Thursday, May 13, 2021

Havana Syndrome A Scientifically Implausible Hoax - Just "Russia, Russia, Russia" Nonsense...,

foreignpolicy |  “It’s an act of war,” said Christopher Miller, former President Donald Trump’s last acting secretary of defense. He was talking about alleged attacks on diplomatic and intelligence personnel by an unknown microwave directed-energy weapon. But before the United States declares war on the unknown enemy wielding that weapon, we should know what it is—and whether it exists at all.

Every few weeks, another alleged attack on Americans is reported, some recent, some decades ago. The symptoms are neurological, such as dizziness, headaches, and brain damage. The first wave of reports came in 2016, from the American and Canadian diplomatic missions in Havana, hence the name “Havana syndrome.” Since then, similar cases have been reported in other places, including China; Washington, D.C.; and Syria. State Department and intelligence personnel make up most of those affected.

The State Department and the CIA have investigated Havana syndrome, with much criticism by the victims and their legal counsel. The Jasons, a group of defense advisors, have been reported to be studying the incidents. Most recently, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine also conducted a study that concluded a microwave attack was the most plausible explanation; it also considered chemical pollutants, infectious agents, and psychological and social factors, and found all these explanations wanting.

Here’s the problem. Aside from the reported syndromes, there’s no evidence that a microwave weapon exists—and all the available science suggests that any such weapon would be wildly impractical. It’s possible that the symptoms of all the sufferers of Havana syndrome share a single, as yet unknown, cause; it’s also possible that multiple real health problems have been amalgamated into a single syndrome.

It’s not the first time microwaves and embassies have mixed. From 1953 to 1976, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow was bathed in high-powered microwaves coming from a nearby building. The purpose seems to have been related to espionage—activating listening devices within the embassy or interfering with American transmissions. But a 1978 study concluded that there were no adverse health effects.

Back in the United States, microwave ovens came into common use during the 1970s. Their ability to heat food by imperceptible waves created many myths. How they actually work is well understood. Some molecules, notably water, absorb microwaves and turn them into heat. That happens across the microwave and visible spectrum: Substances absorb energy of a higher frequency and turn it into heat. It’s why sunlight heats surfaces.

There’s a persistent myth that microwaves heat things from the inside out. Anyone who has heated a frozen dinner knows that this is not true. The outer part of the frozen food thaws first, because it absorbs the microwaves before they can reach the inner part. Back in the day, when I was working for the Los Alamos National Laboratory, I had to debunk the idea that microwave heating could produce oil from underground oil shale. Water and minerals between the shale and the microwave source above ground would absorb the microwaves. In the same way, if a directed microwave beam hit people’s brains, we would expect to see visible effects on the skin and flesh. None of that has accompanied Havana syndrome.