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Luddites spreading F.U.D.

A man in Nova Scotia has determined that radiation coming from the proposed nearby high-speed internet tower will mutate his organic garlic crops. Wow. I guess he heard that they were using microwave technology and decided to shut them down. Microwaves are the most deadly kind of radiation, right? 'Cause we use them in our kitchens to cook things. Oooh! I had better instill the proper amount of F.U.D. in all my neighbors so this tower will get shut down before it starts.

Being an engineer, I like to look at things skeptically. There are numbers and calculations to support everything. Do the numbers work out? Do the equations make sense? Is this man a fool? This is one of the beauties of learning more about amateur radio; I got to learn a lot more about electro-magnetic radiation than I ever did before. More specifically, what are the limits of what might hurt people. Now there are still debates going on about whether or not cell phones cause brain cancer and the like, but once again, it all comes down to simple physics. This is the same question as Lenny's garlic: will the radiation cause a "change [in] the DNA of the garlic because it shakes up the molecules" or not?

The power density of electro-magnetic radiation drops off as the inverse-cube of the distance from the source. This means that the power drops off VERY fast as the distance gets bigger. For cell phones, you mash the thing right up to your head, with the antenna (the source) a mere centimeter or two from your head. I agree that this could be harmful. In fact, according to my calculations, a 1/4 Watt phone should only be used for about 2 minutes in any 6 minute period to be compliant based on the FCC OET Bulletin 65 standards for amateur radio. Along those same lines, if Lenny Levine's garlic field is 100 meters from the tower, and the tower is 60 meters tall (a modest estimate for this application), the crops would be an actual distance of 117 meters (or ~383 feet) from the source of radiation. This means that the tower could put out approximately 400,000 Watts, or 400kW of effective radiated power and still be less harmful than the cell phone pasted to your head.

In my opinion, 400kW of microwave radiation for a high speed internet tower is ridiculous. Absolutely no need for that. A tower of that could be picked up for internet access on the moon. Literally. Of course, the station on the moon would have to be blasting back a lot of power if it wanted to establish any 2-way communication. In other words, Lenny Levine needs to read up and get the facts straight before his Luddite tendencies get the best of him. Granted, the FCC has no jurisdiction in Nova Scotia, but the principles that they use to govern the amateur radio community were chosen with much care and based on sound engineering principles.

Here is my breakdown:

Internet Tower Cell Phone
Effective Radiated Power 400,000 W 0.25 W
Distance from source 117 m 0.02 m
Estimated RF Power Density 1.008 mW/cm2 13.21 mW/cm2
Distance to Compliance From Antenna 116.3 m 0.04 m
Compliant Yes No

This breakdown assumes that the radio tower is not under the control of Lenny, thus the requirements for compliance are five times less power density than for the cell phone, which you are under control of. By reducing your cell phone usage to 2 minutes out of any 6 minute period, you reduce your exposure to a compliant figure, which in this case is 5.0 mW/cm2 for exposures under your control and 1.0 mW/cm2 for exposures you don't control.

I think what Lenny Levine, and all his Luddite friends need to do is dig a cave and climb in. That is the only place that they will be safe from the largest and most dangerous source of electro-magnetic radiation on the planet. Sol, you know, the sun. It pumps more energy onto our planet than all the radio transmitters put together. Ever. By many orders of magnitude. The comparison just isn't fair. If anything mutates his precious garlic's DNA, it will be the sun. Or maybe his cell phone. But it won't be the high-speed internet tower next door that mutates his garlic. Don't we support biodiversity anyway? Mutations are welcome.