The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘EMF’

The Skeptical Teacher Talks About “Ghost Meters” on SETI Radio’s Skeptic Check

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 7, 2010

Okay, shameless plug time 🙂

This past Friday I had the priviledge of being interviewed by SETI astronomer Seth Shostak on SETI Radio’s monthly “Skeptic Check” segment. Apparently, Seth and executive producer Molly Bentley had caught the article that I wrote to Skeptical Inquirer magazine about the Edmund (Pseudo)Scientific ghost detector (my blog post on the subject is here) and how that once respected science teaching outlet had now decided to go down the rabbit hole of nonsense.

It’s a short interview (only about 6-7 minutes long), and you can listen to it here (fast forward to the 24:00 mark to get to my interview)…

Posted in ghosts & paranormal, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Maine Legislator Pushes Cell Phone-Cancer Woo

Posted by mattusmaximus on December 21, 2009

In another *facepalm* moment, the state legislature in Maine will soon be considering a bill that would require cell phones to carry warning labels that they, you guessed it, might cause brain cancer.  Ugh – I have posted about this topic before (in my post “Electromagnetic Fields & Cancer Myths”), and I cannot state strongly enough that there is no evidence that cell phone use causes cancer!  Not only is there no conclusive evidence that cell phone radiation causes cancer, but according to the known laws of physics there is no physical mechanism by which this is even possible. But that won’t stop some non-scientifically minded nut with political clout from pushing this nonsense into a useless law…

Maine to consider cell phone cancer warning

A Maine legislator wants to make the state the first to require cell phones to carry warnings that they can cause brain cancer, although there is no consensus among scientists that they do and industry leaders dispute the claim.

The now-ubiquitous devices carry such warnings in some countries, though no U.S. states require them, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. A similar effort is afoot in San Francisco, where Mayor Gavin Newsom wants his city to be the nation’s first to require the warnings.

Maine Rep. Andrea Boland, D-Sanford, said numerous studies point to the cancer risk, and she has persuaded legislative leaders to allow her proposal to come up for discussion during the 2010 session that begins in January, a session usually reserved for emergency and governors’ bills.

And here’s my favorite part of the article…

While there’s little agreement about the health hazards, Boland said Maine’s roughly 950,000 cell phone users among its 1.3 million residents “do not know what the risks are.”

Ahem, Rep. Boland, this is an argument that is essentially begging the question… the assumption is that there is a risk, despite there being any conclusive evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship (not to be confused with correlation) between cancer & cell phone use AND a lack of any kind of physical mechanism to even facilitate that process.  Folks, this is what happens when you mix political power with the Paralyzing Precautionary Principle. Now this may be crappy science, but I’m sure it’ll raise Rep. Boland’s political profile – too bad she couldn’t just stick to the actual science as opposed to pushing pseudoscientific & fear-mongering woo woo.

Folks, if you live in Maine, please take a moment to contact your state representatives and ask them to – for the sake of good science & sound legislative policies – just throw Boland’s bill in the trash heap where it belongs.  I’m sure there are far better, more important, and real issues the Maine legislature could be dealing with on behalf of that state’s citizens.

Rep. Boland, this one’s for you…

Posted in environmental hysteria, physics denial/woo, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Must-See Video: The G Hunters

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 27, 2009

I just wanted to share in this quick post with everyone a video I saw this last summer at The Amazing Meeting 7 in Las Vegas.  During the convention, our pals at the Skeptics Guide to the Universe shared their first effort at skeptical movie-making, a spoof of “ghost-hunting” shows which have become so popular these days.  For a more detailed analysis of why ghost-hunting is a load of woo-woo, click here. I hope you enjoy the show! 😀

The G Hunters: Episode 1, Part 1

The G Hunters: Episode 1, Part 2

Posted in ghosts & paranormal, humor | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

South Park Spoofs “Ghost Hunters”

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 27, 2009

In the spirit of Halloween and skepticism, I shall be posting some things related to both in the days to come.  The first is a hilarious spoof of various “ghost hunter” shows by those wacky guys at South Park.

south park ghost hunter spoof

Despite the crudeness & vulgarity of their criticism, the South Park guys aren’t that far off the mark in pointing out the logical fallacy (basically, arguing from ignorance – a LOT of ignorance) committed by these lame-o doofuses who stumble around in the dark, scaring themselves for the cameras.  For a more detailed critique of “ghost hunters” and their pseudoscience, see my earlier blog post on the subject.

Posted in ghosts & paranormal, humor | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New York Post: Sloppy Journalism in Report of Cellphone-Cancer “Link”

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 26, 2009

In another media *facepalm* moment, the New York Post is reporting of a supposed “link” between cellphone use and cancer…

Study: Cell Phone Cancer Link

A groundbreaking, $30 million study into cell phones has found a link between long term use and brain tumors.

The World Health Organization is about to reveal that its decade-long investigation has found the devices can lead to cancer — and the internationally-respected body will soon issue a public health message with its findings, London’s Daily Telegraph reported today.

The conclusion goes against years of assurances by cell phone companies and scientists that cell phone use is safe.

But last month, Sen. Arlen Specter (D – Pa) organized Senate hearings to examine health implications of talking on-the-go.

CAN YOU KILL ME NOW? -- A groundbreaking, 10-year study will show that long-term cell phone use can lead to brain tumors.

elizabeth lippman/N.Y. Post
CAN YOU KILL ME NOW? — A groundbreaking, 10-year study will show that long-term cell phone use can lead to brain tumors.

The WHO’s Interphone investigation’s results showed, “a significantly increased risk” of some brain tumors “related to use of mobile phones for a period of ten years or more,” the Telegraph reported today.

The study’s head, Dr. Elisabeth Cardis, said, “In the absence of definitive results and in the light of a number of studies which, though limited, suggest a possible effect of radiofrequency radiation, precautions are important.”

The project carried out studies in 13 countries, talking to tumor sufferers as well as healthy cell phone users, It interviewed 12,800 people.

The results will be officially published before the end of the year, according to the Telegraph.

This is a perfect example of how some in the media misuse science to make headlines, while at the same time spreading misinformation.  Notice that the article is citing research which hasn’t even been published yet! So, if the research isn’t yet published for scrutiny, how in blazes do the morons at NY Post know what the research says?  I always thought that a good journalist was supposed to check their facts before reporting a story, not the other way around.  Apparently, the folks at the NY Post live in an alternate universe.

In addition, some other tidbits that pop up in this article:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in environmental hysteria, media woo, physics denial/woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Website Rates Best & Worst Cellphones… by Radiation Output

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 28, 2009

While cruising around the Internet I stumbled upon this website over at where they ask people to rate their cellphones – by the amount of (spooky word here) RADIATION output!

The irony here is the fact that a website which seems to advertise itself as tech-savvy would appear to embrace such a stupidly pseudoscientific concept as cellphone radiation being dangerous.  As has been outlined repeatedly in the scientific literature – as well as in my Electromagnetic Fields & Cancer Myths blog entry – there is NO danger from cellphone radiation… none!

As for the Engadget article, note the scale they show and the subsequent commentary…

You’re surely aware that your cellphone bleeds radiation into your face the whole time you’re on the phone with your mom, best friend or lover, right? Yes, it’s a fact we try not to think about most of the time, but now there’s a tool out there on the internets for the more reality-facing folks among us. The Environmental Working Group’s launched a website dedicated to rating cellphones on their radiation output alone. Ranking highly (meaning they put out the lowest levels of radiation) are the Motorola RAZR V8, and AT&T’s Samsung Impression. In fact, it seems that Samsung is cranking out the healthiest phones these days! Phones with poor showings includes T-Mobile’s myTouch 3G and the Blackberry Curve 8830. So hit the read link and tell us, how does your phone rate?

The scale leaves out one important fact… that all of these phones likely operate at the same frequencies of radiation.  The only thing this scale is studying is the intensity, which is entirely different!  For example, the frequency of a photon of electromagnetic energy is what determines how energetic (and therefore how dangerous in the context of causing cancer) the radiation is.  Low-frequency radiation like that from cellphones simply cannot cause cancer, as far as we know, because it is nonionizing radiation. The fact that these goofs at can’t even get this basic bit of physics right will ensure that they won’t be getting any of my business.

I don’t know about you, but I know how I’d rate this website for scientific validity.  I give it a rating of FAIL.

Posted in physics denial/woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Edmund (Pseudo)Scientific Sells “Ghost Detectors” & Other Woo

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 14, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I became aware of something that, as both a skeptic & science teacher, shocked me: Edmund Scientific, one of the oldest & most respected outlets for selling science equipment for educational use, has gone over to the dark side.  They are actively marketing & selling paranormal woo…


What are these products that Edmund (Pseudo)Scientific is now selling on their website?  They are…

EMF Ghost Meter – This is nothing more than a standard EMF (electromagnetic field) detector, which usually detects EMFs that are low frequency, such as radio & microwaves.  I have no beef with Edmund selling EMF detectors (I even have one in my classroom), but what galls me is the manner in which they are marketing this device.  They are actually calling it a ghost detector – and by doing so they are giving credence to the pseudoscientific flummery of the paranormal woo-meisters!  As they say on their website:

Detect Paranormal Presences

The preferred unit of paranormal investigators, this Ghost Meter can be used by laymen with professional results. The unit responds instantaneously to EMF fluctuations and spikes in energy with a detecting range of 50 to 1,000 Hz. The VLF range is 1,000 to 20,000 Hz. An easy-to-read LED display and silent on/off push switch make for seamless, simple operation.

Such devices are often used by so-called ghost hunters as they bumble around in the dark, freaking themselves out at every cool draft of wind & creaky sound they hear.  In reality, there is absolutely no reason to think that EMF meters are detecting any kind of “ghostly entities”, as a simple application of Occam’s Razor often shows that what the meters are actually detecting is the low-frequency EM-waves given off by nearby lighting fixtures, electrical lines, or even the other equipment carried by the ghost hunters themselves!

But if you thought that was bad, it gets worse.  Here are some other gems that Edmund (Pseudo)Scientific is now selling…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in education, ghosts & paranormal, physics denial/woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Electromagnetic Fields & Cancer Myths

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 2, 2009

Every year when I teach my students about electromagnetism, I take some time to discuss with them the physics of electromagnetic waves (a.k.a. “light”). EM-waves go by another name common to scientists, electromagnetic radiation, and it’s that second word – radiation – which scares the hell out of so many people and makes them vulnerable to all manner of woo.

Case in point, there is a lot of bunk out there concerning EM-radiation and cancer. Specifically, there is a group of folks who try to push the idea that cell phones, power lines, and wi-fi are emitting radiation (called EMFs, or electromagnetic fields) which will give people exposed to them all manner of cancers. I’m here to tell you that this is just plain b.s. – people who make these pseudoscientific arguments do not understand the physics of EMFs, at all.

First off, the physical mechanism which creates an electromagnetic wave (or “EM-radiation” or “light” or “EMFs” – they’re all the same thing) is basically wiggling an electric charge back and forth. This process generates a self-reinforcing set of electric & magnetic fields which form the wave, and the frequency of these waves (which matches the frequency at which the charge is wiggled) is what determines exactly what kind of EM-radiation is created. Depending upon the frequency of the wave, it will fall along what is called the electromagnetic spectrum…


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Posted in environmental hysteria, physics denial/woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments »

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