The New York Times and fear mongering about the Apple Watch and wearable tech

The New York Times Styles Section giveth. The New York Times Styles Section taketh away.

Last week, The NYT Styles Section published an excellent deconstruction of the pseudoscientific activities of Vani Hari, a.k.a. The Food Babe, by Courtney Rubin. Although skeptics might think that it was a tad too "balanced" (as did I), by and large we understand that this was the NYT Style section, and seeing a full-throated skeptical deconstruction of The Food Babe's antics in such a venue is just not in the cards. That's what I'm there for (not to mention other skeptics like Steve Novella), such as when I responded to Hari's "rebuttal" to the NYT article.

This week, things are different. This week, the NYT Styles section has printed pseudoscience.

I'm referring to an article by Nick Bilton entitled The Health Concerns in Wearable Tech. It's an article that's so obviously designed to take advantage of the high level of media interest in the Apple Watch since Tim Cook announced it two weeks ago. I'd say it was click bait, except that, this being the Gray Lady and all, at least the editor resisted the temptation to slap too obvious a clickbait headline on it, but the article starts out in a way that makes its author's intentions quite clear:

In 1946, a new advertising campaign appeared in magazines with a picture of a doctor in a lab coat holding a cigarette and the slogan, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.” No, this wasn’t a spoof. Back then, doctors were not aware that smoking could cause cancer, heart disease and lung disease.

In a similar vein, some researchers and consumers are now asking whether wearable computers will be considered harmful in several decades’ time.

We have long suspected that cellphones, which give off low levels of radiation, could lead to brain tumors, cancer, disturbed blood rhythms and other health problems if held too close to the body for extended periods.

Yet here we are in 2015, with companies like Apple and Samsung encouraging us to buy gadgets that we should attach to our bodies all day long.

Got it? To Bilton, the Apple Watch and Samsung's competitor smart watch are just like tobacco. No, not exactly. More specifically, to Bilton, assurances that the Apple Watch and Samsung's smart watch are safe are like the assurances of physicians used in tobacco advertising used seven decades ago to falsely assure smokers that cigarettes were perfectly safe. It's an old gambit beloved by cranks promoting a cell phone-cancer (or wifi-cancer) link. Bilton also stretches his facts a bit; back then many doctors did strongly suspect that smoking tobacco was not safe. Indeed, it was suspected as early as 1912 that cigarette smoke might be causing lung cancer. As I've discussed many times before, the Germans produced epidemiologic data in the 1930s and 1940s linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer. Around the time of those ads, it's true that it wasn't yet firmly established that smoking was strongly linked with lung cancer. That wouldn't come until the 1950s, and it would still take a decade for the evidence to become undeniable to all but tobacco company shills. Indeed, most physicians seven decades ago didn't accept the link, but it's going a bit far to say that doctors "were not aware that smoking could cause cancer, heart disease, and lung disease."

Be that as it may, the implication is clear and intentional: Cell phones and "wearable tech" are health hazards that, although some suspect them to be harmful, are just not yet widely recognized as health hazards yet. Sure, Bilton buries that assumption under JAQing off, but the message is very clear. Worse, he cites research that is largely discredited and certainly unconvincing to try to make his point. That's not his worse sin (more on that later), but let's look at what Bilton writes next first:

The most definitive and arguably unbiased results in this area come from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a panel within the World Health Organization that consisted of 31 scientists from 14 countries.

After dissecting dozens of peer-reviewed studies on cellphone safety, the panel concluded in 2011 that cellphones were “possibly carcinogenic” and that the devices could be as harmful as certain dry-cleaning chemicals and pesticides. (Note that the group hedged its findings with the word “possibly.”)

This is about as ignorant of the science (or disingenuous) as it gets. Thankfully, I covered this particular report in great detail when it was first released; so I don't have to go into great detail. Basically, as I pointed out at the time, quoting David A. Savitz, a professor in the departments of epidemiology and obstetrics and gynecology at Brown University and a researcher on environmental exposures and health, who said, “With few exceptions, the studies directly addressing the issue [cell phones as a brain cancer risk] indicate the lack of association.” Moreover, all the "positive" studies come from one group, Lennart Hardell's group in Sweden.

So what happened? Basically the IARC categorized cell phone radiation as a Category 2B carcinogen, which is by definition "possibly carcinogenic to humans." It's a list that, in addition to having chemicals like DDT on it, includes coffee, pickled vegetables, carrageenan, and carbon black. In any case, it's clear that in making its determination the IARC relied on both on case control studies including Interphone, and the Swedish group of Hardell et al (the only group that consistently reports positive associations between cell phone use and cancer), and, as Lorne Trottier explained, the process by which the IARC made its evaluation was hopelessly flawed. It's not a good study. Moreover data from Hardell's group is suspect.

Nor are the other studies that Bilton lists. Guess which study he cites first? A 2007 study by Hardell's group. However, the overwhelming evidence from other groups' studies is that there is no detectable link between cell phone usage and brain cancer. Bilton recognizes that but does his best to portray it with as much fear, uncertainty, and doubt as he can. It's a tour de force of spin:

There is, of course, antithetical research. But some of this was partly funded by cellphone companies or trade groups.

He even quotes a disclaimer in a negative study published in the BMJ that acknowledge that a “small to moderate increase” in cancer risk among heavy cellphone users could not be ruled out. That's scientific language. Scientists have to acknowledge the limitations of any study they publish. If they don't, peer reviewers make sure that they do. It doesn't mean that there is a serious possibility being acknowledged that cell phone use might actually cause cancer. It's just the usual cautious language scientists employ. Ditto the statement by the CDC cited by Bilton that "more research is needed before we know if using cell phones causes health effects."

It's as pure an example of not putting enough stock in the well-characterized basic science that tells us that radio waves do not have sufficient energy to break chemical bonds and directly cause mutations. Although I sometimes get into hot water for being critical of physicists who, seeming to operate from a Cancer Biology 101 understanding of carcinogenesis, declare carcinogenesis due to non-ionizing radiation to be impossible, it is nonetheless not incorrect to consider any link between cell phone radiation and human cancer to be highly implausible from a mechanistic standpoint based on physics. As I like to put it, it's not homeopathy-grade implausible, but pretty damned implausible.

Now here's where Bilton goes completely off the rails. After rhetorically asking "what does all this research tell the Apple faithful who want to rush out and buy an Apple Watch, or the Google and Windows fanatics who are eager to own an alternative smartwatch?" Bilton cites Joe Mercola:

Dr. Joseph Mercola, a physician who focuses on alternative medicine and has written extensively about the potential harmful effects of cellphones on the human body, said that as long as a wearable does not have a 3G connection built into it, the harmful effects are minimal, if any.

“The radiation really comes from the 3G connection on a cellphone, so devices like the Jawbone Up and Apple Watch should be O.K.,” Dr. Mercola said in a phone interview. “But if you’re buying a watch with a cellular chip built in, then you’ve got a cellphone attached to your wrist.” And that, he said, is a bad idea.

Not only does Joe Mercola have no special expertise in cell phones, cancer, or epidemiology (and proves it with his claim that cell phones are only a problem if they are using 3G bands; actually they're not a problem using 3G or 4G LTE), but he's a complete quack, whose quackery has been documented on this blog many times. He's antivaccine. He's also promoted Tullio Simoncini, a cancer quack who thinks all cancer is caused by a fungus, something that makes his being invoked as an authority on cell phones and cancer particularly risible. I mean, seriously. Can Bilton not even Google? If he did, he would have immediately seen links to articles like:

At least, these are the articles that came up when I did a quick Google search of Joe Mercola's name. You get the idea. Even in the Style section, you'd think the editors wouldn't want to cite a quack as any sort of authority in medicine. I mean, seriously. Bilton ought to be ashamed, and the editors of the NYT ought to be mortified. Not only does he recycle every dubious cell phone-cancer trope out there, but he couples that misinterpretation of existing scientific evidence with quoting a quack who sells supplements. Hardell, as bad as his studies have been and as biased in his views as he's obviously become, is at least a legitimate epidemiologist. Mercola has no such qualifications or even anything slightly resembling any legitimate qualifications to be discussing epidemiology.

I suppose I should be more forgiving, as Bilton is a tech writer and this is the Style section. (Certainly it's clear from this article that he has no business whatsoever writing about anything related to medicine.) I can't be. It may be "just" the Style section, but it's still the NYT.

In the meantime, no doubt Bilton's defenders will label me a "shill" for the cellular industry or Apple. It's true that I'm a happy Apple customer, complete with a MacBook Pro, iPhone, iPad, and iMac, but I bought all those with my own money. On the other hand, maybe Apple will give me a new Apple Watch for defending its honor.

Nahhh. That's not how Apple rolls.

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Every serious newspaper has to have a style section nowadays. It's great because you can lighten your load immediately by putting it straight in the bin without having to check it for intelligent content.

By Peter Dugdale (not verified) on 18 Mar 2015 #permalink

The biggest health hazard posed by the iWatch is/was Apple's witless Whole Pantry app deal with "terminal brain cancer survivor" Belle Gibson. There's been a big blow up in Oz about Gibson this month that (unlike Ainscough) has gone largely unmentioned in the northern hemisphere.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/well-good/teach-me/67445340/belle-gib…

http://www.cultofmac.com/316141/apple-gives-the-boot-to-dev-who-alleged…

http://realitybasedmedicine.blogspot.com.au/2015_03_01_archive.html

I'm one of those physicists who really can't wrap their head around any supposed mechanism how radio waves could possibly cause cancer. They just don't have enough energy!

I used to play with radiation for my degree! I held radioactive material in my bare hands. They were encapsulated, mind you.

It's funny. People over- and underestimate the dangers of radiation. Often at the same time.

"They just don’t have enough energy!"

Unfortunately, most people have no idea what energy is.

Furthermore, many people don't believe "the dose makes the poison".

Instead they believe that any detectable amount is dangerous.

This contributes to a ton of fearmongering.

Don't have enough energy to do what, specifically? That's the question. Not enough energy to break chemical bonds? Certainly. But carcinogenesis, we now know, is far more complicated than just breaking DNA chemical bonds to cause mutations. Most physicists I've seen making this argument argue from a very simplistic view of carcinogenesis (hence my Cancer Biology 101 crack). Does this mean that I think there currently is a plausible mechanism by which cell phones can cause cancer? No. However, unlike the case for homeopathy, for this question I cannot yet rule one out, knowing what we know about carcinogenesis.

@has:

I'm well aware of the Belle Gibson case. Readers have been peppering me with stories about it. Here's the thing. Simple fraud just doesn't interest me nearly as much as normal human cognitive issues that lead reasonable people to fall for woo. So I just haven't been interested enough in the case to research it and do a blog post. Maybe I will, but, given that it's now relatively old news, more probably not. The window has passed, unless something new comes up.

In my case it's much of anything, really.

If there's an effect, which I highly doubt, we wouldn't be able to detect it due to the much higher level of the natural radio background.

Dr. Mercola said in a phone interview.

I hope he was not using his mobile phone.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

@Orac: no worries, not dictating your blog.:) I just found it unreal that NYT would be painting bright red target on their ass with such blatant OMG RADIATION!!!1! nonsense when there's a perfectly good, tasty iWatch-y hook on a genuine scandal that they could've partied with instead.

Heck, even notorious online gossip rag Gawker is delightedly putting the boot in, replete with righteous (and strangely familiar) gutting of NYT's quoted expert "Dr" Joe Mercola. I daresay the Gray Lady will be feeling that burn for weeks.

If cell phones caused brain cancer to any significant degree, we would surely have seen a huge increase in incidence over the past few decades. We don't, so I will save my energy for worrying about other threats to our health, such as climate change and pollution (as a vast cloud of smog drifts over the UK).

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

I would not buy anything made by APPLE for ethical reasons, but the idea of a watch that acted as a phone ect, sounds like a great idea. I am so sick of rhe masters of woo stating woo such as,
1 People are allergic to the 21st century due to the chemi cals produced today.
2 People are made sick due to the electro magnetic radio waves being emitted via smart phones and smart electricity meters.
3 Canxers caused by mobile phones
It would be far more important to check how a company such as APPLE treat those poor soles who work 70 hours per week assembling their products amd the poor miners and their children as young as 8 years of age, who risk their lives sand mining for APPLE. This makes 1st world woo masters misguided beliefs seem very crivolous indeed.

I'm curious to know from this group, opinions of the linear no-threshold model as it relates to radiation exposure and risk. Clearly it's been meritorious since its implementation with the data that we had at the time. But in the same vein I've seen it described as overly conservative and to expect that, when forms of radiation surround us every day, is there really such a thing as 'as low as reasonably possible?' Or wouldn't background radiation be a reasonable level of safety? I've read other 'studies' (I put that in quotes because, well, it's been stuff from Google searches...so take what you will from that) that suggest even a hysteresis - that some levels of small doses of radiation can be beneficial. What are the opinions of those present?

Pretty amazing that when you google "Joe Mercola" three of the links on the first page are either SBM or RI articles.

I think that says a lot about the reach and influence of the work Orac's doing regarding quacks. We need more of that.

Sorry about my typo, I meanr frivolous

We are talking about the style section of the New York Times. The target audience is people who have more dollars than sense--a category which includes the woo-prone rich. The editors know their audience.

@Pris: I also have a physics background, and I agree that radio waves are nowhere near powerful enough to affect ordinary chemical bonds. For that, you need UV radiation (which is why you need sunscreen if you will be out in the sun for an extended period). But I also know that protein folding depends on hydrogen bonds, which are much weaker than ordinary chemical bonds. I don't know how much weaker--I'm not a biophysicist--so I can't dismiss out of hand the idea that GHz waves (which include cell phone transmissions as well as wireless networks) might have enough energy to affect those hydrogen bonds. That's as opposed to power line EMF, which is either 50 Hz or 60 Hz depending what country you're in--that's definitely too low a frequency.

I am aware that denaturing a protein won't by itself cause cancer. But there could be indirect effects: perhaps the protein that would have repaired DNA damage in some cell was thereby prevented from doing so. But I haven't seen any evidence that GHz waves actually do cause cancer, so there is no reason to think that there is a physical mechanism for something that doesn't happen. So I agree with Orac: this isn't as stupid as believing in homeopathy, but I'll want to see solid evidence of an effect before I do more than speculate idly about a causal mechanism.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

a-non@13:

Pretty amazing that when you google “Joe Mercola” three of the links on the first page are either SBM or RI articles.

Pfft, NYT hacks have no time for your newfangled "googles". Bricks and mortar; that's where their future's at.

Harobed: no worries on the typo. I understood what you meant. But as I've been rereading a lot of Pratchett lately, I immediately thought of the Feegles' cry of "Crivens!" They take very few things seriously other than drinking and theft from the "bigjobs", so perhaps "crivolous" is a good word for them. ;-)

I think the whole radio waves cause cancer thing is ridiculous. Never mind the physics -- if they did, we'd surely have seen a massive surge in cancer, and we just haven't.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

Mercola. . . holy Scheiße. He couldn't get Charlotte Gerson to weigh in on the topic? Maybe a coffee enema a day keeps the Apple cancer away?

Anyone clever enough to determine whether or not his comment on the NYT site is true?

"I see that the title of the article has been changed from "Could Wearable Computers Be as Harmful as Cigarettes?" to "The Health Concerns in Wearable Tech", and that the original tweet linking to the article has been deleted.

If there’s an effect, which I highly doubt, we wouldn’t be able to detect it due to the much higher level of the natural radio background.

If cell phone caused cancer, or any other health problems, we'd see it first in the people who maintain the cell towers. They are around radio transmitters in near constant operation, in addition to their own phones. When they start turning up with problems, I'll start worrying.

The same with power lines. When the workers in power plants, who spend all day around the generators and transformer fields get sick from 50 or 60 Hz, I'll start fearing my house wiring.

Wow, that's really disappointing to hear about Bilton. I've heard him on the This Week in Tech podcast a few times, and he seemed like a rational person.

Of course, TWiT is no stranger to crackpots. They often feature tech writer John C. Dvorak, who default reaction to everything under the sun is to call it a scam with no evidence.

Dvorak also co-hosts a twice weekly conspiracy theory podcast with Adam Curry, whose love of tin foil hat bat-shittery is well known.

I hope he was not using his mobile phone.

He was, actually; the article makes wry note of that. Mercola excused the seeming hypocrisy by saying that technology is an unavoidable part of life these days. Makes sense, I suppose, coming from one who has exploited the technology of the internet to forge his millions.

The thing I find funniest about the whole "doctors didn't think smoking was harmful" is that I never met a doctor who didn't think it could be (in my 50+ years), and I have some books printed in the 1800s that have an excerpt from a religious magazine that points out that those who use tobacco (smokers, chewers) have a higher risk of cancer. Of course, being religious, they also linked it to crime and alcoholism, but the facts are there.

Yeah, seems that did happen. . .

"Update: within an hour of posting this, the New York Times had changed the title of the article in question to “The Health Concerns in Wearable Tech”. They also deleted the tweet below. I don’t know whether other changes were made – there is no record of the post-publication edits on the page."

http://www.riskscience.umich.edu/no-new-york-times-wearable-computers-c…

http://www.popsci.com/if-were-going-demonize-wearable-electronics-lets-…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/18/wearable-computer-dangers_n_68…?

Johnny -- There certainly are hazards associated with working on power lines, but rather than carcinogenesis, they tend to involve, say, instant death.

By palindrom (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

@Eric Lund:

I agree.

My problem is mostly one of scale. The sun is a huge radio emitter. Cell phone emission just drowns in that sea of background radiation.

King James I of England assailed tobacco as dangerous to the lungs all the way back in the early 1600s:

Have you not reason then to bee ashamed, and to forbeare this filthie noveltie, so basely grounded, so foolishly received and so grossely mistaken in the right use thereof? In your abuse thereof sinning against God, harming your selves both in persons and goods, and raking also thereby the markes and notes of vanitie upon you: by the custome thereof making your selves to be wondered at by all forraine civil Nations, and by all strangers that come among you, to be scorned and contemned. A custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse.

Sure, he didn't use the word "cancer," and he was writing mostly out of personal antipathy to the practice, but still, the notion that no one realized smoking was harmful till the 1950s is patent nonsense. There were any number of tracts released in the 1800s deploring the practice of smoking, not just on moral or religious but also health and hygienic grounds. Ellen G. White, best known as a prophetess of the nascent Seventh Day Adventist movement, was particularly vociferous in her condemnation of smoking (and meat eating and sugar consumption and coffee drinking and any number of other loathsome vices).

#3,4&5
I'd be interested in how / if radio waves could impact the human body. It's been a while, am rusty and this is a poor comparison but...
Consider light which passes harmlessly through glass because it doesn't have enough energy to interact with the Si. However when it hits a human body it clearly does interact because we can see people.
Much higher energy UV however cannot pass through glass and we know of the damage it can do when it hits human skin.
So continuing the "logic" is it possible that there is a mechanism for RF (and I need to check the frequencies for 3 / 4G) to interact chemically or atomically with human bodies?
(For the record I'm firmly of the opinion that there is no connection between cancer and mobile phone usage but just letting my mind wander)

Nice to see you took this on. I fumed and ranted, and mentioned this article at your NSSOBlog. The title really bugged me so it’s a small comfort to read here that it was changed. Thanks to RI and SBM, I was able to spot every fallacy and even recalled your finer point on the physics involved.

By darwinslapdog (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

When I first heard about it, I admit I had a brief surge of I want for the Apple watch. It was quickly squelched when I learned a) the price, and b) it would only work with iPhone 5 or newer, and not my antique 4S. So now I have a Fitbit Surge instead. Sure, it's a monochrome display, and doesn't (and won't) have all sorts of apps, but it has a decent clock face, monitors my heart rate and other useful things, and communicates with my iPhone 4S wirelessly.

The only adverse health effects I've had so far is a bit of contact dermatitis from wearing it a bit too tightly (still learning how loosely it can worn while still reading the heart rate) and lax strap hygiene. I don't expect anything worse, either; certainly not cancer from the Bluetooth wifi.

By Richard Smith (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

Phlebas @30: The difference between what happens with visible light and UV light is how they interact with the body. The less energetic visible light photons excite vibrational modes (or sometimes electronic state transitions) in the molecules that absorb them. Organic molecules are complicated enough that you can approximate the discrete quantum states as a continuum. These photons pass through silicon glass because glass does not have any vibrational or electronic modes in this frequency range. Indeed, most simple molecules do not, which is why you can see the sun on a clear day (but clouds contain ice crystals which can scatter light)--their vibrational modes are in the infrared, which is why CO2 and methane are greenhouse gases (in particular, they absorb in the frequency range at which bodies the temperature of the Earth tend to radiate thermally), and their electronic modes are at higher frequencies, in the UV.

What happens when you move far enough into the UV range is that the photons become energetic enough to eject electrons from molecules. This is more of a problem because that electron can travel a considerable (on the molecular scale) distance away from the source molecule, and as a result the chemical properties of that molecule can change substantially. For instance, sodium metal is a highly reactive substance which can produce an explosion in contact with water, but take away an electron (e.g., by putting it in contact with the poisonous gas chlorine) and the resulting ion is not only much less harmful, but actually essential for terrestrial life (as is the chloride ion which absorbs the extra electron).

Visible light has frequencies (and therefore energies) eight orders of magnitude higher than the GHz waves that your cell phone uses. Above I mentioned hydrogen bonds in proteins, which are much weaker than ordinary chemical bonds--but I don't think (I'm not sure) they are eight or nine orders of magnitude weaker. It's not that there are no effects--microwave ovens also operate in this frequency range--but microwave ovens are much more powerful than your cell phone transmitter. If you are foolish enough to sit in an operating microwave oven, you may have problems (there is a reason you must close the door in order to turn the microwave oven on). Otherwise, you have nothing to worry about.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

Harobed @ 11:

I read this kind of bullshıt all the time, and I am constantly amazed at the irrationality.

Why is Apple the only one tarred with conditions in the factories where their equipment is built, but all the other tech giants whose stuff is made in the very same factories are innocent?

Why is absolutely the only one of these tech companies to put any pressure on Chinese and other factories to ameliorate those conditions, absolutely the only one to write conditions into their contracts requiring such improvement, also the only one identified with poor working conditions?

I won't buy anything not made by Apple for ethical reasons!

Well, that's a lie--it's because I won't pay money for crap.

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

With the radio waves, I don't just think of their low energy, but a variation of it, their long wavelength and so their low resolution. Radio frequency wavelengths are on the order of meters, it's hard for me to think of any way they could interact with things as small as cells?

That doesn't mean that radiowaves can't cause cancer or any illness, I just can't imagine some kind of interaction with individual cells.

By Garnetstar (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

As I type this from my iPhone and am on my way to pick up a couple MacBooks (the wife is coming over to the dark side), I can't help but think of that veterinarian in Baltimore who testified before the Maryland General Assembly about smart meters. She said she had concerns over the radio transmitters in them causing cancer. When asked for evidence, she actually said, with a straight face, that her evidence was the lack of evidence because the smart meters had not been tested for cancer-causing ability. That's oncology 101 in Crosby's Labyrinth, I guess.

Eric Lund @34:

H-bonds definitely aren't 8-9 orders of magnitude weaker than covalent bonds. Maybe 2 orders of magnitude if that.

The N-H...O hydrogen bonds that are common in proteins have a strength of 8 kJ/mol, compared to a few hundred kJ/mol for typical covalent bonds, which is what I think you mean by "ordinary chemical bonds".

By AlphaGamma (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

@The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge:

I read this kind of bullshıt all the time, and I am constantly amazed at the irrationality.

Why is Apple the only one tarred with conditions in the factories where their equipment is built, but all the other tech giants whose stuff is made in the very same factories are innocent?

Actually, there is a name for this kind of strategy, where you pick one prominent example to boycott from an entire industry that all do the behavior you're opposed to. It's easier to boycott one company than an entire industry, and the more focused boycott exacts more financial pressure on the one company than an unfocused boycott would be on any individual company. Furthermore, if it works, at least there will be one ethical provider in the market, and it scares other companies, who might think they are next.

Apple is an ideal choice, since Apple prides itself on its selectiveness in sourcing more than most companies, and it directly targets the kind of people that are perceived to be the most likely to join the boycott.

Why is absolutely the only one of these tech companies to put any pressure on Chinese and other factories to ameliorate those conditions, absolutely the only one to write conditions into their contracts requiring such improvement, also the only one identified with poor working conditions?

The fact that they did so in response to the boycott probably encourages the boycotters to continue. They would think that the pressure is obviously getting to Apple, so if they keep it up Apple will probably give in completely to their demands.

By justthestats (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

I know stuff about cell phones has been popular for years I am surprised that fears about wifi has not made it into the mainstream media. It has all the scary bits of cell phone waves with the bonus that it is pretty much all over and you cannot get away from it by just not using a device. In addition the conspiracy theories that you could make about are pretty much written at this point. ex. The government wants to create public wifi so they can kill people off for the NWO.

Regarding why Apple gets singled out for bad labor practices, I think a lot of that sentiment can be traced back to an episode of This American Life, wherein a fella (Mike Daisy, it was, I just looked it up) recounted the experiences he had when he traveled to China and visited the factories Apple sources from, Foxconn in particular.

The story was retracted because it turned out Mr. Daisy had fabricated a number of things, but I'm sure the story made a huge impact on the popular consciousness when it comes to Apple.

I personally don't get why anybody would want an Apple watch thingy, but that's just me. I have a cell phone - a flip phone - that I use for making phone calls, of all things, and I have a laptop, which I can turn off and put away that I use for computing. Macs are overpriced and Windows sucks, so I run Linux.

@AΓ: Thanks. So you would need to be in the infrared range to get a photon energetic enough to break a hydrogen bond. That's useful to know.

@Garnetstar: The relevant physics here involves photons, so localization isn't the issue. It matters more whether some cell is affected than which specific cell is affected. These waves are at least small enough in wavelength (a 3 GHz wave has a 10 cm wavelength, roughly the size of my hand) that you have multiple wavelengths within the body. Resonant cavity effects are theoretically possible, though I doubt the human body can provide a cavity of sufficient quality. Power line EMF has a wavelength of either 5000 km or 6000 km, depending where you are. The latter is very close to the distance between Boston and Zurich.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

Appears the NYTimes Public Editor understands the concerns on Nick Bilton piece on wearable tech:

http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/19/a-tech-column-on-weara…

However, given a chance to reconsider his piece Bilton is oblivious to the error in his piece and his approach. It also appears he (and his direct editor) haven't learned anything from this episode.

Fear mongering is a great way to drive readership. Something I thought the NYTimes was more resistant to, but this episode sadly proves otherwise.

I have to deal with this kind of crap all the time from the True Believers at dailykos.com. No, people, Scientists did not say that cigarettes were safe: Scientists said that cigarettes caused lung cancer and heart disease. Tobacco executives paid attractive people to dress up like scientists and say that everything was safe, but the complicity of a small gang of mercenaries hardly constitutes a Scientific Consensus.

Yet, the True Believers pound the table and stamp their feet and scream that the Scientists lied to them about smoking AND THEREFOR no one can ever trust a scientist ever again. Which, conveniently, gives them license in their own minds to believe any damn fool crackpot notion they want and to enforce that belief as progressive orthodoxy.

By Robert L Bell (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

@ Orac

I guessed I missed those articles when looking through the blog archives.

They did have a clickbait headline at first. They changed it after seeing so much pushback.

The original headline was "Could wearable computers be as harmful as cigarettes?"

Part of the reason Apple gets singled out for working conditions is that it's practically the only company in its market that could slightly raise its prices without committing financial suicide. Most of the other players are competing on price, so if one decided to pay its suppliers a little more and raised prices to make up for it, it would just lose sales to a competitor who didn't.

I say "slightly" and "a little" because direct ("touch") labor is actually a much smaller percentage of a manufacturer's cost than most people think; it's about as optimized as you can get. Therefore, even a fairly substantial increase in direct labor costs for something like a phone could be compensated for by a $10-$20 increase in retail price. Apple can afford to do that on its own; most of its competitors couldn't do that unless they were all forced to.

All that said, there is still a fair amount of reverse snobbery and resentment behind the way Apple gets singled out.

powerful enough to affect ordinary chemical bonds. For that, you need UV radiation

I dunno, photosynthesis and human vision seem to work OK in the visible-light spectrum.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

In the response by the NYT's public editor the author (Bliton) says that he is no longer going to talk on the phone for an extended period of time without using a headset. And that he will keep it away from his "soon-to-be born son" to protect his developing brain.

To which I say: Mr Bilton, where do you keep your phone?Perhaps in your pants pocket? Right next to your gonads? (where most of the rest of us keep our phones also.)

Folks here please correct me if I've mis-remembered this, but aren't rapidly dividing cells at greater risk of damage from radiation than non-rapidly dividing cells? And as I recall, the brain of an adult doesn't generally go through rapid division. Unlike the cells that produce sperm.

If cell phones really did cause cellular damage, wouldn't we have seen a wave of infertility or congenital birth defects?

Or maybe I should wear foil pants as well as a foil hat.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

Oy. I saw Bilton's response. Fingers itching...might need...to...deliver...a...little...more...Insolence...

Yet, the True Believers pound the table and stamp their feet and scream that the Scientists lied to them about smoking AND THEREFOR no one can ever trust a scientist ever again.

We see the same thing on the political right with climate change. In the 1970s some scientists were discussing Milankovich cycles, and noted that in the absence of atmospheric forcing we would be on our way to the next ice age. Global warming pseudoskeptics cite this discussion as "scientists were predicting global cooling in the 1970s," and therefore, their models can't be trusted. They just conveniently ignore the caveats about what adding CO2 to the atmosphere would do. That's been known since 1896, when Svante Arrhenius published a couple of papers on the subject (one in Swedish and one in English--I've read the latter). His calculations of the magnitude of the effect are in the middle of the range today's atmospheric scientists estimate.

Actually, the parallel is even closer. The same think tanks and PR firms that were denying the tobacco-cancer link as recently as the 1990s are involved in sowing FUD about climate science.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

I understand the Perspex Personage's urges. One wonders if there is a term that combines the meaning of not-really-an-apology with not quite-doubling-down.

If cell phones really did cause cellular damage, wouldn’t we have seen a wave of infertility or congenital birth defects?

Well, there's the TSUNAMI OF AUTISM, natch.

My favorite current example of risk management was the North Korean decision to close their borders to protect the population from ebola.

By Paul Toftness (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

My favorite current example of risk management was the North Korean decision to close their borders to protect the population from ebola.

Closing their borders, and keeping them closed for so long rather surprised me. I regularly read the "news" from KCNA, so I am quite used to reading stories that are written to elevate the DPRK higher than others, so I expected stories to be written about ebola, especially if or when there were cases in the US, ROK, or Japan. But I did not expect the borders to be closed, suddenly doing that is not good for the little bit of business they have. I expected it to be used, especially internally, to bolster their image. Closing the borders for 4 months seems to suggest the leadership really did believe their own hype.

Orac, they did have a clickbaity title, they just changed it dishonestly after criticism, as you can see the admission of it in the response from the editor, and on the URL itself. It was pure clickbait.

Orac, they did have a clickbaity title, they just changed it dishonestly after criticism, as you can see the admission of it in the response from the editor, and on the URL itself. It was pure clickbait.

(This may be a double comment, sorry got the email wrong.)

"...disturbed blood rhythms..."

My goodness that sounds positively dreadful. And to think, I have a wifi enable defibrillator buried in my chest and wired directly into my heart. I am terrified just thinking about it. Good thing I have an implanted defibrillator to shock away all those disturbed blood rhythms my implanted defibrillator is causing.

Sigh...

their vibrational modes are in the infrared, ..., and their electronic modes are at higher frequencies, in the UV.

I see, Eric Lund #34. But what of 'rotational' for the ensemble 'continuum' of an organic molecule? I'm just speculating, but I picture the bifilar DNA and especially the coil-spring RNA sort of 'twisting' back and forth causing a parametric change in overall length as it does so. In other words, key physical sites on the molecule become overly 'jittery' -- I'd not want to try and dock to a 'jittery' space station; Would it not be similar for transcription/folding?

It seems to me that a possible mechanism for genetic or metabolism error would be due to the EM radiation being transduced to mechanical shaking.

If the protoplasm can be considered a dielectric within these small scales then the coiled molecule might constitute an 'antenna' which may resonate to higher order harmonics of microwave energy.

Just how long is an RNA strand if stretched out straight? I do wonder if millimeter wave energy is not getting pretty darn close to ringing with its fundamental at that dimension.

Millimeter waves occupy the frequency spectrum from 30 GHz to 300 GHz. They’re found in the spectrum between microwaves (1 GHz to 30 GHz) and infrared (IR) waves

http://electronicdesign.com/communications/millimeter-waves-will-expand…
--------------------------------
The way not to worry about the exposure would be commercial application of micropower impulse technology whereby EM energy is spread out across a wide band such that any given frequency is below the noise floor -- 'Tuning' is accompished with a precision timer instead of tightly selected frequency.

It just works better at much lower overall power. It has better range and vastly reduced interferance with even many units transmitting close together. Also, *multipathing* is eliminated-- I think of it like bats all bunched together coming out of caverns using the same frequencies but able to track with their own individual 'pings'.

Using *time domain* this way would allow your router and watch to also concurrently serve as a nifty see-through-walls radar with the data stream. A double plus good perk is that, since there is no interferance with other devices** , the FCC can go decommision itself with extreme prejudice.
http://www.timedomain.com/

**indeed, detection/interception or jamming is improbable without the exact timing criterea for the 'channel' -- Hmm. 'Somebody' wouldn't be able to hack or spy what they can't detect; Amongst sustainable government agencies, no such agency has a problem with that.

Dim Tim -

Cellular phones and Bluetooth operate below 3GHz, so what 30GHz has to do with the question is...questionable. Building a 30GHz transmitter isn't easy (that means expensive), and I doubt that you have ever even seen one, or even been within a mile of one. The 30-300GHz band has nothing to do with the discussion.

Radio waves can cause damage to living things. I know, because they have hurt me. Even 0Hz can hurt. It causes burns. You can even break an arm jerking away from a shock. Radio waves can even kill, if they knock you off an antenna tower.

But they don't cause cancer.

"It’s true that I’m a happy Apple customer, complete with a MacBook Pro, iPhone, iPad, and iMac, but I bought all those with my own money."

Apple fans can behave like a cult. See "Apple triggers 'religious' reaction in fans' brains, report says."
Smokers often deny health risks of tobacco, especially second-hand smoke, even though they paid for it themselves. They're not shills, but they have cognitive dissonance.

Even if cell phones caused cancer, Apple Watch wouldn't be as bad as the iPhone. The watch doesn't have a cellular antenna in it, and you don't hold it up to your head like an iPhone.

In the nyt response linked above, the author says in future he'll use a headset. But headsets have miniature electromagnets for the audio transducers, don't they? and won't these inevitably emit some radiation? These will be very close to the head - in the case of in-ear 'phones, virtually in the head. Couldn't get much more power to body cells than the rf from the 'phone itself?
Loads of question marks, because I'm not a physicist - and will be pleased to be corrected by anyone who knows what they're talking about.

By Peter Dugdale (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

sorry... "Couldn't you get ...".

By Peter Dugdale (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

"Indeed, most physicians seven decades ago didn't accept the link, but it’s going a bit far to say that doctors 'were not aware that smoking could cause cancer, heart disease, and lung disease.'"

Ok, how do those past doctors compare to current doctors like oncologist John G. West, who found a link between carrying a cell phone in the bra and developing breast cancer? Were those doctors dismissed too?

If cell phones aren't a good analogy to tobacco, then what is? What health hazard is currently not accepted by most - but not all - physicians, but will turn out to be real? BPA? Marijuana? Pickled vegetables? No way to know, is there.

Have you heard of Tumor Treating Fields, or Optune, by Novocure? Low-intensity EMFs can treat cancer but not cause it?

"TTFields are low intensity, intermediate frequency, alternating electric fields that disrupt mitosis and cytokinesis. TTFields exert physical force on charged cellular components that is sufficient to stop normal cell division processes, specifically the formation of the mitotic spindle from tubulin dimer proteins. TTFields also exert a physical force on other components of the cell during division, a force which is sufficient to cause cell death prior to division."

oncologist John G. West, who found a link between carrying a cell phone in the bra and developing breast cancer

Memory reminds me that John G. west's theory has been covered here before. Dr West did not come across as particularly competent.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 20 Mar 2015 #permalink

@herr doktor

Ok, did the first doctors who found a link between tobacco and cancer come across as particularly competent? If so, why didn't they convince most doctors?

why didn’t they convince most doctors?
I am given to understand that in the early 1940s there were political obstacles between German doctors and the rest of the world.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 20 Mar 2015 #permalink

Just how long is an RNA strand if stretched out straight?

You're going to have to be a lot more specific, Tim. Which RNA? There used to be tRNA and mRNA and rRNA when I was at school -- that was in the Good Old Days before microRNA and siRNA and snoRNA and piRNA -- and they all have different lengths.
More importantly, you seem to be under the impression that RNA arranges itself into a spiral, like DNA but single-helical. Nope. It doesn't.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 20 Mar 2015 #permalink

Tim,

It seems to me that a possible mechanism for genetic or metabolism error would be due to the EM radiation being transduced to mechanical shaking.

Isn't mechanical shaking at a molecular level commonly known as 'heat'?

Anyway, it seems to me that looking for possible mechanisms for phenomena that we do not observe is a total waste of time and energy.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 20 Mar 2015 #permalink

Max,

Ok, how do those past doctors compare to current doctors like oncologist John G. West, who found a link between carrying a cell phone in the bra and developing breast cancer? Were those doctors dismissed too?

It was the preliminary results of the UK Doctors Study in the 1950s that convinced a lot of people, doctors included, that smoking is dangerous. It studied over 40,000 British doctors, and found that smoking decreases life span up to 10 years, and that more than 50% of all smokers die of a smoking-related disease. By contrast, John G. West published a case series including of four young women with breast cancer, and he doesn't appear to have followed this up. The quality of evidence is not really comparable.

If cell phones aren’t a good analogy to tobacco, then what is? What health hazard is currently not accepted by most – but not all – physicians, but will turn out to be real?

Maybe none. It seems unlikely that any common environmental factor is going to be found to have adverse health effects of the same order of magnitude as smoking tobacco.

BPA? Marijuana? Pickled vegetables? No way to know, is there.

The health effects of BPA, marijuana and even pickled vegetables (Cheng, K. K., et al. "Pickled vegetables in the aetiology of oesophageal cancer in Hong Kong Chinese." The Lancet 339.8805 (1992): 1314-1318.) have been studied, and all of them have been associated with increased risk of various health problems, but not anywhere near as large as those of smoking tobacco. When there is argument about whether something has adverse health effects or not, as in the case of BPA, I tend to not to worry too much about it. Conversely, the evidence for the adverse effects of smoking tobacco is overwhelming, though some people still deny it, even today.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 20 Mar 2015 #permalink

key physical sites on the molecule become overly ‘jittery’

Yes, this can be bad for you. But it doesn't cause cancer. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are the more likely causes of death from that phenomenon. And to get that kind of dose from RF, you need to be in the middle of a powerful source, like a microwave oven[1] or a radar facility operating with sufficient power. A cell phone--even a thousand cell phones transmitting at the same time, if you could carry them all without collapsing under their weight (if you're not carrying them yourself, the inverse square law kicks in, and you'd need even more)--won't do it.

[1]Thus the line from Weird Al Yankovic's "Dare To Be Stupid": "Stick your head in the microwave and get yourself a tan".

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 20 Mar 2015 #permalink

Building a 30GHz transmitter isn’t easy (that means expensive), and I doubt that you have ever even seen one, or even been within a mile of one.

Hmm. Google disagrees:
http://www.google.com/search?q=single+chip+millimeter+wave&ie=utf-8&oe=…

Star Trek stuff does *sound* like it should stay expensive. These days, it seems hard to stay away from those even if one is not within a mile of an airport, Johnny #65.
======================================

you seem to be under the impression that RNA arranges itself into a spiral, like DNA but single-helical. Nope. It doesn’t.

herr doktor bimler #77, I'm confused by these definitions, then:

The helix geometry of RNA is of A-Form ... As a single stranded molecule, RNA folds in on itself to link up its nucleobases, though not all become partnered. These subsequent three-dimensional shapes, the most common of which is the hairpin loop, help determine what role the RNA molecule is to play — as messenger RNA (mRNA), transfer RNA (tRNA), or ribosomal RNA (rRNA).

http://www.diffen.com/difference/DNA_vs_RNA

A string is also 'linear'; I can take a linear piece of string and still manage to fill a volume with tangled mess.
============================

Isn’t mechanical shaking at a molecular level commonly known as ‘heat’?

Well yes, Krebiozen #78. But there probably is a distintion between coherant spatial/temporal motion vs. a random distribution of kinetic energy.

Max @71: Regarding cell phones in bras and breast cancer:
Imagine, if you will, the size of the average smart phone (or look at your own if you have it). think back to the size of phones 10 years ago. My iPhone (not a terribly new one) is bigger than a deck of playing cards.

Now imagine trying to conceal a deck of playing cards in a bathing suit. The simple fact is that with the enormous size of modern phones, most women wouldn't even consider trying to keep their phone in their bra because it wouldn't fit. There just isn't room.

So besides the story about cell phone in bras causing cancer being very data-light (to be charitable), it's simply not relevant.

Now, let's imagine that all of the data is wrong and cell phones really do cause cancer. Where would you want to keep your phone (admitting that none of us can live without them anymore): in your pants pocket, by your gonads, in your bra/shirt pocket, by your lungs and heart, or on your wrist, by...some skin, bone, ligaments and tendons?

It feels like no one thought any of this through *at all*.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 20 Mar 2015 #permalink

Cellular phones and Bluetooth operate below 3GHz, so what 30GHz has to do with the question is…questionable. Building a 30GHz transmitter isn’t easy (that means expensive), and I doubt that you have ever even seen one, or even been within a mile of one. The 30-300GHz band has nothing to do with the discussion.

I'm reminded of an article in the old and now long-defunct magazine Electronics Today International, which had a half-joking title about building a communications array in the 300 terahertz band.

In other words, communicating using the cheap infrared LEDs that are in many remote controls.

By Jenora Feuer (not verified) on 20 Mar 2015 #permalink

Dr West did not come across as particularly competent.

For me, what led me to wonder whether Dr West know what he was talking about was his unawareness that cellphones are passive devices while waiting for an incoming call (in a pocket or tucked into a bra); they do not emit energy until you remove them from pocket or bra and hold them to your ear for a conversation.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 20 Mar 2015 #permalink

i stand corrected.

I also note that while RF energy has been known to damage biological tissue, that damage has never been shown to lead to cancer.

herr doktor bimler #77, I’m confused by these definitions, then:
The helix geometry of RNA is of A-Form … As a single stranded molecule, RNA folds in on itself to link up its nucleobases, though not all become partnered. These subsequent three-dimensional shapes, the most common of which is the hairpin loop

The key words there (I think) are "three-dimensional shapes" and "hairpin loop". If I am imagining it correctly, RNA segments *can* loop back on themselves in a double helix if the sequence of bases is sufficiently complementary, but it's not a regular spiral, more of a tangled mess.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 20 Mar 2015 #permalink

Where would you want to keep your phone ... in your pants pocket, by your gonads, in your bra/shirt pocket, by your lungs and heart, or on your wrist, by…some skin, bone, ligaments and tendons?or on your wrist, by…some skin, bone, ligaments and tendons?
A good question, JustaTech #82. Just to be contrary, I'd like to point out that 'on the wrist' is precisely where any resonance effect within tissues may be enhanced. I should think that because there is less 'mass' per wavelength-specific volume as well as thinner (damping?) tissue to get to blood and bone. The less there is to dissipate the energy (resonant or otherwise) then the more for each 'resonator' in the vacinity.

Pulsed microwave radiation can be heard by some workers; the irradiated personnel perceive auditory sensations of clicking or buzzing. The cause is thought to be thermoelastic expansion of portions of auditory apparatus.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_auditory_effect

Related to 'microwave hearing' is to directly engage the crystal lattices within bone to act as a detector/demodulator/transducer and produce actual sound (delivering audible information via demodulation of an AM modulated microwave signal). If the victim tries to block the voices in his head with hands then more bone, louder demons.

Let's take it all the way -- The finger. Didn't Ming The Merciless die of finger cancer?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7Kx4XIs2tU
==========================

cellphones are passive devices while waiting for an incoming call (in a pocket or tucked into a bra); they do not emit energy until you remove them from pocket or bra and hold them to your ear for a conversation.

This is exactly wrong, herr doktor bimler #84. The phone 'packets' status and location regularly and does so at full power.** I'm sure everyone has heard the da-da-da- da-da-da d-de-da-de-da-de-da-ditditdit-eeeeee of a 'packeting' phone which came too close to audio equipment; The interferance is usually less with actually using the phone to talk.

**With regular conversation, in an area with strong signal, the phone 'dials it down a notch' whereas inside a trailor, you're still usually gonna get the full 4-5 watts.

This is exactly wrong, herr doktor bimler #84.

Your mileage may differ, but my experience of cellphones is that the battery charge lasts considerably longer when I am not using the phone.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 20 Mar 2015 #permalink

Lay your phone on top of your surround-sound unit, herr doktor bimler -- Last I checked (around 2009) it was every 18 minutes to deliver the peak power (with sharp edge rise and fall waveform to maximize that further).

This just in
“Monsanto Weedkiller Is ‘ Probably Carcinogenic,’ WHO Says”
“(Bloomberg) — Monsanto Co.’s best-selling weedkiller Roundup probably causes cancer, the World Health Organization said in a report that’s at odds with prior findings.”

Again, not merely possibly, but probably.

Some history from Wikipedia: In 1996, the Attorney General of New York, ordered Monsanto to pull ads that said Roundup was “safer than table salt” and “practically nontoxic” to mammals, birds and fish.

Lay your phone on top of your surround-sound unit, herr doktor bimler — Last I checked (around 2009) it was every 18 minutes to deliver the peak power (with sharp edge rise and fall waveform to maximize that further).

What is this "surround-sound unit" whereof you speak?
On the question of cellphone idling output, I defer to the expertise of rs:

The Li-ion battery in my phone has a 1400 mAh capacity at a nominal 4.2 volts. This is a little over 21,000 joules of energy.

My phone statistics say that “cell idle” consumed 11% of the battery, and the battery is 42% charged. More simple arithmetic brings us to 1340 joules consumed by the radio on standby.

Let’s be generous and say that 1/2 that is transmitted RF. The rest is dissipated as heat by the electronics. We now have 670 joules of transmitted RF. Since the phone uptime is 20.5 hours this works out to an average of 9 milliwatts.

In reality most of the time there is no RF transmitted. At periodic intervals the phone transmits a few watts. If we assume around 3 watts this works out to a duty cycle of 0.3%.

Add in variables for carrier spectrum allocation (typically in range of 1 to 2 GHz), distance to base stations, and greater duty cycle when the phone can’t find a base station.

and Spectator:

Cell phones are commonly limited to 6/10th of a watt. They negotiate with the tower to use the least amount of power needed to reach it, so usually it’s much less. There’s some techy details, like GSM phones which time-slice transmit, but even the fraction of a second peaks are generally under one watt and the average 1/8 as much.

There’s only about five watt-hours in high end smartphone battery. Some of that goes to heating the phone, as neither the battery nor the electronics are anywhere near 100% efficient. A basic cheap-phone has about a 2watt/hour batt. Considering that a smartphone will idle 48 hours and a dumbphone with its little battery much longer, it can’t be putting out much transmit power when idle.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 20 Mar 2015 #permalink

This just in
“Monsanto Weedkiller Is ‘ Probably Carcinogenic,’ WHO Says”

It's just precious when people are so lazy that barfing up a headline and making other people do the legwork merits patting themlseves on the back.

Shall we? (PDF)

"For the herbicide glyphosate, there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The evidence in humans is from studies of exposures, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001. In addition, there is convincing evidence that glyphosate also can cause cancer in laboratory animals. On the basis of tumours in mice, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) originally classified glyphosate as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group C) in 1985. After a re-evaluation of that mouse study, the US EPA changed its classification to evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans (Group E) in 1991. The US EPA Scientific Advisory Panel noted that the
re-evaluated glyphosate results were still significant using two statistical tests recommended in the IARC Preamble. The IARC Working Group that conducted the evaluation considered the significant findings from the US EPA report and several more recent positive results in concluding that there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. Glyphosate also caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells, although it gave negative results in tests using bacteria. One study in community residents reported increases in blood markers of chromosomal damage (micronuclei) after glyphosate formulations were sprayed nearby."

The Lancet item, if anything, is even more underwhelming.

Some of you folks mation not buying anything from Apple because of ethical reasons. Are there any electronics (cell phones, etc.) you are willing to buy that aren't produce in unethical conditions? I'm a firm believer in justice and would like to see it done.

95: "Are there any electronics (cell phones, etc.) you are willing to buy that aren’t produce in unethical conditions?"

I have a radio consisting of a galena crystal and a cat whisker detector. Slave labor was not employed to remove the crystal from its native rock, and no cats were harmed.

herr doktor bimler #90

You are perhaps neglecting the ability of the NSA to turn on your phone, whenever they like, the better to watch you masturbate. This prcedure drains your batteries as it irradiates your tissues.

By Robert L Bell (not verified) on 21 Mar 2015 #permalink

ethanol in alcoholic beverages is a definite human carcinogen

Which just goes to show that nobody cares what the WHO says, when it involves something they don't want to believe.

And by the same token, shift work is also a probable carcinogen by the definition of the WHO - but you don't see the GMO fanatics demanding that workers be treated better, just that Roundup be outlawed as a stalking horse in their campaign to get at the demon GMOs.

By Robert L Bell (not verified) on 21 Mar 2015 #permalink

Tim-
The huge problem with your comparison of RNA or DNA length with radio wavelength is that it's based upon an analogy to wire length picking up radio wavelengths. RNA and DNA are organic molecules, not wires, so they will not pick up an electromagnetic frequency based upon their length. Organic molecules absorb RF radiation based on the types of bonds. Length of molecules and RF absorption don't have anything to do with each other. People cannot do real science based upon simplistic analogies. Your analogy fails when examined on a factual physical basis. Furthermore, herr doktor bimler has shown that, even IF your analogy had any basis in reality, the total energy involved is trivial. All studies conducted so far (aside from Hardell) show no harm has resulted to real live humans from using cellphones, no matter what the mechanism. To be credible, studies have to be reproduced by others. Most of the studies with which I am familiar were done at a time when the RF energy output was higher than cellphones in use today. In conclusion, your hypothesis fails and you should drop it in favor of reality.

RNA and DNA are organic molecules, not wires, so they will not pick up an electromagnetic frequency based upon their length.

O.k. But it is treated as a composite molecule, albeit a long one. It is a discontinuity within a dielectric. Any motive charge carriers within (ions, electrons), even if only locally bound and giving rise to a 'displacement current', should still look like an antenna or addition of a serial string of antennas of slightly different fundamental frequency.

Are you saying that the helices do not respond to coherent stimulation but it's all only 'heat'??

herr doktor bimler has shown that, even IF your analogy had any basis in reality, the total energy involved is trivial.

Yes, JerryA #100. But consider a mechanism akin to a photosensitive hormone change in a plant where the energy is trivial to flip the switched HPS bulbs, the fact remains that the strongest envelopes with cellphones is when it is not in use but 'packeting'. I agree that a 'negotiating' phone always can only lower the output power as 'status update' is always at full power. And I also know that there is a threshold energy required to push a button.

A study published in 2010 and conducted by Boian S. Alexandrov and colleagues at the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico created mathematical models predicting how terahertz radiation would interact with double-stranded DNA, showing that, even though involved forces seem to be tiny, nonlinear resonances (although much less likely to form than less-powerful common resonances) could allow terahertz waves to "unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication". Experimental verification of this simulation was not done. A recent analysis of this work concludes that the DNA bubbles do not occur under reasonable physical assumptions or if the effects of temperature are taken into account.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terahertz_radiation#Safety

I note that experimental verification of the refutation was also not carried out -- In other words, there are no studies to show either way.

But it is treated as a composite molecule, albeit a long one. It is a discontinuity within a dielectric. Any motive charge carriers within (ions, electrons), even if only locally bound and giving rise to a ‘displacement current’, should still look like an antenna or addition of a serial string of antennas of slightly different fundamental frequency.

You're going to strain something if you toss that word salad much more vigorously. Have you ever wondered why people don't make antennas out of poor conductors? Do you know what characterizes a poor conductor? Do you think it might have something to do with the displacement currrent's being nonnegligible?

Are you saying that the helices do not respond to coherent stimulation but it’s all only ‘heat’??

BTW, what happens to an actual receiving antenna that isn't feeding a circuit?

Oh, and WTF is a "motive charge carrier"? How do you think RNA is put together? Some loose agglomeration of free ions and electrons?

BTW, what happens to an actual receiving antenna that isn’t feeding a circuit?

In a perfect conductor, with sufficient power to overcome 'damping', the voltage amplitude builds up until there is free-air breakdown between the endpoints. -- (see Calli Arcale's chainmail/drwho link)

Directional Discontinuity Ring Radiator:
http://www.cq-vhf.com/vhf_highlights/2007_vhf/2007_fall_vhf/AntennasFal…

E.T.X.R:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kS79YWIEIyc

BTW, what happens to an actual receiving antenna that isn’t feeding a circuit?

It becomes a sympathetic radiator??

@Krebiozen
"Not at doses that anyone but an agricultural worker is going to be exposed to it isn’t."

A few days ago, it wasn't considered a probable carcinogen to anyone. Now it's a probable carcinogen to agricultural workers. What's it going to be in a year or two?
Monsanto of course denies that it's a probable carcinogen. "We don’t know how IARC could reach a conclusion that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe," Philip Miller, Monsanto vice president for global regulatory affairs, said in a statement.
But Monsanto's website still says, "a causal connection linking Agent Orange to chronic disease in humans has not been established."

"Monsanto of course denies that (glyphosate) is a probable carcinogen."

German safety studies "deny" that as well.

"Early 2014 the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and other German safety authorities have published their draft re-assessment report on the health risk assessment of glyphosate, re-assessing hundreds of studies and public domain literature. The draft report is an important step in the process to re-register active substances of pesticides, such as glyphosate. The substance glyphosate was granted EU-wide approval in 2002 and is currently undergoing a renewal process controlled by the European commission."

"In the case of glyphosate, Germany is the Rapporteur Member State (RMS) who has submitted the draft of the re-evaluation report to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In conclusion of the re-evaluation process by BfR, the available data confirms the previous evaluation: Glyphosate does not show carcinogenic or mutagenic properties, has no toxic effect on fertility, reproduction or embryonal/fetal development in laboratory animals and is not considered to pose any risk to human health."

http://www.glyphosate.eu/news/re-evaluation-glyphosate-german-authoriti…

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 21 Mar 2015 #permalink

But Monsanto’s website still says, “a causal connection linking Agent Orange to chronic disease in humans has not been established.”

First you'd have to establish any connection linking Agent Orange to chronic disease in humans. Outside of courtrooms and politics, the epidemiology is shaky.
I doubt that Monsanto has any particular commitment to Agent Orange, in that (1) they didn't develop it, and (2) the US gubblement, using the Defense Production Act, obliged them (and 8 other companies) to produce it.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 21 Mar 2015 #permalink

@Krebiozen @Robert L Bell

"Hot mate tea, wood smoke and sunlight are also classified as probable carcinogens by the IARC, and ethanol in alcoholic beverages is a definite human carcinogen."

Solar radiation is a definite carcinogen, and it also causes cataracts, which is why you should use sunscreen and sunglasses, but it's also necessary for making Vitamin D, and it might prevent myopia, so moderate sunlight may be good for you.
Alcohol in beverages is a definite carcinogen, but drinking in moderation may reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
I don't know of any health benefits of moderate amounts of glyphosate, though Monsanto might find some, the way tobacco companies touted that smoking prevents Parkinson's.

Shift work is not only a probable carcinogen, but it also raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other problems, and should be taken seriously.

I'd try to avoid definite and probable carcinogens, unless they have health benefits, as in sunlight. I'd take reasonable measures to avoid possible carcinogens. Like, I wouldn't stop using a cell phone, but use a headset or loudspeaker for long conversations, which I do anyway to free my arms.

@herr doktor bimler

Agent Orange was contaminated with the dioxin TCDD , which is classified as a known carcinogen. Unlike pacifists, I don't fault Monsanto for making Agent Orange as much as I fault them for continuing to deny that it was toxic.

Monsanto would be wrong if they claimed that “a causal connection linking Agent Orange to chronic disease in humans has been established.”
This is in the context of the argument that blithe assurances about the safety of Apple Watches and cellphones cannot be trusted because equally blithe assurances from scientists and authorities have been wrong in the past. Better examples needed.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 21 Mar 2015 #permalink

Tim's hypothesis of how cell phones cause cancer is the same as the anti-vaxers explaination on how vaccines cause Autism.

I'm reminded of the phrase "a solution in search of a problem".

It becomes a sympathetic radiator??

The answer is "mostly nothing." You seem to have overlooked that bit while dreaming up some sort of weird ciliated-nucleobase RF excitatation dance choreographed with some novel electron-sea model of hydrogen bonds or, heaven help us all, van der Walls radiotelegraphy.

^ "Waals," dammit.

*van der Waals radiotelegraphy.*

Remote 'sticktion'? What a wonderful idea.

Yea, silly dance. I'm being silly. Still, it remided me of a ballet dance (I don't recall where I saw it -- PBS -- Nova?) to demonstrate Cooper pairing in a theory of superconductivity.

Yttrium barium copper oxide is a resistor until it isn't; I'd keep the frozen heads away from RF, at least.

Your #114 causes thoughts, Narad. Something...string of active elements...emulation...metamaterials...living dynamically adjustable microtennas? Squirrel!

Max,

I don’t know of any health benefits of moderate amounts of glyphosate, though Monsanto might find some, the way tobacco companies touted that smoking prevents Parkinson’s.

Large amounts of evidence shows unequivocally that smoking causes health problems, evidence that some with vested interests have tried to deny.

Conversely, large amounts of evidence shows unequivocally that glyphosate does not cause any health problems, certainly not in the amounts consumers are exposed to, but some with vested interests have tried to deny this evidence, or have even produced fraudulent studies to try to discredit it.

I know who I think is most similar to tobacco companies in this scenario.

BTW, nicotine probably does reduce the risk of Parkinson's, though whether its cardiovascular risks exceed its benefits remains to be seen.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 22 Mar 2015 #permalink

114: The answer is “mostly nothing.”

More precisely (if anyone cares) is that a current is induced in the antenna, a current that depends on the antenna's aperture and radiation resistance. That current is partly dissipated in the antenna and the rest is re-radiated back to space, with shifted phase .

An RNA molecule is no more an antenna than sticking a wire into a tree and calling that an antenna.

To Tim in re your comment # 101 and 102:
Yes, as many people have already told you, the little bit of RF our bodies absorb is turned into heat. The problem with your comment #102 is that you are assuming that all of the cellphone energy pointing towards a body is absorbed. It is not. Most of it just passes through with no effect whatsoever. Human beings are relatively transparent to much low frequency energy. The minimal rest becomes minor heat.

In re your comment #101 and prior comments:
It is clear that you do not understand enough chemistry to discuss the effect of electromagnetic radiation on biological molecules. DNA does not let charge flow, it is not a wire, it is not like a wire, so your analogy totally fails. The problem is that you don't know what you don't know. Yet you are making up (or parroting) hypotheses about DNA damage from cellphones which are completely implausible to people who have studied chemistry and biochemistry. (Look up the term "Dunning-Kruger effect".) Are you some kind of electrical engineer? If so, then let's get this straight- being an engineer does not mean you're an expert on anything else, not disease mechanisms, not medicine, and especially not biochemistry. Get a handle on some humility, close your mouth when other people are talking about their own fields of expertise (like Orac with cancer treatment), and learn something. Just because someone is out of school does not mean they can shut off their brains and stop learning. (One of the biggest problems in the US starts when people say things like "I'm not a doctor but..." or "I'm no scientist, but...". It tends to all be complete bullshit after the "but", but they're too full of themselves to know it. Especially the anti-science politicians.)

The IARC report on probable carcinogenicity of glyphosate ranked it as a cancer hazard on the same order as "shift work".

So if you work a regular shift in the Roundup plant, your risk doubles?

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 22 Mar 2015 #permalink

The IARC report on probable carcinogenicity of glyphosate

I went and looked at the report, and turns out that the IARC are using "probable" as a term of art, a special code:

This category is used when there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.

So "probable" here does not mean the usual sense as "likely" or "high probability"; it's shorthand for "can cause cancer in some non-human animals, given the right species and sufficiently high dosage; and not proven to not cause cancer in humans."

It's not a case of recent discoveries about glyphosate overturning previous assurances as to its safety... simply a case of the IARC taking what was previously known and squeezing those facts into their Procrustean bed of terminology.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 22 Mar 2015 #permalink

you are assuming that all of the cellphone energy pointing towards a body is absorbed. It is not. Most of it just passes through with no effect whatsoever.

Interesting, JerryA #119. Perhaps you should take your own advice about being outside your field?

For, though you're correct on lower frequencies penetrating farther (skin depth is inversly proportional to frequency), this discussion was on microwaves. To which, I interjected the probable future being the shorter millimeter waves.

My router and cordless phone say 2.45 and 5.7 GHz. Indeed, I thought I'd be called out on the inefficiency of microwave to deliver appreciable energy through more than a few centimeters of tissue (though there appears to be mechanisms that sometimes provide a deeper 'window').

As for 'millimeter waves', 95 GHz here:

The energy reaches a skin depth of only about 1/64th of an inch, the equivalent of three sheets of paper.
http://jnlwp.defense.gov/About/FrequentlyAskedQuestions/ActiveDenialSys…

How does most of it 'pass right through'? Are you silicon-based or just that shallow?

Many molecules (such as those of water) are electric dipoles, meaning that they have a partial positive charge at one end and a partial negative charge at the other, and therefore rotate as they try to align themselves with the alternating electric field of the microwaves.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_oven#Principles

The result would still lead to 'jittery docking' with greater misalignment than due to temperature alone as the molecules' motion is what is raising it in the first place.

(yes, even some thermodynamically favorable chemical reactions only occure when molecules are correctly oriented to each other such as with the production of nitrous oxide -- Isn't this property one that often sets a rate of reaction and why many occure at higher pressures for a given temperature?)

orientation matters:

The reaction can only happen if the hydrogen end of the H-Cl bond approaches the carbon-carbon double bond. Any other collision between the two molecules doesn't work. The two simply bounce off each other.

http://www.chemguide.co.uk/physical/basicrates/introduction.html

I think a valid question is "does orientation matter enough with a complicated molecule that an entirely different product than that intended occures with more freqency (happens more often) with the non-thermionic, coherent 'jitters'?

The "brain cancer/cellphones" stuff should be easy enough to put to rest with a simple epidemiological study: hemisphere in which tumor occurs, compared to side of head on which cellphone is held.

If there's an effect, we would expect a significantly greater percentage of tumors in the same brain hemisphere as the ear the patients favored for cellphone use, as compared to the hemispheric distribution of tumors in a pre-cellphone population or a current non-cellphone-using population.

In lieu of questioning patients on their cellphone usage, we can reasonably assume that cellphones are held to the ear that is opposite the writing hand, so the non-writing hand is used to hold the cellphone and the writing hand is free to take notes. This is the case for wired telephones so it should persist for wireless devices. Using this assumption, one can apply population writing-handedness data as a correlate for cellphone ear preference (right-handers use left hand to hold cellphone to left ear, and vice-versa).

I have to believe that a study of this type has already been done and it's part of the literature on the subject.

---

The more significant issue for cellphones and "wearables" is the ecological impact of mass-market devices whose average lifespan is 18 months and, despite industry hype about recycling, typically end up in the landfill. This represents a certain amount of nonrenewable resources, and a large quantity of embodied energy that, in China, is mostly produced by coal.

And all for what? Largely, for entertainment. The fact that cellphones can receive streaming video at high bandwidth, while conversation is still relegated to a 6 KB slice that produces audio that's provably worse than a 1935 landline, demonstrates the priorities of the industry. Bottom line, it's a portable TV that can also be used as a crappy phone and a telegraph ("texting"), because conversation is hardly as profitable as TV and more TV and even more TV (see also the relentless AT&T hype for Uverse, which is, you guessed it, even more TV, with highspeed internet as a rationalization).

The Apple Watch is nothing more than an expensive toy, a disposable piece of hip fashion whose real practical value is next to nil, with a few exceptions that will no doubt attract vociferous support as rationales. It's hardly as obnoxious a toy as a gas-guzzler in commuter traffic, but it's obnoxious precisely because it's so utterly unnecessary: a purely gratuitous addition to the burden on climate and resources, like the disposable cameras that were popular in the 90s.

"Bigger screens have smaller screens upon their backs to bite 'em
Smaller screens have smaller screens, and on ad-infinitum."

So now your pocket-pet with the 4" screen can have its own little pet with a 1" screen, and 18 months from now they can spend eternity together in a landfill as we head for +2 Celsius.

"I Want" is not a moral imperative.

When is enough, enough?

By Gray Squirrel (not verified) on 22 Mar 2015 #permalink

@ Tim

There seems similar concerns over ultrasound imaging

I believe Jen Gunter wrote about this on her blog. She pointed out that there is a big confounder when studying such a link: not every future mom get a scan and they are more likely to get one if there is some suspicion of at-risk pregnancy.

@ Gray Squirrel

In lieu of questioning patients on their cellphone usage, we can reasonably assume that cellphones are held to the ear that is opposite the writing hand, so the non-writing hand is used to hold the cellphone and the writing hand is free to take notes.

Careful with such assumptions. I'm mostly using my cell phone with my right hand and switch in cases I need to take notes, which is not that often.
But again, I would not define myself as a heavy user.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 23 Mar 2015 #permalink

Tim,

The result would still lead to ‘jittery docking’ with greater misalignment than due to temperature alone as the molecules’ motion is what is raising it in the first place.

The motion of molecules doesn't raise temperature, the motion of molecules is what we call temperature.

Why would an increase in temperature caused by a cell phone (which is negligible, by the way) lead to different results than increased temperature from other causes, like sunshine, a hot drink, a fever? Do these lead to 'jittery docking'?

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 23 Mar 2015 #permalink

Hellanthus @ 126:

Yes, you're right, it was a sloppy assumption (writing handedness). I was looking for a quick & dirty workaround for asking patients, but that one was too quick & too dirty.

Ideally you want the best possible data (e.g. ask patients which side of their heads they held their cellphones) for the sake of sharpening the sensitivity of the results, and answering critics who would accuse any such study of bias. However, just asking about cellphones might elicit false positives from patients who already believe that cellphone use caused their brain tumors. So you would have to ask a series of questions about hand, eye, and ear preferences for various tasks, of which cellphone use ("which ear?") would be one question in the series.

OK, so does anyone here know of any studies comparing tumor hemisphere to cellphone use preference? I'm surprised at all the theoretical discussion of radiation and so on, since empirical results should put the whole issue to bed for once and for all, at least for anyone who isn't overtly paranoid.

But why anyone needs a 1" screen to talk to their 4" screen, is still beyond me. Our grandchildren are going to hate our guts for crapping up their planet so we can have stupid toys.

By Gray Squirrel (not verified) on 23 Mar 2015 #permalink

OK, so does anyone here know of any studies comparing tumor hemisphere to cellphone use preference?

I have seen such studies- this meta-analysis mentions some - but they have a problem with recall bias i.e. those with brain tumors may be inclined to blame cell phones and misremember which side of their head they held them to. There may also be an association between dominant hemisphere and brain tumor location, which would also confound results. That may sound odd, but remember that men usually have left-side strokes (often causing aphasia) and women have right-sided strokes, so it isn't impossible.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 23 Mar 2015 #permalink

The motion of molecules doesn’t raise temperature, the motion of molecules is what we call temperature.

Atoms, molecules, big molecules, things...

I'd almost consider the relatively physically large molecule to be more of a 'thing'.

Consider a magnetic stir bar in a beaker of water -- Calorimetry reveals that the motion of the stirrer is transferring energy to, and heating up the water; It appears quite animated as it does so.

Motion is induced in the stirrer by the action of a coherent and sinusoidal change in magnetic field. I'm simply considering the possibility that RNA may serve as the 'stir bar' in a 'beaker' of cytoplasm.. Though, for the purpose of my speculaton, the increase in 'temperature' is not relevent to any extra 'swing' when considering the (possible) effect physical motion of reactants has on biochemical reactions. And I'm considering RNA as a macroscopic 'thing'.
==================

Gray Squirrel #125, U-verse is terrible for 'reliable' communication -- They bundle the landline to it so you also loose the telephone when the 'sync' is knocked out by not necessarily close (miles, sometimes) lightning or a hairdryer operating somewhere on your side of the VRAD. If one likes to 'follow along' watching radar products, he is, more often than not, sorely disappointed. And you'd better get any important calls out quick if your power goes out because the backup battery they supply is a poor, unessesarily complicated, and easily damaged joke with an obnoxiously loud 'punchline' whine to remind customers why they hate ATT. Latency is also pretty terrible, should one be into online shooters or racing.

“Bigger screens have smaller screens upon their backs to bite ‘em
Smaller screens have smaller screens, and on ad-infinitum.”

Lewis Fry Richardson would probably implore us all to 'hold on to your copper' because, Once the ATT high-pressure U-verse sell comes to your door, it's gone.

To Tim in comment 122:
I'm willing to be corrected on microwave skin penetration depth- you're right that cellphone radiation does not go much deeper than the skin (which weakens your case, actually). However, I noticed that you're not willing to be corrected on... pretty much anything. You're just doubling down, throwing out yet more semi-plausible sounding hypotheses while not admitting your previous ideas were dead wrong. (That's called the Gish Gallop, after creationist tactics.) To top it all off, you still haven't admitted the most damaging problem- you're going on and on about possible mechanisms of harm before you or anyone else has shown there is any increased cancer risk at all. See http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs193/en/
It's like arguing about the eye color of the unicorn you're sure you're going to catch next week.

For much of my life, I was afraid to experiment with magnetrons. Indeed, the first day I did* was April 19,1995 and I was on my way to the hardware store to purchase a 'leak detector' when the dirty deed went down. This fear was instilled by educators, Ham operators, physisists, metrologists, and engineers. Police unions put out warnings about testicular cancer clusters and traffic radar. A piece of equipment I worked with had the warnings displayed, though average power was only ten watts.

Radio towers had "WARNING. High energy radio frequency area". I personally witnessed a 50 ft line of ten or so dead little yellow birds straight along the path of the microwave relay dish on the tower to the studio -- it appeared they just dropped dead flying through the beam and this has puzzled me off and on whether this was some test of a microwave weapon idea of some sort where the relatively harmless dish was fed with a specific pernicious frequency or waveform..

These days, I've respect for the Russians who sat themselves in an aluminum foil-lined room with a 60 watt microwave source and reported feeling four degrees warmer; If most frequencies are truely safe then, like with radiant heaters, I don't care if it is thirty below so long as I feel warm.

I don't think you are that far off with penetration depth, JerryA #133. It gets messy** when dealing with discreate discontinuities and refractive index boundaries -- The energy can sometimes 'tunnel' to where, classically, it shouldn't exist. But going 'around' is just as good as 'going through' for you to make your point. Also, sometimes there is a region below a given depth that exhibits greater dissipation or greater transmission than simply linear reduction of power with depth--thin skin/thin bone/a little bit into grey matter may yet prove an interesting interface for some nefarious frequency.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evanescent_wave

I am getting the idea that industry/military did not wish experimentation with those devices then. Those frequencies (449, 915, 2.45, 5.8 GHz) were used for consumer devices solely because radio laws were relaxed there. Now that they are ubiquitous, TPTB tells me it is safe. It occures to me that industry was going to use it regardless of safety concerns, proven or otherwise.

Your refutation is that, as there is no cancer, the effect I'm hypothesising about does not exist. It is akin to particle physisists saying the 'ice-9' scenario is implausible because we're still here; That the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider did not destoy us already so the postulated negatively-charged strangelet catastrophy is ruled out. But they fired it up anyways before knowing.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strangelet#Dangers

What was that NASA saying I saw in a movie? Something along the lines of 'think and plan for a million things but it is the one you did not think of that bit you in the ass'.

That quoted 'skin depth' is all over the place:

Do microwaves cook food from the inside out?
No. Microwaves penetrate the food to a depth of 1 to 1½ inches.

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/fsis-content/internet/main/top…

the 2.45 GHz frequency microwaves commonly used in microwave ovens can deliver energy deeper into the tissue; the generally accepted value is 17 mm for muscle tissue.

The lower frequencies at high power densities present a significant risk. The human body acts as a broadband antenna, with a number of resonation frequencies dictated by its size and position.[3]

The microwave absorption is directed by the dielectric constant of the tissue. At 2.5 GHz, this ranges from about 5 for adipose tissue to about 56 for the cardiac muscle. As the speed of electromagnetic waves is proportional to the reciprocial value of the square root of the dielectric constant, the resulting wavelength in the tissue can drop to a fraction of the wavelength in air; e.g. at 10 GHz the wavelength can drop from 3 cm to about 3.4 mm.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_burn#Frequency_vs_depth
^^ I did not know that. That would necessitate re-evaluation of 1/4 wave resonators at a given frequency.

Actually, that whole microwave burn entry has some pretty gruesome stories to back up Johnny #85's assertion of 'tissue damage'.

O.K. so this proposed mechanism is Johnny #113's "a solution in search of a problem”. But, aside ascribing the simplistic term 'antenna' and implied wire carrying charge to a potential resonating (sonic, thermoelastic, electromagnetic) structure, what did I get wrong? What have I failed to clarify in addressing refutation of the proposed mechanism should it turn out to exist?

**Messy. An antenna-dimensioned discontinuity within a dielectric can, in some ways, appear as a tuned antenna.

the compression and rarefaction of air by an acoustic wave changes the dielectric properties, producing partial reflection of the transmitted radar signal...

...Bragg scattering occurs when acoustic energy (i.e., sound) is transmitted into the vertical beam of a radar such that the wavelength of the acoustic signal matches the half-wavelength of the radar. As the frequency of the acoustic signal is varied, strongly enhanced scattering of the radar signal occurs when the Bragg match takes place.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_acoustic_sounding_system

Some energy is imparted to the region of space that enhanced the backscatter; I *think* it could be modeled as a very lossy antenna element.

*I had been introduced to the 'conspiracy' stuff over scaler interferometry and attempted to verify the useful reality of the 'dark beam', the zero'th order component of interferance, myself -- The oven waveguide was bisected with half being filled with 5.25 inches of parafin so that the phase was shifted 180 degrees to cancel at the aperature. The 'detector' was 100 little christmas tree bulbs glued to a lucite square.

The bulbs indeed were not lit with the arrangement, seeming to show cancellation like out-of-phase woofers; Throwing on a piece of parafin on the 'detector' resulted in all sorts of patterns of lit and unlit bulbs (presumably, where the cancelled beam re-interfered with part of itself passing through the phase-shifting discontinuity and reappeared.

I am one of those naive physicists. When I teach about the photoelectric effect in class I give the cell phone cancer controversy as an example, and say that QM implies that any health effects should be from local heating. Is this wrong? Where should I read more about this?

Tim- I have three final phrases for you.
1. Dose effect. Those microwave radio towers put out thousands of times more energy than microwave ovens. Microwave ovens, in turn, put out thousands of times more energy than cellphones. There is a noticeable difference between dropping a model car in your hand (no harm) versus dropping a sedan on your head (major harm). That is why you need a license to drive a real car, not a model car, and why you need a warning sign on a tower, but not a cellphone.
2. Selective absorption. The frequency of a microwave oven is different from a cellphone. A microwave oven is tuned so that the energy is efficiently absorbed by the chemical bonds in water and fats. A cellphone is tuned to avoid those absorption bands, so that the phone works in, say, foggy conditions. It also makes a cellphone a lot safer for your head than a microwave oven or a tower. And yes, those birds were COOKED by the tower, because the power was so high that even inefficient tuning for absorption did not matter. This has been studied for 50+ years. (The birds, by the way, did not die of cancer.)
3. Solution in search of a problem. Yes, when you have not shown there that a problem exists, then you are wasting time looking for a mode of action. Your very long set of comments here is that, in essence, you are bleeding to death and blaming it on a unicorn horn puncture, when everyone else is telling you that you haven't even show us a paper cut. You are wasting your time looking for a mechanism of action. Besides, why won't you believe that absorbing trace amounts of NON-ionizing radiation only causes minor heating, not molecular damage? Again, this has been studied for decades. Research into the alleged human effects of cellphones did not stop in 1995, by the way.

Aram- The only plausible science shows microwaves cause heat. There is not much more to read for now, though people (real scientists) are still looking out of an abundance of caution. It has been studied so much all over the world, such that any major health effects would have been discovered long ago, but they'd have to be very small and or very subtle not to have shown up so far. Tim's many comments boil down to a quote from Macbeth- full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

137: "Those microwave radio towers put out thousands of times more energy than microwave ovens."

No. We need to differentiate energy, power and flux. Point-to-point microwave transmitter power is a lot lower than you posit. What's high is the flux, due to the many 10s of decibels gain of the antennas. There are good engineering reasons for all of this.

Power and energy say nothing regarding the exposure risk. In any case, a cell phone next to the head doesn't even follow the inverse-square law since the head is within the antenna's near field. That makes exposure calculation quite a bit more complex.

"The frequency of a microwave oven is different from a cellphone."

Not by much. Ovens run around 2.4 GHz and cell phone bands are scattered from 700 MHz up to a little below 2 GHz, depending on local licensing etc.

"Tim’s many comments boil down to a quote from Macbeth- full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

I was trying to decide if he was Gish Galloping or JAQing off. Now I think he is just very confused, and perhaps more than a little paranoid. He has a faulty conclusion or an irrational fear and is blindly casting about for justification.

That reference on Bragg scattering and radar was pretty cool even if it had nothing whatsoever to do with the topic at hand.

Allow me to correct your point #2, JerryA 137. I believed for many years that the oven energy was tuned to a particular rotational absorption frequency of water. Though It was offhandedly pitched toward us in a junior physics course taught by a former WWII era technichian, this is incorrect. However, in my incorrectness, I always recognized that 'fats' were poorly heated as they were not 'resonant' water.

Sometimes, microwave heating is explained as a resonance of water molecules, but this is incorrect; such resonances occur only at above 1 terahertz (THz).

Compared to liquid water, microwave heating is less efficient on fats and sugars (which have a smaller molecular dipole moment).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_oven
----------------------------------------

And yes, those birds were COOKED by the tower, because the power was so high that even inefficient tuning for absorption did not matter

I do not believe so, JerryA. This was a very tall UHF tower and fenced-in transmitter fed programming by a small parabolic dish no more than ten or twelve feet off the ground -- The studio was visible at no more than 2-3 miles down in the valley. We played there as kids without noticeable effect. Some years later, I note, that even a handheld shortwave reciever was not bothered even just outside the enclosure below the tower (I'd also sometimes try to 'shunt tune' to one of the guys halfway down the mountain).

These little birds (finches, I think) were all in a narrow line following directly from the dish to studio, the first few being not more than 5-6 feet outside the fenced area. I can't imagine those little birds 700 feet up dropping dead to lay on the ground with so little scatter. I also would not expect the 'link' to be more than a watt or two.

To be fair, it may have been a laid out hoax. The tower was new then (still contained giant wooden spools scattered about) and the area was one which many people did not appreciate becoming (at least, officially) off limits.
=====================================

a cell phone next to the head doesn’t even follow the inverse-square law since the head is within the antenna’s near field.

Not just the 'inverse square law' for distance vs. intensity, but skin-depth itself in lossy dielectrics. In some instances, it is considered safer -- Powerful induction stovetops, diathermic heating, and 'witricity' are believed to be safe when one is only under the influence of magnetic oscillation, for instance. (check out the pic of the chick standing next to the 10KW, 60MHz transmitter cooking a sandwich!!

I mostly agree. Mostly. It would need to be believed to be safe as your typical implanted shill</strike Verichip depends on it to be functional.

"The studio was visible at no more than 2-3 miles down in the valley."

Ohh, my faulty memory. The studio was 9 miles away. I forgot about the long trek to get to the bluff to see that part of the valley.

But that dish on the tower pointing down a line of dead birds should have been the 'reciever'. In fact, I seem to recall the station as not quite operational at the time. The scene was surreal; maybe a tech was messing around -- The line of birds was very odd.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0330171/

One reason Apple is a target is that they are making an enormous profit margin, banking billions. There've been plenty of articles in the tech press about how getting additional memory or drive space in Apple products is WAY above the market price for those components. They could single handedly improve conditions and pay without raising price.

But to me, Apple is the Scientology of the tech world, extremely controlling and followed by adoring fanbois who will pay premium bucks for anything with the logo.

At least Android, being somewhat open source, enables you to load stuff that's not Google approved.

An RNA molecule is no more an antenna than sticking a wire into a tree and calling that an antenna.

rs #118, tree antennas have apparently been around for quite a long time.

The Floraphone:

It was soon found that a tree-antenna could be used efficiently as a multiple radio receiving set over widely different wavelengths, see Figure 3A, receiving either from separate terminals at the same (shown dotted in Figure 3A) or different heights of the tree, or in series from the same terminal...

...It has been shown in these experiments that this metallic terminal intimately connected to the earth itself and a part thereof is subject to changes of potential representing the innumerable frequencies required by modern radio-telephony and telegraphy, as well as any other electrical disturbances which may occur on the surface of the earth or the atmosphere above the earth.

http://www.rexresearch.com/squier/squier.htm

^^ Those images from 1919 sure look like wires stuck into trees to me.

But that may be considered 'cruel' by some so that the modern way is inductive coupling for the same wide band utility.

Squier drove a nail into the tree, hung a wire, and connected it to the receiver. The BioArt Laboratory team used flexible metal spring that wrapped around the trunk as planting a nail into the tree would have damaged it. Their system definitely works as the team managed to communicate with amateurs radios from countries as distant as Italy and Ukraine.

http://we-make-money-not-art.com/archives/2014/04/tree-antenna.php

Thx, Johnny #143.

Most of what we know about electromagnetic radiation comes from theories first proposed by James Clerk Maxwell in the 19th century, which state that electromagnetic radiation is generated by accelerating electrons. ...

... However, this theory becomes problematic when dealing with radio wave emission from a dielectric solid, a material which normally acts as an insulator, meaning that electrons are not free to move around. Despite this, dielectric resonators are already used as antennas in mobile phones, for example.

"In dielectric aerials, the medium has high permittivity, meaning that the velocity of the radio wave decreases as it enters the medium," said Dr Dhiraj Sinha, the paper's lead author. "What hasn't been known is how the dielectric medium results in emission of electromagnetic waves. This mystery has puzzled scientists and engineers for more than 60 years."

http://phys.org/news/2015-04-electromagnetism-enable-antennas-chip.html

Now, what was I saying about 'wires' again?? oh yea:

... If the protoplasm can be considered a dielectric within these small scales then the coiled molecule might constitute an ‘antenna’

... It is a discontinuity within a dielectric.

... An antenna-dimensioned discontinuity within a dielectric can, in some ways, appear as a tuned antenna.

#64, #101, #135.

Neener. Neener.

I'm not an expert, just looking to educate myself on the subject. Some people are saying non-iodizing radiation can't cause cancer because it doesn't have enough energy. However, isn't UV light non-iodizing, and hasn't prolonged exposure to UV via things like tanning beds been shown to cause skin cancer? Any insight much appreciated.