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University of Melbourne Presentation on the Adverse Health Effects of Cellphone Radiation
- The first half of the presentation contains mostly background information, such as descriptions of various frequencies of electromagnetic radiation and their respective properties. The second half shows the results of studies that strongly indicate the link between exposure to the radiation emitted by mobile devices and the development of health issues. You don’t really need to watch the former to understand and appreciate the latter.
- The speaker, Devra Davis, has a very impressive resume, which you can read by clicking here. She is anything but a pseudoscientist.
Below, I’m including some key moments in the video, and connected excerpts, that I would recommend listening to if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing.
- 14:50 – Results of two dimensional brain imaging studies.
- 11:07 – Information on the electromagnetic spectrum.
- 19:20 – The fact that Consumer Reports discouraged anyone from keeping a phone in their pocket.
- 27:19 – Studies that show EMF of the type emitted by cellphone can negatively affect fetuses.
- 29:22 – Article published in Brain Research showing that prenatal exposure to EMF radiation can damage the hippocampus + effects on rats’ abilities to navigate mazes (Rats who were exposed had more difficultly navigating mazes than control rats).
- 31:00 – Studies show that human sperm, when exposed to radiation (while being stored in a test tube) is less vital and mobile, and has three times as much mitochondrial DNA damage.
- 33:00 – Data suggesting that keeping a cellphone in one’s pocket leads to a reduction in sperm count.
- 35:49 – Strong evidence for the link between storing phones in bras and the development of breast cancer.
- 38:24 – Yale study on the effects of radiation exposure on mouse behavior.
- 40:30 – Why the speaker’s organization came to the conclusion that cellphone radiation is a probable human carcinogen.
- 42:40 – Addresses why there has been no population-wide increase in brain cancer rates (Despite the massive adoption of mobile phones) and discusses why there might be one coming soon.
- 46:00 – The effects of radiation exposure on honey bees.
I’ve wondered for a while whether cellphone radiation might be having negative effects on human health. Up until this point, I had been pretty unimpressed with almost all of the writings and videos on the topic. Half of those I encountered were clearly written by quacks and filled with unsubstantiated claims. The other half seemed to be written by skeptical scientists who doggedly stressed the fact that cell phone radiation is non-ionizing, and therefore couldn’t be having any negative effects on human health. These articles also seemed suspect, for reasons described below.
All forms of electromagnetic radiation, that many people think of as separate, are fundamentally the same thing. Gamma rays, x rays, visible light, wifi, cellphone radiation, ultraviolet light, are all photons.
What differentiates these photons is the frequency at which they vibrate. By way of analogy, a single guitar string can produce different notes. The deciding factor in what note the string plays is the position on the neck where the guitarist places his or her finger.
Though these different waves are all perturbations in the same electromagnetic ocean, they have different properties. While some are generally reflected by matter, others, such as x rays, can easily tunnel through it. High frequency photons contain so much energy that they can actually knock electrons off of the atoms / molecules to which they are bonded. This separation leads to a change in the chemical properties of the atom or molecule in question, which can cause major issues if that atom / molecule is part of a biological system. Photons of this nature are called “ionizing.”
The radiation used by cellphones is non-ionizing. However, non-ionizing forms of radiation can still have profound effects on the matter with which they come into contact. This fact is clearly demonstrated by microwave ovens, which use a non-ionizing frequency of radiation to heat food. As it turns out, the frequency used by microwaves is pretty darn close to the one emitted by cellphones.
When one considers the complexity and delicacy of biological systems, the idea that non-ionizing radiation might be having negative effects on our health starts to seem very possible.
If you need more convincing, watch the presentation.
Podcast Recommendation: Five Minute Biographies
I love biographies. Reading and listening to them is, in my opinion, the purest way in which one can come to understand history. It is also one of the purest ways in which one can come to understand the human condition.
If you are a fellow biography lover, I’d highly suggest checking out Five Minute Biographies. It’s a very bite sized podcast that highlights the most important life events of famous figures from the past, and is a fantastic way of entertaining yourself during five to thirty minute walk, run, or commute.
As always, I suggest listening to podcasts using the app Overcast.
Recommended Online Reading
- “According to a new study from United Kingdom-based eye care company Scrivens Opticians, the percentage of kids 13 to 16 years old who need glasses has nearly doubled in less than a decade.”
Note: Don’t judge this one by its title.
“‘I felt like I was being torn apart and killed a thousand times a second for two hours.’ This was followed by hours of grand-mal seizures; Ferriss had rug burns on his face the next day. ‘I thought I had completely fried my motherboard,’ he continued. ‘I remember saying, “I will never do this again…”‘
…”But in the next few months he realized that something astounding had happened to him. ‘Ninety per cent of the anger I had held on to for decades, since I was a kid, was just gone. Absent.'”
- I was a bit skeptical of this practice until I tried it. Now I’m completely sold.
- There are different ways of practicing LKM; I usually sit with my eyes closed and think of a person I know, or know of. I then picture them smiling, and or think to myself, “May you be happy, may you be strong, may you be healthy.” It works best for me if the person is someone who I am feeling particularly grateful for at the moment.
- If you try LKM out and get a chance, let me know how it went for you.
“Myth is an eternal mirror in which we see ourselves.”
– J.F. Berlinein
Deep Dream Creations
A Few Thoughts on Natural Selection
- The more I think about natural selection, the more I realize how pervasive it is in virtually every aspect of life. I had a few thoughts about it the other day and decided to jot them down:
It is generally agreed that natural selection is the driving mechanism behind the evolution of species. It works something like this:
A wolf has five pups, all with slightly differing muscle composition. One pup ends up being stronger than the others once reaching adulthood. This allows him to assert dominance, and wins him the right to breed with the the most females in the pack. His children are likely to be strong as well, since they carry his genes.
The trait of strength was selected for by nature. It made the original pup more successful, given that reproduction is the unit by which his success is being measured.
In the game of the natural world, traits that lead to reproduction are selected for. This is, however, not the only game in which natural selection is taking place. Far from it. Take, for example, the political game. In this arena, a key measurement of success is being elected.
Key point: Reproduction in the game of nature is quite analogous to election in the game of politics. They are both metrics of success.
Just as certain traits can lead to success in the natural world, others can lead to success in the political world. What are these traits? What traits, for example, can help lead to election? There are, of course, quite a few. Charisma is one of the most important. Having it increases one’s likelihood of being selected in the game of politics.
To complete this analogy, I’d like to talk about one more game. The game of non-fiction writing. Success in this game is measured largely by the number of books one sells, the number of people that visit the page of one’s blog, or the number of times which one’s article is shared on social media.
What “traits” lead to success in this evolutionary game? I would argue that one of the most important, if not the more important, is the ability to notice and express important truths. For example, these could be truths about the status of the reality, and how it operates. Of course, there is quite a lot more to being a good non-fiction writer than simply expressing important truths. One must be able to link these truths in convincing ways, using words that readers understand, and have the ability to broadcast on some relatively popular platform. But, for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to say that the ability to express important truths is the most important unit of fitness in the world of non-fiction writing.
To recap, we have…
Evolutionary games: Nature, politics, non-fiction writing
Metrics of success: Reproduction, election, having one’s writing read by lots of people
Examples of traits that lead to success/selection: Strength, charisma, the ability to express important truths
An exciting fact is that you are conducting an evolutionary game of your own, in which you are the selector. The units of fitness in this game are the emotions/states of mind, that various stimuli evoke when you, the selector, experience them. And the metric of success for the competitors in this game is being placed into your ecosystem. Either the physical ecosystem that is the space surrounding you, or the mental ecosystem of your thoughts. The winners of the game you have been conducting are the pictures on your wall, the music in your Spotify playlist, and the friends you spend time with. They are also the words, songs, and images, that fill your mind. They are like the species within a natural ecosystem. They will occupy physical and or mental space, unless of course they are outcompeted by other species that are more evolutionarily fit. Species that evoke stronger positive mental states than those which came before; Songs that fill you with more emotion, people that make you laugh harder, and words that you feel express deeper truths.