Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cellphones and brain explosions

A while back there was a rumor circulating that using cellphones could give you brain cancer.  A study published in 2010, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, indicates that there is no correlation between cellphone use and cancer, which caused sighs of relief from the thousands of people who like to discuss details of their sex lives and intimate health issues in public places.

Now, however, thanks to a scary email I received yesterday, I find that cellphone users have worse things to worry about than brain cancer; using your cellphone can simply make your head explode.

Don't believe me?  I'll show you.  I excerpt part of the email below:
Do not pick up calls under the following given numbers:  9888308001, 9316048121 91+, 9876266211, 9888854137, 9876715587.  These numbers will come up red in color, if the call comes from these numbers.  It's with very high wavelength, and very high frequency.  If a call is received from mobile on these numbers, it creates a very high frequency and will cause you to have a brain hemorrhage.

It's not a joke, it's TRUE.  27 people have died receiving calls from these numbers.  This has appeared on news programs and has been verified as true, it's not a hoax.  Please forward this on to all the people you care about!
Well, first off, it's a little ironic that I was the recipient of this email.  My wife recently perused the cellphone use by the members of our family, and found that in the months of May and June I accrued a grand total of seven minutes of cellphone use time.  I suspect that this was actually unusually high, because during May I was away teaching classes at a music workshop weekend in Pennsylvania, and had much higher need for my cellphone than normal.  I use my cellphone so infrequently that when I do need it, I often (1) can't find it, and then when I do find it, (2) the battery is dead, so I have to (3) locate my cellphone charger, and (4) wait several hours for the battery to charge, by which time (5) whatever need I had for a cellphone is long since past.

I think my problem is that besides being a Luddite, I just hate telephones in general.  I actually enjoy being in a place where I can't be reached by telephone.  I'm sort of like Pavlov's dog -- but instead of salivating, when the telephone rings, I swear.  The idea of taking a telephone with me, so I can be reached anywhere, has about as much appeal as taking along my dentist on vacation so that he can interrupt my lying around on the beach by doing a little impromptu root canal. 

But I digress.

For those of you who actually can find your cellphones, and do use them occasionally, should you worry about picking up your cellphone, for fear of your brain exploding?  The answer, fortunately, is no, and we don't need to have a study funded by the National Brain Explosion Institute to prove it.  Without even trying hard, I can find three problems with the contents of the email:

First, there's no way that a cellphone could transmit sound waves at a high enough volume to cause any damage.  Cellphone speakers are simply not capable of producing large-amplitude (high decibel level) sounds -- cellphone use isn't even damaging to your ears, much less your brain.  You're at more risk of ear damage from turning your iPod up too high than you are from your cellphone.

Second, how do they know all of this, if all the people it happened to died?  Did the victims pick up their cellphones, say "Hi," and then turn to their spouses and say, "OMIGOD I JUST RECEIVED A CALL FROM 9888308001 AND THE NUMBER CAME UP RED AND NOW I'M HAVING A BRAIN ANEURYSM ACCCCCKKKKK"?

Third, the email itself indicates that the originator has the intelligence of cream of wheat, because anyone who's taken high school physics knows that it's impossible for a wave to have high frequency and high wavelength at the same time, as wavelength and frequency are inversely proportional, sort of like IQ and the likelihood of watching Jersey Shore.

So, anyway, feel free to continue using your cellphones without any qualms, and I'll continue to not use mine.  Maybe one day I'll eventually arrive in the 21st century, and stop being such a grumpy curmudgeon about telephones, and consent to carry one around so I can have constant, 24/7 availability to receive calls from telemarketers.

But don't expect it to happen any time soon.

1 comment:

  1. Whew! I was so worried. Now I know my brain is safe! lol