"Singing the WiFi Blues" Article Linked on Front P

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jaganath
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"Singing the WiFi Blues" Article Linked on Front P

Post by jaganath » Sat Apr 15, 2006 5:05 am

The appearance of a link to this article on the SPCR home page is both puzzling and slightly disappointing to me, for the following reasons:

1) It doesn't seem to have anything to do with quiet computing, so looks a bit out of place next to the reviews of fanless graphics cards and CPU power surveys.

2) the article is very clearly biased, selectively chooses the information it presents to give a distorted view of the subject treated, and tries to present unscientific conjecture as scientific fact.

For example:
Saturating an entire city with WiFi adds to the existing burden of nonionizing radiation.
The "burden" of non-ionizing radiation? We're subjected to non-ionizing radiation all the time, in the form of sunlight.
As with all radio signals, the closer you are to the transmitter (the router) the stronger the signal. Cell phones work on the same principle. The difference is that cell phones work at a different frequency and put out a stronger signal than wireless LANs.
So they admit that the signal strength is weaker even than that from cell phones (for which no ill-effects with normal usage and basic precautions have been conclusively demonstrated) and then try to whip up some kind of hysteria about WiFi? :roll:
Non-thermal effects of cell phones are documented at exposures below the current US standards, including:

memory loss,
sleep disruption,
slowed motor skills and reaction time,
decreased immune function,
spatial disorientation and dizziness,
headaches,
lowered sperm count,
increased blood pressure and pulse,
DNA breakage and reduced DNA repair capacity, and
cell proliferation.
Most of these "symptoms" fall under this analysis:

wiki
Two recent literature reviews, however, one reviewing 13 published papers in 2003 and 2004, and another reviewing 31 papers published before 2004, have concluded that there is no scientific evidence for a causal relationship between the reported clusters of symptoms and exposure to microwave radiation used in cellphones, well below the safety standards. A workshop conducted by the WHO in Prague in 2004 also reached the same conclusions, viz., that 1) reported symptoms are very unspecific and could have other causes; 2) there is no causal association demonstrated between exposure and symptoms, 3) that patients who display those symptoms should be medically examined for alternative explanations and causes, including psychiatric/psychological ones (since they are typical manifestations of stress and other somatization/psychosomatic causes), and that the environment where they work or live should be assessed in order to discover other factors at work that could explain the symptoms
Sperm counts have been falling in developed nations for years, long before mobile phones (or WiFi) were ever introduced. Effects on DNA at non-thermal power levels are not at all firmly established and still highly conjectural.

In conclusion, the article is misleading, unnecessarily alarmist, presents speculative non-thermal effects of non-ionizing radiation as established scientific fact, and represents the same modern strain of neo-Ludditism which likes to whip up hysteria about nuclear power based on an exaggeration of the risks involved; in the UK we call this "fearmongering".

Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favour of people taking informed risks and reaching a balanced assesment of the cost-benefit ratio of a new technology, but this article cannot help them do that.

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Post by Big Pimp Daddy » Sat Apr 15, 2006 6:15 am

Second.

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Post by qviri » Sat Apr 15, 2006 6:40 am

Thirded.

There was a case up here in Canada where a university removed their wireless network on campus over these concerns. (A quick search for "lakehead university wireless" will tell.) While I agree that there are many outstanding issues with wifi coverage like this (its patent lack of security for one), and that the health implications aren't fully understood, the benefits outweigh the potential costs.

Wired networks are fun and games in reasonably sized buildings/dwellings.

I also find the article to be somewhat unscientific. Concern about public health is one issue... Interpreting facts as you please is another.

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Post by tay » Sat Apr 15, 2006 6:47 am

Fourthed'd. Bogus science sucks!

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Post by IsaacKuo » Sat Apr 15, 2006 7:16 am

The problem with bogus science and legitimate science is that average people have no idea of how to distinguish one from the other. IIRC, the scientific underpinnings of the "dirty power" movement come from a landmark Swedish study which found a correlation between "dirty power" and cancer. The problem, though, is that this study tested for correlations with zillions of different things. It was bound to find what appeared to be a significant correlation between something and something else just by blind chance. In other words, it was really just a coincidence.

What I find most ironic about this issue is that people intuitively suspect that RF power can be unhealthy because of the way microwave ovens can cook something--but do you ever hear about them trying to ban microwave ovens?

All in all, I'd be more worried about being part of a cloud-to-ground electric circuit. Now THAT can kill! ;)

jaganath
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Post by jaganath » Sat Apr 15, 2006 7:56 am

IIRC, the scientific underpinnings of the "dirty power" movement come from a landmark Swedish study which found a correlation between "dirty power" and cancer. The problem, though, is that this study tested for correlations with zillions of different things. It was bound to find what appeared to be a significant correlation between something and something else just by blind chance.
Precisely. Proof of correlation is not proof of causation.

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Post by CA_Steve » Sat Apr 15, 2006 8:29 am

I was annoyed by this article as well. The author couldn't even get the spectrum information correct.

That being said, I don't think I'd strap a wireless router to my head. 6ft away, sure. Inverse square law rules.

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Post by teknerd » Sat Apr 15, 2006 11:04 am

8th'd

jaganath
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Post by jaganath » Sat Apr 15, 2006 12:17 pm

I must say, I'm very pleased and surprised at the calm and rational responses that I have received so far in this topic; I was expecting a torrent of abuse from "dirty power" loonies opining on the deleterious effects of WiFi, mobiles phones, radio, TV, aliens and the effectiveness of their tinfoil hats at forestalling all of the above. :lol:

Seriously guys, thanks for your input. It would seem that SPCR posters are a cut above the normal hardware site crowd of pre-adolescent yahoos. :wink:

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Post by Devonavar » Sat Apr 15, 2006 12:41 pm

9th'd. That article certainly had an alarmist tone that was unjustified by the evidence that they presented.

<Devil's Advocate Mode>

However, I would like to point out that a lack of evidence is only very weak evidence for a lack of phenomenon, especially in cases where the cause and effect are so vaguely defined.

Someone has already pointed out how vague the reported symptoms are. I don't think it's possible to design a study that could actually prove/disprove a causal connection between "dirty power" and the stress-related symptoms. It's quite simply too hard to isolate the symptoms individually and to find a control group suitable for comparison.

Lastly, correlation may not mean causation, but it is often evidence for a common cause. I think it is very bad scientific practice to write something off as a coincidence, since a coincidence is by definition an unexplainable correlation. Science should leave as little unexplained as possible if it is to offer us useful information about the world. Exceptions and coincidences are the basis on which scientific theories evolve, since new theories must be generated to explain them.

</Devil's Advocate Mode>

Now, if only the article had done the kind of analysis that people have shown in this thread, there might have been a story that interested me. As it is, the alarmist tone just seems to be a cover for the fact that there isn't really much of a story without it.

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Post by MikeC » Sat Apr 15, 2006 1:08 pm

10th'd? :lol: :lol:

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Removed?

Post by Firetech » Sat Apr 15, 2006 1:38 pm

It's either not there anymore or I've missed the link. Mike? :wink:

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Re: Removed?

Post by MikeC » Sat Apr 15, 2006 2:24 pm

Firetech wrote:It's either not there anymore or I've missed the link. Mike? :wink:
uh huh :lol:

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Post by Reachable » Sat Apr 15, 2006 3:51 pm

Electropollution, electrosmog, needs to be considered seriously. There is actually far more of a tendency to unscientifically dismiss the dangers then there is to react with hysteria. The motivations are economic, and also (on the part of individuals) simply liking the convenience of the devices and being loath to part with them or cut back on their use.

I would suggest looking at the work of Robert O. Becker, who was an orthopedic surgeon who has probably done the most research on the effects of electricity and electrical fields on living tissue.

Lessening the digital divide is certainly an admirable goal, but city-wide WiFi is not the way to go about it. As you're probably aware, the strongest voice raised against such systems have been by phone service providers such as Verizon who claim that their investment in DSL would be unfairly damaged. While I am anything but a big fan of corporations, the phone providers' claims are legitimate -- not because they'd fail to reap all the rewards of their capital investment, but because they have built up a public utility system.

You'll notice that in the U.S. there is no "phone divide", no "electricity divide". That is because these utilitites have been regulated.

In the current laissez-faire climate of deregulation, DSL has not been regulated, nor has TV cable Internet service. If society considers universal broadband Internet service to be important then it must regulate, the same way that utility regulation brought about universal phone and electricity service. If the phone companies and the TV cable Internet companies and the Internet via powerline companies want protection they can't have it both ways -- they must submit to regulation. This is how the digital divide must be conquered. Not by WiFi, which might pose health risks, and would in any case probably provide an inferior pipeline compared to DSL, cable, powerline and satellite, and thus actually perpetuate the digital divide.

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Post by Trunks » Sat Apr 15, 2006 11:03 pm

Reachable wrote: You'll notice that in the U.S. there is no "phone divide", no "electricity divide". That is because these utilitites have been regulated.
that is not what regulation does, or how it works.
I bring to your attention...

http://www.thetowntalk.com/apps/pbcs.dl ... 5502010304
The phone divide in the US.
Reachable wrote: If society considers universal broadband Internet service to be important then it must regulate, the same way that utility regulation brought about universal phone and electricity service.
Regulation does not require a service provider to enter a market.
The US also has an electric divide and a natural gas divide.
The same way small towns brought in dial-up co-ops, then WIFI they have electricity co-ops and the same for natural gas.

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Post by Reachable » Sun Apr 16, 2006 9:11 am

Regulation is not as much, as things have played out, about making a service available as it is about making it affordable. In most cases the service provider is more than happy to make it available. The deeply rural community mentioned in the article that never had phone service are unusual enough to be a news story curiosity. Even then, it was the case, at least here in Massachusetts, where the electric company had to run wires without charge to new developments, at least in certain places. (That changed with recent deregulation.)

WiFi in cities such as Philadelphia and San Francisco is about affordability, not availability. DSL is available in those cities to anyone willing or able to pay for it.

I don't know what the arrangement is with the co-ops mentioned by Trunks, but judging from the usual meaning of the word it's not close enough in idea to the WiFi service to be equated with it.

It would be nice if WiFI could be used blithely. It's like Tesla's plans for broadcast electricity. While the electric companies killed Tesla's dream, had it been instituted it might have been a terrible health hazard.

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Post by jaganath » Sun Apr 16, 2006 10:18 am

There is actually far more of a tendency to unscientifically dismiss the dangers then there is to react with hysteria.
I've hardly "unscientifically dismissed" the dangers of WiFi; WiFi field strengths are even less than those from mobile phones, are not intended to be used in physical contact with people (as mobile phones are) and use the same UHF band as television broadcasts and amateur radio transmissions. The very fact that such frequencies have been broadcasted almost constantly for the last 50 years without any lethal or even mildly deleterious effects is highly suggestive that the risk to human health from such a technology is acceptably low.
Not by WiFi, which might pose health risks
Everything has risks. Crossing the road on your way to work carries a risk. Eating food from your local supermarket carries a risk. The important point is that we consider the risk sufficiently small to continue doing these things. I'll wager with confidence that more people will be killed over the next 30 years in traffic accidents than from the combined emissions from wireless networks.

It's like Tesla's plans for broadcast electricity. While the electric companies killed Tesla's dream, had it been instituted it might have been a terrible health hazard.
Tesla is the archetypal "mad scientist" in many ways, with stories about residents near his Colorado Springs lab witnessing the ground becoming "electrified" and sparks arcing from the ground to their feet and the laboratory sometimes glowing when he conducted his experiments. However, if he tried to implement his system now, there is absolutely no doubt it would have to go through many rigorous trials to verify whether it was safe or not, much as nuclear plants have to go through strict certification procedures.

I tell you what, why don't we all go back to living in caves and hunting woolly mammoths, that way we won't be exposed to any of these terrible modern hazards.

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Post by quikkie » Tue Apr 18, 2006 7:15 am

wifi signals from consumer devices is around 80-250mW (depending on the device and the firmware you use), the max that a mobile phone (cell phone) will transmit at is 2W. To put it another way cell phones are a minimum of 40x more powerful and definitely outnumber the wifi devices by at least 200:1 but I don't hear the doom sayers banning cell phones / transmitters in cities...

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Post by aviavi » Tue Apr 18, 2006 8:43 am

I have a sister who is almost completely debilitated by her "sensitivity" to electro-magnetic fields, wireless signals, cell phones, etc. She basically can't function in the world.

Though initially I was open to the idea that electrical fields could somehow be felt and adversely affect some people, I've become convinced that this malady is purely psychosomatic, and is an affliction that follows a certain zeitgeist. Articles like this one in Extreme Tech not only reflect a latent fear of the "spookiness" of wireless signals, but encourage such fear and the development of psychosomatic symptoms. Shame on this author.

I was very very dismayed to see this article given voice in SPCR.

For those who are interested in this matter, the WHO has sponsored numerous research projects and held a conference, which included this conclusion at:http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factshee ... index.html

"EHS has no clear diagnostic criteria and there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF exposure. Further, EHS is not a medical diagnosis, nor is it clear that it represents a single medical problem."

Avi
Last edited by aviavi on Tue Apr 18, 2006 8:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by nici » Tue Apr 18, 2006 8:46 am

WiFi might be a good option for free internet connection in urban areas, but i would not pay money for a slow and unsecure connection with fluctuating bitrate. Anything under 4MB/s is slow IMO.
quikkie wrote:...but I don't hear the doom sayers banning cell phones / transmitters in cities...
Not banning, but limiting.. Some countries, at least in europe, have laws that signals from cellphone transmitters are not allowed to overlap eachother, wich sounds logical to me. AFAIK countries where large numbers of cellphones are being manufactured, like USA, Finland, Japan, Korea and Germany, do not have these laws, we just put up a sh*tload of transmitters just to make shure all areas are covered.. smart eh? :roll:

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Post by aviavi » Tue Apr 18, 2006 8:51 am

nici wrote: Not banning, but limiting.. Some countries, at least in europe, have laws that signals from cellphone transmitters are not allowed to overlap eachother, wich sounds logical to me.
I doubt they limit overlap because of health concerns. And in any case, cell phone coverage is far stronger, more complete and solid in Europe than in the US, at least in my experience.

Avi

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Post by qviri » Tue Apr 18, 2006 8:51 am

nici wrote:Anything under 4MB/s is slow IMO.
Megabytes or megabits?

4 MB/s to the outside world would be a dream link. Heck, we can't get more than 1 MB/s within our university network, and that feels freaking fast as is. Less than 4 Mb/s to the world.

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Post by nici » Tue Apr 18, 2006 9:19 am

4 Megabits.. 4Megabytes would be 32megabits=quite fast :)

But honestly, while surfing the net and not downloading from a fast server 8/1megabits doesnt feel much faster than 56k modem back in the days because sites are now several times heavier and traffic has increased exponentially.. I don´t think anything under 1megabit should be called broadband anymore.

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