Posts Tagged ‘environment’
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 18, 2013
This recent silliness by “Doctor” Oz came to my attention: apparently, during a recent show he took seriously the notion that women shouldn’t carry cell phones in their bras because it could give them breast cancer. My skeptical colleague Dr. David Gorski at Science-Based Medicine summarizes Oz’s idiocy and fear-mongering here…
… The story aired on December 6 and was entitled Why You Should Keep Your Cell Phone Out of Your Bra. The entire segment, lasting ten minutes or so, is one blatant piece of fear mongering. Even by the usual low standards of a typical Dr. Oz segment, this one was bad. How bad? I’ll give you a taste. Let me start just by asking what you might expect in a segment claiming a link between an environmental exposure of some sort and a specific cancer? You’d expect some actual scientific evidence, wouldn’t you? Some epidemiology, perhaps, showing that women who hold their cell phones in their bras have a higher risk of breast cancer, perhaps with some relative risks that were at least statistically significant. You might expect some scientific evidence suggesting why the proposed mechanism is plausible. You might even expect that there would be convincing (or at least suggestive) evidence that women who put their cell phones in their bras, when they develop breast cancer, develop it more frequently on the side where they stick their cell phone. These would be reasonable things to expect that, even though they wouldn’t be convincing proof, would at least raise concerns.
There was none of that at all. Zero. Nada. Zip. In fact, I was shocked at how evidence-free this whole segment was. Usually Oz at least tries to slather a patina of scientific evidence on his pseudoscience. OK, maybe not usually, but he does at least sometimes try when he’s not doing a story on alternative medicine, “complementary and alternative medicine,” or “integrative medicine,” anyway. Not here. It’s as if Dr. Oz’s producers weren’t even trying for this one. …
If you want a good analysis that thrashes the hell out of Oz’s claims from a medical perspective, definitely read through all of Dr. Gorski’s blog post. Seeing as how I’m not a medical doctor, I won’t rehash his analysis here; but I am a physics professor, so what I can do is go through the basic physics of why it is implausible that cell phones are even physically capable of causing cancer. In fact, I’ve written numerous posts on this topic already…
This first post is probably the most thorough on the fundamental physics of how electromagnetic radiation/waves (also known as light) are generated and propagate; also included is a basic primer on the different kinds of EM waves, the EM spectrum, what role frequency and energy of light play in these issues, and the all important difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Here’s the upshot: cell phones emit non-ionizing (i.e. non-cancer causing) radiation.
This article about a hysterical politician in Maine points out the implications of allowing basic scientific literacy to be trumped by the kind of psuedoscience and fear-mongering propagated by “Doctor” Oz and his ilk.
Just a more up-to-date article outlining some more research from the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Denmark after it looked at more than 350,000 people with mobile phones over an 18-year period. Conclusion: even while looking for supposed long-term negative effects, none were found.
Posted in environmental hysteria, media woo, physics denial/woo, Uncategorized | Tagged: bra, breast cancer, cancer, cell phones, David Gorski, DNA, doctor, Doctor Oz, Dr. David Gorski, Dr. Oz, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic waves, EMF, environment, health, ionizing radiation, light, medical, medicine, physics, power lines, public health, radiation, radiation sickness, safety, safety hysteria, science-based medicine, show, skeptic, skepticism, television, TV, wi-fi | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 1, 2011
Okay, I’ve said it before, and no doubt I will have to say it again, but here goes… there is no causal connection between cell phone use and cancer! Not only is it physically implausible, but there is no solid research showing such a connection; in fact, the research shows quite the opposite, as evidenced by this recent article from the BBC News…
By Nick Triggle Health correspondent, BBC News
Mobile phone safety has been much debated over the past two decades
Further research has been published suggesting there is no link between mobile phones and brain cancer.
The risk mobiles present has been much debated over the past 20 years as use of the phones has soared.
The latest study led by the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Denmark looked at more than 350,000 people with mobile phones over an 18-year period.
Researchers concluded users were at no greater risk than anyone else of developing brain cancer.
The findings, published on the British Medical Journal website, come after a series of studies have come to similar conclusions. …
Posted in environmental hysteria, physics denial/woo | Tagged: BBC, BBC News, brain, British Medical Journal, cancer, cell phones, DNA, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic waves, EMF, environment, health, ionizing radiation, light, medicine, paralyzing precautionary principle, physics, power lines, public health, radiation, radiation sickness, safety, safety hysteria, skeptic, skepticism, wi-fi | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 21, 2011
Earlier this month, the World Health Organization rather irresponsibly scared the hell out of a lot of people when they reported a link between cell phone use and cancer. Of course, as I’ve mentioned in the past, we know of no plausible physical mechanism by which cell phones (or low frequency EMFs in general) can cause cancer; for a really detailed article on this issue, I highly recommend Orac’s post at Respectful Insolence.
But, while Orac’s article is excellent from a technical and medical standpoint, I think the best response to this scaremongering from the WHO comes from satirist Stephen Colbert
Posted in environmental hysteria, humor, physics denial/woo | Tagged: cancer, cell phones, Colbert Report, DNA, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic waves, EMF, environment, funny, health, humor, ionizing radiation, light, medicine, National Research Council, paralyzing precautionary principle, physics, power lines, public health, radiation, radiation sickness, safety, safety hysteria, skeptic, skepticism, Stephen Colbert, WHO, wi-fi, World Health Organization | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 15, 2011
I just wanted to post a follow-up to my earlier posts on the Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis (for reference, those earlier posts are here and here) and the related ideologically driven, anti-nuclear hysteria that is being pushed by far too many people. An excellent example of this kind of zealotry is on display on the comment sections of my two previous posts, and I just want to focus on a few particular comments made here by people who are misrepresenting facts at best and engaging in some pretty despicable fear-mongering at worst. I think it serves as a pretty useful exercise in critical thinking to examine such claims…
Comment #1: Here is the first comment I want to examine, regarding my blog post titled Japanese “Nuclear Fallout Map” is a FAKE!!!…
Well, I’ve been keeping track of all this fallout business from the beginning and I have to say, it’s not looking good. There are reports from Arkansas and several other states concerning elevated radiation levels in milk and municipal water supplies, as anyone who’s been keeping track of this has probably heard by now.
So if this is all B.S. then why is radiation showing up all over the U.S.? And most importantly, why isn’t the media talking about it?
First of all, this commenter is equating the detection of “elevated” radiation levels with “dangerous” radiation levels, and they are not the same thing. As has been pretty thoroughly reported, radiation from Fukushima has in fact reached various parts of the United States (as well as other nations); however, what this commenter is not saying is that such levels of radiation have been detected in trace amounts. In the context of radiation, “trace” essentially means “so small that you don’t have to worry about it.” And whether or not the amount of radiation detected is higher than the normal background isn’t as relevant as whether or not the amount is near the danger level – and, in all the cases of such radiation detected in the U.S. the danger level is no where close to being reached.
What this commenter also neglects to mention is the fact that, as I’ve stated before, there are other (natural & artificial) sources of radiation around us all the time! As this link to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows, there are sources of radiation everywhere – from the sky, the ground, your house, your food, etc. Hell, chances are that you have received a higher dose of radiation from reading these words on your computer screen than you’ve gotten from the Fukushima power plant.
As for the last comment: “why isn’t the media talking about it?” – I have no idea where this innuendo of conspiracy comes from, seeing as how the media has been going on and on about this story for well over a month now, and all along most media outlets are screwing up the science just as is this commenter.
The comment continues:
Telling the public that radiation levels are only “slightly elevated” and causes no health hazards. Just like our Government “experts” told the natives living around the Atoll islands out in the Pacific the same line of nonsense after they tested twenty-three nuclear devices including the first hydrogen bomb between 1946 and 1958. 10 years later 90% of them had died from cancer.
Again, this smacks of blatant conspiracy mongering. Also note the outlandish claim that 90% of the inhabitants of the islands within the Pacific Proving Ground had died of cancer within ten years – there is evidence that those people were negatively affected (through higher rates of cancer & birth defects) by the related fallout, but nothing to support the claim of a 90% death rate within 10 years time. This is precisely the kind of hyperbole which displays zealotry trumping facts & reason.
Also it has been announced that Fukushima will most likely surpass Chernobyl as far as radiation emission levels are concerned.
Now, if radiation from Chernobyl was detected all over the northern hemisphere (and that is a fact)and the Fukushima event is supposedly far worse, what fool in their right mind would question whether or not radiation from the Fukushima event would make it to the U.S.?
It has and it will continue to do so.
While Fukushima has been upgraded to a level-7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), the same INES rating as Chernobyl, to claim that it is just as bad – or even worse! – than Chernobyl is simply laughable. First of all, it has been clearly documented that the total amount of radiation released from Fukushima is only about one-tenth that of Chernobyl, and that radiation release is much more localized & less lethal than Chernobyl ever was. In fact, the Chernobyl accident resulted in a direct death toll of 56 (due to immediate radiation sickness) as well as estimated 4,000 additional cancer fatalities among people exposed to elevated doses of radiation. As a result, the city of Chernobyl (pop. 14,000) was largely abandoned, the larger city of Pripyat (pop. 49,400) was completely abandoned. It should be noted that, so far, there has yet to be a single death confirmed to be related to radiation released at Fukushima.
So, despite the similar INES rating of 7, comparing the two events – in terms of severity of radiation release & dispersal as well as human fatalities – is like comparing apples and hammers.
As for the rambling about radiation reaching the United States, see my previous notes on that. Once again, “detectable” does not equal “dangerous”.
Last, but not least:
Now to say this is “fear mongering” is ridiculous, I have checked my facts and I suggest everyone else does the same. Because it doesn’t seem like the people we pay to keep us informed concerning such things, are doing their jobs very well. As far as hair and teeth falling out, I don’t think it will get anywhere near that bad but, the long term health effects of low level exposure should be considered at least.
More conspiracy mongering. I think this section of this person’s comment can be best summed up as follows:
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in conspiracy theories, environmental hysteria, physics denial/woo | Tagged: anti-nuclear, Chernobyl, core, damage, danger, disaster, earthquake, energy, engineering, environment, explosion, exposure, Fukushima, half life, health, hype, hysteria, INES, International Nuclear Event Scale, Japan, Japanese, know nukes, media, meltdown, misinformation, news, no nukes, nuclear, nuke, nukes, physics, plant, power, quake, radiation, radioactivity, reactor, science, sensationalism, tidal wave, tsunami | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 19, 2011
Wow, sometimes someone comes along and really lays out the science so clearly that it just makes you go… wow. I’ve spent much time in recent posts (here and here) discussing why it is important that the media put some context onto reports of radiation, specifically regarding accidents like that at the Fukushima nuclear power plants in Japan. The fine folks at XKCD have done an incredible job of putting the numbers I’ve been talking about for a week into a wonderful graphic; I suggest you all take a look (and try to find the dosages relevant to Fukushima, while you’re at it )…
Posted in environmental hysteria, humor, internet, physics denial/woo | Tagged: anti-nuclear, Chernobyl, core, damage, danger, disaster, dosage, dose, earthquake, energy, engineering, environment, explosion, exposure, fallout, Fukushima, half life, health, hype, hysteria, internet, Japan, Japanese, meltdown, nuclear, nuke, nukes, physics, plant, power, quake, radiation, radioactivity, rads, reactor, science, tidal wave, tsunami, xkcd, xkcd.com | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 15, 2011
[**Update (3-16-11): There also appears to be a fake text message warning people of “fallout” coming their way. Just an FYI, folks.]
You know, over the weekend when I was doing a bunch of research for my last blog post – Know Nukes: The Japanese Earthquake & Anti-Nuclear Hysteria – I briefly ran across an image about the supposed “fallout pattern” from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. I thought, “What a bunch of bullshit” and then moved on; not until later did I think that we’d probably be seeing that image again in the context of a hysterical, ranting chain email. And I was right – here it is…
This is a completely, 100% bogus map, as is the email associated with it! As the fine researchers at Snopes.com have discovered, it has no association with the Australian Radiation Services, and any implication by the map that there will be nuclear fallout, a large release of radiation, or any kind of far-reaching health/environmental damage is nothing more than rank fear-mongering.
I don’t know what kind of asshole puts something like this image out there at a time like this, but I don’t find this funny in the least. Most especially at times such as these, what we really need is to slow down, act calmly & coolly, and think about things in as rational manner as possible. Freaking out, going hysterical, and blindly buying into & passing along garbage such as this “map” is only going to make a bad situation far, far worse.
[**Update (3-17-11): On the question of the Fukushima site and radiation, if you want to get more regular, reliable updates, I suggest using the World Nuclear News website – here’s more from that site in a recent update…
… peaking at 400 millisieverts per hour (40,000 mrem/hour) on the inland side of unit 3, and 100 millisieverts per hour (10,000 mrem/hour) on the inland side of unit 4. At the highest exposure rate, a nuclear worker or soldier could remain in the area for less than 40 minutes before leaving the site, unable to return. …
… Despite high levels of radiation close to the units, levels detected at the edge of the power plant site have been steadily decreasing.
17 March, 4.00pm — 0.64 millisieverts per hour (64 mrem/hour)
17 March, 9.00am — 1.47 millisieverts per hour (147 mrem/hour)
16 March, 7.00pm — 1.93 millisieverts per hour (193 mrem/hour)
16 March, 12.30pm — 3.39 millisieverts per hour (339 mrem/hour)
This means that if you are at the edge of the Fukushima site itself, then receiving about 60 mrem/hour is like getting 2 or 3 chest x-rays per hour, which is a very strong dose of radiation. However, the intensity of the radiation gets a lot weaker the further away you get from the source (I believe it follows an inverse square law). Thus, it should be noted that if the radiation levels are that low at the edge of the power plant site, then they are most likely well within acceptable levels by the time you get to the edge of the evacuation zone, 30+ km away. And there’s certainly no danger to people far beyond that point, including here in the United States and Canada. Thus, despite the fact that some radiation has been released on the Fukushima site itself, the notion that any kind of “fallout cloud” will spread far & wide beyond that site is utter nonsense.
In addition, a good reference on the levels of radiation exposure (and related health effects) can be found here – http://www.epa.gov/radiation/understand/health_effects.html#anyamount – note that those values are in rems, whereas most of the exposure I’ve been referencing in these reports is in milli-rems (mrems). Bottom line: the people who are going to be affected the most are the workers right there on site, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them are getting a potentially lethal dose; as for everyone else, I think the danger is practically non-existent.]
Posted in environmental hysteria, internet, physics denial/woo | Tagged: ANS, anti-nuclear, Australian Nuclear Services, bogus, Chernobyl, core, damage, danger, disaster, earthquake, email, energy, engineering, environment, explosion, exposure, fake, fallout, fraud, Fukushima, half life, health, hype, hysteria, internet, Japan, Japanese, map, meltdown, misinformation, nuclear, nuclear fallout map, nuke, nukes, physics, plant, power, quake, radiation, radioactivity, rads, reactor, science, sensationalism, Snopes, tidal wave, tsunami | 22 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 13, 2011
Okay, this has been one helluva weekend for science (specifically, physics) and skepticism because of the earthquake in Japan, subsequent tsunami, and the ongoing situation with the nuclear power plants in the region. In this post, I am going to focus on the nuclear power plant question, because that is where the most amount of misinformation is being spread. And, sadly, because much of this misinformation is being spread by a horribly irresponsible media, I will not be referring to any media articles in this post.
First of all, let me say that I’m pretty mad at the manner in which this whole situation is being framed: while there are likely many tens of thousands of dead & dying victims in the wreckage of the earthquake & tsunami, much of the media focus is on the supposed “danger” posed by the nuclear power plants. Folks, this “danger” – while not completely fictitious – is being way, way, WAY over-hyped. In fact, it is being so overly-hyped that many people turning to most of the media are getting the impression that this is about to occur in Japan…
[**Update: Speaking of misinformation, there is a bogus “Nuclear Fallout Image” going around the Internet. More on that load of crap here.]
Let me continue by listing some reputable, scientifically accurate sources of information & updates on the situation with the Japanese nuclear plants and radiation in general. I strongly suggest that you turn off the TV and go to these sources for your information on the question of all things nuclear power & radiation oriented:
The World Nuclear News website (an outlet put together by nuclear engineering professionals and science journalists to get accurate information out to the public)
Nuclear energy 101: Inside the “black box” of power plants (one of the few mainstream media outlets that gets it right – kudos to you, Boing Boing! )
A Conversation with My Dad, a Nuclear Engineer, about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Disaster in Japan (from Skepchick Evelyn Mervine, who did an excellent job of cutting right to the chase regarding the scientific & technical issues involved)
Calculate Your Radiation Dose (from the United States’ EPA, which takes into account the natural & artificial sources of radiation around you all the time)
Now, having listed some reputable sources on the topic, let me take some time to address some of the more misinformed & outlandish claims being tossed all over the Internet and media landscape regarding what’s happening…
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in environmental hysteria, media woo, physics denial/woo | Tagged: anti-nuclear, Chernobyl, core, damage, danger, disaster, earthquake, energy, engineering, environment, explosion, exposure, Fukushima, half life, health, hype, hysteria, Japan, Japanese, know nukes, media, meltdown, misinformation, news, no nukes, nuclear, nuke, nukes, physics, plant, power, quake, radiation, radioactivity, reactor, science, sensationalism, tidal wave, tsunami | 44 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 26, 2010
I was listening recently to a Point of Inquiry podcast, where host Chris Mooney interviews John Abraham & Scott Mandia concerning the a new initiative called the Climate Rapid Response Team. I felt it worth passing along, so here ’tis…
November 19, 2010
Host: Chris Mooney
For the community of scientists who study the Earth’s climate, these are bewildering times.
They’ve seen wave upon wave of political attacks. They’re getting accustomed to a public that grows more skeptical of their conclusions even as scientists grow more confident in them.
No wonder there’s much frustration out there in the climate science world—and now, a group of researchers have organized to do something about it. Their initiative is called the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, and it pledges to organize dozens of researchers to help set the record straight. …
Posted in global warming denial | Tagged: AGW, anthropogenic, anthropogenic global warming, Chris Mooney, climate, climate change, Climate Change Rapid Response, denial, denialism, environment, global warming, GW, John Abraham, media, outreach, podcast, Point of Inquiry, public, scientists, Scott Mandia, skeptic, skepticism, weather | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on May 27, 2010
Last October I posted about a really crappy piece of “journalism” in the New York Post regarding a supposed link between cellphone use and cancer. The punchline was that the headline-grubbing morons at the NYPost ran their story before the actual study had been published!
Well, now the actual study by the real scientists & researchers involved has been published, and – lo and behold – it paints a very different picture from the fear-mongering goobers at the NYPost. In part, their conclusion states:
“Overall, no increase in risk of glioma or meningioma was observed with use of mobile phones.”
For reference, the entire study is available here in PDF format. Now of course I’m not surprised in the least by these results, seeing as how, based upon the laws of physics as we know them, there is no plausible mechanism by which such low-energy emissions from cellphones could cause cancer!
One would hope that various media outlets would take a lesson from this fiasco, but I suppose some people are more interested in selling paper than responsible news reporting.
Posted in environmental hysteria, media woo, physics denial/woo | Tagged: cancer, cell phones, DNA, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic waves, EMF, environment, health, ionizing radiation, journalism, light, media, medicine, National Research Council, New York Post, news, NY Post, paralyzing precautionary principle, physics, power lines, public health, radiation, radiation sickness, safety, safety hysteria, skeptic, skepticism, wi-fi | 1 Comment »
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: Andrea Boland, Boland, cancer, cell phones, DNA, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetic spectrum, electromagnetic waves, EMF, environment, health, ionizing radiation, legislature, light, Maine, medicine, paralyzing precautionary principle, physics, politics, power lines, public health, radiation, radiation sickness, safety, safety hysteria, skeptic, skepticism, wi-fi | 4 Comments »