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Currents of Fear

This transcript of news sessions was about fears of cancer from electro magnetic radiation from power lines. It was pretty long, but interesting. I came here from the article on "Texas Sharpshooter fallacy". the fallacy goes like this. If you take a lot of random points then some of them will cluster, so a Texan can randomly shoot in his backyard and then draw circle around a cluster which he is very likely to find, and say "yay I'm a sharp shooter". Well the fallacy is more general. If you take a lot of random data you'll find some pattern, definitely. Assuming cancer is randomly distributed, some of these people getting cancer will be in a small geographic area and of some of these groups you'll find power lines.

What the Swedish study did was they tested for 800 different types of alingments that might be linked to radiations by power lines and they find Lukemia is correlated and a news agency published it. Susequent studies in Sweden and elsewhere found such effect.

There are many speakers in the discussion and there is this particular guy who speaks for protecting people from radiation though power lines. His argument is similar to Taleb's precautionary principle, that human body is complex and we don't understand it enough hence we should be careful. I compare it with Taleb's argument on GMO, though the important differences is that in GMO the harm is large and systemic. The harm is not that someone will fall ill from eating GMO but that GMO can disrupt the whole ecosystem and we don't know enough of biology to be sure that they won't. Another difference is about size of effect, in the power lines case, the health effects if present are likely to be small because otherwise we would have known them, though in GMO the disruptions can be very very large, I remember some episodes from discovery channel where introduction of a new specify in an unhabitat completely distroyed the habitat. The GMO plant can grow quickly, interbred with other non GMO plants nearby and spread pretty fast.

The effect size part is very important. There can be millions of things which "can be" negatively affecting your health according to VastuShastra the architecture of your house affects your health (maybe though light and ventilation), the material of your utensils might make a difference, the lightint you use at your home might make a difference, the method of preperation of food makes a difference, there are all sorts of things and all sorts of reasons you might think these thigns might make a difference. Because there are so many thigns, it is impossible to take care of everyone of them, and you cannot know if the effects are real (without taking humgous effort of carrying very long, longitudal experimental studies), so maybe just ignore all these and focus on things which have stronger effect.