An electromagnetic device that can remotely detect the coronavirus infection belongs to the realm of science fiction, the Tehran-based non-profit Physics Society of Iran (PSI) has said.
“In recent days, some official media outlets have reported on an instrument that can detect the coronavirus infection remotely,” a statement on PSI’s website said on April 16. “The reports include scientific terms such as electromagnetism, waves, magnetic dipole, and electric dipole moment. Although physics has helped to discover elements, human knowledge has not reached a point where it can remotely detect particles as small as 100 nanometers.”
A nanometer is a unit of length in the metric system equal to one billionth of a meter (0.000000001m).
“Such claims are not credible and belong to the realm of fantasy and science fiction,” the statement noted.
“The claim is so farfetched that PSI has now classified it as pseudo-science,” the statement explained. “However, if the inventors do not wish to retract their claims about the device, then PSI, under its scientific charter, is fully prepared to task specialists and scientists to study the instrument after receiving all relevant documents.”
A day earlier, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Hossein Salami said Basij (volunteer forces) scientists had invented a device that could detect the coronavirus in people from a safe distance and without a need for a blood test.
“What we have before us is a new and unique and amazing instrument, developed by our dedicated young Basij scientists after the coronavirus outbreak,” Mr. Salami was quoted by the Tasnim News Agency as saying. “The device does not require a blood test and can be operated from a safe distance.”
“The instrument generates a magnetic field which is programmed to respond to the virus,” Salami explained. “It can detect an infected environment within a 100-meter diameter. The antenna on the device locates the exact position of the virus. It can detect an infected environment in five seconds.”
Although the scientific and medical communities have easily debunked all of the claims about the device, the Iranian military continues to hail it as one of its most significant achievements to date.
“After consulting the holy Koran, the smart device for detecting coronavirus was named ‘Mostaan’ [the one we turn to for help],” the Tasnim news agency quoted the IRGC Spokesman Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif as saying on April 16. “It is a unique instrument for accurately detecting coronavirus infection. Before its official unveiling, the device was tested for more than 10 days in several hospitals and health clinics on coronavirus patients.”
“Mostaan is the brainchild of our young Basij scientists. It is an entirely domestic product created with the support from the IRGC,” General Sharif noted. “Naturally some uninformed people question the credibility of such a scientific breakthrough, particularly during these extraordinary times when the world is in the grips of a coronavirus epidemic. Most of the skepticism comes from news outlets affiliated with foreign powers. They envy Iran’s ability to solve its problems.”
“The good news is that scientists will soon show the device to the media and the public. They will explain its function and the production of its parts. So, we ask all experts to hold judgment until then,” Sharif added.
Not all Iranian officials have been enthusiastic about the device.
During a remote video press briefing on April 16, the Deputy Health Minister Ghasem Janbabaei warned that all new devices had to undergo rigorous testing before they are used.
“We do not know if the Health Ministry’s laboratory administration has approved the device or not,” The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted Mr. Janbabaei as saying. “The device must first be approved. We cannot even make rapid serological tests, which are already produced in the country, available to the public until we have concluded our studies and received official approval.”
In comments reported on the same day by IRNA, the Spokesman for the Health Ministry Kiyanoush Jahanpour said: “The ministry would have made an official announcement if it had tested and approved the device. The ministry’s office for reviewing food and medicine has not reviewed the instrument yet. We will issue a license for full production of it if that ever happens.”
A tweet on the same day by Hesamodin Ashna, an advisor to President Hassan Rouhani, and a member of the supervisory board of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), said: “Nowadays, the public is bombarded with strange and bizarre information, so stop airing propaganda reports during a news program. Do not advertise any vaccine, medicine, personal kits, and innovative virus detectors that have not been approved by the Ministry of Health.”
“Commander Salami claims that the device can detect coronavirus infection within a 100-meter radius,” the U.S. State Department’s Farsi-language Twitter page USAdarFarsi said on April 14. “Curiously enough, the device beeps whenever it is near an IRGC personnel. Could you build a device that can detect genies next time?”
This article was translated and adapted from Persian by Fardine Hamidi.