I've been reading recently about a mysterious and possibly hokey medical device of the 1930s. It was a variable-frequency radio emitter, invented by a Dr. Rife, which was supposed to kill various types of bacteria and viruses by emitting the resonant frequency of that particular species, like a wine glass being broken by the right musical note.

(N.B. This gadget is not to be confused with various "Rife machines" currently being sold in New Age circles, many of which seem to have been built by people with a shaky grasp of physics and bear very little resemblance to the original ones.)

According to rifevideos.com, a site which claims to have collected a lot of old records about this, Dr. Rife mentioned in a 1957 interview that the devices would interfere with car radios for quite some distance (source):

You know we had an idea when we had our Clinic in La Jolla, of course that was battery and motor generator operated that set, you know, and boy it would sure raise the devil with all the radios so we had a couple of cars that was equipped with car radios and we sent them out and we would take the switch of that thing, and had a code you know like an S.O.S., and one of them went up north, and one of them went south from La Jolla.

Before we started in we wanted to see how far we were going to disturb things with it you know, and incidentally we had it in a steel room, a steel lined vault about this size at the old Ellen Scripp’s home. It was the vault in the library of the Scripp’s home where they kept their valuable manuscripts and books in all steel lined and a door on it like a safe.

We had the thing inside of that too, but it didn’t make much difference, but we started in, and one car lost the pick up on top of Torry Pines, and the other one half way through Mission Beach picked it up, and then they could go a hundred feet and lose and then they would have to pick it up again.

The output of the devices was from 50 watts to 500 watts depending on the model, and the power consumption was from 400 watts to 1,000 watts.
The frequencies used ranged from 100,000 to 1,700,000 Hertz.

Wondering if this story is credible. Would the device be powerful enough to be picked up that far away?

Historical information about this whole thing is somewhat unreliable and hard to come by, and knowing whether the radio interference anecdote is credible or not would shed some light on whether or not rifevideos.com is a reliable source/whether Dr. Rife was a reliable source/whether any such experiment ever even happened. Besides, it's interesting.

Could such a device have interfered with local radio reception to the extent the quotation claimed?


2 Answers 2


at 1700kHz and 500 watts, it is basically an AM radio station and would generate a radio signal with a range of 75 miles during the day, maybe more. But it will not "resonate" anything like a bacterium or a virus at that frequency, or anything lower than that for that matter.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. And ouch, if it can cause interference over that range, then it has obvious drawbacks as a medical device even if it did work! What about 50 watts? 500 watts output was only reached by one model and they later decided that that wasn't necessary with a suitable design. $\endgroup$
    – A. B.
    Sep 27, 2021 at 6:33
  • $\begingroup$ No idea, but remember that the original premise was wrong. $\endgroup$ Sep 27, 2021 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ What original premise? If you mean that it's not important because you don't think the device could have worked, why don't you think it could have? Or, better, if you answer that, don't put it here, put it on the other question that was about that. $\endgroup$
    – A. B.
    Sep 28, 2021 at 9:32
  • $\begingroup$ Sometimes that static on the radio is a hidden camera broadcast at a similar frequency (or harmonic) $\endgroup$
    – ChemEng
    Jul 5, 2022 at 0:10

With Rife Technology RF energy is applied to a gas filled tube in order to ignite a plasma. This acts as a plasma antenna which broadcasts the RF. However it is not very efficient in doing so as compared to a tuned metal antenna. The effective range of a plasma antenna at 50 watt output would be expressed in feet.

This propagating wave action allows a Rife machine operator to use a spectrum analyzer in order to identify the frequencies that are generated. This whole wave process exists in the Fresnel region and in the far field.

Now, moving on, if you want to understand the Rife-Effect related to the resonance you mentioned above then you have to look to the near-field to the plasma bulb. Here we see electromagnetic fields because plasma is a field emitter. When you consider longitudinal wave velocities induced into biologicals by time varying electric fields then wavelength matching down to micron and sub-micron lengths become possible.

Dan J.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting! So you're saying that a 50-watt plasma tube wouldn't be able to produce the effect described in the quote? As for the other part of your answer, that might be more appropriate on the other question physics.stackexchange.com/questions/668319/… . $\endgroup$
    – A. B.
    Oct 17, 2022 at 3:26

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