Green Bank is a small town in West Virginia, USA. It is a fairly quiet place. Population of that area is just around 150 people. However, it is quiet in more than one way. For example, Wi-Fi is forbidden there, there is virtually no cell signal and radio devices are well-regulated. But there is a reason for that.
Green Bank is the location of the Green Bank Telescope – the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope with a diameter of 100 metres. This giant device is listening to space, looking for information that could provide us insights into the past of our universe. It is a magnificent machine of science, but you have to keep silent in order for it hear anything.
That is why Green Bank is included in the National Radio Quiet Zone. People here do have internet, but it comes by the means of cables. Card machines in stores are also wired, there is pretty much no cell signal and you can get a fine for using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. In fact, when Green Bank Observatory bought new buses, they had to dig deep in their electronics to remove Wi-Fi modules – they simply cannot have them.
They are so serious about maintaining radio silence in the proximity of the Green Bank Telescope, they are driving around in diesel pickup trucks. Reason being spark plugs, which are necessary for petrol engines, emit tiny bit of electromagnetic waves, while diesel engines don’t have them at all.
And don’t think this is some bizarre old local law. There is a “radio policeman” who uses specialized equipment to detect signals from unauthorized electronics. He drives around in his diesel pickup truck trying to locate sources of radio signals. In a way, he is also working like a radio telescope, just on a much more local basis.
Some people, who are concerned about radiomagnetic frequencies, radiated by cell towers, Wi-Fi devices and other wireless transmission technologies, moved to Green Bank to live healthier lives. Of course, there is no scientific proof that radio waves actually cause any real health issues.
In fact, in recent years people started talking more and more about Wi-Fi in their homes – many of them have it. Even a local store has Wi-Fi, which hasn’t been detected and never costed a fine to its owner. Most children own smartphones, some own Bluetooth headphones and many other wireless devices.
Radio frequencies are unavoidable. Radio policeman can do his best, but some devices are bound to slip through. Green Bank Telescope can work in less than ideal situation, but people should still be more considerate. Stay silent, scientists are listening to the universe.