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Scientific intuition and experts


Here’s a little experiment to do at home

We all use intuition a good deal, and most of the time it serves us well. Scientists use intuition too, and it helps them to ask the right questions for research. But sometimes, when you don’t know the whole story (such as before you do the research) intuition lets you down.

In the case of TETRA we have a problem. All the expert authorities quoted by the government, O2, the Sussex Police authorities etc., give TETRA/Airwave a ‘clean bill of health’. BUT we, the humble residents of Worthing (like in so many other areas) really do have health problems switched on by these masts (and police by their handsets).

You only need one expert who tells the government what they want or need to hear. Maybe they are just wrong. You discredit the rest, and pass the message on. O2 quotes the same expert, the police quote O2 and the same expert, and they expect you to believe them.

Haven’t we heard this recently in other cases? Like mothers falsely accused of killing their babies? The courts have been full of mistaken forensic experts.

Our experiment

Place a few individual drops of water on a plastic container lid, so they lie as blips and are unsurrounded. Take a small plastic cup and fill it with water. Before you place them side by side in your microwave, guess what will happen.

Intuition says that the drops will probably evaporate while the cup will only be warm. Now do it.

After 10 or 15 seconds you will find that the cup is indeed warm (careful, it might be hot!), but the drops are cold. Counter-intuitive isn’t it?

Repeat in ceramic containers in your oven (it’s just that plastic is safer in microwave ovens, and not much good in the oven!) and the expected will happen: the drops evaporate long before the cup gets hot.

It’s nothing clever, it’s just an example of how scientific intuition can very easily and simply be wrong. But it’s relevant. Like the droplets, we’re talking human cells here, which operate quite differently from ‘whole bodies’, and TETRA interacts with them.

So shall we just guess what’s going to happen in the case of TETRA?

a little fun experiment The equipment is quite simple... But what will happen?

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