Last week, BBC’s Panorama did an expose on the Scientologists, a cult that believes we are all imprisoned space aliens. This week, the same programme is purporting to prove that wi-fi fries your brain. And so, the cosmic balance of the BBC’s sensible/face-slappingly idiotic halves is once again restored.
I don’t really know where to start. James Randerson gives it a gentle booting in the Guardian, which broadly sums up the response, but no words can quite describe the sheer appallingness of comparing a mobile phone mast signal from 100m away with a wi-fi signal from 1m away and coming up with the scare statistic that the latter is 3 times more powerful than the former. So I have to get this off my chest. Indulge me.
If the two signals were exactly the same strength, the inverse square law would mean that with a distance differential of 100, the 1m away signal would be 10,000 times more powerful. So, taking that into account, you can conclude from these figures that the wi-fi signal is more than 3,000 times weaker than the mobile phone mast (3,333 point 3 recurring, but who’s counting?). The mobile phone mast which, lest us forget, there is no evidence causes any harm in the first place.
It beats me why they stopped their. If they had compared a wi-fi signal from 10 cm with a mobile phone mast signal from 1 km away, they could have shouted about wi-fi being 30,000 times stronger than mobile phones. That sounds much scarier. And why not? There’s nothing particularly significant about 1m and 100m – just two numbers they plucked out of the air.
Compared to all this, Scientology sounds positively evidence-based, and at least Martin Durkin can come up with a couple of impressive looking graphs. On which point, I recommend everyone picks up a copy of this week’s New Scientist, which rather satisfyingly eviscerates the Great Global Warming Swindle point by point (in fact, the online version appears to have even more myth debunking).