Sunday, March 07, 2010

What's the frequency, Kenneth?

Suburban superstition

Pacific Gas & Electric has been installing new meters throughout its service area. I've had one since last year. The PG&E meter reader no longer needs to bustle up to the side of my house to check on my electricity usage. Instead, my meter dutifully reports in wirelessly. No more hassles with locked gates, growling dogs, or other yard hazards.

No more meter readers, either, but I'm sure that workforce reduction was part of what PG&E was going for.

There were reportedly some initial problems when people started receiving ridiculously high utility bills. (No one complained about ridiculously low bills, so I assume there must have been none of those.) PG&E recalibrated or reprogrammed the new meters (or something like that) and the complaints faded away.

Time for new complaints!

The meters, you see, are trying to kill us.

Perhaps you thought the new complaints would be about the prospect of PG&E using the remote-control features to impose arbitrary and capricious black-outs and brown-outs during power shortages. (I think we're saving those concerns for the next round of complaints.) But, no, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the fearmongers have seized on the tiny, tiny emissions when the PG&E SmartMeters transmit their reports.
Some Sebastopol residents have questioned whether radio frequency radiation from the meters, which transmit their data to the utility via wireless communications, could threaten their health.

Their concerns grow from the heated debate over whether radiation from cell phones, Wi-Fi computers and other wireless devices can cause cancer or other ailments. They want a moratorium on installing the SmartMeters to measure electricity and gas use.
The meters are zapping us with electromagnetism! Arrggh!

There is solid science behind this concern, of course. Recall that microwaves from cell phones cause ear cancer. Or maybe not. A well-known Danish study followed a large cohort of cell-phone users for decades without finding any sign of increased incidence of cancer.

But absence of evidence is no reason to put off a panic attack. San Francisco is considering legislation to require a “radiation” warning on cell phones. Such a good idea. And, of course, concerned citizens want to stop the SmartMeters.
“We are being increasingly exposed to an exponential amount of radio frequency radiation,” said Sebastopol resident Sandi Maurer. “Now there are going to be two of these things in every home.”

Maurer is the founder of the EMF Safety Network, a clearinghouse for information on the possible dangers of electromagnetic fields. She and other residents persuaded the Sebastopol City Council this month to ask California energy regulators to stop SmartMeter installation while the possible health risks can be assessed.
Oh, good. An information “clearinghouse” is involved. Not surprisingly, the EMF Safety Network's website offers a plethora of advice and links about protecting oneself (and one's kids!) from EMF.

What we really need is a kind of early-alert system that warns concerned citizens whenever anyone installs any kind of transmission device anywhere.

We could use the radio!


Miki Z. said...

An "exponential amount"? I mean, sure, any positive amount can be written as some exponential, but what does this really mean?

I'll second your idea about the early alert system. First alert: there is a giant mass in the sky emitting huge doses of radiation at us. It is enough to literally burn your flesh, kill plants, and dry up rivers. It disappears once daily, and this is when we should pass a law prohibiting its reappearance.

llewelly said...

Radio frequency radiation, at levels used in WiFi, is harmless to the body. However it is quite capable of disguising quantum decoherence radiation, which is known to interfere with glial cells, the "dark matter" of the brain. This results in selective memory loss. In fact, carefully tuned quantum decoherence radiation can remove specific radiation - a technology the US Government has used extensively to conceal its activities. Now it has used "smart meters" as a thin guise to smuggle these memory erasure devices into every home.

You might wonder why. The reason should be obvious - the rate of alien abductions has been skyrocketing. The aliens, formerly content to confine their experimentation to a small minority of the population, have radically expanded their operations. As a result, the US government, desperate to cover for their nefarious allies, have moved to hide this terrible truth. When you are abducted, Zeno, the US government will be ready, and your memory will be erased, and you will never even know.

If you find this difficult to believe, I urge you to see this video of the eminent astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. In it you will see Dr. Tyson refer to an ipod as an "alien ashtray". Now, ask yourself, why would he refer to an ipod as an "alien ashtray"? Because imperfectly erased memories of his dealings with the aliens (Dr Tyson works in the Technology Exchange department of Area 51), bubble up to the surface and inform him that the ipod uses a great deal of technology provided by aliens; it is even surfaced with the same material aliens use to make ashtrays.

Zeno said...

It all makes total sense when you explain it, Llewelly!

Interrobang said...

And here I thought the main objection to "smart meters" was the invasion of privacy aspect -- the hydro can tell exactly how much power you're using, when, and can thereby tell a lot about how you live.

Zeno said...

The utility companies have always known how much power we're consuming, so that's nothing new. One potential difference with the SmartMeters is the ability of the utility company to poll the meters frequently and create usage profiles. If the company wanted to do this for some reason, it could pretty easily determine when you're at home and when you're not. It could compile a record of your routine, which seems slightly creepy.

Rhoadan said...

That would depend on the meter, I suppose. I have three remote read meters in my basement: gas, electric, and water. The electric meter at least, can only be read once/month. I found this out when I bought my house and needed to get the utilities switched over to my name. The electric company had to send someone over to the house to read it.

Dr. Pablito said...

Well, look, if we're facing an exponentially increasing amount of radiation, then it's only a matter of time before we're all just _cooked_ by the RF radiation. Seriously. It's worth worrying. Could you show me the data on the exponential increase so we know how long we've got before we're microwaved to death, Sandi? No? No data? Hello?