Monday, August 16, 2010

Wi-Fi Hysteria

My local paper has a poorly-written Canadian Press article about a group of Barrie parents who are all worked up and worried that wireless internet in their schools are making their kids sick.

Whatever happened to good science reporting? The supposed effects form a classic list of vague symptoms that are likely to have a psychosomatic component: headaches, dizziness, nausea, racing heart rates. A good reporter should be more skeptical.

The article cites Susan Clarke, "a former research consultant to the Harvard School of Public Health", as claiming that Wi-fi "alters fundamental physiological functioning and can cause neurological and cardiac symptoms". But the article doesn't bother to quote any medical official or researcher to the effect that Wi-fi is safe. Nor does it cite any peer-reviewed studies by Clarke or anyone else on the subject.

Really, a little common sense would be useful here. With Wi-fi available in libraries, cafes, airports, and so forth, for years, wouldn't everybody be reporting these supposed effects?


Eamon Knight said...

My favorite points:
1) The kids feel soooo much better on weekends -- but get sick again on Monday! Yeah, I recall having all sorts of mysterious medical complaints on Mondays. For some reason, my mother tended not to believe me....
2) Children are more susceptible because their heads are the same size as the wavelength of the WiFi? I haven't looked up the band used by WiFi, but kids' heads aren't actually that much smaller than adult heads, and I very much doubt that, as an antenna, the brain has a terribly high Q-factor.

Michael J. Swart said...

So most of the time, ridiculous ideas are just that ridiculous. But some wrong and ridiculous ideas move into the category of wrong and dangerous.

For example, I don't mind when people believe in homeopathy unless they then use it to replace something like chemotherapy for treating cancer.

What about yourself? Do you see some bad ideas worth fighting more than other bad ideas?

Anonymous said...

It's not just school. In the workplace, Mondays and Fridays account for about 40% of all sick days.


Catherine said...

I guess it's hard to say without knowing. But that's your point, now isn't it. Or let me re-phase that - with cyberspace, it's EASY to say, without knowing.

Miranda said...

> "But the article doesn't bother to quote any medical official or researcher to the effect that Wi-fi is safe. Nor does it cite any peer-reviewed studies by Clarke or anyone else on the subject."

Sheesh, not even wiki!

Greg Stott said...

This news "report" by CBC and others smacks of typical sloppy journalism. One should be very suspicious of Susan Clarke and er agenda (and the naive journalist) if she really did say "...because the size of their brains more closely approximates the size of the wavelength being deployed".

Odd that no one picked up on that.

Unknown said...

"... parents who are now writing us saying their kids have been fine all summer are going to have a change of heart about the third week of September when their kids are coming home from school with these problems, particularly the ones that are passing out and falling down, hitting their head on the gym floor,"

"Son, have you been smoking pot!?" "Gosh no Dad, it's the Wi-Fi I swear!"

Anonymous said...

But...but...but......I thought it was teh vaxxinez.

I guess they'll have to get their very own supermodel spokesperson.

Gingerbaker said...

This was about three mouse clicks in from the Barrie Children link:

This claims to be a peer-reviewed journal. I'll leave it to more qualified folks to vet the study.

Other wi-fi 'danger' links here:

NAL said...

Banning Wi-Fi From Schools

NAL said...

Sometimes School Trustees Make You Proud

L K Tucker said...

Of course it isn't WiFi. Video and pictures used to illustrate computer use in these schools show what the problem actually is, Subliminal Distraction.

Named for the feature of our physiology of sight that allows it to happen, it was discovered and solved forty years ago.

These students don't get enough exposure to have the mental break it it known to cause. But if one of them created the same situation at home where they played video games the full mental break might happen.

Designers of Systems Furniture, cubicles, see only one level of exposure and believe the mental event is a harmless temporary episode of confusion. But even that might be problematic if a student wandered outside in a Canadian winter.

VisionAndPsychosis.Net is a seven year investigation of Subliminal Distraction. As a feature of human physiology it has always been present in any human population.