Dedicated to Carlos Ruperto Fermín
2019 will be the year of deployment of 5G, the fifth-generation wireless technology, and there’s no time to waste. Can the scientific debate on its effects be settled? We suggest a line of research to detect the effects of non-ionizing radiation on living beings with a purely biophysical and biomechanical argument.
This year of 2019 begins the worldwide deployment of the fifth generation mobile telephony (5G), considered an strategic objective in telecommunications for the control of the emerging internet of things and the expansion of artificial intelligence. The Huawei case exemplifies the commercial and geopolitical tension that this advance is causing.
Most of us don’t give a damn about who wins this race to fry our brains, be they American or Chinese; on the contrary, we would be sincerely grateful to the first country to take seriously the vast amount of research that suggest the pernicious effects of growing electromagnetic pollution and take some decisive action in this regard.
What’s incredible is that nothing has been done and only the interests of the industry count. More than three-quarters of the very numerous independent studies lean toward the danger of this radiation, while more than three-quarters of the studies sponsored by the companies lean toward its safety. Too much statistical divergence to be coincidental.
It is true that we still don’t have conclusive evidence on the biological incidence of these fields, and it’s already known that in this kind of research the evidence is always very tenuous and requires very long times and large doses of statistical inference. Another thing is that within ten or twenty years doctors will begin to recognize new syndromes and degenerative diseases among the exposed population, which will be practically all of us.
But when in doubt, at the very least, the only sensible thing would be a precautionary moratorium until a satisfactory elucidation of the case is settled, even if it takes ten years. The stakes are much higher than being able to watch videos more quickly on our mobile phones, the stakes are high for our physical and mental health and that of future generations.
Although impossible to verify, it’s estimated that the maximum peaks of electromagnetic exposure today are between fifteen and eighteen orders of magnitude higher than those of the Earth’s natural electromagnetic field. A ten followed by fifteen to eighteen zeros. Comparatively, human atmospheric pollution and CO2 emissions would only have increased by a ridiculous fraction of that generated by the natural cycle of forest fires.
Yes, electromagnetic fields are extremely tenuous in relation to ponderable matter; but also smoke or gas are much more tenuous than solid bodies and no one doubts their cumulative and immediate toxic effect. And besides, the noblest or more sensitive tissues, the brain, the nervous system and the heart, are those that depend most critically on the electrical activity for their proper functioning. This should have been enough to exercise extreme caution.
But a ten followed by eighteen zeros still seems little to us, since with the 5G we’ll be able to multiply it several tens or hundreds of times. There’s nothing like competition to beat records.
5G is not only an increase in the net amount of exposure but also a qualitative change, as the new wavelengths are much more penetrating. The number of repeaters will also increase alarmingly, as the aim is having always the user at less than 30 meters. In many places even trees are being cut to install new repeaters.
I won’t go on with something that has already been dealt with more extensively in hundreds of articles. We know that the dominant argument for rejecting the danger of non-ionizing radiation is that it does not have enough energy to pull electrons out of their orbits and destabilize the organization of matter —there is no plausible mechanism. From the theoretical point of view, it seems a clear, conclusive argument.
However, it is necessary to remember that today there is by no means a complete theory of radiation. In both classical and quantum electrodynamics (QED), radiation, emission and absorption are more often than not accounting operations to balance the energy conservation with respect to the observed facts —”if this has happened, it must have been because of this”. And so, for example, physicists still can’t agree even on something as basic as whether an accelerated charge radiates or not.
With such a theory it is impossible to be categorical. Only the hard, laborious experimental path remains. Besides, we know that we can’t measure electrical potentials directly but only differences of potential.
But it’s hard to believe that a factor that could have increased by one trillion (1018) remains insignificant, unless that factor was completely irrelevant before the Anthropocene. From what is known of our own and other planets, we will agree that a field that before humankind would have extended appreciably to 65,000 kilometers on the day side and more than 6 million kilometers on the night side doesn’t seem so insignificant. Doubts are therefore more than reasonable.
Measure for measure
My intention here is to suggest a line of research to detect in fraganti the incidence of these fields in our biology, something that the researchers themselves despair of being able to achieve. I pointed it out in passing in a more extensive article entitled “Towards a health science? Biophysics and biomechanics“. The idea at least seems to make sense, though it remains to be seen how much it can yield in practice.
It’s all about applying, gauge to gauge and measure for measure, the very notions of gauging of the electromagnetic fields to cellular motion. It was precisely by investigating the interference pattern of forced electromagnetic fields on the spin of a particle that Berry discovered, in 1983, the so-called geometric phase. This one translates into “global change without local change”, and although physicists associate it mainly with quantum mechanics, it’s relevant in both the classical and quantum realms, in both the macroscopic and the microscopic.
Initially the Berry phase appeared as a displacement for adiabatic processes, i.e., processes without net energy transfer, which seems the appropriate case to asses the influence of non-ionizing radiation —such as that of telecommunications- when there is not enough energy to ionize atoms or molecules.
A well-known example of geometric phase is the so-called Aharonov-Bohm effect, in which charged particles are affected by the electromagnetic potential even though the electric and magnetic fields are zero in their region. Contrary to the most widespread opinion among physicists, including Bohm himself, this is not a specifically quantum effect, but inherent in Maxwell’s equations of classical electromagnetism, and exact analogous examples have been found even on the surface of water.
Even today physicists don’t know how to place this phenomenon, whether in fundamental or applied physics; but its experimental verification is out of question.
After Berry showed the simplest case for cyclic adiabatic processes, there have been generalizations for non-adabatic, non-cyclic, and even dissipative or nonconservative processes, such as biological ones.
This “anholonomy” is also not alien to living beings and their locomotion. Inevitable is the example of the falling cat problem or “Maxwell cat”, the happiest example of how a living being protects its invariance against contrary efforts; or the no less universal figure of the motion of the snakes. Shapere and Wilczek showed in 1987 their relevance in the cellular self-propulsion in viscous fluids describing a circuit of forms starting from infinitesimal deformations in cylinders and spheres.
In short, in biological systems the geometric phase is or should be a measure of the degree of (forced) contortion of the system with respect to a ground state, and such a feature should be robust against various types of noise.
This type of model inspired by gauge fields such as this one of Shapere and Wilczek should have multiple uses in biology and biomechanics, though what we are talking about here is determining the degree of stress, in the short term and with cumulative effects, suffered by cells exposed to different intensities and frequencies of electromagnetic radiation.
I do not know if a similar reasoning could be applied, instead of to the motion of cells, to the more schematic waves of the electroencephalogram, EEG. The definition of form proposed by Shapere and Wilczek is only one among many that can be extended to other cases.
The geometric phase provides not only a biophysical argument, but even a biomechanical one, which in certain cases such as macromolecules becomes completely tangible. Today we can twist a strand of DNA like a towel and calculate its exact torsion using the geometric phase. Therefore we can measure and calculate its elasticity within a medium or potential.
Think this through. So far science has focused on molecule-molecule reactions rather than molecule-medium reactions. However, today we know perfectly well, for example, that the so-called “central dogma of molecular biology” is wrong and that the same gene can produce different proteins depending on how enzymes interpret the context and the environment. The problem is that this seems almost impossible to measure; however, the geometric phase already gives us an in situ index of the potential, even if we can’t measure it directly.
This criterion could be used to elucidate other aspects of the debate, such as the possible incidence of this radiation on DNA or the shortening of telomeres at the ends of chromosomes, related to cell death and ageing processes.
If what we are talking about is a direct mechanism, the argument of physicists still seems correct. However, physicists still do not consider the effect of the potential, and this can cause electronic emissions and molecular effects that seem “spontaneous” but would be clearly induced by the potential. Some might call it indirect effect, others superdirect effect, since it doesn’t even demand the absorption by particles of radiation; in any case the causal link would be patent.
It seems impossible to confront the big interests of the industry, especially in a case like this. But there are examples such as asbestos or the tobacco industry, in which it was finally impossible to hide the truth even if it came painfully late. Since we are also very late in this matter, it’s clear that something has to be done as we cannot wait twenty years.
If the big companies and countries involved in this race can lose their big stake on controlling “information flows” with a moratorium, they will lose much more if it comes to light that they have been hiding data and obstructing impartial research. In fact, this could mean the beginning of the end of many things, perhaps more than we can imagine.
If these companies and countries are so interested in money and soft power, I permit me to suggest that it would be smarter, as well as more profitable, to undertake research into a true science of health rather than our well-known sciences of infinite ailments and diseases. Profitable, at least, as long as one seeks for the common good instead of looking blindly for one’s own.
And if we think in terms of prestige and social support, which are the only ones that some can understand because the search for truth is beyond them, the scientific community is also very much at stake here. The arguments I put forward here are more than thirty years old. Perhaps it could still be said that then there wasn’t the experimental level to collect evidence with that theoretical support; but that excuse no longer exists now.
Time will tell, but I think this issue will be a turning point for more things than we think, even though the only sure thing, in case of crisis, is that the eternal opportunism will try to channel it in its favor.
We’ll obviate that now.
What matters is that even if the situation seems desperate, it can still be completely reversed. We can block the blockade; we can circle the encirclement.
I am looking for volunteer translators for several languages
Y. Aharonov, D. Bohm, (1959): Significance of Electromagnetic Potentials in the Quantum Theory
M. V. Berry, (1984): Quantal Phase Factors Accompanying Adiabatic Changes
J. Samuel, S. Sinha, (2003): Molecular Elasticity and the Geometric Phase
A. Shapere, F. Wilczek, (1987): Self-Propulsion at Low Reynolds Number
A. Ehrskovich, (2012): Electromagnetic potentials and Aharonov-Bohm effect
M. Iradier, (2019): Towards a science of health? Biophysics and Biomechanics