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The Story Behind Cell Phone Radiation Research 560

Posted by Hemos
from the the-tumult-and-perspective dept.
XopherMV writes "A study by Lai and Singh, published in a 1995 issue of Bioelectromagnetics, found an increase in damaged DNA in the brain cells of rats after a single two-hour exposure to microwave radiation at levels considered "safe" by government standards. The idea behind that study was relatively simple: expose rats to microwave radiation similar to that emitted by cell phones, then examine their brain cells to see if any DNA damage resulted. The news was apparently unwelcome in some quarters. According to internal documents that later came to light, Motorola started working behind the scenes to minimize any damage Lai's research might cause even before the study was released. In a memo and a draft position paper dated Dec. 13, 1994, officials talked about how they had "war-gamed the Lai-Singh issue" and were in the process of lining up experts who would be willing to point out weaknesses in Lai's study and reassure the public. To this day, the cell phone industry continues to dispute Lai and Singh's findings although half of about 200 studies say there is a biological effect from cell phone radiation. Read more in UW Columns."
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The Story Behind Cell Phone Radiation Research

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  • by The Cisco Kid (31490) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:17AM (#11865516)
    Use a headset. Leave the phone in your pocket or on your desk. You also get the benefit of having your hands free (for typing, or other activities)
    • by Random Chaos (831686) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:18AM (#11865541)
      Oh great. Leave the phone in your pocket where it will damage the DNA you pass on to your children.

      Bravo - great idea!
      • by RubberDogBone (851604) on Monday March 07, 2005 @11:47AM (#11866302)
        Kids, hell. I was given a new winter jacket for Christmas. A well-meaning relative was involved.

        The jacket has a nice inside pocket for a cellphone... directly over your heart. WTF!?

        Worse, it's buried under flaps and zippers and crap so if you have dared to carry the phone in that spot and it actually rings -and you survive- you stand there waving arms like an idiot trying to unzip and unflap just to get AT the phone before it rolls to voicemail.

        It's especially fun if the ringer is set to vibrate. Is it a heart attack or a booty call?
        • by CyberDruid (201684) on Monday March 07, 2005 @11:57AM (#11866437) Homepage
          Over your heart is the best place. That region is generally very tolerant to most environmental effects and mutagens. Ever heard of anyone getting heart cancer?

          (OK, lung cancer exists, but what do you expect when you fill them with toxins)
          • by yet another coward (510) <yacoward@@@yahoo...com> on Monday March 07, 2005 @02:03PM (#11867998)
            Yes, heart cancer is extremely rare. Heart cells are post mitotic; they do not divide. Considering that cancer is the result of too much cell division, the rarity of heart cancer makes sense.

            The flip side is how little the heart can repair itself. Recovery from heart attacks is consequently poor. Heart tissue dies, and it stays dead. The undamaged heart muscle can compensate somewhat. The dead tissue may weaken and even rupture. Using stem cells to regrow heart tissue may work someday. A few clinical reports have been promising.

            Lung cancer would be rare, although not as rare as heart cancer, if not for cigarette smoking.
    • put in your pocket and damage the DNA of, er, something else...???
    • by Trurl's Machine (651488) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:22AM (#11865607) Journal
      Use a headset.

      Are you sure that having a Bluetooth wireless unit close to your brain cells will make that much of improvement?
      • by OMG (669971) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:28AM (#11865680)
        Have you any numbers of the power levels ? Bluetooth uses lower levels AFAIK. Still not optimal, but probably better. More insights on this topic are very welcome.
      • by tigersha (151319) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:37AM (#11865788) Homepage
        A bluetooth headset needs to have anough power to reach you phone 10 meters away.

        A cellphone need to reach the next antenna which may be 5 kilometers away.

        There is a radical difference in signal strength here.
        • by mrsev (664367) <[mrsev] [at] [spymac.com]> on Monday March 07, 2005 @12:29PM (#11866845)
          ...not the same wavelenght so not the same thing at all. From what I remember Bluetooth os around 2.4... GHz and cellphones are aroung 900 MHz and 1800 MHz.

          Now I am not a physycist so I am sure that someone will correct me....

          Now the thing that is critical is how much energy we are absorving from the phone. The frequency for microwave ovens is 2450MHz. this is the frequency where the water gets most excited by the radiation. Now you can and should argue that we have lots of other molecules in our body and they will all absorve at different frequencies. However we contain alot of water... If you ask my uninformed opinion I would rather have a mobile than bluetooth strapped to my head.

          I can not answer how the power will come into it. Is 2450MHz at low power worse than 1800MHz at high power..?

          Maybe someone informed can comment.

          • by deglr6328 (150198) on Monday March 07, 2005 @08:52PM (#11872671)
            Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong! pwhew. I'm sorry, it's out of my system now, really, I promise. The idea that microwave ovens operate at 2.45Ghz because this is a resonant line of water and it absorbs most strongly here is some kind of pernicious zombie urban legend from hell that will not die! It's just totally incorrect. There is no particular resonant line for water here at all. [virginia.edu](search for "resonant" in the page) For a good visualization of how microwaves heat things (any molecule with a dipole charge) look at this very cheesy but useful site [colorado.edu].
    • by OMG (669971) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:23AM (#11865617)
      Be careful: Some headsets are used as antennas for the cell phone. That would contradict the goal you are trying to achieve.

      Perhaps a bluetooth headset can minimize the energy which your DNA in the brain has to absorb.
      • by Valdrax (32670) on Monday March 07, 2005 @12:09PM (#11866597)
        Be careful: Some headsets are used as antennas for the cell phone. That would contradict the goal you are trying to achieve.

        Actually, apparently all headset wires will act as an antenna for cell phone signals, even in models where that's not part of the designed functionality. Studies have shown that using a wired headset can increase your exposure to cell phone radiation by up to 3X. However, clipping a ferrite bead on the wire is suffcient to dampen radio coming off it to negligible levels. These beads are really easy to find online.

        Perhaps a bluetooth headset can minimize the energy which your DNA in the brain has to absorb.

        A bluetooth headset does use significantly less
        power than a cell phone. I believe the SAR for a bluetooth headset is less than 0.1 W as opposed to the 0.6-1.2 W for an average digital cell phone.
    • Not only telephones! (Score:3, Informative)

      by beofli (584044)
      Also the base stations (GSM, UMTS) are reported (scientifically) to cause brain damage.
      www.stopumts.nl is a good dutch site of one guy fighting against these types of radation, after noticing health problems himself.
    • by hcdejong (561314)
      Or don't use a mobile phone at all. For work-related stuff I can be reached at the office, for private matters I can be reached at home, both on landlines.
      When I'm not at home or at the office, I don't want people trying to reach me (I'm either in a meeting or traveling, and I don't like taking calls during either of those activities), and in the 8 years I've had my current job, I've had zero cases where being reachable on-the-road was critical. So no need for a mobile.
      I do own one now (and I'll have to adm
      • by algae (2196)
        On the other side of the spectrum (so to speak), I *only* have a mobile phone. It's less expensive than a land line, doesn't charge me per-minute for long distance calls, and it stays with me instead of with my house. If I don't want to be reached, I freakin turn off the ringer. Since I got a cell phone a couple years ago, my land line usage has dropped to the point where we cancelled everything but the mandatory local/911 service.
    • by ankhank (756164) * on Monday March 07, 2005 @11:41AM (#11866208) Journal
      The long wire between the phone and the headset can also be a source of signal, sometimes stronger than what is measured from the intended antenna as I recall. Searching for info is needle-in-haystack right now with all the crap being published about this, but it was discussed a few years ago.

      You have to actually test for the situation, not assume that making a change will solve the problem.

      One relatively likely solution is using a hollow tube instead of a wire for the earpiece; sound travels fine from phone to ear that way. And the microphone for voice-to-phone should (test!) be electrically isolated from the phone's amplifier.

      Heck -- just put optical transducers in, use a little light guide instead of a wire for the entire headset. Problem solved.

      But maybe making a safe headset would be like making a safe cigarette -- the lawyers would never let it happen if it could be considered an admission of liability.

    • by juglugs (652924)
      Using a headset is not the answer IMHO...

      A normal (non-wireless) headset will simply act as an antenna and the radiation will be strongest at the tip of the antenna, which is now IN your ear rather than just next to it.

      Bluetooth uses 2.4GHz frequencies, which according to a 1980's IEEE paper (I have a hardcopy around here sonewhere) is the PERFECT frequency to kill a lab rat, whilst leaving it's body intact.

      Now, the radiation conforms to the inverse-square rule, so getting the equipment away from your he
  • So ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mirko (198274) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:17AM (#11865524) Journal
    Is there more radiation emanating from my cellphone or from the rest of the city ?
    Is it safe ?
    • Re:So ? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kainaw (676073) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:26AM (#11865666) Homepage Journal
      Is there more radiation emanating from my cellphone or from the rest of the city ?

      I know it sounds weird, but when I was at University of Missouri-Rolla, I did some work at the nuclear reactor on campus. There is far less radiation inside the reactor building (not inside the reactor core itself) than there is outside on the hockey puck (a big concrete circle in the middle of campus). So, if you are worried about radiation, just move into a nuclear reactor building.
      • Re:So ? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Monday March 07, 2005 @11:28AM (#11866028)
        I know it sounds weird, but when I was at University of Missouri-Rolla, I did some work at the nuclear reactor on campus. There is far less radiation inside the reactor building (not inside the reactor core itself) than there is outside on the hockey puck (a big concrete circle in the middle of campus).

        Not really - reactors emit very little radiation beyond the reactor vessel / primary containment; amd teh secondary is an effective shield from natural radiation.

        A nuke submariner recieves a smaller dose that an airline flight crew or a Navy pilot - though paradoxically he wears a dosimeter while aviators don't.
        • Re:So ? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by LurkerXXX (667952) on Monday March 07, 2005 @11:38AM (#11866168)
          A nuke submariner recieves a smaller dose that an airline flight crew or a Navy pilot - though paradoxically he wears a dosimeter while aviators don't.

          There is a reason for that. The sky can't suddenly develop a crack or leak and expose him to deadly doses of radiation in minutes.

          • Re:So ? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            No, the real reason is that the air crew unions don't want their members to count as radiation workers. If they did then they would find it more difficult to get life/medical insurance and experince all of the other little hassels that come with being classed as a radiation worker.

            The airlines don't want to be sued by people claiming that they got cancer due to the high levels of radiation that they were/are exposed to whilst flying at high altertudes.
          • Re:So ? (Score:3, Funny)

            There is a reason for that. The sky can't suddenly develop a crack or leak and expose him to deadly doses of radiation in minutes.

            True dat, although if same happens to a nuke worker, the dosimeter won't tell him much more than "Dude, you're fucking dead."

          • Re:So ? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by deglr6328 (150198)
            "There is a reason for that. The sky can't suddenly develop a crack or leak and expose him to deadly doses of radiation in minutes."

            Can't it? During a coronal mass ejection directed at earth, proton radiation (and the associated induced muon radiation from subsequent "air showers [lanl.gov]")spiraling in along the magnetic field lines of the planet often cause polar flights to be rerouted (flights over the south Atlantic anomaly are also rerouted) in order to avoid relatively large doses to flight crews and passenge
          • Re:So ? (Score:3, Informative)

            A nuke submariner recieves a smaller dose that an airline flight crew or a Navy pilot - though paradoxically he wears a dosimeter while aviators don't.

            There is a reason for that. The sky can't suddenly develop a crack or leak and expose him to deadly doses of radiation in minutes.

            Umm, no. The dosimeter a Navy nuke wears will (reasonably) accurately indicate radiation doses in the range it was designed for - which is about three orders of magnitude below the level of "deadly doses of radiation in minutes

  • by xmas2003 (739875) * on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:18AM (#11865528) Homepage
    For those of you that make it to the 4th page of the UW Columns article, Lai has left the research field (moved to Colorado) and doesn't use a cell phone, plus requires his family members to use headsets - maybe he's on to something?

    P.S. I see this study was done at my alma-matter, the University of Washington. I wonder if my old roommate Jim Oliver might have been affected, since he did handstands from our 7th floor balcony railing [komar.org] - maybe he should have been wearing a tin-foil hat? ;-)

    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday March 07, 2005 @11:13AM (#11865852)
      For those of you that make it to the 4th page of the UW Columns article, Lai has left the research field (moved to Colorado) and doesn't use a cell phone, plus requires his family members to use headsets - maybe he's on to something?

      Questions:

      • Why aren't cancer rates much higher in nations with significantly more cell phones/coverage- say, Japan for example?
      • Why hasn't brain cancer increased in the last 20 years as cell phone usage has gone from near zero to a major percentage of the population? I also don't hear much about "cancer of the hip"...
      • Why haven't cancer rates jumped for people living near cell phone towers?
      • Why is it that the same people who sue cell phone companies over a tower near their house go home each night and pop dinner in a 1200W microwave emitter?
      • Why is it that hundreds of millions microwaves are in use today? Why is it that dozens of words tossed around in tin foil articles articles are made-up, like "d-Nitrosodienthanolamines"? Google that, and notice that the only place google can find it is in the same sentence: "d-Nitrosodienthanolamines, a well known carcinogen". If it's so well known, how come you can only find references to it in Tin Foil Hat articles?

      Answer: because cell phone radiation doesn't cause cancer at any rate appreciable from statistical noise, IF AT ALL.

      Do you realize the gasolene vapor and diesel fumes are far more likely to give you cancer, that they're both known, proven, undisputed carcinogens?

      • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Monday March 07, 2005 @12:09PM (#11866605) Homepage
        Why aren't cancer rates much higher in nations with significantly more cell phones/coverage- say, Japan for example?

        Can you point us at a cancer rate by nation breakdown? Just curious, I spent a few minutes googling for one without success.

        Why is it that the same people who sue cell phone companies over a tower near their house go home each night and pop dinner in a 1200W microwave emitter?

        Well, let's be fair: the microwave oven is designed to keep its emissions inside.

        Answer: because cell phone radiation doesn't cause cancer at any rate appreciable from statistical noise, IF AT ALL.

        It's certainly difficult to isolate from the risk factors we bathe ourselves in daily, yes.

        I would guess that people who walk around with their cell-phone glued to their head all the time are likely to be type-A personalities with more significant lifestyle factors.

        • Can you point us at a cancer rate by nation breakdown? Just curious, I spent a few minutes googling for one without success.

          I managed to find this [nih.gov] after a few minutes of googling myself. I guess your success can depend on your googling skillz. It seems that overall cancer rates show no noticeable correlation with cell phone usage--Japan and Korea are in the middle to lower end of the scale in fact, at least in comparison to natinos not known for such widespread cellphone usage.

          In any case, the data is
      • by EsbenMoseHansen (731150) on Monday March 07, 2005 @12:14PM (#11866649) Homepage
        Questions: Why aren't cancer rates much higher in nations with significantly more cell phones/coverage- say, Japan for example?
        Why hasn't brain cancer increased in the last 20 years as cell phone usage has gone from near zero to a major percentage of the population? I also don't hear much about "cancer of the hip"...

        Too early to tell. Cancer is usually about 10years in development. We will see.

        Why haven't cancer rates jumped for people living near cell phone towers?

        See above, plus the phone towers are very far away compared to the phone in your hand. The inverse square law again.

        Why is it that the same people who sue cell phone companies over a tower near their house go home each night and pop dinner in a 1200W microwave emitter?

        Because cell phones are new. New stuff is always blamed for all sorts of things. Plus the US system of civil suits are severely broken, so it sometimes pays to sue more or less randomly.

        Why is it that hundreds of millions microwaves are in use today? Why is it that dozens of words tossed around in tin foil articles articles are made-up, like "d-Nitrosodienthanolamines"? Google that, and notice that the only place google can find it is in the same sentence: "d-Nitrosodienthanolamines, a well known carcinogen". If it's so well known, how come you can only find references to it in Tin Foil Hat articles?

        Because tin foil hats can't spell? It's probably something like Dinitroamino ethanolamine or similar. And google is not the best place to find chemical data (=such data tend to cost money).

        Answer: because cell phone radiation doesn't cause cancer at any rate appreciable from statistical noise, IF AT ALL.

        You are probably right, but we can't conclude this quite yet. Ask again in 10 years.

        Do you realize the gasolene vapor and diesel fumes are far more likely to give you cancer, that they're both known, proven, undisputed carcinogens?

        Are you seriously suggesting that people give up their holy cows^H^H^H^Hcars instead of going after big corporations?

      • by brwski (622056) on Monday March 07, 2005 @12:24PM (#11866776)

        SuperBanana [slashdot.org] writes: Answer: because cell phone radiation doesn't cause cancer at any rate appreciable from statistical noise, IF AT ALL.

        Not necessarily. Some cancers take their time in developing, and some require a fair amount of exposure to toxins, etc., before a cancer is triggered. It may be that we will see rates soar in the next ten-twenty years, once time of exposure + time for appreciable harm to occur adds up to cancer. It may also be that there are other, much more subtle forms of damage, forms that are not cancer but which lead to equally unpleasant and debilitating diseases/syndromes/etc.

      • It isn't just about manifested cancer but damage to the cells period. Regardless if it eventually leads to cancer or not.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Try googling for "Nitrosodiethanolamine", genius.
      • by RedWizzard (192002) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:03PM (#11868692)
        • Why aren't cancer rates much higher in nations with significantly more cell phones/coverage- say, Japan for example?
        • Why hasn't brain cancer increased in the last 20 years as cell phone usage has gone from near zero to a major percentage of the population? I also don't hear much about "cancer of the hip"...
        A few months ago the chairman of the UK's National Radiological Protection Board (Professor Sir William Stewart) warned against cell phone use by children (story [timesonline.co.uk]). A Swedish study cited in that story found that acoustic neuromas are twice as common in mobile phone users, and four times as common on the side of the head where the phone was held. Additionaly brain tumours are becoming more common -- the UK Brain Tumour Society says that incidence has increased by 45 per cent in 30 years. Just because you haven't heard of an increase in cancer rates doesn't mean that rates haven't increased.
    • ". . .maybe he's on to something?"

      Or maybe he's just a fruitcake. The behavior of a researcher is no indication that his results are valid, just that he believes them, and just because some early quantum theorist started wearing "quantum snowshoes" to keep himself from falling through the floor doesn't mean I have to feel in any jeopardy of doing the same.

      People, even researchers, are capable of believing all sorts of doofy shit, especially that shit they have produced themselves. Or Perhaps he has a brai
    • For those of you that make it to the 4th page of the UW Columns article, Lai has left the research field (moved to Colorado) and doesn't use a cell phone, plus requires his family members to use headsets - maybe he's on to something?

      I have an oncologist in my family who uses her cell phone this way. I don't think she would claim that the evidence regarding harmfulness of cell phone radiation is conclusive. I think she would just point out that taking the necessary step to protect yourself (buying and usin

  • power levels (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rubycodez (864176) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:18AM (#11865530)
    quite a bit of difference between the minimum "safe" level of gigahertz RF and what a present day cell phone emits. Now those "brick" phones of my college days, those are another matter.....
  • Half of 200? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stupidfoo (836212) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:18AM (#11865538)
    What is this, global warming?

    So 100 studies say there are no problems. And 100 say there are problems.

    So there must be problems!
    • Re:Half of 200? (Score:5, Informative)

      by afxgrin (208686) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:39AM (#11865812)
      Umm - why did you decide to exclude the rest of the information?

      From TFA:


      Lai says there have been about 200 studies on the biological effects of cell-phone-related radiation. If you put all the ones that say there is a biological effect on one side and those that say there is no effect on the other, you'd have two piles roughly equal in size. The research splits about 50-50.

      "That, in and of itself, is alarming," Lai says. But it's not the whole story. If you divide up the same 200 studies by who sponsored the research, the numbers change.

      "When you look at the non-industry sponsored research, it's about three to one--three out of every four papers shows an effect," Lai says. "Then, if you look at the industry-funded research, it's almost opposite--only one out of every four papers shows an effect."
      • Re:Half of 200? (Score:5, Informative)

        by radtea (464814) on Monday March 07, 2005 @11:54AM (#11866387)
        "When you look at the non-industry sponsored research, it's about three to one--three out of every four papers shows an effect," Lai says. "Then, if you look at the industry-funded research, it's almost opposite--only one out of every four papers shows an effect."
        Ever try to get a null result published?

        I believe that industry-sponsored research is biased. But simply because research is not industry-sponsored does not mean it is not biased.

        In particular, what a scientist wants to see in an experiment is a positive effect, an non-null result. I've seen people (in genetics, as it happens) do terrible things to their data to get a non-null result, and carefully massage the statistics to make a result that deviates from the null hypothesis by a miniscule amount look significant.

        Why?

        Because it's a hell of a lot easier (to say nothing of more personally satisifying) to do all this work, kill all these rats, and at the end of the day be able to say something more interesting than, "Nothing to see here, move along..."

        --Tom
        • Re:Half of 200? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Listen Up (107011)
          Fortunately, not ALL scientists believe and act this way. As a scientist myself, I believe in the truth at all cost, regardless of outcome. Yes, there are some scientists who do not believe the way I do. NOT by lying, but using and taking some particularly specific actions exactly like you pointed out, although that certainly does NOT speak for the majority. Extremely rigorous peer review is the best solution to this problem.

          The real problem is the news media grabbing the first piece of sensational non
    • The article here makes it pretty clear -- as another responder points out -- that studies performed by the industry slant heavily toward "No problem here... Keep moving, nothing to see!" whereas those carried out by third parties are predominantly (at a rate of about 3 to 1) showing biological effects.

      In the case of global warming, of course, basically it's unanimous among scientists who aren't bought and paid for by the energy industry. (Even the Bush administration admits global warming is happening --

    • Re:Half of 200? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LaCosaNostradamus (630659) <LaCosaNostradamus@ m a i l .com> on Monday March 07, 2005 @11:43AM (#11866237) Journal
      If we were talking about a population of studies about how severely your car's new paint job will fade and peel over time, I'd say your contempt was warranted. But with something in the life-affecting arena like climate and cancer, I'd say it's particularly foolish to simply ignore the danger signs and to continue acting in the same way.

      Generally, where there's smoke, there's fire, and even if it turns out there's no fire, all you did was move, fill water buckets, and make other sensible precautions against fire anyway -- no biggie. Get some perspective.

      Let's put it another way. You get your hands on 200 studies of the stability of the office building you work in. 100 of those studies say the structure will catastrophically collapse, likely killing 99% of the people inside. The other 100 say the building is fine. Question: Will you step inside the building without any further investigation?
  • Bugger. (Score:5, Funny)

    by ben0207 (845105) <ben.burton@gmai l . com> on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:18AM (#11865545) Homepage
    Turns out it was the phone itself, and not the bills that were trying to kill me.
  • I wonder. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by winstonmeister (863683) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:19AM (#11865549)
    This is almost tinfoil hat territory, but this sounds remarkably similar to the way tobacco companies once behaved. I wonder if any cellular companies have undergone their own private tests, and if so, I wonder what they have found.
    • by Not_Wiggins (686627) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:25AM (#11865647) Journal
      This is almost tinfoil hat territory...

      Ironically, your tinfoil hat may actually help in this instance! 8)
    • Re:I wonder. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Fyz (581804) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:33AM (#11865748)
      That's not tinfoil talk at all. It happens constantly.

      Sugar company lobbyists basically tried to label the WHO as idiots and liars when they published reports that recommended decreased sugar consumption as means of increasing cardiovascular health and reducing obesity.
      I'm not even going to get in on the fast-food industry.

      This is just yet another example of the corporations exerting their stranglehold on US policy to up profits, damn the consequences.

      It's really amazing the kind of short-sightedness they exhibit, considering that consumers, and by extension, healthy consumers, are their prime income creating resource.
      • Re:I wonder. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Atryn (528846) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:47PM (#11869276) Homepage
        This is just yet another example of the corporations exerting their stranglehold on US policy to up profits, damn the consequences.
        Why do you limit your statement to the US? Seeing as how we aren't the leader in cellular use... Are the big corporations exerting their stranglehold on Finnish policy?
    • SAR Testing (Score:5, Informative)

      by sbowles (602816) on Monday March 07, 2005 @11:12AM (#11865842)
      FCC requires Specific Absorption Rate [metlabs.com] (SAR) [ce-mag.com] Testing [conformity.com].

      This site [sarshield.com] has a list of SAR ratings. For a phone to pass FCC certification, the phone's maximum SAR level must be less than 1.6W/kg (watts per kilogram). The SAR levels shown in the linked chart represent the maximum SAR level with the phone next to the ear.

    • Re:I wonder. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by interiot (50685)
      So, how should companies respond to a claim if they honestly believe it to have no merit?

      Anyway, try this: find either an RF engineer in college, or one working in a cell phone company. Take them out to a bar, and ask them their honest opinion. If they're in college, they might tell you that cell phones emit much less energy than is considered even minimally harmful. Or they'll compare a cell phone to normal widespread devices, like a microwave. Talk to someone in the workplace, and they'll most likel

    • Re:I wonder. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by afxgrin (208686)
      If you read TFA you would know:


      Lai says there have been about 200 studies on the biological effects of cell-phone-related radiation. If you put all the ones that say there is a biological effect on one side and those that say there is no effect on the other, you'd have two piles roughly equal in size. The research splits about 50-50.

      "That, in and of itself, is alarming," Lai says. But it's not the whole story. If you divide up the same 200 studies by who sponsored the research, the numbers change.

      "When
  • by temponaut (848887) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:20AM (#11865564) Homepage
    : Radiats Biol Radioecol. 2003 Sep-Oct;43(5):541-3. Biological effects of mobile phone electromagnetic field on chick embryo (risk assessment using the mortality rate) [Article in Russian] Grigor'ev IuG. State Research Center-Institute of Biophysics, Ministry of Health of Russian Federation, Moscow, 123182 Rissua. yugrigor@rol.ru Chicken embryos were exposed to EMF from GSM mobile phone during the embryonic development (21 days). As a result the embryo mortality rate in the incubation period increased to 75% (versus 16% in control group). PMID: 14658287 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE
  • by youngerpants (255314) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:22AM (#11865608)
    I fully understand the use of vivisection; I'm even going to say that I am pro animal testing (lets watch the flames now :S)

    However, a human is NOT a rat. Our skulls are thicker, our neurons interconnect differently, there is different bloodflow around the cranial cavity and the meninges is more complex in humans. We are not looking for research related to biochemistry, we are looking at physical abstraction.

    I would give this research a second look if it were performed on primates, but a rat just isnt a proper comparitive test.
    • by Ubergrendle (531719) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:32AM (#11865727) Journal
      I think its a valid starting point though. The question is "does the electromagnetic frequency used for cellphones have the ability to interfere with biomechanical processes?" and the answer would be 'yes'.

      The next step would be to test on higher-evolved species and mammals (e.g. guinea pigs, cats, eventually primates) to iron out the concerns you've identified. Most likely by the time it reaches humans this will not be a relevant matter... but at least there is some preliminary evidence that would suggest further testing is required.

  • Brown and Williamson (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wren337 (182018) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:22AM (#11865611) Homepage

    Reminds me of the internal cigarette documents that came to light in the tobacco trials. I wonder if there will be enough people injured to have massive class action suits.

    Althoguh from what I understand the new digital cells are nothing like analog phones for the amount of energy they put out. I know when I'm in an analog only area my phone goes flat in less than a day, compared to 3-4 days when I have digital service. So anecdotally I'm seeing maybe 1/3 to 1/4 of the power output with digital.
  • by Loco3KGT (141999) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:24AM (#11865632)
    The poster implies we should all worry because half of the studies say it's a health risk...

    But by that same logic none of us should worry because half of the studies say there is no damage.

    I'm a minimalist w/ my cellphone for reasons other than radiation... but seems to me we need something better than "50% of studies say it's an issue."

    Ah hell, who am I kidding, this is slashdot. I'm going to go burn my T610 now. That Bluetooth probably already killed my sperm anyway.
    • I'm a minimalist w/ my cellphone for reasons other than radiation... but seems to me we need something better than "50% of studies say it's an issue."

      Why? The step to take to avoid the danger, a danger we can readily concede has not been proven to be real, is simple. Use a headset with the phone. A ten dollar expense to avoid a potential risk of brain damage. (and free up your hands while you use the phone, I guess)

      The poster implies we should all worry because half of the studies say it's a health risk.

    • by alienmole (15522) on Monday March 07, 2005 @12:08PM (#11866587)

      The poster implies we should all worry because half of the studies say it's a health risk...

      But by that same logic none of us should worry because half of the studies say there is no damage.

      So, if half of all my observations when searching for elephants show no elephants, but half of them do show elephants, you're saying I can conclude from this that elephants don't exist?
    • by Valdrax (32670) on Monday March 07, 2005 @12:29PM (#11866843)
      I'm a minimalist w/ my cellphone for reasons other than radiation... but seems to me we need something better than "50% of studies say it's an issue."

      This is the problem with sound-bytes. If you actually read the article, you'd notice that a lot of the article is about industry tainting of research through a carrot-and-stick approach. Lai notes that if you split up the studies into publicly and industry funded studies, you see that 75% of publicly funded studies show a problem and 80% of industry funded studies show no problem.

      In other words, 75% of studies with no obvious pro-industry conflict of interest say that it's an issue. Not that it matters for those who don't want to change their lives; merely 5% of researchers (and a host of people who aren't climate scientists) dissenting has been good enough for people who don't want to act on global warming.

      Bah, the other poster's elephants analogy is a better counter-argument anyway.
  • Rats! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:25AM (#11865643)
    an increase in damaged DNA in the brain cells of rats after a single two-hour exposure to microwave radiation at levels considered "safe" by government standards

    So, just how much radiation *does* the government consider to be safe for rats?

  • kids (Score:5, Insightful)

    by computerme (655703) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:26AM (#11865657)
    I also remember see graphics that showed that the rad / cell phone leakage goes further into a teenagers (or small childs) brain then that of an adult for the obvious reason that a child's head is smaller...

    and guess who is the phone company's biggest new target over the last 3 years....? yep. teeenagers....

    but who buys these phones for their kids? Adults...

    Of course its for "safety" you know that .0001 of the time they really need it as opposed to the 99.999% of the time they are on the phone with their friends yapping worthlessly...

    If i had a kid i would not let use one... yet parents don't even spend time to think of the health effects on their kids...

    yet another sad statement on society...
    • Re:kids (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Heisenbug (122836)
      Parents who obsessively limit their children's freedom out of vague concerns for safety yield wimpy, dependent kids. Parents who consider the things that their kids care about to be worthless yield angry, alienated kids. Stick that up your sad statement for society and smoke it.

      I'm *glad* you don't have a kid.
  • Cue Theremin Sound (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gelfling (6534) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:27AM (#11865671) Homepage Journal
    Maybe it's true maybe it's not. In either case I suspect it's a little bit like NYC banning smoking in a city where walking down the street will get you a lungful of fried hydrocarbon rot bus diesel fumes. I tend to look at the actual effects in a world where the cell phone using population went from about zero to 800 million in 15 years. Is it really that big a risk given the huge numbers of users who aren't manifesting extremely and obviously high incidences of disease?
  • by tuffy (10202) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:28AM (#11865692) Homepage Journal
    Let's issue standard cel phones to one group, placebo cel phones to another and see if there's any difference in cancer rates.
  • by ozymyx (813013) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:29AM (#11865701)
    Russia has long had LOWER emission requirements than Western countries. Russian scientists are not stupid. See: http://www.gallawa.com/microtech/Ch3.html Quote from this site: "Rather than concentrating on the effects of high-intensity levels, 'Soviet scientists were focusing their efforts on the lesser-known effects of prolonged or repeated exposure to low levels of microwaves. Their research, which began quite some time before that of their Western counterparts, has yielded some rather unsettling reports. Soviet studies show that long-term exposure to low levels of microwave energy could result in unpleasant effects that are not attributable to over-heating (or thermal effect) alone. These effects could be seen at exposure levels at and below 10mw/cm2, which is the occupational safety standard in the U.S. The USSR, and other European countries, has thus set their own strict guidelines for microwave safety, concluding that Western safety standards are simply not safe. For example, Russian workers are required to wear protective goggles any time they are temporarily exposed to a microwave radiation level of 1mw/cm2, a level routinely allowed to leak (although in recent years, rarely does) from U.S. microwave ovens." Personally I think the Russians know a lot we don't....
  • by sjonke (457707) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:30AM (#11865710) Journal
    A cell tower was recently installed very near our home. A level-head and concerned neighbor went around with a petition, not to force the removal of the tower, but, restrainedly, just to demand that the community be involved in any such future decisions that may impact health and well being, him noting his concerns about the health impact of the tower. We signed the petition. Is there any research showing negative health effects of nearby cell towers, especially on children?
    • by Technician (215283) on Monday March 07, 2005 @11:52AM (#11866371)
      Is there any research showing negative health effects of nearby cell towers,

      Microwave radiation follows the same propogation rules as light radition including long wavelengths. I made the statement so you could easly compare a easly detected ratation and compare it's levels with an invisable radiation of the electromagnetic spectrum.

      If I build a campfire, I can sit several feet from it and be warmed by it from it's thermal radiation. Someone walking between me and the fire will block the radiation and I notice the cold. If they built a huge bonfire, say they have a house catch fire, I can feel the heat at a greater distance. I may get the same warm feeling a couple houses distant from the fire. The house fire is several orders of magnitude larger than a campfire. By increasing my distance from the fire, I can keep my heat exposure to a comfortable level.

      Now how far are you from a cell phone stuck against your head and how far are you from the radiating antenna on the top of a cell tower. The tower radiates more power by a couple orders of magnitude, but the guy on the other side of the cubicle wall is hitting you with more power than the tower. It's less power, but a whole lot closer.

      There are not too much research on the negative health effects of nearby cell towers, because they measure the signal strength in the area and it is orders of magnitude less strong than the radiation from the phone used by the kids mom in the car. The cell tower health effects are in a background level compared to going to a movie or riding a city bus where somone close grabs his ringing phone.

      The study would be inconclusive because there is no control environment without cell phone end users in the area of a tower.
  • by a_nonamiss (743253) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:34AM (#11865754)
    I look at this as the thing that we will be laughed at by people in 100 years. Think 100 years ago, people used to wear radioactive radium watches, and 60 years ago, people exposed themselves to harmful amounts of radiation to make sure their shoes [mtn.org] fit properly. Hell, Marie Curie, the father (mother) of modern radioactive theory kept a beaker full of radium next to her bed because it made a swell nightlight. Now, nobody is going to accuse her of being stupid, seeing as how she developed the initial scientific theory leading to most of what we know about physics today. It's just that they didn't know any better. Nowadays, we say "She did WHAT?!?"

    I think in 100 years they will be saying "They did WHAT?!? They put microwave transmitters RIGHT NEXT TO THEIR BRAINS! What morons!" The cell phone industry can fight it all they want, but the cigarette industry didn't acknowledge that cigarettes were addivtive until the 1990's.
    • by skwang (174902) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:10PM (#11868782)
      I just want to point out at radium and other radioactive element emit radiation mostly in the form of particles or high energy gamma rays.

      I don't actually doubt the fundamental idea of your post. That things such as radium clock dials and x-ray shoe size machines were potentially harmful and that today we consider them stupid. People in the future could very well consider our current generation's cell phone usage stupid. But I want to point out the scientific fallacies that your post.

      There is a fundamental misunderstanding about the word radiation in everyday speech. The most general definition is the transmission of energy through a medium. So a campfire generating heat is giving off radiation. The light coming off of your computer monitor is your CRT emitting radiation. When people say radiation they can mean a lot of different things. More confusing are when you add terms like radioactive.

      When a nuclear particle such as radium or iridium decays it gives of particles. These particles were given the names alpha, beta, and gamma by early physicists. Today we know that nuclear decays give off helium nuclei (alpha), electrons (beta), photons (gamma), and neutron (no Greek name). When a particle decays some of it's energy is carried off into space by these particles. It is this loss of energy by an emission of a particle that is called radiation. Perhaps a more precise term is "nuclear radiation." When an element naturally gives off radiation it is called radioactive. All four of these particles can do harmful damage to human tissue. However, alpha particles are so heavy that even your clothes (and even air) can block their transmission.

      Beta, gamma, and neutrons can be dangerous because they can cut your DNA strands in the nucleus of your cells. Although you cells can repair a cut strand, exposure to thousands of particles can cut a strange many times, which results in the cell being unable to divide, and the death of said cell. Now I've only described one type of damage that can occur. The human body is a complex mechanism that can receive complex radiation damage. I am not an expert in this field.

      The word radiation becomes confusing when you move to the realm of photons. Recall that the electro-magnetic spectrum is made up of frequencies ranging from the very high (gamma-rays, x-rays) to the very low (radio waves). When your turn on a light bulb, the photons that are emitted are in the visible and infrared ranges. That is why you see "light" and feel "heat." Radiation is responsible for both of these phenomenon. In this case radiation refers to the emission of photons with energy. The amount of energy emitted is described by a very simple formula:

      Energy = (plank's constant) * frequency

      or
      E = h f

      So high energy photons, such as gammas that nuclear decays emit, carry a lot of energy. This is why gamma-rays and x-rays can be harmful. But low frequency waves such as infrared, microwaves, and radio waves carry much lower amounts of energy. The difference between a gamma-ray and a microwave can be almost 10 orders of magnitude.

      Cells phones transmit their signals on microwaves. Cell towers emit radiation in the form a microwave photons and cells phone also emit radiation in the form of microwave photons. I use the term microwaves here not because the frequency of the cell phone transmission is the same as the waves in your kitchen microwave, but because they are higher in frequency than radio waves but smaller in freq. than infrared waves. They carry much less energy than the x-rays mentioned in your post. Cell phones also don't emit any alpha, beta, or neutrons in appreciable numbers.

      So after reading all this are cell phones dangerous because they emit photons? Does the energy of said photons affect the human brain? I have no idea. But I just want you (guys) to understand the physics behind the word radiation. As we see it took a long post to explain what exactly a word that is often used but frequently misunderstood.

  • I don't buy it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tgibbs (83782) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:35AM (#11865768)
    The energy per photon is just too low to break covalent bonds, so there is no way microwave energy could break DNA directly, unless you pump in enough energy to cook it.

    So you really have to resort to some fancy hypotheses to rationalize this. Well maybe, just maybe, there is some kind of a resonance of the current through an ion channel (although I'm not entirely sure that this is even plausible), which somehow alters its coupling to some intracellular kinase or other second messenger system, which activates an enzyme that happens to produce free radicals, and those break DNA. But I'd have to see some definitive evidence before I take that kind of hypothesis seriously.

    The point is that "microwaves damage DNA" is an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence. "Some studies support it and some do not" simply doesn't qualify.

    I'm skeptical of "DNA break" assays, anyway. There is a long history of people finding DNA damage by this and that, and others failing to reproduce the result. It's easy to break DNA--you can even break it by rough handling.

    • Re:I don't buy it (Score:5, Informative)

      by frozen_kangaroo (755476) on Monday March 07, 2005 @12:03PM (#11866529)
      I am a physicist, and fully agree with you that the energy of microwave photons is not sufficient to break bonds. BUT - Microwave absorption spectra are full of frequencies that cause rotation and vibration of one part of a molecule relative to another.

      Proteins and enzymes, and probably even DNA (IANABC) rely heavily on steric (shape) effects to do their work. Why cannot microwaves cause a molecule to flip and turn into a stereoisomer of itself ?

      Consider the horrors of, for example, prions [prohosting.com] such as those that cause CJD. Here is an example of a simple stereoisomer of a protein, wreaking havoc by its mere presence causing the production of more of the wrong stereoisomer.

      So, Maybe if microwave radiation does not affect DNA, what about the proteins found around it that function to repair and monitor damage ? How about turning them into stereoisomers and stopping them from functioning ?

      • Microwaves & Magnets (Score:3, Informative)

        by Valdrax (32670)
        There is an entire field of research in industrial chemistry right now to see how microwaves can affect chemical reactions and promote certain reaction paths over others. You don't have to break an molecular bond to have an effect on chemistry. Microwave heating, even at very low levels, can significant speed up certain reactions. Enzymes in particular seem subject to this effect at very low power levels. (Read this [ed.ac.uk], look for a paragraph 2/3 down.)

        Futhermore, I remembered some of Lai's more recent rese
      • Both the normal protein, called PrP^C for prion (related) protein cellular, and diseased form, called PrP^Sc for scrapie, are the same stereoisomer as far as we know. They are different conformations, different foldings of the same protein. Stereoisomerism [wikipedia.org] and chemical conformation [wikipedia.org] are not the same. Read more about prion [wikipedia.org].
      • Re:I don't buy it (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Stoutlimb (143245) on Monday March 07, 2005 @02:57PM (#11868631)
        I am also a physicist, and I disagree with you that bonds cannot be broken. The math is relatively simple to prove that a photon of microwave energy can't break apart something as simple as a water molecule. But how about something as complex as DNA?

        What I disagree with is the statement that molecular bonds cannot be broken in much more complex molecules by weak radiation. With such a large structure as a chain of DNA or some proteins, the microwaves could set up harmful oscillations and harmoinc motion that could magnify the effect of the radiation, and snap the chain in a weak spot.

        If I glue 3 or 4 bricks together with mortar, and put them in a field, I can prove that a 9.0 earthquake probably won't break them apart. Now if I put a few million bricks together in a building, all bets are off. Kinda scary.

        Here's another example of harmonics in action. http://online.redwoods.cc.ca.us/instruct/darnold/d eproj/Sp01/WillKen/article_s.pdf [cc.ca.us]

        Considering that your typical molecule of DNA could easily contain millions of atoms, there is plenty of room for waves to build up and cause damage. If you want the Nobel prize, try mathematically modelling THAT. :-P

        Bork!
        • Re:I don't buy it (Score:3, Informative)

          by zCyl (14362)
          What I disagree with is the statement that molecular bonds cannot be broken in much more complex molecules by weak radiation. With such a large structure as a chain of DNA or some proteins, the microwaves could set up harmful oscillations and harmoinc motion that could magnify the effect of the radiation, and snap the chain in a weak spot.

          They don't even have to do it directly. There have been studies recently suggesting significant effects of microwave radiation on the blood-brain barrier, which could c
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:36AM (#11865779)
    But in the early 90's the computer industry and U.S. military quashed a paper to be released by the U.S. EPA that listed low frequency electromagnetic radiation from, among other sources, desktop PC power supplies as a Class B Carcinogen.

    http://www.mercola.com/article/emf/emf_dangers.htm [mercola.com]

    Everybody's all up in arms about cell phones, but if you're parked in front of a desktop you might possibly have at least as much to worry about from other sources.

    Well-balanced site which gives several takes on the issue:
    http://www.ehso.com/ehshome/emf.htm#dangerous [ehso.com]

  • by shotgunefx (239460) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:38AM (#11865801) Journal
    I know there will be a lot of calls of bullshit, but here goes.

    My first phone was an analog Nokia. I don't recall the model but I still have it here someplace. It took me awhile to realize the cause, but every time I used it, I'd get a headache and a weird sensation on that side of my head. A tingly hot feeling, almost felt like a hairdryer when it's too close to your head. Also slightly scattered in my thinking. Like it was hard to concentrate.

    This was before I ever heard a peep about even the possiblity of radiation being a problem so it wasn't in my imagination. I never felt anything like that outside of using that phone. Never happend again after I stopped using it either (about 7 years ago)

    After the realization, I was like Kirk and his communicator. I'd say something quickly and then hold it away from my head as far as I could while still being able to hear. My calls also got amazingly terse.

    I hung on to it thinking of getting it tested one day. How could (where would) you go about measuring the radiation?
    • I know a woman who has electromagnetic field sensebility. She can feel a CRT Monitor being switched on in the other room or on another floor and feels it especially intense at certain angles (yepp, it's the vertical and horizontal coils). She's allready had the effect scientifically examined.
      She also senses mobile radiocell handshakes nearby (5-7 meters) and has a habbit of anouncing a phonecall just a second before a mobile rings. Quite irritating for people not knowing this/ believing her and funny to wat
  • by CleverNickedName (644160) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:39AM (#11865808) Journal
    Fifty years from now our grandkids could be laughing at us for holding such dangerous devices up to our heads.

    That's why I keep my mobile in my front trousers-pocket. There's no chance I'll be laughed at by grandkids.
  • by hung_himself (774451) on Monday March 07, 2005 @11:16AM (#11865872)
    There are two major issues here. The first one is reproducibility. If you look hard enough in the literature you can find a study that can support any conclusion. Errors are made and statistical variations will occur but if an effect is real it needs to be reproduced consistently. This has not been the case for effects from non-ionizing radiation in general and seeing that this is a paper from 1995, for this case in particular.

    Now one can argue that maybe the few positive results are the real ones and that experimental technology is just not very good. Fair enough but there is a second issue here. There is no plausible mechanism for DNA damage from non-ionizing radiation aside from possibly heating. Again, it doesn't mean that one doesn't exist but this is in stark contrast to damage from ionizing radiation where the basic mechanisms have been known for decades.

    With no body of reproducible results and no plausible mechanism, the null hypothesis that there is no effect is the one is generally accepted. You should, of course, pass your own judgement on the risk involved - I'm just trying to explain why these results are consigned to Electromagnetics rather than gracing the front pages of Science and Nature.
  • by asliarun (636603) on Monday March 07, 2005 @12:01PM (#11866487)
    Considering the general decline of manners and overall public behaviour, we can confidently say that cellphone usage has caused cerebral damage.

    Not commonly known outside scientific circles, the radiation specifically targets the cellula oblongata. Keeping it in the pocket, on the other hand, causes the Ericsson dysfunction syndrome.
  • by PotatoHead (12771) * <doug.opengeek@org> on Monday March 07, 2005 @12:20PM (#11866720) Homepage Journal
    I just have to comment.

    Two things:

    Cell phones emit a pretty powerful signal. Speakers near the phone can be modulated on an incoming call. Nothing else I own does that. And this happens when the speakers are off. (And yes, the frequencies in use have a lot to do with that and that's my point!)

    My second accidential observation is even more spooky. Back when I was short of cash, I fixed a microwave that was broken, but was afraid to use it without a way to be sure it was still safe. Someone got me one of those little microwave radiation detectors, sold at Radio Shack. It's a little handheld device with no batteries, just a flat antenna you point near the microwave.

    Happened to be testing a friends new microwave because the cheap ones are pretty loose in front. (Don't put your face near the glass on one of the low end models, unless you don't enjoy the current state of your frontal lobes.) The cell phone was nearby and received a call. I could hear the *click* as the needle went off the high end of the scale. --That has made me think a little harder about this since it happened a few months back.

    Of course, the windings in the meter could have been responding as the speakers did. Either way, that's enough RF saturation to be considered unsafe by Amateur radio standards.

    I agree with the eariler poster that pointed out we used to wear radioactive watches and X-ray our feet. My gut says we are going to find something wrong with the phones in the future.

    My symptoms, after longer cell use, are ringing in the ears. I don't use my cell as much as I used to and my right ear will, on occasion, just start ringing for no reason. That's the ear I most often choose when I am not thinking about things and just answer the phone.

    Ok, so that's three things, whatever.
  • Mutant (Score:3, Funny)

    by Ranger (1783) on Monday March 07, 2005 @01:15PM (#11867450) Homepage
    It's obvious that cell phones cause mutations. Ever watch anyone talk on a cell phone while driving a car? They are turned into inconsiderate, oblivious assholes.

    "Wonder twin powers, Activate! Form of a cell phone user driving a car! Oh, wait. Make that from of an asshole."

A language that doesn't have everything is actually easier to program in than some that do. -- Dennis M. Ritchie

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