Friday 6 July 2007

UK Wi-Fi Scandal

Wi-Fi in the UK is prominent, offered by cafes, bars, book stores and very often found in schools.

Commonly used to wirelessly connect to the Internet, Wi-Fi hit the headlines when the BBC programme Panorama found that radiation levels from Wi-Fi in one school was up to three times the level of mobile phone radiation, and implied that this was very dangerous to your health, without any evidence to support it.

Panorama’s classroom experiment was hardly scientific, and indeed provided the students a great lesson in how not to do a science experiment. The school even banned the TV crew when it found out about the bad science being conducted.

So what was wrong with this experiment? Well, in order to make sure that they could obtain the very highest Wi-Fi signal possible, the Panorama team started downloading the biggest file they could, despite the fact that the students are never allowed to download such files, and only use their laptops a couple of times a week.

As the readings were being taken, the teacher googled the name of the man who designed the equipment being used. Turns out that the equipment was built by Alasdair Philips, a man who campaigns against Wi-Fi and sells protective equipment against it. Not surprisingly, the readings were “well into the red”, but never explained!

One of the experts presented was Associate Professor Olle Johansson, awarded Misleader Of The Year 2004 in Sweden for his scaremongering regarding electromagnetic fields!

The peak readings were 600 times below the government’s safety limits, and UK experts in the field have spent much of their time recently denouncing the show and distancing themselves from the findings.

Form your own opinions by watching the show below, and the BBC News Watch (like Media Watch in Australia) take on the program.

There is a nice take on it all at Bad Science

Listen to this show here