Your Kindle Will Not Bring Down a Plane

Category:  BloggERy
Monday, December 26th, 2011 at 12:21 PM
Your Kindle Will Not Bring Down a Plane by Jay Stevens
PC World

Hey! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah, and all that!

For those of you travelling this holiday season, check out the NY Times' Nick Bilton's post on Kindles and airplanes. Basically Bitlon wanted to find out exactly why we're not allowed to turn on our electrical devices on liftoff and landing.

Bilton found that the airlines gave contradictory reasons for not letting passengers use electronic devices, and the FAA admitted "its reasons have nothing to do with the undivided attention of passengers or the fear of Kindles flying out of passengers' hands...That leaves us with the danger of electrical emissions":

Gadgets are tested by monitoring the number of volts per meter coming off a device. The F.A.A. requires that before a plane can be approved as safe, it must be able to withstand up to 100 volts per meter of electrical interference.

When EMT Labs put an Amazon Kindle through a number of tests, the company consistently found that this e-reader emitted less than 30 microvolts per meter when in use. That’s only 0.00003 of a volt.

“The power coming off a Kindle is completely minuscule and can’t do anything to interfere with a plane,” said Jay Gandhi, chief executive of EMT Labs, after going over the results of the test. “It’s so low that it just isn’t sending out any real interference.”

Bilton also notes that the effect of electronic devices is not cumulative. So a dozen Kindles operating at the same time wouldn't increase the emissions 12 times.

So...why the regulation? Bilton quotes a Boeing engineer who co-authored a report on electrical emissions on planes, who attributed the rule to "agency inertia and paranoia." BoingBoing's Rob Beschizza suspects the rules "are a vestigal tail of policies contrived to protect the old racket of in-air phone calls and paid in-flight entertainment."

But perhaps the rule remains in place because it gives the passengers the illusion of safety. Which, after all, seems to be the primary purpose of most airport security measures, which are wildly ineffective at finding things that are actually dangerous, but really efficient at intruding into passenger privacy with flashy, multi-million dollar equipment and showy security presence. In short, airport security makes you feel safe because it makes you feel vulnerable and scrutinized. 

So don't expect the FAA to go lifting its ban on electronic devices during liftoff and landing. To do so would be admitting that it's not an effective or useful rule. And admitting that means that passengers might question TSA's authority or effectiveness. Which would shatter the illusion of security it tries so hard to provide. 

If that happens, then TSA itself would come into question. And we all know the prime directive for any organization -- whether private or public -- is to exist.

Erie Reader: Vol. 4, No. 22
Now Available — Pick It Up Today

CURRENT

Election day is Tuesday. Let's study together.

Veteran metal band GWAR gives Pet Shop Boy's "West End Girls" a heavy dose of rawk while offering up a nice tribute to fallen friends.

A Pa. Supreme Court Justice and a Canadian radio host have very little in common, except that their sexcapades may spell the end of otherwise celebrated careers. 

The Allman Brothers Band ends a 45 year run on a perfect note. 

The Great Barrier Reef is in trouble and Australia is stepping up to save it. In the meantime, oil prices continue to drop, and Tom Wolf swings through Erie on the last leg of his campaign trail. It's humpday, and there's news to be read, people. 

IN THIS ISSUE

A comprehensive list of the Jefferson Educational Society's Global Summit VI, including: the skinny, why it should be on your radar, and why we think it's worth seeing. 

Celebrating a definitive Erie Great: “Easy” Essie Hollis.

Here are a several low-profile, multiplayer video games that deserve to be on your list, according to our gaming expert. 

New Orleans' Crescent City Farmers Marketplace and what Erie could learn from it. 

Frontman Zac Little of the indie folk rockers talks about the band’s latest album, breaking wooden stomp boxes, and NPR Tiny Desk Concerts. 

Will we see a change in voter turnouts come Nov. 4 elections?

More than just an EDM artist, NatasK exhibits a fresh and welcomed sense of where electronic music is headed.

A plethora of reasons why Gov. Tom Corbott is simply the worst governor ever. 

Make no mistake about it – these guys rock first and foremost, especially on this album’s standouts, the anthemic “Obey the Beard,” as well as “Dogs Like Socks,” which explores the complexities of canine/hosiery relations.

It's news, but it's weird. It's... News of the Weird!