You may have noticed that I haven’t been publishing as many articles this week as usual. This is for a couple reasons. First, I’ve been upset by a rather traumatic experience that I’ll relate below, and second I’ve been involved in some extremely tedious technical research.
It starts simply enough. I was driving on nearby US Highway 29 and as I sometimes do, I snap pictures of interesting vehicular subjects with a point-and-shoot camera I keep in the glove compartment for just such occasions. I saw this bumper sticker and grabbed the camera:
I was mostly looking at the camera to see if I got the picture when the light turned green and the SUV shot forward into the intersection. I didn’t see the collision, but I heard it, and when I looked up a truck had rammed the SUV in the drivers side, apparently after it barreled through the red light. I jumped out of the car but there was no way I could get near the driver in that mess of metal. However, the clearly visible trauma to the driver’s head made it pretty obvious that he didn’t survive. All I could do was call 911. The hospital is only a few blocks from there and the ambulance arrived quickly along with the fire trucks, then the police. It was over an hour before they had the intersection cleared and I was allowed to continue.
After they took away the body, there was still a long wait while the police (and by this time there were no less than 8 cruisers on the scene) questioned me and the other witnesses, made their notations and took their pictures. I was just walking around, still pretty dazed, when in the road I spotted a piece of blood-smeared glass and in what I can only describe as morbid curiosity, I bent over to look at it (I’ve clearly been watching too much CSI). That’s when I saw it stuck to the glass: a tuft of hair and the chip. I don’t understand what possessed me, but I took the thing and put it in my shirt pocket.
I cleaned up the chip when I got home. Here’s a photo I took. I worked repairing watches when I was in college and still have a few tools that were helpful in handling this tiny thing.
I wanted to figure out what the chip was, so I Googled a part number on the chip, but didn’t find it. I did find that chips of this form factor were used the receiver circuitry for cochlear implants, medical devices placed in the inner ear of profoundly hearing impaired persons. Here’s a diagram:
Just for the heck of it, I put the chip in a test bed and applied power to it according to the diagram for other chips with that form factor. Nothing caught fire. I had something else to do, so I turned everything off and left it.
Then things got weird. When I got back to my PC, there were alerts from my firewall: there had been an attempted intrusion on my home wireless network. (I got a bit paranoid when I caught a former neighbor of mine leaching pirated music over my wireless network, so I watch this pretty carefully.) When I checked the firewall logs, the intrusion attempt was at about the same time that I was tinkering with the chip. What was that?
To make an extremely long and tedious story short, I added the MAC address of the intruder to the firewall whitelist and powered up the chip again, this time with a packet sniffer on the network. What I found was that the chip was actually a self-contained Wi-fi device that when powered up connects to any nearby open wireless access point. I traced the packets to an IP address in an address block belonging to a commercial Internet provider in Reston, Virginia. The actual protocol was SSL, so I had no chance of reading the encrypted content; however, I found that the IP address was on the same subnet as a prominent birther web site with which you are no doubt familiar.
I turned to the actual output of the chip, looking at the electrical patterns on my Philips PM3065 oscilloscope. What I found was patterns remarkably similar to delta wave EEG patterns associated with sleep in humans only a little distorted. When I turned off the wireless router, the chip output stopped. So the best I can tell is that the remote Internet site is feeding information that the chip converts to delta wave electrical patterns. Disrupted delta wave patterns have been associated with depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.
I think I found out something that I really wasn’t supposed to find out. You know that I have spent a lot of time and effort wrestling with the question of how birthers could be made to believe this crazy stuff. In this terrible tragedy perhaps I have found out the answer.