Greenteeth Labyrinth
Science and Technology

Techno Tyrant.
A series of articles on the way in which progress is being driven my marketing issues rather than the advancement of civilisation.


Wi - Fi or Wi - Fry

The science and technology community are falling over themselves to dismiss concerns about the long term effects to health of "Wi - fi smog" in spite of the growing stack of evidence that there ought to be concerns. Though most scientists argue that there are no grounds for concern what they really mean is that their very narrow and specifically targeted tests have not pinpointed any health risks that can be directly linked with exposure to wireless network radiation. This is the same argument as has been successfully used to allay doubts about the combined Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine which was linked to the onset of autism. It is also the same argument as was used to demonise smoking. And it is entirely spurious. What is happening in the wi - fi controversy is exactly what happened in the MMR case but with MMR it was big money from Big Pharma that tilted the argument while in the case of Wi - fi it is big money from Big Tech that is persuading scientists to cloud the issues. Tobacco was different, everyone knew tobacco is addictive so Big Government led the attack, not with the health of smokers in mind but the revenue that could be generated from punitive taxes. We all accept that smoking tobacco carries risks but the case that it causes lung cancer is far from proven. Those scientists who are prepared to provide the answers Big Money wants to hear routinely ignore on important factor in their tests. Susceptibility. Until we can find what makes some people susceptible to autism and test a control group against a group exposed to the MMR vaccine and research is irrelevant. Now autism is quite rare and it would be easy to take a sample of 500 children and not include one that might be susceptible to the condition. In this case any organisation that stood to make a great deal of money from having the vaccine taken up by governments of advanced nations, the benefits of saying "look! our medicine was given to these five hundred children and not one developed autism, this proves our case." Unfortunately susceptible children given the vaccine continue to develop the condition when they may not have done had they been given three separate vaccinations. Smoking risks are skewed in a similar way and I can cite family history here. Of the many smokers in my father's generation only he developed lung cancer. Aunt Amelia who started smoking at twelve and was a forty - a - day lady for most of her life (she cut down to twenty a day when she gave up full time work at sixty, and to ten a day for financial reasons when she was past seventy) was hale and hearty until her sudden death from old age when she was in her eighties. My Dad, a similarly heavy smoker, only lasted to seventy - two. But though he died of lung cancer it was a form of lung cancer related to asbestos exposure. And as a member of the Royal Engineers regiment in WW2 he was regularly exposed to asbestos. Uncles Bob and Bill were both non - smokers but neither lasted as long as Dad or Milllie. A definite indication that smokers live longer for those who prefer statistics to comon sense. In my wife's family all the smokers who survived to old age have developed lung cancer while the not smokers die from other causes. This of course is entirely unscientific but the great folly of modern science is it ignores empirical evidence. This then is how scientists distort evidence on behalf of their paymasters. So how does the technique work in relation to cellular telephones, wireless computer network? and the rest of the low level radiation we are exposed to? The specific risk that has been investigated and that we are being told to discount is that posed by exposure to low level radiation from wireless networks in the home and the office. This in itself is misleading because the concern arises not from the use of individual devices but from the huge increase in the overall level such radiation from many sources. That said, we can easily debunk the scientists defence of the technology industry. Groups demanding action to control the unrestricted spread of Wireless technology have said that the radiation dosage received by someone using a wireless connection on a laptop computer is three times higher than the average signal strength from a mobile phone mast. One prominent defender of Wi - Fi, Dr. Paddy Regan of The university of Sussex Department of Physics said that measurements used by Wi - Fi critics are not valid because anti-Wireless campaigners are not comparing like with like. The signal from a laptop's wireless transmitter are measured one metre away from the device while the signal strength was measured one hundred meters from the mobile phone mast. He says, correctly but irrelevantly that if emissions from a wireless router are measured at a distance of 100 metres the level is six hundred times lower than the mobile phone mast is giving off. With respect Dr. Regan that is pure academic eyewash, if you really want to put your professional reputation on the line you are going the right way about it. If we want a meaningful measure we must take into account the signal strength at point of contact as well as the distance. A mobile phone mast bangs out a powerful signal because it has to cover an area with a radius of fifteen kilometres. Few people ever venture with a hundred yards of a cellular network mast. People who are in an office, classroom or home that has a wireless router for local area network and internet access are seldom more than ten meters away from the signal source. In the case of somebody using a laptop literally on their lap, the wireless transceiver is in direct contact with the thigh which is exactly why I have my wireless gateway switched off as I type this. After about an hour of such use a small patch on my thigh feels very hot, and it stays hot a lot longer than if I had simply rested a mug of hot tea there although the bottom of my mug would be hotter than the bottom of the computer. When concern about a link between mobile phones and tissue damage was first raised, it was made quite clear the risk arose from excessive use and also that while the associated symptoms might manifest themselves quite quickly in some people in others it could be years before any problems became apparent. Thus we return to susceptibility. Mobile telephones were never intended to be used constantly, their intended purpose was to let business people be contactable while away from the office. Thanks to advertizing hype however we now have a generation of people who develop serious withdrawal symptoms when separated from their mobiles for any length of time. Big money has been the controlling factor in the development of an industry where health issues should be foremost. So where are the health issues? All of us, while in school, were shown how radio waves are broadcast. usually this consisted of a teacher dropping something into a bowl of water and telling us to observe how the waves spread from the centre, growing less strong the further they travel. An extremely simplified version of what happens but it gets the idea across. What is more important to our health concerns though is an understanding of what happens when those radio waves encounter solid matter. If the solid matter is a radio receiver they excite the atoms in the receiver, causing the electrons of each atom to surge back and forth. The electron surges are converted by electronic circuitry in the receiver to reproduce the transmitted signal which can then be decoded into data, sound or images. What happens when those radio waves collide with animal tissue such as a piece of meat in a microwave oven, a muscle in the body of some living creature or a brain in somebody's head is the same effect but with different consequences. Think about what happens to meat when it is bombarded with the very intense radio emissions in a microwave oven. If we talk about radioactivity or nuclear waste in the environment it usually causes fear and panic but the radiation is the same, just weaker. It is woth remembering though that despite all the scaremongering about Chenobyl nobody actually died as a direct result of that accident, mainly because few people were close. I used to work in the telecommunications industry and on many occasions had to get close to microwave radio transmitters. Safety precautions were paramout and it was widly advertised that a few seconds exposure at close quarters to the signal could do permanent damage. Now relate that to what might happen as a result of prolonged activity at much lower intensity. It cannot be desirable can it. We are bombarded with radiation all the time of course, from the sun, from distant stars, from unstable atoms within the environment (just wave a Geiger counter at a lump of granite) but this natural radiation is something we have evolved with. Had our species not adapted to cope with it we would not be here. The adaptation probably took place within the most primitive single cell life forms. Radio emissions are nothing to be afraid of so in questioning the possible effects of a technology we should avoid the kind of hysteria whipped up by some sections of the media. it is not hysterical however to remind ourselves that nature does not like sudden changes. The reason religious fundamentalists can scoff that evolution is only a theory it that it takes many thousands of years for a species to mutate into another species, far too long to be observed in the laboratory. We may adapt to gradual climate change or gradual changes in environmental radiation levels but are not equipped to cope with sudden changes. So the spread of wireless technology in less than a decade is something that we ought to be wary of. The consequences for individuals may take years to become apparent, the consequences for our species and those on which we depend for our survival may not be known for several generations. And as with climate change which was set in train by the Industrial Revolution, by the time we become aware of the problems it may be too late to turn things around.