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NYC Subway Cell Service, No Cell-Related Cancer 234

Luke PiWalker wrote to mention a CNN article discussing a bid process for offering cell phone service to NYC subway stations. The contract is only to wire up stations; moving trains will not have service. Those New Yorkers will also be safe from their phones, as the BBC reports on a study indicating cell phones don't cause cancer. From that article, submitted to us by Dan Hope: "She acknowledged that there appeared to be an increased risk among brain cancer sufferers on the side of the head where they held the phone. The team, however, did not put this down to a causal link, because almost exactly the same decreased risk was seen on the other side of the head, leaving no overall increase risk of tumours for mobile phone users. Instead, they blamed biased reporting from brain tumour sufferers who knew what side of the head their tumours were on."
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NYC Subway Cell Service, No Cell-Related Cancer

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  • I'm curious to hear from someone who knows--how difficult would it be (in terms of what kind of technology would it require, and relatively how expensive compared to stantionary-wiring would it be) to have service in the trains, too?
    • The Metro in DC has cell service in Trains. I am not sure how they do it, but that would be a good place to research to see how it is done.
    • They'd have to setup mini-cell towers at intervals along almost the entire length of the system. It would be prohibitively expensive to try and shoehorn this is after the fact.

      Like many things, it's invariably cheaper and easier to implement 'features' while you're building/developing something than after the fact.

      IMHO, this is not a bad idea to limit this to the platform. Subway trains are kind of like being in an airplane or a full elevator. You want everyone to mind their own business and stay out of you
      • It appears that terrorists are now using the advanced "oppossable thumb" technology and a secret apparatus known as "PED" to carry out their sick plots.

        To ensure freedom, we must ban hands and feet. Please do not be alarmed by the chopping squads that will begin making their rounds in your city in just a few days.
        • Ever been to Saudi Arabia?

          Lemme assure you, those countries with Islamic Law solved the hands and feet problem a long time ago.

          Aren't you glad we can joke about things like that?
          • Lemme assure you, those countries with Islamic Law solved the hands and feet problem a long time ago.

            Actually, muslim countries solved their terrorist problem by sending their evil maniacs to kill us and blow themselves up in the process. A problem they didn't anticipate is that the more diabolical maniacs tend to be not only evil, but smart as well - ever notice how Osama sends others to blow themselves up, but hasn't shown any sign of doing so himself ?

      • by Biomechanical ( 829805 ) on Friday January 20, 2006 @10:34AM (#14519041) Homepage

        Actually, servicing a subway train would not require antenna's all along the tunnels.

        You put a cell-receiver in the train, and run communication signals from the train through radio signals out the tracks, the same as you can control model trains on a DCC setup railway, or do IP over powerlines.

        • That probably won't work for cells. Providers spend a good long time tweaking a network when they set it up, so that each cell doesn't interfere with other cells, cells cover the right areas. Network optimization is a long, grueling process, and many companies out there sell very expensive equipment to help with the process.

          Now just imagine trying to optimize a network with something running in and out of the coverage of some cell areas. You would have to plan your frequency range (for GSM and TDMA) or P
      • This might enable the next terrorist attack though.

        Well, it sure worked (at the technical level) in Madrid. Thankfully they didn't plan/execute it very well, though, as apparently their initial plan was to have all of the onboard backpack bombs go off at once, aboard trains that were all in the station (this didn't work too well, since some went off outside) - with the intention of bringing the entire terminal down on all of the commuters inside. That would have been hundreds more or thousands dead. And
        • Except, IIRC, they used the phones as timers, using the vibrate function of the phone to set off the bomb after a preset alarm went off. This doesn't require any cellular service
          • Except, IIRC, they used the phones as timers, using the vibrate function of the phone to set off the bomb after a preset alarm went off. This doesn't require any cellular service

            I believe you are correct, though the same guys (some of whom they caught, some of whom blew themselves up in an apartment as they were trying to catch them) were also rigged with some that were call-based (with the vibrate-based ring action prepared to set it off). Certainly the best way to deal with that threat is to suppress/j
      • Terra!

        Anyway, I don't see why they can't put a picocell [phonescoop.com] on the train and have simple uplink stations for it along the tracks. Would probably be cheaper than having complete cell towers stashed throughout the tunnels.
      • Imagine having to deal with some obnoxious New Yorker who won't STFU and threatens to knife you when you tell him to.

        Hey, New Yorkers aren't THAT obnoxious. We'd only knife you if you really deserved it.

        They'd have to setup mini-cell towers at intervals along almost the entire length of the system.

        Or, put low-power base stations in the cars themselves, and communicate with the outside world through the train's own electronic dispatch/comms system. Granted, some of the system's technology hasn't been updat
      • They'd have to setup mini-cell towers at intervals along almost the entire length of the system.

        No, only about 60% of the "subway" system actually consists of subterranean trains. The rest is elevated and above ground.

      • They'd have to setup mini-cell towers at intervals along almost the entire length of the system. It would be prohibitively expensive to try and shoehorn this is after the fact.

        Um, why not just put the tower into the train ?-) It must have some way to communicate with the control center for safety reasons, and that may be updatable to be able to carry call data as well.

        This might enable the next terrorist attack though. You don't need a suicide bomber if you can use a cell phone to detonate a bomb on

    • Leaky Coax (Score:5, Informative)

      by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Friday January 20, 2006 @10:36AM (#14519057) Homepage Journal
      Leaky Coax would likely be a cheap way to handle it. You would still need "towers" at regular intervals, but then you run a copper line along the train line for each antena. This is a pretty common trick in large buildings. You let the carrier install antenas on your roof line and drop leaky coax off one of them so that the signal inside the building is just as strong as the signal outside. The expencive part would be getting the pipe to support the volume. I road the DC blue line a few times during rush hour, there are ALOT of people in a very small area. Running that many people on one antena might not work so well, expecially when they are all getting handed off every 45 seconds. You might need some type of redundant line of antenas to handle the call volume, hand offs, and load balancing. And then likely a fiber line to carry the data from the antenas back to the junction. -Rick -Rick
      • Leaky coax (or leaky waveguides generally) will do the trick, though, for striaght tunnels, it is also possible to point a directional antenna straight down the axis of the tunnel. If it is off-axis the multipath reflections will garble the signal.

        The problem of scaling for a gazillion phones in a very small space has been solved, and is deployed in most large airports: the so-called pico-cells have coverage that is entirely within another macro-cell. The trick is to have network software that tells the

      • >I road the DC blue line a few times during rush hour
        s/road/rode/
        I have ridden it frequently, as well.
        This raises the issue of monopolistic behavior.
        Unless things have changed, you can use Verizon, Verizon, or Verizon within the Metro tunnels/stations.
        T-Mobile, at least, dies at roughly the speed of critical thinking within the DC beltway.
        Actual solutions need to be implemented in a let-us-play-nicely-now way.
  • by Bimo_Dude ( 178966 ) <bimoslash@NoSpAm.theness.org> on Friday January 20, 2006 @10:10AM (#14518856) Homepage Journal
    Maybe the reaearchers have this whole brain tumor thing backwards.

    Instead of:
    "Cell phones cause brain tumors," they could look into "Brain tumors cause cell phones."

    Maybe people who already have a tumor in the side of their head are naturally attracted to using that side to hold their phone.

    • Hey, if I read the article correctly, keeping your phone on the side you don't have a tumor yet will remove the tumor you have on the other side and will thus restore balance again.

      Next headline: Cell phones cure brain tumor!
      • > ...keeping your phone on the side you don't have a tumor yet will
        > remove the tumor you have on the other side...

        If that were the case the study would have revealed a slight decrease in brain tumors among cell-phone users. Obviously cell phones don't cause tumors: they attract them. Keeping your phone on your tumorless side will merely cause your tumor to migrate.
  • RE Cells (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Friday January 20, 2006 @10:11AM (#14518857) Homepage
    I still would rather have my cell to my ear, than sitting in my lap while I am using a headset, for obvious male reasons.
    The Metro in DC has had Cell service for quite sometime. As much as the NYC subway is nice because it is free from Cell yell, I can'y imagine not being able to use my wireless services while commuting.
    • Foil underwear would stop any conserns about nut cancer and as an adder bounou the goverment mind controll devices for males would be disabled.
    • how the fsck is it "Insightful" to say that you'd rather get cancer in your groin (or, what, hip?) than you brain?!? i mean, look, i'm as attached to my genitals as anyone, but come on, that's just stupid!

      and that's to say nothing of the likelihood of the brain being more susceptible.
      • Re:RE Cells (Score:3, Funny)

        by TheLink ( 130905 )
        "i mean, look, i'm as attached to my genitals as anyone"

        Most people do prefer to be totally attached to their genitals. Not just slightly attached.

        Also, prioritizing genitals over brains appears to have worked fine for most species in the world. Genitals have a better track record for keeping a species around than brains.
  • Above ground (Score:5, Informative)

    by friedo ( 112163 ) * on Friday January 20, 2006 @10:14AM (#14518874) Homepage
    It's worth noting that a good 40% or so of what we call The Subway is actually above ground, on elevated and surface lines, and you can blab on your cell all you want while riding.
    • Re:Above ground (Score:3, Informative)

      True, but the 40% of the NYC subway system which is above-ground also tends to be in more outlying areas of the system, and therefore less-traveled and sometimes less-populated areas.

      A train's time spent above ground may also be quite brief, as is the case on the F line in Brooklyn, where it runs underground to Carroll Street, goes elevated for only 2 stations in order to pass over the Gowanus Canal, and then returns underground for several more stations. A short "hi, I'm on my way" call might be possible
    • You sound like that crazy homeless man on the W that tried to tell me that there were "other boroughs" and that the train eventually went to some place called "Brooklyn" and came from a land called "Queens". Queens... right, next he'll be telling me that there's a place called Kings!

      Seriously, the first time (and last time) I went to Coney Island and the W came up out of the ground I was like "Whooooa!" and one of the first things I did was check to see if my cell worked.

  • Well, It's a good beginning, but in downtown Montreal we have cell services even in the Métro (subway) train !
  • by PornMaster ( 749461 ) on Friday January 20, 2006 @10:18AM (#14518904) Homepage
    While I don't relish the thought of hearing people chattering away on their phones while waiting for a train, the idea of being able to reach people I'm trying to meet up with sounds good. Especially when going outside to get service means being out in the rain.
    • Let me know when there is wireless broadband to the hand. As soon as people can communicate silently I will consider it a step forward.
    • And, most importantly, ends up costing you another fare.

      Ever try a ride longer than a half-hour after you've been out drinking all night? Having to pay another $2 just to pee isn't exactly fair.
  • by ExRex ( 47177 ) <elliot&ajoure,net> on Friday January 20, 2006 @10:18AM (#14518908) Homepage
    So, now that you can choose which side of your brain is more likely to get a tumor, decide which hemisphere you need more and use the other ear for your cellphone.
    Logical. Artistic. Logical? Artistic? Logical! Artistic!
    Choices, choices.
  • Good news. (Score:4, Funny)

    by GillBates0 ( 664202 ) on Friday January 20, 2006 @10:19AM (#14518913) Homepage Journal
    She acknowledged that there appeared to be an increased risk among brain cancer sufferers on the side of the head where they held the phone...Instead, they blamed biased reporting from brain tumour sufferers who knew what side of the head their tumours were on.

    I hold my phone on the outside of my head. Does that mean I have a reduced risk of getting brain cancer inside of my head? This is good news for people who use my cellphone usage technique.

  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Friday January 20, 2006 @10:24AM (#14518955)
    Why should we listen to studies? Shouldn't we believe that cell phones cause cancer if that belief meets our emotional needs?

    After all, all studies are funded by someone. So we can decide they're biased based on what we wish their conclusions were. And then we can continue to believe what we want.

    C'mon. Everyone's doing it.
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) on Friday January 20, 2006 @10:25AM (#14518963)
    According [acs.org] to Swedish scientists, people should be more worried about the subway air they breathe, than their cell phone use.
  • I doubt there was a conspiracy. More likely, people drive with the phone on their left if they drive manual transmission, and they drive with the phone on their right or left fairly equally if they have automatic. Further, people have tended to shake with their right hand for a very long time, which is a hard habbit to break. The right hand has been left as the "free" hand for openning doors, etc. The left hand has tended to be the hand that carries things. So the right hand then became the cell phone
    • Did you even read the blurb? All the things you're saying wouldn't cause a _decrease_ in the chances of cancer on the LHS of your brain. You've explained very well why there might be an increase on the right side, but that's only half the equation.

      -Erwos
  • Buenos Aires had coverage in the whole subway (it's called "Subte" over here) network for the last 5 years, they have upgraded to GSM last year, the cell equipment underground is provided by Nokia.
  • Maybe the problem isn't that the phone cause the tumors, but rather your hand preference. Think about it. Most people will, a majority of the time, use their dominant hand to hold the cell phone when talking on it. So of course the tumor that supposedly is caused by the phone is also going to match up to their dominant had as well. So maybe this is about your dominant hand being the deciding factor in the location NOT the phone!

    What percent of persons using a cell phone have developed a tumor in the fir
    • > What percent of persons using a cell phone have developed a tumor
      > in the first place?

      The same percentage as the general population.

      > I think that with the massive use of cell phones in our culture,
      > and the lower numbers of tumors in the same population, we are
      > going to find that there is probably not a real strong correlation.

      There is no correlation at all, nor is there any plausible theory that predicts that there would be.
  • I don't think it would make a blind bit of difference if they announced, tomorrow, that there was absolutely no causal link between phones and ill health, and described an experiment that could be carried out using commonly-available materials to demonstrate this, people would still believe that there was a link. Why? Because people seem to prefer the idea that things are bad for them.

    We're better fed now than we've ever been -- but there are still people with eating disorders, and there isn't a single
    • "We're better fed now than we've ever been"

      Not sure that one's true. I was reading something the other day and they were comparing the diet of someone 100 years ago to today. We've replaced whole grains with refined grains and added a lot of refined sugar to our diet.

      Interestingly (and off topic) they said the question is not "why are 50% of Americans obese" it's "why aren't the other 50%".

    • I think people learned from the tabacco industry not to believe everything the corporate world says.
  • Considering that even under the worst case scenario, only a small fraction of tumors are caused by cell phones, using total tumor frequency has far more uncertainty than using the ratio of left and right head tumors.

    I can't conceive of a way of creating a proper control for an experiment comparing total tumor counts, while a control for an experiment comparing left-right imbalances is much easier.
  • I wish the MTA and the City would concentrate on actually improving subway service and MTA accountability. I don't care about talking on the phone on the subway, I care about the subway system being more useful and reliable.

    Come on guys, focus! 2nd Ave line. Update terminals and technology. Open up your books.

    Then talk to me about frills and sweetheart corporate tie-in deals like cell service for the subway lines.
  • "She acknowledged that there appeared to be an increased risk among brain cancer sufferers on the side of the head where they held the phone. The team, however, did not put this down to a causal link, because almost exactly the same decreased risk was seen on the other side of the head, leaving no overall increase risk of tumours for mobile phone users."

    No overall increased risk vs. what? People who have absolutely no exposure to similar sources of radiation, including wireless home phones? If that's no

  • The brain tumor survey looks like shaky science. As someone in the article pointed out, it was based only on a survey of *living* subjects and most with serious brain tumors die within 18 months and were therefore omitted from the study. From reading the article, it looks as though they asked 1,000 people with brain tumors how much they used a cell phone and then went and asked 1,700 people who didn't have a brain tumor how much THEY used a cell phone. Then they used the results of this survey to claim t
  • Its great that the NYC subway system will allow cell phones to work. I can't use my cell phone from my apartment which is 4 miles from a university. Before you think its entirely the building, consider that outside I only get 2 bars on a good day. Its not just my cell phone. I miss analog phones...
  • I'm sure that this study is reassuring to those that have cancer from cell phone usage.
    They are reassured to know that there is less chance of getting it on the other side of their head.

    Yes, I know one person that had a "hot spot" where his cell phone antenna was. And that's where they found and removed a tumor and installed a metal plate.
  • I'm not sure which I'd rather have... a 100% chance of cancer on the right side of my head and zero on the left; or a 50% chance of cancer on either side. I think I'd prefer the option that leaves a chance of no cancer on either side.
  • "The team, however, did not put this down to a causal link, because almost exactly the same decreased risk was seen on the other side of the head, leaving no overall increase risk of tumours for mobile phone users. Instead, they blamed biased reporting from brain tumour sufferers who knew what side of the head their tumours were on."

    This bias could probably be eliminated by asking the cell phone users if they are right or left handed. It appears that most cell phone users hold the phone in their dominan

  • by Nephroth ( 586753 ) on Friday January 20, 2006 @01:55PM (#14520789)
    If you have a look at the powerwatch [powerwatch.co.uk] website, you'll notice two sections that are rather interesting: catalog [powerwatch.org.uk] and price list [powerwatch.org.uk].

    They sell worthless junk along the same lines as aluminum foil hats, and magic-crystal healing devices. They aren't protecting people from EMF, they are getting rich of scaring people into believing that it's going to destroy them and their families.

    They completely disregard the fact that we have been, and continue to be bombarded by radiation from natural sources such as the sun, celestial events, and the Earth's magnetic core. Making our homes into faraday cages just means that we won't be bombarded by EMF in our houses, but wait! Every single electronic device emits some amount of EMF, from your toaster, to your microwave, to your vibrator, it's all going to emit some amount of EMF and you really can't escape it without becoming a Luddite and living in a sealed hovel in some remote location.

    It's also important to note that there are different kinds of radiation, at its purest definition, it's the transmission of energy via waves. In that case, sound is radiation, ripples in water, also radiation. What most people confuse, however, is electromagnetic radiation versus particle radiation. Electromagnetic radiation is the oscillation of magnetic fields, particle radiation is caused by nuclear decay and the two are quite different. Electrons moving around is a lot less invasive than a red hot proton ripping through the nuclei of your cells which leads us to how cancer is caused by radiation. Particle radiation, caused by nuclear decay, shoots off ions at high velocities which actually shoot through your body and kill cells. Sometimes, in the process of doing this, they will damage the nucleus of a cell but not so much that the cell dies, just enough to mangle its DNA. This can cause faulty reproduction of this cell which can, in turn, cause tumors, or even cancerous growths. This kind of radiation is fundamentally different from the kind of radiation that makes your microwave and even oven (yes, heat is radiation!) work.

    It's this lexical confusion that throws a lot of people off, yes it's radiation, no it's not dangerous unless at very high energy levels. And even then, it just cooks you like so much hot dogs. You don't grow tumors, you don't get cancer, you don't turn into a hideous fly-man, you just pop like a big water-ballon.

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