Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dumb stuff about smart meters

Pop Rocket readers will recall I covered this subject at length in Muggs, and I'd have thought that since PR is a Courier subsidiary, the editors might have considered what I'd sold them in the mix, but there's no evidence of it here.

Starting with this op-news piece (meaning pseudo-news based on non-facts) on Sunday and carrying through to today's editorial, the Courier editors fall for the manufactured controversy around smart meters and conclude that since no one knows the real story, the technology is a real cause for concern. This is utter hooey, it just gets people stirred up over nothing, and worse, it leads people to slow down on a technology that will be important in moving forward on critically necessary energy infrastructure, as the unnamed editor advocates.

Talk about the possible dangers of RF radiation all you like, the source still has to be powerful enough and chronic enough to make a measurable difference. The smart meters that APS is installing put out very very very small amounts of energy in very very very short bursts just once an hour. These are just facts, they're not subject to interpretation. You get more RF radiation from five minutes in the sun than from these guys in a week.

There's no way this signal can carry any useful information about what you're doing in your house other than how much power you used in the last hour. The Big Brother scenario is neither plausible nor even possible with this technology. (Get over yourself, you're really not that interesting to The Man.)

But papers sell on controversy and journalists aren't expected to know anything about the real world, so from the editor's desk the unsubstantiated 'concerns' of people with no scientific or even mechanical skills rank as high as the clear assurances of scientists, medical professionals, engineers and everyone in Europe.

The reason that the press gets special dispensation in our Constitution is that we recognize the need for good information on which voters can base public policy. By playing the if-someone-disagrees-then-no-one-knows-anything game, the editors neglect this mandate and the community in favor of making a few bucks.

More egregious is the concatenation of the smart-meter issue with the larger issue of high-yield EM radiation from things like high-tension power lines and cellphone towers. This stuff is in a different part of the spectrum and orders of magnitude higher in power, making it a different beast altogether. But the Courier's editing makes them all the same. The WHO director talks about cellphones, and Dr Zieve talks about EM in general. Neither mentions smart meters (or baby monitors, or satellite clocks, or any of the other myriad tiny sources of RF and other radiation in a given home), but the article puts them all on the same footing as hazards. This is just wrong, and grossly misleads people who are unfamiliar with basic physics like the inverse-square law. A continuous video feed via wi-fi in your lap is massively different from a pokey little meter on the outside of your house, I don't care whether it's adjacent to your bedroom. (If it is, you should be far more worried about the EM field generated constantly by the wires in the wall, and at that it's not much.)

Please, readers, we can no longer afford to be ignorant about the complexities of the issues we have to deal with as voters. The future is arriving ever faster, our problems are more complex than ever, and we haven't got time to screw around with superstition. We have to learn to sniff out unexamined assumptions and do our homework.


Anonymous said...

That being the case, should I simply ignore the black helicopters that constantly hover over my house ?

Steven Ayres said...

No. Keep an eye on them. Tinfoil hats will help deflect their orbital mind-control lasers.

I don't mean to make fun of anyone who's alarmed by this stuff. American education and media make us in the main extremely challenged by scientific thinking and even basic math. But we have to somehow get past that and stay grounded in the real world.

If smart meters caused migraines, for example, wouldn't you think that Europe might have figured that out by now, six or seven years down the line from principle build-out? It's preposterous to imagine that this little thing could have greater and immediate effect compared to all the other stuff already in place, even in the most sensitive people.

Mia Connolly said...

I have to respectfully take up discourse with you in this issue. Here is a credible and disturbing source of contrary info I found while doing my homework.


But first, unlike most people, I love APS. My dad retired from APS (I can thank them for a comfortable childhood), and further, I think what they supply for the cost is fabulous. But, a few months ago, they installed the Smart Meter. Tim (who NEVER has any sleep issues) and I started having sleep troubles. I wasn't expecting any issues from the meter, and didn't make any connection. After about a month, Tim said that our troubles had started around the time of the meter installation. (Which is about 10 ft from our bed.) So we decided to cover it with aluminum foil (ha ha I know) and we slept. There were blind tests for me as well, without knowing whether it was covered or not, I would sleep or not. I have other concerns about the increasing disruption of life forms that are completely dependent on magnetic fields. Here is a link to a study from India that links cell phones to the decline in bee population.


I also found a lot of information that appears to indicate that appliances may soon be equipped with Smart Meters of their own that will communicate with the outside meter, creating a lot more wireless devices in the home.

Steven Ayres said...

I'm sorry, Mia, I can't account for your sleep problems, but given the actual mechanical capabilities of these meters, this effect is just not plausible. You should know that there's also an internal shield in the meter that directs signal away from the house (where it's needed, not as a safety measure). Putting foil on the outside, if it has any effect at all, would most likely direct more energy inward, wouldn't it?

Does it not matter that except for 40 milliseconds in an hour, a blip, the meter puts out no signal at all?

We've interviewed Karl Maret on my health show. He's pretty much a one-man band on this issue. Talking about EM radiation in general is not the same as talking about the specific capabilities of a specific machine, as I noted in the post. We have to get down in the weeds on this one.

Again, radiation from the rocks under your house and the cosmic rays blasting though it is far more energized and chronic than what's coming off the meter.

Mia Connolly said...

Ok, my sleep issues aside... (I'm going to support the many cognitive impairment complaints with my blog here! Bear with me.) So here are some notes from my reading. First, the biological effects of low level emf's are often worse than higher levels when it comes to causing a release of calcium cells on the cell membrane. Membrane leakage can cause damage to dna, including inheritable mutations. (Also, the lower frequency "pulsing" technology apparently causes a stronger biological negative reaction.) Our cells react to low level frequencies because they are close to the levels of our own frequencies. Our bodies treat them as an unknown enemy, like a virus, shutting down cellular functions, and importantly, decreasing the immunity responses. With an exponentially increasing daily lifelong unchecked barrage of this, we don't know what all of the consequences will be. So it seems with industry push, and the indifference of - I guess - the CDC and government to research that is finding red flags, we will just keep adding more signals to the atmosphere. One more thing (and back to the Smart Meter), I read that when your meter sends the intermittent signals, so are all of the meters of your neighbors (to a local - within about 2 miles - hub), so there is an accumulative effect that is much worse than what is looked at safety-wise when one is told the amount of emf radiation from their one meter. I'm not sure if this is the type of system we are on or not?

Steven Ayres said...

Mia, I'm inferring that you're referring to low-frequency EM fields rather than "low-level" (which implies low-power). I've seen the science you're talking about, and it's not bad, but it has nothing to do with the very low-power, high-frequency radiation of smart meters.

Mia Connolly said...

Ok, I see. Well anyway, two consecutive sleepless nights for both of us - tinfoil ON the meter. (IS it going IN the house!?) Waaahhh :(