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back to article Can we have a proper study of Wi-Fi, please?

Well done, Sir William Stewart. Only four weeks ago, we called for serious research into wireless radiation. The good news: Sir William Stewart - chair of the Health Protection Agency - has said that the time has come to do this research. My only problem with this is that I honestly doubt any useful information is going to …

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That just about wraps it up for the Beeb

Thanks Guy, for demolishing this drivel from what was at one time a public service broadcaster with a proud tradition of producing serious science programmes (an hour-long Horizon interview with Richard Feynman being just one example) and now seems to lack anyone with a GCSE in physics.

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PJH

Mast debaters...

" My favourite clash with mast debaters on this was outside the local fire station last summer"

Was this deliberate? :)

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Anonymous Coward

I suffer from ectoplasmaghostbustersensitivity, I feel their pain

If there's a ghost in the room I can sense it, it's like a chill down my spine. When I'm in a room with dead people, I have to do an exorcism before I can sit down, a priest travels with me everywhere I go, together with a bucket of holy water blessed by the pope. I demand the government take my condition ectoplasmaghostbustersensitivity seriously. It must be a real condition because the name is so long!

I mock, but Panorama showed a group of Swedish sufferers of electrosensitivity and they all fitted the WALKING LIFE VICTIM category. Statistically you'd expect ordinary well balanced people too, so it's more likely these are just people trying to gain advantage by playing up their victim status.

i.e. the same people who claim electrosensitivity are the people who were all dying from ME a few years back and pesticides the decade before. They're always dying of something, they just need a *thing* to explain away their unhappy lives and hypochondria.

So yes, I agree, it's worth doing a proper study and not simply taking WALKING LIFE VICTIMS word for it.

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Anonymous Coward

Hocum and Twaddle

I watched this poor excuse for televisual journalism with great disdain......

Firstly you are more likely to be poisoned by radiation by eating chicken/beef/rice that you have just nuked in the microwave - but they didn't mention that. Also I live near the Crystal Palace TV mast and could quite easily say that the energy produced during broadcasting of the Panorama in question probably did more damage to peoples brains than the wireless access point that was sat behind me whilst watching it.

Secondly a WIFI access point has a small effective range - you know why? Because it puts out at a lower voltage..... Mobile Phone Masts need higher voltages to cover the distance between the various cells....WIFI can barely penetrate brick walls!

Thirdly if you are going to make documentaries about serious subjects such as health fears don't go out and find the first nutter with a house coated in Bacofoil, take them to a lab for a cooked up (excuse the pun) test then take them for a short break abroad and ask them how they feel.....of course they're gonna feel better - you just paid for a holiday for them!!!!

And finally if you make ask for an (inflamatory) interview with someone it is not fair to dredge up his employment history as a reason to further your agenda even though your "scientific" tests were inherently flawed at which point you ask "who would you believe?". I'm sorry but I must have been pissing myself laughing and therefore not paying attention at the point where the presenter displayed his docorate in Radiology.

How do they get permission to air this crap?

Paul

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Anonymous Coward

TV science should be banned

Unfortunately most of the population will accept these 'facts' when presented to them by Jeremy Vine and some nice CGI (well, it wasn't even that nice).

As an antenna designer I was fuming at the 'electrical engineer' that presented biased, untrue and partial facts when measuring RF signals from a base station and a PC. He was not in the 'main lobe' of the mobile antenna site; the main lobe is typically 10-20 degrees wide, and may be tilted down by a few degrees, but the antenna site is engineered to that the main lobe reaches to the edge of the cell, far away from the site. He also made no reference to the inverse square law of RF power, meaning the power drops very quickly as you move away from the antenna, and glossed over duty cycle of an RF signal which has great importance in this subject.

Still, I'm sure some people enjoyed it, but probably didn't think about the 20,000 watt transmitter broadcasting the TV signal to them, then went and heated up a cup of hot chocolate in their own 750 watt RF transmitter 'microwave oven'.

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People keep telling me not to believe this!

Through my own scientific research (ie. getting a Playstation 3 on the first day and thinking it was the greatest thing since sliced bread - which isn't that great, but hey) I have found that I do appear to be electro sensitive.

I have no reason to want this to be the case as I am a techy kind of person and love electrical gadgets and magic like that. In my work and home life I am usually found in front of a computer, on the net or playing on a console. Plus, after shelling out 424 smackers to have the ps3 on the first day, I really don't want anything to go wrong. So I was a bit dismayed that shortly after switching the beautiful machine on for the first time, i got a sensation in my head that eventually led to a slight headache. (ooh, scary)

I should also point out I have had multiple sclerosis for the last 5 years, or at least have an illness which can be labelled as such with 99.95% accuracy because "all" the alternatives have been ruled out! I'd also like to point out that the disease has continued to progress in that time, to such a degree, that I can no longer walk unaided.

I still have no reason to want to be electro-sensitive. My life would be so much better if i wasn't cos there'd be less wires in the tip that is my room. I have still got the wireless on in my house, because having internet is too good, but am swapping to a dlan using the electric wires, which should be faster and cause me hopefully less headaches. Except maybe financially.

I don't think wi-fi caused me to have multiple sclerosis, but may be a trigger for why my illness has progressed the way it has. Research is needed on this and not just tests on people to see if they can or can't feel whether a mobile is on or not, cos in my head I can

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I'm pleased to see a sensible take on this latest scare

Thanks for providing some sense on this at last. One factor that even you didn't mention: the inverse square law.

I'm not convinced about the health risks of mobile phones, but it's possible that putting a transmitter a few millimetres from your brain does it no good. But the effects must be quite small and rare, or else lots of heavy users would have noticed by now, or even be dead.

However one can be quite sure that mobile phone masts are harmless, as one never gets nearer than a few metres from them. The transmitter power is not much more than that of a single phone (no more than 100 times at most) yet the received strength must be millions of times lower, simply using the inverse-square law.

Wi-fi systems use even lower powers than mobile phones: the main risk must come from the transmitter in a laptop, but that's typically 300 to 500 mm away from the sensitive bits of the body, so again effects must be pretty small. The effects from the base stations, typically metres away from the nearest user, must be even smaller.

So let's have some common sense on this. Or does nobody learn even elementary physics any more?

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Anonymous Coward

"X is [#] times stronger than Y" a modern catchphrase.

Thanks for a great article. I was particulary tickled by the phrase :

But the way forward is NOT to start spouting nonsense about "Wi-Fi is three times more powerful than mobile phone masts!"

As a cannabis afficianado, I have been hearing this "killer skunk is (insert random number here) stronger than cannabis in the past." canard for the past few years with amusement, as if it means something.

Whiskey is on average 8x stonger than beer. And your point is ?

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Sam
Bronze badge

Minorities

As a public service broadcaster, the BBC is committed to producing programmes aimed at minority groups.

Last night was the turn of the luddites and hypochondriacs

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Anonymous Coward

MS, electosensitivity, and WiFi

A few things :

1) Great story in the Times a few weeks back about this. This guy bought a wireless router for his office. Unboxed it, but didn''t set it up, (IIRC no one was equipped to use it). Eventually a woman complained about headaches etc. As he said "I must get round to plugging it in one day".

2) My wife has MS, and is unfailingly accurate in predicting thunderstorms. I can only presume that the loss of myelin heightens the sensitivity of the central nervous system to airborne electrostatic phenomenon. It's not balck magic.

3) There was a factoid doing the rounds about MS a few years back that "MRI scans caused MS". This was predicated on the onservation that people suspected of MS who had an MRI were almost invariably diagnosed with MS. Pop science is very good at suggesting "links", and equally crap at explaining the concept of "causuality". I'm sure a great percentage of those suffering electrosensitivity have had a BCG in their past - maybe that did it ?

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The most shameful thing...

...is that the 'balancing' piece here - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6676129.stm - still neglects to mention the 100m/1m distance - takes six paragraphs before it gets into dissent - and it utterly uncritical of the Panorama programme. I am appalled and embarrassed by this drivel.

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Guy _ I sent You Evidence and You didn't reply

I know several electrosensitive people - some are/were in IT and they are real people with real symptoms. Their symptoms differ in severity, but are consistent in the types they have. The symptoms disappear when they are away from microwave sources (or electrical sources if they are severely electrosensitive).

Wi-fi is yet another microwave-based technology which will have the same potential to cause the noted health effects of other weak electromagnetic fields.

If you open up your minds to the possibilities - however much they may threaten your lifestyle - you may actually discover that the world around you is somewhat more complex than Physicists and Engineers like to admit. Since we are not Gods, we do not know or understand everything, and should approach each problem with an open mind. Real, Independent, Scientists should do this and not approach a study with a conclusion in mind.

Mike Repacholi, ex-WHO, ex-ICNIRP, who was featured in the Panorama programme in favour of WiFi, is a Chernobyl "denialist", and is sometimes described as "possibly the most evil man in the World" by other researchers. He enjoys a fine lifestyle provided by Mobile Phone Operators and other Industry bodies.

Guy - I don't actually recall getting a reply from the last set of Research links that I sent you:-

However, undeterred, I thought that with the current spate of News reports it would be well worth sending you a link to Doctor Andrew Goldworthy from Imperial College's latest paper on "The Biological Effects of Weak Electromagnetic Fields" [ http://www.hese-project.org/hese-uk/en/papers/goldsworthy_bio_weak_em_07.pdf ]

There is also a fairly comprehensive article from Powerwatch entitled "Dispelling the Wireless Myths" at [ http://www.powerwatch.org.uk/news/20070424_wifi_myths.asp ].

The publication of the SAGE report (critical of powerlines and masts) at [ http://www.powerwatch.org.uk/news/20070429_sage_comments.asp ] and the recent leak of the 2000 ECOLOG report ("suppressed" by T-Mobile at about the same time that the Stewart Report was published in the UK, with the conclusion that exposure limits should be 1000 times lower than they currently are in the UK) at [ http://www.hese-project.org/hese-uk/en/niemr/ecologsum.php ].

I must say that on further reflection your reviews have tended not to be so heavily biased as some of your colleagues. I have commented on two of the worst at my new-ish Blog at http://mastsanity.blogspot.com/. I apologise again for my initial harshness.

I can see by this article that you are still as sceptical as I was when I first read up on the subject, until I had that "epiphany" moment.

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Anonymous Coward

"By Sam"

"As a public service broadcaster, the BBC is committed to producing programmes aimed at minority groups.

Last night was the turn of the luddites and hypochondriacs"

Since when were they a minority group?

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A lack of scientific thinking

There is (to my mind) a worrying correlation between a general "bovvered" attitude in society (i.e. those of the "finkin' 'urts me 'ead" lot), a more general dumbing down of multiple aspects of our lives and a move away from the sciences and (as importantly) scientific thinking.

Good luck with that "proper" study: we'll struggle to find the *real* scientists to conduct it, particularly if the scientific peer review system is as compromised as some believe.

Still, we continue to live in hope (or is that ignorance?).

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Anonymous Coward

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/panorama/6674675.stm

"The radiation Wi-Fi emits is similar to that from mobile phone masts. It is an unavoidable by-product of going wireless"

What else? They use radio waves, Something i've been surounded by all my life.

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Sattelite

Just out of interest, like, anyone know how many "rads" we get from Sky and all the other "birds" up there ?

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Sam
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Repeatable evidence

Martin Sharp,

Mike Repacholi did not dismiss the claims presented to him, he merely said that individual studies are meaningless, they need to be repeated and correlated by other independent scientists.

Whether he's in the pay of the mobile phone companies or not, that point he raised was perhaps the only scientifically strong answer given in the entire programme.

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Anonymous Coward

Ironic isn't it ...

That one of the most spectacular legacies of the "Age of Reason" - mass communication - is increasingly being used to pander to the people the reason forgot.

Scratch the surface, and underneath modern man you'll find a peasant shouting "She's a witch - burn her !".

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Don't complain here...

Complain to the BBC.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/

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Its the black shakes!!

Now only keanu reeves, an ex MOD dolphin and a group of mad max rejects can save us from the evils of modern technology!! Don't forget the VR glvoes and goggles!!

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Rob
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Would be interesting to see if...

... the ones claiming to be sensitive have not only been tested with Wi-Fi and mobile phones but also DECT landline phones as they run on the 2.4 frequency as well, but I'd be pretty sure that they wouldn't complain about them as the technology doesn't fit the same category. I'm not dismissing the fact that some people could be more sensitive than others (my wife suffers from ME, basically meaning her spleen and maybe a couple of other organs are slightly deficient).

Also do the sensitive suffers suffer on a daily basis from all of the natural radiation currently being emitted by the planet, (this radiation being the sort that helps young humanoids develop a thicker skull into adult life).

Still too many questions and not enough highlight on radiation that is actually beneficial on a daily basis to human development.

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Wi-Fi readings in schools

[quote]Readings taken for the programme showed the height of signal strength to be three times higher in the school classroom using Wi-Fi than the main beam of radiation intensity from a mobile phone mast.

The findings are particularly significant because children's skulls are thinner and still forming and tests have shown they absorb more radiation than adults. [/quote]

If that really is the case and wifi hotspots used in schools are three more times powerful than a mobile phone mast, how come I can't pick up the wifi from my daughter's primary school just up the road?

I bet the BBC wouldn't investigate the affects of TV and Radio transmissions, especially Freeview and DAB transmissions.

Rob

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Did anyone else notice

that the antenna of the analyser was held about half the distance from the laptop as anyone would have their head ? My estimate is that most people, including kids who haven't yet developed long sight, would be about twice that distance and so get 1/4 of the measured field strength.

Or, less than the measured mobile field strength !

That aside, I too would like to see proper REASONED debate and proper studies. Lets leave the hype and popaganda in the tabloids and approach the matter with a view to finding the truth.

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AP and phone

My AP is about six inches above my head and about two feet away. My 2.4 GHz phone (Siemens 2420, which doesn't interfere with my AP) is about 2 feet from my head. Do I have any side effects? Well, if I cradle the handset instead of putting the caller on speaker phone, yes, I may get a stress headache.

Then again, I refuse to be a victim.

Dillon in Tejas, who is a life member in an organization that preaches that.

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Anonymous Coward

Electrosensitivity

You're all being terribly insensitive!

I have a very mild form of electrosensitivity. Three times in the past I have managed to get a full 240v shock and, believe me, it hurt. This proves that I am sensitive as I know many people who have confided to me in the pub that "I had that happen and it didn't hurt at all, you must be a poof".

I have taken precautions as a result. I drive a Sherman Tank and never open the blast hatches. My entire house is made of Stainless Steel and I wear a wig made out of Brillo pads. I do use a mobile phone, but I get a friend to stand 100 meters away and relay the conversation. As I do not have cancer, this proves that I am right.

I also get headaches when there's a thunderstorm. I have through experimentation proved that this phenomenon is worse if I have a serious skinfull the previous night (especially if the thunderstorm occurs in the early morning), so it's obvious that beer enhances electrosensitivity and may even contain electrical fields confined by the insulating glass that it's served in. I now only drink beer out of foil cups through an earthed, stainless steel straw.

Thank God and His little pixies that Alka-Seltzer has so many antielectric properties.

PS: Everyone else tells me that they get headaches before thunderstorms as well. This is a conspiracy to discredit my research. Either that or maybe they're all mildly electrosensitive. Anyone care to back my Sherman Tank dealership and Stainless Steel construction company?

TeeCee

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Title

Tisk Tisk,

http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=32320

Who started up The Inquirer?

An lack of evidence is proof of nothing, empirical evidence is better than nothing, as it is still evidence. Studies can be, "guided" to desired results but that does not mean they are right. If the government banned commercial organisations from funding potentially conflicting external research, or interfering, we may have better results.

Wayne Morellini.

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Drivel

Yet more uninformed and shambolic journalism from the BBC - once pioneers of TV Science.

Martin Sharp - are you seriously thinking people will listen to what you wrote after you claimed you came to this decision because of an 'epiphony' rather than because of some facts you read, debated?

That's the main problem with any argument I've heard from people who believe mobile masts and wi-fi is dangerous - they either don't know what they're talking about or they're intent on using beliefs based on no fact at all to support their argument.

I'm not saying we shouldn't have a serious study into this, but can someone who actually can produce facts, not suggestion, be in charge.

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and again

It's funny how people can sit infront of a CRT (a wonderful electromagnetic radiation source) and watch Eastenders and suffer no problems but as soon as a wifi access point, or PS3 enters a room theres huge issues. Many CRTs give me a headache, because of the constant background whine (audible and proveable). However I am more likely to suffer injury from the content of the televisual crap that is broadcast (my oh my how Horizon (amongst other programs) has dumbed down).

I remember one staff member claiming she was suffering a headache from the laser that was shining into her eyes, while a piece of equipment was being serviced. When asked what colour the light was (it was an infrared laser), she replied 'white of course' which almost confused my boss and I. When asked how long whe had sat looking at it she said 20 minutes. The 'laser' in question was a penlight that was left on top of the machine while being serviced. All becauue she saw the side panel that lad the usual laser radiation warning and an unhealthy dose of greed. She then tried to claim that the laser radiation escaping from the machine was giving her headaches. Funny enough every where that she went people suffered headaches.

How about checking if these sensitives get positives while a cell phone is switched on but encased within it's own little farady cage ?

Yes testing needs to be done, but remember scientists will never say 100% safe or risk free. Unfortunitely certain sections of the our species do not understand this, and even quoting offs of 1*10^6 to 1 will have people saying well this means that it will definately affect 25 people in the UK alone.

BTW:

I can also predict thunderstorms, (as can my son and daughter) it's the difference in air pressure, there was a study done on this years ago (in Queens University Belfast (I believe)). A family friend who has MS can do the same thing, but then so can the rest of her family, who don't suffer from that incredibly unpleasant disease

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In the BBC's defence

Their online technology columnist Bill Thomson agreed with much of what you've just said, what a shame they didn't talk to him on the show.

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My Brain Hurts!

Good God. It's all true! The cleaning lady just started up her vacuum cleaner in the same room as me and now I have a headache!

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Anonymous Coward

Title

Yes, it is also funny, unlike CRTs, how WIFI antennas, and people, are not surrounded by thick leaden glass to protect the people. Funny how they had to toughen up the specs of this glass to stop cancer, to the point that people sitting in the next row behind the monitors, still had an greater than normal chance of getting miscarriages.

Actually, my electrical equipment suffers from me-o-sensitivity, whatever I buy seems to suffer strange electrical faults. I remember suffering an headache from electrical equipment once, did not help that there was an Tesla coil being tested in the same room at the time.

"I suffer from ectoplasmaghostbustersensitivity, I feel their pain"

Sense the dead, performs exorcisms, always travels with an priest, convenient bucket of water blessed by the Pope, are you the Pope?

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Anonymous Coward

2.4 GHz is not where water absorbs radiation most efficiently

This is a technical correction, not related to the main thrust of the piece. You made the comment "You need 2.4 GHz to boil water; that's the frequency where water is most effective at blocking the waves, and therefore most effective at making water hot."

This is not true. If you were to tune a microwave oven to a frequency where water absorbed strongly, it wouldn't work. The full details are at: http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/water/microwave.html, where it says:

"Most of the dielectric loss is within the microwave range of electromagnetic radiation (~1 - ~300 GHz [...]). The frequency for maximum dielectric loss lies higher than the 2.45 GHz (...) produced by most microwave ovens. This is so that the radiation is not totally adsorbed by the first layer of water it encounters and may penetrate further into the foodstuff, heating it more evenly;"

In somewhat of a shock result, even Wikipedia gets this right (at least at the time of writing), see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_oven.

The real reason microwave ovens use 2.45 GHz is because it lies in an ISM band where devices are allowed to emit very low levels of radiation without a licence. That's exactly the same reason that 802.11b/g and Bluetooth use the same frequency band - it's free. Hence, it's not a coincidence that these technologies all use the same frequencies.

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Ow...

Thanks for the jokes, I got a few chuckles out of this one. When people go spouting uninformative opinions I want to get up and smack them like the good American I am. This "study" was done in the same fashion as is used in a diet fad, using words to convince the consumer to their opinion. And in their enitre study they downplayed all consumer products like TVs and Radios. Something tells me that these companies don't really want free TV to spread to the interntet (Joost, and others).

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DECT phones...

use 1880 to 1900 MHz, so it's not so likely to interfere with a WiFi AP.

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Anonymous Coward

M.E.

"i.e. the same people who claim electrosensitivity are the people who were all dying from ME a few years back and pesticides the decade before"

Please dont confuse the subject by talking about M.E. Its a real desease with real consiquences. Using that kind of logic is just as bad as the people on the other side of the debate.

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Anonymous Coward

Such ignorant technophile gibberish

Gosh, I find it both ironic and hugely irritating that there is such incredible bigoted, ignorant trash in 80 to 90% of the posts in here. Either the comments are factually incorrect, grossly misleading or totally irrelevant -- ironically exactly the same thing you accuse a fairly logically reasonable documentary of.

"Secondly a WIFI access point has a small effective range - you know why? Because it puts out at a lower voltage..... Mobile Phone Masts need higher voltages to cover the distance between the various cells."

A lower voltage, you mean a lower power / Watts? Besides which, what a pointless comment. I would sit next to a wireless laptop, but not a mobile phone base station. The "nutter" was taken for a "cooked up" test by the Panorama team, the test is part of a big double-blind peer reviewed study soon to be published by Essex University - How do you feel happy posting such "crap", to use your own terminology - do your research and learn some physics!

The antenna designer then comes out with some technical facts about mobile antennas and the inverse square law, as did Clive Page. The inverse square law is completely relevant regarding the radiation both devices give off, but utterly irrelevant within the context of the program.

The point was that Sir William Stewart recommended school playgrounds not be in the main beam of the mast, and therefore both RF radiation in the main beam of the mast (signal strength ~0.5 V/m), and RF radiation in the place a typical child would be sitting using the WiFi enabled laptop (signal strength ~1.5 V/m). No-one on the program was claiming that the WiFi laptop was pumping out 3 times as much radiation as the base station, merely that was the exposure level at the points of concern.

Of course Rob Beard can't pick up the WiFi of his daughter's classroom down the road is a perfect application of the inverse square law, but I suspect she wasn't _using_ the laptop from that distance.

Simon Hobson. I'm guessing people didn't notice this, as it isn't true. The measurements were taken about 60 cm from the laptop, positioned having sat on the school physics bench and observed where the head was. Go twice as far away and you would not have long enough arms to operate the laptop.

@Rob Crawford: What utter drivel. Your CRT gives off power frequency EMFs, nothing in the RF spectrum at all, unless yours is miraculously wirelessly connected to your computer. Yet more technophile nonsense.

The programs premise was simple:

1) In 2000 the chairman of the Health Protection Agency recommended that school playgrounds should not be in the main beam of a mobile phone base station at the point at which it reached the ground (about 70 or so metres normally).

2) The typical signal strength of RF energy found at that distance from a base station is less than the typical strength a person would be exposed to using a wireless laptop with high network traffic.

3) The recommendation therefore, under a reasonable logical argument, should apply to WiFi too - A point that Sir William himself raised.

I don't understand how such a simple logical argument is scaremongering luddite nonsense - It appears to be fairly simple logic to me.

I am not sure which side of the fence I fall on, but reading the utter crap posted by so many here I do at least feel sympthathy to those claiming to be affected. The reasoning from you side appears to be less supported and more full of flaws than that which you are criticising, and poor Joe Public has to read this drivel (on both sides) and make his mind up.

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Microwave and 2.4GHz

"if you try to cook your pizza with radiation at 900 MHz, you'll have to add a radiator. You need 2.4 GHz to boil water; that's the frequency where water is most effective at blocking the waves"

For some reason, a lot of people believe that. Not true, industrial microwave ovens often use 915MHz. There is nothing magical about water and 2.45GHz, in fact if you use WiFi outdoors you will hardly notice a drop in signal strength due to rain.

The first big absorption band of water is 22.2GHz.

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J

Huh?

"I don't understand how such a simple logical argument is scaremongering luddite nonsense - It appears to be fairly simple logic to me."

You've got no clue what logic means, eh? By the way, what about false premises affecting (not favorably) conclusions? A recommendation (whatever it's worth, which might be something, or nothing) as premise. Priceless.

Anyway, I hope the proper studies do get done so we learn this. And what will happen if a few freaks indeed do suffer some effects (and will these be *harmful* effects?) from the frequencies and power and whatever? Are they gonna ban all modern technology? Why don't people make indestructible cars, anyway? Got the point?

J

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Microwave and 2.4 GHz

Just to add to the "oven" comments, another reason for the use of 2.45 GHz is the convenient size of the magnetron, waveguides and cavity at that frequency and the economies of scale of manufacture of these items.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Huh?

"You've got no clue what logic means, eh? By the way, what about false premises affecting (not favorably) conclusions? A recommendation (whatever it's worth, which might be something, or nothing) as premise. Priceless."

Sorry J, you aren't making sense. What is priceless about it? Maybe I should have phrased it as follows:

"The point of the program was to demonstrate the logical consistency of concern over WiFi bearing the official Health Protection Agency advice regarding similar exposure to base stations - I fail to see how this is scaremongering luddite nonsense".

Sir William Stewart made the recommendation to government that schools should not be placed in the main beam of a mobile phone base station, as there was evidence suggesting there was a risk of health effects from exposure to the microwave frequency radiation at about 0.6 V/m.

On measuring the typical exposure level from a WiFi laptop, it was found that this was somewhat higher than the base station, and the type of signal is relatively similar.

Under the basis of the similarity between the two, and the fact that there is no established research on WiFi at all, Sir William recommends that WiFi should not be rolled out in classrooms until research is done, as the risks that may apply to mobile phone base stations similarly may apply to WiFi.

How is this not sensible logic? If you are going to accuse me of not understanding a logical argument, at least support it with a logical argument of your own.

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That's my complaint in to the beeb.

It's a shame, because I now have to question everything else I see on the BBC, usually you can presume that the beeb get things more or less right.

To all the people who think they are electrosensitive - for your own health - go to your GP, make sure you don't have MS, ME and the myriad other crippling conditions that cause the same symptoms. I don't think anyone is suggesting that you are not genuinely ill, there is just questions as to weather or not you are sensitive to electrical fields.

I don't think that I really have anything else to add, other than you should all check out Ben Goldacre's site www.badscience.net. He writes for the Grauniad on exactly this sort of thing.

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@anonymouse

You make some valid points, but all you are really doing is demonstrating that Sir William's recommendation (to minimise exposure from mobile phone base stations) is unscientific nonsense. The greatest exposure to EM radiation is from the mobile phone permanently clamped to the side of the kiddie's head - 10x the power of Wi-Fi at 1/10 the distance - you do the math! The best way to reduce this 'threat' would be to ensure that all schools are sited as close as possible to phone masts, then the mobiles will automatically reduce their signal strength.

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Dihydrogen Monoxide

What about the "silent killer", Dihydrogen Monoxide? http://www.dhmo.org/

So may people die from it each year that it should be banned, or at least placed under "controlled substance" status. And to make things worse, if it doesn't kill you, you will spend the rest of your life hooked on it and suffer potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms if it is withheld.

Ban DHMO! Get the Government to admit what they've known all along!

PS: ^_- <-- for the humourly-impaired.

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ME is a real illness

"the same people who claim electrosensitivity are the people who were all dying from ME a few years back and pesticides the decade before. They're always dying of something, they just need a *thing* to explain away their unhappy lives and hypochondria."

I run a wireless network for our village and we have several antennas on our roof. My husband has M.E which is a very real and debiitating illness, so I forgive your ignorance.

He had M.E well before Wifi came along and wifi has not made it worse.

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@Chris

Who are you (or I for that matter) to tell Sir William that his recommendation is scientific nonsense. He has been a scientist for over 4 decades, including being responsible for leading the team that developed the Anthrax vaccine, and has been the chief scientific advisor for two British governments. He has looked at the literature and said there is concern from the research around phone masts. It makes no difference if the exposure is 10 times high from phones if something is found specifically at the exposure levels from phone masts. And if that is the case, moving them closer would be stupid.

It is possible he is simply going senile, but I rather doubt he would still be chairman of the HPA if so.

Don't take this the wrong way, but I trust his expertise more than either of ours. I suspect you just are completely unaware about the amount of scientific literature out there on health effects from exposure to base stations - If so, why choose to make a judgment about a subject you don't understand well enough?

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Dear Mr/Ms Noname

Although preferring not to replay to those who don't always grasp the context of what is written (pubs are much better for this sort of thing :)

I never said that there was, I was referring to user perception. Theyre perfectly happy to sit infront of a CRT untill you mention the electron gun at the back of the tube. Then they start to get upset and having issues (usually regarding monitors as TVs are perceived as entirely different technology)

Obviously you have not noticed the shielded aprons that we had to supply to pregnant women (and anybody who requested them), due to the EM radiation emitted from monitors (some of us have to face the real world perceptions, and not the reality). The same pople who insisted on the aprons apprently didn't require them when "surfing the net" at home for 5 hours at a stretch.

It's funny how they only need screen breaks in the workplace but not at home !

I was trying to keep the posting short and point out how so many of these symptoms are context sensitive

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Anonymous Coward

An RF engineers viewpoint

As a 63 year old RF engineer who has spent a lifetime with hundreds of colleagues working in very high RF fields, (250Kw open wire feeder transmitters at 6-30MHz and tens of kilowatt transmitters at UHF frequencies), and worked in environments where it was possible to light fluorescent tubes and lamp bulbs by touching them onto the building RSJ's I am rather amused & sceptical of the current worries over the possible harmful effects of the sort of fields generated by mobile phones, cell stations and especially wi-fi.

There is no doubt that the strongest EM field any individual is going to experience is from the antenna of a mobile phone held close to the skull. Everything else has got to pale into significance due to the attenuating effect of the inverse square law.

I do not believe for one moment that the very weak field at 2.4GHz from a wireless enabled laptop at 60cm is going to have any measurable effect whatsoever - indeed, it takes quite sensitive RF equipment to even detect it.

As to the BBC programme - I have got so annoyed in the past at the sort of pseudo-scientific drivel propagated by the likes of Horizon I'm afraid I no long waste my time watching their attempts at anything vaguely technical.

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Anonymous Coward

Cuppa

I put a mug of water plus teabag on my WiiFi router last night. Twenty four hours later, it's nowhere near boiling. It doesn't even glow in the dark.

What am I doing wrong?

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Silver badge

@Graham

I'm sure that Sir William is a really nice bloke, and if we ever want to develop another anthrax vaccine, he might well be a good choice to lead the team, but it's obvious from his conclusions that his understanding of mobile phone technology is approximately the square-root of zero.

Chief Scientific Advisor is a political appointment and (like all such appointments) the function of the office is to tell the politicos exactly what they want to hear. Those who fail to do so, don't stay appointees very long.

You seem to be under the misapprehension that science proceeds by a series of pronouncements from Olympian figures such as Sir William. It doesn't - it works by producing falsifiable hypotheses and then attempting to falsify them. There is no plausible mechanism that could account for any ill-health effects of EM radiation from phones, and no significant evidence that it exists. There are, on the other hand, some billions of people using mobile phones every day with no observable ill effects.

Even if we invoke the precautionary principle (pauses to spit on floor), to say "well, there might be long-term effects on a small group of susceptible individuals", then (to repeat myself) the best way to reduce exposure would be to site mobile phone masts as close to schools as possible, thus reducing the output of the main source of such radiation exposure, which is the handset.

Unscientific nonsense is a very polite term for it!

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re: Cuppa

Far more technology should glow in the dark. I'm sure we were promised by Tomorrow's World in the 80s, I want my glow in the dark technology damn it.

And Jetpacs. What happened to Jetpacks?

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