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The birther chip

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:

HonkBirther

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.

IMG_1042

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:

image

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.

IMG_1045

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.

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42 Responses to The birther chip

  1. avatar
    Dean Haskins September 18, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    You caught us, Doc Con! At least you don’t know about the highly potent Birther Serum we’re now putting into chemtrails . . . oh, crap!

  2. avatar
    Bob September 18, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

    I suspected it was something like that. Birtherism just isn’t normal.

  3. avatar
    charo September 18, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    No matter which angle you examine this post, it is sick.

  4. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 18, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    I thought the chemtrails were ours.

    Dean Haskins: At least you don’t know about the highly potent Birther Serum we’re now putting into chemtrails

  5. avatar
    Tomtech September 18, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    This deserves wider publication. I posted this to DailyKos.

  6. avatar
    Bill DuBerger September 18, 2011 at 9:14 pm #

    ..and that’s the news from lake Wobegon, where all the womwen are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children have long-form birth certificates.

  7. avatar
    joeymac September 18, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

    Did you crib this from the Borowitz Report? Just for an instant I was believing.

  8. avatar
    Majority Will September 18, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    charo:
    No matter which angle you examine this post, it is sick.

    You shouldn’t be so harsh about your posts.

  9. avatar
    US Citizen September 18, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

    I believed it until I saw the perfectly straight leaded old-style chip with no solder or holder marks on the leads, then saw the unlikely waveform, then saw you holding the chip with tweezers in front of the scope.

    Regardless, with no numbers on the chip there would be no way to know what pin(s) were for power, what voltage(s) it required or their polarity.
    One wouldn’t even know which pin(s) were for output.

    I hear that people can get really bored when they retire though.. 😉

  10. avatar
    SluggoJD September 18, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

    charo:
    No matter which angle you examine this post, it is sick.

    So get a life and leave!!!

  11. avatar
    nbc September 18, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    How funny. I bet you can find many of these similar arguments amongst the clueless. The chip implant is a common myth amongst evangelical extremists.

    Well done Doc. The irony, an advanced form of humor, is easily lost on the conspiracy minded…

  12. avatar
    Paul September 18, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

    all your base are belong to us

  13. avatar
    joeymac September 18, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    I believed it until I saw the perfectly straight leaded old-style chip with no solder or holder marks on the leads, then saw the unlikely waveform, then saw you holding the chip with tweezers in front of the scope.

    Regardless, with no numbers on the chip there would be no way to know what pin(s) were for power, what voltage(s) it required or their polarity.

    One wouldn’t even know which pin(s) were for output.

    If you can ID the chip, you can get pin connections from various places, as well as the required voltage(s).

    The tip-off was the accompanying diagram. I saw the microphone and wondered…wtf? As a retired electronic tech in my youth and a computer hardware tech analyst in my dotage, I know that a microphone converts sound waves to electrical impulses–not vice versa. Also, if this had been a hearing prosthetic it would not be sensitive to RF waves, but sound waves. So, it could not have been activated via wi-fi or other radiated stimuli.

    Still, excellent satire, though. To be effective satire must have some element of credibility.

    I fear that this is analogous of birther myths. Because of past readings of this blog, I opine that the author is–in some ways–on my side; therefore, he is credible. Since, I perceived him to be credible, I momentarily switched off my critical thinking. The birther loons desperately want to disqualify the President, so that anyone they deem sympathetic is credible, because of past reinforcements. Many of them actually do believe the lies spewed by grifters like Corsi, Farah, Taitz, et al, because of this sympathetic reinforcement.

    Taitz can claim that the President uses (at first, over a hundred) 39 SS#s and he was never legitimately issued one…despite his having to provide a number for employment, tax returns, drivers licenses and Selective Service registration, but the number(s) provided was (were) never flagged as illegitimate. Still, some loonies buy into it.

  14. avatar
    Epectitus September 18, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

    I see what you did there!

    😀

  15. avatar
    Joey September 19, 2011 at 12:29 am #

    I didn’t think that Charo’s post was “sick.” A little under the weather, maybe, but sick? Nah.

  16. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 19, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    Well of course I wasn’t going to show a picture of the real chip.

    US Citizen: I believed it until I saw the perfectly straight leaded old-style chip with no solder or holder marks on the leads, then saw the unlikely waveform, then saw you holding the chip with tweezers in front of the scope.

  17. avatar
    G September 19, 2011 at 12:51 am #

    The Star Wars Jar Jar Binks on top of the oscilloscope cracks me up! That was one of the Taco Bell/Pizza Hut promotional items for Ep 1, wasn’t it?

  18. avatar
    Tomtech September 19, 2011 at 1:15 am #

    I could do that.

    Based on the size and form type alone I can determine the power leads and power requirements and that is all this scenario requires since the input and output are RF.

    The clock could be internal and preset. My wireless USB mouse has a transmitter and receiver in a small form factor.

    Doc wasn’t trying to communicate with and the device was presumably pre-programmed to hijack any available WiFi using government hard coded protocols required to be made available in all devices. If I had developed that I would have ensured that the hard coded protocols didn’t leave a trail in the use history and that they bypassed firewalls through mandated back doors.

    This is an $18.00 USB Wifi device which shows that wireless connectivity doesn’t require a sizable device.

    Since a WiFi transmitter can be that small a “Delta Wave” transmitter which is within a person’s head could probably be achieved with even less.

    If I was tasked with creating such a device I would use an RF recharged nano battery and there wouldn’t be any leads. I would also use casing material which made the item look like a small bone which are numerous in the inner ear.

    The only thing I would have to research deeply would be a method of detecting “Delta Waves” with an oscilloscope.

    Of course, I believe that Doc didn’t do what he claimed, but I wont go as far as declaring that he couldn’t have done what he claimed since I could do it and I could develop the device as presented although I would have taken more precautions to ensure that the device wasn’t easily detectable.

  19. avatar
    brygenon September 19, 2011 at 1:34 am #

    Traced it back to our Reston site, did you? Good show Dr. C. You win this one.

  20. avatar
    Keith September 19, 2011 at 2:10 am #

    Interesting that both wifi and cochlear implants are Australian inventions.Is there an implication here, maybe, that the Birther movement is being controlled by the same Chinese conspiracy that kidnapped Prime Minister Harold Holt back in 1967?

  21. avatar
    US Citizen September 19, 2011 at 5:42 am #

    Actually most microphones can be used as speakers.
    Whether they’re crystal, magnetic or ribbon, all work as speakers much in the same way that most speakers can be used as microphones.
    The difference is in efficiency, power handling, frequency response, phase distortion, etc.
    In order to produce any real sound pressure levels, a microphone would need a larger magnet and/or lower impedance coil.
    There’s also little diaphragm area to resonate and no way to dissipate heat.
    Even many old Radio Shack electronic kits included a crystal earphone that could be used as either an earphone or as a microphone.

    Many electrical devices can be use reciprocally to some degree.
    Motors and generators, piezo elements, Peltier junctions,solenoids, etc.
    Some LEDS even produce a small voltage when exposed to light.

    (Technician / Engineer in my present life- 37 years experience.)

  22. avatar
    charo September 19, 2011 at 6:22 am #

    When I read the initial part of the story, I felt terrible for Dr. Conspiracy. A few weeks ago, there was a terrible accident that a parent witnessed driving some special needs students to a location. Parents were at a sports camp and the accident affected everyone’s driving route. The parent who saw the accident happened to witness the accident first hand. The victim was a retired dentist whose motorcycle was hit from a young driver whom we suspected was texting. It was a very graphic scene. As Doc continued, his farce became obvious, but at first. my heart was struck with sympathy at witnessing an accident involving head trauma and how a witness has to carry that image. Very recently (as in three weeks ago) my 7 year old was diagnosed with hearing loss and had to get hearing aids. The audiologist just a few days ago had a very similar picture of the ear. This is not a tragedy but very disheartening. I had her hearing tested on a whim because it seemed that sometimes she couldn’t hear what was being said clearly. I thought it was a focusing issue.

    Those two elements of the post generated my immediate response, which obviously no one else would likely have related to.

  23. avatar
    charo September 19, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    She has to, not had to, get hearing aids.

  24. avatar
    misha September 19, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    “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.”

    The Jews were behind 9/11, an inside job:

    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2010/03/19/22329/
    and
    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2011/02/08/jb-campbell-dimitri-khalezov-on-9-11/

    See how easy it is?

  25. avatar
    Jim F September 19, 2011 at 6:36 am #

    put me out of my misery. Just say that it was all a joke, otherwise I will have to put you in my little black book

  26. avatar
    misha September 19, 2011 at 6:36 am #

    US Citizen: Some LEDS even produce a small voltage when exposed to light.

    Are the photo-diodes in digital cameras the reciprocal of these?

  27. avatar
    Expelliarmus September 19, 2011 at 7:50 am #

    Charo, I’m sorry about your daughter’s hearing loss. I know that it’s hard on a parent to see their child suffering from any sort of disability, and you certainly must be worried about the impact this may have on your daughter in the future.

  28. avatar
    Expelliarmus September 19, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    I’d add that I agree with Charo that Doc could have done a better job of labeling the article above as satire. Given that creative fiction is a departure from the usual tenor of this web site, I think it is disrespectful of one’s readers to slip in an elaborate joke. Also, given the way that things get picked up an circulated on the internet, I think it’s also irresponsible. It certainly undermines the credibility of this site as a whole.

    I mean, I enjoyed the little story, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been prefaced with a label that made it clear that it was a work of fantasy.

    That being said, I have noticed that people with a liberal bent seem to be quicker to pick up on satire than people with conservative leanings. I see this on other, non-birther forums as well — it just seems that it is takes a little longer for the more conservative-leaning folks to catch on to the joke. I’m wondering if this actually is connected to the thought processes that impact their political viewpoint in the first place….. and what the ramifications may be in terms of birtherism. That is… maybe it’s all connected with literalism, difficulty coping with nuance and ambiguity in meaning. The liberal mind set might be to reserve judgment and assume that information has multiple possible meanings and applications, whereas the conservative mindset might be to quickly categorize incoming information and then get rather stuck on whatever it was the person thought the information signified.

    I know with the article above, my first impulse was skepticism, simply because of the image of the “honk if you (heart) birthers” sticker. I can’t imagine any scenario in which someone would have or display such a sticker.. so right there I felt something was off about the article.

  29. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 19, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    You nailed it.

    G: The Star Wars Jar Jar Binks on top of the oscilloscope cracks me up! That was one of the Taco Bell/Pizza Hut promotional items for Ep 1, wasn’t it?

  30. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 19, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    Thanks for your commentary. Of course the article is satire rather than a hoax, so I only went for minimal plausibility.

    Tomtech: Of course, I believe that Doc didn’t do what he claimed, but I wont go as far as declaring that he couldn’t have done what he claimed since I could do it and I could develop the device as presented although I would have taken more precautions to ensure that the device wasn’t easily detectable.

  31. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 19, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    Normally articles here which are not “straight up” reports are labeled “Wild and Wacky”. However, I think that labeling the article as satire up front would have spoiled it. The essence of the April fool joke is that it sucks the reader into an increasingly implausible story until finally their is a point where one sense of reality overrules the narrative — that moment of realization is the goal of the story.

    It was my intention that after the story had been around a couple of days to label it as satire for the future. But I really didn’t think anyone would actually finish the story still believing it.

    Expelliarmus: Given that creative fiction is a departure from the usual tenor of this web site, I think it is disrespectful of one’s readers to slip in an elaborate joke. Also, given the way that things get picked up an circulated on the internet, I think it’s also irresponsible. It certainly undermines the credibility of this site as a whole.

  32. avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater (Bob Ross) September 19, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    G: The Star Wars Jar Jar Binks on top of the oscilloscope cracks me up! That was one of the Taco Bell/Pizza Hut promotional items for Ep 1, wasn’t it?

    Yousa people gonna die?

  33. avatar
    US Citizen September 19, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    misha: Are the photo-diodes in digital cameras the reciprocal of these?

    I’m not actually certain, but in many cases a photodiode is actually a phototransistor where light serves as the base terminal allowing current to flow from the collector to the emitter in the same was that a transistor normally uses a current on the base terminal to do the same thing.
    My experience in electronics is more along the lines of musical devices and robotics than consumer electronics.

    I also personally don’t believe that there’s any problem with publishing such a joke when an intelligent audience can easily discern that it’s not credible.
    If others blindly believe such a story and repost it, that’s their problem, not Doc’s. Real birthers usually hold this site in contempt anyway, so someone has to be really ignorant to take it face value and run with it.
    After all, many birthers believe in Orly and her “work”, while we here know and believe it’s all in vain and just a big joke.
    She hasn’t affected mainstream news or policy in any great way despite her portrayal of fantasies as the truth.
    Same here. It’s just some harmless fun.

  34. avatar
    G September 19, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your story & perspective. It makes total sense to me.

    I also did find the Doc’s story to be a bit morbid, even as satire, myself.

    I don’t wear any hearing aids, but I’ve always been a bit hard of hearing (I have a difficulty distinguishing between sounds in a cacophony). However, I have found benefits throughout my life, as I concentrate more when others speak and apparently make more eye contact (and to an extent read lips), which actually helps both focus and make personal connections. I have friends who have been partially deaf and worn hearing aids most of their lives.

    Fortunately, the hearing aid technology is really, really good these days and many of the devices are quite small and barely noticeable. I wish you the best for your family & your daughter’s condition. Please take heart in knowing that this will not take away her ability to both lead and enjoy a normal life. It will be a bit of an adjustment to get used to, but with the right hearing aids, she might be able to hear just as well as before.

    charo: When I read the initial part of the story, I felt terrible for Dr. Conspiracy. A few weeks ago, there was a terrible accident that a parent witnessed driving some special needs students to a location. Parents were at a sports camp and the accident affected everyone’s driving route. The parent who saw the accident happened to witness the accident first hand. The victim was a retired dentist whose motorcycle was hit from a young driver whom we suspected was texting. It was a very graphic scene. As Doc continued, his farce became obvious, but at first. my heart was struck with sympathy at witnessing an accident involving head trauma and how a witness has to carry that image. Very recently (as in three weeks ago) my 7 year old was diagnosed with hearing loss and had to get hearing aids. The audiologist just a few days ago had a very similar picture of the ear. This is not a tragedy but very disheartening. I had her hearing tested on a whim because it seemed that sometimes she couldn’t hear what was being said clearly. I thought it was a focusing issue.Those two elements of the post generated my immediate response, which obviously no one else would likely have related to.

  35. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 19, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    FWIW I wear a hearing aid myself. I had inner ear damage as the result of a tumor. It’s in my left ear, so you don’t see it in the photo.

    G: Fortunately, the hearing aid technology is really, really good these days and many of the devices are quite small and barely noticeable. I wish you the best for your family & your daughter’s condition

  36. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 19, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    It was a bit morbid, but then lots of fiction is. Indeed I don’t really think the story is satire — just topical fiction.

    When I read your comment an image came to mind that I saw in a book about 40 years ago. It’s remarkable that I was able to find it on the Internet.

    http://aschulman.smugmug.com/Religion/Washington-National-Cathedral/DSCN3403/235604856_8amUH-L.jpg

    G: I also did find the Doc’s story to be a bit morbid, even as satire, myself.

  37. avatar
    Expelliarmus September 19, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: The essence of the April fool joke is that it sucks the reader into an increasingly implausible story until finally their is a point where one sense of reality overrules the narrative — that moment of realization is the goal of the story.

    The essence of the April fool joke is that it is published on or about April 1. That in itself is part of the tip off. You might want to check your calendar the next time around. Mine says September.

  38. avatar
    Expelliarmus September 19, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: t I really didn’t think anyone would actually finish the story still believing it

    You have made the cardinal error of assuming that most people “finish” reading articles on the internet. That simply isn’t how it works, and you might do develop a better understanding of internet reading habits.

    This is an old article, but I think it still holds true:
    http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9710a.html

    Or, if you feel like reading a very long article online (which I am sure you will want to read in its entirety), you can try this one from Atlantic.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/6868/

    Bottom line — when you are writing on the internet, if your intent isn’t absolutely clear in the first 3 paragraphs, then you’ve lost the ability to reach most of your readership with whatever your point is. Make that two paragraphs. You readers are scanning, they are in a hurry, they are checking their RSS feed, they are bouncing between your blog and the 4 other windows they have open at the time, they are sneaking a peek while they are supposed to be working on other things, or they are reading the 2 paragraph excerpt that has been skimmed of your blog and reposted elsewhere.

  39. avatar
    AnotherBird September 20, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    I started to realize that it as satire in the sentence Doc mentioned CSI.

  40. avatar
    AnotherBird September 20, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    Expelliarmus: The essence of the April fool joke is that it is published on or about April 1.That in itself is part of the tip off. You might want to check your calendar the next time around. Mine says September.

    There isn’t one specific date for satire or practical jokes. I am sorry to see that you are taking this very seriously. With much misinformation on the internet you have to be critical of everything you read.

  41. avatar
    Sef September 20, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    Expelliarmus: The essence of the April fool joke is that it is published on or about April 1. That in itself is part of the tip off. You might want to check your calendar the next time around. Mine says September.

    Expelliarmus!

  42. avatar
    Craig September 20, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    Keith: Interesting that both wifi and cochlear implants are Australian inventions.Is there an implication here, maybe, that the Birther movement is being controlled by the same Chinese conspiracy that kidnapped Prime Minister Harold Holt back in 1967?

    Damn, they’re on to us. And the Aussie economy not folding along with the rest of the western world was an obvious blunder we really should have taken care of, too!