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Links With Your Coffee - Thursday

And just when you thought you wouldn't see another link I return from Reno where Chris and I played in the Western States Chess Tournament. I played my mediocre best in the A section and only salvaged a disaster by winning my final game in good style. Chris on the other hand was on fire winning five of six in the B section and tying for first in his class and bringing home $600.00 for his efforts.

Between rounds I took him birding, it was his first time. I also tortured him on the way to the tournament and the way home. He did seem to enjoy it and now has 37 species on his life list. We both enjoyed seeing the Steller's Jays at Oxbow Park in Reno. A wonderful spot to bird or just to take a nice stroll between rounds of a chess tournament.


And on the way home at a picnic area near the Rye Patch Dam we saw a Juniper Titmouse.


And now a few links with your coffee.

Coffee Cup

Constipation Myths and Facts

Houston: video of Dawkins award to Hitchens

Cell Phones and Cancer - Update

Research continues into the question of whether or not cell phone use is associated with an increased risk of brain cancer. The latest epidemiological study, a Danish study of 358 thousand cell phone subscribers, reassuringly shows no correlation.

This man's reasoning is FAULTLESS



Re: cell phones

Well, I understand brain cancer can take 20 years to develop. While this study may be comforting for adult users of cell phones, I'm still going for encouraging the grand kids to use earphones or texting. I don't like texting for what it does to their ability to learn and use complex language, but it beats potential health problems down the road. I note that a judge just struck down a SF law requiring vendors to post warning notices with cell fone sales. Given this report, I can understand that.

We actually got our first cell phone a few months ago. We don't get cell service here where we live, but thought it might be handy on long drives. We can pick up a signal about an hour away.

Anyway, so we were driving south, and the cell phone rang. We both realized that while we had figured out how to make a call, neither of us knew what button to push to answer one! We pushed every button, got ankle deep into some bizarre menus, then gave up, relieved when it stopped ringing at us.

Argh. The granddaughter's expression was priceless when we asked her about it. She looked at us and said "you just open it."

Well, I understand brain cancer can take 20 years to develop.

Cell phones emit radio waves, which are non-ionizing radiation, the kind that - according to well-understood laws of physics - does not and cannot cause cancer. It's not a question of time or dose: the wavelength has zero chance of damaging DNA; 10 times the exposure would still result in zero chance.

Furthermore, cell phones do not expose the body to anything unique. Their emissions are not any different from the other electromagnetic waves that the body is exposed to (for example: baby monitors, CB radio, cordless phones, power lines and utility transformers, television signals, appliances, electric-powered public transportation, the Earth, the Sun).

People have been exposed to the kind of radiation that cell phones produce, in some cases at must higher intensity, for almost a hundred years of technological history (such as early radar operators), and there has never been any significant noted correlation with any disease.

According to the inverse-square law there's nothing special about holding an antenna next to your head, either. Cell phones simply do not expose the head to that much energy.

One might invoke the idea of those "as-yet-undiscovered biological mechanisms!" so frequently derided on this blog, but even if one made the unscientific leap of thinking such a risk was plausible, compared to the other risks of modern living, cell phones are still at the very bottom of the list.

Well said.

Ditto for microwave ovens. I find that most people I know just take for granted that microwave ovens can give you cancer if you stand too close or open the door too soon after it's done cooking.

When I first came to LA, we were given an old microwave oven whose fan and light were turned on when you opened the door, so it looked like the oven was on. Everyone was shitless scared of it, and we had to unplug it every time we took food out. Now I understand that if it was on, it would burn your skin so that cancer should be the least of your concerns.

I've tried to explain to people, using a grade-school science vocabulary, why microwaves aren't a health risk (microwaves have a lower energy than TV remote signals or visible sunlight, people!) but I am usually ignored. I think people want to fear the microwave oven. It is a scary humming box that makes your food floppy and unevenly heated.

Now I understand that if it was on, it would burn your skin

Just to be a pedant, I suspect you'd have to be pretty patient and dedicated (and stupid) to burn yourself by standing in front of a running, open microwave (IIRC, microwave ovens are designed so that the energy is concentrated inside the oven using a standing-wave effect; the heating effect outside the chamber would be quite attenuated).

Sticking your head in a running microwave, on the other hand...

(Yay wikipedia links!)

I remember being told as a child not to point the IR remote towards people. I guess new stuff is always scary. I bet if there was as widespread cancer knowledge back in the day as there is today, the lightbulb would have "caused" it too.

BTW, it's worth to note that these microwaves cell phones, ovens and WiFi devices give out, are less energetic EM waves than visible light. Nobody is scared of their house light bulbs giving them cancer!


Sorry, one more. Something that I've always thought about houses underneath power lines: they're a great deal, rent or buy.

Also, haunted houses.

I tried to explain this before on OGM by pointing out the same things about radiation that Frenetic has pointed out. Let me also add that we are exposed to radiation sources - and have been throughout all biological history - to much more energetic sources of radiation. Cell phones emit radiation in the range of the spectrum close to broadcast TV. Almost all living things are bathed in radiation 100,000 times more energetic in the infrared region. Hell, the background radiation of the entire planet is 10,000 times more energetic. Neither radiation is ionizing, neither is strong enough to do chemistry - period. The only way these sources of radiation can do chemistry is to pour on so much power (so many puny photons) that they heat cells up. Your head gets less than a single Watt from a cell phone. You'd face a greater risk by shining a flashlight on your ear.

And I bet some of the people who worry about cell phones, wifi, or microwave ovens don't care about medical x-rays, long-distance air travel, the high natural background radiation of certain geographical regions, food dyes, bananas...

Many humans are apparently abysmal at risk assessment (like the people who are worried about terrorism, but are happy to weave through highway traffic without a seatbelt on while smoking a cigarette...)

re: Frenetic and Andyo

well, um, uh.... It took 10 years after everyone else AND their mothers had microwaves before I would allow such a contraption in my house. I buried the power line from the last pole to the house (just in case). I don't read holding a light bulb tucked up next to my brain either. Understand, I'm not a Luddite. Though the first tool I bought for the farm was a scythe, the very next tool was a 2 cycle gas powered weed whacker.

I do also still miss the command line interface on my computer. Transition to pointer, mouse and icon was challenging for me. Hand / eye coordination was never my strong suit. Then just as I got used the mouse, I got some fancy dancy Toshiba laptop with a heat sensitive thumb pad in the middle of the key board. Top o' the line and very cool.

Unfortunately I was not cool. I was instead in a fast heat of menopause. That damn thumb pad started moving the cursor anytime my fingers got even remotely close to the desktop keyboard. Thumb pad felt the heat. It was just sure I wanted to go somewhere, but was totally clueless where. I sold that laptop. It's bad enough when I'm the one standing at the workshop door, totally clueless about what tool I'm looking for, I don't need no stinkin' appliance emulating such a state.

Singed by that experience, I've decided to let others stand at the bleeding edge of technological innovation. I reckon that like fine wine, technology oughta age a while before it's really ready for prime time. Ya just never know....

I'm not a Luddite

I think this is like when people start with "I'm not racist, but..."! ;)

I'm confused. Is this a coded acknowledgment that you're wrong? Because it smells like a red herring.

re Collin and Frenetic

Well Collin, sometimes a joke is just a joke. being neither racist nor luddite, I was not offended.

I don't understand all that invisible radiation stuff. Since this big report on cell phones came from Denmark, I am less inclined to disbelieve it on general principles as I might had it come from our Feds.

(who have lost ALL credibility with their "cannabis must remain a Schedule 1 controlled substance" decision.)

Sadly, our Govt is in the pocket of big pharma who want no competition for their pricey pain relief nostrums, and big DOJ bureaucracies like ATF seeking some distraction from 'fast and furious' fallout. 'Tis they who give science a bad name, by misusing it for nefarious ends. sigh.

What Frenetic posted above doesn't come from the Feds though, it comes from physics, which has been well known for many decades now. It's a more fundamental explanation than epidemiological studies.

Speaking of the energy of electromagnetic waves, I spent my first few years in the service as a radio operator. The multi channel equipment I set up used microwave communications. The energy generated by the transmitters was enough to light an incandescent bulb or cook small rodents and frogs, but only close at the feedhorn end of the waveguide. I moved on to avionics and worked on aircraft radar. We were supposed to put out signs in front of the aircraft if we were testing the radar system, but we knew the inverse square law Frenetic mentioned, and usually didn't bother.

Had a buddy that was XO on a battleship. They were in the Pacific on a colder day and saw the gulls around their box on the mast. He joked that they were staying warm. A radio operator pumped it and saw the gulls stop flying and drop into the sea.


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