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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Mobile phone radiation: truth, science and Clarins face spray

I generally stay away from writing about all the hoo-ha around "do mobiles / masts / laptops fry your brain". There's a huge amount of both utter rubbish & intelligent comment available from other people.

The physicist in me just thinks "it's just yet another form of electromagnetic radiation, at relatively low power". Yes, in sufficient doses, it probably causes some form of physiological effect, just like any other form of radiation - like light, for example, or ultraviolet, or gamma rays. I'm sure if you swallowed a kilowatt TV transmitter it probably wouldn't do you much good either.

But in the big scheme of things - ie "relative risk" - it's really not worth getting worked up about. Modern society brings a bunch of stuff that tend to mean that most things with "upside" have a little bit of downside too. I'd rather live to an expected 78 years old with a minuscule extra risk of cancer, than go back to living till 35 in a cave in the African Rift Valley with a large extra risk of getting eaten by a leopard. Dying horribly from some awful mobile-phone induced disease lies on my personal "risk meter" somewhere between accidental poisoning with Polonium-210 and getting hit by an asteroid. Or rather less risk than getting hit by too many cosmic rays when I'm flying, come to that. Same reason I wasn't too worried about spending a couple of hours at Chernobyl in August. Put simply - I've got better things to worry about.

So when my friend told me yesterday that he'd been barraged by an intense sales pitch from one of the nice Clarins cosmetics ladies in a large London department store, I fell about laughing. A wonderful new product, apparently made with extracts of thermophile bacteria that can live in extreme environments, will protect you from various sorts of radiation. Er, right. Looks like Clarins pre-announced this a few months back, but rather than a belated April Fool joke, it now seems they were serious about launching. Apparently, he was told it protects him from the ultra-mysterious "laptop rays" too. One of her lines after spraying a sample on his face was "see how refreshing & invigorating that feels?"..... "Er, yes. Like spraying water, in fact".

I'm just deeply insulted by the fact that their market research obviously told them that Londoners were the most gullible people on the planet, and thus most suitable for the launch location....

I'm quite tempted to go & waste some of their time myself, for the sake of comedy anecdotes for conferences.....

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