by Gordon Bonnet via Skeptophilia
In order to avoid falling for whatever absurd nonsense happen to be in the offing, you not only need to have some good critical thinking skills, you also need a basic knowledge of the sciences.
This is especially critical given the penchant that pseudoscience hacks have for using scientific-sounding terms in bogus ways. Given that said hacks are quite good at sounding convincing, and can throw around random vocabulary words with the best of ’em, if you don’t understand the basic laws of science, as well as a few solid definitions, you’re going to fall for whatever tripe they’re offering.
Take, for example, the article from Prevent Disease that I’ve now seen several times on social media, called “12 Facts About Microwaves That Should Forever Terminate Their Use.”
This piece, written by one Marco Torres, is so full of false statements and specious science that it’s hard to know where to start. Here’s a sample, picked more or less at random:
Microwaves are a source of electromagnetic energy (a form of nonionizing form of radiation) electronically generated. When penetrating the aliments, they trigger an inner rotation of the water molecules inside the food. This rotation triggers a friction between the molecules and the result is a rapid growth in temperature.
Okay, he starts out well. Microwaves are a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation that is electronically generated. But so is the light from a light bulb. And I don’t know what an “inner rotation of the water molecules” even means — since microwaves are good at making water molecules (and also fat molecules) spin, maybe this was just a slip. But the water molecules are not experiencing “friction” — they’re simply moving. Because that’s what an increase in temperature means. The faster molecules move, the higher the temperature, whether that temperature increase is caused by a microwave, a conventional oven, or just sitting out in the sun.
Then, though, we start hearing about all the bad things this can cause:
Microwaves use super-fast particles to literally radiate the contents of water inside food and bring it to boil. Not only has microwave use been linked to causing infertility in men, but it also denatures many of the essential proteins in the food making them virtually indigestible.
“Super-fast” — sure, given that all electromagnetic waves travel at the speed of light. And what’s the alternative to “literally radiating” the food? Figuratively radiating it?
And there is no connection between using microwaves and infertility, as long as you keep your genitalia outside of the microwave oven. So guys — if you’re microwaving your lunch while naked, don’t accidentally shut your junk in the door and then turn the oven on.
Then we have this unintentionally funny statement . . .
Last month in Washington state, local residents protested the installation of smart meters on the grounds that the devices’ wireless signals could pose a health threat. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, parents’ health concerns about wireless internet (wifi) in schools prompted a government field test.
This is a growing trend. Small groups have protested the roll-out of smart meters in at least 17 states, and there are at least 30 international support groups for those who believe they suffer health effects from them and other devices. In West Virginia, there’s even a small community who’ve fled to a radiation-free zone to avoid the effects of wifi and cell phones.
Why people are freaking out about wireless devices
The worries are driven by belief that in some people, the invisible waves of electromagnetic radiation emitted by our modern devices can cause all sorts of immediate health effects, like headaches, dizziness, and chest pains. This is most commonly referred to as electromagnetic hypersensitivity.
(By the way, this is distinct from the worry that cell phones can cause long-term problems like cancer — which, according to our best data, is unlikely.)
But here’s the thing: no matter how reasonable the idea might seem, scientists have tested it for decades, and have found no evidence that the radiation produced by cell phones, wifi, or smart meters actually makes people sick.
“The question is relatively easy to address with experiments,” says James Rubin, a psychologist who’s tested the idea, “and the evidence says that EMF [electromagnetic frequencies] don’t cause symptoms.”
Clinical trials show wifi won’t make people sick
The most common way of testing whether electromagnetic signals cause health problems is pretty straightforward: Researchers put a purported sufferer in a room and secretly turn on and off a device that generates an electromagnetic field (say, a cell phone). The participant is then asked to identify when the symptoms surface. If the participant is correct more often then chance would dictate, that could suggest a link between the radiation and immediate health effects.
The dozens of these studies that have been conducted have uncovered zero people who can report symptoms reliably over time.