Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Education The Media Science

BBC Kicked out of School Over Wi-Fi Scaremongering 279

Posted by Zonk
from the i-thought-the-beeb-was-one-of-the-good-guys dept.
h2g2bob writes "Ben Goldacre reports that the BBC Panorama team, while scaremongering over the dangers of Wi-fi, were told to leave the school because even the kids could see it was dumb: 'When the children saw Alasdair's Powerwatch website, and the excellent picture of the insulating mesh beekeeper hat that he sells (£27) to protect your head from excess microwave exposure, they were astonished and outraged. Panorama were calmly expelled from the school.' Should we be pleased that the kids can out-think TV producers?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

BBC Kicked out of School Over Wi-Fi Scaremongering

Comments Filter:
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @04:40PM (#19285171) Journal

    Should we be pleased that the kids can out-think TV producers?"
    The right question is: "Should we be surprised that the kids can out-think TV producers?"
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by noidentity (188756)
      Also, should we be ashamed that TV viewers still put up with this crap? (or even watch TV anymore?)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by celardore (844933) *
        I live in the UK, and I love being able to say I don't pay for a TV licence. I genuinely don't receive TV, and have even had a TV Licence inspector come into my home to verify this.

        Which is an awful shame, because many television companies are producing quality entertainment worldwide, but I'm not allowed to view it because the BBC need the UK population to fund them directly through taxation.

        *sigh* BBC, you command no respect from me. I like your news site, but as a British citizen, I don't appreci
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by oh_bugger (906574)
          The BBC's not all bad. I think the biggest benefit is the pushing forward of standards such as producing most programs in widescreen and now in HD. Also they're supporting a new free satellite system and attempting to defend Freeview from the government who'd rather sell off bandwidth and force high definition transmissions into existing bandwidth.
        • by hughk (248126) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @03:14AM (#19289775) Journal

          The people enforcing the TV licenses in the UK have nothing to do with the BBC and you are right, they do behave obnoxiously tending to scare people into paying but it is a tax that only applies to those with the means to receive TV programs. However they do enforce the collection of a fee that the BBC mostly benefits from.

          I guess you haven't travelled much. Modern programming costs money, lots of it. In Germany you pay for a TV license, actually more than the UK and they still carry advertisements. As for the US, it the ads are intrusive. For most satellite TV you pay for a subscription AND you get the ads. There is a wonderful story about a Top Gear program that was particularly acerbic towards a car where the manufacturer's CEO threatened to pull the advertisements, he was somewhat confused when informed, they carried no advertising. For the Murdoch empire, they tread carefully to avoid offendinfg advertisers. The BBC doesn't have to do this.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)
          I pay a TV license even though I haven't watched broadcast TV (I still watch TV rented on DVD) for months. I pay it mainly because I felt the news web site was worth funding. Next time it's up for renewal, I will cancel it, however, for two reasons:
          1. I don't want my money used to help Microsoft illegally gain a new monopoly (video encoding / DRM).
          2. I don't want my money used to fund pseudo-scientific scare mongering.

          The first I heard of this this Panorama episode was when my yoga instructor started quoti

    • by morari (1080535) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @05:34PM (#19285533) Journal
      Only in America...
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      > Should we be pleased that the kids can out-think TV producers?

      I think we should be scared that so many people are immediately jumping onto the "can't possibly be a problem" with wifi thing, completely ignoring the effects on people who ARE affected by wifi. Been there, done that, then tried to disprove a friend's ability to detect wifi access points. Putting her in one room of a house, with two wifi access points about 12ft apart in another room behind opposite ends of a wall, she can pick which one is
      • Prove it? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2007 @06:20PM (#19285925)
        No, I don't mean in your own setting, but in a double-blind one with actual scientists. If she could prove that, it might well be interesting.

        As for me, I can't detect wifi, but I can hear very high frequencies, and you might be surprised by some of the annoying electronic gear that gives them off. Now *that* can sure cause a headache, but it's just sound, not radio.

        Also, does she get like this around microwaves, too? There are more things to detect than radio, y'know, and if she was really sensitive to radio waves, I'd expect her to have gone batty long ago given all the broadcasts. So I'm not the least bit convinced that you've isolated the actual problem, sorry.
      • by Xenographic (557057) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @06:38PM (#19286075) Homepage Journal
        Whatever might be causing their symptoms, it's apparently NOT electromagnetic waves. See this [badscience.net] for details. It may be a very real symptom, but you should be more careful when making claims about WHAT caused it and you need a proper scientific study to rule out any other causes.

        Until then, I'm going to have to go with all the published studies showing that, whatever might cause people to feel "EM sensitive", it's not actually EM that's causing it.
      • by siodine (984411) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @06:54PM (#19286221)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by KillerCow (213458)

      Should we be pleased that the kids can out-think TV producers?"
      The right question is: "Should we be surprised that the kids can out-think TV producers?"

      The right question is: "Should we be surprised that the kids have been lulled into a sense of unquestioning trust of our corporate overlords and technology?"

      Lead additives to paint and blinds turned out to be totally safe (not). And the blue ditto machines were too (methanol exposure). Mercury fillings (banned in Europe at least). All those banned pestici

  • *GASP* (Score:5, Insightful)

    by VE3OGG (1034632) <VE3OGG@EINSTEINrac.ca minus physicist> on Saturday May 26, 2007 @04:41PM (#19285175)
    You mean children might actually be able to differentiate truth from fiction? But that's unpossible, how can their schools control them then?

    *Sigh*

    I've seen similar situations -- namely when some high school students saw Bowling for Columbine. Teacher couldn't believe they might actually be able to see flaws in the reasoning...
    • Re:*GASP* (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @04:47PM (#19285229)
      An intelligent child can certainly possess a measure of critical-thinking ability, one which is unadulterated by the learned preconceptions of their elders. Adults are often blinded by their own mental programming, by their own expectations of reality: children have had no such limitations imposed upon them yet.
      • I think knowledge is the true defeater of kooks and con-men. I suspect your average kid, living more and more in a wireless world, knows reasonably well that the frequencies and power levels most common-place consumer-grade WiFi equipment works at isn't terribly likely to cause any harm.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ColdWetDog (752185)

      You mean children might actually be able to differentiate truth from fiction? But that's unpossible, how can their schools control them then?

      Not to worry, they're only 5th graders. By the time they "graduate" from high school, most of them will have whatever spark of intellect and curiosity beat out of them. They won't complain, just consume.

      **Sigh**

      [insert comments on home schooling, or at the very least, teaching your kids how to think and how to remain sentient beings here.]

      • Re:*GASP* (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @05:04PM (#19285337)
        While I generally agree, I do strongly oppose home schooling. What your kid would miss out is the contact with other kids, not just their friends but actually finding a way to work together with people they didn't choose but that were "forced" onto them. Much like they'll later encounter in business life.

        Rather, I'd suggest schools that actually encourage pupil creativity and that promote the use of their intellect. Those schools exist, though you'll hardly find any public schools that are run like that. There, your kids would probably rather be dumbed down so they don't mess up the class average.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Salmar (991564)
          From my personal experience, I must disagree. I was homeschooled through grades 3-12, having no major lack of friends or teamwork situations. For example, I've just completed the second of two college courses in software practice, requiring collaboration on a multi-team scale, and not only was I in several respects the leading figure of our four-man team, but we were able to consistently impress the faculty. The proposal that lack of a more public schooling environment eliminates social interaction and c
          • by jez9999 (618189)
            Seems you were home-schooled well, but can you imagine being the kid of one of those creationist zealots, being home-schooled? Think they'd gain critical reasoning skills?
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Frozen Void (831218)
              Its the problem of parents worldview,in ideal world homeschooling would be the best option for the kids.
              Besides the kids of creationist parents are likely to go to christian private school which would indoctrinate them more then their parents could.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Belial6 (794905)
          "While I generally agree, I do strongly oppose home schooling. What your kid would miss out is the contact with other kids, not just their friends but actually finding a way to work together with people they didn't choose but that were "forced" onto them. Much like they'll later encounter in business life."

          About a couple of years ago a home schooling advocate was telling me how the public school system was specifically created to push social programs through, and indoctrinate our children. When I first
          • I'm not saying you should send your kids to public schools. Personally, if I was in the US, the very last place I'd have my children "educated" would be public schools. Not only since the "no child left behind" public schools are a leveling field. I "enjoyed" a public education (which isn't as bad here as it is in the US), because my parents thought it would be wrong to separate me from my friends. Looking back, it would have been the right decision to put me in that school for "gifted" kids.

            What I say is t
            • by Belial6 (794905)
              What country is that, as I have not heard of any that ban home schooled kids from socializing with other children?
          • by dkf (304284)

            That is that public school is not about learning the three 'R's, but a social program.

            That's because public schools seem to be totally fucked up in the US. Some bunch of citizens need to fix that. But you can't generalize from "public schools are fscked in the US" to "public schools are fscked" without a great deal more evidence, and in fact if you look in other countries, public schools are in a lot better condition. (OK, people there also worry about education - that's reasonable because it is important -

        • by MrCrassic (994046)

          Actually, I have heard otherwise. I have heard from home-schooled adults that there exists programs that unite home-schooled children in a very similar manner, such as home-schooled choirs (some of which who outrank their public or private school ilk). Furthermore, there are many home-schooled children and teenagers that are able to go to top-level schools and participate in many school functions, mostly in a normal manner.

          However, the only issue that I have with the home-schooled movement is that many pe

        • by uhlume (597871)

          What your kid would miss out is the contact with other kids, not just their friends but actually finding a way to work together with people they didn't choose but that were "forced" onto them. Much like they'll later encounter in business life.

          Sorry. That's an interesting speculation, but as someone who was actually homeschooled K-12, and not just, you know, engaging in uninformed supposition: I call bullshit. I never had any more opportunity than my public school peers to pick and choose who I interacted w

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by jaelle (655155)
          The 'socialization' kids get in school is so skewed that it's quite harmful, actually.
          Between bullying and nowhere near enough contact with adults, you end up with people who really don't know how to be adults when they get into the real world.

          Homeschooling my kids was the best thing I ever did for them, and they remind me of it regularly. They're independent, employed, have many good friends, and are a blast to hang out with now.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Sigma 7 (266129)

          While I generally agree, I do strongly oppose home schooling. What your kid would miss out is the contact with other kids, not just their friends but actually finding a way to work together with people they didn't choose but that were "forced" onto them.

          This is not an issue with homeschooling, as these issues still persist (or are significantly worse) in public schools. For example:

          • The social structure in public schools bears no resemblance to either a realistic or healthy society. Problematic children are given free reign matched only by the Grand Theft Auto series, where the authorities "forget" about problems.
          • Contact with other kids is "forced" with a false statement saying that contact is always good. As a result, you have taunting, exploitive re
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DamnStupidElf (649844)
          While I generally agree, I do strongly oppose home schooling. What your kid would miss out is the contact with other kids, not just their friends but actually finding a way to work together with people they didn't choose but that were "forced" onto them. Much like they'll later encounter in business life.

          Just because a child is home schooled does not mean they are shut-ins. There are team sports, neighbors, extended family members, and plenty of other "forced" contacts. The best public school can offer i
      • insert comments on home schooling, or at the very least, teaching your kids how to think

        Glad to! We pulled our kids out of public school seven years ago, in part because no sort of critical thinking was being taught. Older one's in college now, younger one will be in 12th grade this fall. Best decision we ever made as parents.
        • by jez9999 (618189)
          Older one's in college now

          Hope they're learning about the evils of copyright infringement...
    • by Zeinfeld (263942)
      They say that the Powerwatch guy was the only person with the specialized equipment required.

      Hogwash, the BBC has plenty of RF engineers working for them in the engineering department. They invented an obscure device called T-E-L-E-V-I-S-I-O-N back in the 1930s.

      • by kd5ujz (640580)

        They invented an obscure device called T-E-L-E-V-I-S-I-O-N back in the 1930s.


        Wrong. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philo_T._Farnsworth [wikipedia.org]
        • I don't think anyone has reliably claimed that the BBC themselves invented television, but if you want to start arguing for Farnsworth as its inventor, then no to that as well. He (arguably) invented the first wholly electronic television system, but others- including perhaps most notably the famous John Logie Baird- had working television systems before that.

          Admittedly these were electromechanical disk-based systems, and a wholly electronic TV system was a major innovation worthy of respect- certainly p
  • While the BBC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MemoryDragon (544441) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @04:42PM (#19285187)
    normally is an icon of good journalism, I see a tendency worldwide that scaremongering for the sake of getting more viewers takes more and more over. Call it how you will but Michael Moore basically brought this excellent into perspective in bowling for columbine.

    This scaremongering is one of the causes why people are more concerned over a handful of dead people in the western world per year caused by terrorism than thousands and thousands of people dead caused by traffic. I personally think this scaremongering is a misuse of free speach and the problem is, if a system or right is misused too much in it will end up dead...
    • Re:While the BBC (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rlp (11898) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @04:48PM (#19285239)
      normally is an icon of good journalism

      No, the BBC used to be an icon of good journalism. They've gone downhill dramatically the past few years. What really saddens me, is that the same is true of "The Economist". I was a long time subscriber, but finally gave up about a year ago.
      • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @05:09PM (#19285369)
        People don't want to listen to information. Information is like school, and school was boring, right? People want to be entertained, at best they can be convinced to sit through some spectacular show that gives them a few tidbits of "information" between the explosions and stunts.

        I can see it in our TV program. About 20 years ago, we had talk shows (no, not the Springer kind. Talk shows where experts discussed controversal topics. And with discussed I don't mean "support the official opinion and nod heads", but real discussion), we had news that deserved the name (with reporters that did dig deeper, and didn't only bring up dirt but real information), and we had entertainment above the pie-in-the-face level.

        Then we got private TV and the quality of our public stations went where the viewers are: Basement level.
        • About 20 years ago, we had talk shows (no, not the Springer kind. Talk shows where experts discussed controversal topics.

          Damn right. I miss the olden days...

          Krusty: [chuckles] Good evening. Tonight my guest is AFL/CIO chairman
          George Meany, who will be discussing collective bargaining
          agreements.
          Meany: It's a pleasure to be here, Krusty.
          Krusty: Let me be blunt: is there a labor crisis in America today?
          [looks bored

    • Bowling for Columbine: a film scaremongering about scaremongering!
    • by belmolis (702863)

      I too used to believe that the BBC was the Voice of God, but I've been disillusioned. Their straight (that is, nonscience) news seems to be good as ever, but around 1990 their science coverage started to go bad. My first experience of this was when they broadcast a "documentary" on how all human languages are descended from a single mother tongue that can be, and has been, reconstructed. The people interviewed were cranks, with one brief appearance by a mainstream historical linguist. It was just loaded wi

      • by jez9999 (618189)
        Their straight (that is, nonscience) news seems to be good as ever

        Apparently you've never seen them 'debating' a contraversial issue such as immigration, multiculturalism, the impact of Islam, etc. Neutral my arse.
    • WRH! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xtifr (1323)
      Michael Moore? I think you give the man too much credit! What about William Randolph Hearst [wikipedia.org], whose scaremongering successfully helped start a war, and for whom the term "Yellow Journalism" was coined? I agree that it's a significant problem, but it's hardly a new or recent phenomenon. (Though I suppose an argument can be made for a primarily American origin, which makes it sad to see the BBC succumbing.)
    • by ndogg (158021)
      Bowling for Columbine is pretty much the only good documentary Moore has done. It wasn't scaremongering. If anything, it was anti-scaremongering.

      Also, anybody who says it was an anti-gun movie has obviously not seen it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by foobat (954034)
      god, you should of seen the program, they were going around with "radiation testers" comparing it to the level of phone masts and then saying

      "So what about near this laptop then"
      "OMG IT IS SO HIGH HERE"
      "And this would be about the height of a child's head wouldn't it?"
      "OMG THINK OF THE CHILDREN"

      Then they went around talking to random people who were "sensitive to wi-fi" and got headaches and crap. It was exactly the same as the people who go around claiming to be psychic, the woman had actually TIN FOILED H
  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @04:43PM (#19285197) Journal
    ...the UK version of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? will be a big hit.
  • Good on ya (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jayemji (1054886) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @04:46PM (#19285221)
    Those kids are alright. They were skeptical of something that was total baloney. Granted, it may have been obvious drivel, but the fact that they spoke up at all indicates that they will at least speak their minds.
  • Show me a rigorous, controlled, double-blind study or smegg off.
  • Quick!! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Somebody forward this to Jack Thompson!!! His claim that children cannot differentiate reality and fiction from video games is now null and void!!
  • by KDR_11k (778916)
    That hat seems to me like it'd make a nice tinfoil hat alternative.
    • by nametaken (610866)
      It's both funny and frightening... because that's exactly what he was going for. And here we thought the tinfoil has was just something people referenced as a joke. :(
  • by DreadfulGrape (398188) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @04:57PM (#19285295)
    We should be pleased from the standpoint that these kids could clearly see bullshit for what it is. TV news & documentary producers no longer care about accuracy, so long as they can scare their audience and get them worked up over imagined fears.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @04:59PM (#19285317)
    Am I the only one who misread that as the "BBC Paranoia team" after reading the headline?
  • Outraged? (Score:5, Funny)

    by wumpus188 (657540) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @05:03PM (#19285327)
    I would be too. £27 for beekeeper hat when tinfoil one is free. Damn scammers.
  • by Dulcise (840718) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @05:04PM (#19285331)
    What makes me pleased about reading this article, is that the school protected it's pupils from the producers pseudo-science, and didn't allow them to continue. Hopefully this will mean in the future these children will know to be weary of sensationalist TV shows & films.

    I hope all schools are instilling the same sort of thinking (looking for scientific method) in their pupils, it might result to a smarter tomorrow :)
  • Uh, did anybody read the article? I don't find anything in it about the kids detecting the BS. It was the science teacher who realized that the Panorma crew was pulling a scam and threw them out. Kudos to him, but this episode doesn't tell us anything about the ability of the kids to detect nonsense.

    • The one point at which the kids are reported to have been outraged was when they looked at his beekeeper (tinfoil) hat, which isn't really the same point. Otherwise, they are reported as having made some valid points (e.g. that they don't get such high levels because they aren't allowed to download files), but they're points of detail that don't necessarily invalidate the whole thing (wifi might be dangerous even if those particular kids aren't in danger - after all, other people do download files). The cr

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by malsdavis (542216)
      The summary really doesn't reflect the story at all. Plus, the article itself takes a few factual statements and then adds a large amount of speculation on the matter also.

      Ironic that an extremely misleading program should be examined in an extremely misleading article (not to mention the summary being completely wrong, but we've come to expect that nowadays on Slashdot).
    • by lixee (863589) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @07:27PM (#19286525)

      Uh, did anybody read the article?
      You must be new here.
  • Anyone who lisens to the BBC world service is already used to this. Biofuels will cause deforestation and starvation, hydroelectric dams cause the release of greenhouse gases, etc., etc.
    • Or are you genuinely comparing reportage of the verifiable doubling of corn prices because of US bioethanol policy and resultant riots in Mexico, the verifiable destruction of rainforest to grow palm oil and soy beans for fuel feedstocks [biofuelwatch.org.uk] and the verifiable release of methane from rotting vegetation, submerged below hydroelectric reservoirs with the speculative ramblings of a journo with no statistic evidence that 2.4Ghz spectrum microwave emissions cause anything other than mild localized tissue heating?
  • What do you mean doesn't work? I wear mine all the time and I still haven't gotten any excess microwave radiation in my head. Also, no bee stings.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by 10Neon (932006)
      More people die every year to bee stings than quite a lot of thing people are generally terrified about. Maybe you're onto something!
    • by 6Yankee (597075)
      Just wait till a wi-fi-enabled bee finds its way in there... Won't be so smug then, will ya?
  • *sigh* (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ant P. (974313) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @05:53PM (#19285691) Homepage
    This is the same BBC Panorama that sent one poor bastard out alone to do a report on Scientology. Maybe it's the same person, and they made him crack.
  • The "light" spectrum or energy spectrum is vast. Starting at the upper end with Gamma rays (10^-11 meters) on down to radio waves (10^-1 meters).

    So if some people want to make their homes free of intruding energy waves, that's their thing and maybe we can learn something.

    The above is not an easy task for two reasons. First energy spectrum our society produces. We are quite dependent now and getting more so on these. From cell phones to RIFD to WWV time updates to plain old electric power (ever stuck a tubul
    • by Detritus (11846)
      You, yourself, are a source of EM radiation. Lookup "black-body radiation". What are you going to do? Freeze yourself in liquid helium?
    • The "light" spectrum or energy spectrum is vast. Starting at the upper end with Gamma rays (10^-11 meters) on down to radio waves (10^-1 meters).

      We are suspicious of microwaves but we absolutely bathe ourselves in infra-red radiation from heaters, open fires, the sun, etc.

  • by 21st Century Peon (812997) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @06:04PM (#19285771)
    While I still think that the TV Licence is a great way to pay for my TV, and can often produce splendid telly (Life In The Undergrowth, The Day Today, Doctor Who, What The Victorians Did For Us to name but a few), the dragging down of the once-great Corporation to the level of the lowest commercial channels (yes, Reality TV - I'm also talking about you) brings a mournful tear to my eye.

    Britain used to make really good documentary shows, too - Dispatches, anyone? Q.E.D.? Channel 4's Equinox, I seem to recall, could also be counted on for a refreshing brain-jiggle. You wouldn't catch 'em making anything like that anymore, of course - not when there's slaggy morons to build into role models.

    And if they produce a "Deal Or No Deal"-aping enormobrowed-yahoos-receive-unearned-prizes celebration of dimwittedness, I'm fairly certain my head will explode. (Man Alive, I sound old.)
  • There's some bad science on right there. They effectively say radio waves are the same kind of radiation as light. Whilst this is true (being on the electromagnetic spectrum) his use implies that it has similar effects. Not even even all types of light are without risks (UV for example) let alone things far apart on the scale. Gamma radiation is also on the scale, I doubt he'd suggest that's harmless.

    low level microwave exposure is thought to be (mostly) harmless but it's not known 100% and large level ex

  • I was under the impression that all BBC employees were Oxford profs, who compose poetry during tea, and stand atop mountains to sing opera.
    • by belmolis (702863)

      Oxford profs, who compose poetry during tea

      There's the problem. As we all know, science is based on mathematics, and mathematics is based on coffee.

  • Step 1. "Put Mind-Fogging juice in an exciting product everybody wants. In fact, make the Mind-Fogging juice a primary component of that product."

    Step 2. "When people start asking, 'Is Mind-Fogging juice safe?' you give a lot of money to PR agents and have them stand guard over the media, propping up stories and studies which make people asking the question look like alarmist idiots, while working to remove funding and media attention from those trying to answer the question honestly."

    Step 3. "Offer misle

"Well hello there Charlie Brown, you blockhead." -- Lucy Van Pelt

Working...