Radio Waves & Life
by Tom Jaski
Electronics - September 1960
In a recent editorial (August, 1959), Hugo Gernsback called
for a serious reappraisal of the effects of radio waves on human
and animal physiology. In view of the almost casual use of high-
power radar and industrial RF (radio frequency) heating equipment,
this is certainly a timely word of warning.
It is not surprising then that the Air Force is already
keenly aware of these problems, and has a number of projects under
way to discover the exact effects of high-intensity radar pulses
and microwaves on human and animal tissue. These projects are
being carried out at our major universities, each specializing in
one particular frequency. For example, the project at the
University of California, under the direction of Prof. Charles
Susskind, is primarily investigating the effects of 3-CM radar
energy. Test subjects are mice, ants, and yeast cells.
Of great importance, and therefore under intensive
investigation, are the thermal effects of such waves, and these
have been measured rather precisely under a variety of conditions.
Using mice as subjects, it was found that near-lethal doses
of radiation do not seem to cause any pathological changes in
them, and that the lethal effect is primarily an overtaxing of the
mice's temperature-balancing system. It was found that the major
heating effect took place immediately under the skin, but of
course heat generated there is rapidly distributed through the
body. The temperature of the mice was monitored continuously.
The photograph shows zoologist Susan Prausnitz monitoraing
the temperature of a mouse suspended in the wire cage right in
front of the waveguide just visible on the left. The mouse is
slowly rotated to insure even radiation over the entire body.
Death occurred in 50% of the mice when a critical temperature of
44.1 Centrigrade was reached.
Other interesting findings include the fact that radar waves
appear to have no significant effect on the fertility of the male
mice. The effects of radar waves on the longevity of the mice are
currently being investigated.
An intensive series of experiments was carried out on
cellular organisms, such as yeast cells, but, other than showing
thermal effects, the experiments with insects such as ants
delivered relatively minor data.
But one interesting item which emerged was that the ants,
normally moving every which way, in a Petri dish, will all line up
in a 3-CM field, aligning their antennas parallel to the field,
apparently to minimize the effects.
The project is continuing, and more research on mice, ants
and other animals is contemplated. Psychological effects will be
looked into. One promising item in the ant experiments was that
the ants which were exposed to 3-CM waves apparently lost the
ability, at least temporarily, to communicate the source of food
to their fellows, as ants usually do.
It may be significant that the large ants used have antennas
which measure very nearly one-fourth the wavelength of the 3-CM
Incidentally, mice are so frequently used for this kind of
experiment because they are easily handled, easily obtained and
relatively inexpensive, while their physiology and metabolism bear
a useful resemblance to human counterparts in some ways. The life
span of a mouse is limited, permitting experimenters to evaluate
genetic effects over several generations.
Meanwhile other service branches are carrying out research
programs concerned with the effects of radio waves on animal life,
not necessarily limited to radar frequencies.
A public announcement by scientists at the National Institute
for Neurological Diseases concerning the LETHAL EFFECTS of 388-MC
radio waves on monkeys also shows there is great interest in other
frequencies and effects BESIDES THERMAL.
Some Early Reports
As long ago as 1930, Nrunori claims to have seen evidence
that the human organism "radiates" and "reacts to" radio waves of
2.33 meters and its harmonics - in other words: 129, 258, 387 and
596 MC (megacycles i.e. million cycles per second).
This brings to mind the work of a man who started publishing
articles on this kind of subject more than 35 years ago. An
Italian university professor named Cazzamalli placed human
subjects in a shielded room, subjected them to high-frequency
radio waves, and claimed to be able to record a "beat" which, he
RECEIVED ON A SIMPLE UNTUNED RECEIVER consisting of a galena
crystal, a small capacitor, antenna and sensitive galvanometer.
Cazzamalli's equipment, as well as it can be determined from his
early articles, is shown in Fig. 1.
The one item which he never mentions, perhaps because he
could not accurately determine it, is the POWER OF HIS
He published oscillograms purportedly showing VARIATIONS of
the "beats" when his subjects were EMOTIONALLY AROUSED OR ENGAGED
IN CREATIVE EFFORTS.
Later experiments delivered much more startling results: he
found that some of his subjects would HALLUCINATE under the
influence of the high-frequency radio waves, which ranged all the
way up to 300 MC.
The Cazzamalli experiments were carefully duplicated with
modern equipment, of much greater sensitivity than his. His
"oscillatori telegrafica" (presumably a transmitter as used for
wireless telegraphy) was replaced with a very modest low-power
oscillator. The reason for this was twofold.
In the first place, university authorities take a very dim
view of experiments on human beings, even if these subjects are
the scientists themselves, volunteering for the part.
Second, a previous experiment had indicated in a rather
startling way that POWER WAS NOT REQUIRED TO EVOKE EFFECTS IN THE
HUMAN NERVOUS SYSTEM. In fact, there seemed to be SOME SORT OF
RESONANT FREQUENCY APPLICABLE TO EACH INDIVIDUAL HUMAN.
Effects on Humans
That experiment was suggested by the behavior of the monkeys
we cited. These animals went through a sequence of behavior which
would indicate that something besides thermal effects was
To discover if this "something" was subjectively noticeable
by an individual, a weak oscillator swept through the band of 300
to 600 MC with the request that the subject indicate any points at
which he might notice anything unusual. The subjects were not
allowed to see the dial.
AT A PARTICULAR FREQUENCY BETWEEN 380 TO 500 MC FOR DIFFERENT
SUBJECTS, they repeatedly indicated a point with ALMOST
UNBELIEVABLE ACCURACY (as many as 14 out of 15 times).
Subsequent experiments with the same subjects showed that at
the "individual" frequency, STRANGE THINGS WERE FELT. Asked to
describe the experience, all subjects agreed there was a definite
"pulsing" in the brain, ringing in the ears and a DESIRE TO PUT
THEIR TEETH INTO THE NEAREST EXPERIMENTER.
The oscillator in this case was putting out only MILLIWATTS
OF POWER, and WAS PLACED SEVERAL FEET FROM THE SUBJECT.
Optical and Growth Effects
It was not the first time that such phenomena had been
observed. Van Everdingen, a Dutch scientist, had discovered many
years ago that radiation would affect the heartbeat of chicken
embryos, when he was experimenting with the effects of high-
frequency radiation on growth (specifically working toward any
effect it might have on malignant growths).
Van Everdingen used 1,875 MC and 3,000 MC and discovered that
this kind of radiation WOULD CHANGE THE OPTICAL PROPERTIES OF A
Glycogen is a substance which provides our muscles with
energy! Van Everdingen found that this change of optical
polarization had some CONNECTION WITH TUMOR GROWTH. He proceeded
to RE-ROTATE THE POLARIZATION IN EXTRACTS OBTAINED FROM TUMOR-
When this optically "pure" substance was injected into mice
with malignant tumors, and these mice were kept on a diet free of
animal fats, THE TUMORS WOULD CEASE TO GROW. Only radiation at
UHF (ultra-high) or SHF (super-high frequency) would produce these
effects in the substances he used.
But Van Everdingen was not the only one who discovered
important facts about radiation on living tissues. Years before,
a Frenchman name Lakhovsky claimed to have removed tumors from
patients with high-frequency radiation treatments, and his book,
THE SECRET OF LIFE, has a number of attestations in it from
grateful patients who were cured.
Lakhovsky stated that healthy plant growth is materially
aided BY PLACING A COPPER RING ABOUT 8 INCHES IN DIAMETER and
supported on an insulating wooden stick (Fig. 2) AROUND THE PLANT.
So-called tumerous growths on plants disappeared withing such
a ring. Lakhovsky's experiment with plants has been duplicated
successfully. But then we should also note that the same kind of
thing has been done by a group of devout citizens using GROUP
But the people who have published the most data on the
subject of UHF radiation effects on animals and human subjects are
the Russians. In BIOFISICA, the Russian biophysics journal, a
scientist named Livshits published two survery articles on the
work that had been in this field by 1958 and 1959. They are too
extensive to repeat in great detail here, but some of the more
impressive highlights will be reported.
Many experiments were carried out on animals with conditioned
reflexes, and one by Glezer showed that a WEAK UHF FIELD would
INHIBIT THE CONDITIONED REFLEX, indicating that some inhibition of
the cortex was taking place.
As in Van Everdingen's experiment with chicken eggs,
Pardzhanidze showed that the EEG's of rabbits were DRASTICALLY
CHANGED WHEN THE ANIMALS WERE SUBJECTED TO A UHF FIELD. Bludova,
Kurilova and Tikhonova showed that the field produced AN INCREASE
OF SENSITIVITY IN THE RETINA, and simultaneously REDUCED THE AREA
OF COLOR SENSITIVITY.
It is interesting to speculate how this would correlate with
the Land effects. (Land, of Polaroid camera fame, has shown
recently that our concepts of three-color vision seems to depend
primarily on the presence of two images STIMULATED BY TWO
DIFFERENT FREQUENCIES OF LIGHT!)
Turlygin similarly showed that the sensitivity of the eyes of
dark-adapted subjects at marginal levels was INCREASED AS MUCH AS
100% BY THE PRESENCE OF A UHF FIELD.
Of importance in the light of Lakhovsky's claims is the
experiment by Grigoreva, who showed that short exposures to UHF
would EXPEDITE THE REGROWTH OF SEVERED NERVE TISSUE, while
prolonged exposure would SUPPRESS THE REGROWTH.
A fact discovered many years ago is that a UHF field will
have an ANALGESIC (pain-reducing) effect on nerves, and radiation
therapy of patients with painful diseases such as arthritis is
fairly common practice here and abroad.
If the field gets very intense, the situation reverses, and
the effects on the nerves can be extremely painful, as Lebedinskii
Numerous experiments are cited which deal with the
simultaneous effects of various kinds of drugs, stimulants and
toxins, and UHF fields. Many of these deal with very specific
reactions and conditions, and any generalization would be rather
meaningless. One particularly was of interest because of its
relation to the experiments of the late Pavlov, the father of the
This experiment shows that the field INCREASES THE SECRETION
OF HISTAMINE IN THE STOMACH, and in related experiments that the
secretion of digestive juice which was artificially stimulated by
such drugs as atropine is MATERIALLY REDUCED BY THE FIELD.
Closer to home, we find that Hugh Fleming at Oregon State
College carried out experiments on the effects of HIGH-FREQUENCY
EFFECTS ON MICROORGANISMS. Fleming used radiation at frequencies
varying from 10 meters to 90 CM (30 to 270 MC).
One result was that the RATE OF GROWTH OF CELLS WILL INCREASE
to a certain power level, and then will SHARPLY DECREASE.
TIME OF EXPOSURE and CONDUCTIVITY OF THE MEDIUM are IMPORTANT
VARIABLES (as was also discovered by Van Everdingen, who also
found the VISCOSITY OF THE MEDIUM to be MOST IMPORTANT).
Summing it up
Now what does all this mean in terms of Mr. Gernsback's
If you consider the few items we have been able to quote
(more detail can be found in the articles cited in the
bibliographhy), it is obvious that WE ARE IN SOME WAY SUSCEPTIBLE
TO RADIO WAVES, and that our susceptibility IS NOT NECESSARY
LIMITED TO A PARTICULAR FREQUENCY. Nor are large amounts of power
required to produce some of the effects within us.
But precisely what these effects are, we understand not at
all. Van Everdingen points out that the possibility of molecular
resonance, AFFECTING THE CHEMICAL BONDS in our very substance.
The egg experiments certainly indicate some sort of
interference with the cortex (our "gray matter") which MAY AFFECT
OUR THINKING AND OUT CONTROL OVER THE "BASER" DRIVES (generally
considered to be generated in the lower sections of the brain, but
normally controlled or inhibited by the cortex).
Our physiological functions, such as our digestion, our
ability to see and recover from damage when nerves are involved
may well be drastically affected if we are subjected to a high
enough power level.
Tumors may be inhibited BY THE PROPER KIND OF RADIO WAVERS
yet, in other cases, particularly when coupled with the "wrong"
kind of DIET, radiation may also PROMOTE THE GROWTH OF TUMORS.
(This too was demonstrated by Van Everdingen in Holland).
WE DO NOT KNOW IF OUR LONGEVITY WILL BE AFFECTED. Certainly
we should consider the possibility that there may be SOME
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE INCREASE OF CANCER AND THE AMOUNT OF
RADIATION we indiscriminately spew into the atmosphere.
Or even that there may be some connection between that
radiation and our SHARPLY INCREASING CRIME RATES.
We simply do not know enough about the effects, but what
little we do know would tend to make Mr. Gernsback's warning all
the more urgent.
For while there is nothing lethal about the doses of radio-
frequency energy we absorb daily, neither is there anything lethal
in the STEADY DRIP OF WATER ON A MAN'S FOREHEAD - but it was
effectively used by medieval torturers to drive him completely out
of his mind.
Perhaps we have a responsibility to mankind, before we fill
in all the gaps in the radio spectrum, to discover once and for
all if we are affecting human life on this planet. And if so, in
what manner, as we finally had to do for another surprise out of
Pandora's box, man-made radioactivity.
F. Cazzamalli - "Electromagnetic Radiation Phenomena from Human
Cerebrum During Intense Activity of Creative
Artistic Nature", Neurologica, 1935.
- "Experiments, Discussions and Problems of
Biophysics of Cerebrum",
Quaderni Di Psichiatria, 1929.
- "Telepsychic Phenomena and Radiation from
Cerebrum", Neurologica, 1923.
- "About a Phenomenon of Cerebropsychic Radiation
and Biophysical Methods of Exploring It,"
W.A.G. Van Everdingen
- "Molecular Changes of Structure Resulting from
Irradiation with Hertzian Waves of Frequency of
Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde, Nov. 40'
- "Molecular Changes and Modifications of Structure
Resulting from Radiation with Hertzian Waves of
Wavelength of 10 CM (frequency 3000 MC),"
Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde, Jul. 41'
- "Changes in Physiochemical Nature of Organic Bonds
by Irradiation, Mostly in Connection with the
Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde, Feb. 43'
K. F. Grishina
- "Importance of Certain Points of Methods in Local
Response of Tissues to Centimeter Waves,"
Biophyzika, Vol. 35, No. 3, pp. 358-362, 1958
B. S. Jacobson, S. B. Prausnitz and C. Susskind
- "Investigation of Thermal Balance in Mammals by
Means of Microwave Radiation,"
Transactions on Medical Electronics
Proceedings of the IRE, June, 1959
- "Researching Microwave Health Hazards,"
Electronics, February, 1959
N. N. Livshits
- "Role of Nervous System in Reactions to
Ultra-High-Frequency Electromagnetic Fields,"
Biofizika, Vol. 2, No. 3, 1957
(has a 96-item bibliography)
- "Effects of Ultra-High-Frequency Field on
Functions of Nervous Systems,"
Biofizika, Vol. 3, No. 4 pp. 426-436, 1958
A. S. Pressman
- "Methods of Experimentally Irradiating Small
Animals with Centimeter Waves,"
Biofizika, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 354-358, 1958
- "Effects of High-Frequency Fields on
Electrical Engineering, pp. 18-21, Jan. 1944
N. Nrunori and S. Torrisi
- "Ultra-High-Frequency Electromagnetic Vibrations,
Their Effects on Living Organisms,"
American Journal of Physical Therapy, Jun. 1930
- "Athermic Short Wave Therapy,"
Archives of Physical Therapy, December, 1938