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Ohio Supreme Court Drawn Into Magnetic Homes Case

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the Just-when-I-thought-I-was-out-they-pull-me-back-in dept.

The Courts 462

The Ohio Supreme Court will decide if a builder will have to replace magnetized parts of two couples' homes, even though they signed a limited warranty which did not specifically cover replacing positively- or negatively-charged building materials. After moving into the homes the couples found that something was not quite right. Their TV screens were distorted. Cordless phones ran into interference. Computer hard drives were corrupted. Soon after, it was discovered that steel joists in the homes had become magnetized."

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462 comments

Why replace? (2)

kimvette (919543) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633816)

Just rent a large degaussing coil.

Re:Why replace? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37633820)

Anybody here have a large mallet I can borrow? I think that I can fix this one real cheap!

Re:Why replace? (5, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633898)

Gives a whole new definition to "Attractive home in desirable neighbourhood"

Re:Why replace? (1)

n5vb (587569) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633840)

You *could* heat them up above their Curie point. Not sure how strong they'd be after that though .. :p

Re:Why replace? (1)

Genda (560240) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634114)

I'm guessing the flammable materials in the house would fail long before you damaged or even altered the joists. Why yes, we were absolutely able to eliminate that nagging magnetism... oh that, well yes only the metal parts survived the ensuing conflagration, but consider smoldering ashes a small price to have working electronics in a this modern world :-) No thanks required! good day.

Re:Why replace? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634342)

Not sure how strong they'd be after that though

in b4 1,000,000 trolls claiming controlled detonations and inside jobs. Hurr Durr steel and concrete does not burn, etc, ad nauseam.

Re:Why replace? (2, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633890)

No shit.

The navy used to degauss whole fucking battleships in the second world war.

You can even buy commerical degaussing wands for repairing old crt deflection plates reasonably cheap, now that crt is essentially a dead technology. My old employer had several for just this purpose.

What I want to know is how the hell the joists picked up such a magnetic potential in the first place.

Re:Why replace? (2)

Torinir (870836) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634014)

Bad wiring, perhaps? Running electrical wires in close proximity to the steel joists could cause magnetization of the joists over time. Iron and its alloys are pretty easy to magnetize in that manner.

Re:Why replace? (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634120)

Bad wiring, perhaps? Running electrical wires in close proximity to the steel joists could cause magnetization of the joists over time. Iron and its alloys are pretty easy to magnetize in that manner./quote

Last I checked we use alternating current in this country.

Re:Why replace? (3, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634304)

Hmm. I lined my last house with tongue and groove pine boards and noticed that adjacent boards contained slices through imperfections in the original trees. This is because the boards are produced, processed, transported and installed serially. So maybe the metal structural components of the house have a shared history? If they get heated in a foundry the magnetic poles will be free to align against the prevailing field, which could be quite strong if there is a lot of DC current around. Then they get stacked and installed in the house, still in the same orientation relative to each other.

Re:Why replace? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37634050)

The summary reads like BS anyway.
If they actually have magnetic mono-poles in their house they should sell them for millions of dollars, instead of complaining about it.
No one describes a magnet as "positively charged".
Also charge is an entirely different property than magnetism.
It seems far more likely the beams are not properly grounded and are possibly acting like an antenna, causing all kinds of interference.
And unless they mounted their hard drives onto the "magnetic" beams I seriously doubt the field is strong enough to affect them.

Finally I have to wonder how would these beams get magnetized?
Did the electrician wrap some power cables around it?

Re:Why replace? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634154)

My thoughts exactly.

Further, the level of the magnetic field that would be required to corrupt a hard drive in a computer would yank the door knobs off and tools could be hung up just by throwing them against the wall.

Re:Why replace? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37634274)

Further, the level of the magnetic field that would be required to corrupt a hard drive in a computer would yank the door knobs off and tools could be hung up just by throwing them against the wall.

I hate when people post incorrect opinions as facts, yet they never seem to realize it turns a guy with a guess into a liar. Quit lying you lying liar.

You are correct in that an "off" hard drive stored in a magnetic field will require a very very strong field to cause issues. But you were too stupid to consider the effect on a HD while it's writing. Can you imagine that a much smaller field could effect the heads? Even a .0001% error in head placement is a massive problem. But no, you are too stupid to consider the operation of the drive, and instead post your lies because you are too stupid to actually think about the issue.

Re:Why replace? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634284)

We still degauss ships. Neither the necessity, nor the art, was lost when the war ended.

Re:Why replace? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634326)

Or heat the homes past the Curie temperatures [wikipedia.org] . Hopefully with the builders still inside them. Then let them cool off.

I have to wonder... (5, Interesting)

Kiralan (765796) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633830)

... just how strong the magnetic field is, for it to affect the hard drive of a computer at any likely distance. It seems like metal objects would be flying through the air and sticking to the floor. Also, I have to wonder how a static magnetic field would affect most phones. Seems there would have to be an alternating field of some sort to do so. Finally, any links to the 'numbers' (field strength, gauss, whatever the proper term is)?

Re:I have to wonder... (2)

Vegemeister (1259976) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633868)

If it was strong enough to affect hard drives, it may have been strong enough to attenuate the phones' signals by cyclotron resonance.

Of course, by the time hard disks are affected I think they'd start noticing dropped aluminum objects drifting lazily to the ground.

Re:I have to wonder... (5, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633874)

Yes, something definitely seems fishy here. You have to have a really strong magnetic field to affect a hard drive from any distance. Are steel objects flying out of their hands and sticking to the corners of the room? And yes, magnetic fields should have zero effect on electronic equipment, unless it's moving (which creates an electric field). If the house is like those rotating restaurants, except much faster, and is spinning around a stationary phone, I can see how that would cause a problem...

Re:I have to wonder... (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633912)

And yes, magnetic fields should have zero effect on electronic equipment, unless it's moving (which creates an electric field).

And guess what a computer hard drive does 5400 to 10800 times a minute.

Re:I have to wonder... (5, Informative)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634026)

but the casing of (all?) commercial HDDs is designed to attenuate magnetic fields. this is because there is a great big honking rare earth magnet built right into the drive, just inches away from the platter. It is used to drive the voice coil actuator that moves the head around. Having that just a few inches away from floppy diskette drives (now a rarity, but still) without such attenuation would have been "Bad, M'kay."

to not only have sufficient magnetic flux at the platter surface, but also be sufficient to cause electrical eddies inside the platters due to the rotation, the walls would have to be several million tesla in magnetic potential.

Flying forks and hallucenations would be occuring long before this would become a problem.

Re:I have to wonder... (3, Informative)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634036)

Yes, so what? A hard drive is magnetically and EMI shielded, for one thing (it's encased in metal), but we're talking about a house's structural members interfering with a phone, not a hard drive interfering with a phone. Probably everyone here has both a hard drive (or several), and a phone (or several); anyone experiencing interference between the two? The house owners are complaining of the house itself causing problems with their hard drives and their phones, not of their hard drives interfering with their phones.

Finally, hard drive platters, while coated with a magnetic substance, don't have much overall magnetism by themselves. Take one apart, take the platter out, and see if you can get it to stick to anything steel; it won't. The great source of magnetism in the HD is from the read-write head, which actually doesn't move very much (it just moves back and forth in a small arc), and also from some rather strong permanent magnets that are affixed to the HD chassis (used in the arm mechanism), and which don't move at all.

Re:I have to wonder... (3, Insightful)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634044)

It's surrounded by a Faraday's Cage... twice.

I am very familiar with the effects of strong magnetic fields. To get such an effect you would have to have an active wide-band transmitter (to affect TV's, computers and everything else that's claimed) and the power consumption of the house alone (if it's even possible to create a magnet that size with the amount of ferro-magnetic material available) would be through the roof. A magnet with that power would require supercooling and at least a couple of residential power supplies from the power company to magnetize the space of a large living room.

Re:I have to wonder... (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634204)

And guess what a computer hard drive does 5400 to 10800 times a minute.

I have a pair of 15K RPM SCSI drives that beg to differ. ;-)

Re:I have to wonder... (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634018)

Magnetic fields also effect any electronics that involve electric currents, which is... all of them.

Re:I have to wonder... (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634156)

While it's been a long time since my EM Fields classes, I don't believe that is correct. You have to have a moving or changing magnetic field to create an electric field (which is why transformers for instance only work with AC), and generally, a static magnetic field should not affect electronics. There are some exceptions, however, for components which themselves use magnetism, namely inductors and transformers which have iron cores. If the static field is strong enough, it could saturate the iron cores of these components, causing them to not work as designed. But you don't see transformers much in modern electronics (they've been replaced with switch-mode power supplies), though you do see inductors, mainly in those SMPSes. Anyhow, the strength of a static magnetic field needed to have any effect on this stuff would have to be huge. Sticking your computer inside an MRI, for instance, would probably affect it. But an MRI is strong enough to suck in large metal objects from around the room at high velocity. There's nothing here saying this house's structural members were magnetized to that extent (nor would it be possible, I should think, unless they made them of exotic rare-earth materials which would of course make them poor structural members). If this were the case, the owners would be complaining that all their metal objects were sticking to the walls, a much worse problem than their phone not working!

Re:I have to wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37634288)

A nice summary of the situation. It will keep you from looking silly: http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/affect.html [wsu.edu]

Re:I have to wonder... (1)

reve_etrange (2377702) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634136)

Static magnetic fields definitely /do/ affect CRT displays, and it doesn't require that strong of a field, either.
Any regular old bar magnet will cause significant distortion (picture, color); actually this is one of the best ways of visualizing magnetic fields for students. Though it requires an old TV no one cares about it's a bit more exciting than iron filings or "black sand."
The Exploratorium in San Francisco has an exhibit [exploratorium.edu] demonstrating this.

Re:I have to wonder... (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634230)

That's true; in another post here I also mention that (sufficiently large) static fields will affect other magnetic components such as transformers and iron-core inductors. However, CRTs are pretty much dead these days except in a very few specialized applications. A lot of readers here probably don't even have any any more. I've got one here near me, but it's part of a 35-year-old oscilloscope....

Re:I have to wonder... (2)

Commontwist (2452418) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634298)

Static magnetic fields definitely /do/ affect CRT displays, and it doesn't require that strong of a field, either. .

They certainly do. One lady in my former workplace got a brand new 23" CRT monitor (bloody heavy and not missing CRTs of that size!) but when me and a co-worker installed it the picture was wonky at the top. We figured--new monitor, CRT, needs to warm up--but after a day or two it was still bad. Tried another--same thing.

At this point we started checking her desk area and discovered that she had a whole box of children's magnets right above her old monitor's location. Didn't affect the 17" CRT but the 23" protested. She even had the darn collection there long enough that it magnetized the metal shelving it was on, affecting the 23" even when we moved the magnets. Put CRT in different spot while someone else replaced shelf--not us for we had done more than enough thanks to her.

Morale of story? Do NOT bring a collection of magnets near your working computer's location. Ever. Yeesh!

Re:I have to wonder... (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634184)

>>And yes, magnetic fields should have zero effect on electronic equipment

You never used a TV before flatscreens, I take it?

The electrons being shot out by a CRT are pretty sensitive to magnetic fields, and a strong source nearby definitely can warp or distort the scene being displayed. Permanently, too, if you are dumb enough to directly stick a magnet to the box.

Re:I have to wonder... (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634262)

You never used a TV before flatscreens, I take it?

I have, but like many people I've ditched CRT TVs, so this really shouldn't be a concern for most people. But yes, if you still have some antique equipment around (perhaps an old oscilloscope or arcade game), then static fields should be a concern for you, however even though CRTs can be affected by relatively weak fields (it's not like you need an MRI nearby to see the effect!), I seriously doubt that the frame members in a steel-framed house could create a field strong enough to make a noticeable difference on an old CRT. Steel framing is nothing new at all; while it's somewhat new for houses, it's been used in commercial buildings for what, over 100 years now? If there were any real problems with magnetization, we'd have seen it by now.

Re:I have to wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37633876)

pretty fucking likely to erase a hard drive. we had to open the cases to get a professional
degausser to reliably erase hard drives.

cause a crt to have distortion? yes. lcd? i dont think so. buy they a new flat screen.

the steel beams are going to block cordless cell phones regardless of magnetic charge.

Re:I have to wonder... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37633878)

Sounds like BS to me. No random amount of metal is going to accidentally acquire enough of a magnetic charge to affect computer hard drives or phones. You can wave a magnet around a hard drive and nothing will happen: the field strength has to be significantly high at the platter to cause any damage. And by then you'd notice things being attracted to the walls way before caring about data corruption.

(Minor) distortion in the picture of a CRT TV (these guys still use CRTs?) I can believe but not the others.

Re:I have to wonder... (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633928)

Indeed. Magnets don't work that way. The claim is bullshit.

Re:I have to wonder... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37634118)

Magnets, how do they work?

Re:I have to wonder... (1)

djwoodard (944832) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634368)

I was really surprised how far down I had to read before someone made this comment.

Re:I have to wonder... (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634146)

True to that. Have you ever played with the voice coil magnets from a hard drive? They are strong as hell, and in spite of being in a magnetic circuit there's plenty of leakage from them that's strong enough to let you feel stickiness of various hard drives to steel, no disassembly required. Try it -- you need to have different drives at hand as with some the effect is stronger than others. Even laptop drives, such as Hitachi's used by Apple, show this effect. Obviously, hard drives survive all that just fine. Two very strong magnets literally millimeters away from the platters.

Re:I have to wonder... (2)

Y-Crate (540566) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633964)

... just how strong the magnetic field is, for it to affect the hard drive of a computer at any likely distance. It seems like metal objects would be flying through the air and sticking to the floor. Also, I have to wonder how a static magnetic field would affect most phones. Seems there would have to be an alternating field of some sort to do so. Finally, any links to the 'numbers' (field strength, gauss, whatever the proper term is)?

I'd love to know if they've checked the quality of the electricity supply in the house. Dirty power supplies can wreak havoc.

Re:I have to wonder... (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634246)

... just how strong the magnetic field is, for it to affect the hard drive of a computer at any likely distance. It seems like metal objects would be flying through the air and sticking to the floor. Also, I have to wonder how a static magnetic field would affect most phones. Seems there would have to be an alternating field of some sort to do so. Finally, any links to the 'numbers' (field strength, gauss, whatever the proper term is)?

I would think that for a magnetic field of the magnitude claimed tesla would be the appropriate measurement. 10,000 gauss= 1 tesla.

Ceilings (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37633842)

"After moving into the homes the couples found that something was not quite right. Their TV screens were distorted. Cordless phones ran into interference. Computer hard drives were corrupted." And, their tinfoil hats were stuck to the ceiling.

Re:Ceilings (1)

Pete Venkman (1659965) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633926)

I don't care if you're an AC--THAT was funny!

Re:Ceilings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37634066)

They must have bought it from that weird guy who wore a cape that looks like a comic book character.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magneto_%28comics%29

Re:Ceilings (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634260)

My first thought was that it was more of those "wireless/EM sensitive" nutters. If they have tangible proof though, well... this could turn out interesting.

Re:Ceilings (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634292)

"Their TV screens were distorted. Cordless phones ran into interference. Computer hard drives were corrupted."

All these things have also occurred in my home. I think that the wooden studs in my house may have become magnetized.

could it be ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37633854)

maybe they're just on THE island.

Hmm... (2)

Torinir (870836) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633884)

I'm not certain that the company *should* win. But should and will are two different beasts.

According to TFA "By signing the contracts, the buyers agreed to waive claims for repairs except those specifically mentioned in a separate document, which was available for inspection at a separate location and not before or at the time they bought the houses." The main point is that the restrictions were not available for review where the contract was being provided and signed. Hiding the restrictions on a contract prior to its acceptance? Smells really funky to me, and were I in their shoes, I wouldn't have signed it in the first place.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37633920)

If you knew anything about technology the first thing you'd see is fishy here is the home owners claims. I guess being technically minded is a prerequisite long gone from Slashdot though.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633960)

In general buying a warranty from a salesman is a bad move. Free ones are fine if the price is otherwise right. However, if you are buying some kind of service contract, go 3rd party as you'll pay about a third as much and be less likely to get ripped off - you went to somebody because they were a good homebuilder, not a reputable warranty company.

Oh, and always go with named exclusions, not named inclusions. It is WAY easier to find loopholes in the latter.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37633996)

There's a reason why states have the authority to say "Screw your contract, that ain't right, your contract is null for that purpose!"

And this sounds like one of them, questions of the actual harm aside. I remember somebody saying that there was no way Drywall could be dangerous.

Uh-huh. Turns out they were wrong.

Interesting problem (2)

jimmyswimmy (749153) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633908)

When I have signed contracts to purchase things, I have had to sign waivers limiting liability. Those waivers certainly covered reasonable expectations and disclaimed certain possible defects. This is a terrible problem for both sides, because it is just completely unexpected. I have never before heard of a steel beam's magnetization causing such difficulty. TFA is pretty slim on the real effects they are experiencing. I wonder if this is just one of those pseudo-scientific problems (magnetism = evil?) or if it is a real problem, or if it's just my reading comprehension. It would be interesting to see what the field measurements actually looked like. You'd need a very strong magnet to affect a TV from any significant distance.

At least with smaller pieces of metal you can whack them a few times to re-randomize the magnetic domains. I don't know if that actually works for something large enough to support a building (you might have to hit it hard enough to damage it or the structure it supports). Depending on the alignment of the magnetic field it might be possible to form an electromagnet to cancel its field ("degauss" it). Or the structural members can be replaced and removed (I've done this in my house). Most of these options are pretty expensive (except for the first one where you hit it a lot with a hammer).

It seems unfair for me, as a homebuyer, to get stuck dealing with a house which was built with nonstandard components (in the form of a magnetic structural support). From the builder's perspective it seems like this would be something that they would have to eat and then go after the material seller for their losses, if they can prove when the magnetization occurred.

Re:Interesting problem (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634098)

Degaussing structural steel can be done entirely with stuff you can buy at Harbor Freight for crying out loud. Who the heck needs to replace anything? It doesn't even cost anything. When you're done, return the welder to the store.

I truly don't buy this story. It can't be just structural steel. I really need to dig into the court documents for this case, I'm in Ohio after all :)

Re:Interesting problem (1)

Algae_94 (2017070) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634166)

I don't buy they idea that the structural components are magnetized to a great enough extent to cause these problems, but even if they are, I fail to see how that makes them nonstandard. They are not any weaker in regards to their strength, and they are simply structural components. Should have used wood beam construction to begin with, stop letting builders get away with cheap building materials. Of course I don't have to worry about termites where I'm at.

Chose builder that gives you the lowest quote..... (2)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633910)

...get what you pay for.

When homebuyers decide to get a house within their budget instead of stretching for extra rooms by going cheap on construction, they'll get better quality. Building a 2000 sq ft house on a 1500 sq ft budget means, necessarily, cutting some corners. If you don't realize that, you either aren't paying attention or you are deluding yourself.

The quality on some of these new houses is really atrocious. I've seen cabinets fall apart after 10-12 years, decks rotting after 15, drywall that won't even hold a painting. I saw a dishwasher held to a cabinet by a pair of wood screws.

Re:Chose builder that gives you the lowest quote.. (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633980)

Why home buyers figure out that a brand new home in a band new subdivision is nothing but a great big PITA for the next 20 years. Get a nice old home if it's been standing for 100 years it's probably going to continue to do so if make sure the roof gutters and siding are in good order.

Re:Chose builder that gives you the lowest quote.. (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634046)

I agree, mostly cause I watched the neighborhood next to the one I lived in growing up.

Our houses were made in the 50's, not really old for houses, but the sardine can developer projects on the other side of the hill were made in the early 90's, my parents house with reasonable but not insane maintenance is in great shape. 5 years after the developer cram houses were made the metal door jams were buckling and rusting, and the crappy nylon siding was cracking. now you go there and all the houses have some major foundation issues for anyone buying (though not major if its not a new investment) bricks are loose enough to just yank off the houses and most of the plastic frame windows have gaps big enough to stick your fingers in.

Its not that "they just dont make them like they used to", its that "they make them as cheap as possible to maximize profit and run the hell out of town" and that is sad considering the outlandish price they ask.

we are looking at houses, some are awesome, some are real beaters that need some love, none are built post 1980.

Re:Chose builder that gives you the lowest quote.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37634142)

5 years after the developer cram houses were made the metal door jams were buckling and rusting, and the crappy nylon siding was cracking.

Well, these new house developments definitely cut corners, sure, but five years for all that? Seems like you can sue the builders and have them fix it. I just bought a house from one of the sardine-can home builders and my contract includes a ten-year warranty for any structural defects.

I mean, I got a mortgage, and I can't imagine the bank giving me a loan with collateral that could rot away like that. I'm pretty sure that if the builders want to sell to people who will get loans, they need to offer such warranties.

Re:Chose builder that gives you the lowest quote.. (2)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634316)

Hard to sue the builders when it's a corp formed just to build the one development then closed down there are no assets. Things have gotten better with them requiring an insurance company to cover that warranty.

Re:Chose builder that gives you the lowest quote.. (1)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634092)

why would someone buy a 20yo house instead of a 100yo house? Hmm...lets think on that a sec... Well, off the top of my head, how about the dramatically increased knowledge about, and regulations then concerning, electrical wiring during that time period? How about the dramatically different levels of insulation the houses would likely have? Because while an old house may be quaint, nothing sucks like paying high heating bills in the winter as your heat just runs straight out the walls, cracks, and single-pane windows - and then the cool does the same during the summer (oh wait, cooling? you likely don't have that, or it was cobbled on after-the-fact in a very ugly and inefficient way). Constantly chasing problems with your electronics because not only is the wiring faulty/flaky/without grounding/likely polarity swapped all over is AWESOME, let me tell you. Not having phone wiring in your house is ok these days, because hell - who has landlines anymore anyway. But it would be nice to have cable runs, which yeah - I guess you could run wires along the floor or something. Sounds great. I mean damn, the old house I owned was built in the 50s, and even it drove me nuts with the cloth-covered non-grounded wiring. Fragile crap I couldn't touch else it would crumble - ended up just throwing up my hands and replacing about 80% of the wiring in the house. And we didn't have an AC, because you know - people in that area just didn't have them in the 50s. But even if we did, it would have been too expensive to run - I took an infrared camera to it one winter and heat came from...everywhere. There wasn't some particular this or that I could improve, it was just...pouring out everywhere. Everyone I've known with an old house has the same problems. You really think that's somehow better? Really?

Re:Chose builder that gives you the lowest quote.. (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634182)

No kidding. My dad has been remodeling his house and in the process discovered the rather astonishing electrical circuits involved. One of which circles the entire house. And seemingly random splicings that could have burned the house down years ago.

Not to mention things like the chimney lacking reinforcing in case of earthquakes.

Re:Chose builder that gives you the lowest quote.. (2)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634222)

I didn't say buy and old house and leave it as it is. The price of the house plus a full interior remodel can be similar to building new. I live in a 109 year old house, first thing I did was replace the electrical with a two story house with open attic and basement it's pretty straight forward. Had electrical well above code in a weekend on a 3k square foot home. Cat 6, rg6 and speaker wiring in another couple weekends nearly up to full structured wiring specs (speakers were matched length straight runs). Hell I had fiber out the the garage in another weekend and a ditch witch rental. Figure a thousand in wire etc (those new ground fault bits are expensive).

Re:Chose builder that gives you the lowest quote.. (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634140)

Trouble is that most people are clueless to what they're getting, so you can pay a fair price for a 2000 sq ft house and still get crap, except you've spent more. To take a beloved group of workers here on slashdot, is the consultant with the highest price tag the best? And for what it's worth, the amount of hidden problems people take over when they buy old houses is usually larger, not smaller. Sellers will often sell at convienient times, kniwing things will break down very soon but not just yet.

Re:Chose builder that gives you the lowest quote.. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37634302)

most dishwashers mount by 2 wood screws.

Highly Suspect (4, Insightful)

bragr (1612015) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633918)

Have you ever tried to kill a harddrive with a magnet? It basically requires passing a rare earth magnet closely over the platters several times before the data is reliably damaged and if they had that kind of magnetic fields it would cause much bigger problems. And while I don't know to much about the properties EM radiation, I believe that magnetic fields don't interfere with radio waves.

My guess is that its the steel beams themselves are causing interference with the phones, that they incidentally had hdd failures (they have lived there for like 6 years), and the the steel beams have slight magnetic field because a small amount of current is passing through them (electricians like to ground to steel beams instead of running a ground line back to power box and putting to ground their) and they blame that weak magnetic field for their problems.

This is all purely speculation because they don't give any real details about the field.

Re:Highly Suspect (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633954)

Actually depends on the field. Just remember you don't need to turn around and screw with the plate. You only need to screw around with the electronics. And if the controller screws up, well that's enough to corrupt data all on it's own.

Re:Highly Suspect (1)

bragr (1612015) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634006)

I think it would be easier to mess with the data on the platter than the solid state electronics on the control board, especially since the disk is actually moving through the field as a result of the rotation while the control board is stationary.

Re:Highly Suspect (1)

aXis100 (690904) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634030)

Static magnetic have little to no impact on electronics. Also there would still be more leakage magnetism from the HDD magnets and drive motor than a steel beam from any distance.

Re:Highly Suspect (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634060)

Electronics typically don't give shits nor giggles about static fields, unless magnetic forces due to said fields mechanically damage the devices in question. About the only things that care about static fields are signal isolator chips that use magnetic technology. Those can get saturated with static fields -- I have an ILxxx series isolator (from NVE [nve.com] ) and it'd stop working when placed on a PC board right next to the coil of a small safety relay. It was the static field that would cause it to stop working. Solution was to turn the relay 180 degrees around on the board, as the coil was then moved to the end far from the isolator chip. That relay had a fairly decent coil, I don't think you could ever magnetize structural steel in a typical U.S. 2-story home to produce such a field at any sane distance from said steel (1 foot or more).

Re:Highly Suspect (2)

timnbron (1166139) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634024)

I did an experiment years ago on a 5 inch floppy disk and a fridge magnet. I had to put the magnet in direct contact with the disk surface itself before I got any corruption. If it took that much on a 1980s floppy, it must surely take much more on a shielded and enclosed hard drive.

Cathode ray tubes certainly. Used to have lots of fun making the screen change colour, until my parents got upset. But it would still take a very strong field even for that.

Re:Highly Suspect (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634206)

Hard drives are not shielded against static magnetic fields. Low-frequency shields are usually made from Mu-metal (or similar materials) and are fragile as hell -- they lose their shielding properties if you handle them incorrectly. You'll find them on cathode-ray oscilloscope tubes, and perhaps magnetometer-type instrumentation. You can easily check for that: get a non-stainelss steel screwdriver and move it around on the surface of hard drive's enclosure (don't touch electronics!). You'll feel it attracted to the voice coil magnets. Any shielding would work bidirectionally: it would short circuit the magnetic circuit and prevent the internal magnets from affecting outside of the drive, just as it'd prevent the converse: external field affecting the inside. Hard drives are enclosed in aluminum. Useless against static and low-frequency fields.

Your other points are valid, of course.

Re:Highly Suspect (1)

mortonda (5175) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634124)

electricians like to ground to steel beams instead of running a ground line back to power box and putting to ground their

Citation please? That is quite contrary to code, and any building inspector would yank the electrician's license if they did that.

Re:Highly Suspect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37634200)

SD cards and usb flash drives easily corruptable with magnetism.

Re:Highly Suspect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37634240)

Well, it could be some sort of EM that interferes with the data transmission. Although with all the checksum in SATA I wonder how that is possible...

degauss it (4, Interesting)

Bork (115412) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633922)

If its just a couple of beams, it can be degaussed using a arc-welded and a few wraps of the arc-welds cables around the beam. There is a more to the procedure but the tools are easy to obtain. Did this in the Navy, wrap a submarine in about 300 turns of cable and run a few thousand amps through them.

Re:degauss it (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633992)

If its just a couple of beams, it can be degaussed using a arc-welded and a few wraps of the arc-welds cables around the beam. There is a more to the procedure but the tools are easy to obtain. Did this in the Navy, wrap a submarine in about 300 turns of cable and run a few thousand amps through them.

And why would a residential house have more than one or two steel beams? I've seen them holding up basements but that's pretty much it. And if it was just one or two beams, the field would have to be absolutely intense or the family is putting all of their electronics on the floor in a straight line over the I beam.

Something doesn't add up.

Re:degauss it (2)

mhotchin (791085) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634002)

"wrap a submarine in about 300 turns of cable and run a few thousand amps through them."

I find your ideas intriguing, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter!

Re:degauss it (1)

witherstaff (713820) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634350)

Trying to replicate what they did with the Eldridge [wikipedia.org] ?

Trust the Free Market (0)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633952)

"But Centex’s attorney, Michael Long, urged justices to trust the free market."

That "free market" shit works on a macro scale. If thousands of people were affected by this, and Centex were already going out of business because they were returning their homes for a refund, then it might be a reasonable argument. But when a couple of people are screwed by the company, they do not have enough "free market" power to make Centex change a damned thing.

Fuck Centex, and fuck their lawyer. Find for the plaintiffs and triple the damages. That's muh rulin'.

Re:Trust the Free Market (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37634250)

"Free market" doesn't mean no courts. Without courts to enforce contract law, there wouldn't be a free market. There would be chaos.

"Free market" does not mean anarchy. In some cases, you need government regulation to create a free market, because without regulation, there would be a natural monopoly.

junk science (2)

t2t10 (1909766) | more than 2 years ago | (#37633956)

Modern TVs aren't influenced by magnetic fields anymore. Static magnetic fields don't cause cell phone interference. And hard drives have such high magnetization that erasing them is extremely hard.

Re:junk science (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37634058)

Exactly the points I was going to make. There's a huge magnet already inside every hard drive, millimeters away from the platters. It doesn't erase them, because you need a biasing frequency to get the particles moving before you can perturb them. A static magnetic field, which is DC, will also not affect a cellphone which uses RF frequencies. And, even if they still have CRTs, the magnetic field from even the wall behind the set would be so small as to be unnoticed on the screen.

If it's a flat panel TV and not a CRT, then that claim is complete bogus as well. The question is, how do we make money from this crowd?

Re:junk science (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634072)

I have personally taken a radio shack reel to reel tape eraser (a 120 volt electromagnet with a handle and a button) to the top of a hard drive on more than one occasion with no effect.

Bullshit supreme (3, Informative)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634042)

The people who claim they are affected are just mixing things that, to their uneducated minds, are the same thing. Static magneticity, radio waves, same difference, right?

It reads like a bunch of BS. Do they still have CRTs in their TVs? In typical 2-story U.S. homes, there's structural steel in a few isolated places -- a beam or two in the basement, perhaps another beam and a column in the garage. That would, at best, cause some changes in color. It'd need to be substantial to cause geometric distortion of the image itself. You can have typical home speakers a few feet away from a color CRT and there's no effect. That structural steel would need to be magnetized quite well to see the effects they claim.

Hard drives won't be affected by any remnant magnetization of structural steel that's a byproduct of production, shipping and storage in varied conditions. Same goes for wireless devices -- static fields do nothing much to them. I'll read their case and perhaps pay them a visit, I need to see it to believe it.

"Implied warrant of Habitibility" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37634048)

As a long time City Planner, I'm surprised that the their attorney did not bring up the "implied warranty of habitability" that is a standard among housing disputes. The clause, included in most building codes, mortgages and fair housing laws has a broad meaning but insures that any housing sold and or rented is habitable. Making a case that the house is NOT habitable with the "magnetic" defects may require some digging around. But if a homeowner CANNOT enjoy the creature comforts of their home,(like TV or the internet) that is enjoyed by others due, whole or in part, to construction defects or errors, they may have a case. ADD the fact that the magnetic interference may interrupt or cause to behave erratically any medical devices, then you have an extra "clear and present danger" to the habitability of their house.

Due diligence, like inspecting the list of defects covered, may not be probative in this case, if their attorney can prove that this condition happened in a prior building and was not specifically mentioned as a possible defect.

Steel beams - in a home? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37634054)

The only time I've seen steel beams in a home is just a single beam
to replace the centre wood beam. It's a significant expanse, but you
get a basement without support posts, etc. Homes (as far as I know)
are stick-framed, not sky scrapers. This whole thing sounds shady...

Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37634056)

The easiest way to get rid of magnetism is with flame so just burn the house down.

HDD BS (4, Interesting)

retech (1228598) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634078)

I've got a bulk tape eraser. Which is an electro-magnet. Tried to erase a few laptop and 3.5 hdds with it. I could pick the drives up by it holding onto the scant bits of ferrous metal in them but was unable to blank any of them. I tried one drive for 3 minutes and it still booted an OS just fine. If they had beams that could corrupt their drives their keys, belts, zippers, furniture and every damn thing in the house with metal would be stuck to that wall before that drive got nailed. It's just normal lifetime use/failure of the drive.

Is that a compass in your pocket? (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634082)

Or are you just happy to see me?

Seperate document in a contract??? (1)

superdave80 (1226592) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634096)

By signing the contracts, the buyers agreed to waive claims for repairs except those specifically mentioned in a separate document, which was available for inspection at a separate location and not before or at the time they bought the houses.

I'm amazed that the courts would uphold part of a contract that... isn't part of the contract. That 'separate document' could be literally anything. Show up the day before signing the contract and see one 'separate document'. Show up with a warranty claim after the sale and see a different document. How would you be able to prove that the document is different if it isn't part of the contract, and you don't have your own copy of it???

Re:Seperate document in a contract??? (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634180)

I agree, since there isn't a true "meeting of minds" in such a case. However, the courts don't. An example is with airline tickets, where the ticket contains very little and just refers to voluminous documents that can in theory be inspected at the airline's headquarters. The fact is that no one other than perhaps a few aviation attorneys knows what he is actually agreeing to when buying an airline ticket. The courts are fine with this.

The summary, as usual, is wrong. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634122)

The state supreme court will only decide whether the case can proceed despite the waiver attached to the purchase agreement. The question of magnetization and its effects (if any) will be decided by a jury if the case goes to trial.

BTW "magnetized" is not the same as "charged".

Silly Story of the Week (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37634174)

You really think the editors are idiots? You really think they don't know the difference between a ferromagnet and a charged object? When are you folks going to figure out that slashdot uses a tried and true formulaic mix of stories designed to maximize readership, which includes the Hilariously Stupid Story of the Week?

Fail. (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634208)

positive or negatively charged building materials.

Submitter fails Physics. Magnetized materials don't have to be electrically charged (and usually aren't).

After moving into the homes the couples found that something was not quite right. Their TV screens were distorted. Cordless phones ran into interference. Computer hard drives were corrupted. Soon after it was discovered that steel joists in the homes had become magnetized."

Everyone mentioned in the article fails Physics, too. Hard drives have very strong magnets inside them, however distance and shielding prevent platters from being affected by those. Floppies and tapes can be damaged by magnets, not hard drives. Magnetic field can only affect electronics by magnetizing cores of coils to saturation or distorting images in CRTs. While old TVs (CRT) and radios (antenna coils' core? I guess, magnetizing it to saturation can render it ineffective) may have this problem, phones and modern TVs don't have CRTs and coils in circuits tuned to low enough frequency to be affected.

Maybe they are all Juggalos?

cancer risk (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37634210)

I'd be more worried about cancer than electronics. I used to go to school in a building where the elevators used some kind of big ass magnets and all the people who had offices near them developed cancer. Pretty scary!

It's about "right to sue", not about damages (3, Informative)

clem.dickey (102292) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634228)

Slashdot summary does not agree with the original article, which says the Supreme Court will only decide whether the couple has the right to sue (a matter of law). Only later might the question move to whether magnetized joists have caused any trouble, a matter of fact.

I smell bullshit (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634238)

If the joists were as magnetic enough to do what they claim, I would hesitate to walk through the house with steel toed boots. One could lose a foot that way.

in Australia... (1)

jezwel (2451108) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634242)

*if* you can demonstrate it, this would be covered under our 'not fit for purpose' warranty that is by default applicable to any product sold, and would not need to go to such a high court level. Crazy.

Would be interesting to see some of the proof though, cutlery sticking to walls?

let me guess, they're upside down on the loan/home (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634336)

sounds suspect to me but I would not be surprised to hear they won their case given the populations understanding of this stuff.

LoB

This burned me some years ago (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634340)

I was selling an old CRT (when they were worth something) and I put it on the floor beside my computer. When the guy came in to see it the whole image was screwed. After the guy left I picked up my monitor and it un-distorted. The beam in the floor had somehow become a compass spinning monster. But beyond messing with classified ad sales I don't know what other negative impact it might have had.

Solution: use a gigantic degaussing ring (1)

microphage (2429016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37634358)

Use a gigantic degaussing [wikipedia.org] ring, similar to what they used on old CRT television tubes.
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