A breathless report from IDG News
yesterday spread like a forest fire: Wi-Fi kills trees! Kills 'em dead! Oh n03s!!
Radiation from Wi-Fi networks is harmful to trees, causing significant variations in growth, as well as bleeding and fissures in the bark, according to a recent study in the Netherlands. All deciduous trees in the Western world are affected, according to the study by Wageningen University.
Hurray for credulity! Thousands of media sites and blogs picked up the story, adding new details, and rarely questioning the bizarre claim, despite the statement later in the same news item that only 20 trees were tested in one city, that researchers were not named, and it wasn't noted whether or not the study was published or peer reviewed.
I turned, as I always do, to Gawker's Valleywag to bring sense and perspective
to an issue. Wait. What? No, seriously. Valleywag's Adrian Chen found a public statement
from the Dutch spectrum regulator (translation
). The study took place indoors for three months with a variety of plants exposed to six Wi-Fi devices. Previous studies showed no harm. The work hasn't yet been published.
I suppose BoingBoing readers are used to hearing sensational claims based on small-cadre studies issued in advance of peer review. Nonetheless, this one seemed particularly strange. Perhaps it was the combination of environmental harm, the fear of radiation (electromagnetic or otherwise), and the imprimatur of a university. Urban trees, which were apparently part of the focus of this study, are under tremendous stress, and tree cover in cities worldwide has been drastically reduced, although efforts in many places are underway to counter this. My hometown of Seattle has a loosely organized plan
to plant hundreds of thousands of new trees in the coming years, for instance.
Remember what happens when the trees get pissed off
A commenter warns that all Northern hemisphere deciduous trees are currently undergoing some sort of chromatic die-off producing vast amounts of ground pollution and decay.
Top photo from Pripyat near Chernobyl by Timm Suess via Creative Commons. Yes, that's Suess, not Seuss. Photo of leaves by mksfly via Creative Commons.
Arizona State University’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative held a short story contest to write “climate fiction,” judged by Kim Stanley Robinson and others; now the best stories have been collected in a free downloadable ebook that includes a forward by Robinson, and an interview with Paolo Bacigalupi.
I’ve been writing “design fiction” for years (see, for example, Knights of the Rainbow Table), and when people ask me to explain it, I say something like, “An engineer might make a prototype to give you a sense of how something works; an architect will do a fly-through to give you a sense of its […]
Reuters reports that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes listing the rusty patched bumble bee among America’s endangered species. Though just one of many species of bumble bee, Bombus affinis’s sharp decline is a worry to conservationists. About a quarter of bumble bee species face “a risk of extinction.” The agency attributes the decline […]
#1. A-Audio Legacy Noise Cancelling Headphones with 3-Stage Technology The A-Audio Legacy Headphones are the Boing Boing Store’s best seller this month, and it’s easy to see why. With 40mm drivers, powerful circuitry, and memory foam padded circumaural ear cups, these are clearly super high-quality headphones. Plus, the patented 3-Stage Technology lets you toggle between passive […]
Vaping is getting more mainstream by the day, which means there’s been an influx of quality yet affordable vaporizers on the market. We’re particularly excited about the APX Wax Vaporizer Kit, which is an easy-to-use, high-quality vape that works with both dry herbs and waxy concentrates.If you’re a beginner trying to get into vaping, the APX […]
When you’ve had a long day and it’s time to unwind, there’s a lot you can do to relax: drink some tea, take a shower or even read a book. But there’s one thing that’s essential to a comfortable night’s rest—and that’s investing in some really good sheets. Enter Bamboo Bed Sheets. These quality sheets retail for $120, but […]