Outside Plato's Cave #4

Outside Plato's Cave special 5G edition.

5G is perfectly fine and you shouldn’t be worried.

L’image contient peut-être : une personne ou plus

Propaganda against electricity - 1900

Editor’s note : There’s one thing at the moment that really bugs me. The 5G situation. All over Europe and in the US, we are seeing antennas being destroyed, endless conspiracy theories around 5G (even one where 5G transmits the Coronavirus), and more generally an hostility towards this technology that we haven’t seen in a long time, 3G and 4G weren’t even a debate, it just happened and it felt natural.

I do think that it’s related to the internet and the whole conspiracy theorists sphere that is growing enormously at the moment, the simple narrative (evil government that wants to control us) helps convert a lot of people and if you read my Outside Plato’s Cave episode 2 you are familiar with the Brandolini’s law.

Now let’s talk about 5G.


One petition is calling on the Australia government to stop 5G's rollout because the technology can supposedly "negatively affect your immune system" (a claim for which there is exactly zero evidence). It has received more than 27,000 signatures.


It’s also important to note that the vast majority of frequencies being used for 5G have been used in the past for other things, including things like TV broadcasts and other data transmissions. Because of that, if 5G is unsafe, it means that we’ve been using “unsafe” frequencies for decades. Considering there hasn’t been an observed rise in cancer rates, it’s clear that these radio waves have no impact on human health.


According to experts on the biological effects of electromagnetic radiation, radio waves become safer at higher frequencies, not more dangerous. (Extremely high-frequency energies, such as X-rays, behave differently and do pose a health risk.)

In his research, Dr. Curry looked at studies on how radio waves affect tissues isolated in the lab, and misinterpreted the results as applying to cells deep inside the human body. His analysis failed to recognize the protective effect of human skin. At higher radio frequencies, the skin acts as a barrier, shielding the internal organs, including the brain, from exposure. Human skin blocks the even higher frequencies of sunlight.

“If phones are linked to cancer, we’d expect to see a marked uptick,” David Robert Grimes, a cancer researcher at the University of Oxford, wrote recently in The Guardian. “Yet we do not.”


These sorts of atypical results are to be expected, says Swanson. If you conduct tens of thousands of studies, he explains, you can expect that hundreds will show an increase in cancer or, or some other health concern, by pure chance. That, along with a number of badly designed studies, provide fodder for critics.

But if you want a little more assurance that your phone probably isn't giving you a tumor, you can take comfort in knowing that, according to statistics published by the National Cancer Institute, the rate of brain cancer in the US actually went down between 1992 and 2016 even as mobile phone use skyrocketed.

5G radio waves are called millimetre waves, because their wavelength is measured in millimetres. Because these waves are short, 5G cell towers need to be relatively close together - about 250 metres apart. They are organised as a collection of small cells (a cell is an area covered by radio signals).

For 5G to cover a larger geographic area, more base stations are needed in comparison to 4G. This increase in the number of base stations, and their proximity to humans, is one factor that may stir unfounded fears about 5G's potential health impacts.


The two basic types are referred to as “sub-6 GHz” (so named because the radio frequencies that it uses are all under, or sub, 6 GHz) and “millimeter wave”, which are 24 GHz and higher (the name comes from the fact that individual radio wavelengths can be measured in millimeters). The only type of 5G radio signals now being used on 5G networks in China are the sub-6 GHz variety.

The thing is, we’ve been using sub-6 GHz radio signals all over the world for years for a huge number of applications with no impact. All existing 4G cell networks use signals in this range, for example, and so does Wi-Fi (remember, it operates at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) and your home microwave oven.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization web sites, ongoing studies have yet to provide any clear link between what’s called non-ionizing radiation that all forms of radio signals generate –everything from cellphones to TV transmissions to traditional radio signals – and human health.

(FYI, non-ionizing radiation is a form that doesn’t have the potential to cause atomic-level changes to cells as, for example, X-rays or other more serious forms of radiation can if you are exposed to them for long periods of time.)

In the latest scientific study from the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection — an organization that the WHO specifically refers to on its website with regard to overall RF frequency-related health matters — they concluded that health-related concerns for 5G overall are not a threat.

Specifically, they pointed out that if the signal levels being generated remain below their suggested settings, which all current devices and networks do, that public health impacts are not a concern. In fact, tests have shown that some networks in the UK function at less than 1% of the organization’s recommended levels.

Interestingly, there were absolutely no concerns mentioned for sub-6 GHz 5G signals in the ICNIRP report.

The only additions that were made in the 2020 version of the report over the original 1998 version were comments about exposure to frequencies above 6 GHz, including millimeter-wave. Even here, however, the revisions merely suggest limiting long-term exposure to high-strength signals in these upper frequencies.

As luck would have it, the physics of millimeter-wave signals inherently limits the distance they can travel before they dissipate into “nothingness”. 

That’s why, for example, the coverage maps for millimeter-wave-based 5G service, that carriers like Verizon have, are so limited. Instead of a single cell tower providing miles and miles of signal coverage as you can with sub-6 GHz signals, mmWave requires small cell towers roughly every block and, oh yeah, those signals can’t pass through walls into buildings.

The bottom line is, short of swallowing or embedding a 5G mmWave transmitter into your body and letting it run for a long time, you’re safe.

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