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Electrical Noise Causing Physiological Stress? 401

el johnno writes "The Globe and Mail is reporting on possible physiological problems caused by so-called 'dirty electricity.' Poor power quality caused by electrical feedback and harmonics from consumer electronics are cited as a possible cause of various 'physiological stress' problems. While previous research in this area looked for connections between EM fields and cancer, some research is now looking into possible connections to fatigue, headaches, depression, and other symptoms. From the article: 'If electricity were flowing in a constant way, most people's bodies would likely adapt, but with all the interference from modern devices, the resulting fields are too variable for people to get used to.'"
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Electrical Noise Causing Physiological Stress?

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  • by OffTheLip ( 636691 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:27AM (#15016558)
    Now I know why I get headaches and feel generally lousy at work. I assumed my job sucked but now I know it's just bad electricity.
    • What about all that bad electricity from your Home electronics and PC's?
    • Who comes out better - the Europeans who get hammered with 220V suckiness 50 times a second, or the Yanks who 'only' get 110V of grief, but 60 times a second?

      Bring back DC!! Oh, they are! []

    • You seem to realize that the article is an example of ignorance and/or fraud. Good.

      This is the fourth time in the past two years approximately that Slashdot editors have posted an article like this. Slashdot editors show that they didn't study in their science classes.

      Those who did study know that anything that is above a temperature of absolute zero releases electromagnetic energy. It's everywhere, all the time, and was there before people began making radio waves.

      Maybe the article is an early Apr
      • Driving to work some months ago I noticed the guy in the car next to me had a wire pyramid on his head. I thought that was a bit odd, but I think he had it all figured out...focus the BAD EMF and relay it to the alien mother ship to thwart their assault.
  • Electricity (Score:4, Funny)

    by jokeruk ( 964422 ) <> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:28AM (#15016560) Homepage
    Does that mean we've got to don tin foil gowns now?
  • by fatduck ( 961824 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:28AM (#15016561)
    [blockquote]He began researching the topic when a neighbour expressed the belief that electricity was dangerous. In an act of desperation brought on by constant pain, he did something he initially thought was off-the-wall. He spent $1,000 on filters that, much like surge protectors on a computer, clean up fluctuations and surges in the electricity flowing in the wires around his home.[/blockquote] It never occured to him that it might be about $1,000 cheaper to turn off his electricity for a day or two and see how he felt?
  • I knew it! (Score:5, Funny)

    by lxs ( 131946 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:30AM (#15016563)
    'If electricity were flowing in a constant way, most people's bodies would likely adapt, but with all the interference from modern devices, the resulting fields are too variable for people to get used to.'

    It's a plot by the Edison company to bring back DC power!
    Luckily I'm wearing my AFDB.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Of someone else who thought strange things were happening around him []:

    I first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love...Yes, a profound sense of fatigue, a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I-I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence. I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women, er, women sense my power, and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid women, Mandrake...but I do deny them my essence.

    (Now compare this to: Mr. Byrne al
  • I guess it doesn't matter if the field is intentional or not. Both WiFi and some cell phone traffic makes me physically sick over the course of the day. In some cases I can even tell if the router is on or not.

    Before you laugh, I've had one job where there were two cell repeaters in the building plus an extensive wifi network. There were some rooms where my eyes would water if I entered them, and at the end of each day I'd sit in the car for 10 minutes to "detox". Didn't seem to bother anyone else.

    They also
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:56AM (#15016623)
      It's psychosomatic. Our RF exposure is only marginally greater when close to devices such as WiFi hotspots because of the immense amount of background EMI from TV and Radio broadcasts, satellites, CB and business radios, power transformers and a million other things. A car produces vast amounts of EMI due to the 15,000v+ HT unit used for sparking. Electricity substations have similar effects. People with your 'condition' seem to be very selective in what seems to have an effect on them, generally only being made 'sick' by obvious and media-hyped sources of EM radiation. Going anywhere near an airport should be next to impossible for you thanks to the powerful radio systems used for communication and RADAR.
      • Our RF exposure is only marginally greater when close to devices such as WiFi hotspots because of the immense amount of background EMI from TV and Radio broadcasts, satellites, CB and business radios, power transformers and a million other things.

        Not least of which is the Sun; Earth's number one source of electromagnetic waves in every frequency. What's important here is that unlike solar radiation, which is largely random noise, man made EM radiation is generally ordered and harmonic. Overwhelmingly, most RF signals come from time harmonic sources.

        Our brains and bodies are chaotic systems. Ordered signals are bad for them. Apparently epilepsy is a sudden bought of order in the brain. It's entirely possible that some people, or in deed all people to a degree, are sensitive to any resonances in their body with time harmonic signals.

        Engineers sometimes scoff that EM radiation is at such a low level that it cannot harm anyone. But engineers very often make the mistake of not accounting for resonance []
        • Resonance requires a very specific coupling between frequencies. If this was actually about resonance, you would only be sensitive to one particular frequency band (and it's higher order harmonics). Yet somehow these people claim to get sick from 50 hz, 60 hz, 2.4 Ghz...

          What a fantastic coincidence that all of the frequencies we use in commercial applications happen to be the ones that "resonate" in some way.

          Or maybe it's all in their heads.

          Noone likes to be told that they've got a screw loose. But that
        • "Our brains and bodies are chaotic systems. Ordered signals are bad for them." Music is bad for me? Or only repetetive techno synth stuff?

          Yes I'm kidding, but I thought the brain liked some semblance of order, has a calming effect. Would it not be easier for the brain to cope with a contstant signal than one that is constantly changing? I'm suddenly aware of a high pitched whine that is likely coming from the monitors in this room (usually notice this whine from TVs), though usually the brain filters th
        • Engineers sometimes scoff that EM radiation is at such a low level that it cannot harm anyone. But engineers very often make the mistake of not accounting for resonance

          If you believe that, you must be an idiot. Engineers, or all kinds (electrical, mechanical, aeronautical), are acutely aware of the importance of resonance. Particularly asinine for you to make such a claim (presumably) in connection with electrical engineers, as radio receivers use resonance.

      • Depends on how you measure exposure I suppose. I believe the power drops by the square of the distance?

        Either way, its just as impossible to say this does not happen as it is to say it does. So people acting like this is so scientifically not-happening are on just as shaky ground.

        There is really no reason to insist that none of this EMR is doing anything. We just don't know, and there seems to be no desire to find out based on the strong negatively worded opinions around here.
    • by Grab ( 126025 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:20AM (#15016671) Homepage
      According to NewScientist, studies so far haven't found anyone claiming these symptoms who can correctly recognise when these things are turned on. In studies so far, people who claim they're sensitive to this end up showing symptoms when they're exposed to something that's just a LED in a box, and then don't show symptoms when they're in a room where the widget is hidden.

      This gives two possibilities:

      1) Your symptoms are psychosomatic. Which doesn't mean they don't exist, but there's no physical link between EM radiation and your symptoms, so there's no physical solution possible.

      2) You are an exception and genuinely *are* sensitive to EM radiation. In which case you should be contacting the various researchers into this, bcos you may be able to provide the evidence that so far is lacking. You can't guarantee that government would do anything about it, but you might get your symptoms recognised as a genuine medical condition.

      I suggest you get your friends to help with experiments. A good initial test would be to have one of your friends turn his wireless network on or off when you come round, and keep notes of the state in a diary. When you come to the door, if you're sensitive then you should be able to notice the wireless network signal, so write down in your diary what you think its state is. Then you compare notes after a month or so. That'll give you some feedback about how your symptoms relate to things. Obviously this might be prone to interference from PCs or TVs on at the same time, but it's a start.

      I'm not going to prejudge your specific case. All I can offer is the existing evidence, which says that so far no-one's been found who can do this. As a natural sceptic, I'd personally go with the evidence until someone shows otherwise, but we've got to give people every opportunity to disprove the existing evidence, otherwise it becomes faith-based not evidence-based, and we all know where that bullshit lands you.

      • Your proposed test won't a very good one if the friend believes the symptoms are legitimate.

        By knowing whether it's turned on or not, it's likely they'll subconsciously send this information to the subject. This might take the form of repeated questions about how he's feeling when it's turned on, and disinterest when it's off. It wouldn't be hard to pick up on these cues, even without trying.
        • Hence the advice to make a note of what state the guy thinks it's in before going in - if he's not spoken to his friend yet, he can't have been given any subconcious cues.

          Apart from that, I agree with you. As another respondent said, that's why double-blind testing was invented.
      • The whole "you can't tell when the EM source is on" approach seems rather problematic to me. If the reaction to EM takes time in the body, it could be quite possible that a person would not be be consciously aware of it.

        What's more likely, in my opinion, is that some people genuinely do have a negative reaction to EM when exposed for long periods of time. Once they figure this out, or believe it, then they get the additional psychosomatic effect of having a headache whenever they *think* there's EM around
    • Reminds me of the time an older gentleman came into the computer shop where I worked, asking if we had a way of detecting radiation. We eventually got the story out of him that his UPS was "shooting rays" at him. He knew it "had to have radiation in it" that was making him sick. Nothing we said or did could convince him otherwise. We eventually told him to call the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with his story and see if he could get them out there with a geiger counter. He mumbled something about them
  • Call this science? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Toby The Economist ( 811138 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:38AM (#15016580)
    "'If electricity were flowing in a constant way, most people's bodies would likely adapt, but with all the interference from modern devices, the resulting fields are too variable for people to get used to.'"

    Call this science? what a load of bollocks. This is what you get when you need to print a newspaper every day.
  • In the past week we've seen a story that claims that "Sick Building Syndrome" is actually a stress-based problem that can be traced back to poor management.
    See e ws/2006/03/23/nsick23.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/03/23/ ixhome.html [] for details.
    I'd say this is reasonably obvious, and also a similar explanation probably lies behind the original post. EM radiation causing stress, or work (in workplace full of electrical devices) causing stress - which do you thi
  • Quote "the resulting fields are too variable for people to get used to.'" only if the field can be perceived by the body, or has any influence. As far as I know that still ened to be proved.
  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:42AM (#15016593) Journal
    There are existing cases to show that bombarding individuals with various frequencies of sound can have adverse effect. In some tests, using sound-waves beyond the human range of hearing still induced many dementia-like effects over time.

    This would probably be the opposite of the effect many try to achieve by adding "soothing" environmental sounds (like water from those little water fountain things)... unpleasant noise, even noise that doesn't consciously register, may cause behavioral, mood, or personality alterations.

    I know that I find myself rather irritated when I hear the whine of a monitor or TV (bad capacitors). Many people can't hear the sound at all without it being pointed out, but it is something that drives me crazy. In the case of devices that have been ready to go due to caps, I myself may not hear anything but at times I could swear I *felt* the damn thing going...
    • by Viol8 ( 599362 )
      "Many people can't hear the sound at all without it being pointed out, but it is something that drives me crazy."

      CRT tubes generally give off a frequency of about 17Khz (from memory
      , someone correct me if I'm out which can usually be heard by people
      under 30 but over 30 human hearing deteriorates to the point where
      *most* people can no longer hear that high. You obviously are either
      still fairly young or have good hearing. Or both! But one day you'll
      probably find that you can't hear it either anymore.
      • CRT tubes generally give off a frequency of about 17Khz Not in general. CRT television sets may be around that frequency (I think PAL is at 16 kHz, don't know NTSC), but computer monitors are usually in the 60--80 kHz range, except for very old VGA screens that were 31.5 kHz.

        I've read claims that the high-voltage circuit for driving the electron gun also produces high-pitched sound, but it is rare that I hear a computer CRT while I often hear a the high buzz from a television before I actually hear the so

        • AFAIK the high pitched sound from TVs *is* caused by the electron gun
          circuit. Its the magnetic coils controlling the flyback that induce
          minute occilations in themselves and surrounding metal that cause it
          I believe.
          • by hankwang ( 413283 ) * on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @07:50AM (#15016887) Homepage
            Its the magnetic coils controlling the flyback that induce minute occilations in themselves and surrounding metal that cause it I believe.

            Then the question is: what is the difference in a construction between a computer CRT and a television CRT that causes the former to be relatively silent? I always assumed that it is the deflector coils that are driven at the hsync frequency. Those coils are big and actually driven at that kind of frequency.

            So to dissolve this dispute, I just did an experiment. With a good microphone, I recorded my TV set and then I looked at the waveform in Audacity. I counted 79+/-0.2 oscillations over 5051 microseconds, which gives an acoustic frequency of 15640 +/- 40 Hz for this PAL television. The PAL standard is 625 lines at 50 Hz, factor 2 interleaved, so the hsync frequency is 625*50/2 = 15625 Hz. This is within the margin of error equal to the observed acoustic frequency, which provides strong support for the hypothesis of the horizontal deflection coils causing the high-pitched tone.

            For comparison, NTSC is 525 lines at 60/2 Hz, which gives 15750 Hz.

            Note that I used an electret microphone which is not sensitive to the magnetic field emitted by the deflection coils.

      • I think he was more accurate when he said they can hear it when its pointed out. Sounds like this can easily go unnoticed but once point out you can be upset with the guy that pointed it out to you :)
    • I think I have seen some genuine research out there about subsonic and ultrasonic noise having a measurable negative impact on health - maybe in Discover or Scientific American?

      Anyway, to put 2 and 2 together, all the electronic equipment in our offices and homes gives off sound. Kids especially can hear just about every appliance that is plugged in, and you can hear - if not 'feel' - the difference in your house when the power goes out (its usually a relief for most people), which is sort of a deafening s

    • > There are existing cases to show that bombarding individuals with
      > various frequencies of sound can have adverse effect

      That's because we have something called "ears". Point out the electricty sensing organ in the human body and I'd be a lot more inclined to take this nonsense seriously.

      Chris Mattern
  • I often get the impression that people look for extraneous reasons to explain problems like stress and depression. That's more than understandable, especially considering the stigma associated with mental illness. However, even though depression is almost certainly an illness with physiological underpinnings (not just something of the "soul" as many people still think -- often those who never had it), you don't have to go around looking for EM fields or whatever for the causes. Take a look at the Demyst []
    • by Anonymous Coward
      To summarise it, what if stress and depression arise from chronic overuse of the brain? Information overload and lack of sleep could be the real culprits. Think about it.

      No, DON'T think about it!!
  • by jtcedinburgh ( 626412 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:01AM (#15016634)
    Just wondered - 50Hz in the UK, 60Hz in the US, probably other frequencies elsewhere. Voltages: much higher in the UK. Perhaps someone should do a study into whether the problem is worse at higher or lower frequencies - maybe, like with sound, some frequencies are euphonic and others not...??

    Mind you, maybe it's just the annoying hum of transformers that's getting everyone down. I know I hate alarm clocks which hum - I once had to create an isolation platform out of an old face-cloth, a book and some cut squash-balls to minimise the annoying hum from an old alarm I had (whilst I was a very poor student). Mind you, I eventually sorted that problem out by blowing it up by connecting a 90wpc stereo amplifier to its speaker (don't ask - it was an experiment, ok?) and fried the lot :-)

    • by NoMaster ( 142776 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @08:59AM (#15017082) Homepage Journal
      Don't know about the 50Hz vs 60Hz thing - although I can tell you that as a citizen of a 50Hz country I notice low-level 60Hz hum, whereas I can't normally hear 50Hz hum.

      However, I suspect you're on to something with transformer hum. Or, more specifically, general low-level noise. My story:

      After some fairly major work-related stress, I found I just couldn't sleep properly. Tried the usual things - traditional & non-traditional drugs, meditation, etc - nothing worked for long. But I noticed on some nights I slept much better than others. After a few months I noticed the nights I slept better were the nights when the computers, 2 and 3 rooms away from my bedroom (with closed doors between me and them), were turned off.

      Note that these machines are all built to be low-noise - Antec Sonata cases, large low-speed thermostat controlled fans, Zalman heatsinks, low-noise PSUs, etc. They're quiet - in normal use, sitting in front of them, they're barely audible. I definitely couldn't consciously hear them from my bedroom, even in the dead of night. But there was a definite correlation between whether they were on or off, and my sleep quality. Not (consciously) psychosomatic either - remember, it was only after I noticed variations in my sleep quality that I found it correlated to whether they were turned on or off.

      Since then, I turn off everything that makes noise, no matter how low level. Computers (unless they're processing something), PVR (unless it's recording something), printer, computer speakers - basically everything that doesn't need to run overnight. I've noticed a definite improvement in my sleep quality (and general stress levels too). Yes, I'm prepared to accept that this part of it could be psychosomatic. But, if it helps me sleep better, I don't give a damn...

      So, from my little ad-hoc experiment, I'm quite prepared to believe that continuous low-level noise - or possibly even EM fields - at subconscious levels can have a detrimental affect.

      Call me a hypersensitive freak, call me self-deluding, call me a fringe-dwelling tree-hugging anti-technology neo-luddite. I don't care. I'll be sleeping well tonight...

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:02AM (#15016635) Homepage
    If electromagnetic fields at the sort of levels we have in our
    enviroment really harmed people then as soon as a bolt of lightning
    went off in a nearby storm all these "victims" should keel over and
    die given the amount of EM power a single bolt puts out. But you
    never hear someone saying "storms make me ill" (unless they got a direct
    hit of course!). Far more trendy to make out they're some victim of
    modern techno society so they can either kids themselves its someone
    elses fault they're ill (and nothing to do with hypocondria or some
    other mental condition) or so that they can jump on the compensation
  • It's when (Score:5, Funny)

    by celardore ( 844933 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:06AM (#15016641)
    It's when the bill comes in that I get headaches and become depressed.
  • two words (Score:2, Funny)

    by PROTMAN ( 964426 )
    brain cloud
  • by seanellis ( 302682 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:39AM (#15016707) Homepage Journal
  • There's those Japanese researchers who built a device to make people walk as directed by a joystick, and a guy named Persinger at the Laurentian University in I think Canada who built a device which makes people experience something many interpret as God. These devices use field strengths of IIRC only a few nano Tesla, and the fields generated by electrical wiring are much stronger.
    That we were NOT affected by electric noise would be a surprising find. Not this.

    And what about that electrical allergy we've h
  • They're hiding the cure for NAS! Quick, Ice-T, broadcast it to the whole world!
  • Not directly related, but I've always been very sensitive to very high pitched sounds. I can always tell when a TV or CRT is on in a house (even with the volume off), but the high pitched sound (from the flyback transformer, I guess). I find it a bit annoying, but not to the point of being debilitated by it.

    When I used to work in a stereo shop, with dozens of TV's, they used to use me to go around and turn them all off (after the feeds were shut off, so they were just black screens), since I could hear if

    • Actually, I suspect this is very closely related.

      I very much suspect the problem is not the em waves at all, but the sounds and the flickering lights they cause. Flicker can cause epileptic seizures in some people. Why substitute an ill-understood source of physiological effects for well understood ones?

      I worked with powerful em wave generators for years with no ill effects I could ever detect, but there were no lower frequencies that can affect sound or light (no AM transmitter modulation, for instance.)

    • I don't think it's all that uncommon though as people get older they lose ability to hear higher frequencies. I think most people ignore it because it's outside of the range that they are "listening to" and makes up the background noise.
    • by maokh ( 781515 )
      There is nothing exotic or magical about "hearing" or "knowing" a TV is turned on. Although, high frequency hearing abilities vary among the public.

      NTSC television uses a 15KHz horizontal frequency that audiably generates a 15KHz tone. The pitch is so high that most people really hear it like you would a baby crying, but they just sense it as being there. To me, televisions sound similar to ringing in the ears. High audio frequencies are very directional, and thats why you can always seek out the sour

    • I can always tell when a TV or CRT is on in a house (even with the volume off)


      I'm rather curious how common this is, as I don't think I've come across anyone else who could hear these ranges.

      I've met a few people who said they could too. But it's pretty rare.
  • by hairykrishna ( 740240 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @07:14AM (#15016793)
    What the hell is this story doing here, in the science section? This is supposed to be news for nerds, I mean, come on. I can just about let stories like this slide when I read them in the newspaper (with the requisite amount of muttering darkly to myself) but seeing them here just makes me worry that truly nobody related to the media understands science at all. Some guy deciding he is electricity sensitive and shelling out $1000(!) for a device which 'cleans' his electricity is not news and it sure as hell isn't science.

    Put stories like this in the comedy section, where they belong.

  • Psuedoscience (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @07:29AM (#15016833) Homepage Journal
    Sure, it reeks of pseudoscience, but from my personal experience I can see two ways "dirty electricity" could matter.

    1) I lived in a place that had really crazy electrical wiring. As in, about every month or so all three lightbulbs on our cieling fan would all blow out at the same time. If I kept my CRT near one wall, the pattern would make the swimming noises you sometimes see if you put an electric fan near a TV. It made me too nauseous to use it for any extended period of time. Solution? Moved my damn computer to another wall (actually in front of a glass wall -- no EMF interference there).

    2) Some fluorescent lights drive me batty. Many lights flicker at double the frequency of the power supply (60hz x 2 = 120hz), which is bloody human noticeable, regardless of how many scientists cast doubt on this. Come to my karate class, wave your hand in front of you, and you'll see multiple images of your hand. Or sometimes no intervening images at all on a punch if you throw it fast enough, which probably makes you look a lot faster than you really are. If you had a "dirty" power supply, I could see it perhaps making a difference to fluorescent lights that are tied to the cycle of the power supply.
    • Re:Psuedoscience (Score:4, Interesting)

      by grimJester ( 890090 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @08:22AM (#15016976)
      My mother considers herself allergic to electricity. From what I can tell, it's some kind of photosensitivity coupled with psychosomatic symptoms. She can't stand bright lights or anything that flickers; fluorescent lights or TVs. Anything where you get distinct images of your hand if you wave it in front of you; although I've never seen her test that way.

      She's been blind on one eye since childhood. She first started getting symptoms (mostly nausea and fatigue) after a few months of working with the first PCs at her work, text editing on monochrome displays. She's never been diagnosed with any real, known medical condition.

      She's currently afraid of about anything more high-tech than a stereo. Which is kind of annoying for me, because I believe she really has some kind of medical condition. Getting tired or getting headaches from working with a monitor with refresh rate less than 70hz is familiar to many of us. Reacting the same way to fluorescent lights isn't too far fetched.
  • Mumbo Jumbo Ahoy! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cluke ( 30394 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @07:42AM (#15016861)
    No matter how advanced we become technologically, we still cling to ridiculous superstition. It used to be sacrificing goats to prevent crop failure, now it's mysterious black boxes to "clean" our electricity. It's all about trying to gain a semblance of control over the events that effect us greatly in
    our day to day lives, but that we cannot influence.

    (One common thread in all these alternative therapies - at the end of the chain, you have someone raking in the bucks.)

    This world needs a little more rational thinking. Either that, or some good homeopathic remedies for gullibility.
    • Or in my case, a wife who believes that small cactuses placed next to cathode ray tubes absorb "harmful radiation" because some articles and ads in womens' magazines said so. Protesting that I am a lot bigger than said cactuses and made of similar stuff, so if they did absorb radiation, I'd be absorbing more of it, is futile. Trying to explain the fact that LCD monitor haven't got cathode ray tubes is like having a farting contest with a herd of cows. And so I sit surrounded by little spiky cactuses locate
  • Who knew Henry Rollins was right all along!?!

    ... I can't believe I just referenced Johnny Mnemonic.

  • by salec ( 791463 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @08:53AM (#15017063)
    Claiming that one can not only directly feel weak fast changing EM fields (light and IR heat excluded!) but no less then also feel the difference in their spectral distribution is just too much of a quackery!

    OTOH, he may be honest but barking at wrong tree. When electric power is down, it is not surprising to feel a relief.

    Now, there, I am probably not the only one who can say that prolonged exposure to various electric equipment produced, barely audible, sounds (especially high pitch, although hum too) make me feel some of the alleged symptoms. Right now, I hear quite loudly my and/or my coworkers CRT monitor(s) (high voltage transformer ferrite core - magnetostrictive material) and it gives me very unpleasent feeling in my neck. Similar goes for cooling fans hum. And, last but not least, most (cheap) capacitors' dielectrics are piezoelectric materials, so it may happen that some of the HF noise that came from mains "beats" with circuit-generated noise and result is sometimes in audible range.

    In last century (give or take a half of century) the noise signature has changed greatly. We have not adapted to that. It seems that authorities (lawmakers) are not aware of magnitude of stress that is imposed on us by noise which is not high in loudness, but just constant and unpleasent/annoying.

    Better understanding of the noise phenomenon, better design of electric (electronic) equipment and better health standards should make things bareable. Before anyone invests grands into mains filtering, they should consider good antiphones (both earplugs and earshells), better acoustic insulation for equipment suspected of producing noise and as much time spending outdoors, as far from "funny" sounds as possible.
  • I find it interesting that the supposedly intelligent /. readership lacks the imagination to see the true complexity of this situation. They are getting bent out of shape over the lack of extremely narrow test parameters when the problem involves the interaction of multiple emissions from many sources. It is not just ONE monitor, or ONE wireless network; in my apartment alone ther are at least SIX viable wireless signals at any given time. Now add in my crappy refrigerator throwing spikes into the house wir
  • by Ancient_Hacker ( 751168 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @09:27AM (#15017175)
    There's a lot of problems with this hypothesis:
    1. If it were true you'd expect stronger fields to make a bigger effect than miniscule ones.
    2. Therefore driving past a 500,000 watt radio or TV transmitting antenna should cause much much much greater symptoms than a 0.0000001 watt emissions from "dirty power". No such effect.
    3. People that are exposed to high EM fields, such as airport workers, tower light replacers, cell site testers, plasma physicists, industrial RF welders, TV technicians, walkie-talkie testers, they should all be really sick. Like 100,000 time ssicker than the average Joe or Jane Doe. They're not.
    4. At the neurological level, the voltage spikes from your nerves are 1,000's of times a bigger EM field than anything from outside your body. It's hard to imagine how a signal that's much weaker than your nerve impulses can have a noticeable effect.
    5. EM fields includes light, particularly sunlight. Sunlight hits you with almost 1,000 watts per square meter, many powers of ten greater than any other EM field, and most people think sunlight feels *good*, not bad.
    Too many basic objections to this idea. Move on.
  • because this was already learned about in Joe Vs the Volcano [] in the very beginning where he has the flourecent lamp that constantly makes that annoying humming sound.
  • All these years I just figured I was lazy, but now I know that it's my employers fault for exposing me to all these computers.

    But seriously now, anyone not living in a third world country (and even most of them) is exposed to electrical noise. How can anyone not look at this "study" in a skeptical light? We can probably expect the lawsuits to start any day now, along with the excuses...why yes officer, I did shoot my wife, but it was the electricity that made me do it.
  • by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:45AM (#15017948) Homepage
    Robert Heinlein wrote a novella titled "Waldo", which nailed this possibility sixty years ago. In the story, power transmission is by radio, a la Tesla. One of the keys of the story is a general rundown in the physical health and vitality of younger people due the the EM interference in synaptic communication. Widespread lethargy and weakness resulted from the saturation, but no one noticed but one doctor, Waldo's, who wore a lead-lined trenchcoat to shield himself. He was considered an eccentric.

    Waldo himself was an MD patient so weak that he built himself a satellite to live in so that he could move about under his own power in microgravity. He also diagnosed the problem, created a solution, and rolled up some bucks, so there's Heinlein in a nutshell.

    Heinlein wasn't trying to predict anything, but to hit a target at sixty years, now that's good.
  • by RexRhino ( 769423 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @01:54PM (#15019120)
    For just $59.95, I will sell you a magnetic bracelets that will protect you, as well as a quartz crystal neckless that will discharge "bad energy"!

    I garantee that my solution is based on the same rigorous scientific research, and same theoretical underpinnings as the "science" in the linked article!

    But seriously though, between some people wanting to teach "Intelligent Design" in schools, to people complaining about "bad vibes" coming from their toaster, to the unreasonable fear of nuclear technology, to the unreasonable fear of GM foods, to people wanting to ban research on stem cells, and the whole advent of all kinds of crazy "alternative medical treatments" like inner body massage, or yogurt enemas, or "color therapy" or whatever... the newfound popularity of fundamentalist Christianity or fundamentalist Islam. the proliferation of TV psychics.

    Doesn't it seem like the public is become completly anti-science and anti-rationality nowadays? People are believing in all kinds of crap that wouldn't pass the laugh test 20 years ago, and now people take this stuff seriously? And it doesn't seem to be any one political group, or religion, or country - I could understand if it was just one group of ludites or reactionaries doing it - but it seems universal! What the hell is going on?

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith