As we never tire of repeating here, one of the problems with satire is that you regularly find yourself dealing with reality so surreal that a satirical take on it would be … indistinguishable from the real thing.
I think I would like to christen this ‘Lehrer’s Paradox’*.
There is also a sub-category of this, which might go by the title of this post, namely:
“Be careful what you wish for – even in jest”
This came back to me this week because, at a Skeptics in the Pub social night I trotted along to, we got talking about ‘Electrosensitivity’. The topic has, of course, been back in the news recently with the kerfuffle over the WHO’s comments on mobile phone use.
Now, I recalled that, back in the far-off days before I had a blog of my own, we had had some lively discussions of ‘Electrosensitivity’ over at Ben Goldacre’s Badscience site. So I went to have a look at them.
“BTW, I have come up with an invention for any electrosmog-sensitive who might need to carry a mobile phone: the NoWavePouch™
– this will look just like a mobile phone holder but will be fully lined with special copper mesh, to prevent those nasty waves getting out.
Combined with the not-conductive earphones the ElectroSmog Nuts are already selling, this will provide TOTAL RADIOSMOG SAFETY.
Well, not quite. For that you will need my patented
– which connects a wire from the NoWavePouch™ down the inside of your trouserleg to a special conductive pad which glues to the bottom of your shoe. Then the evil waves can be properly earthed at all times.
Can you spot the snags with these inventions? (Apart from the obvious ones that they are fictitious and useless, at least until some ElectroSmog Nut starts flogging them online.)”
Well – be very careful what you wish for.
For there are numerous mobile phone pouches for sale on electrosensitivity sites that claim to ‘protect you from cell phone radiation’. Indeed, they now seem to be a pretty common item on all sorts of ‘natural living’ websites. Some examples can be found here and here. For a further taster, quite a detailed site for one particular product can be found here, which also links to a Youtube demonstration video, and has a Factsheet and even – I kid you not – a full Tester’s Technical Report.
And some of these sites also sell – you guessed it – all kinds of earthing paraphernalia. Though thus far I have not found a specific down-the-trouser-leg earthing wire and grounding-to-earth-whist-in-motion footpad.
The question, I guess, is whether I should patent that idea and start selling it – after all, there is clearly a market, with entire websites devoted to, quote, ‘cellphone defence’, unquote. And the way things are going in the UK Universities, I may soon be in need of a new source of income and employment.
Finally, I wonder if any of my medical friends have had any patients turning up in their surgeries or clinics recently reporting unexplained symptoms that the patients are attributing to their mobile phones?
PS: Down in Dr Aust’s department at the University of Grumbleton we do, of course, have lots of things to block stray electrical signals… They are called Faraday cages, and look a bit like this.
If you put your mobile phone in one of these, I dare say it will be totally harmless. Of course, it probably won’t receive any phone calls either.
* The reference is to the great Tom Lehrer, one of my heroes, who famously commented that the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger made political satire obsolete (for an introduction to why, start here).