Fears about a zombie nation of millenials permanently tethered to Snapchat might be overblown, but we sure do use cellphones a lot these days. The overwhelming majority of Americans live in somewhere with a strong cellular connection, and those that don’t have killer Wi-Fi.
But what if you live in somewhere with no radio signals at all? Not a third-world country, either, but West Virginia.
YouTuber Tom Scott went to the Green Bank Radio Telescope, a site tucked in the Allegheny Mountains in West Virginia. It sits inside the US National Radio Quiet Zone, an area of 13,000 square miles with strict limits on radio emissions. For the most part, that means that no TV signal and poor cell signal.
But for some residents within a 10-mile radius of the telescope, there’s no Wi-Fi, no microwaves, and certainly no cell signal. A team of scientists with a lot of equipment strictly enforce the rules, driving around to find the source of any rogue emissions. Even gasoline-powered vehicles are prohibited from coming within a mile of the telescope, as the spark plugs cause interference.
It’s all in the name of research, as the radio telescope needs quiet in order to conduct its mission of scouring the skies. The Radio Quiet Zone also facilities the less-public work at Sugar Grove Naval Radio Station.
What’s most interesting about Scott’s visit is listening to the workers and residents who live near the telescope. For the most part, they don’t own cellphones any more. It’s different to interviews of people who have never had access to technology; the researchers are all educated, modern members of society who have chosen to forsake cellphones in order to work at the telescope. But perhaps surprisingly, few people seem to regret it.