October 2010

Is Wifi Bad For You?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: it's just another fear of the unknown, so, no.

Unfortunately, a lot of people continue to suffer from a peculiar form of mass hysteria which has them convinced that invisible wireless internet signals can induce rashes, vomiting, headaches, nausea, and all the rest.  One of the biggest cases of this involved a collection of health complaints against a wireless internet tower in Ireland.

Residents of the town of Craigavon claimed all of the usual symptoms.  Furthermore, they claimed that these symptoms improved when they left the area.  Residents staged protests against the iBurst tower, saying that it "subjects a residential community filled with children to uninvited microwaves from their tower."

No Really - Cell Phones Don't Cause Cancer

The belief that cell phones cause cancer is a persistent one, despite a complete lack of evidence. 

Scientific American recently published an article on this topic, noting that a recently completed $24 million study which "encompassed more than 12,000 long-term regular cell phone users from 13 countries, about half of whom were brain cancer patients, which let researchers compare the two groups."  The study found - wait for it - no link between cell phones and cancer.

I am starting to feel that this and other such "persistent despite a complete lack of evidence" beliefs belong in the category of myth and religion.  What else can you say about a belief which has absolutely no basis in fact, and never has? 

Does Light At Night Make You Fat?

Guess what?  It's another mouse study!  This one found that dim light at night (instead of darkness) causes mice to eat more.  Naturally our nation's appallingly bad science reporting has seized upon this as, "TV at night makes you fat!"

Problem #1: Mice are not people.  I SHOULDN'T HAVE TO POINT THIS OUT. 

When you're talking about a physiological study, like a cancer medicine, that's one thing.  Physiologically, mice are somewhat similar to people. 

Similar enough to show that yes, spraying Axe Body Effect into your eyeballs is "not recommended."  Mice studies are a great way to determine toxicity.

Does Diet Soda Make You Fat?

It's the classic example of "confusing cause and effect," or "correlation does not imply causation."  Only fat people drink diet soda, therefore diet soda must cause obesity.  Har har!

Then again, lately several groups have been speaking up against diet sodas for various reasons.  Most anti-soda advocates are working from a place of mistrust and fear when it comes to the chemical ingredients in diet soda.  Artificial sweeteners have long been the whipping boy of the health food movement. 

This has always struck me as a particularly insidious form of dietary Puritanism.  Some people seem more annoyed that, by drinking diet soda, consumers get to have their cake and eat it too. 

Aching Joints: Caused By Weather?

It's practically a cliché: "My knee is acting up - must be gonna rain today!"  I had always heard that this was a delusion or an old wive's tale; the placebo effect in reverse.  I wrote it off as just another bit of health-related superstition.

Until it happened to me.

In the spring of 2009, I fell and broke the sesamoid bone in my right wrist.  (It's pretty much the same bone that everyone breaks, when they break their wrist.  Welcome to the club!) 

It took a long time to fully heal, more than a year.  During that time I often felt the pain come and go, like a difficult pest that refuses to be eradicated entirely.