Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The force and the farce

Some years ago I was awarded at the annual Australian Communications Industry Forum an award of the "Meaty Bites Award" for (I think) the most inappropriate comment at a committee meeting.

The committee in question was discussing the code for deployment of radio-communications infrastructure. A community representative on the committee was most concerned about siting base stations near schools. We were patiently explaining that actually the safest place was beside and below the transmitter, that forcing them 250 metres away from schools was more likely to increase the intensity at the school.

We, I think, used the analogy of a torch beam angled down from the top of the tower and where that beam would form - because that is exactly what is going on just at a different frequency with a bit more refraction.

The person questioned how we "knew" that there wasn't "stuff falling down from the tower". Basically we replied that we knew there wasn't because we measured for "stuff".

We seemed to have her convinced until she said. "But you don't understand how hard it is. What am I supposed to tell people like the woman who rang me. She lives next door to a tower and she got cancer. Then her dog got cancer and died. What should I tell her?"

Unable to believe this leap in logic I simply replied "tell her that dogs die." It was, of course, a perfectly good response to a litany of post hoc ergo proctor hoc reasoning. Anyhow it was decided the committee might work better if I absented myself from then on.

But you can't keep a good advocate down. The person has now emerged with a book titled The Force. Personally I think it should be called the farce because there is nothing substantial in it (note, this is based on a thumb through at a bookshop - I would NOT buy it).

Rather than going further I'll just refer you to a somewhat fascinating blog post about the author, or you can just check out her website. It is distressing that the author was recently used as an expert by Channel 10's 7pm project.

And to think Malcolm Turnbull thinks we don't need the NBN because wireless will do everything.

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

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