June 13, 2007

Wireless Electricity: Threat or Menace?

Nothing to do with Arbroath, an otherwise perfectly enjoyable site, incredulously points to an extremely lame article in the Telegraph about some new-sounding form of induction. What is it with English newspapers and scientifically illiterate reports on electromagnetism? There was all that nonsense about wireless killing bees started by the Independent back in April, the article I roughed up about about electro-sensitivity in the Daily Mail, and now this. Do they just figure that since they gave us Maxwell and Faraday, they don't have to know anything about E&M any more?

Electric plugs could become things of the past after scientists devised a way of recharging laptops and mobile telephones without the need for cables.

For the first time electrical engineers have powered a light bulb from a source seven feet away without a cable using mainly magnetic waves.

They seem to be using some new meaning of the phrase 'first time ever' that I am not accustomed to. One that does not include well-known phenomenon of mutual induction. You know, the concept employed in every transformer everywhere to step down voltage and create a penetrating high-pitched whine that can be heard from great distances (anyone else annoyed by this?). Tesla tried something similar that has been embraced by fringey types (it involves 'Earth-resonance teleforce!').

In any case, though a better example of power transfer than usual induction taking place over non-tiny distances, there really isn't anything unusual about this.

It would also help the environment, dispensing with the long-term problems caused by battery disposal.

Huh? Even if you could charge something up, you would still need a battery to hold the charge of any ordinary device. Unless you happen to want to use your device several feet away and with a foot diameter coil attached. Or unless your device just happens to run exclusively on capacitors. Somehow, I don't imagine a ton of demand for wirelessly charging photographic flashes.

Concerns have also been raised about a possible link between electromagnetic waves and cancer. However, Prof Marin Soljacic, who led the research, said yesterday he believed the technology can be developed without posing any additional health risks.

Strike three. The fact that 'concerns have been raised' isn't the same as saying that they are valid in any way...which they are not. Ties between the kind of EM radiation that would be used here, which are the size of kidneys and screwdrivers, and cancer are neither possible nor supported by any studies.

Verdict: technology itself OK (even though I'm skeptical of what may come of it), but the reporting showed a total lack of context or background knowledge.

Link to further 'science.'
Note: comment section of article may cause brain damage.