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by Jan Sand
2007-02-04 11:02:27
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In the latter part of the 1930s, Astounding Science Fiction Magazine acquired a new editor, John W. Campbell, whose outstanding accomplishment was to put together a team of contributing writers that created a golden age of science fiction.

People like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, William Tenn, Hal Clement, Henry Kutner, Robert Heinlein were amongst many others who made up an outstanding crew of imaginative and well informed writers who made incisive and intelligent guesses of where technology might go and what the consequences might be. Heinlein was particularly fascinating in his look into the future and in his story “Waldo” he foresaw many things that have happened and many things that might still come.

The character, Waldo, suffered from the disease myasthenia gravis which so weakened his muscular control that he was forced to live in a satellite where gravity is so weak that whatever strength Waldo retained was sufficient to permit him freedom of movement. Waldo was a technical genius who became wealthy by innovating new gadgets and the story opens when air transportation in the world is maintained by power broadcast to flying machines eliminating the necessity for the machines to be individually fueled. Something mysterious has occurred to destroy the capability of the power antennas of the aircraft to receive the power necessary for flight and Waldo was called in to solve the problem.

Waldo’s doctor is very suspicious of all this high energy permeating the atmosphere and wears a heavy overcoat lined with lead plates to block ambient energy. Heinlein clearly foresaw the intensive use of broadcast energy that we are beginning to experience today.

When I was trained as a radar mechanic in the early days of radar there were rumors that the radar electromagnetic radiation could be dangerous and specific stories spoke of careless technicians being injured by standing in front of the parabolic antennas.

After WWII, industry became aware of and interested in using the intensive energy created by magnetrons for radar and their investigations resulted in the modern and ubiquitous microwave ovens. There is no doubt of the dangerous potential of the microwave power but hopefully the machines are safe as their energy is sequestered by proper shielding.

But in these later years the lure of wireless control has tempted industry to proliferate all sorts of gadgets for wireless operation and control. Many of them use ultrasound or infrared radiation, which is relatively harmless but other devices such as the cell phone and gadgets associated with computer control utilize electromagnetic radiation at frequencies, which medical experts have investigated.

A Finnish study (SEE HERE) indicates that prolonged use of cell phones have produced evidence that some nerve damage has resulted. There is a good deal of debate over the validity of these results so the discussion continues. The USA FCC is conducting a study in this matter but the Bush administration has so deeply compromised federal scientific results in favor of commercial interests that a much doubt must accompany any results they may publish.

Nevertheless the consumer delight with the elimination of wired gadgets is strong motivation for industry to continue and enlarge the number of wireless controls.

So it is wise to be cautious in gossiping on the cell phone. It could broil your brains.
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