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In reality, the headband antenna was a sham
May 21, 2013 9:19 AM   Subscribe

How to Convince People WiFi Is Making Them Sick

Psychologists Michael Witthöft and G. James Rubin of King's College London explored whether frightening TV reports can encourage a nocebo effect. They recruited a group of subjects and showed half of them a clip from a BBC documentary about the potential dangers of wireless internet. (The BBC later acknowledged that the 2007 program was "misleading.") The remaining subjects watched a video about the security of data transmissions over mobile phones.

After watching the videos, subjects put on headband-mounted antennas. They were told that the researchers were testing a "new kind of WiFi," and that once the signal started they should carefully monitor any symptoms in their bodies. Then the researchers left the room. For 15 minutes, the subjects watched a WiFi symbol flash on a laptop screen.

In reality, there was no WiFi switched on during the experiment, and the headband antenna was a sham. Yet 82 of the 147 subjects—more than half—reported symptoms. Two even asked for the experiment to be stopped early because the effects were too severe to stand.


Previously: Sick from it all; NSFE (Not Safe For Electrosensitives).
posted by not_the_water (127 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is there a cheatsheet that provides a quick rebuttal to the anti-WiFi crowd? There are a couple of anti-WiFi folks who were elected as trustees to the local school board, and my son's school has since taken down its free (community) WiFi hotspot. Not the end of the world, but if trustees are focusing time and energy on dumb stuff like this, one can only wonder what's next.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:27 AM on May 21, 2013 [16 favorites]


It's only a matter of time before these people and the anti-fluoridators join forces.
posted by gucci mane at 9:33 AM on May 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I hear that the radio waves bounce off the aluminum ingested from drinking canned diet cokes but that if you take homeopathic henbane tablets and never EVER eat legumes you will be detoxified. This is all based on a super scientific study by some guy who's a cousin of somebody I knew in high school, but the FDA is suppressing the information.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:39 AM on May 21, 2013 [26 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the existence of Wi-Fi (and wireless Internet of other kinds) has harmed me, by allowing me to access websites on my phone when I should be doing more productive things.
posted by kmz at 9:40 AM on May 21, 2013 [31 favorites]


Wi-flo? Flo-fi?
posted by not_the_water at 9:40 AM on May 21, 2013


Some people consider themselves sensitive to electromagnetic fields? Electromagnetic fields are sensitive to me.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:41 AM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is there a cheatsheet that provides a quick rebuttal to the anti-WiFi crowd?

"You cannot prove a negative; however, no reputable study has shown a link between wifi and any medical issue." If they don't respond to that, they're not going to respond to anything, because they just fundamentally don't believe in science, or they feel they have to blame someone for something.
posted by Etrigan at 9:42 AM on May 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's almost as if there is some sort of "animal magnetism" induced by the powerful WiFi waves.
posted by benzenedream at 9:42 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Two even asked for the experiment to be stopped early because the effects were too severe to stand.

That made me pretty twitchy with rage.
posted by kbanas at 9:45 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


It is my understanding that the aluminum foil hats that are used to protect against wifi rays should be put on with the shiny side out.

However I have recently been told that the government has been telling people this for years because the shiny side out actually attracts and concentrates the rays for better mind reading by the NSA.

If any one can provide more guidance as to whether aluminum foil hats should be worn shiny side out (or in) please let me know. Also, please don't try to convince me they should not be worn at all.
posted by otto42 at 9:45 AM on May 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


First crack in the ghettos and now WiFi in the suburbs. The CIA really knows how to debilitate the masses.
posted by wcfields at 9:50 AM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is there a cheatsheet that provides a quick rebuttal to the anti-WiFi crowd?

Well, you're going to have to craft some orgonite, but if you can do that, I think you can get your point across pretty quickly. Just mix equal parts resin and metal shavings in an empty 2 liter soda bottle with the top three inches cut off. You'll want to pop some quartz crystals in (Lemurian, natch) before sticking the copper pipe through the opening.

Once the resin is dry, wrap the hardened orgonite and pipe with an alternating pattern of colored wire. Blue is best for targeting the Dumb Chakra, which you can easily do with your newly made mace. Just apply it vigorously to the anti-Wifi crowd member while screaming HOMEOPATHIC EDUCATION! HOMEOPATHIC EDUCATION! and they will find themselves illuminated or unconscious in no time.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:52 AM on May 21, 2013 [24 favorites]


It wasn't WiFi that was making them sick, it was SCIENCE!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:53 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is there a cheatsheet that provides a quick rebuttal to the anti-WiFi crowd?

How do you convince somebody who is frightened of ghosts that they shouldn't be frightened of ghosts?
posted by mhoye at 9:54 AM on May 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


I don't know why people are concerning themselves with this nonsense when there's real shit to worry about like chemtrails and mind-control via vaccinations.
posted by item at 9:57 AM on May 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


How do you convince somebody who is frightened of ghosts that they shouldn't be frightened of ghosts?

You reveal that it was actually Old Man Parsons all along, of course.
posted by mightygodking at 9:57 AM on May 21, 2013 [26 favorites]


You guys have it all wrong, it's the flouride, wifi, and chemicals in the vaccinations.
posted by Tin Foil Hat Squad Captain at 9:58 AM on May 21, 2013


There must have been wind turbines within 100 miles of the test site ...
posted by scruss at 9:59 AM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Lemurian Quartz!!!! I have been taught something new to laugh at thanks Robocop.
posted by mrgroweler at 10:00 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


How do you convince somebody who is frightened of ghosts that they shouldn't be frightened of ghosts?

In elementary school they took us on a field trip to the local Ghostbusters franchise where they let us see the containment unit, touch a proton pack (it's thermonuclear generator was disabled, of course) and play with some fake ectoplasm made from cornstarch and water.

They also gave us refrigerator magnets with their phone number on them along with the numbers for the police, fire department, and poison control.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 10:00 AM on May 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


Today is election day in Oregon, and in Portland there's a measure about fluoridating the water which is looking likely to fail because people don't like science and do like rotting teeth...

BUT! that's not the most egregious anti-science thing on the ballot... There's an idiot running for Director, Zone 6 of the Portland School District whose entire platform is that WiFi is giving kids cancer and forcing them out of the 3d world into a 2d one with the Facebooks.
posted by togdon at 10:00 AM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ah man, my power company is going through this nonsense while they try and roll out "smart meters".

Between the anti-science types and the black helicopter crowd, the chances of me getting real-time power consumption reporting is slim to none.
posted by madajb at 10:01 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


If they don't respond to that, they're not going to respond to anything, because they just fundamentally don't believe in science, or they feel they have to blame someone for something.

Don't forget ego! The allure of "winning" arguments and "rebelling" against the status quo by simply refusing to acknowledge scientific evidence because ["science doesn't know everything"/an insidious conspiracy!/fuck your "gotchas" I'll do what I want]. A lot of it is simple ego, fed by convincing uninformed people that you're tied in to what's really happening and no stinkin' scientist is gonna pull the wool over your eyes and there hasn't been an experiment invented that's more reliable than your gut feelings and some shit you read on the internet.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:01 AM on May 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


Not the end of the world, but if trustees are focusing time and energy on dumb stuff like this, one can only wonder what's next.

A meningitis or whooping cough outbreak strikes me as a safe bet.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:02 AM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


You need actual tinfoil. Aluminum foil just concentrates the rays.
posted by goatdog at 10:02 AM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just apply it vigorously to the anti-Wifi crowd member while screaming HOMEOPATHIC EDUCATION! HOMEOPATHIC EDUCATION! and they will find themselves illuminated or unconscious in no time.

God, I love the idea of "homeopathic education". Does it work like, say, a little drop of ignorance, diluted over and over again until it's finally offered up as an overpriced and ineffectual piece of learning to deeply credulous people? That would be magnificently self-referential.
posted by mhoye at 10:03 AM on May 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


> If they don't respond to that, they're not going to respond to anything, because they just fundamentally don't believe in science...

but... but... they believe in science enough to believe that wi-fi exists. I am confused.
posted by ardgedee at 10:06 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sneering at people experiencing genuine symptoms is a pretty great way to confirm their prejudices.
posted by howfar at 10:06 AM on May 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


"You cannot prove a negative; however, no reputable study has shown a link between wifi and any medical issue." If they don't respond to that, they're not going to respond to anything, because they just fundamentally don't believe in science, or they feel they have to blame someone for something.

They counter by either rolling out an obscure study that proves WiFi is harmful, or by saying that scientists have been paid off by industry.

So a cheatsheet would be handy. For example, using the (questionable) logic of the anti-WiFi crowd, why are ambient AM radio waves not harmful, but WiFi is harmful?

How does the ambient electromagnetic flux occurring all around us at any given moment due to the sun's activity etc compare to WiFi?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:07 AM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


How does the ambient electromagnetic flux occurring all around us at any given moment due to the sun's activity etc compare to WiFi?

The resonance... keep up....

Oh I gotta leave this thread before I can't breath
posted by mrgroweler at 10:11 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


posted by not_the_water

Eponysterical?
posted by blurker at 10:12 AM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Two even asked for the experiment to be stopped early because the effects were too severe to stand."

That made me pretty twitchy with rage.


Yeah, the first thing I thought of when I read that was "And these people vote and raise children." I'm not sure whether it pinged my anger, frustration or pity neurons more, but there was a fair bit of all three.
posted by darkstar at 10:12 AM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


So a cheatsheet would be handy. For example, using the (questionable) logic of the anti-WiFi crowd, why are ambient AM radio waves not harmful, but WiFi is harmful?

What about asking them if they own a cordless phone, microwave oven, and/or baby monitor?

It might convince them; it might score you a free cordless phone, microwave, and/or baby monitor. Either way is a win.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 10:12 AM on May 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


why are ambient AM radio waves not harmful, but WiFi is harmful?

Because AM radio reminds me of my youth, and WiFi makes me think of the local teens, who scare me. I'm frightened of what I don't understand.
posted by bleep at 10:13 AM on May 21, 2013 [29 favorites]


Sneering at people experiencing genuine symptoms is a pretty great way to confirm their prejudices.

You're saying that WiFi causes outbreaks of sneering? That's diabolical!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:14 AM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sneering at people experiencing genuine symptoms is a pretty great way to confirm their prejudices.

Clear and patient explanations never have any success, because then you're accused of being patronizing and condescending, or you're just ignored by people who think they know better no matter what, or you're dismissed simply due to the fact that you're an advocate of science. How do you react to that, when you can't explain scientific evidence to someone because science is the signal that triggers the mind to close? I think bitterly sneering is a completely understandable reaction when sincere attempts at education are completely dismissed out of hand.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:14 AM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


KokuRyu: "They counter by either rolling out an obscure study that proves WiFi is harmful, or by saying that scientists have been paid off by industry."

Yeah, this is the thing I've encountered the most. Which sucks, as it makes a lot of sense to be distrustful of industry, so it's useful as a cover for whatever flavor of bullshit you come up with.
posted by brundlefly at 10:14 AM on May 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


And Kokuryu I brought this argument up to a family member that truly believes a lot of this stuff and that was the answer I got. So I looked at them and took a long sip of wine and changed the topic.

Like many have said here it seems like childish rebellion. The other day I said you can't take something on faith because you want it to be true and that science at least can show empirically evidence toward proofs. They replied but Science is just another type of faith... I looked sadly and said yes but when science is wrong it uses that to alter the proof or revise it or throw it away and "Admits" the mistake.
posted by mrgroweler at 10:15 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am changing my wifi SID to "GivingYouCancer!"
posted by cjorgensen at 10:17 AM on May 21, 2013 [22 favorites]


I'm suspicious of anything starting with "How To Convince People..."
posted by Rash at 10:19 AM on May 21, 2013


"Two even asked for the experiment to be stopped early because the effects were too severe to stand."

That made me pretty twitchy with rage.

Yeah, the first thing I thought of when I read that was "And these people vote and raise children." I'm not sure whether it pinged my anger, frustration or pity neurons more, but there was a fair bit of all three.


I'm kind of surprised that this is eliciting anger. What are you angry about? These people have anxiety issues that are causing real physical symptoms. They've misidentified the source of their problems for sure, but getting upset with them and ridiculing them doesn't seem to be the most enlightened response.
posted by rocket88 at 10:20 AM on May 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


Wish the article wasn't paywalled. The abstract is kinda crappy, and the blog write-up is kinda crappy. 82 of 147 participants reported symptoms-- but how was this divided between the two groups? This is especially important given the following:

Witthöft says he expected to see a greater effect in people who had watched the frightening documentary. This wasn't the case overall. Instead, the movie mainly increased symptoms in subjects who described themselves beforehand as more anxious.

What was that supposed to mean? Does the study actually support what we're all reading it as supporting?

It's also written that Withold would prefer a third group that weren't given a wifi doohickey to test; I would suggest, especially given his findings r/t anxiety, that a third and fourth group be tested: groups that watched the respective primers but never tested fake wifi. It would be reasonable to imagine that the BBC documentary was all about making anxious people more anxious, and it may not have been necessary to make them test the fake gadgets to get the symptom reports.
posted by nathan v at 10:20 AM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Rash: "I'm suspicious of anything starting with "How To Convince People...""

How To Win Arguments and Terrify People
posted by brundlefly at 10:22 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing is, the anti-WiFi folks are remarkably successful in pursuing their agenda. Besides taking WiFi out of schools (once again, not a big deal, but think about what they'll get up to next), the movement has stalled the installation of smart meters here in British Columbia, and opposition to WiFi-enable smart meters even became an election issue, where the opposition party promised to "review" the program if elected (the opposition party lost).
posted by KokuRyu at 10:23 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Two even asked for the experiment to be stopped early because the effects were too severe to stand."

That made me pretty twitchy with rage.

Yeah, the first thing I thought of when I read that was "And these people vote and raise children."


This doesn't mean the people were lying, though. The nocebo effect is a real thing. They may have been actually experiencing severe negative effects.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 10:25 AM on May 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


A surprising number of my friends are anti-fluoride - not because it's a mind control device, but because they fear fluorosis, they feel the government should be giving people a choice in the matter, and they're not sure it offers any real benefit to the public anyway.

Personally I'm pro-fluoride, but this sentiment is widespread in the public. Labels on bottled water proudly proclaim 0 fluoride. My city eliminated fluoride in our drinking water in 2011, in a 10-3 vote when other cities are still rolling it out in the first place. The pro-removal aldermen weren't just right-wing cranks or left-wing naturopaths either. Of course now we have an increased number of cavities among children.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:25 AM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's Raining Florence Henderson: It wasn't WiFi that was making them sick, it was SCIENCE!

The science didn't make them sick but there were sporadic reports of visual impairments as a result. Dr Dolby published a well-known treatise on this subject.
posted by dr_dank at 10:29 AM on May 21, 2013 [27 favorites]


It's going to be the case with anything that you can use nocebo effect - it doesn't logically follow that that psychological effect disproves other "more physical" effects of the underlying. If doctors told people just diagnosed with cancer that "your cancer is really really bad and hopeless and you're going to die real soon", they actually probably statistically would die sooner.

For my money, I can perceive (mainly auditory) right now being in the presence of electromagnetic fields. A nearby CRT TV turned on and muted is just intolerable. I'm positive my underlying stress levels are higher being constantly bathed in these barely-perceptable waves of synthetic white/pink noise than they are out in nature.
posted by crayz at 10:32 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


rocket88: "I'm kind of surprised that this is eliciting anger. What are you angry about? These people have anxiety issues that are causing real physical symptoms. They've misidentified the source of their problems for sure, but getting upset with them and ridiculing them doesn't seem to be the most enlightened response."

On the one hand, I am sympathetic to those who are suffering this nocebic reality (I am one who believes that one should trust sufferers of maladies as if they are real, TO THEM, even if they are not observable in other ways. Rather, perhaps, we should at least pay them some respect and empathy). That said, the reason we are angry and upset isn't because they are suffering some malady. It's because they are being willfully ignorant. They are purposefully refusing to listen when the facts are given to them, and instead of trying to find an alternative solution (nocebo, or... you know... I dunno... granted, the alternative would be like fluorinated vaccines, alas), they stick their fingers in their ears.
posted by symbioid at 10:34 AM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


They may have been actually experiencing severe negative effects.

To me, that's the most important point to make about these kinds of studies. It's not that the world is full of crackpots--of course it is, but it always has been, and that's not the big problem. It's that our media is so focused on gaining your attention through emotionally troubling stories that it has become actively toxic. If you are told, constantly, that the world is a dangerous place, and you are powerless in it, what's your response supposed to be?

WiFi isn't making people sick, the media is.
posted by mittens at 10:37 AM on May 21, 2013 [26 favorites]


Clear and patient explanations never have any success, because then you're accused of being patronizing and condescending, or you're just ignored by people who think they know better no matter what, or you're dismissed simply due to the fact that you're an advocate of science. How do you react to that, when you can't explain scientific evidence to someone because science is the signal that triggers the mind to close? I think bitterly sneering is a completely understandable reaction when sincere attempts at education are completely dismissed out of hand.

I think if folks really want to change the whole anti-science thing, it probably can't be done at the "I am going to sneer/tell you the actual situation and you will change your mind now or in the near future" level, because people's emotional needs and their beliefs are so closely wound together. I think asking ourselves seriously "what needs does it fulfill when someone believes that wifi will give you cancer or that vaccines cause autism" might be helpful.

Also, of course, the fact that there really isn't an accessible, trustworthy scientific clearinghouse - you need a level of confidence and literacy to really feel that you're getting a fairly accurate understanding of the broad outline of a problem. For example, I was just looking up a medical condition the other day and realized that the accepted scientific consensus via multiple papers including those studies-of-studies on PubMed was not only the opposite of what the CDC was reporting, but that the CDC was explicitly saying "scientific consensus now says [thing that it not only does not say but has not said for at least the past few years since I did not go back more than a couple of years on PubMed]". That shook me, actually, since I've always tended to feel like CDC stuff is broadly accurate. But the point is, if you're a layperson and you plausibly feel that the CDC and the FDA are pretty opaque and perhaps not trustworthy, where do you go? Straight to the tinfoil hats, apparently.

A surprising number of my friends are anti-fluoride - not because it's a mind control device, but because they fear fluorosis, they feel the government should be giving people a choice in the matter, and they're not sure it offers any real benefit to the public anyway.

This type of thing really interests me. I'm an anarchist, so of course I prioritize local control, individual autonomy, people not having to have things if they don't want them....and yet then you bump right up against the fact that it's difficult to de facto be your own science researcher, make all your own choices about the complexities of the modern world, etc - not even difficult from a "taking personal responsibility is difficult" standpoint, but difficult from a "there aren't enough hours in the day" standpoint. Also difficult from a "building infrastructure that serves many people" standpoint.

It's also interesting because I often reflect that anarchism is really zeitgeisty right now the way socialism was in the late sixties/early seventies. And any time something is of the zeitgeist, that's because it appeals to people on many many levels and for many reasons, not just because of the simple content of the thing itself. ie, anarchism doesn't just make sense to people more right now because anarchism is awesome; anarchism makes sense to people because in this particular historical moment [I suspect] community ties are weak; the state is pervasive, opaque and corrupt; information is widely distributed but hard to evaluate and social movements that relied on sameness, shared interests and solidarity have mostly broken down. Thus, "don't make ME have cavity-free teeth, statist!"
posted by Frowner at 10:37 AM on May 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


I'm kind of surprised that this is eliciting anger. What are you angry about? These people have anxiety issues that are causing real physical symptoms.

This.

I have started staying out of these threads because the point-and-laugh crowd isn't anything I respect.

And I don't like Smart Meters because I think when someone is turning off the electricity in the winter for a family with 3 young children, they should have to do it to the family's face instead of from a cozy office hundreds of miles away.

Of course, just to put things in perspective, I have a lot of sympathy for the anti-flouride people. I drink tap water for all my water needs, because I think getting safe drinking water out of the tap is about the coolest thing EVAR!! But I find the whole process for the approval of adding a chemical to have been highly suspect, and the fact that we deliberately add more than the recommended safe consumption amount in other first world countries is really weird. (Does anyone know what the health effects have been in Finland since it was discontinued?) The people who feel that questioning this amounts to tin-foil hattery... well, I just don't get that, either.

fwiw, many MANY people refuse to have microwaves, cordless phones, or other wireless things. Just because you spend time with other people who spend an inordinate amount of time around technology doesn't mean everyone does.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:37 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of surprised that this is eliciting anger. What are you angry about?

Because I'm a dick that feels no compassion for these folks? An interesting thesis.

Or maybe it's because I'm not angry at these people at all. Maybe, somewhere in the midst of the frustration and pity I feel toward these folks (which you seem to have overlooked), I also feel angry at the demagogues and charlatans who use this weakness in some people to screw our society eleven different ways from Sunday. From not being able to have well-funded stem-cell research to having anti-vaxxers promulgating their deadly ideas, there are some that exploit the suggestible and gullible to recruit them into a myriad of political views that actively undermine people's freedom, health and well being. And that makes me a little angry, perhaps, when I think of this sort of thing.

Maybe the anger is just part of being a complex human being that doesn't only respond in a monochromatic way to stimuli that remind me of why we can't have nice things.

But probably it's just because I'm a dick.
posted by darkstar at 10:37 AM on May 21, 2013 [29 favorites]


I'll repost a previous comment I made about this sort of thing in a thread about wind farms and wind farm sickness. Just as relevant to this thread:

Seriously. They want to install wireless hydro-meters here in my part of my Quebec, which has led to ZOMG THEY WILL KILL US articles in the op-ed parts of the newspapers and on the radio. La Tribune, in response to the encroaching hysteria, even published a graph that showed you should fear your mobile and your microwave more than you should fear these things. And last night it took a five-hour public city council meeting before Sherbrooke said, "You know what? We're doing this. Wireless meters for all! Now go home so we can all get some sleep."
posted by Kitteh at 10:39 AM on May 21, 2013


mittens: "WiFi isn't making people sick, the media is."

Broadcast on??? ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION, HA! SEE!
posted by symbioid at 10:39 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


For my money, I can perceive (mainly auditory) right now being in the presence of electromagnetic fields. A nearby CRT TV turned on and muted is just intolerable.

That's fine and normal. From what I understand, it's the c.10kHz whine of the flyback transformer.
posted by ambrosen at 10:40 AM on May 21, 2013 [25 favorites]


And I don't like Smart Meters because I think when someone is turning off the electricity in the winter for a family with 3 young children, they should have to do it to the family's face instead of from a cozy office hundreds of miles away.

Now this is interesting. I had not actually been following the Smart Meter thing - is it that it makes it super easy to cut off people's power? I would definitely disapprove of them, actually, since that seems like it makes people less free because their access to essential services is far more precarious and real-time, no floating checks, no floating payments.
posted by Frowner at 10:41 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think at least some of the anti-wifi and similar anti-science thinking has to stem from how many times in the last 60 years we HAVE been burned by things that were supposedly "safe".

The problem usually isn't that science got it wrong but that the science was suppressed. It was pretty clear that asbestos was bad news by the 1930s but it was widely used until the 1980s. Many scientists were concerned about thalidomide (and actually it was never approved by the FDA, because a pharmacologist stood up to pressure from the company) but that didn't stop it from being widely distributed by the drug company that marketed it. We're all familiar with how the evidence of negative effects from smoking was supressed or muddled by industry.

I think a lot of the anti-wifi folks don't think of themselves as anti-science, but rather believe that scientific evidence for their beliefs is being supressed. An unfortunate side effect of past abuses.


I also wonder if this all ties in with the sort of discussions you hear from the "maker" crowd about how nobody understands how the things they encounter in their daily life work any more. When every appliance you use is a black box you can't open or service, and you don't understand how it works, it seems like it'd be easier to start with the magical thinking.

Beyond a vague understanding that it uses electricity and "programming" how many people understand how a computer (or these days even a TV or refridgerator) work? It doesn't seem that unreasonable to go from there to worrying about invisible radiation being carcinogenic.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:41 AM on May 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


The science didn't make them sick but there were sporadic reports of visual impairments as a result.

AKA Cheese Stye D'Dup Syndrome
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:41 AM on May 21, 2013


I had not actually been following the Smart Meter thing - is it that it makes it super easy to cut off people's power?

That's exactly what Smart Meters do.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:42 AM on May 21, 2013


I also wonder how hard it would be to hack into Smart Meters- just one more awesome avenue for your stalker ex to make your life miserable. That's conjecture, but I don't trust PG&E to have the highest levels of online security.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:44 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have started staying out of these threads because the point-and-laugh crowd isn't anything I respect.

People in this thread have been pointing and laughing at me, and I'm not even anti-WiFi! Maybe that's the problem - the people with the correct information at their fingertips are too arrogant and self-absorbed to be trusted, and the anti-WiFi crowd isn't really anti-WiFi or anti-science at all. Rather, they're anti-elitist and anti-technocracy. I'm starting to see what gets them motivated.

So keep sneering away. Unless you're sneering because you don't have the ability to explain the science yourself. Pathetic, really.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:44 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


The assebo effect.
posted by Decani at 10:45 AM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


With any luck, my wi-fi will bounce harmlessly off my cell phone tumor.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:45 AM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


What about asking them if they own a cordless phone, microwave oven, and/or baby monitor?

But I need that radio to listen to Rush Limbaugh!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:47 AM on May 21, 2013


And I don't like Smart Meters because I think when someone is turning off the electricity in the winter for a family with 3 young children, they should have to do it to the family's face instead of from a cozy office hundreds of miles away.

Which is a perfectly rational reason for objecting.

Just as objecting to the cost/benefit of widespread wireless networks in schools is a rational objection.

But objecting to either because of woo-woo is not rational and should not be treated with the same level of consideration.
posted by madajb at 10:49 AM on May 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


But I need that radio to listen to Rush Limbaugh!

Um, no? Eveyone I know in this camp is super lefty. Berkeley, for example, has a lot of people against cell phone towers (and microwaves).
posted by small_ruminant at 10:49 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


>I had not actually been following the Smart Meter thing - is it that it makes it super easy to cut off people's power?

That's exactly what Smart Meters do.


Actually, the electric company can cut your power off at any time, really, smart meter or no smart meter.

Smart meters allow for real-time measurement of electricity usage, via a web browser if you like. The WiFi functionality is used for reporting or whatever - I'm not even sure why it's an issue.

Having the ability to measure electricity usage in real time is useful, since we're on a stepped system, and after a certain threshold our rate doubles. We can use the smart meter interface (via our utility's website) to check out our electricity usage, and can even show it to our kids (ideally to help them close windows, turn off lights).

Great invention.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:49 AM on May 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Actually, the electric company can cut your power off at any time, really,

They have to send out a person to do it. It's the difference between foot-soldiers and drone strikes, in my mind.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:50 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


People in this thread have been pointing and laughing at me, and I'm not even anti-WiFi! Maybe that's the problem - the people with the correct information at their fingertips are too arrogant and self-absorbed to be trusted, and the anti-WiFi crowd isn't really anti-WiFi or anti-science at all. Rather, they're anti-elitist and anti-technocracy. I'm starting to see what gets them motivated.

This sounds familiar!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:50 AM on May 21, 2013


Heck, just to add to my earlier point there's a FPP just below this one talking about the negative repercussions of the US using a doctor to get DNA samples while supposedly giving vaccinations. In-thread someone points to an interview with Bill Gates wherein he basically blames distrust of the US govt for the fact that we haven't fully eradicated polio yet. You breed that sort of distrust and is it any wonder people are reluctant to believe the authorities regarding other public health issues?
posted by Wretch729 at 10:51 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now this is interesting. I had not actually been following the Smart Meter thing - is it that it makes it super easy to cut off people's power? I would definitely disapprove of them, actually, since that seems like it makes people less free because their access to essential services is far more precarious and real-time, no floating checks, no floating payments.

The rollout plan for my area specifically includes that the only change in service termination would be the time of day.
So, if your service is due to be cut off on Tuesday, May 21, it will be cut off at 900am, rather than 2 in the afternoon or whenever the meter guy gets out to your house on Tuesday.
posted by madajb at 10:52 AM on May 21, 2013


But I need that radio to listen to Rush Limbaugh!

Um, no? Eveyone I know in this camp is super lefty. Berkeley, for example, has a lot of people against cell phone towers (and microwaves).


But I need that radio to listen to Pacifica!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:52 AM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the only thing that I didn't like about the Smart Meter thing in BC is that Hydro was basically getting customers to pay for an upgrade that would primarily save Hydro money ostensibly under the guise of "Green"; Customers could actively consume less energy but the main cost/benefit would be no longer requiring metre readers to come out and track consumption.
posted by dobie at 10:54 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, if your service is due to be cut off on Tuesday, May 21, it will be cut off at 900am, rather than 2 in the afternoon or whenever the meter guy gets out to your house on Tuesday. around to it (at least in my neighborhood, which is very very poor and, incidentally, nearly completely non-white).

Power Shutoffs Increase with Rise in Smart Meters (2010) abcnews

(PG&E denies this in the article.)
posted by small_ruminant at 10:58 AM on May 21, 2013


An interesting article about a handicapped woman who wanted assurance that a Smart Meter wouldn't interfere with her pacemaker. The utility company assured her it was "as safe as a microwave" (!) (also not advised for people with pacemakers). Because she refused a Smart Meter until they could assure her it was safe for her, they cut her power off in the middle of winter. She had never missed a payment.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:01 AM on May 21, 2013


Lots of electric devices emit a barely-perceptible noise of some kind. Or sometimes even clearly perceptible. This is enough to equate electricity with an uncomfortable feeling. Wi-Fi does none of this but it's just a tech that people don't really understand, is new and quite complicated. Plus all sorts of UI people have gone to great lengths to make sure Wi-Fi is quite perceptible. Your computer and phone have an icon for it. Your router and laptop have a bright led that tell you it's on. The coffee-shop has a sticker. If Wi-Fi can bring down a plane, can't it be dangerous to a person as well?

Vaccines: Combine erroneus but long-lived studies, some incidents of harmful vaccines msome vaccines being considered too risky for certain groups and a lack of real understanding of the underlying science, you get anti-vaccination people.
posted by Authorized User at 11:06 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also wonder how hard it would be to hack into Smart Meters- just one more awesome avenue for your stalker ex to make your life miserable. That's conjecture, but I don't trust PG&E to have the highest levels of online security.

They're a writhing mess of security flaws in both the design and the implementation, apparently.

I expect industry to do nothing until scofflaws start hacking their meters to under-report their usage.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:07 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I minded smart meters when the water company put them in ugly locations on buildings in a historic area. The study showed how to get people riled up - feed them propaganda. I'd a lot rather see a study that shows how to communicate facts to people without getting them riled up. People buy masses of crap because ads are persuasive. People vote against their best interests because of malicious idiots like Limbaugh and Beck, attack ads, etc. What's the appropriate and effective response?
posted by theora55 at 11:19 AM on May 21, 2013


~But I need that radio to listen to Rush Limbaugh!
~Um, no? Eveyone I know in this camp is super lefty. Berkeley, for example, has a lot of people against cell phone towers (and microwaves).


My experience has been that there's big overlap between both the granola-munchers, and the anti-gubmint crowds, when it comes to this particular type of crazy.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:21 AM on May 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why Rational People Buy Into Conspiracy Theories

They found, perhaps surprisingly, that believers are more likely to be cynical about the world in general and politics in particular. Conspiracy theories also seem to be more compelling to those with low self-worth, especially with regard to their sense of agency in the world at large. Conspiracy theories appear to be a way of reacting to uncertainty and powerlessness.

posted by gottabefunky at 11:21 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of surprised that this is eliciting anger. What are you angry about? These people have anxiety issues that are causing real physical symptoms.

That isn't anger, that's anxiety. These people are making me sick! Sick with anxiety! And there they are, entirely oblivious to the anxiety their ignorance produces in me. Do they care? Nooooo! It's like some kind of conspiracy to kill me with anxiety, I tell you.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:21 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


People vote against their best interests because of malicious idiots like... Beck... What's the appropriate and effective response?

Class action lawsuit. Turntables and a microphone gave me cancer.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:23 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


People in this thread have been lumping together anti-WiFi, anti-wind turbine, anti-vaccine, anti-fluoride paranoia. I think it's interesting that we mostly seem to assume that, psychologically, these things are all basically the same. It seems intuitively right to me: they're all motivated by a mistrust of science and anxiety about modern technology, plus a fear of outside forces polluting the body, and believers tend to deploy the same justifications (scientists are being paid off! the government is in league with industry!).

At the same time, I'm not convinced it really makes sense to lump all of these people into one big group of paranoids. Do we really know that anti-vaccine activists also tend to mistrust WiFi and fluoride? It's definitely possible (other conspiracy theories tend to go together), but I think far from certain.

Also: what are the demographics that believe in these things? For example, anti-vaccine activists are always portrayed as the stereotypical neurotic overprotective middle-class white mother; but I suspect this image could have more to do with cultural beliefs about women and mothers than it does with reality. On the other hand, it might not: all the anti-WiFi activists I've heard about in this thread have been running for school boards. Perhaps people are more paranoid about their children? And while these kinds of conspiracy theories obviously show up in all political groups, it is possible that certain ones could be more strongly correlated with the left or right (traditionally, anti-fluoride paranoia has gone along with anti-Semitism, and paranoia about Communists, etc.)

It would be interesting to see good social science research that showed how these beliefs correlate with age, race, class, family, politics, etc..
posted by vogon_poet at 11:25 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


My experience has been that there's big overlap between both the granola-munchers, and the anti-gubmint crowds, when it comes to this particular type of crazy.

I suppose that's true, since I have strong sympathy with both.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:26 AM on May 21, 2013


I can sneer now, but when Internet to the Brain becomes a thing, I'll probably be jumping on whatever unsubstantiated reports I can find claiming 10G cerebral modem implants take away an individual's humanity and makes them more likely to loiter on my lawn listening to their devilish hive mind-sourced music.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 11:27 AM on May 21, 2013


I think it's interesting that we mostly seem to assume that, psychologically, these things are all basically the same.

Here's a book on the subject.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:28 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


At the same time, I'm not convinced it really makes sense to lump all of these people into one big group of paranoids. Do we really know that anti-vaccine activists also tend to mistrust WiFi and fluoride?

I don't think they have to co-exist in the same people to be very similar in their psychopathology.
posted by Authorized User at 11:45 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want to respond to something someone said upfield.

Ack! Ghostes!?!?! WHERE! HIDE ME!
posted by Mister_A at 11:57 AM on May 21, 2013


Magnetostriction is a physical effect that leads to the audible noise from things like CRT flyback transformers and power supplies.
Magnetostriction (cf. electrostriction) is a property of ferromagnetic materials that causes them to change their shape or dimensions during the process of magnetization… The effect is responsible for the familiar "electric hum" which can be heard near transformers and high power electrical devices (depending on country, either 100 (=2·50) or 120 (=2·60) hertz, plus harmonics).
nothing to do with whether the device is radiating.
posted by jepler at 12:02 PM on May 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Do we really know that anti-vaccine activists also tend to mistrust WiFi and fluoride?

It seems the anti-vaxers, homeopaths, and electromagnetists have a source in mis-quoting the already sketchy science of Luc Montagnier!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:08 PM on May 21, 2013


So, if your service is due to be cut off on Tuesday, May 21, it will be cut off at 900am, ... around to it (at least in my neighborhood, which is very very poor and, incidentally, nearly completely non-white).

I've never dealt with a power/water shut-off from my utililty, but it is my understanding they do it on a regular known schedule.
YMMV, of course, but the point is that there are logical objections to smart meters, wireless installations, cell phone towers, etc that don't rely on woo.

Treating non-rational, non-scientific objections with the same respect as logical, thought out objections does a disservice to society.
posted by madajb at 12:12 PM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pfft. You high hats can have your razz at the fellas who have the goods on the WiFi. When you're all half seas over from the poison rays, I'll be putting on the ritz over here with my radium hair powder, whilst sitting in my comfortable Scheele's Green chaise.
posted by Debaser626 at 12:12 PM on May 21, 2013


Well, if wifi isn't harmless, then the '1st world' is pretty screwed, as wifi is darn near *everywhere*.

I must admit I've treated anecdotal evidence of people's adverse reaction to wifi as complete woo.

But when I read about a 9th grade science experiment, my first thought was why haven't the adults already done this sort of testing?. (their assertions that wifi is the same as cellular signals didn't gel with me, and I had to assume when they say 'routers' in that article, they really mean 'wifi hotspots').

I prefer physical ethernet because I don't have to worry about interference from random devices (I'm looking at *you*, microwave and cordless phone).
posted by el io at 12:12 PM on May 21, 2013


Well, if wifi isn't harmless, then the '1st world' is pretty screwed, as wifi is darn near *everywhere*.

Not just a 1st World Problem anymore.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:23 PM on May 21, 2013


But when I read about a 9th grade science experiment, my first thought was why haven't the adults already done this sort of testing?. (their assertions that wifi is the same as cellular signals didn't gel with me, and I had to assume when they say 'routers' in that article, they really mean 'wifi hotspots').

I'm interested to see if the scientists mentioned in the article do repeat the experiment, because there are a lot of variables the girls may or may not have considered (not saying they didn't, just that the article didn't go into any detail). Nutrient differences in the soil between the trays (and the possibility of spores, parasites, etc in the portion of the soil used in one room), differences in light, heat and air quality in the two rooms, were the trays and any tools used and the girls' hands thoroughly cleaned first to remove any contaminants before interacting with the plants/soil, etc etc etc. It's not uncommon to have two planters with the same plants in each right next to each other in the same environment and have one flourish and the other die. And then making a leap from the effects of non-ionizing radiation on cress to effects on humans is a bit much (and it's been studied to death on humans).
posted by jason_steakums at 12:52 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


el io: Newer DECT cordless phones and baby monitors won't interfere with wi-fi.

Get rid of your 2.4GHz cordless phone if you can afford to! If not for yourself, for your neighbours.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:53 PM on May 21, 2013


I grew up in the age before the ubiquity of screens, and one of the absolute rules in our household was no TV in our rooms, ever. We were already wild-eyed radicals in that we'd pull out the TV guide from the Sun at our Sunday dinners and pick out our four hours a week each of programs (before we finally wore my parents down and killed that utopian experiment). I'd pick Lost In Space, Quark, and my other camp atrocities, my siblings would pick out their poison, and it'd all be marked in the book in highlighter pen.

I chafed, though, at the restriction, and my solution was to sneak out to the yard sales and buy old TV sets, then hide them nearby until the middle of the night, when I'd slip out and drag the giant wooden cabinets to the front yard, carefully attach them to a net, haul them up onto the porch and in through my bedroom window. I'd set up in the very back of my closet, with a cord I'd carefully threaded in as to be undetectable, and I felt like a super-spy in the process.

Only thing was—my father could sense television.

Each of my illegal sets would be detected and my ability to watch Lucan and the excitingly snarly Kevin Brophy in the privacy of the back of the closet built into the bunk bed my dad constructed would be taken from me, time and time again.

"Son, you know I'm going to know when you've got a TV."

"How is what I'd like to know."

"Eerie powers, Joe-B. Eerie powers."

I read a lot, largely because there was no damn TV in my room, and I came to the conclusion that he was hearing the high-frequency whine of the flyback transformer, so with the next set, I carefully packed blankets around it until there was nothing but a screen exposed, in the depths of my closet. Had I read more, I might have learned that insulating a TV set filled with vacuum tubes was not the best course of action, but we live and learn, and when I left it on one afternoon before heading downstairs to root through the National Geographics, I was again caught.

The smoke alarm shrilled, polyester smoke roiled, my father dashed by with a bucket and then there was a bang.

I suspected I was in trouble, but kept mum.

"Is there anything you want to tell me?" he asked, after stomping down the stairs, looking at me with his eyes narrowed and the loops in his handlebar mustache unwinding from sweat.

"About what?"

"About why there's a burning DuMont in your closet?"

"There's a burning DuMont in my closet?"

"It has been extinguished."

"Oh."

I tried hiding the TVs in the basement, in the attic, in the shed where we kept the cracked corn and mash for the chickens, but he always found it.

Somewhere along the way, I dragged home a giant boat anchor of a shortwave radio, a black crackle-painted wonderland of phasing drifty gorgeous chanting from the Vatican and smart-sounding Deutsche Welle broadcasts and the BBC World Service and a whole lot of interesting noises ricocheting around the ionosphere, which he approved of as a ham radio operator and a general radio fanatic. I'd listen and fall asleep with the monster thing warm beside the bed, little glowing coals of tubes visible through the perforated vents, hearing the world on the waves, and he never knew when I had a TV again.

Years later, he admitted that he did not, in fact, have eerie powers, but just a keen nose for the scent of hot, dusty vacuum tubes cooking in bakelite sockets, and couldn't distinguish between the boat anchor shortwave and, say, a smart little turquoise plastic RCA set hidden not in the closet, but in the space behind the built-in drawers in my bed. By then, though, TV had lost its luster, more or less, so it was a hollow victory. The smart little turquoise plastic RCA set stayed cold more and more often, I read and I listened to strange propaganda in peculiar tongues, and if electromagnetic radiation was going to do me in, I'd more than likely be long gone by now.
posted by sonascope at 12:54 PM on May 21, 2013 [52 favorites]


... they really mean 'wifi hotspots').

Wifi hotspots?!??!!!

OMG, if it doesn't rot our brain, wifi will set us on fire!!
Emergency! Emergency!
posted by BlueHorse at 1:46 PM on May 21, 2013


Besides taking WiFi out of schools (once again, not a big deal, but think about what they'll get up to next)

Actually, no, this completely sucks. My highschool only had a small computer lab, and we very often had to do research for papers and such online. We briefly had wifi, but it got removed for a number of crappy excuse reasons by the school district.(At least some of which may have been related to this). By the tail end of highschool i had a used crappy laptop, but one i could have done my schoolwork on and actually sat somewhere that wasn't a distracting zoo to do research and write, draw things in PS for projects and email/print them, etc.

Taking wifi out of schools is really fucking lame, honestly.

They have to send out a person to do it. It's the difference between foot-soldiers and drone strikes, in my mind.

.... This is such a slightly meaningless and loaded statement. What? What is the actual difference of someone coming out to do it, that the person who knows their power is going to get shut off can intimidate them out of their yard/off their property and temporarily prevent it?

So, if your service is due to be cut off on Tuesday, May 21, it will be cut off at 900am, rather than 2 in the afternoon or whenever the meter guy gets out to your house on Tuesday. around to it (at least in my neighborhood, which is very very poor and, incidentally, nearly completely non-white).


I'm also confused about this. I mean, i too have sympathy with anti-gubmint types and granola munchers. I grew up in a hippie neighborhood with a bunch of hippies, my parents had me see a homeopath, everything you can think of. I'm willing to sit down and listen to reasons why non traditional approaches or opinions may have merit always, but how the fuck does this have anything to do with the last few parts about race or being poor?

I'm really confused as to what your point is here too, should poor people get free power? are you saying this is some new age of redlining?

I just can't understand this point that comes down to "poor peoples power getting shut off is unfair. I agree that their reaction to the old woman being concerned about interference with her pacemaker is fucking egregious and awful, but as to the rest of it, are you saying they shouldn't be shutting off the power of people who can't pay?

And as a side note, i am a person you might get some traction with on that point. I have argued at length that it should be against federal law to shut off water service to a private residence, but that's neither here nor there.
posted by emptythought at 2:12 PM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


What if it wasn't the fake WiFi antennas triggering the nocebo effect. What if it was the headbands. TEACH THE CONTROVERSY!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:20 PM on May 21, 2013




I'm really confused as to what your point is here too, should poor people get free power?

I want it to be hard, expensive, and shameful to cut off someone's power, especially in areas with extreme weather. I want the person who's doing it to live in the same community of the person whose power they're cutting. There will be fewer mistakes in favor of the utilities companies that way. I want "processing errors in the billing department" cutting off power to be impossible.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:42 PM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


And I mention race because I know damn well that the well-heeled white community will get their mistaken power cut-off fixed in an hour, and the dirt poor will wait days.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:43 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Taking wifi out of schools is really fucking lame, honestly.

Interestingly, in Canada, Starbucks has free WiFi, while Tim Hortons makes you pay (unless you want a throttled service).
posted by KokuRyu at 2:46 PM on May 21, 2013


I also wonder how hard it would be to hack into Smart Meters- just one more awesome avenue for your stalker ex to make your life miserable. That's conjecture, but I don't trust PG&E to have the highest levels of online security.

Wouldn't it be easier for your stalker ex to hack your email? Or your voicemail?

If they hack into your smart meter, then what, exactly? I admit I'm not the brightest guy, but it seems to be you would have to have considerable training to tamper with a smart meter. They just display your power consumption.

In the future you may have IP-enable devices, but what would a stalker do with IP address of your toaster or curling iron?
posted by KokuRyu at 2:52 PM on May 21, 2013


If they hack into your smart meter, then what, exactly? ... it seems to be you would have to have considerable training to tamper with a smart meter. They just display your power consumption.

From what I understand, they allow your power to be turned on and off. Much of what's so creepy about stalkers is that they undermine your feeling of safety, and this would contribute to that.

Does anyone know if burglar alarms are connected to a house's electricity, by the way? I suppose not, or you could just cut the electricity, wait 2 hours for the police to do their drive-by check and then rob a house, and I'm guessing people have thought of that. So then how ARE they powered?
posted by small_ruminant at 2:59 PM on May 21, 2013


Here is a list of states where power can't be cut off completely during the winter. Curiously Alaska, Colorado and North Dakota don't have protections, and New York's looks like it sucks (only the 2-week period during Christmas and New Years), but just about every cold-weather state has a law.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:06 PM on May 21, 2013


Can't unless there's a glitch, which will be much more likely with Smart Meters, as demonstrated in my last link.

(Really? North Dakota? Alaska? Colorado? Those are COLD!!
posted by small_ruminant at 3:09 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


And I mention race because I know damn well that the well-heeled white community will get their mistaken power cut-off fixed in an hour, and the dirt poor will wait days.

That's class, not race. Just wanted to point that out. Carry on.
posted by sleepy pete at 3:12 PM on May 21, 2013


There have been a few glitches with smartmeters here in BC since they were rolled out (and, as mentioned, opposition from the anti-WiFi crowd), but nothing major. I think the idea that smartmeters are somehow connected to turning your power off is a total red herring.

The biggest issue I have with them in British Columbia is the cost - something like C$300 million to install in a province of 4 million people. The installation costs are of course passed on to the consumer, and if they are not passed directly on to the consumer they are passed on to the taxpayer, since BC Hydro is a Crown corporation.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:15 PM on May 21, 2013


Does anyone know if burglar alarms are connected to a house's electricity, by the way? I suppose not, or you could just cut the electricity, wait 2 hours for the police to do their drive-by check and then rob a house, and I'm guessing people have thought of that. So then how ARE they powered?

They have battery backup with a small motorcycle-type battery, like a UPS. I doubt it has the capacity in watt hours to last more than half a day, if that. What you're proposing here is unlikely but possible, and somewhat freaky. I think at some point i have heard of robbers killing systems this way. However, when the power is out for more than X amount of time most systems will contact the security company and go "hey, i lost power and it's been off for a while. Call the person whose house it is and check on them" at which point they'd just call your cellphone(because who, who has a residence with a security system wouldn't have a non-landline based phone? Even when i was homeless i had a cellphone most of the time. Such is the modern age)

I want it to be hard, expensive, and shameful to cut off someone's power, especially in areas with extreme weather. I want the person who's doing it to live in the same community of the person whose power they're cutting. There will be fewer mistakes in favor of the utilities companies that way. I want "processing errors in the billing department" cutting off power to be impossible. ... And I mention race because I know damn well that the well-heeled white community will get their mistaken power cut-off fixed in an hour, and the dirt poor will wait days.

The problem is, all the issues from your first post already happen with the current system. I'd focus on attacking those at their root, rather than worrying that some new system will create a boogieman with... the same issues the current system has.

I deal with the phone company a lot as part of my job, and there's already so many layers between the tech who connects and disconnects service, and the person(or automated system, urgh) who makes that decision that no one on the ground has any way of knowing if an order is valid or not, because they all look the same. In addition to that, in most major metro areas the techs do not work in the community they live in, or work over such a large area that they won't even know the people whose service they're disconnecting. "Processing errors in the billing department" type shit is already a huge problem. If anything, a new system like this would make it easy for them to reverse their limitless bureaucratic fuckups.

I also feel that your last problem would be helped, not hurt by this sort of system. In one of the few systems of a "utility" i know that works this way, comcast cable, if your service was mistakenly turned off or shut off for nonpayment and you call in they can turn your service back on the instant they answer the phone. Having to send a tech out to reconnect service would make these types of problems worse.

As it is, they get the technician out to the rich neighborhood in an hour, and take days in the poor neighborhood. If its all menus to click through on a computer in a call center, they could turn it back on instantly. In addition to that, the person in the call center is probably in another state and doesn't even know that you're in a poor or rich neighborhood. They're providing you with the same level of service regardless through ignorance of geographic class lines.

Honestly, i see this sort of system as a potential* improvement to the problems you've brought up.

*big fucking star here, i realize that this could also be the orwellian nightmare you propose, but i think it lowers a lot of effort barriers in their path to create a more equal system, no?
posted by emptythought at 3:25 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hope you're right. What I'm imagining is more of the same obstructionist evil that the mortgage companies do right now. (We foreclosed and evicted the wrong family? Not our problem!)

I have no data to back this up, but it feels like the physical distance between consumer and provider is directly proportionate to the amount of Fuck You that the provider feels comfortable meting out, complete with the local sheriffs backing up the company and not the consumer.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:32 PM on May 21, 2013


You may scoff, but the dangers of wifi are all too real! (SLDWYT)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:07 PM on May 21, 2013


If they hack into your smart meter, then what, exactly? I admit I'm not the brightest guy, but it seems to be you would have to have considerable training to tamper with a smart meter. They just display your power consumption.


Some of them have built-in disconnect switch.

You need a clever bugger to figure out how to hack it the first time, but after that it's all script-kiddieable.
posted by sebastienbailard at 4:24 PM on May 21, 2013


Great article, reminds me of people who are obsessed with "chem trails", to the point where they claim it actually affects their health.
posted by greenhornet at 4:40 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I once listened to Chemtrails on repeat until my ears bled. True story. Sort of.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:42 PM on May 21, 2013


has anyone mentioned fluoride yet?
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 5:53 PM on May 21, 2013


"Two even asked for the experiment to be stopped early because the effects were too severe to stand."

That made me pretty twitchy with rage.


I prefer to assume these people were the only ones to see that it was a bullshit study to measure a bullshit effect, and so they cried "uncle" early because they knew they'd be paid the same amount as the other subjects and so they did the rational thing and got a headstart on filling out their questionnaires, collecting their checks, and going home.
posted by peeedro at 7:40 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


People in this thread have been lumping together anti-WiFi, anti-wind turbine, anti-vaccine, anti-fluoride paranoia...

anti-wind turbine kinda stands out because it figures in the profit margins of major energy corporations...

anti-wind turbine kinda stands out because anti-wind activism actually has some traction in swaying rural votes in elections enough to change regional governments...
posted by ovvl at 7:59 PM on May 21, 2013


small_ruminant: "But I need that radio to listen to Rush Limbaugh!

Um, no? Eveyone I know in this camp is super lefty. Berkeley, for example, has a lot of people against cell phone towers (and microwaves).
"

I believe that was a Simpsons reference. I could be wrong.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:19 PM on May 21, 2013


small_ruminant: "(Does anyone know what the health effects have been in Finland since it was discontinued?)"

Oregon is like a healthcare research goldmine; while it's a city by city thing, there's large parts of Oregon that don't have floridated water, and some that do. I'd be surprised if someone hasn't tried a population analysis of two similar towns, but I suspect the

And I mean, there's the whole population study in the 30s (or 40s, I forget) that revealed the correlation between naturally high floride drinking water levels and low cavity rates.
posted by pwnguin at 9:24 PM on May 21, 2013


...and so they cried "uncle" early because they knew they'd be paid the same amount as the other subjects ...

The only time I ever took part in a scientific study, I had to agree to complete all parts of it, or I would be paid nothing. Which is what I got after I quit early. I later found out the study was not investigating how sensitive humans' sense of smell is to various odors, as I was told, but to test something else completely - maybe how many disagreeable odors people will tolerate before the promised money becomes too little incentive. In that case, they got their data for free.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:25 AM on May 22, 2013


Once you realize that a guy like Alex Jones can claim with a straight face that the government could have been behind the Oklahoma tornadoes, science kinda seems like a feeble weapon in the quest for understanding.
posted by dry white toast at 7:03 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's Raining Florence Henderson: "It wasn't WiFi that was making them sick, it was SCIENCE!"

Oh come ON!

SCIENCE! is NEVER wrong. It is the source of ALL BLESSINGS!

SCIENCE! needs to be done! ALL THE TIME!
posted by Samizdata at 1:44 PM on May 22, 2013


darkstar: ""Two even asked for the experiment to be stopped early because the effects were too severe to stand."

That made me pretty twitchy with rage.


Yeah, the first thing I thought of when I read that was "And these people vote and raise children." I'm not sure whether it pinged my anger, frustration or pity neurons more, but there was a fair bit of all three.
"

Betcha that's a side effect of the chip in your head being pinged by the NSA.
posted by Samizdata at 1:47 PM on May 22, 2013


Anti-WIFI is anti science and anti civilization. These people should be ignored, and shouldn't be allowed to influence political decisions.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:02 AM on May 30, 2013


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