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Education The Media Science

BBC Kicked out of School Over Wi-Fi Scaremongering 279

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?"
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BBC Kicked out of School Over Wi-Fi Scaremongering

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  • 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.
  • Re:*GASP* (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Salmar ( 991564 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @05:20PM (#19285449) Homepage
    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 collaboration is flawed.
  • *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.
  • by malsdavis ( 542216 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @05:57PM (#19285719)
    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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2007 @06:08PM (#19285809)
    > 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 turned on by the pain she feels, every single time. She can tell if there are none on, the left one is on, the right one is on, or both are on. Do it too long, and she's out of action with a killer headache for hours. Sneak a wifi source into a place she didn't expect to be around one, and she'll tell me where it is within seconds. Take one out of a place she expected one to be and she'll remark on how she can actually go into that place without being in a mental fog.

    Yet her docs tell her she's imagining it. Got any other reason she can pick which of two wifi access points are turned on, through a wall, with no hardware but her own head?
  • Re:Prove it? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2007 @06:26PM (#19285971)
    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.

    Have you had that verified by scientists in a double blind study? I believe you're just imagining it every time you're around electronic equipment, and only believe you're hearing such noises because you're seeing the equipment.
  • by Xenographic ( 557057 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @06:38PM (#19286075) 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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2007 @06:40PM (#19286089)
    Yeah - this is third or fouth article I read in a row having an outrageously misleading summary. Worse, they all seemed to be intentionally misleading. Take the summary of this article as an example. If you've even so much as glimpsed at the article, you cannot come up with such a summary without the intent to mislead the audience. This has got to stop, but the only solution I can think of would be to give all the editors the boot and start over with new ones. In the meantime I'll be looking for a Slashdot replacement.
  • Have you had that verified by scientists in a double blind study? I believe you're just imagining it every time you're around electronic equipment, and only believe you're hearing such noises because you're seeing the equipment.

    I hear cathode ray tube TVs every time they're turned on and am continually amazed when other people don't. It's not just from seeing the TV. If a fairly big CRT is on in the next room, I can hear it pretty easily if the room is only somewhat quiet. It's a light, but high pitched, constant whine. Very distinctive. LCD's don't emit it. Just CRTs.

    I live in europe so all our video games run in 50Hz by default, but in recent years have offered a 60Hz option. Often I'll choose the 50Hz option because at 60Hz the CRT's whine becomes noticeably louder. After a while you sometimes get used to it, but not often at 60Hz.

    Other people have given me funny looks when I ask them to the game back to 50Hz, or to turn off a TV on static or on mute. I'm not convinced that they can't hear the sound, but instead have simply mentally filtered it out. Sometimes I test them and the occasional one finally realizes that there is a sound, but not often.

    If I had to make a wild, unsubstantiated guess, I'd say that most people, in the country where I live, have mentally tuned out the constant background 50Hz hum from each and every electronic device that surrounds them every day of their lives, and which is powered by the national electricity grid supplying AC power at 50Hz.

    Or maybe my inner ears are just deformed. Who knows.
  • Re:*GASP* (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jaelle ( 655155 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @07:00PM (#19286273) Homepage
    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2007 @11:11PM (#19288323)
    according to the bbc its £135.50 a year. which isn't much considering what that includes.

    link - http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/licencefee/ [bbc.co.uk]

    The BBC provides 8 interactive TV channels, 10 radio networks, over 50 local TV and radio services and bbc.co.uk (see BBC channels). In January 2006 we launched BBC jam, a free online learning service for 5 to 16 year olds, linked to key areas of the school curriculum.

    Anyone who refuses to pay this and is proud should really be ashamed.

    The bbc provide more information avenues then any other news media on earth which is great. The bbc is one of the reasons I'm proud to be British. To say they do not produce anything worthy of the fee well frankly is insulting. even radio 4 + the online radio service make it worth the money.

  • Re:*GASP* (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Frozen Void ( 831218 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @01:21AM (#19289147) Homepage
    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:*GASP* (Score:2, Interesting)

    by damium ( 615833 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @01:55AM (#19289369)
    Interesting, I was under the impression that critical reasoning skills were developed by logical sciences (math) and not by the more physical sciences. When I took biology I don't remember using any critical reasoning skills myself. It may just be the methods we use to teach kids these days but I don't see critical reasoning in about 90% of what we are teaching.
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @05:57AM (#19290517) Journal
    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 quoting bits of it. No matter what happens now, the FUD is out there and will continue to spread, and the rest of us will have to waste a lot of time explaining to people that, no, their WiFi isn't going to eat them. Thanks Auntie.
  • Re:Occam's razor (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kevorkian ( 142533 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @08:19AM (#19291159)
    one problem with that , its not 10k years. Humans have know about radio for only a few hundred. But thats not even the point here.

    I think summarily dismissing it would be a very naive and arrogant thing to do.The idea is not as far fetched as you may think. EM sensitivity has been proven in the animal kingdom , Think homing pigeons and there internal compass.Which means that nature, as a whole , knows how to detect an electromagnetic signal outside of the normal visible light range. Why would it be such a far stretch to think that the human animal could not develop that sense ? either by design or a mutation.

    She very well may be a crackpot in a tin foil hat.

    However , If the chick claims that she can sense a wifi access point , and anecdotal reports support it. Then it warrents further study.
    We know almost nothing about how the human brain works. Even with the recent mapping of our dna , we still have no idea what most of it does. Why cant some part of that be something that was able to detect EM of some sort. Which has been activated in some way in her and has become resonant at the frequency that the wifi access point is transmitting at ?

    Thats all I am saying.

    To say "it sounds crazy so it must be" , is just stupid.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 27, 2007 @12:13PM (#19292521)
    Right. Which is why the BBC are working on iMP, and already support on-demand services from Virgin Media and BT.

    No doubt you'll find some other excuse once iMP is fully launched.

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn