Tin-Foil Beanies + 'Think of the Children!' = Newspaper Gold

from the i-use-my-router-to-scramble-eggs dept

The UK has seen its fair share of people freaking out over the health effects of WiFi, and a major newspaper there fanned the flames this weekend with its lead story saying children are at risk from "electronic smog". It's a strange article, though, because instead of finding any evidence that WiFi is actually harmful to people, it simply reports on how some groups are pushing for investigations into WiFi, then implies that's some sort of evidence that the technology is unsafe. This is despite previous reports that the radiation from being exposed to a WiFi network for a year is the equivalent of 20 minutes on a cell phone. Most of the noise about how harmful WiFi is comes from people claiming to have "electrosensitivity", though they generally fail double-blind tests checking out their claims that they can sense when they've entered a room with WiFi coverage. These sorts of stories are little more than hype-filled fluff that lack much substance to back up their wild headlines and implications of doom and gloom. Another case in point: a spate of articles -- started by one from the same paper as this latest WiFi scare story -- about how honeybees are being wiped out by radiation from mobile phones. The only catch was that the study in question had nothing to do with cell phones. The scientists also point out that the paper never bothered to get in touch with them, presumably because an accurate description of their research and findings would have made such a sensational story pretty dull.


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  1.  
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    dorpus, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 11:47am

    Very Good

    A rare bit of sound methodological criticism of epidemiological research by Techdirt. I'm impressed.

     

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    Overcast, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 11:57am

    The scientists also point out that the paper never bothered to get in touch with them, presumably because an accurate description of their research and findings would have made such a sensational story pretty dull.

    Yeah, don't let facts and data get in the way of 'scientific research' now.

    Sadly enough, I think most of today's 'science' is really politics.

    I'm sure there's some 'green' group out there just waiting to make a lot of $green$ going to war against WiFi.

     

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  3.  
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    Matt, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 12:05pm

    Re:

    "Sadly enough, I think most of today's 'science' is really politics."

    No, most of today's journalism covering scientific topics is really politics. There's a very large difference between those actually doing the science and those who re-package the findings to be consumed by the masses.

     

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  4.  
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    RandomThoughts, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 12:13pm

    Overcast, it wasn't the science that got it wrong, it was the paper.

     

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  5.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 12:22pm

    makes you think.

    Every time I hear about flawed research like this I remember that episode of Penn and Tellers Bullshit where they went to the Greenpeace rally and got 1100 or so people to sign a petition to ban Dihydrogen monoxide

    Just goes to show just how much a little research is needed in reporting (or banning) anything.

     

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  6.  
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    Tech_Guy_from_hartford, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 12:24pm

    Scientists should be more worried about global warming than cell tower radiation. Its like having you neighbor come over to your house during a hurricane and complaining that your cat is breathing on his tree.

    He is worried about the effect of your cats breath on his tree and it may knock it over.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 12:49pm

    Re:

    I think that there are enough scientists in the world that they can worry about/focus on more than one thing.

     

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  8.  
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    Pedren, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 12:50pm

    So if Wi-Fi is dangerous...

    A list of other things that could Kill you on a daily basis.

    1. Falling out of Bed

    2. Tripping down the Stairs

    3. Choking on Breakfast

    4. Blood lost from shaving nicks

    5. Slipping in the shower

    6. Car crash

    7. Get shot by insane co-worker

    8. Car carsh on the way home

    9. Spouse poisons your dinner

    10. Die in your sleep

    So obivously we MUST be concerned about this problem. Break out the body shielding, put up signs, distribute flyers, the world has a right to know the danger they're in because we don't have enough real troubles to deal with.

     

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  9.  
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    ehrichweiss, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 12:55pm

    Re: makes you think.

    I can't believe more hasn't been done to ban dihydrogen monoxide by our politicians. Will someone please think of the children. This awful stuff must be removed from our water and sewage systems at all costs.

    BTW, Penn and Teller rule. Another amazing episode was on how statistics and numbers are "bent" every day to manipulate us into thinking a certain way.

     

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  10.  
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    John, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 12:55pm

    All 'scientific research' should be run through MYTHBUSTERS before publishing or printing in newspapers.

     

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  11.  
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    Bodag, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 1:05pm

    Re: So if Wi-Fi is dangerous...

    Don't forget the risk of a ceiling mounted WI-FI Access Point coming loose and killing you.

    Or, the ever present risk of a cell tower suddenly collapsing onto your car...

     

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  12.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 1:20pm

    I also like...

    how there's a link to another story about an 'anti-obesity' infant formula that was recently released. It uses the chemical Leptin witch decreases the appetite and metabolism.

    I'm no doctor, but doesn't an infant need all the nutritional intake and exercise it can get?

    (I think that "The Independent" is "The Bullshit")

     

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  13.  
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    Pedren, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Re: So if Wi-Fi is dangerous...

    Well put. And I'm sure we could go on all day, but the fact remains that this is *R-Tarded*. Why and or how would the presence of Wi-Fi be detrimental to your health. I just can't see how this is any more harmful than going outside on a sunny day.

     

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  14.  
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    william, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 1:44pm

    Second hand WiFi

    I saw people claiming to get migraines from Wi-Fi on PBS or something and just knew that they were Full of it. But they have convinced themselves that they are sick and will never trying to spoil everyone's fun. If these people get their way they'll ban Wi-Fi in all public places including apartments. It'll be like the smoking bans that are sweeping the country.

     

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  15.  
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    Casper, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 1:56pm

    Re: Second hand WiFi

    "It'll be like the smoking bans that are sweeping the country."

    Smoking is a bit different... it's actually killing people and destroying property. What people need to do if they want to smoke is put a plastic bag over their head while they do it... that way no one will bother them about it.

     

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  16.  
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    Anne, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 2:38pm

    Wi Fi And Pacemakers - Share the Love

    Last week I sat next to a woman on the LA Metro. She was clutching her hands near her heart like she was having chest pains. Usually nobody talks to anyone else in LA, but you know, there's a first time for everything. I asked her what was wrong, and if I could help. She explained to me that a kid sitting across from us was on his cell phone, and that she had an old time pacemaker that would get interference from cellular waves. Now, I'm not saying this is true, but this is just what she told me.



    So I explained to the kid and he turned off his phone. The funny thing is that I'd been sitting next to this woman for a half hour and I was using my smart phone, reading my email and going online. She didn't know that I was using a cell phone since it doesn't look like one.

    I did immediately turn the device off once I had this conversation with her, because even though I figure it was total bullshit, I wasn't going to be responsible for some old lady dying on the LA Metro. If she was 'feeling interference' to her pacemaker, it's more likely that it came from my PDA, and not the kid's cell phone, since I was the one sitting right next to her.

     

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  17.  
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    William, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 3:02pm

    Re: Re: Second hand WiFi

    How about I just put a plastic bag over your head so I don't have to listen to your stupid comments. I just said that a Wi-Fi ban would spread like a smoking ban not that smoking is somehow good for you. But i do believe that the danger of second hand smoke is about the same as that of falling Wi-Fi antenna. That is to say very exaggerated. But if you want to worry about something the thousands of cars spewing tons of carbon monoxide into the air is slightly worse than a 2 gram cigarette.

     

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  18.  
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    B_Billy, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 3:17pm

    Well said about the smoking bit, William!

     

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  19.  
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    Casper, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 3:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Second hand WiFi

    I was pointing out the fact that your analogy was flawed. You were comparing something that has a legitimate claim to a hypocritical concept.

    You are also wrong about second hand smoke in comparison to cars. Carbon Dioxide and carbon monoxide released from cars are released at a rate in which the density does not permit them to have serious cumulative effects in the blood without being in an enclosed space. A cigarette carcinogens in a much denser form and are used in enclosed spaces are directly near the entrances to buildings. Also many of the chemicals contained in cigarette smoke are cumulative, so the little wafts over time can add up without a long purging period for the body. Further, cigarettes serve no purpose in societal infrastructure other then as a recreational addiction. Cars on the other hand are essential to the functions of the societies of the world.

    You might also consider that the countries of the world have been placing restrictions on car emissions as well. Cigarette smoke just happens to be far easier to regulate as it is not a necessary evil.

     

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  20.  
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    dorpus, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 4:27pm

    Re:

    All 'scientific research' should be run through MYTHBUSTERS before publishing or printing in newspapers.

    Mythbusters is just a sensationalist show that does not perform rigorous statistical analyses. Most scientific research relies on subtle but statistically significant differences which cannot be readily demonstrated by a bunch of body-pierced losers with bleached hair in San Francisco.

     

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  21.  
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    rEdEyEz, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 5:24pm

    crackpot theorists....

    Apparently our education system no longer teaches the fundamental priciple of science these day, formerly known as the "Scientific Method."

    "Science is accomplished by prediction, observation and measurement. The experimental results must be convincing - not the words of the theory's proponents."

    Forget observation and measurement, that's for sukkas. Will witchhunts and bonfires be far behind? Certainly, if you believe the global warming folks.

    Maybe WiFi excitation, in conjunction with CO2, is causing Global Warming?

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/04/galileo_denied_consensus.html

     

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  22.  
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    kweeket, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 7:14pm

    Re: crackpot theorists....

    As already mentioned several times above, this is not the failure of the scientific method, but a failure of the press to accurately report scientific findings.

    Although you're obviously looking for any reason you can to discount the scientific community, if the article to which you linked is any indication of your views.

    That article tries to create a controversy about global warming by comparing the few opposing scientists to modern-day Galileos. However, those "Galileos" aren't opposing the corrupt church, they're opposing a vast body of scientific evidence gathered and verified independently by scientists all over the world.

    The article claims we should wait until we have hard evidence that the earth is heating. Evidence already exists that global temperatures are on the rise, although our culpability is debatable. What is not debatable is that acting now rather than later will require less dramatic disruptions to society. Improving fuel efficiency standards, reducing industrial pollution, and planting more trees - those tasks are not insurmountable, and have benefit even if global warming doesn't turn out to be as bad as predicted. And if we are facing huge climate change, taking those small steps now will allow future actions to be less dramatic.

    The stance of "Let's do nothing until it's too late, because those scientists might be wrong" is not a strong one. It's more likely that the current theory is not exactly right, but it's not entirely wrong either - that's typical in science.

     

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  23.  
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    rEdEyEz, Apr 23rd, 2007 @ 8:58pm

    So you're saying....

    ...let's ban WiFi, because there is a "compelling" argument to do so, even though we haven't conducted any experimentation; i.e. observation & measurement of LONG TERM health effects?

    (...before it's TOO LATE?)

    Proclaimed hypersensitivity to RFI (an unproven accusation) = health problems,
    just as,
    human CO2 emissions (volcanic CO2 doesn't exist) = global climate change?

    Sophistry, nay heresy! Get back, ye demon of truth!

     

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  24.  
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    Fred Nerks, Apr 24th, 2007 @ 6:00am

    Re: Re: crackpot theorists....

    "...global temperatures are on the rise"

    You may want to look at this, from the Journal of Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics. It's a fairly convincing look at why "global temperature" is not a meaningful concept. In particular, it points out that, even if such a thing as a single "average temperature" did exist (even locally), it wouldn't be a useful proxy for what it appears most people assume it would mean: "atmospheric heat".

     

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  25.  
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    Chris, Apr 24th, 2007 @ 7:36am

    interesting bit of info

    I haven't read too much on this issue, but the article had a bit of info I hadn't heard before: "The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives." If it was something like RF, you should be able to take the abandoned hive away from any signals (or near a hive that hasn't been abandoned) and the usual parasites & wildlife should go after the hive. Most likely this is due to some pesticides or something like that rather than RF and since something in the hive is keeping other critters away, a chemical analysis of the abandoned hives should show something out of the ordinary. Statistical analysis of the types of pollen in the abandoned hives could be helpful too.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2007 @ 6:40am

    Since it came up...

    http://www.channel4.com/science/microsites/G/great_global_warming_swindle/

    Copies of the BBC documentary are available on youtube type sites.

     

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  27.  
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    Paul`, Aug 8th, 2007 @ 5:16am

    Re: Re:

    But mythbusters blow shit up!

     

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