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Cellphones It's funny.  Laugh. Math United Kingdom Science

Exposing the Link Between Cell Phones and Fertility 112

Posted by timothy
from the social-network dept.
ApharmdB writes "We frequently gripe about the poor quality of science reporting by the media. A Guardian blogger from the mathematics department at Queen Mary, University of London has made a honeypot press release to see how bad it can get. (Or maybe to have some fun trolling the media?) The statistic used is the strong link between the number of mobile phone masts in an area and the number of live births. Of course, there is no causal link because they are both instead based on a 3rd variable, the local population size. Slashdot readers can keep on eye on news sources over the weekend to see just how much traction the story gets and watch the train wreck in real-time!"
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Exposing the Link Between Cell Phones and Fertility

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  • ruined (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    why would you post this, you are throwing off his experiment

    • casual idjits dont read slashdot, but I keep my threshold above 0. My opinion might be skewed
      • Right; whoever reads this is bound by the Slashdot code of secrecy not to explain it to any media people (or other non aware "sheep") at pain of having a dihydrogen monoxide [dhmo.org] poisoning attempt. Trust me, if you do give the game away, wait two days and then demand your food is tested for DHMO. We will find you. It will be there. We will get it into all and everything you eat.

        (posting as Anonymous so that nobody can trace my packets)

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Don't joke about DHMO! It is very dangerous. It is now Long Beach police policy to shoot people if they point device that can spay DHMO at a officer, even if more than 40 feet away.

        • I prefer to use hydronium hydroxide rather than dihydrogen monoxide, but to each his own
        • Ah yes, DHMO Fatal if inhaled [cfact.tv]

        • I think the media is VERY aware. The media has an agenda, what that agenda is not the same for all media but you can see it clearly by how a story plays OR doesn't play. Girl in train is assaulted by 5 people, beaten with a hammer, 6th helps them escape by knocking out a window. The police description released to help find them says they got tinted skins, meaning in Holland and considering the area muslims. Now can you guys how few media happened to report this story at all and even if they did write down t

          • by DavidTC (10147)

            When did 'Muslim' become 'racial data'? And perhaps more importantly, when the fuck did 'tinted skin' mean Muslim?

            The reason the media didn't say the crime was done by 'immigrants' is the reason it always doesn't says that...because no one can fucking tell someone's an immigrant without knowing who they are. It's the same reason they don't say 'Their last name started with an R'.

            Take your idiotic racist blather and conspiracy theories somewhere else.

      • by node 3 (115640)

        casual idjits dont read slashdot

        Exactly. The idiots here put a lot of effort into it.

    • Re:ruined (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dbolger (161340) on Saturday December 18, 2010 @01:37PM (#34600660) Homepage

      Not really. If journalists don't even bother to look the topic up on Google and find this story, it proves the point.

      • Re:ruined (Score:4, Informative)

        by madprof (4723) on Saturday December 18, 2010 @01:58PM (#34600866)

        Exactly. Two UK newspapers were found copying wholly wrong information off of Wikipedia.
        Private Eye mentioned that a Times columnist edited the Wikipedia entry for "April 29th" right after the announcement for the date of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. He added a fictitious story about Queen Victoria being rushed to hospital in Inverness after breaking a tow while fly-fishing at Balmoral.
        The next day the Mirror and Telegraph reported it as fact.

        • I wasn't fully sure I believed you so I fact checked. the mirror [mirror.co.uk] and at the bottom of the wikipedia talk page [wikipedia.org] and also in the page history.. What a shame for the Telegraph.
    • http://bit.ly/fU1LY6 [bit.ly] (links to a PDF)

      It went out on the 16th.

      • by hodet (620484)
        So if I post the press release to Slashdot, will the editors post it? Might be a good experiment in itself.
  • by n6kuy (172098) on Saturday December 18, 2010 @01:37PM (#34600662)

    .. a whopping 99.44 percent of hardened heroin addicts started out drinking milk!

    • by symes (835608)
      99.45 slashdot posts are made by people who have drunk coffee at some time in their life. The perils of caffeine!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 18, 2010 @01:50PM (#34600770)

      Possibly unrelated, but there were also no atomic bombs before American women gained the right to vote.

    • Also note that it already had been proven that the stork brings the babies (in Germany, both stork population and birth rates were going down for a long time, this is a clear correlation). So maybe cell phones attract storks. :-)

    • Matt Parker finds future references to his blog dwindling to zero.

      Even to prove a point it's a bad idea to sabotage your own credibility.
    • by RDW (41497)

      Nearly 90% of violent criminals are known to carry the 'SRY' gene. Hitler, Stalin, Osama bin Laden and all 19 of the 9/11 terrorists are believed to have been SRY carriers. Even worse, the majority of the population in countries like Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan (but not the UK, France or Canada) have a copy of this dangerous gene! While the full results have not been released, it is thought that the genome sequence of Ozzy Osborne, which also revealed evidence of Neanderthal ancestry, contains SRY.

      http://en. [wikipedia.org]

  • by ScentCone (795499) on Saturday December 18, 2010 @01:38PM (#34600682)
    The numbers fail to take into account the impact of global temperatures on the local temperatures in the room where the babies are born, and completely ignores the impact of changes in the number of seagoing pirates on each of those factors. Completely irresponsible.
  • by CyberBill (526285) on Saturday December 18, 2010 @01:40PM (#34600698)

    This guy should have let the "honeypot" article sit around and see what happens first, rather than having the explanation article AND have it be posted on slashdot. Doing this interferes with the experiment by making it less likely to be picked up - anyone who reads the slashdot article (or the article it links to) first will not believe and propagate the honeypot article.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      anyone who reads the slashdot article (or the article it links to) first will not believe and propagate the honeypot article.

      Or will propagate it because it's fake, if they want to see the experiment have certain results.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by marmusa (557884)
      Surely Slashdot readers are too smart to fall for this kind of thing anyway? ;-)
    • by Fnkmaster (89084)

      Moreover, I couldn't even find the press release on the net, but now the re-posts of his blog entry about it have spread like wildfire. So anybody who even thinks to Google the topic will instantly see the story about how he's trying to trick journalists. This is an epic fail of an effort to do so.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday December 18, 2010 @02:12PM (#34600968)

      He doesn't want to make something that is difficult to check sources on. The biggest problem isn't journalists reporting on things that are hard to properly check. I mean you also walk a line between being extremely late in bringing things to people's attention or not bringing up an important story because there just inst' enough confirmation, and reporting something that isn't true. I agree in general that journalists today fall way too far on the side of just report everything you can't disprove.

      However this is targeting a bigger problem: Journalists that don't even TRY. They find a story and just run it, they don't do any checking at ALL. This will expose people like that because it isn't as though this one will be hard to check up on, you can even find out what is going on on Slashdot (and probably other places). So any who get snagged by this are as lazy as it comes, and just publish whatever they find with zero additional checking.

      That, I think, would be valuable to see.

    • by Timmmm (636430)

      It's well worth reading the comments under the Guardian article!

      • by da (93780)

        Re: comments. Fuckin' amazin'! Even some of the people who RTFA didn't RTFA!!!

    • I believe he's trying to be, as he would put it, a cheeky bastard.

    • This guy should have let the "honeypot" article sit around and see what happens first, rather than having the explanation article AND have it be posted on slashdot. Doing this interferes with the experiment by making it less likely to be picked up - anyone who reads the slashdot article (or the article it links to) first will not believe and propagate the honeypot article.

      A lack of inaccurate articles (alleging a causal relationship between cell towers and high birth rates) may not be caused by the explanation and the posting to slashdot. Rather, it could be caused by a third factor: Nobody gives a damn what this guy says.

    • by makubesu (1910402)
      Yeah but who reads slashdot anyways? I don't.
  • What I want to know is, why are families with autistic children so keen on living near highways? [google.com] I think it's because they're hoping their kid gets run over.
    • why are families with autistic children so keen on living near highways? I think it's because they're hoping their kid gets run over.

      Where I come from highways tend to be fenced off[1], so it seems that an equally valid conclusion would be that retarded parents have retarded kids.

      [1] Whether this is to protect people from traffic or vice-versa is unknown.

    • The highway in this context means living within 1,000 feet of the heavily trafficked cross-town expressway.

      The researchers theorized that the type and sheer quantity of chemicals distributed on highways are different from those on even the busiest city roadways.

      at I want to know is, why are families with autistic children so keen on living near highways? I think it's because they're hoping their kid gets run over.

      More likely it's because they can afford the rent.

    • by onepoint (301486)

      well i did look at the study... it's data is about mothers within a certain range of a highway that give birth.

      the correlation that it generates is that you should not live near a highway if you are pregnant because of some risk factors which might be Autism.

      if the data is right or wrong is another story...

      this kinda reminds me of the powerline near your home equal cancer issues.

  • Don't own a tin foil hat may be there's a hidden agenda. For instance: gullibility ?
  • Causal link (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hope Thelps (322083) on Saturday December 18, 2010 @01:59PM (#34600880)

    Of course, there is no causal link because they are both instead based on a 3rd variable, the local population size.

    Aha, but births cause population. This could be a vicious circle with cell phone towers boosting the birth rate which leads to a higher population which buy more cell phones leading to the construction of more towers.

    There's strong evidence to show that the dinosaurs never developed cell phones, and they died out.

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      Bah, humbug. How can you hook up these days without a cell phone? You can't. There's your causal link.

  • If we see this reported at all in the Rupert Murdoch sector of the media, I predict it will be misinterpreted as a claim by anti-business liberal alarmist scientists that cellphones are bad for you.

  • by swrider (854292) on Saturday December 18, 2010 @02:17PM (#34601016) Homepage
    The report says that the towers result in 17.6 more births. I guess you can credit modern medicine for keeping all of those .6 babies alive, but really, what kind of existence will they have?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A half life.

    • The report says that the towers result in 17.6 more births. I guess you can credit modern medicine for keeping all of those .6 babies alive, but really, what kind of existence will they have?

      Remember those 2.4 children that the average couple used to have?

      Now it's worse.

      And it's all because of cell phones.

      • No, no, it's fine. Modern medicine can combine the 0.4 extra children from the average couple with the 0.6 from the towers to create a single, perfectly healthy baby.

        Isn't technology grand?

        • by DavidTC (10147)

          No, that's silly. If a couple has 17.6 more kids, then they'll just have 20 full kids instead of the weird partial 2.4 kids.

          ...20 kids? That can't be right.

  • I really wish journalists had to pass an introductory statistics course in order to "practice" their trade. One of the biggest bloopers that seems to come up over and over again in mainstream media, at least in the English-speaking press, are assertions that marriage makes men healthier, and makes them wealthier, and so on.

    Of course, that gets the direction of causality exactly wrong. Higher income and net worth is almost perfectly correlated with levels of health (Dutch study nailed this pretty well)
    • by Anonymous Coward

      They already know it's wrong. Most news is not factual, it is social (and usually aimed to entertain than inform). As long as it gets enough (uninformed) people reading, perhaps by reinforcing prejudices or exaggerating the faults of other ingroups then they will write down as many misleading things as they can. The illiteracy is a feature that will not go away because it serves too many purposes.

    • as any guy in a UK or American city will tell you, money is to marriage-crazed females what honey is to bees.

      So the money's actually created by the women? Is the husband like the bee keeper who periodically collects the money/honey for his own purposes?

  • Hello? Yeah, OK, how is babby formed? can you hear me? Just went into a tunnel...

    • by zarzu (1581721)
      If you read the article you linked to, you'd know that they didn't. People are just linking to the article explaining the honeypot, which is exactly what happens if you release an article about the experiment at the same time as the honeypot. This whole thing is utterly senseless.
    • I know, RTFA is not commonly a part of the commenting procedure in these parts.

      But maybe - before posting that, you could *at least* RTLFP (read the last f*n paragraph):

      "Parker is releasing his data as a press release, so keep an eye on your favorite (or least favorite) news organizations to see who bites on the sham cell tower-fertility connection."

      Or, failing that, RTFURL (read the f*n URL):
      http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2010/12/17/each-cell-phone-tower-creates-18-babies- [discovermagazine.com] the-differ
  • They should have linked the cell phone towers to *stillbirths* (which I assume would correlate just as well). Then the article would have gone everywhere!

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  • by PPH (736903) on Saturday December 18, 2010 @05:43PM (#34602480)

    Every time my wife sees another tower going up, she says, "Well fuck me! They're putting up another one of those damned towers."

  • .. non-hypothesis-based data analysis. Take, for instance, some health data that was overlaid with GIS data at a health authority I worked at a few years back. One of the more curious combinations that popped up was the fact that there were a higher number of Leukemia cases in households that lived under high power electricity lines. We were all about to unanimously blame the cancer on the long-period-exposure to EMF, when someone who lived in the area brought up a good point... properties under the lines
    • by DavidTC (10147)

      That's a serious problem in any study that looks at environmental factors for sickness.

      Poor people generally live in much crappier conditions than non-poor, and have much poorer health.

      Some of their poor health is almost certainly from their living conditions, but some of it is is instead from the poor nutrition, some from their lack of medical care, some from the less-safe jobs they work, and some is just from their general stress.

      Often, looking at other countries can help, because the poor, while still

  • You're holding it wrong
  • So far I have found the honeypot release reprinted or linked to the guardian article at:
    zmarter.com
    esciencenews.com
    tweetmeme.com
    wn.com
    topsy.com
    tingly.com
    scandalnews.com
    and johornews.com
  • I can only hope at all the idiots driving around with cell phones glued to their heads will become sterile.
  • If you want to see how much traction false media stories can achieve, just look at pretty much every second news item.

    This is why discussion forums are so important; so that people from diverse backgrounds can network and compare notes and at least make an attempt to figure out what is really going on.

    News stories are usually, I find, only valuable in terms of meta-information which can be used to extrapolate reality. Deliberately poisoning the mix with lame information is nothing new, the only difference

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