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The average U.S. household has to pay an exorbitant amount of money for an Internet connection that the rest of the industrial world would find mediocre. According to a recent report by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, broadband Internet service in the U.S. is not just slower and more expensive than it is in tech-savvy nations such as South Korea and Japan; the U.S. has fallen behind infrastructure-challenged countries such as Portugal and Italy as well.



Re: Shermer's cell phone article

The article is just a bit oversimplified (he doesn't explain that the thermal effects of cell phone radiation are also way too small to worry about too). Mostly, it is really basic and really obvious. What is truly depressing are the cascade of of stupid letters. One guy writes "...mechanisms implicated are 1). generation of reactive oxygen species, 2). protein phosphorylation, 3). cell cycle perturbations, 4). protein expression changes, particularly that of Hsp70 heat shock proteins. Yes, they even know the mechanisms!" Let's see, Shermer is right that microwave radiation is nowhere near energetic enough to break chemical bonds to rupture DNA – and this letter writer even grants that point. The moron fails to understand that all his "mechanisms" whereby he thinks cell-phone radiation does act also involve chemical bonding. Where does he think "reactive oxygen species" come from? Does he not realize that protein phosphorylation involves the making and breaking of chemical bonds? How pathetic.


Cell phones are only not killing us if you don't not understand protein phosphorylation?

I am confused.

Texting while driving will probably get me first, so I will still take the calls.

Yes the majority of the comments to that Shermer piece really hurt my head. The hypocrisy inherent in attacking an article as "amateurish" and "poorly researched", while supporting claims about cellphone radiation damage based on "6 different research groups" and "15 separate studies", though failing to specify a single one is quite stunning.

This site gave me a bit of a laugh. My favourite part: using Dr. L. Gaga's expert advice to support their theory. Well I'm convinced.

The thing that amazes me is the supreme confidence with which these guys talk nonsense.

Yes, yes, yes, we can all agree that microwaves are too weak to disrupt molecular bonds. Can we now please move beyond that? Yes, again, not break them directly — but perhaps by inhibiting the repair process.

Yeah, Shermer, you dummy. The repair processes surely couldn't also involve chemical reactions which also involve activation energies many thousands of times bigger than the energies of microwave photons. Sigh...

The Dunning-Kruger is strong with kooks as always. The more adamant someone is about how sure sure sure they are, the more skeptical one should be of their claims.

And ultimately, "perhaps" and "what if"s are all these pseudocientists have, really.

So our broadband service is just like our health care; it's the exact opposite of that Target slogan: Pay More, Get Less.

As well as our train system, our financial system, our manufacturing base and our cigarettes.

Expensive, outdated, shitty, and killing us.

oh and our beer

Helix Wind is another company exploring the small-is-good wind turbine model. Their turbines are shaped like a DNA strand, hence the name.

I was a little annoyed by the broad-brush in the cel phone article on this more general point:

The precautionary principle is a weak argument for two reasons: (1) it is difficult to prove a negative—­that there is no effect"

I think it is quite dangerous to let the producers of stuff (whether that stuff be drugs, anti-fouling paints or GMO crops) off the hook by shrugging your shoulders and saying 'let's not be precautionary cuz that's too hard for the poor little ol corporations to prove."

First off, Europe (with respect to introduction of new chemicals) is taking just this sort of precautionary approach in their innovative REACH program. Apparently they feel that a negative can be proven at least to some degree.

Second, there is an egregious exploitation of the embedded scientific skepticism of proving a positive that I have noticed in reviewing some industry funded studies on supposed GMO crop safety.

It is standard practice to hold results to a 95% level of confidence before accepting the statistical "significance" of the results. The exploitation that I refer to is that a key early paper supposedly demonstrating the lack of impact of GMO corn on monarch butterflies used what would normally be a conservative statistical approach, and found that the confidence in an effect of GMO corn pollen on caterpillar growth was at a 92% confidence level.

Their conclusion was that the results were not statistically "significant." This is egregious because their conservative results actually say that there is a 92% chance that this result is real. This level does not pass muster if one is trying to prove a positive, but if one needs to prove the negative, my feeling is that the threshhold should be MUCH lower than 95%.

As it happens, this 92% result was not spurious- they (it was mostly the same authors) detected it again (and this time at a >95% level) in a later study. Still they managed another spurious and specious set of arguments to dismiss even this finding.

This, buy the way, is why I am with Big Daddy Malcontent on the GMO issue. I've seen what the companies are up to. We need stronger regulations BEFORE we go too far in adopting this technology. I trust them not at all.

A REACH-like approach to regulation on new technologies like GMO food crops (particularly wind pollinated ones) to me just makes sense

I think it is quite dangerous to let the producers of stuff (whether that stuff be drugs, anti-fouling paints or GMO crops) off the hook by shrugging your shoulders and saying 'let's not be precautionary cuz that's too hard for the poor little ol corporations to prove."

Straw man. Nobody is saying that. Take what you quoted in context, please. On the cellphone (and WiFi) issue, there simply is no mechanism for it to work. There is no evidence whatsoever that there have been effects. And it's not like nobody's looked. Cellphones have been around for a long time now. What everybody should ask themselves in these situations is "what would it take for me to be convinced I'm wrong?"

You'll see the answers are heavily skewed here. Most if not all in our "skeptic" side have very clear what could make us change our minds (conclusive evidence). I wonder if the other side would accept anything at all.

They should also be asked to prioritize potential sources of harm in light of what is already known about the issues. We know that radiation can transfer energy to matter either by coming in with photons that are energetic enough to do chemistry as single photons - Shermer's point is that microwaves don't meet that standard by many orders of magnitude - or by virtue of impinging on matter with huge numbers of photons that much weaker internal rotations and wagging of molecules. With enough photons, such excitations quickly relax to become the collective mess of molecular motion we call heat. So ... unless the cellphone makes your face hot, it is unlikely to be pouring out enough photons to do much damage.

What about fireplaces and campfires? They pour out lots of infrared photons with much higher energy (still too small to do chemistry, but only one or two orders of magnitude too small). However, they pour enough photons that you can feel the heat transfer from quite a distance away. I demand that you prove that boy scouts and girl scouts aren't in danger from infrared radiation damage!

Can't we just be safe and insist boyscouts keep the campfire away from their gonads and not keep it pressed against their ear for hours at a time?

And of course use hands free campfires while driving.

"what would it take for me to be convinced I'm wrong?"

I use a cell phone and don't feel with any certainty my likelyhood of a tumor. So I don't feel I have anything to be wrong about yet.

But I do know what it would take for me to know what's right.

That's significant research on people using cell phones for 50+ years. Kids are getting them in early teens now, so some could be using cell phones for 80 years.

What we have now is evidence that 10 years of exposure shows no effect.

Bugjah said: "I think it is quite dangerous to let the producers of stuff (whether that stuff be drugs, anti-fouling paints or GMO crops) off the hook by shrugging your shoulders and saying 'let's not be precautionary cuz that's too hard for the poor little ol corporations to prove."

Nice strawman, Bugjah. I didn't see Shermer suggest anything like that last part. Consumer protection is one thing, but giving the benefit of the doubt to those arguing pseudoscientifically is just irresponsible.

re: strawman

Well...I don't think it's quite a strawman- let's just say that I took an actual man and dressed him up in a bit fancier clothes.

Nevertheless, I will gladly withdraw my wording, though, if y'all are willing to take up what was obviously my larger point:

The statement that it's "difficult to prove a negative" implies that we are asking too much of the corporations when we ask them to demonstrate the fact that their products won't cause this or that problem.

Of course, to ask the corporations to demonstrate the safety of their products in all possible contexts in all possible ways would be ridiculously burdensome. Nevertheless, asking them to look into probable impacts in certain areas is reasonable- and this is the REACH approach.

I am less interested in the particulars of the cel phone issue than the larger implications here. I drew the comparison to GMOs for a reason (one could also point to pharmaceuticals or other newly-developed chemicals). While I agree that the precautionary principle appears to be "misapplied" in the case of cel phones, one wonders what Shermer would say of its use in these latter arenas.

My reading (admittedly a bit between the lines) is that he is skeptical of application of the precautionary approach in general.

My take (I didn't come up with this idea, but I don't know the source, unfortunately) is that US regulations are often based upon an "innocent until proven guilty" rather than a precautionary approach.

While I disagree with (what I presume is) Shermer's take on the precautionary approach, I submit that an "innocent until proven guilty" approach is a serious misapplication of that legal principle to issues of public and environmental safety.

By saying that it is "difficult to prove a negative" and that we should not worry the public needlessly, Shermer certainly seems to be approaching this idea of an "innocent until proven guilty" approach to regulation.

Finally, I disagree with Shermer's definition of "precautionary principle." If you look at the Wiki page, for example, it seems that Shermer's characterization of the principle being applied to cases "even in the absence of evidence of harm" does not comport with the standard definition.

In other words, Shermer can be accused of "misrepresenting an opponents position" (with the 'opponent' being an advocate of use of the precautionary approach) other words...


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