Tags Posts tagged with "Electronics"

Electronics

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Question: Put together some sci-fi, add a bit of spy thriller and what have you got? Answer: The latest hypothesis for what caused the symptoms and illnesses of our diplomatic representatives in Cuba and then in China. The Cuban incident caused a serious rift in the newly mellowed relationship between Cuba and the United States. Now scientists are suggesting that microwaves might be the weapons.

It seems that weapons emitting microwave radiation, not the short waves that come from our kitchen microwave ovens or connect our cellphones to antennae towers, have been considered by military specialists for mind control since the Cold War. These invisible beams can transmit painfully loud booms and even spoken words into people’s heads, according to an astonishing story by William J. Broad on the front page of last Sunday’s New York Times. Now Douglas H. Smith, director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and the lead author of a recent study of 21 affected diplomats from Cuba, pointed to this possible cause of the brain injuries.

The Frey effect, named after American biologist Allan H. Frey, occurs when microwaves cause the brain to “hear” ordinary sounds, like loud noises, ringing and even human voices. These can be the result of stealth attacks with sonic weapons.

Jason, a secretive group of elite scientists that, according to The Times, helps the federal government assess new threats to national security, has been called in to figure out the cause of the symptoms. While the group has not issued any explanations, nor has the FBI, it is certainly studying the possibility of microwaves being the agents. Frey, 83, who lives near Washington, agrees. He even thinks that a group of Cubans aligned with Russia, their longtime ally, might have launched such an attack. “It’s a possibility … a perfectly viable explanation,” to disrupt a closer United States-Cuban relationship.

Microwaves, a form of electromagnetic radiation, are everywhere and are generally seen as harmless. However, when tightly focused, as when dish antennas turn the disorganized rays into concentrated beams, they can cause even deaf people to hear false sounds. Frey, in effect, founded a new field of study on the neural impact of radiation waves. He realized that the human head, because of its dimensions, is a good antenna for picking up microwave signals. The temporal lobes, beneath the temples, are where nerve signals from the outer and inner ear are processed. The effect is now called radio-frequency hearing.

Others took note. The Soviets built labs with armed guards to study the neural impact of microwaves and envisioned arms that they called psychophysical or psychotronic. These sounds, the Defense Intelligence Agency warned, could disrupt military or diplomatic personnel.

The U.S. Air Force jumped in to research how to beam comprehensible speech into the heads of enemies. The Navy sought to paralyze with the beams. Russia, China and European nations know how to make such weapons today. The weapon might look like an innocuous satellite dish and could fire beams over relatively short distances. We do know that Russian President Vladimir Putin resurrected “work on psychoactive arms” as recently ago as 2012, according to The Times.

There is still no definitive explanation for the sickness of diplomatic personnel in Cuban and subsequently China, but suspicions of microwave radiation remain high on the list. The problem in pinpointing them is the stealth.

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Here is an interesting bit of research about our friendly computers, one which some of us had already intuited. I will quote from an article in the Nov. 26 edition of The New York Times Sunday Business section: “[A] growing body of evidence shows that overall, college students learn less when they use computers or tablets during lectures. They also tend to earn worse grades. The research is unequivocal: Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them.”

Wow! That means a victory for pen and paper. That means classrooms filled with students busily typing notes as the lecturer speaks are doing themselves a disservice. Ditto for those paying big bucks to attend seminars, workshops and the like, who are shortchanging themselves.

“In a series of experiments at Princeton and the University of California, Los Angeles, students were randomly assigned either laptops or pen and paper for note-taking at a lecture,” The Times reported. “Those who had used laptops had substantially worse understanding of the lecture, as measured by a standardized test, than those who did not.” Also those students who routinely used laptops in class did significantly less well at the end of the semester.

Because the notes taken on laptops more closely resembled transcripts than lecture summaries, the theory goes that the lecturer’s words go straight to the students fingers, which are typing faster than they can write, without going through their brains first for processing. To take notes by hand, the listener has to abridge the lecturer’s words in order to keep up and so must consider the essence of what is being said. Enter the brain.

Honestly, I am not a Luddite, looking to smash modern inventions and disavow progress. On the contrary, I marvel many times at what the computer and the internet can do. For example, it is so much easier for me to write my column, rearranging words and whole paragraphs with just the click of the mouse and a couple of keys. Before computers, I practically drank whiteout. And as I am writing, if there is something to check or research, I can engage the internet, get the facts and continue the column with only that brief interruption. So much for the encyclopedias of my youth.

But I still believe there will always be a place for pen and paper. There are instances where jotting something down quickly is easier and time saving compared to pulling out the computer, turning it on, finding the right file and typing in the info.

And then there is my real problem with computers and the internet: addiction. Most people, especially parents with teens, would agree that electronic devices are addicting. It is difficult to get kids to put down their cellphones in favor of conversation. Researchers in Utah are even studying a spike in teen suicides there in the last five years to see if there is a connection. Some 14 percent of the teens had recently lost privileges to use their electronics. Further there has been an increase in teen suicides from 2010 to 2015 across the nation, at the same time as social media use has surged. Teen suicides had declined in the two previous decades, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Much more research is required before deciding cause and affect here, but anonymous bullying, made possible by Facebook or Twitter and other social networking services, in addition to relationship problems thought to result from diminishing face-to-face interaction, need to be evaluated.

It is not just kids who are so attached to their electronics. I chuckle when I see couples or whole families in restaurants, awaiting their food orders, completely absorbed in their cellphones. Then I feel sad for them. Conversation with people I enjoy is such a major part of life’s pleasures for me, and these phone addicts are missing that opportunity. I can only hope they are texting each other.

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Old electronics, medications and papers can be dropped of at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai on May 16, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., during the semi-annual Go Green Event.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) is hosting the event, which will feature pharmaceutical take back, paper shredding collection and e-waste drive. Electronics such as televisions, telephones, VCRs, DVD players, radios and laptops are among those accepted.

In addition, prescriptions and over-the-counter medications will be safely disposed of, and paper in boxes or bags will be shredded and recycled.

For more information, call (631) 451-6964 or email CouncilwomanBonner@brookhaven.org.

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