Do not talk with your cell phone on your lap

| 52 Comments

Not if you are male, anyway. I ran across a Facebook posting which linked to an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The article warned of a “stark correlation … between heavy cell phone use and male infertility.” Haaretz advises that you never use your phone when it is less than 50 cm from your crotch and, oddly, that you not talk on your phone while it is charging. The second stricture seems to me to be even more mysterious than the first; I suppose the phone gets hot when it is charging, but I do not know anyone who deliberately keeps it in his underpants.

I followed a link from Haaretz to an article, “Habits of cell phone usage and sperm quality – does it [sic] warrant attention?” You can read the abstract here; the full article will cost you $35.95 (US). The study is evidently based on questionnaires submitted by 106 nonsmoking men who had been referred to an infertility clinic for semen analysis (26 of the submitted questionnaires were rejected, according to Haaretz). I do not know whether there was a control group, and I have no intention of spending $36 to find out.

My advice to all men who plan to someday have children: Keep your phone away from your pants and, while you are at it, not too close to your brain.

52 Comments

Keep your phone away from your pants and, while you are at it, not too close to your brain.

As some may wonder about those males who spend the majority of their lives being jerked around by their gonads, “Uh; so what’s the difference?”

The cellphone frequency range is from 800 MHz to 2500 MHz ( from 3.31x10-6 to 10.3x10-6 eV).

Compare these with the range from hypothermia to hyperthermia, which is approximately 60 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit (1/2 kT from 12.4x10-3 to 13.6x10-3 eV).

Even if there were some resonances in the neural networks, it is hard to imaging that the Q of these resonances would be very high. With all the thermal background, any resonances would be quite smeared out and would not absorb enough energy to break molecular bonds or rearrange molecules.

The chemical level bonds in the DNA are in the range of 1 eV; hardly within the reach of a cellphone signal.

Doesn’t the amplitude of the wave matter?

Maybe we’ve reversed cause and effect, and low fertility inclines males toward heavy cell phone use.

As Flint says we have reversed cause and effect, Men who put their phones “on their laps” and talk into them may have other problems leading to low fertility and probably a lack of chances to check it

fnxtr said:

Doesn’t the amplitude of the wave matter?

The typical cellphone transmission power is 500mW.

If we take that 10.3x10-6 eV as the energy per photon, that corresponds to 1.66x10-24 joules per photon.

Dividing 500x10-3 joules per second by 1.66x10-24 joules per photon gives about 3.01x1023 photons per second passing into the body. With no resonances in the range of the energies of these photons, most of these photons would pass right through the entire body without doing anything. We know that most of those photons pass through the body because transmission and reception are little affected by our orientation with respect to a cell tower.

But, even if we assume that all the photons were absorbed, we have to consider that a mole of molecules contains 6.02x1023 molecules. Therefore only a half a mole would receive those photons each second, with each photon capable of transferring less than 10-3 of the energy necessary to “tickle” the minimum energy levels that lie within the thermal range between hypothermia and hyperthermia.

So, the effect that this study reports seems to be physically in doubt. And if these effects are indeed the case, then we need to understand the actual mechanism(s) involved in the interactions of this low a dose of electromagnetic radiation with the human body.

Mike Elzinga said:

The cellphone frequency range is from 800 MHz to 2500 MHz ( from 3.31x10-6 to 10.3x10-6 eV).

Compare these with the range from hypothermia to hyperthermia, which is approximately 60 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit (1/2 kT from 12.4x10-3 to 13.6x10-3 eV).

Even if there were some resonances in the neural networks, it is hard to imaging that the Q of these resonances would be very high. With all the thermal background, any resonances would be quite smeared out and would not absorb enough energy to break molecular bonds or rearrange molecules.

The chemical level bonds in the DNA are in the range of 1 eV; hardly within the reach of a cellphone signal.

I almost put up a comment to this extent myself but figured a physicist would show up.

The type of radiation unequivocally associated with mutagenic effects is ionizing radation - that is, low frequency, high energy photons.

In high dose, ionizing radiation is horrifically dangerous. Peculiarly, at moderate dose, its effects on mortality and even fertility are less clear cut. Survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who did not suffer acute effects had lower than Japanese average mortality rates for their age group. Papillary thyroid carcinoma is very strongly associated, but it’s a very indolent carcinoma. Chronic myelogenous leukemia, despite the word “chronic”, is a rather bad disease, and is associated, but it goes from “rare” to “less rare”. It is treatable to some degree with modern molecular therapy but is still a problematic disease.

I’m not saying radio wave and microwave frequency electromagnetic radiation doesn’t present any risk. At this point, though, empirical demonstration of the risks is required. There is no obvious theoretical framework by which such risks are easily predicted. Furthermore, we can not in advance that the risks must be somewhat subtle. Long wavelength EMR from power lines, telephone and telegraph lines, radios, televisions, computers, cell phones, etc, has been ubiquitous in developed countries for a long time now.

Of course the massive reduction in infectious disease death rate and great improvement in cardiovascular disease rate over the last century is always a confounding variable. People are living long enough to get more cancer, and the current senior citizen cohort also had known cancer risks like smoking. Is low frequency radiation in the environment also an additive factor, on top of merely “surviving long enough to get cancer”, “well documented risks like smoking”, and “known genetic risk factors”? It could be but that hasn’t been established yet.

I can’t get past the paywall to determine whether the male fertility study is a good one. Obviously, strong empirical results need to be considered.

Mike Elzinga said:

fnxtr said:

Doesn’t the amplitude of the wave matter?

The typical cellphone transmission power is 500mW.

If we take that 10.3x10-6 eV as the energy per photon, that corresponds to 1.66x10-24 joules per photon.

Dividing 500x10-3 joules per second by 1.66x10-24 joules per photon gives about 3.01x1023 photons per second passing into the body. With no resonances in the range of the energies of these photons, most of these photons would pass right through the entire body without doing anything. We know that most of those photons pass through the body because transmission and reception are little affected by our orientation with respect to a cell tower.

But, even if we assume that all the photons were absorbed, we have to consider that a mole of molecules contains 6.02x1023 molecules. Therefore only a half a mole would receive those photons each second, with each photon capable of transferring less than 10-3 of the energy necessary to “tickle” the minimum energy levels that lie within the thermal range between hypothermia and hyperthermia.

So, the effect that this study reports seems to be physically in doubt. And if these effects are indeed the case, then we need to understand the actual mechanism(s) involved in the interactions of this low a dose of electromagnetic radiation with the human body.

Mike, out of curiosity, how much does the amount of electromagnetic radiation, over background, experienced by a cell phone user, differ from that experienced by a “land line” user for the same length of call? Granted land line signal is carried over wires to the telephone, but once someone is on a land line phone, there must be an associated electromagnetic field. Is there any actual reason to think it is much less strong than the one experienced by a cell phone user?

This is pretty much woo.

For a full takedown head over to scienceblogs . com and search the topic at “Respectful Insolence.”

I’m not 100% sure, but I believe the Society for Science Based Medicine has discussed the topic, as well. (Why yes, there IS an overlap!)

fusilier

James 2:24

Mike Elzinga said: The chemical level bonds in the DNA are in the range of 1 eV; hardly within the reach of a cellphone signal.

I don’t think its that, I think it’s thermal heating. We human males have our gonads outside our abdominal cavities in the first place as a kludge solution to the problem of heat regulation - too much heat is bad for them. So I don’t find it at all unscientific to think that placing a warmer-than-ambient phone on them for long periods of time is a bad idea.

harold said: Mike, out of curiosity, how much does the amount of electromagnetic radiation, over background, experienced by a cell phone user, differ from that experienced by a “land line” user for the same length of call? Granted land line signal is carried over wires to the telephone, but once someone is on a land line phone, there must be an associated electromagnetic field. Is there any actual reason to think it is much less strong than the one experienced by a cell phone user?

I’m not MIke, but.… A conventional telephone handset transmits voice as an analog signal up to 4KHz. At the Central Office (CO), it gets digitized with an 8K by 8bit sample rate, producing a 64Kb/s digital signal. For line synchronization, the system “bit steals” some low order bits, reducing the actual–available–data rate to 56Kb/s. Probably different by now, but it used to be that 24 calls would be time division multiplexed onto a 1.544Mb/s “T-1” line. Some of those numbers should look familiar to anyone who ever encountered packet switching, ISDN lines, or pre-DSL commercial network connections.

harold said:

The type of radiation unequivocally associated with mutagenic effects is ionizing radation - that is, low frequency, high energy photons.

The energy of a photon is Planck’s constant multiplied by the frequency of the radiation; higher frequency, higher energy.

And, yes, “ionizing” radiation means that a photon has sufficient energy to break molecular bonds. However, for soft matter systems, “ionizing” could be the breaking of bonds that are on the order of 10-2 eV. When the radiation contains only energies on the order of 10-5 eV, then, to have some effect, something else must be going on.

So we know that land-line telephones in which the signals are audio range and the 60 Hz wiring in our houses are far below the threshold for doing any kind of bond breaking in our systems. Furthermore, the wiring in land-line telephones and the wiring in most houses that have Romex or later type of wiring have the wiring in twisted pairs. Twisting pairs of wires significantly reduces the electromagnetic fields external to the twisted pairs.

Eric says, in response to my reference to chemical bonds:

I don’t think its that, I think it’s thermal heating. We human males have our gonads outside our abdominal cavities in the first place as a kludge solution to the problem of heat regulation - too much heat is bad for them. So I don’t find it at all unscientific to think that placing a warmer-than-ambient phone on them for long periods of time is a bad idea.

It is highly unlikely that cellphone radiation could affect chemical bonds. If there were to be any effects on gonads, it would have to be at an epigenetic level; perhaps something to do with mitosis in which molecular bonds are already breaking and reforming, or with the migration of cells along a backbone to a given location.

So we would be looking for a vulnerable stage in cell growth in which incoming photons with energies on the order of 10-5 eV would begin to interfere against the 10-2 thermal background. I suspect that, if these effects really occur, the mechanism(s) will have something to do with the interferrence of cell growth at the 10-5 eV level. This requires some detailed knowledge of epigenetics and mitosis, I would suspect.

Mike Elzinga said: Eric says, in response to my reference to chemical bonds:

I don’t think its that, I think it’s thermal heating. We human males have our gonads outside our abdominal cavities in the first place as a kludge solution to the problem of heat regulation - too much heat is bad for them. So I don’t find it at all unscientific to think that placing a warmer-than-ambient phone on them for long periods of time is a bad idea.

It is highly unlikely that cellphone radiation could affect chemical bonds.

No, you misunderstand what I’m saying. Forget the cell phone signal. The physical phone itself gets warm/hot due to many things - running apps, mainly. Its the fact that you are putting a warm or hot metal box near your balls for long periods of time that is causing the effect. And IMO this is not an unscientific finding because we pretty much already knew that regardless of what goes on inside the box to make it warm, if you put warm things next to your balls for long periods of time, it can affect things like sperm count.

W. H. Heydt said:

A conventional telephone handset transmits voice as an analog signal up to 4KHz. At the Central Office (CO), it gets digitized with an 8K by 8bit sample rate, producing a 64Kb/s digital signal. For line synchronization, the system “bit steals” some low order bits, reducing the actual–available–data rate to 56Kb/s. Probably different by now, but it used to be that 24 calls would be time division multiplexed onto a 1.544Mb/s “T-1” line. Some of those numbers should look familiar to anyone who ever encountered packet switching, ISDN lines, or pre-DSL commercial network connections.

What happens, however, in any of these multiplexing systems is that those higher frequencies - i.e., those considerably above the audio range, or above 4 kHz - are filtered out before entering the home, leaving only the audio frequencies reaching the handset.

Even if some of these higher frequencies did get as far as the phone base, stray capacitance would shunt them to ground.

Not everything is best described by quantum physics. Here is an article (looks like an undergraduate term paper from Stanford) that discusses heating and other effects of cell-phone radiation on brains and other organs. It is a few years old now, but you get the idea. Not that I think cell phones cause cancer or sterility, but the radiation can still be biologically active.

eric said:

No, you misunderstand what I’m saying. Forget the cell phone signal. The physical phone itself gets warm/hot due to many things - running apps, mainly. Its the fact that you are putting a warm or hot metal box near your balls for long periods of time that is causing the effect. And IMO this is not an unscientific finding because we pretty much already knew that regardless of what goes on inside the box to make it warm, if you put warm things next to your balls for long periods of time, it can affect things like sperm count.

I got your point about the heat. But cellphones, at least the ones I am familiar with, don’t get very warm.

I think that tight pants and very constricted testicles would trap more heat than a cellphone puts out.

The only times that I have found my cellphone warm is when it is on a charger that is not quite to specification, such as the charger that plugs into the cigarette lighter in my car. If it is on the charger that came with it, then is is barely above room temperature when charging.

However, another thought occurs to me; and that could be the resdidual vapors coming off the circuit boards and plastics in modern electronics. Just putting them near one’s gonads would not cause a problem, but one has to wonder just how much of these vapors and “new appliance or new car smells” are causing problems. If they are close to your nose and mouth when in use, how much of these vapors do we inhale?

ionizing radation - that is, low frequency, high energy photons

I’m guilty of a typo. I meant high frequency, short wavelength photons. Cell phone radiation is fairly long wavelength, and is not in the ionizing category. I hate typos like that.

The energy of a photon is Planck’s constant multiplied by the frequency of the radiation; higher frequency, higher energy.

And just to remind everyone, with electromagnetic radiation, frequency * wavelength = C.

The solar spectrum actually does include a little ionizing radiation, mainly in the frequency range we refer to as “ultraviolet”. A somewhat ironic term, since we are using a color term to refer to a part of the EMR spectrum that is invisible to humans. It’s visible to some organisms but we can presumably never know what it “looks like” to them.

Cell phone signal radiation is much lower energy (i.e. lower frequency, longer wavelength).

The point I was making, which was much compromised by my typo, is that cell phone signal radiation is not ionizing radiation. This doesn’t mean that cell phone radiation is completely harmless (or that it isn’t), but it does rule out any false analogy between cell phone radiation and higher energy forms of EMR like gamma rays, X-rays, or even UV light rays. If cell phone signals are harmful, the mechanism is unclear.

Obviously, I’m skeptical, but willing to listen to good data. The “brain cancer” association is poorly supported and may have originated as a joke. This infertility thing is new to me but I would be inclined to be skeptical. Cultural generalizations are always risky, but a vastly disproportionate amount of cell phone woo that I am aware of seems to come from Israel.

I would note that moderately high scrotal temperature is associated with reversible reduction in sperm count (as discussed recently, some creationists bizarrely attribute this to “design”), so if cell phones are positioned in a way that warms the scrotal region, that might have an impact on sperm count.

Matt Young said:

Not everything is best described by quantum physics. Here is an article (looks like an undergraduate term paper from Stanford) that discusses heating and other effects of cell-phone radiation on brains and other organs. It is a few years old now, but you get the idea. Not that I think cell phones cause cancer or sterility, but the radiation can still be biologically active.

Microwave heating these days uses magnetrons tuned near the absorption lines of water or other fatty compounds.

I found it quite interesting that the crude early microwave ovens - one of them called a “RadarRange” - had the same 2J50 magnetron in them that the radar system on my submarine had back in the late 1950s.

Nowadays, microwave heating and radar systems can be tuned to heat or detect specific molecular structures.

The question here about cellphones appears to come down to a question of what “absorption lines” are being affected in the gonads or the brain.

Resonances depend on bond strengths and masses; but I don’t know what information we actually have on in situ resonances in the cell-building parts of gonads.

eric said:

Mike Elzinga said: Eric says, in response to my reference to chemical bonds:

I don’t think its that, I think it’s thermal heating. We human males have our gonads outside our abdominal cavities in the first place as a kludge solution to the problem of heat regulation - too much heat is bad for them. So I don’t find it at all unscientific to think that placing a warmer-than-ambient phone on them for long periods of time is a bad idea.

It is highly unlikely that cellphone radiation could affect chemical bonds.

No, you misunderstand what I’m saying. Forget the cell phone signal. The physical phone itself gets warm/hot due to many things - running apps, mainly. Its the fact that you are putting a warm or hot metal box near your balls for long periods of time that is causing the effect. And IMO this is not an unscientific finding because we pretty much already knew that regardless of what goes on inside the box to make it warm, if you put warm things next to your balls for long periods of time, it can affect things like sperm count.

I had the same thought independently. Mike makes some good counterpoints. Nevertheless, the odd fact that human sperm production is temperature sensitive is worth noting. This is NOT due to an ionizing radiation like effect; the energy levels are much lower. A spurious correlation, actually related to something known to affect sperm count, is worth a thought.

However, another thought occurs to me; and that could be the resdidual vapors coming off the circuit boards and plastics in modern electronics. Just putting them near one’s gonads would not cause a problem, but one has to wonder just how much of these vapors and “new appliance or new car smells” are causing problems. If they are close to your nose and mouth when in use, how much of these vapors do we inhale?

The existence or non-existence of significant impact of such things is hard to determine.

A huge confounding variable is that due to improved treatment of infectious disease and cardiovascular disease, and much better control of known strong carcinogens, over the last hundred years, human life expectancy is much greater.

Did we “add fifty years with medical and public health advances, but subtract a year due to exposure to circuit boards, plastic bottles, etc”? That’s an enormously difficult question to answer.

Mike Elzinga said: I got your point about the heat. But cellphones, at least the ones I am familiar with, don’t get very warm.

Ah. My iPhone gets noticeably warm on occasion. Hot even, though not uncomfortably so. I haven’t yet figured out any specific phone function correlation to it, but I can definitely tell you it happens. And though degassing may be an issue, I would bet on the heat being a more relevant factor, especially for phones that have been through many heat/cold cycles already (i.e, anything older than a year).

eric said:

Mike Elzinga said: I got your point about the heat. But cellphones, at least the ones I am familiar with, don’t get very warm.

Ah. My iPhone gets noticeably warm on occasion. Hot even, though not uncomfortably so. I haven’t yet figured out any specific phone function correlation to it, but I can definitely tell you it happens. And though degassing may be an issue, I would bet on the heat being a more relevant factor, especially for phones that have been through many heat/cold cycles already (i.e, anything older than a year).

I agree that heat hasn’t been ruled out; but that can be easily checked using heating pads in place of cellphones. And if one is still concerned about electromagnetic radiation with heating pads, hot water bottles could be used.

The back-of-the-envelope estimates I am presenting here are an initial step in “scoping out” the problem. When laypersons are confronted with “radiation” problems, their first thought is what physicists would think of as ionizing radiation, as harold mentions.

But ionizing means breaking molecular or atomic bonds; and short wavelengths are more localized and deposit their energy more locally into a single molecule or atom depending on their wavelength.

With much longer wavelengths, the energies are much smaller but can still break bonds. But now the issue of how much energy gets deposited into a particular bond involves an accumulation of energy over time into a larger volume in which relatively weak molecular bonds exist.

This brings in the issues of mass and binding energies as well as dissapation of energy into surrounding volumes. This shades into the classical realm in which we can talk about a resonant structure with a Q value determined by how isolated the structure is from dumping energy into its surroundings. This was the purpose of estimating how many moles of molecules were absorbing a flux of photons each second. But still, none of these photons had anywhere near the energy required to break a bond that survives within its thermal energy window. How could the energy accumulate?

So we try to imagine how a resonance might store sufficient energy over time in order to build up to a level that can break a bond that is a thousand times more deep than the energy of a single photon. In other words, how does such a system accumulate the energy of a few thousand photons in order to break such a bond?

Obviously this issue requires detailed experimental knowledge of in situ resonances of the kinds of tissues we are dealing with. Do cellphones produce sustained electromagnetic radiation that is analogous to the heating caused, deliberately, by microwave ovens; only at a much lower level that we don’t normally think of as heating yet it still disrupts bonds or the processes of cell organization?

This looks to me like a pretty good area for some thoughtful research proposals.

Mike Elzinga said: I agree that heat hasn’t been ruled out; but that can be easily checked using heating pads in place of cellphones. And if one is still concerned about electromagnetic radiation with heating pads, hot water bottles could be used.

I think it already has been. Again, just treating the phone as a box which produces heat, this albeit unscientific link notes a 1 degree rise in gonad temperature can cut sperm production by a whopping 40%. Importantly, it notes that the effect is seen from a variety of different heating sources. I don’t see why a cell phone would be any different from any other warm object in terms of its effects, so if it heats up, it probably causes the same negative effects as a hot water bottle or heat pad applied to the same area for the same amount of time.

I think we can put the EM-bond-breaking baby to rest. Even if the study results are real, we have no need of that hypothesis.

eric said:

Mike Elzinga said: I agree that heat hasn’t been ruled out; but that can be easily checked using heating pads in place of cellphones. And if one is still concerned about electromagnetic radiation with heating pads, hot water bottles could be used.

I think it already has been. Again, just treating the phone as a box which produces heat, this albeit unscientific link notes a 1 degree rise in gonad temperature can cut sperm production by a whopping 40%. Importantly, it notes that the effect is seen from a variety of different heating sources. I don’t see why a cell phone would be any different from any other warm object in terms of its effects, so if it heats up, it probably causes the same negative effects as a hot water bottle or heat pad applied to the same area for the same amount of time.

I think we can put the EM-bond-breaking baby to rest. Even if the study results are real, we have no need of that hypothesis.

Well, I hope it is clear from my quantitative estimates that I think the electromagnetic radiation part of it is highly unlikely. But nevertheless, I can still scope-out the boundaries of a research effort needed to demonstrate that such an unlikely possibility does indeed exist.

I haven’t read the details of the “study” that Matt mentioned in the original post; but I have heard it all before in both this case and in other contexts involving the 60 Hz power transmission lines. I remain highly skeptical of such “anecdotal” studies.

So if one of these research teams wants to convince me, I have given a brief outline of the issues and what kind of research would be required for them to do so.

Mike Elzinga said:

However, another thought occurs to me; and that could be the resdidual vapors coming off the circuit boards and plastics in modern electronics. Just putting them near one’s gonads would not cause a problem, but one has to wonder just how much of these vapors and “new appliance or new car smells” are causing problems. If they are close to your nose and mouth when in use, how much of these vapors do we inhale?

I’m reminded of a Motorola cellphone a friend of mine had a while back. Possibly a first or second generation Razor. After a while the silicone compound or whatever the keypad was made of began to outgas really bad and smelled exactly like vomit. Great for an object you literally stuck under your nose everytime you used it. I remember seeing a lot of complaints about it.

Rikki_Tikki_Taalik said:

Mike Elzinga said:

However, another thought occurs to me; and that could be the resdidual vapors coming off the circuit boards and plastics in modern electronics. Just putting them near one’s gonads would not cause a problem, but one has to wonder just how much of these vapors and “new appliance or new car smells” are causing problems. If they are close to your nose and mouth when in use, how much of these vapors do we inhale?

I’m reminded of a Motorola cellphone a friend of mine had a while back. Possibly a first or second generation Razor. After a while the silicone compound or whatever the keypad was made of began to outgas really bad and smelled exactly like vomit. Great for an object you literally stuck under your nose everytime you used it. I remember seeing a lot of complaints about it.

I think I had one like that; but it wasn’t a Razor, it was a regular land line phone. It always smelled strange after extensive use, and cleaning it didn’t help.

eric said:

Mike Elzinga said: I got your point about the heat. But cellphones, at least the ones I am familiar with, don’t get very warm.

Ah. My iPhone gets noticeably warm on occasion. Hot even, though not uncomfortably so. I haven’t yet figured out any specific phone function correlation to it, but I can definitely tell you it happens. And though degassing may be an issue, I would bet on the heat being a more relevant factor, especially for phones that have been through many heat/cold cycles already (i.e, anything older than a year).

That may simply be driven by a newer model of processor that dissipates more power. If you pay attention to SBCs, they are largely stalling out at 1.2GHz, while some cell phone and tablet SoCs are running as much as 1.8GHz (power dissipation generally rises with increasing clock speed). The major difference being that SBCs are almost always air cooled without even a heatsink while cell phones and tables use the case as a heatsink.

Maybe they just interfere with normal physiology without the “breaking molecular bonds” issue. If certain proteins/enzymes function within a narrow range of energies.

Or maybe it’s a lower level “fork in the microwave” scenario. ;-}

I checked on the frequency used in commercial microwave ovensand it turns out to be 2.45 GHz; at the high end of the cellphone range.

The mechanism is dielectric heating by absorption of energy primarly in liquid water. Note also that the power of a microwave oven is on the order of 103 watts; compared with 0.5 watts for a typical cellphone.

So this still calls into question the cellphone as a microwave heater of gonads.

Mike Elzinga said:

W. H. Heydt said:

A conventional telephone handset transmits voice as an analog signal up to 4KHz. At the Central Office (CO), it gets digitized with an 8K by 8bit sample rate, producing a 64Kb/s digital signal. For line synchronization, the system “bit steals” some low order bits, reducing the actual–available–data rate to 56Kb/s. Probably different by now, but it used to be that 24 calls would be time division multiplexed onto a 1.544Mb/s “T-1” line. Some of those numbers should look familiar to anyone who ever encountered packet switching, ISDN lines, or pre-DSL commercial network connections.

What happens, however, in any of these multiplexing systems is that those higher frequencies - i.e., those considerably above the audio range, or above 4 kHz - are filtered out before entering the home, leaving only the audio frequencies reaching the handset.

Even if some of these higher frequencies did get as far as the phone base, stray capacitance would shunt them to ground.

They are filtered out Mike, and essentially so these days because if you are using a DSL connection over the same line, the DSL modem will add them back again up to a few Mhz. Stray capacitance does shunt those frequencies to ground, and the resulting attenuation is why DSL connection speeds fall off rapidly with distance from the telephone exchange. The DSL filters in your home stop the high frequencies reaching the phones, and the low frequencies reaching your DSL modem. Any high frequencies reaching the modem (under your desk?) are going to be at a much lower levels and frequncies than the associated wi-fi hub!

These stories about the effects of high frequencies do persist though. I remember apocryphal stories doing the rounds in the seventies of servicemen trying to get a prophylactic dose from their Radars before going on leave.

Question for a biologist: Why do testes need to be cooler than core temperature? I know it’s so that sperm form properly: my question is What’s wrong with mammalian sperm, that they can’t form properly at normal interior temperature? Trillions of other cells can divide, grow, and prosper 37C, why can’t sperm? What specific screwup happened in their “design” that dictates that males dangle their gonads in ridiculous, easily damaged pouches between their hind legs?

Mike Elzinga said: Microwave heating these days uses magnetrons tuned near the absorption lines of water or other fatty compounds.

Water is a “fatty compound”? Who knew.…

W. H. Heydt said:

Mike Elzinga said: Microwave heating these days uses magnetrons tuned near the absorption lines of water or other fatty compounds.

Water is a “fatty compound”? Who knew.…

Hee hee. :-)

And I can’t make the excuse that English is not my primry language.

Just Bob said:

Question for a biologist: Why do testes need to be cooler than core temperature? I know it’s so that sperm form properly: my question is What’s wrong with mammalian sperm, that they can’t form properly at normal interior temperature? Trillions of other cells can divide, grow, and prosper 37C, why can’t sperm? What specific screwup happened in their “design” that dictates that males dangle their gonads in ridiculous, easily damaged pouches between their hind legs?

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/art[…]/PMC2781849/

According to this paper, the answer seems to be oxidative stress. Hope that helps.

Dave Lovell said:

These stories about the effects of high frequencies do persist though. I remember apocryphal stories doing the rounds in the seventies of servicemen trying to get a prophylactic dose from their Radars before going on leave.

I think the word “radiation” it at the heart of the fear and paranoia. Many people, upon hearing that word, think of the effects of ionizing radiation and atomic bombs or uranium and the like.

Back in the early 1970s I was installing a 12 MeV tandem Van der Graaff accelerator facility in a new physics building at a university where I worked. The initial parts of the installation started even as the building was going up around us. When the construction workers found out that this accelerator was to be used for studies in nuclear physics, they halted work and wanted reasurance that they weren’t going to be “zapped” by nuclear radiation. The emission of radiation from a 12 MeV proton accelerator is extremely small and exists only when the beam is on and only in very restricted locations which are shielded.

(Electron accelerators are a different story; even a 1 MeV accelerator can be deadly because electrons are easily accelerated and produce a lot of bremsstrallung, or “braking radiation,” when brought to a stop in a target.)

When the Superconducting Super Collider was being proposed and various communities around the country were competing for it to be located in their community, I recall a large demonstration and opposition campaign started by some technicians at Kodak in Rochester, NY. They were claiming that “nuclear radiation” coming from the accelerator would cause cancer and enganger the health of everyone in the area.

There was also a huge wave of paranoia about power transmission lines and electromagnetic radiation from the high voltage wires passing overhead. High voltage and radiation in the same sentence was made to be very scarry.

So part of my attempt to educate laypersons was to give a little mini-presentation about ionizing radiation and electromagnetic radiation. The issues were precisely the ones I brought up here; namely that 60 Hz up to several GHz is not “ionizing” radiation, and certainly not energetic enough to cause genetic defects or cancer by knocking out chemical bonds in the DNA or ripping apart cells.

Microwave heating (dielectric heating) is a somewhat different issue. Radars can kill people who get close to the emission horns and antennas. Microwave ovens cook. But the radiation is not the same as ionizing radiation. People are not afraid of microwave ovens; but they do know enough to take proper precautions in their use, just as they would for any stove or oven.

Mike Elzinga said:

People are not afraid of microwave ovens; but they do know enough to take proper precautions in their use, just as they would for any stove or oven.

Speaking of stoves and ovens; I wonder if there has been any comparisons of the fertility and sperm counts of male cooks and chefs who spend long hours leaning up against stoves as they prepare meal after meal after meal for customers waiting in the dining area.

Mike Elzinga said:

Mike Elzinga said:

People are not afraid of microwave ovens; but they do know enough to take proper precautions in their use, just as they would for any stove or oven.

Speaking of stoves and ovens; I wonder if there has been any comparisons of the fertility and sperm counts of male cooks and chefs who spend long hours leaning up against stoves as they prepare meal after meal after meal for customers waiting in the dining area.

Another good study gro0up would be men who work in the engine rooms and/or boiler rooms of steam ships.

W. H. Heydt said:

Another good study gro0up would be men who work in the engine rooms and/or boiler rooms of steam ships.

Could it be that those burly Enginemen stoking those diesel “rock crushers” on my old submarine were sterile?

Mike Elzinga said:

Mike Elzinga said:

People are not afraid of microwave ovens; but they do know enough to take proper precautions in their use, just as they would for any stove or oven.

Speaking of stoves and ovens; I wonder if there has been any comparisons of the fertility and sperm counts of male cooks and chefs who spend long hours leaning up against stoves as they prepare meal after meal after meal for customers waiting in the dining area.

I found a few articles suggesting that occupational heat may be a factor in infertility, but none good enough to bother to post a link.

This is only a mildly studied area. This may suggest that it isn’t a big problem - the average man has many sperm to spare. Also, the heat effect is very likely to be transient. Family-oriented chefs can probably minimize risk by taking advantage of periods after being away from the kitchen, like days off or even simply after a period of sleep in a cool room and before a shift.

Also, even more easily preventable factors play a role. Exercise increases male fertility, or conversely, sedentary lifestyle decreases it. Obesity decreases fertility. A chef or boiler room worker can always be active and avoid obesity.

In the end male infertility is usually related to genetics or a significant medical problem (severe bilateral trauma, cancer therapy, etc). Male fertility on average is quite resilient. “Sperm count” hysteria is often related more to concerns about “manliness” than to reproduction. (Which is another reason to treat the original article here with an open but skeptical mind.)

Having said all that, I will add one final thing. Ionizing radiation has powerful biological effects even at relatively low dose in terms of photons per cross sectional area per unit time or however that should be measured, because each individual photon has high energy. Also, each individual photon has a wavelength that is smaller than the molecular units of biochemical structures. To put it very crudely, photons with long wavelength such as radio wave photons can be thought of as being able to pass around objects whereas if the wavelength is short we can say that they must “pass through” things that they encounter.

It is categorically impossible that long wavelength, low energy photons could have the same biological effects as ionizing radiation. However, there are always other technology related considerations like electric current (I assume radar-related deaths are due to electrocution) or heat. We can’t say that cell phones don’t have any effect, but we can say that under normal circumstances, they don’t emit significant amounts of ionizing radiation, so those effects can be excluded.

Mike Elzinga said: Microwave heating (dielectric heating) is a somewhat different issue. Radars can kill people who get close to the emission horns and antennas. Microwave ovens cook. But the radiation is not the same as ionizing radiation. People are not afraid of microwave ovens; but they do know enough to take proper precautions in their use, just as they would for any stove or oven.

Yes, and I’m sure at least some people reading the Haaretz article would wrongly interpret it as implying the cell phone signal is dangerous when it isn’t. So your point is worth the occasional repeat. But I think the real lesson here is that it is easy to forget that newfangled gizmos still have oldfangled properties. :)

Just Bob said:

Question for a biologist: Why do testes need to be cooler than core temperature? I know it’s so that sperm form properly: my question is What’s wrong with mammalian sperm, that they can’t form properly at normal interior temperature? Trillions of other cells can divide, grow, and prosper 37C, why can’t sperm? What specific screwup happened in their “design” that dictates that males dangle their gonads in ridiculous, easily damaged pouches between their hind legs?

Yahweh wanted them dangling out front where girls can give them a tap when boys get out of line.

Rikki_Tikki_Taalik said:

Just Bob said:

Question for a biologist: Why do testes need to be cooler than core temperature? I know it’s so that sperm form properly: my question is What’s wrong with mammalian sperm, that they can’t form properly at normal interior temperature? Trillions of other cells can divide, grow, and prosper 37C, why can’t sperm? What specific screwup happened in their “design” that dictates that males dangle their gonads in ridiculous, easily damaged pouches between their hind legs?

Yahweh wanted them dangling out front where girls can give them a tap when boys get out of line.

Oh, okay.

But… does Yahweh have any?

Sorry for the off-topic comment; I don’t know where to post this announcement. LIGO has detected the gravitational wave signal of the spiral merger of two black holes.

Wow; just WOW!

Mike Elzinga said:

Sorry for the off-topic comment; I don’t know where to post this announcement. LIGO has detected the gravitational wave signal of the spiral merger of two black holes.

Wow; just WOW!

This brings to mind the creationist’s denial of the Kuiper Belt, and specifically Duane Gish’s denial of dark matter and dark energy. Denied until positive (as opposed to circumstantial) evidence surfaced for their existence.

Your personal encounters with Gish, so lavishly praised in his obituaries by the creationists, differ 180 degrees with their obits.

So what spin will creationists put on the confirmation of Gravity Waves?

Why they will say, “we long appreciated the truth of Gravity Waves, and their confirmation proves God created the Universe ex nihilo.”

(Can’t wait to see what Ken Ham has to say about this new discovery)

Just Bob said:

Rikki_Tikki_Taalik said:

Just Bob said:

Question for a biologist: Why do testes need to be cooler than core temperature? I know it’s so that sperm form properly: my question is What’s wrong with mammalian sperm, that they can’t form properly at normal interior temperature? Trillions of other cells can divide, grow, and prosper 37C, why can’t sperm? What specific screwup happened in their “design” that dictates that males dangle their gonads in ridiculous, easily damaged pouches between their hind legs?

Yahweh wanted them dangling out front where girls can give them a tap when boys get out of line.

Oh, okay.

But… does Yahweh have any?

So enormous they must be kept outside of space and time.

So heavy not even He can lift them.

If “He” is the only one of his type, what would “He” use them for?

(On second thought, don’t answer that.)

Henry J said:

If “He” is the only one of his type, what would “He” use them for?

(On second thought, don’t answer that.)

You must be one of those Darwinists that think souls exploded out of nothing.

If “He” is the only one of his type, what would “He” use them for?

Before he became a monotheist, God had a consort named Asherah.

r

Matt Young said:

If “He” is the only one of his type, what would “He” use them for?

Before he became a monotheist, God had a consort named Asherah.

Well, nowadays all the other major deities in the Yahweh-verse are either male (Satan), or close relatives (his own mother), or male AND a close relative (Jesus), so…

Matt Young said:

If “He” is the only one of his type, what would “He” use them for?

Before he became a monotheist, God had a consort named Asherah.

Ok, I’m trying to wrap my head around this one.

So God looks into the future, listens to one of his other multiple personalities (namely, the Jesus one), forsakes his wife and family, and becomes a celibate follower of himself?

Maybe guys that talk a lot on the phone have whimpy gonads. Did they ever do the same study before they had cell phones?

Ron Okimoto said:

Maybe guys that talk a lot on the phone have whimpy gonads.

I thought everybody knew that.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on February 8, 2016 2:50 PM.

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