Sunday, August 16, 2009

Infinite Miles per Gallon? And Deathtraps for Pacemakers

Those electric vehicles that sneak up on you in Central Park? Battery-powered tricycles for handicapped people? Do they get quintjillion, quadribazillion light-years per 3.78541178 liters? Certainly seems to be the case. But isn’t the GM’s claim the logical outcome of claims being made for electric cars in general? Just in case anyone’s wondering, it’s the primary energy source that counts.

And speaking of handicapped people, have you even been on a train and seen people turn off their cell phone just because the sign asks them to do it so they don’t fry some unsuspecting body’s pacemaker? …...Have you?...... I thought so.

I was reminded of this while I was sitting in a railway station yesterday, in an air-conditioned waiting room on a platform on my way to Shinjuku, when a guy walks in with a plastic plate dangling from his neck that says “handicapped person; pacemaker.” Of the dozen people in the room, there were four people absorbed in their cell phones. No need to tell you what didn’t happen.

This example can be spun into a larger story about us Japanese and our security preferences. But I won’t. I’ve been seeing too much even today that is no more than conventional wisdom dressed up with anecdotes masquerading as analyses to inflict you with one of mine. Not tonight, anyway.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cell phones do not affect pacemakers. There's never been a documented case. It's one of the biggest urban myths out there.

http://www.texasheart.org/HIC/Topics/Proced/pacemake.cfm

FYI, Japanese cell phones are also less than 3 watts and use the same 3G bands that U.S. phones use.

And this just-to-be-safe-if-you're-paranoid unnecessary precaution only applies to OLD pacemakers. Newer pacemakers are almost impervious to electromagnetic interference.

Unless you're going to get an MRI, do industrial spot welding, or expose yourself to a really, really, powerful magnetic force (like the above), you're fine.

The only way a cell phone in Japan is going to stop a pacemaker is if someone wields the phone like a weapon and violently punches them with it hard and repeatedly in the upper left chest.

I'm serious.

Janne Morén said...

Agree with anonymous. It's a non-danger. Remember that cellphones are tiny transmitters, with low power, in part so they get decent operating time with their small batteries. Base stations, analog wireless phones, wi-fi routers - there's lots of other EM sources out there with the same or much higher power emissions, and yet you don't have warning signs near them for pacemeker users to heed.

On the other hand, the ban on cellphones in airplanes is only partially a myth. It can't bring an airplane down or anything, but it can interfere with radio communications.

Also, according to a friend in the business (half the people I know work at Ericsson in Lund), trying to use a cellphone can cause trouble with the cellphone network below on the ground if you're close enough; your phone can contact several cells in the area at once and tie up a large number of channels.

Jun Okumura said...

Guys:

It's also the only urban myth that I know of that railways and only railways--not buses, not airplanes, not monorails, not even people wearing pacemakers--take seriously. And:

"The only way a cell phone in Japan is going to stop a pacemaker is if someone wields the phone like a weapon and violently punches them with it hard and repeatedly in the upper left chest.
I'm serious."

How do you know if you haven't tried it?

Janne Morén said...

"How do you know if you haven't tried it?"

How do you know he hasn't?

Jun Okumura said...

Oops, I meant, "How do I know if you haven't tried it?" So, no, I'm not going to sleep easy tonight.