back to article Brit boffins debunk 'magnetic field and cancer' link

University of Manchester researchers reckon they've eliminated one of the mechanisms that might have linked mobile phones to cancer. The research is also bad news for those who think power lines are cancer-carriers. Dr Alex Jones in the University's School of Chemistry led a team examining whether weak magnetic fields …

  1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    pokerface

    Unbelievable. What utter bunk. The scientists are just in it for the money. It's a conspiracy!

    Side note: please imagine a "joke alert" icon has been selected. Apparently the mobile UI doesn't offer the option...

    1. Anonymous Blowhard

      Re: pokerface

      "The scientists are just in it for the money"

      Did you mean "Scientologists"?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You can't use science to disprove theories not based on science

    Go ahead, try to prove to anti-vaxxers that vaccines are safe, prove the Earth is older than 6000 years, prove humans walked on the Moon in 1969, prove that 9/11 wasn't a government conspiracy!

    I mean, these theories aren't as ridiculous as the idea that people invented microprocessors instead of the technology being stolen from the Roswell saucer, but they're still pretty out there.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: You can't use science to disprove theories not based on science

      See: Star Trek Voyager, episode Future's End, episodes 3x08 and 3x09.

      1. Grikath

        Re: You can't use science to disprove theories not based on science

        Oh yes you can. Getting the Troglodites to actually accept the results is quite another matter though. Facts don't make nice Stories.

        My biggest problem with the rather unsurprising results of this research is that the boffins in question may have looked at the wrong class of proteins, or even the wrong mechanism when it comes to mild EM fields affecting the general state of an organism. If our energy transfer chain was that sensitive, MRI scanners, for instance, would be lethal. Or thunderstorms, for that matter.

        There may be an effect of EM fields on (human) health. But if there is, it is not one simple "cause" you can point your finger at, but rather a matter of addittional stress, compounded with susceptibility to that particular kind of stress, like so many things. There is plenty of science that proves EM fields can influence homeostasis or even perception, provided... etc... As such there may be people whose health is indeed affected negatively by (mild) EM fields, but it's certainly not the norm, and you'd need to be extremely sure you've eliminated every other possibility/sensitivity to have a scientific case.

        But the answer is not in our electron-transfer chain(s). That stuff is, and needs to be, quite sturdy.

        And where's the "extremely simplified" icon when you need it?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Physical Vs Perceived

          There may be no physical action on the body from EM fields, but if people choose to believe they are being effected they will probably show some signs of illness.

          Not from the field but from the stress they have placed themselves under due to their own belief.

          The sickness then becomes self for-filling.

          If you told people living next to a field of sheep was going to cause cancer eventually someone somewhere would work themselves up into a right old state and need medical attention.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Physical Vs Perceived

            I knew there was something they were hiding from us!

            Ban those sheep I say.

        2. Eric Olson

          Re: You can't use science to disprove theories not based on science

          My problem with research like this (other than wasting money finite research money to debunk yet another idiotic claim) is that other folks who go on about the stupidity of other people will take the study to it's own absurd limits to prove their own crap. Not that anyone here is doing it (yet), but this study does one thing: it takes a single proposed mechanism for the supposed lethality of cell phones and gives it the spurs. Nothing happens, so it can be concluded that the evidence for this specific hypothesis takes a shot to the groin, one which might stagger it and send it to the ground for good.

          But, and this is a huge but, it does nothing else. Other forms of artificial or unnatural levels of non-ionizing radiation are not considered here, nor are other mechanisms of action of this specific type of magnetic field. That's not to say I think there is any kind of link, but we do have plenty of examples of mammals and other higher lifeforms being negatively impacted by EM pollution, though maybe not of the cancer variety. So once again, a very tiny piece in a very large puzzle has been placed... but we still don't know what the entire picture is.

        3. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: You can't use science to disprove theories not based on science

          A Biologist writes: All attempts to test people who claim to be unusually sensitive to EM fields have all failed. With indicator lights disabled test subjects are unable to discern whether any given item of electrical equipment is on or not.

          So you can posit the idea of people who are more sensitive all you like but 1. We cannot find them and 2. You need to elucidate a molecular or physiological basis for this. Some combination of variant protein alleles that not only provide a credible mechanism but can be shown to be present in people who are sensitive and not others.

          Even then the correct solution will be to test people and advise them to avoid visiting Aluminium smelters and making heavy use of decades old mobile phones. They should also have the inverse square law of the propagation of such fields from their sources through the air explained to them.

          I have been in my time to two talks by the redoubtable Douglas Henshaw who dedicated his research career to finding the mechanism. He was full of ideas but all his results were resolutely negative. You want to keep the developing human away from strong fields but the skin and uterine muscle in human females will attenuate most signals. I'm a developmental biologist and when my wife was pregnant with our eldest she was left at home when my father in law took me around the aluminium smelter where he worked. But she had been around it in the past when not pregnant and there is NO epidemiology of strange biological effects in the workers at such plants. Her father is still alive too.

          1. phil dude
            Coat

            Re: You can't use science to disprove theories not based on science

            that is unless you use the dodgy "no name" microwave in a student kitchen, you can feel the wee hairs standing to attention....

            P.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: You can't use science to disprove theories not based on science

            The major problem that the EHS sufferers that took part in the tests back in 2006 were that all those that were sensitive and volunteered, the majority suffered extreme negative effects and had to pull out due to ill health. those that dropped out had all data removed from the program, even though their data was showing that they were experiencing valid data results that they were being affected and could detect such live signals being radiated at them.

            When you fudge the results to exclude the positive results that (in the case of lab rats) that killed them, then bury the actual data that you had an abnormally beyond reasonable doubt data set from the tests that valid effects were exhibited (but because they are dead) they are null and void in the published results.

            that's not science that's a coverup.

            big industry and politics are too heavily committed to act unless mass casualties occur in sufficient numbers within a short enough timescale to cause a major public outcry.

            The simple answer is to get the cell towers to start sending resonant harmonics frequencies of 11-19hz (these frequencies are used by the human body for nervous system inter-cell communications(17hz) giving it a bit extra either side wont make any difference to the results) at all channels used for mobile phone telecoms systems.

            then stand back and watch the chaos it will cause, as both people and animals start dropping like flies.

            The Nazis, Brits, Americans and Russians during the second world war and after did loads of research(most unethically on live people) with radio waves upto microwave frequencies and came to the conclusion that they were very hazardous to health.

            there was a report that wifi/mobile phone EMF's are a highly probable cause of ADHD in little kids.

            others have linked it with Dementia, Alzheimers, sudden adult death (cardiac failure), cancers of the brain and jaw,. the list is growing..

            don't forget Lloyd's have dropped insurance for the mobile phone companies years ago regarding liability cover for devices and cell towers causing cancer or other injuries!

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Grikath

          You just disproved your first sentence and proved the second by calling into question the methology of the study. As would a creationist when presented with evidence that the Earth is older than 6000 years, i.e. carbon dating does not work as expected because decay occurred at a faster rate back in the day so it looks like those bones are millions of years old.

          Given that we now believe that the post-Big Bang inflation happened at a faster rate and has since slowed (and more recently maybe sped back up again) it will be hard for argue to his satisfaction that "yeah, we were wrong about the cosmic inflation thing, and still can't explain how it works, but trust us we're right about radioactive decay rates remaining the same across millions of years even though humans have only been measuring it for a hundred"

        5. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: You can't use science to disprove theories not based on science

          Oh yes you can.

          No, you can't. A proof under one epistemological regime isn't applicable under another.

          Of course, "prove" and "disprove" are at best terms of art (if not informal infelicities) under scientific epistemology. What the present study has shown (apparently - I haven't read it) is that there's strong evidence against the hypothesis that a particular mechanism might have a carcinogenic effect in humans. That's all well and good,1 but it says nothing about the myth that mobile phones, power lines, etc cause cancer. The latter is not a scientific hypothesis and is not subject to scientific argument.2

          Now, one may on occasion convince someone to exchange a non-empirical belief like that for a similar scientific hypothesis, and then present evidence against the latter. Usually we hope to do these two things in the course of a single argument, felling the presumed-false belief in one swoop. We like to imagine this happens rather more often than it actually does (according to methodologically-sound psychological studies). In point of fact, people are rarely convinced to abandon beliefs they hold dear.

          1I've never found any of the "EMF causes cancer" hypotheses plausible, personally, but "sounds dubious to me" doesn't carry much weight in scientific epistemology, and for testable hypotheses, that's the best epistemology we have.

          2Some will argue that such beliefs don't deserve the label "theory". They're free to take that position, but since they have no means of enforcing it and "theory" is a word in common use as well as a term of art in some disciplines, they haven't much of an argument to make either.

    2. Wade Burchette

      Re: You can't use science to disprove theories not based on science

      Reminds me of a news story I read about a long time ago (I wished I had saved the link) about a cellular tower AT&T put up in a residential neighborhood. After it was put up, people in the neighborhood complained about headaches because of the tower. They complained so much that the local news started to investigate. When the news investigated, they discovered AT&T had yet to run electricity to the tower.

    3. User McUser
      Alien

      Re: You can't use science to disprove theories not based on science

      prove humans walked on the Moon in 1969

      That one's easy - we can shoot high powered lasers at the reflectors they left there and detect the return beam.

      Unless, of course, the lasers are in on the conspiracy!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @User McUser

        How does the presence of reflectors on the Moon prove humans personally put them there? The argument is not that we haven't landed things on the Moon, but that we haven't landed people on the Moon.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: @User McUser

          "How does the presence of reflectors on the Moon prove humans personally put them there?"

          Short version? Because back then we were really shite at that level of precision in remote space robotics. We couldn't have aimed the bloody things properly. Getting things "within a few meters" was spectacularly accurate.

        2. User McUser

          @DougS

          The argument is not that we haven't landed things on the Moon, but that we haven't landed people on the Moon.

          Ah, but if one accepts the idea that humans could get *something* up to the moon, then there's no reason that that something *can't* be a person and their laser reflector. (Note that we can assert this without having to allow for the person to return to earth since the conspiracy claim is only that people have not walked on the moon, saying nothing of their survival afterward.)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @DougS

            The conspiracy theorists claim that humans can't survive the radiation outside the Van Allen belts so we couldn't have gone to the Moon.

            If we sent people to their death on the Moon not being able to bring them back as you suggest would be possible, that would still amount to NASA foisting a pretty humongous lie on the public! :)

        3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: @User McUser

          How does the presence of reflectors on the Moon prove humans personally put them there? The argument is not that we haven't landed things on the Moon, but that we haven't landed people on the Moon.

          Obviously the Moon landings were faked to cover up the fact that aliens put the mirrors there, shortly before crashing into New Mexico.

          (On a slightly more serious note, I have to say this thread is pretty entertaining, with several people arguing earnestly over the most basic issues in epistemology as if they'd never been considered. Folks, there's no way to prove, beyond all doubt, that the Moon even exists, much less that a handful of dudes kicked about the place. Descartes among others demonstrated that centuries ago. The best we can do is pick an epistemology that seems relatively robust and reduce the amount of trust we have to place in our senses and mental faculties. That's called "science".)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @User McUser

            The answer is still...

            42 !

    4. Nigel 11

      Re: You can't use science to disprove theories not based on science

      From the article

      "The electron transfer process involves the creation of chemicals called radical pairs, and these had been put forward as a mechanism by which weak magnetic fields might interact with cells – but no dice"

      That is science. There is a mechanism whereby magnetic fields interact with the chemistry of free radicals inside a living organism, and that might have been harmful. It's now been investigated and moved from "doesn't seem likely" to "studied, no effects observed".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You can't use science to disprove theories not based on science

        but the scientists and microbiologists still don't know exactly how the insides of a cell work. so they cant yet disprove any theory that EMF's and non-ionizing radiation wont interfere to some degree with the workings of all cells in a living organism (not a petri dish under a microscope.)

        some theories suggest that the smallest molecular interactions at occurring with atomic resonance of the molecules being a means of attraction/repulsion between them.

        if so then hammering them with a EMF/RFI energy field is going to have some effect on how they react to each other, which will cascade throughout the cell having unknown results on the body of the organism affected.

        We KNOW! WE ALL have A PROBLEM, the CAUSE is KNOWN, its UNKNOWN what the DEGREE of DAMAGE is GOING TO BE.

        (is it accumulative across the generations and how many generations will be affected from exposure up to today (from the last 40 years so far.) how much worse is it going to have to get before action is taken?)

        As ALICE so succinctly put it...

        "YOUR ALL GOING TO DIE!"

        (just in new and interestingly painful ways and don't be surprised if your kids go first!)

    5. Technological Viking

      Re: You can't use science to disprove theories not based on science

      Doctor "Alex Jones" indeed.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Jones_%28radio_host%29

  3. Suricou Raven

    It won't work.

    Look at two other bits of modern medical rubbish: The claimed links between vaccines and autism, and between abortion and breast cancer.

    Both of these have been throughly disproven by multiple studies. Both of them have been condemned by just about every professional medical organisation around. Both of them still have a great many adherents.

    Why should this be any different?

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: It won't work.

      "abortion and breast cancer"

      Really? I missed this one. Is this a geolocated bizarreness, or am I just unobservant? (Both are possible.)

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: It won't work.

        "abortion and breast cancer"

        Really? I missed this one. Is this a geolocated bizarreness, or am I just unobservant? (Both are possible.)

        Unobservant? There is a link between blindness and... wait, where are my bloody spectacles?..

      2. Suricou Raven

        Re: It won't work.

        "Really? I missed this one. Is this a geolocated bizarreness"

        It's pretty big in America. The short version is that there was a study that showed induced abortion carried an increased risk of breast cancer. This study was later shown to have some methodological flaws, mostly relating to the lack of a suitable control group. Subsequent research showed no causal link, and just about every expert society on cancer and reproductive health has now issued some form of statement to this effect. Much like vaccines though, belief in the connection presists long after the one study has been discredited. In this case the motivation is political: The pro-life movement siezed on it and refuses to let go, as it provides some major benefits to them. It lets them campaign against abortion while claiming to be fighting for women's health, which is a big boost to a faction often accused of harboring sexist sentiments. We rarely encounter this particular strain of bad science in the UK, simply because our pro-life movement is comparatively small and holds minimal politcal influence. Every now and again though the right-leaning media over in the US will bring up a new 'Scientists prove abortion causes cancer' article, usually followed by some conspiracy claims about how the liberal medical establishment is trying to cover it up. Strangely, this research is rarely published in peer-reviewed jounals, and the organisations responsible for it tend to have 'Catholic' in the name somewhere.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It won't work.

      One proven scientific link is reading the Daily Mail or believing opinion on Mumsnet has been show to seriously damage your IQ and cause catastrophic failure of your ability to reason facts.

      1. ARGO

        Re: It won't work.

        I think there's another study needed here: Does the Daily Mail create idiots or just attract them?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Go

          Re: It won't work.

          +1 Argo

          An interesting thesis that I believe was debated on Mumsnet but was resolved by burning a couple of witches.

        2. Robert Helpmann??
          Boffin

          Re: It won't work.

          Does the Daily Mail create idiots or just attract them?

          An excellent question! I suspect correlation but no causality. I will propose a study involving a simple learning task coupled with electrical stimulation as negative reinforcement. How about The use of cattle prods for avoidance acquisition in mouth-breathers?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It won't work.

            What's the difference between Mumsnet and Netmums?

            1. Suricou Raven

              Re: It won't work.

              Size. Mumsnet is a lot bigger.

              They aren't on good terms. Both forums have similar objectives, and something of a rivalry exists. On each one you often see people insulting the other. Netmums is also usually considered a bit more welcoming, while Mumsnet is quite well-known for the level of hostility often directed at newcomers and regulars alike. It is not a place for the thin-skinned.

              Getting them confused is a sure way to irritate members of either.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: It won't work.

                "Getting them confused is a sure way to irritate members of either."

                Which could provide some entertainment on a rainy day.

                I suddenly feel a sympathy for trolls.

                Maybe it's time I took a holiday.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It won't work.

            Sssshhhh don't say that, or you'll have all the sado-sys-admins on here volunteering for some free fun.

            besides the DM is where we all go to have a gripe about topics n stories El-reg don't cover ;p

        3. Zog_but_not_the_first
          Trollface

          Re: It won't work.

          "Does the Daily Mail create idiots or just attract them?"

          Sorta. It attracts idiots then chips away at their IQ edition by edition.

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    It has been demonstrated

    many times that a magnetic field can stimulate the growth of all sorts of cells.

    Switch the field around and it retards them.

    I seem to recall that there was even a young Scientist of the Year project along these lines 30+ years ago.

    What this article/paper may be showing is the effect that an alternating electro magnetic field may have on cell growth.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: It has been demonstrated

      The magnetic fields in question were tens of thousands of times stronger than what comes off a mobe.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        Coat

        Shhhh !

        Stop putting those pesky facts in the way of a snarky rebuttal.

    2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: It has been demonstrated

      I was only thinking about the "Young Scientist of the Year" series the other day. Wouldn't it be wonderful if a TV station were to resurrect that?

  5. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    Frankly, I am not too surprised by the results of the study, but thumbs up to the scientists for putting in the hours to debunk this mallarkey. This is of course all part and parcel of the scientific method: do not dismiss someone else's theory because it sounds stupid, prove it wrong. Do not forget not all alarmist ideas are wrong. Many people long believed X-rays were just a useful tool (or even a nice fairground attraction), and were harmless. Now people treat them with a lot more care for good reason. So whilst there are a lot of idiots crying wolf, in some cases they might be right. What is tiresome is that certain people will not listen to any amount of scientific proof. Unfortunately, there is no "ignore" button you can press in real life, so they no longer bother you.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Negative research

      One of the big discussions about science research last year ( e.g. in the pages of New Scientist etc) was the fact that negative results tend not to get published. No one gets a research grant for not proving something.

      So it's good that this one did appear. Even though it's probably an exception for a very obvious reason.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Negative research

        here's an example

        we placed 50 pure breed lab rats in a container with 1kg of enriched uranium overhead. we also did a test batch in with a block of steel. we left all them for a week.(with a food/water dispensor(cant be seen to be cruel))

        well we came back and found all the first batch were dead, the second batch were fine.

        the first batch was deemed a regrettable failure and was bagged up in a lead lined binbag and chucked down a well at Sellafield.

        we then shredded the first batch test results.

        well due to the failure of the first batch to survive the test, we (HMG) therefore conclude that exposure to a block of steel is not a cause for concern.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Don't shoot the Canary!

      you might just live long enough to regret it !!!

    3. Binra

      In the 1972 book 'pure white and deadly' John Rudkin blew the whistle on sugar. A scientist's career was curtailed as a result. (look it up).

      So although it may be true that genuine science is being carried out and fully reported, the mere fact of billion dollar markets makes it likely that some of what is reported is as true as the scientific reports on tobacco were when it was first challenged as a health risk.

      BIG money equals significant risk of corruption - doesn't it?

      As well as this there is a vast userbase of wifi technologists who enjoys the facility and have become dependent on it in large degree who have an emotional investment in not wanting there to be any issues affecting them unless unequivocally linked. Of course there are adverse effects but these are not from the emf but from privacy, lifestyle and cultural effects.

      Pervasive beliefs that technology brings harmful results have greeted most of not all new developments. Isn't that at the root of climate fear? Often the imagined harms are just that, and become laughed at, but the actual costs are of a different kind. One such is that we put more and more of our eggs into one basket - that is to say we become addictively dependent on external systems in ways that actually make humanity redundant - perhaps quite literally- as well as inviting power and wealth to consolidate in the way HG Wells foresaw in his Time Machine.

      Fear often works as a self fulfilling prophecy. In a world of many pervasive hazards, one has to feel for the level of risk. Science as reported is not trustworthy - one still has to operate discernment unless one WANTS to outsource all intelligence to externally shifting paradigms. I've always distrusted margarine as industrial effluent and embraced butter as something humanity has been eating for millennia - although modern methods add all sorts of new hazards with anti-biotic drugs and gm crops to cattle - and maybe most of us with a healthy functioning immune system.... oh those few of us whose system hasn't turned against itself...can simply rebalance and detoxify as our natural resilience.

      In principle science is the willingnesss and desire to dis-cover truth - which is already true by the way. It only focusses on the empirically material - which does not have a hope of embracing truth as far as I am aware of true - but that doesn't mean it isn't a useful tool - especially if it could be used for truly Cooperative Good instead of weaponizing, monetizing and medicalising Life to serve private agendas, in attempt to define, predict and control it.

      Human consciousness is not absent from scientists - nor is is 'controlled' by them either.

      Research into Electrical Universal paradigms is not encouraged - since Tesla and others. Perhaps maintaining scarcity is an essential aspect to controlling a system. Perhaps the weaponry of such technology is far too dangerous for what is after all an insane humanity suffering delusions of rationality.

      I can postulate a future where the brain is found to be adversely affected in subtle but definite ways that increase and amplify an already sense of disconnected mentality that then presumes to need to control everything because it has lost all empathetic resonance of compassion and communication, with Life, itself and others, and so for those who are still allowed to have such faculty, a tin-hat will be designed to shield the brain.

      I would rather imagine a future where life lived and shared in more intimate creative endeavour simply doesn't template such disconnect - and thus doesn't require all the kings horses and all the kings men to try to put it all together again.

  6. chivo243 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Mmmmmmmm

    Flavor proteins mggarrgh

  7. Elmer Phud

    Oh No!!!!

    "Dr Alex Jones in the University's School of Chemistry led a team examining whether weak magnetic fields affected flavoproteins."

    Does this also mean that the sales of divining rods will plummet?

    (not that it will stop the fraudsters)

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Oh No!!!!

      Only among those who have either a) read the article here, or b) read the actual study. The press won't pick it up.... So, the market for divining rods won't plummet even though I'm tempted to short sell my stock in several of those companies.

  8. David Pollard

    Mood changers

    Though I'm not suggesting that this shows mobile 'phones are dangerous, it's surprising that like other animals we seem to be aware of electric fields, for example when thunderstorms are imminent. For our senses to detect this there must be some sort of interaction.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Mood changers

      For our senses to detect this there must be some sort of interaction.

      That might be something to do with spotting big, dark clouds in the sky.

    2. Alan Bourke

      Re: Mood changers

      Can we? Aside from the known effects when you're about to get hit by lightning.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mood changers

      you will also find that wild animals wont cross under overhead powerlines.

      most noticable in north america, sweeden/norway, finland & russia with populations of reindeer/carabo being effectivly cut off from each other by such power grids across the countries.

      they can feel the EMF's and can see them give off an Ultraviolet glow (and sparkles where insulators are failing) which are undetectable by human eyesight.

      the power companies are now actually using UV cameras on choppers to detect line faults, from this research.

      bugger-all is being done to help poor rudolf though...

  9. David Pollard

    Changes in circadian rhythms

    Here's a recent paper from PLoS Genetics describing experiments which show that EM fields do have an effect on living tissue. This involves the intriguingly named blue-light sensitive photoreceptor cryptochrome.

    Genetic Analysis of Circadian Responses to Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields in Drosophila melanogaster

    http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen.1004804

    The introduction provides a good overview of EMF sensing by flies.

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Changes in circadian rhythms

      We are not fruit flies and our last common ancestor with them was probably a very simple flatworm in the pre-Cambrian seas. Plenty of animals have been proven to be able to sense the earth's magnetic field. Birds have deposits of magnetite in their ears to help with that.

      But if you think that EMFs disturb circadian rhythms in humans in the wild then you are at liberty to seek research funding, though you should be aware that most grant applications are unsuccessful and the ability of the applicant to do the research is part of the assessment. Knock yourself out.

      1. Eric Olson

        Re: Changes in circadian rhythms

        Without taking time to document the references, there is evidence that visible blue light does impact the sleep cycles of humans. And from an evolutionary standpoint, it does make sense as blue-trending light is closer to UV than the other photoreceptors in the eyes, so it could work as a proxy for day-night recognition. I can't think of any natural UV sources that aren't tied to the sun itself, though I'm sure someone could spend the time looking for it. But in terms of constant and regular exposure, the sun is the big one, so if the blue photoreceptors are firing, it probably means that UV light is present, which implies it's day time.

        We might not be fruit flies, but convergent evolution provides a mechanism for very different lineages to develop similar adaptations to the same evolutionary pressures.

      2. David Pollard

        Re: Changes in circadian rhythms

        "... seek research funding ..."

        Research has already been done, e.g. 'A 50-Hz electromagnetic field impairs sleep' in the Journal of Sleep Research. There also seems to have been quite a bit of interest in modulation of melatonin production by static or low-frequency electrical fields.

        e.g. http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/8098713

        It will be interesting to see whether the new style of street lighting using LEDs affects sleep patterns and whether scare stories develop like those about mobile 'phones.

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Changes in circadian rhythms

        We are not fruit flies

        Tut tut. On the Internet, nobody knows you're a fruit fly.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Changes in circadian rhythms

        ALL living organisms have magnetite in their bodies, usually bound to a set of nerves near the front of the brain, used to detect orientation. even humans still have it. (back of he Thymoid Bone up behind the Sinuses.)

        birds and numerous other species use it and UV levels to detect orientation for migration.

        its just we tend not to have it stimulated as much as birds or other small creatures who hang around upside down or fly and need to know which way is down or east in a hurry.

        doing the old school field orientation test on the moors (blindfolded, spun around a lot) then told to point north (or easier point east) was a common game, but with serious consequences (your survival!) before maps and GPS.

        get exposed to strong EMF's like a degausser at work (working on old cathode ray-tube TV's) and you soon pick up the feeling for stray EMF's and RFI emissions (don't u love technology.)

        which was fine back in the day before mobile phones.

        now you got constant RFI levels that overstimulate these clusters of nerves (causing headaches, insomnia and a whole load of other health problems.)

        one advantage is you know when your mobile phone is going to ring from the phones pre-amble handshaking with the cell-tower, giving you maybe 2-3 seconds advance warning on an incoming call.

        not to mention the constant ringing in your ears(tinitus) from all those damned DECT cordless phones constantly broadcasting varying base unit carrier signals (Thanks Martlesham heath (BT) for that.) the microwave carrier signals cause the microscopic hairs in the cochlear to resonate causing tinitus.

        do you have tinitus that varies in loudness depending on where you are during the day???

        (if u don't believe me, go find a decent Faraday cage to sit in for a bit, i think there's still one at the science museum)

        and no tinfoil does not help ;p

        just ask the actor Michael Crawford, he got EHS and had to packup and move to the back end of NewZealand for 2 years to get his health back to normal.

  10. BernardL

    Dr Jones says the research “suggests the correct conditions for biochemical effects of WMFs are likely to be rare in the human body”.

    That'll be a "no" then.

  11. Alan Bourke

    Power lines?

    If one falls on you or you touch one then there's danger there. Aside from that ....

    1. David Pollard

      Re: Power lines?

      Aside from that, according to research published in the BMJ in 2005, "There is an association between childhood leukaemia and proximity of home address at birth to high voltage power lines..." Why this should be is not yet entirely clear.

      http://www.bmj.com/content/330/7503/1290?linkType=FULL&journalCode=bmj&resid=330/7503/1290

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Power lines?

        That BMJ study looks decent, though (as the authors say) very preliminary. My personal feeling - which counts for absolutely nothing, except to indicate where my biases are - is that this will be found to be a non-causal correlation or confounding (again as the authors suggest it might be).1

        They do show results of P<0.01 versus their controls, which is better than the rather sloppy P<0.05 at which far too many preliminary results are announced.

        I'm worried about this part of their analysis, though:

        For leukaemia, the results of two of the trend analyses were significant (P < 0.01); these analyses suggest the risk might depend either on the rank of the distance category or on the reciprocal of distance. The latter seems more plausible.

        Statistically, they see a lower P-value with distance bands than with strict reciprocal distance, but decide the latter is "more plausible". That makes me nervous. And If we're going with what's more plausible, why is the statistical effect weaker when looking at inverse-square - which, as the authors note, is how the field strength will normally1 attenuate?

        But this is very much not my area.

        1If there does turn out to be a causal relationship, my guess is that it'll be something in gene expression, as that looks to me like the most sensitive component at risk. But man, those fields are pretty weak. The authors cite another meta-study that found evidence of a correlation between increased leukemia risk and extensive exposure to "≥0.4 μT" fields. That's like 1% of the earth's magnetic field.

        2Actual field strength at various points will be affected by transmission-line design and environmental factors such as shielding by buildings and so forth.

        1. Vic
          Boffin

          Re: Power lines?

          My personal feeling - which counts for absolutely nothing, except to indicate where my biases are - is that this will be found to be a non-causal correlation

          How well-correlated is proximity to power lines with shitty housing and other general not-being-very-rich?

          Vic.

  12. Jim Lewis

    Eliminating 'their best guess for a candidate' doesn't prove no cause/effect

    According to this site:

    http://www.albertasurfacerights.com/articles/?id=45

    there is plenty of evidence (in scientific literature) that says they do...

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Eliminating 'their best guess for a candidate' doesn't prove no cause/effect

      A pressure group started by loonies who think they are electrically sensitive which has produced a cherry-picked list does not a balanced research assessment make. Tell me, what is your background in the assessment of research publications?

      1. Frankee Llonnygog

        Re: Eliminating 'their best guess for a candidate' doesn't prove no cause/effect

        Alternative theory - being a nutter causes cancer

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Correlation does not prove Causation

    Its possible to show correlation between proximity of nuclear power plants and leukemia levels, the problem there is that when the graph is modified to take into account increased migration and thus population density in an area the levels do not increase measurably.

  14. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Margarine

    This is probably going to work itself out like dietary fads. All the inputs and outputs are misunderstood so conclusions are made from patterns that exist only from unintentional inputs and unintentional measurements.

    I doubt that magnetic fields are any more harmful than light or sound. Just keep in mind that moderate levels of light and sound, when modulated in exactly the right way*, does cause illness and death. Any other measurement of light and sound would find that it's usually safe except in high doses.

    * Certain frequencies in the tens of Hz range, and possibly Fox News.

  15. cortland

    Field of screens?

    I suspect plasticizers in the handset material.

  16. Andrew_J_Green

    I quote: "The research is also bad news for those who think power lines are cancer-carriers."

    The Manchester study was funded by The EMF Biological Research Trust who are themselves funded by "donations from National Grid plc", which is the UK's nationwide electricity grid operating company.

    I think they might have a vested interest here!!

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