June 2 roundup

  • “Italian Seismologists Charged With Manslaughter for Not Predicting 2009 Quake” [Fox, earlier]
  • “With context in place, it appears the WHO isn’t saying cell phones are dangerous” [BoingBoing, Atlantic Wire, Orac]
  • Wrongful convictions and how they happen — new book “Convicting the Innocent” by Brandon Garrett [Jeff Rosen, NY Times]
  • SEC to Dodd-Frank whistleblowers: no need to go through company’s internal complaint route [D&O Diary, WSJ Law Blog]
  • “British Press Laws Facing Twitter Challenge” [AW]
  • Despite legislated damages cap, jackpot awards continue in Mississippi [Jackson Clarion-Ledger] More problems with that $322 million Mississippi asbestosis verdict [PoL, earlier]
  • Golf club erects large net to comply with legal demands to prevent escape of errant balls, is promptly sued by neighbors who consider net too ugly [five years ago on Overlawyered]


  • The Garrett book is great. There is also a special issue of Reason out – “Criminal Injustice.” I recommend both.

  • The seismologist’s answer to this is to take a page from Homeland security, set up an arbitrary and meaningless 5 point scale, then keep the panic meter pegged on the top two threat levels. Whenever they want to jerk the public around they can call a press conference to announce a level change, say between extreme and imminent.

  • In the early part of the twentieth century Ernest Rutherford’s assistant Geiger reported that some of the alpha particles that were being fired at a gold foil were ricocheting back. Using Columb’s Law and simple geometry, Rutherford measured the size (very small) of the nucleolus of the gold atom. The atom was imagined as a miniature solar system with electrons orbiting around a central object. There was a big problem with the model. An electron in orbit would emit energy and quickly spiral into the nucleolus.

    It was well known that electric charge came in discrete units, and it was proposed that electrons associated with atoms and molecules had discrete energy based on orbitals and sub-orbitals. Electrons did not have continuous changes in energy. Chemistry was determined by the arrangements of the energies associated with electrons.

    To affect chemistry one has to provide enough energy to move an electron from one energy level to another. Photons of X-rays can do this, and we use X-rays to destroy cancer cells. X-rays can cause cancer too. The photons used for cell phone communication do not have the quantum of energy to affect chemistry and can not cause cancer. They can warm tissue, but the power of cell phones is negligible compared to ambient thermal energy.

    I was deeply disappointed by the doctor who was on the News Hour and CNN explaining the WHO findings. Radiation is a powerful tool in modern medicine. One would presume that doctors would have some idea on how it works. Media people are idiots by nature.

    A cell phone works at about 2 Watts of power. We have a bunch of 50,000 Watt radio stations radiating our brains all the time, not to mention TV stations. The Epidemiological studies reviewed by WHO do not provide accurate exposures. The Agent Orange scare was based on faulty measures of exposure. Sick people remember exposure more that healthy people. My argument above is absolute is is based on one of the greatest intellectual achievements of man.