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Medicine Wireless Networking Science

Study Hints That Wi-Fi Near Testes Could Decrease Male Fertility 307

Pierre Bezukhov submits news of a report that "a laptop connected wirelessly to the internet on the lap near the testes may result in decreased male fertility," writing "'[The scientists who conducted the research] placed healthy sperms under a laptop running a Wi-Fi connection. After four hours, the Wi-Fi exposed sperms showed 'a significant decrease in progressive sperm motility and an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation' compared to healthy sperms stored for the same time in the same temperature away from the computer. That is, the sperms exposed to Wi-Fi were less capable of moving towards an egg to fertilize it and less capable of passing on the male's DNA if it does fertilize an egg.' The scientists blamed the damage on non-thermal electromagnetic radiation generated by the Wi-Fi." However, the experiment was based on sperm outside the body; the researchers (here's the abstract from their study) note that "Further in vitro and in vivo studies are needed to prove this contention."
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Study Hints That Wi-Fi Near Testes Could Decrease Male Fertility

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  • Natural selection (Score:1, Interesting)

    by concealment ( 2447304 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @10:40AM (#38201900) Homepage Journal

    If you spend too much time on the computer, you're not having a full life.

    Reproduction should belong to those who can balance their interests.

  • by Niedi ( 1335165 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @11:18AM (#38202422)
    They put the laptop 3CM above the sperm and tried to control the temperature from below and via air conditioning. If I got it right while skimming through it, they also measured sperm temp every 5min using an infrared thermometer.

    However the control was NOT a laptop with the wifi turned off but a setting with no exposure to electrical equipment at all. Which is not a control for WiFi but a control for a "Laptop with Wifi on".
    Which leads me to think that the reason they chose this setup was that they couldn't get a useful result when using a laptop without WiFi as a control. The effect could in theory be caused by any part or combination of parts inside the laptop.
  • Yeah, right (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tgibbs ( 83782 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @11:45AM (#38202738)

    I take reports of damage to cells in a dish with a grain of salt. This isn't a natural environment for the cells, and it is incredibly easy to harm them accidentally in a variety of ways. When the phenomenon is unlikely to begin with (damage to cells from photons that individually don't carry enough energy to produce lasting changes in any biological molecule), place your bets on "artifact."

  • Re:Wavelength (Score:4, Interesting)

    by martas ( 1439879 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:30PM (#38203260)
    Funny analogy, but what OP is hinting at is the intuitive notion that all radiation interacts with objects roughly its "size", i.e. wavelength. A better analogy for this would be if a bunch of people, ranging from tiny elves to enormous giants, tried to grab a badger -- the elves would only be able to grab a single hair on it, and the giant could grab the mountain it's sitting on but the badger could escape between his fingers. Only a person of just the right size could actually grab the badger. So, for example, IR interacts with large molecules thus heating them, which is why objects that are just hot enough to glow a little red feel so hot from a distance; UV is much smaller wavelengths, so it tents to break up large molecules (e.g. DNA), thus causing cancer and killing bacteria (essentially acting as poison for them); xrays interact at an atomic level, which is why they are so useful in imaging -- individual atoms block/"refract" them in different ways, creating different patterns (e.g. in xray crystallography); finally, gamma rays are so tiny that they interact with nuclei, and are capable of being absorbed by said nuclei which then become radioactive themselves (i.e. "hold on" to the gamma ray for a while and release the energy after some random period of time), or of breaking off individual protons/neutrons from the nucleus, or even splitting it up. This intuition can get you pretty far, but it doesn't explain everything -- for example, microwaves heat things through an entirely different mechanism, as some people mentioned above.
  • by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:33PM (#38203326)

    All computers emit RF radiation when they're running, whether or not they even have WiFi installed. Regulations require manufacturers to limit this radiation, but it's still there; and with a computer in very close proximity to a test subject, (spermatozoon, human, or otherwise), it's probably a toss-up as to whether any effects attributable to RF radiation are a result of WiFi, or of the 1GHz+ processor, the switching power supplies, and any of several other possible sources of radio frequency energy.

Science may someday discover what faith has always known.