to slip past a table full of conspiracy literature without attracting the attention of the fellow manning it, but the "Press" badge I was forced to wear proved irresistible to him. I cut him short by claiming I had a meeting. I wandered over to a table spread with some mundane-looking devices, just boxes with wires coming out of them. The guy behind the table had the look of an aged boxer?a certain pugnacious set to the jaw. I figured him to be at least 75. There was nothing flashy about him or his display. He didn't look like any kind of approval hound or salesman. I had to talk to this guy. His name is Robert Beck. The bio sheet handed out by USPA lists him as "an award-winning physicist...widely known for his instrumentation of altered states, his development of state-of-the-art medical electro-stimulators, and his investigation of Tesla electro-magnetics. He has been a consultant to both industry and government and was a senior lecturer in the graduate school at the University of Southern California. He owns several patents including the low-voltage electronic flash. After discovering hidden research and several patents, Dr. Beck was convinced that microcurrents of electricity have the power to disable viruses and other pathogens to allow the body to heal itself." That's just the tip of the iceberg. I got to talking with Beck, and found out that he's worked as a consultant to Sandia Corp. and the U.S. Navy Office of Surface Weaponry. He was also a senior staff scientist at Eyring Research Institute and acting chief of radiological defense, OCD, in Los Angeles from 1958 to 1963. His specialty in the area of defense technology was ELF detection. Back in 1969, while the rest of us were blasted on acid, he founded the Monitor Electronics Research Corp. and the Alpha-Metrics company for the manufacture of EEG biofeedback instruments. Beck isn't selling anything and is very emphatically not seeking funds. What he's doing is promoting the resumption of research into a method of healing based on a research curve that was actively suppressed by the pharmaceuticals industry in the early years of this century and rediscovered by Dr. Steven Kaali and William Lyman at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine here in New York in 1990. Kaali obtained U.S. Patent #5,188,738 on Feb. 23, 1993, for what the patent abstract describes as a "new alternating current process and system for treatment of blood and/or other body fluids and/or synthetic fluids from a donor to a recipient or storage receptacle or in a recycling system using novel electrically conductive treatment vessels for treating blood and/or other body fluids and/or synthetic fluids with electric field forces of appropriate electric field strength to provide electric current flow through the blood or other body fluids at a magnitude that is biologically compatible but is sufficient to render the bacteria, virus, parasites and/or fungus ineffective to infect or affect normally healthy cells while maintaining the biological usefulness of the blood or other fluids." Science News gave it a brief mention in their issue of March 30, 1991, page 207: "Zapping the AIDS virus with low-voltage electric current can nearly eliminate its ability to infect human white blood cells cultured in the laboratory, reports a research team at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. "William D. Lyman and his colleagues found that exposure to 50 to 100 microamperes of electricity?comparable to that produced by a cardiac pacemaker?reduced the infectivity of the AIDS virus (HIV) by 50 to 95 percent. Their experiments, described March 14 in Washington, D.C., at the First International Symposium on Combination Therapies, showed that the shocked viruses lost the ability to make an enzyme crucial to their reproduction, and could no longer cause the white blood cells to clump together?two key signs of virus infection." Lyman and Kaali were projecting some sort of invasive procedure, along the lines of dialysis or implants, but the modality being promoted by Beck is a four-pronged, noninvasive protocol that he claims will disable any pathogen. It is very similar to the work being conducted by Jacques Schrenzel and Karl Heinz Krause at Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland, as reported by the French journal Science & Vie in September 1998. Beck is a very funny guy, a classic curmudgeon in the W.C. Fields-H.L. Mencken-William Burroughs mold. I always thought that the occult motto of the American Medical Association was "If it ain't broke, fix it until it is," but Bob maintains that it's really "A patient cured is a customer lost." He's not after money and he doesn't seem to want attention. It's almost like he can barely be bothered, and when he doesn't want to be bothered, he has no qualms about saying it. He's giving away schematics for three very simple devices that any hobbyist can build. He says that my virus load of 5000+ Hepatitis C boogers per cubic centimeter of blood can be reduced to under 100 in eight weeks. I intend to check this out, because it has become glaringly obvious to me that mainstream medicine doesn't know rat shit from Rice Krispies when it comes to Hep C, and what the heck, if Beck is right I can get serious about drinking again. I went back to my room and smoked another joint. I didn't come here looking for a cure. I came looking for interesting gadgets and a possible explanation for that creepy HAARP device gobbling so much tax revenue up in Alaska. I'm interested in the Persinger Helmet, which supposedly induces "alien abduction" experiences in humans by blasting the hippocampus region of the brain with ELF waves. I'd like to try one on. I attended Robert Kersten's remarkably lucid and provocative presentation on "Dynamic Holography as a Model for Interaction between Energy Fields." Kersten's an interesting guy. He's a senior research scientist at Ciencia, Inc., a little R&D outfit that develops ultrasensitive and compact spectrometers. He explained how phase conjugation works and how the phenomenon might be used as a model for unconscious communication between people. He surprised me by mentioning the Zuccarelli Holophonic Head System, a truly amazing microphone that mimics the resonances of the human head. We got to talking about this after his presentation, and it turned out that he hadn't heard the three recordings I know of that were made using this system: Edgar Froese's Aqua, Pink Floyd's The Final Cut and Psychic TV's Dreams Less Sweet. I sat through as much as I could stand of Prof. Euvaldo Cabral's lecture on his theory of "Emotons." Professor Cabral has a master's degree in digital signal processing from the Military Institute of Engineering in Brazil and a doctorate in speech signal processing, electronics and artificial neural networks from the University of East Anglia in England. He's fixated on survival after death, and has developed an elaborate theory regarding the structure of the human soul that was simply too much for me to listen to. I can't get interested in life after death. It's too abstract and seems inherently oxymoronic, like English cuisine or African government. A woman named Dawn Stranges was threatening to channel some dead celebrity over dinner, but the food at the Ramada sucked, so Dr. Bud and I lit out to find some decent grub. Have I mentioned that the Range Rover handles horribly? It wants to flip over, is what it wants. By the time we got back, I was so zapped by fatigue that I barely managed to attend the wine and cheese fete, opting for a few glasses of wine and a good night's sleep. I seriously overslept?a very deep and dreamless sleep. When I awoke, Dr. Bud had already left the room for the convention. I ordered some cereal and juice and turned on CNN, figuring to get more on the Russian locusts. No such luck: JFK Jr.'s plane was missing, and my heart sank as I realized that this was going to be the only news for at least three or four days. I figured it would be at least as bad as the Princess Di business, not as bad as O.J. Simpson. After the maid brought my Wheaties and orange juice I rolled a joint and switched over to cartoons. After breakfast I showered, smoked the joint and ambled downstairs to mingle with the psychotronicists. I was starting to get slightly annoyed at the paranoia. I kept getting this "You're not gonna write anything bad, are you?" vibe?lengthy histories of unfortunate encounters with the press, unpleasantness, smear jobs, et cetera, et cetera. I don't really much give a shit what other people think of me, but I wanted to get this story, so I had to indulge these people. I was pretty frank about not having an agenda with regard to any of this stuff. They get a lot of guff from unenlightened idiots who know absolutely nothing about the lengths to which corporate interests will go to protect their profits. You hear a lot of derisive hoo-ha about "conspiracy theorists" from cocktail-party media pigs who seem to think that history happens by accident. It was no accident that brought down Preston Tucker. The Tucker automobile is an excellent object lesson for those who would dismiss these people as kooks. Preston Tucker's car was vastly superior to anything made in America at that time. It was the American Volvo. He was crushed by the Big Three, but not before he managed to manufacture 51 cars at the end of the 1940s. I have stood in the presence of 48 of those cars, examined them up close. It should have worked, and it would have worked, but it threatened Ford, GM and Chrysler, and they shut the Tucker down. J.P. Morgan was happy to back Nick Tesla, right up until the moment he discovered that Tesla intended to use his radio to generate a free energy field, and in fact did so in Colorado Springs. "Where the Hell do I put the meter?" was Morgan's response. He cut the money to Tesla and saw to it that Tesla's dream died with him. Sure, there are kooks on this circuit. There are charlatans, too. You'll find kooks and charlatans anywhere. There are more than a few practicing medicine in this town. I know, I've met a few of them. On the kook front, I should probably have had a couple of drinks instead of a joint before going in to hear Anne Meshanko. Her bio in the handout says that she "has studied theology at the University of Dayton and practiced energy work through Reiki." Apparently Reiki is quite the rage in Ohio currently. I entered the room just in time to hear her segue from a discourse on the need to unify and balance the upper and lower chakras into a revelation regarding the destruction of Atlantis and Lemuria. A dowdy woman resembling Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? seated just in front of me interjected that "Atlantis was destroyed by black magic." There was some coughing and throat-clearing before Ms. Meshanko resumed. I made a mental note to avoid this Black Magic Woman at all costs. She settled back and let Ms. Meshanko proceed with her analysis of antediluvian kundalini mishaps. I surreptitiously split to check out the booths and tables. I ran into Dr. Bud, who insisted that I catch up with Phil Callahan. Callahan's specialty is agriculture. He's a very down-to-earth guy, a wry and sprightly old gent who spent a great deal of time intercepting and interpreting Nazi signals from a base in Ireland during WWII. He has authored several excellent books recounting his "rucksack naturalist" wanderings and research, and he has a few very pertinent things to say about the way we grow our food. His most interesting idea has to do with paramagnetism, which is a physical force described in every decent physics textbook in print. This is not some ephemeral spiritual hooey. The connecting thread here seems to be some background in signal intelligence and a fascination with ELF/VLF (extremely low frequency and very low frequency) waves. This general field of interest seems to come under the heading of "radionics," but that term has also been construed to include a fair amount of what I'd loosely characterize as hoodoo blather. Tesla's ghost looms heavily over the whole tendency. I didn't hear one word on the subject of UFOs, which is very interesting. Dr. Bud and I hooked up with Duncan Laurie and wound up riding out to Michael Bradford's most amazing spread hidden away in the boonies of Ohio. We traveled in a champagne-colored Cadillac, from the days when an American car was really big. Duncan Laurie is a great big guy who looks like the captain of the football team or something, real All-American. Duncan is also one extremely intense dude, applying his various theories and pursuits to art. He's got a studio up in Jamestown, RI, designed around radionic and traditional sacred geometric principles. He has applied these theories to the very architecture of the building housing the studio. Michael Bradford is a very genial fellow, very secure, and happens to be the father of the Genesis, a nifty studio gadget that basically suspends a person in the center of an array of speakers and sensors in a relaxed position. The sensors read the body armoring and target the sound at the armor. This can be used to alter the mix on an existing recording, or entirely new music can be generated in an intent-driven way. The champagne Cadillac is owned by Cheryl, who is with Steve Nalepa, and they are both perpetrators of the Dilettante Press, an incredibly edgy art publisher out of L.A. It's a David Lynch ride out through the Ohio night: weird blues playing, a sliver of a moon hanging in the sky as we head further out of Columbus into the Back 40, the children of the corn out slicing and dicing black German shepherds for Satan, directions like "there's a church and a cemetery and a blinking red light" and warnings of seriously demented cops from the locals when we stop for directions. None of us are stupid enough to be holding, but there is an element of tension in getting out there. We crossed the railroad tracks, passed a cornfield and we were there. Chase lights and moss hung from the trees. It was nearly midnight. Michael greeted us and led us around to his laboratory. He has 16 acres here. He used to keep an office in New York as well. He and Duncan did a little catching up on the whereabouts of mutual friends and associates. He's far too gracious to go into detail, but I get the impression that Bradford has withdrawn from the psychotronic circuit for some reason. We knocked back a couple of beers with him and his wife and daughter and then we went into the studio. Cheryl laid down on the Genesis and Michael fired it up and slipped in a CD. Since I'd never heard the CD before, it was difficult for me to ascertain exactly what was being done to the mix. Duncan wanted to get his hands on the knobs, so Michael relinquished the engineer's chair and joined me on the patio while the others played with the Genesis. We chatted about information overload and urban living for about an hour, and then it was time to head back to the hotel. We got back at about 2:30 a.m. and discovered Tom Bearden holding court before a small group of people in the back room. Tom Bearden is a fascinating fellow. A great bear of a man from Alabama, a down-home Southern gentleman whose speech is peppered with Cajun idioms and proverbs, Bearden is a retired lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Army Missile Command who worked as a war games analyst. He's been active with the USPA for a number of years, his specialty being a practical critique of current interpretations of Maxwell's equations. Going back to the original material and reintroducing avenues of inquiry that had been omitted and ignored by mainstream researchers, he has discovered a number of interesting warps and woofs that ultimately led him to the design and construction of "Over-Unity" devices. These devices take advantage of the latent energy embedded in asymmetrical applications of Maxwell's theories. Bearden has an enormous amount of respect for the Russian scientific establishment. He admires their willingness to encourage the nonlinear approach, particularly with regard to energy systems and weaponry. His most provocative remarks were related to defense. Tom maintains that the Russians are in possession of a new superweapon, one that makes nuclear weapons look like pop guns: the Quantum Potential weapon. According to him, we do not yet have this device. There is no place to hide from this thing: no shielded bunker, no hollow mountain serves to protect from this gadget. The Russians aren't the only ones. According to Bearden, there is a balance of power, a QP "club" of nations not unlike the early nuclear "club." He says that the QP weapon is held by Russia, Brazil and "a little tiny country that protects the U.S.," whatever that might be. He's cagey about that one. On Sunday, I attended Bearden's lecture on Over-Unity technology and then hit the pool. My head felt like it was going to explode. I'm not a technical guy, and the act of absorbing all the information being thrust at me here was creating a big painful throb in my skull. Bobbing in the chlorinated water under the muggy Ohio sky, I just wanted space to digest some small part of the massive quantity of data being hurled at me like so many cream pies before being smothered to death in the meringue of alternative energy theories. I was making my way back to my room from the pool when the Black Magic Woman came lumbering down the hall at me. She was wearing an orange gingham dress and had a big bow in her hair. She was dressed like an enormous child. She was staring fixedly at me as I slipped past her, avoiding eye contact. I got to the room, bolted the door and rolled a joint. I turned on CNN. No luck: all JFK, all day, every day. I switched over to cartoons, smoked the joint, took a long shower and went to bed. The next morning I was anxious to get on the road. Dr. Bud was schmoozing it up with the psychotronic Illuminati, a small circle of them gathered in Baxter's, the gruesome excuse for a restaurant nestled in the Ramada. I really didn't want to hear any more of it. I'm quite certain that some of these people are onto some very exciting and potentially helpful avenues of inquiry. I'm also quite certain that if I hadn't managed to peel Dr. Bud away from those guys and gotten us on the road when I did that my head would have exploded, just like that guy in the opening of David Cronenberg's Scanners. At 3:30 p.m. on Monday I loaded the last of the bags into the accursed Range Rover and pulled out of Columbus. Dr. Bud would not shut up about free energy systems. It was raining and we kept running into vicious little squalls?no problem in a car with some kind of real handling, but fairly frightening in this yuppie carnival ride. I wanted to smoke a joint just to get Dr. Bud's incessant jabbering about infinite wealth into a space I could manage, but it was dark and the rain was coming down hard and we were surrounded with huge rucks barrel-assing eastward on 80 at well over the speed limit. I've spent a lot of time in big rigs and I know what goes on in those things, so the joint was not an option. I needed every damned dendrite and synapse functioning at peak to get back to Manhattan with my hide intact. I slipped a cassette into the player and cranked up the volume: RamonesMania, a truly excellent collection of the very cream of the Ramones. Peace through noise. It took about eight hours to get back here. The power was on, thank God. I tuned into WINS 1010 to find out if anything significant happened while I was out of town, but even they were totally fixated on the celebrity death trip. The long-term weather report was troubling, though. As a Con Ed customer, I get nervous whenever the weatherman suggests that we might be in for a heat wave. The psychotronics crowd turned out to be pretty level-headed by comparison with the kooks and deadbeats who run this city's utilities. I wish Tom Bearden ran Con Ed.