Friday, Febuary 4, 2011


It can be safely argued that the biggest threat to life on this planet is ignorance, followed perhaps by global warming. The lights over most of the Northeastern United States and parts of Canada began to flicker at 4:11 pm on Thursday, August 14, 2003. It was the start of the most extensive electrical blackout in history, covering the entire Northeast and parts of Canada, yet no one understood how it happened. Five electric power companies that shared a common grid pointed fingers at one another. The purpose of the grid is clear: electric power cannot be stored. Power companies must generate the exact amount of power that is being used, adjusting to every electrical switch that is thrown. Linking power companies in a grid should mean a statistically smoother demand, thus reducing local blackouts. But the grid has grown so complex no one understood it. The Recovery and Reinvestment Act called for a smarter electric grid that could accurately anticipate demand. This would start with the use of smart power meters. For most of you, the meter reader hacking his way through your shrubs to get at the power meter has been replaced by a Wi-Fi that can update consumption at frequent intervals. Accurate data on power consumption patterns would benefit both the power company and the consumer. As WN has repeatedly observed, the energy of microwave photons is about 1 million times too low to cause ionization. No ionization, no cancer. If the laws of physics don't work for you, I should point out that the radiation emitted by a smart meter adds up to about one Watt when it's transmitting, which it usually is not; that's less than a cell phone. Moreover, people don't usually hold their power meter against the side of their head for hours. However, if you choose to crouch down behind the rhododendrons and hug your power meter all day long you will still suffer no ill effects from microwaves. That's the great thing about being a mammal; we maintain a constant temperature winter and summer. But even if you're a frog, I don't think 1 W would be a problem. However, if you're an Indian frog it might be another matter.


Last year the World Health Organization completed a 10 year, $14 million study of mobile phone use in 13 countries. The WHO study concluded "more study is needed," . India has responded to the WHO call with a 58-page study of its own according to today's Science Insider. An Indian government panel warns that emissions from cell phones may pose a hazard to public health. In a comment certain to arouse controversy, one panelist wrote that Indians may be more vulnerable to such radiation than Europeans because they live in a tropical climate and, on average, have a lower body fat content.


In 1543 Nicolaus Copernicus published De revolutionibus orbium coelestium describing a heliocentric solar system in which Earth is just one of several planets orbiting our Sun. Were there people on these other planets? It was a dangerous question. Religion claimed title to creation, and heresy was punishable by death. Four centuries later, the question still gnaws at us. But the Kepler exoplanets are far, far away. What could we see with a super telescope.

Bob Park can be reached via email at
Opinions are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the University, but they should be.