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May 31, 2007

And So Does Civilization Fall

Alerted by Ben Goldacre to this piece of the purest nonsense in The Independent I am left wondering if this is how civilizations fall. When the obviously well educated in that society, let alone the proles for whom the State provides as little as it can, believe in fantastical alarums, how can it survive?

I am well-doctored, to put it mildly. I probably consult more doctors than Woody Allen, who has separate screenings of his movies for his doctors. Everyone is entitled to a hobby; mine just happens to be my health, and what a fascinating hobby it is.

Start with a hypochondriac then.

When at a loss to explain my new malaise, I visited my naturopath.

Correction, a deluded hypochondriac, one who consults charlatans.

Believe me folks, it's not going to get any better from here on in.

She insisted that my exhaustion was caused by electromagnetic "smog" in my flat.

Yup,  been going on since we started using light bulbs and that wireless radio, hasn't it?

This made sense, as my symptoms had begun soon after installing wireless technology in my sitting room.


For example, although I've turned off my wireless access I can still tap in to my neighbour's Wi-Fi downstairs.

Mmmmm...so you were exposed to these electromagnetic waves from your neighbour before you installed your own and they didn't affect you. Showing that the causality of your own system is what?

"Any imbalance in our electromagnetic field creates a disturbance in cell structure and function, which can lead to illness in sensitive individuals," says London-based complementary health practitioner Dr Nicole de Canha.

Right, well, obviously, umm, is this "our electromagnetic field" anything to do with our aura? Or, perhaps, something that is affected by the earth's own magnetism? You know, that reason that when we ever move south or north we fall ill?

Even cordless hands-free home telephones - such a boon to multitaskers, enabling one to patiently listen to friends and family for hours while cleaning cupboards, re-potting house plants and reorganising the CD collection - are now off-limits. Their electrical force-field is nearly as powerful as that of a mobile phone. Since I'm now chained to a phone on a lead, my cupboards are filthy and my friends are neglected. But at least I'm less radioactive.

As a commenter at Ben's place says, at last, we have a test for these things. Point a geiger counter at those claiming to be suffering from said radiation and count the clicks.

Conventional headsets transmit sound to the earpiece through a wire, but as wire is an electrical conductor it may also deliver radiation directly to your head.

That pretty much kills the iPod then, doesn't it?

The homeopathic medicine company, New Vistas, and the Australian flower essence company, Bush Flower Remedies, both make drops that claim to reduce the amount of radiation stored in the body.

Radiation? Stored? Look, I'm all in favour of capitalism but guys, don't you think there's something a touch unsporting about taking money from the severely deluded?

"The heart of the unit is a programmed microprocessor unit that produces a holograph field that is amplified through an internal aerial system. This protection field protects the human system from the negative effects of EMR,"

Err, holograph? Isn't that light? So it is the lightbulbs that are killing us? Or is it the handwritten documents coming to get us?

As yet, no one knows what price we will pay for our dependence on modern technology.

As compared to not having modern technology actually we do. We're surviving, something which a good 99% of the 6 billion on the planet wouldn't do without it.

Naturopath, homeopath, holographic fields, look, we might as well start sacrificing virgins by throwing them down the wells to cure society's ills.

That is if sanitation (ooooh! modern technology!) and the sex education system have left us with any of either.

700-square metre radius


May 31, 2007 in Science | Permalink


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So this deluded moron is scammed for some cash. Bring it on.

These people are dangerous. They spread this crap through the memeosphere and infect others. They should be quarantined. Market forces often do this for us: these gullible idiots respond to phishing emails and wind up dead in a ditch on the road outside Lagos.

Posted by: Kay Tie | May 31, 2007 5:34:47 PM

I think I know where all the Star Trek technobabble writers wound up.

Posted by: walt moffett | May 31, 2007 8:01:01 PM

"Conventional headsets transmit sound to the earpiece through a wire, but as wire is an electrical conductor it may also deliver radiation directly to your head.

That pretty much kills the iPod then, doesn't it?"

She clearly doesn't know what she is talking about. Nevertheless, I disagree with your point. I doubt if an iPod produces radiation of both the same frequency range and power as that of a mobile phone. This matters (in my opinion) because considerations used by those who say mobile phones are safe seem to be the wrong ones. As I understand it, only the radiation's power and corresponding heating effect has been taken into account. However, it seems plausible that a low power level may cease to be trivial if it is delivered at a frequency that can cause disruption to biochemical reactions. I cannot say how likely this is to be the case - being merely an ex physics student with no knowledge of biochemistry - but until biochemists investigate this and prove my fear unfounded I will continue to avoid mobile phones but not iPods.

Also, if mobile phone radiation is harmful then the author's use of a speaker and sound tube rather than a wire and speaker makes perfect sense.

Posted by: laconian | May 31, 2007 8:01:20 PM

Iam afraid that if we continue to only semi-educate people, drivel like this will be the result. Abolish state education, and reintroduce vocational education for the less academically able.

Posted by: paul ilc | May 31, 2007 8:15:20 PM

She's the cross product of a lack of education in "force-fields".

Posted by: dearieme | May 31, 2007 8:29:31 PM

When we have highly intelligent (if politically dubious) people, such as Cherie Blair, failing for this sort of clap-trap, how can we hope for the rest? A lifetime of exposure to electromagnetic fields isn't as intellectually disruptive as this pseudo-scientific babble.

www.skepdic.com and www.quackwatch.org are both great for ripping through this sea of crapola.

The most upsetting thing isn't that the writer gets ripped off buying some latter-day snake-oil, but rather that the readers of The Independent have been for indirectly paying for this mental poison.

Posted by: Philip Thomas | May 31, 2007 10:56:40 PM

The science is neatly summarised here:


(Thanks to Numberwatch)

Posted by: DocBud | May 31, 2007 11:06:22 PM

The Authoress - a former "It" girl apparently - is also the Green Party candidate for K&C and wants to install a windmill on her roof. 'Nuff said, methinks

Posted by: Tinxx | Jun 1, 2007 9:14:34 AM

The Authoress - a former "It" girl apparently - is also the Green Party candidate for K&C and wants to install a windmill on her roof. 'Nuff said, methinks

Posted by: Tinxx | Jun 1, 2007 9:14:39 AM

Cant see sacrificing virgins making a comeback, what with the high rate of teenage mums here in the UK, you would have a hell of a job to find one.

I recomend they all invest in tinfoil hats, I have a large range available from £99.99, sure to stop all ailments etc etc...

Posted by: fidothedog | Jun 1, 2007 10:29:57 AM

Anyone who doesn't know the difference between ionising and non-ionising radiation is simply going to make an idiot of his or herself when discussing wireless communications. This silly, silly woman duly obliges. Photons at WiFi frequencies have characteristic energies around 10 micro electron volts, which is orders of magnitude below the energy levels at which biological processes occur. Energies in the electron volt regime (petahertz frequency, which is near-UV) are needed to scission interatomic bonds. Microwave photons occupy a region that is well below the energy levels associated even with such esoteric atomic phenomena such as hyperfine splitting. There simply isn't anything 'going on' down there. High power microwaves can cause tissue damage by dielectric heating, but that's it.

Posted by: David Gillies | Jun 7, 2007 5:56:46 PM