Scary Wi-Fi: Reading Between the (Radio) Waves

Ken-Hardin

If you've ever wondered about the impact of a headline, check out this Wired blog post in reaction to a report by The Independent on yet another wave of concern that the electromagnetic cloud we all live in may be cooking us in some weird ways.

 

The Independent report, which ran Sunday, is headlined: "Danger on the Airwaves: Is the Wi-Fi Revolution a Health Time Bomb?"

 

The cover of the Independent's print edition, snapped here by Engadget, piles on the scare factor by depicting the threat as being immediately trained on school kids, a posture shored up by concerns voiced by the UK's Department of Education and Skills.

 

Spooky-scary.

 

The Independent article goes on to provide some fuzzy reportage that makes it fairly clear (upon second reading) that private groups, university professors and the like are worried that a boom in Wi-Fi in the UK is simply multiplying the wash of low-frequency electromagnetic radiation -- radio waves -- already cranked out by everything from Walkmen to Treos. Not that you'd get that from the headline, or that cover.


 

The Wired blogger attacks The Independent article on the technical basis that Wi-Fi radiation is really not that much different than any other kind of telecom wave, except for the way it carries data. Blogger Rob Beschizza writes:

That WiFi signals are just radio waves, little different to those produced by cordless telephones and baby monitors, is never mentioned. Nor is the fact that sufferers would therefore be potentially sensitive to all similar radio transmissions.

Well, the Independent does kinda make that point, but certainly not to the satisfaction of a technical type -- and not vigorously enough to offset the wallop of that headline and photo of a potentially irradiated child. (We'd agree with Beschizza's assessment that the piece is pretty one-sided in covering the still highly contentious issue.)

 

The takeaway: Always take articles in the general media with a grain of salt, particularly those whose title makes you just a little nervous.

 

And please, won't someone think about the bees.



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