Saturday, June 24, 2006

Cell phones, lightning and nonsense

You might have seen a few stories lately linking cellphone use with a greater risk of lightning injury, which included quotes from doctors. Here's an example, which was a Reuters/MSNBC story:
LONDON - People should not use mobile phones outdoors during thunderstorms because of the risk of being struck by lightning, doctors said on Friday.
Of course this is utter nonsense--actually it's a hoax. Maybe that's why it's nearly impossible to now find any of these stories via search engines (the engines are catching up, but slowly).

The bogus info didn't slip past the National Weather Service. They went to the trouble of issuing a press release debunking these stories. Here's part of it:
Contrary to recent media reports, NOAA lightning experts state that lightning is not attracted to people carrying cell phones.

“Cell phones, small metal items, jewelry, etc., do not attract lightning. Nothing attracts lightning. Lightning tends to strike taller objects,” said John Jensenius, a National Weather Service Lightning Expert. “People are struck because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. The wrong place is anywhere outside. The wrong time is anytime a thunderstorm is nearby."
Ironically, we just passed "lightning safety week".

Congrats to the media. They managed to get junk science and lousy fact-checking into the same story. And we're supposed to believe them on global warming?

UPDATE 6/25/06

Guess the NWS didn't want to comment on the underwire theory. Can't blame 'em there, but of course it's also a hoax.

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