Accepted Paper:

Free Radical Ambivalence: Tracing the Controversy around Low Frequency Radiation and Human Health  

Author:

Kelly Ladd (York University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is examines the growing controversy around low-frequency radiation from wifi and cell phones and human health through the ambivalent figure of the free radical as both a destructive bodily force and as a figure of radical thought and innovation.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is situated within the growing controversy around low-frequency radiation from wifi and cell phones and human health. There are an increasing number of people who claim to be made sick by low frequency radiation and as well as researchers who are working to uncover the "mechanism" by which low frequency is making them sick. One of these potential mechanisms is that low-frequency radiation increases the production of free radicals: molecules with an unpaired electron in the outer shell. These rogue, energetic molecules pull electrons from other molecules, creating a harmful, energetic cascade. Tying harm to free radical production is not new, from the free radical theory of aging to the explosion in popularity of free radical fighting super foods, free radicals have long been seen as the mechanism by which the environment negatively affects bodies. While free radicals are seen as harmful, they have simultaneously been taken up a metaphor for a new mode of anti-institutional thinking, fostered by digital technologies. At the molecular scale free radicals are harmful energetic actors while at the larger scale of bodies, they are independent, radical thinkers. As such, this paper broadly examines the controversy surrounding the health effects of low frequency radiation through the tangled and ambivalent figure of the free radical, as both a destructive bodily force and as a figure of radical thought and innovation.

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Energy Beyond Crisis: Energetic Bodies, Ecologies, and Economies