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“Everything emits invisible waves, which kill you” could be an update to the old aphorism “everything kills you.” Nathaniel Rich’s article in the current issue of Harper’s Magazine investigates cell-phone radiation. Industry lobbyists insist that everything emitted by cell phones is innocuous—but can we trust them? Should we all be wearing headsets or even not using certain electronic devices at all?
In the past decade, hundreds of experiments have been conducted to determine whether cell-phone radiation might have any effect on human health. Rich’s article attempts to make sense of such baffling findings as these:
Exposure to cell-phone radiation hampers one’s ability to fall asleep. Exposure to cell-phone radiation makes one sleepy. Exposure to cell-phone radiation has no effect on sleep patterns.
Cell-phone radiation slows one’s cognitive reaction time. It makes one think faster. It has no effect on cognitive ability.
Cell-phone radiation reduces sperm count and sperm motility and increases the number of abnormal sperm. Cell-phone radiation does not harm the testicles.
Exposure to cell-phone radiation leads to single- and double-strand breaks in DNA and to numerous other forms of genetic damage. Exposure has no significant effect on DNA. The negative (no effect) studies outweigh the positive, and the reason the incriminating studies showed anything at all was that they were poorly, even incompetently, designed.
The brain of a child absorbs a much greater amount of radiation from a cell phone than does the brain of an adult. No, it does not. The absorption rate is twice as high, but only for children under eight.
The majority of studies on cell phones and human health have received funding from the telecommunications industry. Industry-funded studies are significantly more likely than independent studies to show that cell phones are safe.
To read Rich’s report in its entirety, click here to subscribe. By subscribing to the magazine, you will gain immediate online access to this article as well as all of the articles in the complete 160-year archives of Harper’s Magazine.
More from TedRoss:
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”