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May 31, 2013

FCC Hasn't Set Cell Phone Radiation Standards Since 1996

After years of urging by the Environmental Working Group and others, the FCC very recently announced their plan to review cell phone radiation standards, which have not been revised since 1996. The revision will involve the FCC reaching out to health professionals and other agencies for current data on how radiation from cell phones affects the human body.

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Every cell phone has a specific absorption rate (SAR) that refers to the amount of radio frequency energy that the body absorbs when a person is using the handset. The current limit in the United States is set at a maximum SAR level of 1.6 watts per kilogram. Different phones have different SAR values, and those rates can be affected by factors like transmission band and phone model.

Different bodies may absorb radio frequency energy at different rates as well, with children being especially susceptible due to their thinner skulls and still-developing bodies. Most available SAR research has been done on voice calls rather than data usage.

While studies concerning cell phones and human health have largely been inconclusive, some studies have suggested that cell phone radiation could be related to decreased sperm count, brain cancer, sleep disturbances and other health concerns. It is suggested that people keep their phones about an inch away from their bodies at all times, and that cell phones are not positioned under pillows or close to the bed during sleeping. Texting or using an earpiece are considered safer than making voice calls where the phone is pressed against the user's head.

It is inarguable that cell phones are a larger part of our lives now than they were in 1996 and that these concerns are more relevant now than ever before. Cell phones are generally thought of as innocuous devices, and their use is so widespread that it may be easy to forget that the technology is relatively new and may have unforeseen and potentially devastating health consequences.

Sources:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/30/business/fcc-to-study-health-effects-of-cellphone-radiation.html?_r=0
http://reviews.cnet.com/cell-phone-radiation-levels/

May 20, 2013

Google Glass: Wear The Internet On Your Face

Recently spoofed on Saturday Night Live, and the object of many a Tumbler page, the new Google Glass is thought of by some to be the first step in what will become a movement toward wearable technology.

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What Is It?
Google glass looks kind of like a set of chemistry goggles without the lenses. A device positioned on one side allows the wearer to see what is supposed to be a subtle screen. The wearer can talk to Glass, asking it to take a picture or a video, or can see directions or information on the screen. These actions can also be done manually by touching the top or the side of the Glass device. Currently, Glass is only available as a prototype. Anyone who is interested in testing it must submit an application at Google Glass's start page

What Are The Concerns?
*Physical: I'm imagining people walking around with splitting headaches and screwy vision from having a screen in front of their eyes all day long, or people with dorky-looking glasses walking out into traffic because they're distractedly looking up movie reviews.

*Psychological: Our current technology fixation is thought to create barriers between people. The smart phone is considered to take away from the richness of human relationships. So is it a good idea to wear your smart phone on your head? Maybe not. One can easily imagine a guy sitting across from his wife and watching the game via Google Glass while he nods absently at her conversation.

Google Glass implies a constancy of technology - you won't ever need to set your smart phone down to do anything. Your device will now function like a part of your body. It seems socially unhealthy, and I'm sure that psychologists will have a lot to say about it in the near future.

*Privacy: Right now, only a handful of folks are using the Google Glass prototypes. Many of the people that they pass on the street don't know what the heck the wearer has on his or her face, let alone that the device has a camera on it. This could turn into a big problem in public restrooms, gym locker-rooms and other places where people expect relative privacy.
Also, the Google Glass start page doesn't say much about how secure a connection Glass provides for the user. Will you be able to safely shop online with Glass? As of yet, that is unclear.

*Fashion: The first Glass prototype is pretty silly looking. It looks like something really nerdy out of a star-trek episode. However, the first cell phones looked like cinderblocks, so I'm sure that as wearable technology evolves, it will be sleeker and more fashionable in appearance.

Welp, wearable technology is finally here. All we can do now is sit back and see how it turns out.

May 09, 2013

Textastrophe Will Make You Rethink Your Craigslist Ad

I've always thought that posting your phone number online is a really bad idea. Putting your digits up publicly is a really way to get creeped on, or to get yourself solicited to at all hours of the day by telemarketers. In case you needed one more reason to keep your number private, textastrophe is that reason.

The creator of the website textastrophe, who remains anonymous, takes numbers off of Craigslist ads and fliers and prank-texts their unwitting owners. He posts screenshots of the resulting hilarious and awkward conversations on the textastrophe blog.

The humor is random, irreverant, and in some cases fairly inappropriate and creepy, but it sure is entertaining to look through the archives. The mystery pranker messes with everyone from pet sitters to professional clowns.

Some of the prank victims seem to think it's funny, or that their friend is messing with them, and some get really irritated or alarmed.

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Absolutely no-one seems to guess that a random person is trolling them from behind a smiling cell phone at the end of a rainbow. And who would ever guess that? It's the perfect prank.

May 02, 2013

Psychology Today Article Defends The Selfie

Being a part of the Myspace generation myself, I'm intimately familiar with what kids these days call, "the selfie." A selfie is a picture that someone takes of him or herself, often on a camera phone, and usually for posting on a social media site like facebook, or originally, Myspace. Taking pictures of oneself in front of a mirror is also commonly referred to as a "Myspace pic."

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I may have even been guilty of taking and posting pictures like this of myself, especially in my early college days... and maybe even more recently than that. And the guilt is part of the phenomenon - posters of the "Myspace pic" are often subject to teasing by other social media users, and being poked fun at for being narcissistic. While selfies are sometimes taken by men, women seem to participate in camera phone self-portraiture more frequently. There's also something called a "duck face," which refers to a pouty face made by women while taking a selfie, which is sure to earn social media teasing by facebook friends.

A recent article published in Psychology Today has come out to defend the selfie. The author, Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D, writes that the selfie is really just a modern incarnation of a long human tradition of self-exploration.
The author offers the following reasons why selfies may actually be healthy in an emotional and social sense:

*Selfies allow us to share different facets of ourselves with others through expressive images

*One way to better understand ourselves is to take selfies to try and see how others might perceive us

*In some instances, selfies show oneself participating in an activity that clearly reinforces shared social identity

*Selfies can be "normalizing." Dr. Rutledge explains that, with more self-portraits of normal-looking people in the public sphere, it may be possible to start moving away from harmful idealized images. Media images of beautiful people have been proven to have negative consequences on self-esteem, but selfies and especially "ugly selfies," (which may be in response to the accusation of narcissism related to selfie-taking) have flooded the public sphere with healthy images of normalcy.

Rutledge does not completely deny the selfie-taker's desire for approval by his or her peers. Instead, she reminds us that every human, as a social animal, seeks approval in some way. Selfies may just be another route to emotional health and rewarding social relationships.

Feel free to post your selfie in the comments below!