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Communications Medicine Wireless Networking Idle

"Wi-Fi Refugees" Shelter in West Virginia Mountains 627

Posted by samzenpus
from the break-out-the-tinfoil dept.
The 13,000 sq mile U.S. Radio Quiet Zone is an area in West Virginia where all wireless transmissions are banned because of the large number of radio telescopes located there. (This official page shows a map of the Zone; an old Wired article is fascinating reading.) These high-tech telescopes have attracted unlikely neighbors, people who claim to have Wi-Fi allergies. In recent years, scores of people have moved to the area to escape the "damage" that electromagnetic fields can cause them. From the article: "Diane Schou is unable to hold back the tears as she describes how she once lived in a shielded cage to protect her from the electromagnetic radiation caused by waves from wireless communication. 'It's a horrible thing to have to be a prisoner,' she says. 'You become a technological leper because you can't be around people. It's not that you would be contagious to them — it's what they're carrying that is harmful to you.'"
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"Wi-Fi Refugees" Shelter in West Virginia Mountains

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  • by jbarr (2233) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @10:56AM (#37388100) Homepage

    I'm 45, and while the likes of the Internet and mass-media obviously provide significantly more information than we ever had in the past, I just don't remember so many people having food allergies, aversions, ADD, "sensitivities", or other maladies that are so abundant today. Is it because we are less ignorant and more informed of what were otherwise "hidden" issues, or have we physically evolved into people weaker constitutions?

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @11:03AM (#37388208) Homepage

    Actually, FTFA, they HAVE banned most of those things directly around the Radio Telescope. Still and all, the poor afflicted darlings have probably never heard of the inverse square law. Or inverses. Or squares.

  • by arcite (661011) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @11:08AM (#37388280)
    Perhaps its precisely due to the internet that we have so many people acting on their neurotic tendencies. With 24/7 access to the 'net and the ability to look up any information desired, we can self-diagnose ourselves like never before. We're now so afraid of disease that we sterilize our homes (and ourselves) to such an extent that our own bodies immune system turns on us. We believe in conspiracy theories, listen to Internet bloggers, form social circles and 'friend' celebrity actors who promote ideologies based on nothing more than being critical of the status-quo (or for it). Critical through is thrown out the window in favor of demagoguery. Oh well, at least this set of self-diagnosed, technologically persecuted individuals can find peace among the dense Virginia forests, safe from harming wider society.
  • by trout007 (975317) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @11:08AM (#37388282)

    You are pretty close. I have environmental allergies (dust, pollen, ect). So I get allergy shots which builds up my tolerance. It works great. The same thing with peanuts. My kid had allergies and we had him tested for everything and he was allergic to peanuts. When he ate peanut butter he would get red in the face and complain about an itchy throat. They don't do shots for food. So we started building his tolerance by giving him smaller doses that he could handle an slowly built up. It is working just like the shots.

    So what you said is correct. If parents keep shielding their kids from things they are allergic to they will never build up immunity to them.

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @11:20AM (#37388502)
    I think the increased incidence of these sorts of things has a three fold cause. The first is that a significant number of the people who suffer from genuine problems (such as severe allergies) would have died from them or something else at a very young age in the past. The second is that the threshold for diagnosis of certain disorders have been lowered (diabetes and autism are two examples). This does not account for all of the increase in the incidence of those disorders, but it accounts for a significant portion of it. The third cause is that improved communication allows people to become aware that symptoms they are experiencing are related to real problems and to become aware of crackpots claiming to suffer from some imaginary malady.
    In the ordinary course of things, the vast majority of crackpots have their ideas rejected by those around them and they either abandon them or learn to keep relatively quiet about them. There have always been a few that because of random chance happen to be in an area where people take their ideas seriously. In the past, these few tended to remain isolated. With the advent of modern communication, these crackpots have been able to more readily find those people who are a receptive audience for thier ideas, allowing a greater distribution of those crackpot ideas.
    Of course, at the same time, many good ideas that in the past were suppressed by those who controlled communication are also able to spread more easily. Overall, it has become harder to control which ideas gain acceptance which makes it harder to manipulate and control the populace.
  • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @11:41AM (#37388860)

    I'm not really defending these people - I make no claims to be affected, and I'm sure most of them are hypochondriacs, but isn't it possible that, out of over 300 million people in the U.S., some of them might actually be more sensitive to the effects of electromagnetic fields than you?

    No, at least now how they describe it.

    They only complain about man-made electromagnetic fields. The Earth has this HUGE magnetic field, maybe you've heard of it. The Sun is positively bombarding us with electromagnetic radiation. Basically, the amount energy from man-made electromagnetic radiation you're exposed to on a regular basis is insignificant compared to the natural kinds. The only difference is that the man-made contains ordered signals instead of being purely random noise. It's limited to particular frequencies instead of being at a broader spectrum. These people moved to a place containing a large number of radio telescopes whose purpose is to, wait for it...detect electromagnetic signals.

    Apparently only man-made EM can trigger these people's allergies, which pretty much means that what these people are claiming is literally impossible. In addition, every single study done so far has shown that when you tell these people that you turned off the source of EM they think is the cause of their problem, they get better. Even if you lie to them about it, and the thing is still on. Similarly, if you tell them that you turned a device on, they'll suddenly start getting their headaches, even though nothing was turned on.

    Now, if you tell me that in a population of billions, there are some humans that are sensitive to electromagnetic fields in such a way that makes them good at finding north...I'm willing to believe that and run some tests. Sounds plausible and interesting.

  • by thesh0ck (1983948) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @11:43AM (#37388884)
    I bet she is going to be pissed when she finds out there is in fact radio transmissions there... quite a bit of them in fact. The ones that are banned are the ones from outsiders. They transmit thier own radio signals that are accounted for in the science, as are the goverenment radio signals. There is in fact more electro-magnetic radiation in that area than in a city. Its a true lack of understanding of anything in reality that makes these people do these things. After all... light is also electromagnetic radiation, and there is radio waves coming from the sun and stars but she doesnt mention anything about having problems in the sun or looking at the stars. Crackpot ignorant people.

One can't proceed from the informal to the formal by formal means.