Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The wi-fi scare

Some British schools are ripping out their wi-fi networks because of complaints from neurotic parents

In the 1950s, anything that went wrong - the weather, a bout of flu, England losing at cricket - tended to be blamed on the effects of nuclear tests. There was, of course, no connection. Today radio signals from mobile phones, mobile phone masts and now wi-fi installations have taken over where nuclear tests left off. Feeling a bit peaky? It's probably that mobile mast round the corner.

It can't be said often enough that there is hardly a shred of worthwhile evidence to support the worries. In some US schools, and even in a university in Canada, wi-fi has been banned until it can be "proved safe". Can Canadian academic standards be so low that they do not know it is impossible to prove anything safe? The best that can be hoped for is no evidence of risk: evidence of no risk is asking the impossible.

People who worry about mobile phones and wi-fi should be asked why they don't worry about TV transmitters, radar installations, or telephones you can carry about the house, which communicate with their base stations using radio signals. Ever since Marconi, we have been enveloped in a fog of radio-frequency transmissions of various powers and wavelengths. They activate our TV sets, and play a pretty tune on the tranny. Until somebody started the alarm over mobile phones, nobody except the mentally disturbed gave radio waves a second thought.

Wi-fi works at much lower power levels and over shorter ranges than mobile phone networks, so is even less likely to cause a problem. But even writing this implies that mobile phones themselves may be a problem when there is no persuasive evidence that they are.

It would be much better if these scares could be strangled at birth, before they have a chance to become embedded in the psyche of the anxious. But they never are. Stand by for a Government inquiry, a programme of research (paid for by the industry, naturally, not the protesters) and the invocation of the Precautionary Principle. Wake me when it's all over.


Sex okay for your heart

Contrary to movie mythology, sex does not increase your chances of a heart attack, a Australian study has found. But cocaine lifts the risk of seizure more than 20 times.

The review by University of Sydney and Harvard academics is the first to analyse triggers for heart attacks, including sexual activity, cocaine use, pollution, heavy meals, and stressful major events such as terrorist attacks. Co-researcher Geoffrey Tofler said traditional long-term approaches to heart attack prevention, such as diet and exercise regimes and medication, were important but they often ignored other triggers. These external pressures - such as sudden severe stress or physical exertion - could be a factor in up to 40 per cent of heart attacks, said Professor Tofler, who is associated with both universities. "We know, for example, that the incidence of heart attacks rises sharply in the days after people are exposed to major events such as an earthquake or a September 11," he said.

Having sex causes very little increased risk of heart attack while, in contrast, cocaine use lifts the likelihood 20 times. "If individuals know what the relative risks are they will be better able to manage their own health accordingly," he said.


Unbelievable: Dogs get a melanoma vaccine before people

Even though it was developed for people

Ken Lipmann, an avid outdoorsman, is one of the human volunteers testing a vaccine for melanoma - a potentially fatal skin cancer that strikes 60,000 Americans a year. "You had to have a tan!" says Lipmann. "None of you ladies would ever look at us if we were pale." The human results at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center are not in yet, but a few blocks away in New York at the Animal Medical Center, veterinarians heard about the vaccine and asked to try it in dogs.

Dogs, like humans, can naturally get many forms of cancer, including melanoma. In dogs, the melanoma is not usually related to sun exposure, but it can be very difficult to treat, and it's often fatal.

Vet Philip Bergman remembers the first time he tried the vaccine in a dog. "That was a dog that thankfully underwent complete disappearance of his tumor," says Bergman. "It was remarkable, obviously, to us." Since then, more than 100 dogs have been treated, including Lawana Hart's Lucky, who last June appeared to have only a few months to live. "He's great!" Hart says about Lucky these days. "He's got lots of energy, runs around the house, plays with his ball, loves to go out."

The vaccine works so well that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is about to license it as a treatment for melanoma in dogs.



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter? It is just about pure fat. Surely it should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

9). For a summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and no lasting harm from them has ever been shown.


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