27 May 2007

wifi evils of bad sience

“Ooh its well into the red there,” says reporter Paul Kenyon, holding up the detector (19 minutes in). Gosh that sounds bad. Well into the red on what? It’s tricky to callibrate measurements, and to decide what to measure, and what the cut off point is for “red”. Panorama’s readings were “well into the red” on “The COM Monitor”, a special piece of detecting equipment designed from scratch and built by none other than Alasdair Philips of Powerwatch, the man who leads the campaign against WiFi. His bespoke device is manufactured exclusively for Powerwatch, and he will sell one to you for just £175. Alasdair decided what “red” meant on Panorama’s device. So not very independent then.

Last week's Panorama was on the ''danger" of wifi networks in schools. I missed the show but caught a preview of it on Radio 2 while I was out in the van. It bore no relation to the excellent BBC science reporting of my youth. I grew up on a steady diet of 'Tomorrow's World' and 'Horizon' but these days there is no 'Tomorrow's World' and 'Horizon' has been dumbed down beyond recognition. 'Panorama' used to be the Beeb's flagship current affairs strand but last week it indulged in bad science. I resisted the temptation to don my tinfoil hat and throw popcorn at the screen.

Let's get some perspective here people, the maximum legal output of a 2.4 wifi card in the UK is 100 mW. Your mobile phone can put out a legal maximum of 2W.

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