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Google Testing Project Loon: Concerns Are Without Factual Basis ( 80

An anonymous reader writes: In a filing submitted to the FCC, Google has stated that while concerns for health and environmental risks posed by Project Loon testing were 'genuinely held,' 'there is no factual basis for them.' Google's filing attempts to address a wide range of complaints, from environmental concerns related to increased exposure to RF and microwave radiation, to concerns for loss of control and crashes of the balloons themselves. First, it states that its proposed testing poses no health or environmental risks, and is all well within the standards of experimentation that the FCC regularly approves. It also pledges to avoid interference with any other users of the proposed bandwidth, by collocating transmitters on shared platforms and sharing information kept current daily by an FCC-approved third party database manager.
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Google Testing Project Loon: Concerns Are Without Factual Basis

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  • by plover ( 150551 ) on Friday January 29, 2016 @11:09AM (#51396335) Homepage Journal

    I have no idea what Project Loon is. One line to explain it in the summary would have been nice.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 29, 2016 @11:16AM (#51396381)
      No. Fuck you. If you don't know what Project Loon is you shouldn't even be here. Go post comments on
      • by plover ( 150551 ) on Friday January 29, 2016 @11:55AM (#51396701) Homepage Journal

        All it needed to say was "Project Loon, Google's balloon-borne internet platform, ..."

        But I'm glad i provided you with the chance to swear like a Tourette's victim and contribute nothing of value to humanity. That's OK, I'm sure you must make your mother proud in other ways.

        • "balloon-borne internet platform" What? That has to be the looniest idea I have ever heard.

        • Wow, the f-word sure left you rattled; this is not, I'm afraid, a sign of strength or integrity. Perhaps in the future you might consider keeping your not-altogether-impressive discomfiture to yourself and not whining to the rest of us about it?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 29, 2016 @11:28AM (#51396475)

      It is sign crappy Journalism when the reader is left wondering what the hell you are talking about.

      • I rather think it's the opposite - it's a sign of a well run tech site when it assumes it's readers either a) pay attention to the world around them and know what is going on, or b) have the wit to hit up Google for stuff they don't understand. Spoonfeeding is a sign of crappy journalism and ill educated readers.

    • by Himmy32 ( 650060 ) on Friday January 29, 2016 @11:36AM (#51396533)
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Project Loon;
      Google Boon.
      Future Internet,
      On the Moon!
      Burma Shave.

    • I have no idea what Project Loon is. One line to explain it in the summary would have been nice.

      Geeze, just Bing it! Is that so hard?

    • Project Loon is what happens at large companies when you want to retain very senior people who can no longer be bothered to do the real, actual work. You come up with a bullshit project for them and let them spend years of their life to build it only to cancel it in the end.

    • Project Loon: Googles attempt at providing Internet access to remote areas using high-altitude balloons.
  • Building housing over a graveyard is also not going to cause a ghost problem or piss off anyones ancestor. But it still bugs people severely to the point of extreme behaviour and disruption of their lives. Having someone beam WiFi at uou and not let you make them stop is going to provoke strong reactions meanigful to the provoked.

  • by timholman ( 71886 ) on Friday January 29, 2016 @11:56AM (#51396709)

    If you browse through the FCC database and read the objections to date, what you'll find is mainly a bunch of "OMG! Electromagnetic radiation will poison us! Stop Project Loon!" It's the tinfoil hat crowd, the ones who think that WiFi and cell phones are giving us brain cancer. Some of their letters are good for a laugh, but they're not a serious threat to Loon.

    The serious objections will come later, from telcos who find their wireless rate models undercut by Google, or by petty despots who absolutely, positively do not want Google giving cheap Internet access to their subjects.

    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Friday January 29, 2016 @12:36PM (#51397115)

      FYI, there are biophysical effects to cell radiation. Well documented, published research from prestigious institutions has shown that under exposure to cell phone frequencies that bacterial and mammalian cells produce a lot of lipids. Why this happens is not known. One of the speculations is DNA is being activated by the radiation. At first this seems impossible to believe since the wavelengths of the radiation are orders of magnitude larger than the size of DNA. But models have shown that it does not take a lot of energy to cause Diploid DNA to separate into two strands. What happens if resonance occur and small "bubble" openings between the strands ripple along the chain. Thus very tiny amounts of radiation can affect the DNA. Where these opening occur depend on where a resonance condition can occur. Thus it is possible to imagine selective activation of parts of the DNA in the presence of cell phone radiation. Controls have shown the effect is not due to heating and a number of other possible laboratory artifacts in setting up the tests. Since there is no way yet to observe the predicted DNA response and the models are idealized it's not known if that happens in real cells or if that effect is any way connected to the observed lipid production. None the less what you can say is:
      1) it's not crazy to say Cell phone radiation can selectively excite DNA
      2) Cells do repspond inthe presence of cell radiation

      Thus while there is as far as I know zero evidence of direct damage to a multi-cellular human, the fact that it can act on individual cells is cause for further study.

      • All the more reason for project Loon to accelerate their timeline! Cell phones (800 and 1800-1900 Mhz) =/= Project Loon (2-3 Ghz), therefore, project Loon replacing cell towers is a good thing as it reduces the usage of these frequencies! Also, as Project Loon uses balloons flying at 20kft, the radiation experienced by people will be dramatically less on the ground, unless they decide to use the radios built into the phones in their pockets.

      • There is a lot of idiocy on both sides, to be honest.

        Cell phones were redesigned in the past because of legit concerns about the strength of the signal inside human cells when the antenna was placed too close. Small but real negative effects are well known, with heavy use high power and poor design, and not controversial other than to anti-foil pundits.

        The problem with the FCC complaints is the lack of scale of suspected possible negative effects.

    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Friday January 29, 2016 @12:47PM (#51397213)

      Los Alamos National Laboratory:
      Mammalian Stem Cells Reprogramming in Response to Terahertz Radiation []
      We report that extended exposure to broad-spectrum terahertz radiation results in specific changes in cellular functions that are closely related to DNA-directed gene transcription. Our gene chip survey of gene expression shows that whereas 89% of the protein coding genes in mouse stem cells do not respond to the applied terahertz radiation, certain genes are activated, while other are repressed. RT-PCR experiments with selected gene probes corresponding to transcripts in the three groups of genes detail the gene specific effect. The response was not only gene specific but also irradiation conditions dependent. Our findings suggest that the applied terahertz irradiation accelerates cell differentiation toward adipose phenotype by activating the transcription factor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARG). Finally, our molecular dynamics computer simulations indicate that the local breathing dynamics of the PPARG promoter DNA coincides with the gene specific response to the THz radiation. We propose that THz radiation is a potential tool for cellular reprogramming.

      University of Alberta Edmonton
      Intense THz pulses cause H2AX phosphorylation and activate DNA damage response in human skin tissue []
      Recent emergence and growing use of terahertz (THz) radiation for medical imaging and public security screening raise questions on reasonable levels of exposure and health consequences of this form of electromagnetic radiation. In particular, picosecond-duration THz pulses have shown promise for novel diagnostic imaging techniques. However, the effects of THz pulses on human cells and tissues thus far remain largely unknown. We report on the investigation of the biological effects of pulsed THz radiation on artificial human skin tissues. We observe that exposure to intense THz pulses for ten minutes leads to a significant induction of H2AX phosphorylation, indicating that THz pulse irradiation may cause DNA damage in exposed skin tissue. At the same time, we find a THz-pulse- induced increase in the levels of several proteins responsible for cell-cycle regulation and tumor suppression, suggesting that DNA damage repair mechanisms are quickly activated. Furthermore, we find that the cellular response to pulsed THz radiation is significantly different from that induced by exposure to UVA (400 nm).

      • THz != GHz (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Friday January 29, 2016 @01:55PM (#51397815) Journal
        That's great but Google are using gigahertz frequencies, not terahertz frequencies. There is a three order of magnitude difference. This roughly the same as the difference between visible light and extreme UV/X-rays and there is clearly a huge difference in how these two types of radiation interact with the body.
      • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
        First, this is THz radiation - almost infrared. At high field values (0.3W/cm^2!) with prolonged exposure times. There are many articles that describe effects at lower levels, but so far they all have problems with quality and/or reproducibility.

        What next? "Exposure to intense infrared radiation causes changes in cell structure?"
      • In other news PetaHertz and ExaHertz pulses pass through the body and give you cancer even in relatively small doses.

        I can quote information completely irrelevant to the subject at hand as well.

    • If you browse through the FCC database and read the objections to date, what you'll find is mainly a bunch of "OMG! Electromagnetic radiation will poison us! Stop Project Loon!"

      If you are going to name the project 'loon' why would you be surprised that the responses you get are loony?

  • Project Loon's main thrust has always seemed to be broadband in areas without real infrastrucure. While I'm sure they might like to test some stuff in the US, realistically they would likely be better off with a big rollout in Africa from a PR perspective which would also give them plenty of data for when/if they decided for a US or Europe rollout.
    • Generally, prototyping near your research facility is a lot more cost effective (and therefore produces more results) than traveling to distant regions with poor infrastructure and changeable political support.

  • by T.E.D. ( 34228 ) on Friday January 29, 2016 @02:27PM (#51398101)

    Google has stated that while concerns for health and environmental risks posed by Project Loon testing were 'genuinely held,' 'there is no factual basis for them.'

    While Google's belief that provably invalid health and environmental concerns aren't important in a political matter might be genuinely held, there is no factual basis for that belief.

  • The implementation of this project is a thoughtless affront to conservation of Helium when a cheaper and far more plentiful alternative is readily available, i.e. Hydrogen. Wikipedia states that they will simply vent the helium into the atmosphere after each balloon's 100 day end of life estimate - it's completely diffused and irrecoverable.

    Hydrogen is superior for this application - for example, weather balloons often use hydrogen due to cost, with side benefits being lower density and lower diffusion

To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk. -- Thomas Edison