Near which of my vital organs should I carry my phone?

The science on mobile phone radiation is settled?

Maybe not:

Bill Bruno, theoretical biologist at Los Alamos, says otherwise… the traditional idea that microwaves aren’t strong enough to affect human tissues only applies when the number of photons in a space equivalent to a cubic wavelength is less than one. When the density is higher, photons can interfere constructively—that is, the effects can compound and interact in stronger ways than they normally could.

Bruno cites optical tweezers as an example. We know that optical tweezers, which use photons to manipulate very small objects like cells, can do damage to structures. That’s well documented. And that’s because the photons are piled on—the more photons, the stronger the force (and the more potential damage).

…it raises questions about whether the same is true of photons in the microwave range because one thing is clear: the density of photons per cubic wavelength in cell signals is many orders of magnitude greater than one. So, Bruno says, there is a mechanism by which damage could occur, and the conditions for that mechanism to work are present around cell phones and cell towers.

I suppose they want us to go back to cans and string.

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13 responses to “Near which of my vital organs should I carry my phone?

  1. Agent 86 had it well sussed with the shoe-phone.

  2. narcoticmusing

    I suppose they want us to go back to cans and string.

    Yes, but there would need to be regular warnings and/or disclaimers on the strings to ensure people don’t garrotte themselves.

  3. Inquiring minds would like to know if Bill Bruno has ever waited hungrily in front of his microwave oven for his TV dinner to cook. Microwaves next to water-logged tissure = heat. Heat does not cause cancer.

  4. It’s interesting how these ways that have “never before been considered” are inconsistent with the current laws of physics.

    BTW, this is clearly someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about. Interference (quantum or otherwise) is about how energy is distributed under time propagation. This has _nothing_ to do with what he’s trying to describe which is non-linearity.

    Also, it’s not photons that’s the issue (as it’s going on about in this article). Photons are the quantum of energy of a radiative field. The heating of water by microwaves is a non-radiative (or near field or DC) effect. Theories which references photons will be awfully confusing in this context because they will be of the “virtual” type.

    Speaking as a Physicist who thinks this “case is closed”, it is not resonant absorption of energy to break bonds which is the issue (as described in the article). Its heating and generation of free radicals because of that which is the issue. Of which, there is far too little heating to be of any major concern.

    Unfortunately, people who know better are busy doing real work rather than trying to outbid people like this for exposure in the media.

  5. narcoticmusing

    Hmm… our two resident physicists, perhaps you need to understand a bit more about how cancer works… heat can cause cancer. Even small amounts of heat. To be overly simplistic, anything that forces cells to become damaged or die at a rate higher than a person’s biological norm is a carcinogen. We don’t need to cause cancer with it in a mouse to prove that. We constantly all have cancer. The issue is if we deal with it or not.

    While I am not a physicist, I am a biochemist. And it is my understanding that electromagnetic radiation in the microwave spectrum and heat can both cause cell damage and disrupt t-lymphocyte detection of mutated oncagenes.

  6. jordanrastrick

    Philosophers’ turn. Science is never settled. By definition.

    However practically speaking, whatever your biochemical and physical models of the cancer risks from EMR are, all the empirical data we have so far (a lot) says if one exists, it is small. Certainly its not worth worrying about.

  7. jordanrastrick

    Ooh. I thought this was a peer reviewed paper, not a PhD’s arxiv pre print. Aren’t these new fangled tech blogs more in tune with how science operates than the old media?

  8. My phone generates more heat when reading an e-book than when making a phone call due to the greater CPU and LCD power usage of the e-book app. Those heat sources pale compared to the infrared photon soup my body swims in every time I boil the kettle and drink a cup of tea (I drink a lot of tea, so cumulative exposure is pretty high in my case :-) ).

    Even if we were to grant that heat was a cancer causing agent, there are plenty of other heat sources we would need to tackle first before we get to mobile phones.

  9. narcoticmusing

    Apologies, I didn’t mean to sound so sanctimonious. I was merely saying there is a very real risk regardless of the ‘current’ laws of physics (sorry that made me laugh), an increase in your chance of contracting cancer – but as Uniqerhys pointed out, lots of things increase that risk.

  10. It’s NOT the total energy absorbed (aka heat) that concerns me – it’s the demonstrated ability of particular frequencies to cause subtle changes in the conformation of various enzymes, and thus, subtle but sometimes important changes in activity.

    There are interesting results starting to come out, even in the macro level, about statistical differences between babies in humidicribs based on the EMR levels around, or peaks of suicide that correlate to the magnetic interference of thunderstorms, sleep quality, and other things (see my thoughts and a range of links from here). Even the build-up before thunderstorms seems to make my temporal lobe epilepsy worse for a few hours – I’m much more likely to have partial seizures and headaches. Transcranial magnetic stimulation makes a difference, or it wouldn’t now be under investigation for treating a range of problems including depression.

    The thing is, the most vital organ is the one that affects your kids. I’m a grandfather, thus happy enough having my phone in my front trouser pockets. After that, it’s the brain that’s important – and I do little talking on the phone – it’s mainly a tool for internet-on-the-go.

    Besides, phones are only one source of EMR, lots of other sources are becoming more pervasive and intense.

  11. Seems to me our beloved leader is being a tad flippant about a matter that warrants more serious conversation. As have some of his correspondents.

  12. narcoticmusing

    Dave – can you repost the link, the clicky doesn’t seem to be working…

  13. Austin Lund

    If you are worried about resonant absorption effects from RF fields, then you really shouldn’t. There is just no resonances at those frequencies (including configuration changes as mentioned above). You need _enormous_ non-linearities to get close to resonant absorption.

    However, as I stated above, radiative DC heating _does_ occur and is an issue if field strength is strong enough. But heating from energy dissipation within these devices is many orders of magnitude more than the heating from the milliwatts of RF heating from your phone (remember microwave opens heat using ~1000W). Thermal energy, which as stated above can have biochemical effects.

    I hate to say it, but I think most people’s fear of “radiation” comes from not knowing much about it rather than the knowing too much.

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