September 19, 2019
Escaping the radio smog
What do you do if you're one of those people whose health is affected by all those radio waves buzzing around our heads from mobile phone masts, Wi-Fi and even microwave ovens?

The answer is to move to West Virginia.

For here exists the world's only National Radio Quiet Zone (NRQZ), set up to protect the sensitive telescopes of the country's biggest star gazing radio observatory.

People who claim to have been made ill by radio waves say they find relief from their symptoms when they're in the radio quiet zone.

I came to West Virginia to do two things - see the telescopes - and meet some of those who have moved into the NRQZ to seek respite.

It takes your breath away to see the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) for the first time. The GBT, or the Great Big Telescope as the locals call it, is the biggest fully movable telescope on the planet.

Others might have bigger dishes but they can't move round the sky like the GBT can.

The GBT and its seven smaller sister dishes are radio telescopes that never stop looking for clues to the origins of the universe.

Since it began scanning the heavens twelve years ago, the GBT has confirmed the existence of all the key building blocks of life in the universe. It does this by listening out for low-level radiation coming in from outer space.

A NRQZ has been set-up around the telescope's base at the National Radio Astronomical Observatory in Green Bank to protect the faint incoming data they're listening for.

The zone means no mobile phones or Wi-Fi, without permission, for thousands of square kilometres around.
Michael Holstine, from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory told me: "The National Radio Quiet Zone is an extremely unique area ... it's a preserve if you will ... it's like a National Park ... once it's gone, it's gone."

So unique in fact, he says South Africa, Australia and Chile are looking into their own national radio quiet zones - free of electro-magnetic frequency interference from phones and computers. (Source: Aljazeera)
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