The Grumpy Old Man

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....Mobile Phones, User-friendly or User Hazard....

....How safe actually are mobile phones?, or Mobile Phones, user friendly or user hazard?...

The brain is a wonderful piece of kit with which we are all endowed and yet how terribly we abuse it.

But what, you might ask, has this to do with mobile phones? To answer this question let's look at how both the brain and the mobile phone work.

First, a simplified view of how the brain works. Within the brain are billions of interconnected neurons and other cells. These neurons communicate with each other generating thought processes and transmitting instructions to and receiving information from, other parts of the body. These processes, and information transfers take the form of very small electrical signals (called 'action potential'). We can observe this as the effect is utilised by the electroencephalographic (EEG) picking up the electrical signals of brain activity through electrodes attached to the scalp.

We think we know an awful lot about the brain, however Grumpy feels our knowledge of the brain is at a similar level as our knowledge of the universe (or cosmos). For example, we know much about atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons, bosons and many other particles we believe make up "matter". We know much about "energy" and, through Einstein (e=mc2), we know much about the interrelationship of energy and matter. Through observation, we know much about the universe and such objects as stars, planets, nebulae, galaxies and many more.

Using current theories and perceived laws of physics we have made a theoretical calculation of how much "matter" and "energy" (or stuff) comprises the universe. We have also made scientific observations, measurements and calculations to "measure" how much "stuff" is actually out there.

Accepting this as fairly advanced work it would be fair to say the first time we tried the experiment we could expect, at best, the theoretical figure to be within 50% or so of the measured figure to be somewhat generous!

What was found was that the theoretical quantity differed wildly from the observed, accounting for only some 4% of that which we measured. To put that differently, current laws of physics can only account for 4% of the stuff of the cosmos. As usual man has an answer for that saying the other 96% is made up of "dark matter" or "dark energy". The joke is that we know nothing about either of this dark stuff. We don't know what it is, what it's made of, where it came from, where it's going, how it works or even whether it will continue to be around tomorrow or in a few million years! And we then have the audacity to think it can interact in accordance with e=mc2. Although, if you think about it, that is a "current" physics law so why should this unknown "stuff" follow it? After all, perhaps it doesn't follow current physics laws, which is why we can't "see" it!

In other words we may know a lot, but there is far more to learn, Grumpy believes that this level is similar to our knowledge of the brain and what makes that "tick".

So, how do mobile phones work? To make a call, the phone sends out a radio signal (by electromagnetic radiation or EMR) in all directions. This signal is "picked up" by the nearest telecoms ground station (the "ground station" is the radio transmitter/receiver and associated power supplies). Ground station replies to handset to say "receiving you". This is by EMR radiated in all directions. Receiving telephone replies to say "here I am". (This is ultra-simplified as the number frequently includes routing information that allow the network to only look for the called phone in particular areas.)

Observe that the mobile handset transmits EMR in all directions to make a call and is bathed in EMR while the system "looks" for it.

And where is this mobile handset while it is transmitting EMR? In most (accepted not all) it is little more than 20 or 30 mm from your brain! Even when receiving a call, your brain is being subjected to EMR.

Just a matter of interest, one might ask how far can this EMR travel and still be detected? To answer this I would refer you to the Pioneer probes launched from Earth in the 1970s. Contact by radio (EMR) was last made in 2003, over 30 years after they were launched. These probes cover some 220 million miles a year, so by 2003 they were some 7 billion miles away. The EMR detected had taken over 20 minutes to travel from the spacecraft to earth! So yes, the stuff travels well and what is more important, although what arrives at Earth is super small, it is still detectable i.e. it makes a physical change in the receiver. Ergo, if Pioneer can be detected from that far away with such a minute signal, what is a mobile handset going to do to your brain when it is working 20 mm away?

Historically, Grumpy has worked in the radar field and remembers the health warning lights that were organised to indicate when the equipment was transmitting. These took the simple shape of a neon bulb (not connected to anything) in the radar field. When the radar was transmitting the bulb lit up, powered purely by transmitted EMR from the radar.

This effect takes place whenever something conducting is put in a field of EMR. As shown above it makes no difference what that "something" is, it will still be affected by the EMR as the EMR will induce an electric current in the conductor. If the conductor is already carrying an electric current, the induced current just adds to it and thus causes "interference" That "something" in the example of the mobile phone is your brain.

One should also remember that common kitchen appliance, the microwave oven, is driven by EMR, and lots of it. Inside the oven, the EMR induces electrical currents in the food which circulate and as they do so they generate heat, cooking the food. Does the EMR from mobile phones "cook" your brain. Nobody knows for sure what level of EMR will not affect the brain. Guesstimates have been made, but they are just that, a guess.

There are many examples that could provide instances of this effect. Many of them are known to the medical profession and "electrical" companies. It is Grumpy's opinion, that much of this knowledge is swept under the carpet because of the earth shattering side-effects (particularly to the profits of mobile phone companies) of wider public circulation.

Grumpy has seen examples of volunteers standing below power transmission lines, holding a fluorescent light tube aloft and the tube glows, even though it is 40 or 50 feet away from the line. The energy to light it is coming by EMR from the line.

Grumpy has heard reports of farm animals being so disturbed and distressed when new transmission lines are turned on that they have to be moved out of the field. They obviously didn't like the EMR.

There have been reports of people suddenly being susceptible to migraine headaches when new transmission lines are routed close to their homes. Perhaps the EMR was affecting them?

There have been reports of young children suffering from headaches and difficulty sleeping which was eventually traced to domestic electricity meters and distribution panels located in or near their bedroom. Perhaps the undeveloped brain is more susceptible to EMR?

On this topic it is interesting to note that the medical profession advise that children under the age of 14 should not use mobile phones.

Designers of electronic equipment (Grumpy has personal experience of this) are acutely aware that nearby electrical equipment can disturb the operation of the equipment under development. EMR is one of the major factors in causing this "interference".

One of Grumpy's neighbour's solid-state central heating timer developed a fault which turned the heating on permanently. While discussing this with some of her friends locally, their response was "oh, yes, ours is always doing that". What chance EMR and its consequent electrical interference is causing this?

Broadband problems experienced by some people were eventually traced to a neighbour's electric kettle or cooker turning on and off. Like the central heating, electrical interference caused by EMR by the appliance being swittched on or off was almost certainly causing this.

In the early days when mobile phones were a status symbol, men used to carry them in a Fanny Pouch attached to their belt. There were a number of instances where reduced sperm counts were detected in men carrying their mobile phones in such a location. Even when quiescent, the telephone generates EMR, even if just to keep "the system" updated with its location. With a Fanny Pouch the mobile phone spent many hours irradiating the owners wedding tackle.

A recent report in the Daily Telegraph described a situation where a woman on a train in China was looking at her mobile phone for some 20 hours. When she arrived at her destination she could hardly walk and needed immediate hospitalisation and emergency surgery to remove blood clots on the brain.

So, with all of these instances of EMR not only upsetting other electrical equipment, but instances where it can be attributed to a physical effect on the brain and other body parts, Grumpy would question whether they are worth the trouble. There is clear evidence that even the manufacturers of these devices have some cognizance of the potential problems, as some modern phones can be operated a little further from the brain. What Grumpy finds worrying is that nobody knows what level of EMR the brain can tolerate with no effect. Like many of these factors the scientific community has, no doubt, come up with an estimate of what it believes the brain can tolerate, but there is little evidence to support or disprove this figure.

Grumpy would remind his readers that the mobile phone companies are making huge profits from the use of these devices. I'm sure they will all claim that there is no (known) hazard to the user. Grumpy would respectfully suggest that the tobacco companies made this assertion, making huge profits while the gullible public were going down with all sorts of cancer. Even the medical profession have turned a blind eye to the side-effects of some drugs resulting in a significant number of people being born with birth defects. But the financial aspect of the mobile phone even goes up to government level where I am sure a blind eye is also being turned to any talk of mobile phones being a hazard to health. Let's face it, governments worldwide will be making significant sums in tax from these devices. (As an example, Grumpy sees, VAT (a form of purchase tax) is added to telephone bills, thus giving the government a significant rake off)

But there are other devices that use EMR for their operation, and examples of this are Wi-Fi routers. These are designed to work over some distance and therefore generate high levels of EMR than the average mobile phone.

And what about your wireless mouse, wireless keyboard, wireless LAN? They all communicate by EMR with your computer.

What about 'hands-free' landline telephones, some users have said that this is a landline, agreed, but their handset is using EMR to communicate with a receiver, (their telephone set, which was some distance away) to connect to the telephone exchange line.

Psychologically, reports are now surfacing relating to medical profession suspicions that some patients are actually addicted to their mobile phones!

EMR is well known to be hazardous to health, with some schools of thought linking it to cancer and many other physical and psychological ailments. However, little is known or perhaps published in the public domain about the minimum level that can be tolerated by the human body without damage, if such a minimum level exists! Within this context it is very concerning that the mobile phone companies can locate their ground stations and erect their transmission masts in highly built-up areas with little or no prior consultation with local residents beforehand. Grumpy can observe from where he is sitting, there are two of these ground stations within twenty metres. Consequently, without a by your leave, Grumpy's home is permanently bathed in EMR. We run two computers here and both have displayed an identical, granted intermittent, fault. Additionally, Grumpy's neighbour with the errant central heating programmer, is some twenty metres from one of the stations. Grumpy would assert that such strange happenings could be related to ground station EMR.

It is just possible that the potential dangers of these devices are known and widely publicised among equipment, service providers and governments alike who are all making significant sums of money. Just like they all did with tobacco!

So, with all these things going on, do you really want to hold this piece of kit almost touching your brain? Before you do, ask yourself, is this really necessary and what did people do in the not too distant past when there weren't any mobile phones? Be sensible, don't go with the crowd, leave the mobile phone at home because in Grumpy's view it is far more of a user hazard than a user friend.

Finally, this is not the first time Grumpy has written about mobile phones, to read more, here.....