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Discussion » Questions » Electronics » Is This how To Exploit Fear and Ignorance?

Is This how To Exploit Fear and Ignorance?

The following are all genuine quotes from a mail-order household gadgets catalogue, dated, "Christmas 2019". The prices are reduced by 20% in that edition, with the full price also given in the booklet, as legally required.

See how many flaws you can spot in them, and identify them: none are above school-level physics. One statement is correct but simply a definition, the rest are all dubious to say the least. If you counting, some are repeated from item to item, but I counted around 10 specious statements. 1) and 2) are from the section's introduction.

So spend almost £162 and you, your family and your precious electronic equipment will all be safe... won't they? 

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1)    “… noticed your mobile [sic] phone gets hot during long calls? The heat is actually thermal radiation… [among] several types of radiation that it emits. ….  All … personal electronic devices … emit harmful radiation”

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2)  The lab-tested shielding membrane built into all   ---‘s anti-radiation cases shield you from 99.99% of all RF and 99.4% of ELF radiation.”

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3)    “ ---- Anti-Radiation Phone Wallet  with RFID Protects …..you and your family from harmful radiation…..  Protect your family  NOW!” for just £23-96.

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4)    “Universal Tablet Case ... Blocks Harmful Radiation….” The text goes on about safety when using the instrument on your lap: “try to  ensure young children never use an unshielded tablet.”  Only £39.96

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5)    Leather Smartphone Bag Protect You From Mobile Phone Radiation… for only £25.96.

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6)    Reduce Radiation Worries With Amazing ----- ‘xxxx’ Headphones.” The photo and text shows the loudspeakers themselves are linked to the ears by plastic, air-filled tubes. It says, “Are your regular  headphones piping radiation directly to your head?  Electrical wires can conduct radiation…”  The ad claims the tubes transmit “crystal-clear sound through flexible hollow tubes to your ears.” A snip at £15.96.

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7)    “Protect Yourself [&] Laptop … Exclusive Anti-Radiation and Heat-Blocking Lap, Desk and Carrying Case” to protect it and you from “the harmful effects of heat and radiation” for just £55.96. It’s “lab-tested”, too.

Posted - December 17, 2019

Responses


  • 26723
    LOL So are y'all afraid of all this radiation from the electronics?

    I like #6.  Are the flexible hallow tubes, my ear canals?
      December 17, 2019 11:55 AM MST
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  • 3083
    Actually, the ear canals have rigid walls of very dense bone behind only a very thin skin; but I take it you spotted the tautology!
      December 17, 2019 12:02 PM MST
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  • 17800
    While I don't subscribe to conspiracy theories, there could well be some truth to some of the effects these technological marvels might have on the human body.  For instance, the heat from using a laptop in your lap has been shown to diminish sperm count in some men.  No one really knows how much of an effect radiation would have on your head if you spend a lot of time on your cell phone.  I can't imagine it's good for your ears to have earbuds in them that play loud music directly in your ear.  It is possible that at some future date, they may find that all or some of this is true.  
      December 17, 2019 12:51 PM MST
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  • 37010
    When testes are warmed by any source, sperm production is reduced.
      December 17, 2019 1:52 PM MST
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  • 17800
    Well, you've proved one of my points.
      December 17, 2019 2:15 PM MST
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  • 37010
    I can put a hot pizza on my lap and get the same effect.
      December 17, 2019 2:19 PM MST
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  • 37010
    I laughed at all of them. Obviously whoever wrote that stuff were idiots and have no scientific background. I was an electronics technician in the Navy and I know lots of stuff about EM radiation. I worked on both high-powered radio systems and radars. I could write a two page treatise on the so-called dangers of radiation from personal electronic devices.
      December 17, 2019 1:51 PM MST
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  • 4674
    Would you please point out the falsehoods in each claim for us, Ele.
    I thought I remembered most of my high school science up to age 16, but when I look at those ads I only 'sense" or vaguely intuit the feeling that most of it is BS.
    I'll have a crack at an answer, but I expect to get most of it wrong.
      December 17, 2019 3:14 PM MST
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  • 37010
    It would take too long to actually list the mistakes but I can bottom line it for all of them. We are constantly being bombarded with electromagnetic radiation from many sources: Radio and television transmissions are the primary sources. Most folks don't know that. The sum of those signals exceeds the miniscule radiation from cell phones. Radiation received by a cell phone is also quite tiny. I can't think of any radiation eminating from a desktop computer. Laptops only generate enough to communicate with a wi-fi source. Heat generated by cell phones is mainly from the battery and is harmless. Listing the mistakes would be repeating what I just wrote. Number 6 is incredibly stupid and laughable.
      December 17, 2019 3:30 PM MST
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  • 4674
    While you were writing your answer, I was googling as many answers as I could find.
    It ended up rather long, as you'll see below.
    Would appreciate it if you'd correct anything I got wrong.
    I'm loving this question.
    I come across so many people in my area who are paranoid about mobile (cell) phone towers - especially with the coming introduction of 5G in Australia. Most of them are the same people who are prone to conspiracy theories generally.
    Some are people who favour all things natural; they believe that anything human-made is automatically harmful while nothing natural can cause harm. I find this kind of failure to check ideas against reality rather strange and yet distressingly common.
      December 17, 2019 4:39 PM MST
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  • 4674
    I had to research this stuff because I'd forgotten a lot of my highs school physics - much to my shame because it's such useful knowledge.

    1)    “… noticed your mobile [sic] phone gets hot during long calls? The heat is actually thermal radiation… [among] several types of radiation that it emits. ….  All … personal electronic devices … emit harmful radiation”

    The movement of electricity causes heat, so any battery-operated device will heat up - but if a device gets uncomfortably hot there is probably something wrong that needs attention from a technician. Too much heat will shorten the life of the battery.
    Heat is infrared radiation, the short-wavelength end of the electromagnetic spectrum. There's nothing intrinsically dangerous about a little heat - but our own bodies will tell us when heat is dangerous as soon as we feel the ouch effect.
    Bodies can absorb electromagnetic radiation - the further from the source the less so.
    Radio waves are shorter than heat waves, thus they are at the lowest and least harmful end of the electromagnetic radiation (EMR) spectrum from 3 kilohertz to 300 gigahertz. See the chart below.
    Cell phones emit radio waves ranging from 30 kilohertz (30 kHz, or 30,000 Hz) to 300 gigahertz (300 GHz, or 300 billion Hz). The parts of the body nearest to the antenna can absorb this energy. If one successfully shielded the radio waves, I would guess that the phone wouldn't be able to pick up or send messages.
    The only consistently recognized biological effect of radiofrequency radiation in humans is heating.
    There is a natural background level of radiation from the Earth and from the Sun. We are mostly protected from much of the Sun by our atmosphere. The naturally-occurring kind is the main source of radiation exposure for most people. Levels range from about 1.5 to 3.5 millisievert per year but are around 50 mSv/yr in Iran, India and Europe. Not all wavelengths of radiation are dangerous, but X- and gamma rays can be with excessively high, prolonged or repeated doses.
    We have evolved as a species to be able to cope with natural radiation without too many ill-effects. It is widely considered one of the causes of the natural mutation of genes (for both good and ill) which assists in evolution. 
    To the degree that our skin produces melanin, we have natural shielding from UVA and UVB (ultra-violet) radiation in sunlight.
    The following National Cancer Institute research shows the results of the various major studies on cancers directly related to mobile phone usage.https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/radiation/cell-phones-fact-sheet 
    All the studies showed that the risks of increased cancers was extremely low even in the most extreme cases where people spent long periods of every day on their mobiles.
    Based on these studies, one could say that the radiation is harmful for extreme users, but it seems that the risks are far lower than drinking coffee or driving a car.
    image

     


    2)  The lab-tested shielding membrane built into all   ---‘s anti-radiation cases shield you from 99.99% of all RF and 99.4% of ELF radiation.”
    If it really did shield 99% of the radio waves I expect the device would not work at all.


    3)    “ ---- Anti-Radiation Phone Wallet with RFID Protects …..you and your family from harmful radiation…..  Protect your family  NOW!” for just £23-96.
    Since the radio waves can only penetrate the body when the phone is in direct contact, it is not going to spread to the rest of the family. The customer would have to buy one wallet for every phone in the family. Each wallet user should then expect no calls, or remove the phone from the wallets to be able to use it.


    4)    “Universal Tablet Case ... Blocks Harmful Radiation….” The text goes on about safety when using the instrument on your lap: “try to ensure young children never use an unshielded tablet.”  Only £39.96
    Wireless routers and Bluetooth also use radio waves in the low-gigahertz range, from 2.4 to 5.8 gigahertz depending on the country and the regulating agent. Even at the highest level of radio frequency, the wavelengths are still far, far below the harmful threshholds of UV light, the x-rays used in medicine, and the radiation that comes from radioactive minerals, isotopes and nuclear fuels and bi-products.


    5)    Leather Smartphone Bag Protect You From Mobile Phone Radiation… for only £25.96.
    The leather may have some kind of wire faraday cage in the lining. If it works at all, it would prevent incoming & outgoing calls.
    Such bags can be useful to prevent thieves from scanning credit cards. But a cheaper way is to keep the cards safe is in a used metallic junk-food pack.

    6)    Reduce Radiation Worries With Amazing ----- ‘xxxx’ Headphones.” The photo and text shows the loudspeakers themselves are linked to the ears by plastic, air-filled tubes. It says, “Are your regular headphones piping radiation directly to your head?  Electrical wires can conduct radiation…”  The ad claims the tubes transmit “crystal-clear sound through flexible hollow tubes to your ears.” A snip at £15.96.
    Once upon a time, kids use to use long plastic tubes connected to tins as pretend telephones; the sound waves of their voices transmitted with remarkable clarity down the tubes.
    Head phones use electrical energy to vibrate the air, which creates sound - hence the use of a tube would make little difference. The ear phone can sit on the outside of the ear, or as a small plug can sit in the entrance to the ear canal. The effect either way is the vibration of air - which is what causes us to hear all sounds, whether we are wearing head phones or not.


    7)    “Protect Yourself [&] Laptop … Exclusive Anti-Radiation and Heat-Blocking Lap, Desk and Carrying Case” to protect it and you from “the harmful effects of heat and radiation” for just £55.96. It’s “lab-tested”, too.
    Heat is an issue for male gonads and fertility. Radiation of the radio wave kind is not.
    There are special trays one can buy at computer stores which lift the laptop above the lap. This is good for the laptop as well as the human; the more efficient heat escape helps to maintain the life of the battery.
    Some versions have built-in electric fans which do an even better job.

    How did I go Durdle?
    BTW, are you a science teacher or a scientist?
    If so, what are your fields of specialty?
      December 17, 2019 4:31 PM MST
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  • 3083
    Thank you very much  Bookworm, for such a comprehensive answer!


    I am retired now but although I worked in various electronic- and mechanical- engineering based companies I was not a scientist. However, I have always had a broad general interest in science and engineering, and some of my work did give me a deeper understanding of some topics.

    I did though, ask a friend, also retired but who had been a professional electronics engineer involved with radar among things, about the signal power transmitted from a 'phone. "Milliwatts", he said, and added that the aerial is nearly omnidirectional so the signal impinging on your body is only  a fraction of that being put out.

    That business of shielding a device with the side-effect of  not receiving anything, was one of the first flaws I spotted in the catalogue.

    I also asked what happens when you  close a lap-top without switching it off: it is switched to a "sleep" mode drawing only a tiny current, so the heat and r.f. radiation would be minimal anyway - but would you want to enclose it something likely to trap heat the computer really would like to lose? 

    My first point was about heat - the advertising merely used a definition either because its author did not really understand the subject, or to try to make people frightened of even gentle warmth because it is radiation..  

    Of the headphone tubes (hollow tubes, too!), I did wonder if they would act as acoustic filters, distorting the sound;  but one of the advertising flaws of course is the phrase "conduct radiation". In any case of course, the signal in the wires is not r.f. but within the human-hearing range, possibly at well under the theoretical maximum of 20kHz - and of  very low power. (I guess that the speakers themselves in these things are piezoelectric transducers probably working far below their resonant frequency.) The advertisers do not mention the real hazard of headphones: excessive sound pressure-level! 

    I like your point about having to buy these shields etc for every instrument in the house... I reckon that's what the mail-order company and its supplier rather hope you do!


    ++++

    A an aside on children using tubes as toy telephones, I once saw two having great fun in this way, but using a tubular steel hand-rail that happened to be open at  both ends, down a long flight of steps!
     

    Essentially the entire section of the catalogue has been written by someone who has heard of assorted   
      December 19, 2019 2:47 PM MST
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