Friday, June 10, 2011
The WELL blog by Tara Parker-Pope was the top story in Tuesdays NYT Health
Section. Her story is not wrong, but its told in the wrong context.
Science is a search for cause and effect, not an epidemiologic majority.
To settle the question, WHO invited 31 experts to spend a week in Lyon,
the culinary capital of France, strategically located between the two best
wine regions. Meanwhile, much had been made of a study showing that the brain
is "activated" by microwave radiation. Of course, it is. The effect of
microwaves on the human brain, as on cold pizza, is to cause chemical
bonds to vibrate, which we sense as heat. Unlike cold pizza, however, the human
brain resists being heated. Deep within the brain, the hypothalamus, the
thing below the thalamus, senses any increase in blood temperature. It
calls on blood vessels in the heated area to expand, and increases the
heart rate. The fresh blood is a coolant, but incidentally, also
increases the rate of metabolism. "Microwaves have activated the brain," the human
observers shouted. The shout was heard in Lyon. Amidst the clinking of
glasses, the vote of the expert panel tipped from "no effect" to "possibly
carcinogenic to humans." What could it matter? No one is going to stop
using cell phones anyway. Does anyone care? One enormously powerful
group cares, the tort industry.
Since 1993, http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN93/wn012993.html, WN has
criticized media coverage of cell-phones and cancer in 76 weekly issues.
The media was also criticised in the Journal of the National Cancer
Mine is a small voice. Tara Parker- Pope would find the number of subscribers to WN
amusing, but I kept expecting someone in the media to realize that 5
billion is a very large number. Does it matter that people take unneeded
precautions? No, what matters is that they don't understand why it doesn't
matter. If one jury in Cupcake, SD awards monetary damages based
on "possibly carcinogenic to humans," there will be a stampede of tort
lawyers pushing class-action lawsuits.
Radioactive emissions from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power
plant in the early days following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami
disaster were understated by more than a factor of two. This come as
Chancellor Angela Merkel announces plans for Germany to exit nuclear power
by 2022. This comes even as world efforts to control global warming show no
progress. Hope of revitalizing nuclear power in the US is dead.
Yet unnamed, the two elements were first formed in 2004 and 2006 as a
result of a collaboration begun in 1990 by Russian and US scientists at the
joint Institute for nuclear research in Dubna, near Moscow. The two
elements decayed after a few milliseconds. The search continues for
possible stable elements.