August 23, 2014
[02:35] How The Lapka Came About
[06:40] How The Lapka Measures EMF
[11:46] Measuring Radiation With The Lapka
[15:29] Why Are Radioactive Particles Important
[18:43] Radiation In A Baby's Room
[20:57] Nitrate Measurements Done By The Lapka
[24:53] Lapka's Humidity Measuring Function
[28:38] Interesting Feedback Vadik Got Regarding The Lapka
[33:01] End of Podcast
Ben: Hey, folks. It's Ben Greenfield, and I'm actually holding in my hands a device that I've been having a lot of fun with lately. You may have heard me mention to Brock on a podcast episode a few weeks ago about how I found out that the carrots in my fridge that I thought were organic actually had a ton of nitrates in them, and this was because I've got this little probe that I shoved into one of those carrots and measured the amount of nitrates with. And I've also been going around my home and annoying my wife and kids, not just by measuring nitrates in the fruits and vegetables that we eat, but I've been playing around, for example, in our bedroom unplugging and plugging certain things back in because this thing will measure how much EMF is in my bedroom. I've gone outside and measured the radiation in our backyard, the humidity in our house, the EMF in my office. It's pretty cool. Basically I've been able to count to hunt down and destroy all these little hidden health hazards in my environment. And what I've been using for all of this is this little device called the Lapka. And Vadik, the designer of the Lapka, is on the podcast with me today, and we're going to delve into not just what this thing is and how it works but how can actually help you because it's actually got some pretty cool applications. So Vadik, thanks for coming the call, man.
Vadik: Hello! Thank you for having me.
Ben: So tell me exactly what this thing is because I don't really quite understand how it works. But can you kind of give the basic overview of Lapka and all the things that it measures? And then we can kind of to delve into, as you talk about this, like how each of the measurements actually work. But can you go into how you came to design this and what it measures?
Vadik: Yes, of course. And thank you for a great introduction of the devices. Actually, it's really great. So Lapka is a company. So it's not just for devices that you own. It's actually five devices. And our first product called Personal Environment Monitor is a set of four separate units basically, four separate sensors which measure things that you don't see. And they're made in a beautiful way, and actually we call it ridiculously beautiful because people don't believe that they're real. They're so small, and they're so cute, and beautiful that people think that…
Ben: Yeah. They look like little Lego pieces that you plug into your phone.
Vadik: Yes. And I don't think that's good thing or a bad thing actually at this point, but people think that it's just a set of toys or something like this. Another interesting part is that, almost unintentionally, girls are our biggest fans. And we have requests from guys asking us to have a black edition.
Ben: A black one?
Vadik: A black one, yes.
Ben: Yeah. ‘Cause right now, it's beige with wood.
Vadik: It's beige with wood, with some very cute patterns on top. And we intentionally don't say things like, so yes, there's four devices. They measure radiation, humidity, temperature, electromagnetic fields, and nitrates in your fruits and vegetables. All these things are not very positive in real life. Like radiation. It's not something that you want to discover at one point, but also it's something that you don't want to think about even. Or electromagnetic fields. It's also a sensitive topic. Nitrates, which basically measures whether your produce is organic or not. It's also something not typical to talk about. It's kind of a sensitive topic. And the idea behind the design was to make the devices very, very friendly and very cute.
So people will think about the object first, and about the story, and about the beauty of it. And they will just want to own this object and hang it on the desk or some cafe with people, a conversation starter, rather than think about the purposes. So basically the idea is that people will buy the device because it's just beautiful. And then on the second day, they will realize that it actually measures radiation, for example. So in the app, and the story, and everything started from a Tweet, to a Facebook post, to packaging, to manuals, and to actual use of the device. So the application, industrial design, is based around the story. It's just very, very fun. And again, that's a good thing.
Ben: Yeah. It is pretty fun to use, like to just run around your house, measuring all this stuff. But we got a bunch of geeks that listen into this show, we're all nerds at the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast. So I think the people are probably going to want to delve into the science of this thing a little bit because it is kind of weird how this little Lego piece that you plug into your phone can measure stuff. So first of all, my first question for you is going to be the whole EMF thing 'cause that's something we've talked about on the podcast before. And people are aware of the dangers of electromagnetic fields that get produced by our phones, and WiFi devices, and nearby power lines, and microwaves, and all that kind of stuff. But how in the heck is this thing actually measuring the EMF? Like when I'm walking around my house with this plugged into my phone, what kind of device is in it that's measuring EMF?
Vadik: Have you tried to place it near the microwave?
Ben: Yeah. I've tried it in all sorts of areas in my house.
Vadik: It's different, right? Than you see it? So I actually tried microwave in some, actually in the US, in Los Angeles, in my friend's apartment. And the microwave was very fancy, but it emits electromagnetic fields five meters away from it. So it's interesting.
Ben: And incidentally, we actually keep our microwave unplugged now. But there are other weird things, like I plugged in the lamp next to my bed, and just the simple act of having a lamp plugged in or unplugged jacked up the EMF in the room.
Vadik: That's true. And things like, for example, the monitors in airplanes, they also emit EMFs. I don't think that it's super dangerous. It's just interesting to see that there's stuff around you. And coming back to your question about the accuracy and how we're doing it, there's no magic, of course. The computer inside your pocket, so the smartphone, or iPhone in this case, is super, super powerful. So we leave out all the processing power, the battery, any components besides sensors from the device. So they're just a sensor. That's it. And it plugs by cable, so that means there's no Bluetooth. Again there's no battery, there's no synchronization, you just plug the cable into your iPhone and it works. So by doing this, we were able to reduce size and make it very simple.
Ben: Does it work the same as one of those EMF meters? Like there's websites like lessemf.com where you can buy these meters.
Vadik: Yes. Well, there's many variations. There's very professional tools, but there's amateur tools. So I would say that we are at the amateur part still. However, the only difference is the size. So if you want to make the measurement very, very precise and accurate, you just need to have a bigger antenna. We have two antennas inside the device. There's for low frequency and for high frequency. So high frequency is cellphones, microwave, et cetera. Low frequency is fluorescent lamps, or high voltage lines outside your apartment. And these antennas are just tiny. They're very small. That's why we can't detect some things, like the source of the electromagnetic fields. The professional devices, they actually can detect the source and the direction of those fields. So you can detect where it's coming from. We can't do it because the antenna is so small. We can just sense that something's there.
Ben: So it's basically like an antenna inside this little block?
Vadik: Yes. There's just two antennas for low frequency and for high frequency electromagnetic fields.
Ben: Well I don't know how other people are using this thing, but I found a bunch of application in my office. Like I published a video on my YouTube channel the other day, if people want to watch it, you can go to youtube.com/bengreenfieldfitness. But I've got my WiFi router with the radio turned off and plugged in, like hard wired, and then I've got my computer grounded, and I have a dirty electricity filter in all of the power outlets in my office, I've got a negative ion generator, and what else do I have in here? I've got a dirty electricity filter between the router and my computer. Anyways, I set all this up, and then measured with the Lapka, and then put it all back into kind of like the situation where I was producing a lot more dirty electricity in the office, and it was like tens of units higher with the WiFi router on, and with the dirty electricity filter. My next thing is I'm going to try things one by one and see what makes the biggest difference. But it's pretty cool how I can just plug it into my phone.
Vadik: The difference between this device and the professional one that will cost you a couple of thousand dollars is that this device will be able to give you the direction, the source, and the measurement will be professionally precise. We can't guarantee that we can detect the source of the field, but we can certainly say that it's there, it's higher than it's supposed to be, and that's the number. Again, the only compromise is just the size of the device. Basically all other devices, for example the radiation sensor…
Ben: Yeah. That's what I want to ask you about next actually, is the radiation.
Vadik: Yeah. People are confused about why it's so small and…
Ben: Yeah, it's tiny.
Vadik: It's tiny. And there's an actual Geiger counter inside, it's a small tube, and it comes…
Ben: What'd you call it? A Geiger counter?
Vadik: Geiger counter, yes.
Ben: It's that like what we say over here in the States, a Geiger counter?
Vadik: Geiger counter? Yes. It's a small metal tube. And every radioactive particle that passes through this tube, we can detect it. And we actually count these particles. And based on the amount of particles in some period of time, we can tell your level of the ground radiation. So that's how any other device works. The only compromise that we had to do is that we make it a very small. And that's why the time that we need to make the measurement is longer than it will be in professional devices because the tube is bigger. So that's the only difference.
Ben: It only takes 60 seconds or something like that. It wouldn't take very long.
Vadik: The 60 seconds is not the precise one. So you have to wait five minutes. And after five minutes, you can compare it to any other professional device, it will be the same number. So it's just the only compromise again, the time.
Ben: I'm actually measuring the radiation right now. Everybody else using the device, I can see the amount of radiation across the entire United States right now from everybody else who's using it.
Vadik: Yes. We have a real time map. And every measurement, you of course can switch this off, but by default, we ask you, of course, in front. That's important. That's privacy. But if you say yes, we'll send every measurement that you take to our map in real time. So you'll see your measurements, but also you'll be able to see other people's measurements. And it's interesting to see how different they are. For example, we have two apps, one app is kind of more fun, more playful. There's achievements, there's no numbers. There's less numbers, more fun. And there's a second app, I don't know which one you tried, but there's a second app, it's called the pro app. And with pro app, there's no fun at all. It's just numbers and graphs, and you can see just the number, and that's it. So we leave the decision to you.
Ben: Yeah. Mine is the fun one. It's got this Tetris thing on.
Vadik: Yes. Exactly.
Ben: It gives me points for measuring my environment as I go. So it kind of gamifies it.
Vadik: Yes, yes, yes. And it's interesting to see that sometimes for some measurements, there's more people which measure with the pro application rather than fun application. And for example, if they measure organic with nitrates, they measure it with fun application because I guess that's how they feel. But if they measure something sensitive like radiation or electromagnetic fields, they use the pro app. So this kind of information we have, we now receive 500 measurements per day, around that. And of course, that's not 500,000, but it's still an okay number.
Ben: Yeah. I'm doing the pro app right now. I want to I want to ask you about these radioactive particles actually. Just for people who don't really understand this, can you explain what these radioactive particles are? Like what kind of things would emit radiation and why we should even care?
Vadik: I wouldn't go this deep. Because the idea of Lapka is not to participate in this holy war if there’s no organic food or is there organic food? Are EMF fields dangerous or are they not? These kind of questions. We don't really want to participate in that, so we do not ever talk about the danger. And that's on purpose because we just produce the beautiful and convenient tools for you. It's for people to decide. If it's a danger or not. Our position, I think that's important because we, again we don't want to be in this war between two universes. But just small information about the radiation is that there's three types of particles, it's alpha, beta, and gamma. The alpha is the easiest one because you can protect it even with a piece of paper. So the alpha particles won't pass through a piece of paper. The beta particles are more dangerous. I don't know the specifics and I won't talk about this, but there's beta and there's gamma. So gamma is the most dangerous one and it's a bit harder to detect them. So we detect the beta particles.
Ben: Gotcha. And there's different limits for radiation, like legal levels of radiation limits?
Ben: So you can set this up differently depending on whether you're in your baby's bedroom versus whether you're on an airplane.
Vadik: Yes. So coming back to, I mentioned that there was a person who just bought the device because it's just so beautiful and so fun. So this person won't know where to find electromagnetic fields or radiation because a normal person won't do this ever. That's kind of a strange thing to do it, I think. So we put these presets for people to guide them where they can find them. Like for example, if you're flying on the plane, your radiation on the ground level will be 10 times higher than on the ground because it's just closer to the sun. So it's a natural thing. And you can change it. It's not that dangerous. It's just nature. So if you want to measure radiation on the plane, you have to switch to the plane preset because the threshold will be different.
Ben: Yeah. It's got a different threshold depending on the environment that you're in.
Vadik: But if you will be, for example, if you have a newborn baby, then every particle is super important. So even that a tiny, tiny sign of radiation or electromagnetic fields, you want to know this. So the threshold is different for every situation.
Ben: What are some things that would be in a baby's bedroom that would produce radiation? Different than EMF.
Vadik: Well it's very specific, but once I was in a cafe in San Francisco and there was this very beautiful long marble table. And it's was just beautiful. And I showing Lapka to someone, and then they turn on the radiation, it was super, super high just because there's this huge marble stone, the table. So it's hard to say. There's many things that could emit some, but I think just to be honest, there's not much things that you can find in daily life around you for radiation.
Ben: But I mean things like Fukushima and things of that nature, like that might cause a little bit of nuclear radiation,right?
Vadik: It might, but again I think that we are safe more or less. Then nitrates is more sensitive because it's really a difference between frozen vegetables. Not to freak out, but you can find a very good one and a very bad one.
Ben: But there's some stuff too, like lead-based paint and things of that nature, that can produce radiation that could theoretically kind of put you in an environment where you could measure in one room in and see the difference in another room, and that could be due to something as simple as the paint on the wall.
Vadik: It could be. Yes. Well, we're working on another bunch of sensors. One of the most requested ones is actually Radon. Radon?
Vadik: Yes. It's something in the paint or [0:20:28] _____ sensor.
Ben: Or carbon monoxide from household appliances. That'd be another interesting one.
Vadik: Yes. Also in progress. Maybe there's a secret. I shouldn't say this.
Ben: So we've got EMF, we won't tell anybody. We've got EMF, we've got radiation, and then another one that we've already mentioned a couple times is this whole nitrate-based issue. First of all, how does this thing measure nitrates?
Vadik: So there's two types of sensors. There's many types of sensors, but there's basically a physical one and an electrochemical one. I mean electrical and electrochemical. So electrochemical is a very complicated sensor and we don't have that. We have just electrical sensor, which means that it measures the electricity conduction. That's it. Then you place steel probe in your produce, fruits or vegetable, say potato. It measures the conductivity of this potato. The conductivity depends on salt, and the salt, in most cases, the higher amount of salt could be the amount of fertilizers that are left there after you picked up this potato. Of course the salt there could be natural. Natural fertilizers will leave the big amount of salt. That's also possible. But again, most cases, this amount of salt, the big one, the very high one, could be from artificial fertilizers.
Ben: From nitrogen-based fertilizers? Yeah. So basically if you've got an organic fruit or vegetable and they weren't actually using organic farming practices and the produce had been exposed to nitrogen-based fertilizers, you can pretty much audit your produce to see whether or not it actually does meet the defined limits for nitrate concentration.
Vadik: Exactly. Again however, they could be very organic fertilizer. So these are things we can detect because it's just conductivity. It's not the chemical. It's not pesticides. The fruit or vegetable could still be poisoned, we can't detect it unfortunately.
Ben: Just to clarify for people listening in, it's like this probe, this needle that you stick into a carrot or a cucumber?
Vadik: Just to clarify this even more, this device is not capable to detect, say, is it 25 or 26? Because this precision is not possible in non-laboratory surroundings because you have to do the process right and you have to involve chemicals in the professionals to deduct this experiment in a very precise way. However, I think that that's the closest that we can get to measure the nitrates just in a shop or before you make a salad.
Ben: Interesting. And it's been a lot of fun. I have been annoying my wife quite a bit just walking around, plugging stuff into our produce and leaving small holes in it. But it's actually really cool. And I like too that you can, it gives you a basic idea of the amount of nitrates and it gives you some information along with it. Like when I measure, it tells me what the average concentration, like the accepted nitrogen limit is, and then where my produce measures up, which is pretty cool. So another one that you guys have, I guess this would be the fourth one, is the humidity. So you got radiation, you got electromagnetic fields, how organic your produce is, and then humidity. Why did you decide to put humidity in here?
Vadik: So we just had a list of the sensors that we wanted to build and we thought that it would be very great to come up with this environmental set that will expand further in the future. And I think if you think about the environment, temperature and humidity together is very important. So it won't make sense to measure just humidity because even if it's in a good position, say 55% rate of humidity is a good one, but then it's cold there, it's not great. So we're actually showing you the results based on the temperature, and we compare them together, and we're saying that humidity is okay for this temperature and we have this kind of sweet spot, we call it comfort zones, and then you measure something. You have to hit this comfort zone that's how we know you're in the right place. And these comfort zones actually comes from just commonsense sometimes, but also it comes from the specific parameters for office, like there is are actual numbers for perfect office conditions. Or there is some research for the best sleeping conditions. Or just something for fun like the temperature, humidity to store wine or cheese.
Ben: So you could, for example, instead of just looking at whether or not you sleep best, like a lot of people sleep really well in a room that's 66 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. But you could also start to play around and figure out, for example, the humidity in your room. Like I have one of those portable humidifiers that I'll travel with, you plug a water bottle into it and it will humidify your room. And when I go to a hotel, if I have this little square box that I plug a water bottle into and I humidify the air, I sleep better. But it'd be really interesting to see if there's a law of diminishing returns with humidity or if I could walk into a hotel room and just pull this thing out and measure humidity and see whether or not I would even need to plug this, my portable humidifier in. I could see there being some pretty cool application for something like this.
Vadik: Exactly. It's interesting because you said that EMF, for you, was the most interesting one. For me personally, I use humidity and temperature more than any other blocks, other sensors because again there is this sweet spot and you every time you want to hit the middle. You don't want to be outside of this comfort zone. You want to be in the middle. And every office I'm in, some friend's or partner's, I always share this because sometimes it's actually perfect because they care about this. But sometimes it's just so way out and people think like, “I know.” That's why I feel like this.
Ben: Interesting. Cool. So basically in terms of feedback you've been getting so far, have you found people using this in ways that you hadn't anticipated or like me, I could potentially use humidity, for example, for optimizing sleep. But have you've gotten some user feedback that you've found interesting?
Vadik: I would say that we achieved interesting results, not by how people measure and what they measure, but who's actually measuring. For example we sell the devices in Urban Outfitters, which is kind of incredible because this is a place for teenagers, and they can buy their EMF detector or Geiger counter. And I think that's our biggest achievement because these people will never buy these kind of devices by their own will because the topic in general is just boring or scary, and the devices are just ugly and super expensive. So we managed to do the device for just teenagers for example who are able to buy the device and use it because it's fun and because it's cool. And I think by doing this, we're actually introducing these things to them, because again there's no way they will measure this stuff wrong. And if you think about other devices, like blood sensor, or urine sensor, these kind of these things, how would you introduce this to teenagers? How would you introduce this to people who are not sick yet, who don't have prescription? So how do you make these people, especially young people, to buy the devices by their own will. And I think we get it there, that's our goal, and I would say that we just managed to, 16 year old boy or girl measure radiation because it's cool. I think that's our biggest achievement.
Ben: Yeah. Is this only for iPhone now, by the way?
Vadik: As I said, we have two products. One is this Personal Environment Monitor and another one is a breathalyzer. So the breathalyzer is iPhone and Android. The Personal Environment Monitor is just for iPhone at this point, but we'll launch Android soon.
Ben: Okay. So you're getting on Android soon. Nice. We'll I'm going to put a link to it. I mean I don't have financial association with your company or anything like that, I just think it's a pretty cool device. And by the way, just so I'm totally clear with our listeners, full disclosure, I did get a free device to trial. But after trying this thing out, I would definitely buy one. And I think it's pretty cool to be able to just walk around totally quantifying everything in your environment. So anyways though, I would encourage folks visit, well you can get it at mylapka.com, or you can you can check it out over in the show notes where I've got some more information on some of the science behind it and everything over at bengreenfieldfitness.com, but it's spelled L-A-P-K-A. Vadik, was there anything else you wanted to share with the listeners before I let you go?
Vadik: I think it's important to create the medical devices for healthy people. Because we can help you know we can make something different before we get sick. I think that's very important and the only way to make it to make it very cool, maybe strange, super fun, and with a very interesting narrative. That's what we're trying to do.
Ben: Yeah. Cool. Well, I like it. And it is cool. It's beautiful. I just have to make sure my kids don't get a hold of it and think it's like a special new Lego toy. But other than that, it's beautifully designed, so kudos, and it's super helpful, and I love it. So folks, it's called the Lapka, and you can check it out at mylapka.com, or over at bengreenfieldfitness.com in the show notes. Thanks for joining us today, Vadik, and telling us all about this thing.
Vadik: Thank you, Ben. It was very, very fun.
Ben: Alright. I'll talk to you later.
I have a new toy.
It's this set of tiny little blocks that are barely larger than Lego pieces (pictured above), and each little block can be connected to your phone to measure, collect and analyze the hidden qualities of your surroundings.
It's called a “MyLapka Personal Environment Monitor“. The Lapka is a tiny, beautifully designed personal environment monitor, and in today's podcast, I interview the designer, Vadik Marmeladov. In the interview, we talk about how the Lapka works, what it measures, how you can use it to quantify your environment to get healthier, and much more.
Each little block is equipped with a set of precise sensors which respond to the invisible world of particles, ions, molecules and waves. But Lapka doesn’t just quantify what it measures. You get results that are specific to where you happen to be at the moment. On the street, at the office, inside your baby's bedroom, or on an airplane – it actually compares readings to average guidelines for each individual environment.
The Lapka is actually comprised of four different devices that measure radiation, electromagnetic fields, humidity and how organic your produce is.
The first is Lapka Radiation, which measures all of the radioactive particles around you and is sensitive to levels of beta and gamma particles. Legal limits for radiation vary, and Lapka provides health guidelines for each. For example, a baby’s bedroom's legal limit is much lower than that of an airplane at 10,000 feet. Lapka knows to analyze in relation to this when you choose either the Airplane or Baby preset in the app.
The second is the Lapka Electromagnetic Field, which measures EMF’s caused by electronic devices, wireless transmitters, nearby power lines, etc. Lapka EMF takes measurements of both High Frequency and Low Frequency fields and can detect cell phone antenna activity, microwaves or exposed wires to reveal the spots with the least electromagnetic pollution. That’s where you might want to put your yoga mat.
Next is Lapka Humidity, which measures both the temperature and humidity of your environment. It combines and compares the results with a knowledge base of comfort standards to help you better understand your personal climate at any moment and ways that you could sleep better or think better based on temperature and humidity. Different scenarios – for example, wine storage and sleep comfort — call for different temperatures and levels of moisture (don’t sleep in your wine cellar, by the way).
Finally, Lapka Organic detects whether or not your fruits and vegetables were really grown organically. The little probe simply measures ionic conductivity, which correlates to the quantity of nitrates left behind from nitrogen-based fertilizers. Each fruit and vegetable has a defined limit for nitrate concentration, and conductivity that significantly exceeds these limits suggests the use of non-organic farming practices. So you can find out whether that organic carrot is really organic.