Close Call

I thought I had lost my USB drive today. I was in a panic. I went back to the place I had lunch and it was sitting there on the chair. It must have fallen out when I went into my pocket. I know I’ll lose the rubber cap on my drive eventually, but I wasn’t thinking I’d lose the whole thing.

I’ve been pretty good about not losing small stuff, although I’ve had a few scares with my iPod and my cell phone.

The USB drive is a whole different level of small. You know if your iPod or cell phone isn’t in your pocket, but you can’t feel a USB drive. I think I’m going to have to resort to wearing it on a laynard or something so I can keep track of it.

On a totally unrelated note….

A Canadian university has banned the use of WiFi on their campus for health reasons. Reason? Possible health risks. Evidence? none. We just don’t know.

Problem is, we can’t prove a negative. We can never show that there is no harm to radio waves. However, we haven’t found any link between radio waves and anything. To quote the University President, Fred Gilbert

“All I’m saying is while the jury’s out on this one, I’m not going to put in place what is potential chronic exposure for our students. Admittedly that’s highest around the locations of the antenna sites and the wireless hot spots, but those are the places people tend to gravitate to because they get the best reception,”

Lets look at the wireless internet for a moment. WiFi inhabirts the 2.4ghz part of the spectrum. Its shared with microwave ovens, amateur radio, and other public airwave things like baby monitors. Most WiFi acess points operate at less than 1 watt of power. Often, significantly less than 1 Watt. 100mW is common (0.1 Watt). To put this in perspective, standard incandescent bulbs can use 50-125 W of power. EM radiation also behaves according to the inverse square law. That means that the intensity of the EM radiation decreases by a factor of 4 every time you double the distance between you and the object.

Most computer users are easily several meters from a wireless access point (but very close to their computer, which produces EM radiation anyhow. If you are reading this on a CRT your standing next to an emitter of EM radiation which is probably more powerful than a wireless access point.) You are usually in closer contact with a cell phone, which will expose you to more effective EM radiation than a wireless device if only due to proximity)

There is dangerous EM radiation. In particular gamma rays and x-rays. However they have frequencies well above that of visible light, and 2.4ghz is well below that. NOTHING has shown a link between incidental exposure to radio waves and any detrimental health consequences. If such a link exists, it probably should be considered so small as to be swamped by the benefits that wireless Internet access brings. It it were large, it should be obvious.

Having a college campus without wireless internet is in the year 2006, like having a college without a library.

By Gary

3 dimples. 7 continents. 130 countries.