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Gmane
From: =?windows-1252?Q?Robert_Park?= <bobpark <at> UMD.EDU>
Subject: What's New Robert L. Park 30 Aug 2012
Newsgroups: gmane.science.physics.whatsnew
Date: Thursday 30th August 2012 19:59:02 UTC (over 4 years ago)
WHAT’S NEW   Robert L Park   Monday, 27 Aug 2012   Washington, DC   1. 

1. EPIDEMIOLOGY: WORDS MEAN WHAT THE DICTIONARY SAYS THEY MEAN.
Is epidemiology a science?  Last week's WN said it's not – but a lot of 
people disagreed. I got far more mail than I could answer. This is my 
response.  I’m a physicist by training, and a troublemaker by
inclination; 
a lexicographer I am not.  So I consulted a number of dictionaries; not one

classified epidemiology as a science. However, they characterized it as 
a "branch of medicine." Does that make epidemiology a science?  I don't 
think so, but I doubt if I will ever again say it's not.  The distinction I

wanted to make is that science is concerned with the cause-and-effect 
relationship between physical events.  Epidemiology, by contrast, looks for

correlation. That's important too. It guides scientists in the search for 
causality, but to confuse causality with correlation is a serious error in 
logic. It's also a very common mistake.

2. ZAPPED: WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF THIS COSTLY MISTAKE? 
For nearly two decades staff writer Paul Brodeur performed a genuine public

service by informing New Yorker readers of the health hazards of exposure 
to everything from asbestos, to microwave radiation.  Brodeur, however, has

no science background and no sense of what the numbers mean; radiation was 
radiation, whether it was power-line fields or microwaves. In 1979, when 
epidemiologist Nancy Wertheimer charged that 60 Hz power-line radiation  
is responsible for childhood leukemia, Brodeur wrote a series of supportive

articles in the New Yorker about the dangers of power-line fields. They 
were gathered together in books with lurid titles like Currents of Death.  
Brodeur was not there in 1996 when the National Academy of Sciences 
released the results of an exhaustive three-year review of the possible 
health effects of exposure to residential electromagnetic fields. He had 
been fired by the New Yorker four years earlier. The unanimous conclusion 
of the NAS panel was that "the current body of evidence does not show that 
exposure to these fields presents a human health hazard."  Why had it taken

so long, and why had there been no comment from epidemiologists? Perhaps 
the scientific community should use more direct language in stating 
conclusions that are so obviously wrong and so dangerous.

3. SCIENCE: WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO DIFFERENTLY? 
We need to explain the basics of the electromagnetic spectrum to every 
literate person. It shouldn't be that difficult. Children are transfixed by

the sight of a prism breaking sunlight into a rainbow. They need to 
understand that the visible rainbow is only a tiny sliver out of a spectrum

of electromagnetic radiation that ranges from harmless radio waves to 
deadly gamma rays. The same spectrum should hang on the walls of every 
classroom and appear in every news article that talks about cell-phone 
radiation,skin cancer, and x-rays.

4. POLITICS: WE'LL BE BACK TO CURRENT EVENTS IN THE NEXT ISSUE.

THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND.
Opinions are the author's and not necessarily shared by the
University of Maryland, but they should be.
---
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CD: 3ms