Social media is both a blessing and the bane of my life. It’s used to great effect to counter (potentially dangerous) misinformation and share fun little tidbits about science. But at the same time it has made it easy to reach millions with wacky conspiracy theories. Some use it very effectively to spread misinformation.
For me social media is a great way to connect with friends and other science communicators. Though that doesn’t shield me from the misinformed or wacky side of the internet (there are a couple of folks who activity seek me out). It doesn’t surprise me that this happens. What does surprise me is when my friends share or like conspiracy theories:
Wearables like activity trackers do get a bit of attention today. They are still a bit gimmicky as the market is still figuring out how people use them and want to use them. But there is a steady uptake in their usage, consumers bought a respectable 78 millions devices last year. I’m even among the folks who quite happily use a fitness tracker to track exercises and keep an eye on their health.
The detail though is that these type of devices haven’t been around for long. Fitbit, probably one of the more known brands, introduced their first activity tracker in 2009. That’s not a lot of time to gather data on how they’re used and how effective they are. Which is a bit of a problem when you’re making health claims about these devices.
Lately there’s some strange claims doing the rounds on internet and in the media about students finding some adverse effects of Wi-Fi on plant development, cress in this case. It’s very strange that Wi-Fi affected the plants as studies show that Wi-Fi is safe as there’s just not enough energy available in the signal being sent. Which means that what the high school students observed isn’t due to the Wi-Fi signal.
Still this didn’t stop the media spending too much attention on this. And of course pseudo-science websites like Natural News used it (archived here) to bolster their unsupported claims that Wi-Fi is dangerous. Lets start with what Natural News says about the reason the student got interested in researching this:
In my previous interactions with Anthony Watts it really showed that he doesn’t have the necessary knowledge and experience to comment on IT related subjects. A subject I’m far more knowledgeable about as I’m a software engineer.
This was obvious with his blog post ‘Obama’s “for the children” climate change video announcement – only a few hundred views so far’ where he didn’t know that the view count for a YouTube video isn’t updated in real time. He ignored my criticism about it and the video that had just “a few hundred views so far” is now at 450,000 views. Which means this video has done very well compared to other videos that often don’t exceed 10,000 views.
Last year was the year I first encountered the anti-vaccer movement, and such a strange movement it is. People risk serious injury and consequences by not vaccinating. All because they are scared of either autism or the mercury in vaccines (or a combination of both).
Especially the mercury concern is something I don’t understand. As a tuna sandwich contains more mercury than a vaccine, and that’s something most of them eat without a second thought. Or even let their children eat it, while they refuse to vaccinate them.
Not related to climate science, but this does have many similarities with the fake hide the decline controversy. Watch this video on YouTube