The retractions (if any) or stony silence when disasters don't come to pass are less obvious. Is it any wonder that anxiety is the natural mood?
Radiation from cell phones can possibly cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization. Never mind that WHO had previously assured consumers there is no risk and that there is no known mechanism by which cell phones can cause cancer (the radio frequencies used by cell phones are not ionizing -- they can't cause mutations). You heard all about the "warning" at the time (end of May), right?
"Risk" being probabilistic to begin with, what is a "possible" risk? That appears to be "a risk that we can't rule out, although we sure as hell can't rule it in." Happily -- if far less visibly -- an international study decided about two months later that, "Evidence 'increasingly against' phone cancer risk."
A major review of previously published research by a committee of experts from Britain, the United States and Sweden concluded there was no convincing evidence of any cancer connection.
It also found a lack of established biological mechanisms by which radio signals from mobile phones might trigger tumors.Rare earths: why China is cutting exports crucial to Western technologies." That's from the Telegraph, which begins by telling us:
"Although there remains some uncertainty, the trend in the accumulating evidence is increasingly against the hypothesis that mobile phone use can cause brain tumors in adults," the experts wrote in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
The key to hundreds of modern technologies, from iPhones to smart-bombs, lies in the little-known rare earth metals, 95 per cent of which are mined by China. Its decision to slash exports has left the West scrabbling for alternative suppliesRare earths elements are (no surprise) rare. But are they all in China? The BBC claims 97 percent of the supply is produced in China, but notes that "Japan finds rare earths in Pacific seabed."
How significant is the Japanese find?
The deposits have a heavy concentration of rare earths. Just one square kilometre (0.4 square mile) of deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current global annual consumption," said Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo.shale thousands of feet below the Pennsylvania farmland.
And closer to the surface, how about a a major rare-earth find in Afghanistan? From Moneynews.com, see "Afghans Dream of Bonanza in Scarce Rare-Earth Minerals." In January,
Afghan officials proudly presented what they say is $3 trillion worth of deposits scattered throughout the country, more than triple the initial dollar amount estimated by the U.S. Defense Department last June.Afghanistan is inhospitable in its own way, of course.
The essential point remains, paraphrasing the first of Clarke's Laws (call it Lerner's Corollary):
When you read that something is going right, that may well be true. When you read that things have gone wrong, or are running out, or can't work -- that we're doomed -- that is very probably wrong.Shortages and side effects are almost always resolvable with human ingenuity -- as long as we retain the ambition to try.
Alas, dystopias garner more eyeballs than utopias. If you want to worry about something, worry that too few of us retain the power of positive thinking.