5G, the next generation of cellular technology for the next generation of smartphones, is imminent. And with it, there’s concern about the health risk of this new, more powerful network. How worried should you be about the coming 5G healthpocalypse?
By now, you may have seen articles on Facebook or alternative health websites. The gist: 5G is a dangerous escalation of traditional cellular technology, one packed with higher energy radiation that delivers potential damaging effects on human beings. Some 5G conspiracy theorists contend that the new network generates radiofrequency radiation that can damage DNA and lead to cancer; cause oxidative damage that can cause premature aging; disrupt cell metabolism; and potentially lead to other diseases through the generation of stress proteins. Some articles cite research studies and opinions by reputable organizations like the World Health Organization.
It sounds worrisome, but let’s take a look at the actual science.
What Is 5G?
5G has been hyped for a few years, but this is the year that carriers begin the process of rolling out the new wireless standard. AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint have all started to deploy their networks in the first half of the year, though widespread availability is still a year or more away. 5G will get a foothold in little more than a handful of cities this year.
Update: With the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, a number of viral social media conspiracy theories have speculated that 5G is the cause of the world’s current problems. Simply put, these claims are factually false. 5G does not cause Coronavirus.
That isn’t keeping device manufacturers and service providers from jumping onto the 5G bandwagon. Samsung’s new Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Fold (the phone that unfurls into a tablet), for example, are both 5G-ready, along with models from LG, Huawei, Motorola, ZTE, and more.
5G offers at least a tenfold improvement in network performance. The last major network upgrade was 4G, which debuted in 2009 (the year of the Colorado balloon boy hoax), with a peak speed of about 10 Mbps. In comparison, 5G is poised to deliver peak speeds between 10 and 20 Gbps. And network latency will drop from 30ms to about 1ms, ideal for video game streaming, online video, and the Internet of Things, which is anticipating 5G to connect sensors, computers, and other devices with ultra-low latency.
An Evolution of Concerns
Before we address 5G, it’s worth pointing out that the latest health fears about radiation aren’t happening in a vacuum (there’s some physics joke in there, no doubt). Concerns about 5G are the latest iteration of decades of headlines about the dangers of electromagnetic radiation. We’ve seen controversies about everything from the health risks of Wi-Fi to smart meters.
Electromagnetic hypersensitivity, for example, is a hypothetical disease in which certain people experience debilitating symptoms in the presence of radiation like cell phones and Wi-Fi—so yes, Michael McKean’s bizarre behavior on “Better Call Saul” is a real thing. But despite people claiming such sensitivities for at least 30 years, systematic scientific reviews have found that “blinded” victims can’t tell when they’re in the presence of an electromagnetic field, and the World Health Organization now recommends psychological evaluation for people so afflicted.
Likewise, decades of studies have found no link between cell phones and cancers like brain tumors, though that hasn’t kept municipalities like San Francisco from passing laws requiring stores to display the radiation emitted by handsets—which implies, in the minds of consumers, risk.
How Dangerous Is Radiofrequency Radiation?
At the root of all concerns about cell phone networks is radiofrequency radiation (RFR). RFR is anything emitted in the electromagnetic spectrum, from microwaves to x-rays to radio waves to light from your monitor or light from the sun. Clearly, RFR isn’t inherently dangerous, so the problem becomes discovering under what circumstances it might be.
Scientists say that the most important criterion about whether any particular RFR is dangerous is whether it falls into the category of ionizing or non-ionizing radiation. Simply put, any radiation that’s non-ionizing is too weak to break chemical bonds. That includes ultraviolet, visible light, infrared, and everything with a lower frequency, like radio waves. Everyday technologies like power lines, FM radio, and Wi-Fi also fall into this range. (Microwaves are the lone exception: non-ionizing but able to damage tissue, they’re precisely and intentionally tuned to resonate with water molecules.) Frequencies above UV, like x-rays and gamma rays, are ionizing.
Dr. Steve Novella, an assistant professor of neurology at Yale and the editor of Science-Based Medicine, understands that people generally get concerned about radiation. “Using the term radiation is misleading because people think of nuclear weapons—they think of ionizing radiation that absolutely can cause damage. It can kill cells. It can cause DNA mutations.” But since non-ionizing radiation doesn’t cause DNA damage or tissue damage, Novella says that most concern about cell phone RFR is misplaced. “There’s no known mechanism for most forms of non-ionizing radiation to even have a biological effect,” he says.
Or, in the less refined but more visceral words of author C. Stuart Hardwick, “radiation isn’t magic death cooties.”
Studies Aren’t Clearcut
Of course, just because there’s no known mechanism for non-ionizing radiation to have a biological effect, that doesn’t’ mean it’s safe or that no effect exists. Indeed, researchers continue to conduct studies. One recent study was released by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an agency run by the Department of Health and Human Services. In this widely quoted study about cell phone radio frequency radiation, scientists found that high exposure to 3G RFR led to some cases of cancerous heart tumors, brain tumors, and tumors in the adrenal glands of male rats.
The study is a good object lesson in how hard it is to do science like this. As RealClearScience points out, the number of tumors detected were so small that they statistically could have occurred by chance (which may be more likely since they were only detected in male subjects). Moreover, the level and duration of the RFR exposure were well in excess of what any actual human would ever be exposed to, and in fact, the irradiated test rats lived longer than the unexposed control rats. Says Dr. Novella, “Experienced researchers look at a study like that and say that doesn’t really tell us anything.”
Sizing Up 5G’s Risks
Ongoing studies aside, 5G is coming, and as mentioned, there are concerns about this new technology.
A common complaint about 5G is that, due to the lower power of 5G transmitters, there will be more of them. The Environmental Health Trust contends that “5G will require the buildout of literally hundreds of thousands of new wireless antennas in neighborhoods, cities, and towns. A cellular small cell or another transmitter will be placed every two to ten homes according to estimates.”
Says Dr. Novella, “What they’re really saying is the dose is going to be higher. Theoretically, this is a reasonable question to ask.” But skeptics caution you shouldn’t conflate asking the question with merely asserting that there’s a risk. As Novella points out, “We’re still talking about power and frequency less than light. You go out in the sun, and you’re bathed in electromagnetic radiation that’s far greater than these 5G cell towers.”
It’s easy to find claims online that the greater frequency of 5G alone constitutes a risk. RadiationHealthRisks.com observes that “1G, 2G, 3G and 4G use between 1 to 5 gigahertz frequency. 5G uses between 24 to 90 gigahertz frequency,” and then asserts that “Within the RF Radiation portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, the higher the frequency, the more dangerous it is to living organisms.”
But asserting that the higher frequency is more dangerous is just that—an assertion, and there’s little real science to stand behind it. 5G remains non-ionizing in nature.
The FCC—responsible for licensing the spectrum for public use—weighs in as well. Says Neil Derek Grace, a communications officer at the FCC, “For 5G equipment, the signals from commercial wireless transmitters are typically far below the RF exposure limits at any location that is accessible to the public.” The FCC defers to the FDA for actual health risk assessments, which takes a direct, but low-key approach to addressing the risks: “The weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems.”
In 2011, the World Health Organization weighed in, classifying RF Radiation as a Group 2B agent, which is defined as “Possibly carcinogenic to humans.” This, too, is nuanced. Says Novella, “you have to look at all the other things they classify as a possible carcinogen. They put it in the same class as things like caffeine. That is such a weak standard that it basically means nothing. It’s like saying ‘everything causes cancer.’”
Part of the problem with the WHO declaration is that it’s focused on hazard, not risk—a subtle distinction often lost on non-scientists, not unlike the rigorous distinction between “precision” and “accuracy.” (Precision refers to how tightly clustered your data is; accuracy refers to how close that data is to the real value. You might have a dozen miscalibrated thermometers that all tell you the wrong temperature with a very high degree of precision.) When the WHO classifies coffee or nickel or pickles as a possible carcinogen, it’s asserting hazard without regard for real-world risk. Explains Novella, “A loaded pistol is a hazard because theoretically, it can cause damage. But if you lock it in a safe, the risk is negligible.”
Scientists will continue to test new networks as technology evolves, to make sure the technology we use every day remains safe. As recently as February, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal critiqued the FCC and FDA for insufficient research into the potential risks of 5G. As the NTP study shows, research into radiation risks is difficult and often inconclusive, meaning it can take a long time to make real progress.
But for now, everything we know about 5G networks tells us that there’s no reason to be alarmed. After all, there are many technologies we use every day with a substantially higher measurable risk. And as Dr. Novella says, “With 5G the hazard is low—but non-zero—and the actual risk appears to be zero. We’ve picked up no signal in the real world.”
The 10nm Intel Ice Lake CPUs found in the new 13-inch MacBook Pro are currently exclusive to Apple
The new 10th-generation quad-core CPUs found in the new MacBook Pro 13-inch appear to be exclusive to Apple, at least at this point in time. A search of the Intel Ark does not reveal any Ice Lake parts that match up with the silicon Apple is offering in its latest laptop which are much more powerful.
Apple has been known to get custom parts from Intel in the past as well as early access and it looks like that might also be the case for the new 13-inch MacBook Pro models too. Although Apple continues to offer 8th-generation parts at lower price points in the new Magic Keyboard-based line up, the latest 10th-generation parts it is also offering are still not listed on Intel’s Ark of Ice Lake parts despite Apple’s recent product launch. It would seem then, at least for the time being, Apple has exclusive access to this silicon from Intel although it has previously revealed these parts will be hitting the market around this time.
The current top of the line Ice Lake part listed on Intel’s website is a Core i7-1065G7 quad-core 15 W part (configurable up to 25 W) chip with a base frequency of just 1.3 GHz with boost to 3.9 GHz. Even the Core i5-1038G7 (28 W) part available for the new 13-inch MacBook Pro has a base clock of 2.0 GHz and can boost to 3.8 GHz. The new Core i7-1068G7 (28 W) part has a base clock of 2.3 GHz and can boost to 4.1 GHz making both chips the highest performing Ice Lake parts currently found in any notebook by some margin.
Apple’s exclusivity on the two parts could be relatively lengthy given Intel’s well-documented woes with its 10nm node. Given that mass quantities of the 10th-generation parts available to other OEMs are currently capped at a based clock speed of just 1.3 GHz, it suggests that Intel may not yet have sufficient yields of the higher-performing chips to offer more widely. However, now that Apple has shipped the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the new Ice Lake parts, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for other makers to release notebooks with the new parts as well.
Here Is How Apple and Google’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing Framework Will Work
Ever since Apple and Google announced their collaboration for a COVID-19 contact tracing framework which will work between both iOS and Android devices, people have been raising questions regarding privacy and security concerns. Does this new framework open a can of worms towards an Orwellian future where Big Brother tracks everyone you come across? No, it doesn’t. Read on to find out more details.
What is contact tracing?
Contact tracing is the process in which people who an infected person in touch with are tracked down and diagnosed to find out if they have also been infected by the virus. This process was initially made popular in Singapore through a government-backed app called TraceTogether, which was later open-sourced, to help with community-driven contact tracing. The app relies on Bluetooth to keep a log of other TraceTogether users that it comes in close contact with. If the user is tested positive for COVID-19, the app log is provided to relevant government authorities, which includes interaction data with other TraceTogether users. One limitation of the app on iOS is that it has to be kept in the foreground at all times to function properly, due to the operating system’s restrictive nature.
This same idea was also implemented in various other places around the world, and is now being implemented at a system level by Apple and Google.
How is Apple and Google’s framework different?
The simple basis for Apple and Google’s COVID-19 framework is to ensure that system-level APIs, that work between iOS and Android devices, allow app developers to create solutions that can be used to perform contact tracing. If a user of an app that relies on the COVID-19 contact tracing framework is tested positive for the virus, select healthcare providers will mark it in a system which will send notifications to all other users who had come in contact with the infected person. The framework will only maintain data from the last 14 days. Anyone a user had come in contact with, before the last 14 days, would not be in the database.
The aim is to make this possible without sacrificing privacy and security of the users. Nobody wants such a tool to be used by governments or people with malicious intent, to find out who anyone has been in touch with.
What are the security precautions in place?
The framework proposal makes it clear that there are three different keys being used:
- Tracing Key, which stays on the device
- Daily Tracing Key, which is a unique key generated every day from the tracing key
- Rolling Proximity Identifier, generated by the daily tracing key
Instead of any personally identifiable data, the framework will keep the proximity identifiers in the list to maintain the contact tracing log. None of this data will be linked to the user’s Apple or Google accounts, or Apple Maps or Google Maps location data.
Apple vs YouTube vs Deezer vs BoomPlay; What you Should Know Before Choosing your Music Streaming Service
A few years ago, everyone had to buy audio CDs to access music content. As the application of technology and the internet got more sophisticated, Nigerians began to shift towards sideloading free pirated MP3s from sites. But this was painstaking. Not only did you have to search the different songs and download, but you also had to bear the taglines placed on the music by these sites.
Although that era is not fully behind us in Nigeria, the space is gradually shifting towards music streaming. These days, streaming services offer music fans limitless access to music globally and across history just at a tap. For this service, users are charged a small monthly fee for the entire package or they could opt for the freemium service – which comes with intermittent adverts after few songs.
There are various streaming services out there, and trying to figure out which to subscribe to can be a difficult task since the market is boxed up. For the purpose of our review, we looked at music streaming services available in Nigeria, widely used and have a large catalogue of music on the platform.
Based on the first criteria Spotify didn’t make the list since it’s not available in Nigeria – although many use VPN tools to still access the platform.
Nobody likes stress. So if the process of getting on a platform is too tedious, it can put off many users. In the case of these platforms, getting on board is pretty easy for most.
If you are an Android user, getting onboard YouTube Music is the easiest. Since you already you signed in your Google details during the set up of your phone, once you download the app you are signed in immediately.
For Deezer, you have the option to sign up using your Facebook Account, Google Account or you could do the manual sign up if you wish.
For Boomplay you have the option of signing up with your phone number, social media accounts (Facebook or Twitter) or a Google account. However, Boomplay could take as much as 20 to 30 minutes to send an OTP code. In my case, the OTP for the phone number came 30 mins later after I had resorted to using a Google Account.
For Apple Music, if you are an iPhone user, it’s seamless. You only need your Apple ID. However, on an Android device, you need to set up your Apple ID, which could take 5-10mins.
Subscription and Perks
One of the reasons why many Nigerians shy away from using these streaming platforms is the subscription involved. But they are really not as high as perceived. For YouTube Music, the monthly subscription costs N900 while a family plan of N1400. First-time users get one month free as a perk.
For Deezer, subscribers can get the premium plan for N1,800 and family plan for N2,700. Boomplay on the other hand, is pretty unique. Users can subscribe with N499 or 499 Boomcoins which is purchased in-app. Users can also do daily and weekly subscriptions or buy coins to download music.
You also get reward points you can exchange for mobile data plans and or in app subscription bundles when you complete basic tasks like stream songs.
For Apple Music, it costs just N900 monthly, and for first-timers, you get 3 months free – kind of makes up for the stress of registration for me.
All platforms except Apple Music have free models. But these free modes come with cons. For one, features such as offline listening, downloading tracks etc are absent. Also, track skipping and music recommendations are limited. Users could also have adverts plastered in their faces after few songs.
User Experience and Features
All platforms as we have established basically allow you to stream music. To ensure that you are provided with well-tailored songs, Apple Music, Deezer, and YouTube allow you to select your favourite Artistes and Genres – it is not so on Boomplay.
While selecting your fav artistes on YouTube Music, you can notice a duplication in artiste names – fret not, its just a glitch.
On all the platforms, users can customize their theme – Light or Dark Mode. Boomplay even allows you to use a wide range of colours.
These platforms allow you to create your own playlist or use the recommended playlist based on your favourite artiste, genres and location. On the premium plan, users can download their favourite song/album for offline listening up to a 100GB storage space – just like downloading on your phone from the mp3 sites.
Users can also follow songs with lyrics which are provided as well as create their own profiles and upload their own songs. On Apple Music, users can listen to live radio sessions and search for songs even with lyrics, same as YouTube Music. Subscribers on Boomplay, Apple Music and YouTube Music can also watch videos of some songs.
On YouTube Music, users get served with long-lost musical gems and oldies through its catalogue.
Personally, I feel all the platforms are very easy to use without breaking a sweat, save Boomplay. This is probably because it does more than just let users stream music. It also has the Buzz news section and video streaming feature. The app looks cluttered and users may feel choked up at first but of course, will get used to it after a while.
This is no excuse though. YouTube Music and Apple Music which also allows you to watch videos of music and live performances still has a clean UI.
We all have that wide and vast taste for music and as such we want a platform where we can get all our music needs, all in one place. Interestingly, all four platforms have a vast library of licenced tracks.
Deezer has over 56 million licensed tracks. Apple music has over 50 million songs. Boomplay has a catalogue of over 5 million songs mainly from African artistes. There are also songs from international artists.
I was amazed to see playlists from the various Nigerian producer battles that have been going on on Instagram in the last 1 week on the platform.
YouTube music, on the other hand, doesn’t give hard figures to represent the amount of songs in its catalogue. But with the number of songs available on its video streaming platform, one can guess it will be in the ranks of Deezer and Apple Music.
All platforms also have their fair share of global subscribers. There are 60 million subscribers on Apple Music, owing to the fact that it comes pre-installed in its devices. Deezer has 14 million total subscribers and 9 million are paid, subscribers.
Boomplay also has 44 million users majorly in Africa. Its popularity in Africa is largely due to the fact that it comes preloaded in Transsion smartphones – Infinix, Tecno, Itel, etc, which are the most used smartphone brands on the continent. So, if you are one to follow the majority, you know which to go for.
There are a number of good reasons to choose streaming platforms for your music dealings instead of downloading from pirated sites. Access to an almost endless music stream, both new and old is seamless and safe for your device. You also get access to music videos and live performances, beyond just the audio and the lyrics.
So whichever platform you eventually decide to use based on the pricing, perks or offerings, you are in a for a treat in the world of music.
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