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.

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CURRENT

It's been a big day in world news, folks. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for another massive terrorist attack, Cuban cigars are about to become legal, and your holiday plans to see "The Interview" are getting spoiled. All that and more, in case you missed it.

The Republican field begins to take shape for 2016. When will we learn from our mistakes. 

The Senate confirms a surgeon general and lots, lots, of judges. 

The United Way and Home Team of Erie County host a memorial event for homeless in our region. 

Congress passed a spending bill, but at what cost?

IN THIS ISSUE

The Presque Isle Partnership is hosting Polar Fest on Sunday, Dec. 14, a winter version of Discover Presque Isle, if you will, featuring indoor and outdoor activities related to the winter season.

Music fans were in for a treat this past November when a long list of those loquacious lyricists showed off their musical chops at 814 Grinders: Hip-hop Pt. 1. The event was so good, in fact, that it will be getting a sequel Friday, Dec. 12 at The Beer Mug.

Wayward Tattoo Studio presents Arc Angels Toy Drive

PACA presents Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some!)

The Lake Erie Ballet will continue its holiday tradition this year with four productions of The Nutcracker at the Warner Theatre this December, including a pair of special events. 

Pittsburgh indie rockers return to Erie's Basement Transmissions.

The Station Dinner Theatre will celebrate its 25th Anniversary Holiday Musical event with Christmas Memories: A Christmas Carol

Martinis and blues go together just like peas and carrots. Confused? Read on.

Michigan-bred 'mericana badasses return to Erie Saturday, Dec. 19.

ECO showcases both new and old holiday music with its upcoming show.