Why Are Cell Phones Banned On Flights?

As most people know, cell phones are a big no-no during landing and takeoff. What most people don't know, however, is why.

The FAA says cell phones to be "radio transmitting devices" that could possibly disrupt the avionics of the plane. Interesting that they don't call pacemakers transmitting devices, though. In 2007, the ABC news show 20/20, along with veteran airline pilot John Nance, conducted research disputing the FAA's stand. Nance stated: "There's little reason to worry about cell phones interfering with an airplane's navigational equipment," and went on to say airliners electronic systems are "heavily shielded" against stray radio or electronic signals.

Opponents claim that while one or two devices may not break an avionic shield, a lot of them could interfere with communication between the pilot and ground control--communication that's especially critical during takeoff and landing. In the case of emergency, jammed communication with the tower could cause disaster.

So who's right?

Well, according to the MythBusters, it's generally safe to use a cell on a plane. They did some similar debunking. However, because there are so many different types of devices and ways the phones can malfunction, there's no way to test every single cell phone that's been made. 20/20 determined that the primary reason for the ban on cell phone is that neither the FAA or the FCC are willing to spend the money to perform conclusive safety tests. Mmmm, okay.

According to Wiki: "Virtually every pilot headset sold on the market today comes with a cell phone adapter so that the pilot can use his cell phone." While airlines claim that pilots never use their cell phones mid-flight, we're not completely convinced.

pilotphoneat_Other research indicates that AT&T suggested in-flight mobile phone restrictions should remain in place in the interest of reducing the nuisance to other passengers caused by in-flight cell phone conversations "“ again, not at all a safety issue.

Some skeptics have posited the idea that the cell phone ban exists to spur use of the airline's built-in phones, phones that charge a significant fee. There's also some research stating that mobile phones are not all that reliable in the air in the first place, since they're not designed to switch from cell tower to cell tower at the speed of an airplane.

Interestingly enough, the FAA gives the pilot of each aircraft the right to grant the use of cell phones mid-flight. So hey, maybe next time you should buy your pilot a cup of coffee at the terminal. Who knows, they might grant your cell phone an exception.

NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]

Live Smarter
Stop Your Snoring and Track Your Sleep With a Wi-Fi Smart Pillow

Everyone could use a better night's rest. The CDC says that only 66 percent of American adults get as much sleep as they should, so if you're spending plenty of time in bed but mostly tossing and turning (or trying to block out your partner's snores), it may be time to smarten up your sleep accessories. As TechCrunch reports, the ZEEQ Smart Pillow improves your sleeping schedule in a multitude of ways, whether you're looking to quiet your snores or need a soothing lullaby to rock you to sleep.

After a successful Kickstarter in 2016, the product is now on sale and ready to get you snoozing. If you're a snorer, the pillow has a microphone designed to listen to the sound of your snores and softly vibrate so that you shift positions to a quieter pose. Accelerometers in the pillow let the sleep tracker know how much you're moving around at night, allowing it to record your sleep stages. Then, you can hook the pillow up to your Amazon Echo or Google Home so that you can have your favorite smart assistant read out the pillow's analysis of your sleep quality and snoring levels the next morning.

The pillow is also equipped with eight different wireless speakers that turn it into an extra-personal musical experience. You can listen to soothing music while you fall asleep, either connecting the pillow to your Spotify or Apple Music account on your phone via Bluetooth or using the built-in relaxation programs. You can even use it to listen to podcasts without disturbing your partner. You can set a timer to turn the music off after a certain period so you don't wake up in the middle of the night still listening to Serial.

And when it's time to wake up, the pillow will analyze your movements to wake you during your lightest sleep stage, again keeping the noise of an alarm from disturbing your partner.

The downside? Suddenly your pillow is just another device with a battery that needs to charge. And forget about using it in a place without Wi-Fi.

The ZEEQ Smart Pillow currently costs $200.

[h/t TechCrunch]


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