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06/29/2016: Seeking Radio Silence in West Virginia’s Quiet Zone

2016-06-29 | Karen O'Neil
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Newsweek_Radio_Silence_2016The town of Green Bank, West Virginia, is a sleepy Appalachian town, the kind one might move to in order to escape the grind of urban centers and bustling suburbs.

But its 143 residents didn’t exactly move there for literal quiet. Green Bank is located in eastern West Virginia, in what’s known as the National Radio Quiet Zone, where radio transmissions are heavily restricted and cellphones are scarce, all in service of actual radio silence for the world’s largest steerable radio telescope. The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, which opened in 2001 and is operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, is used to detect electromagnetic signals in deep space. Any man-made interference limits its ability to “hear” information from the universe’s farthest reaches, necessitating its location in Green Bank.

Between 50 and 60 of Green Bank’s residents suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), a condition purported to be a debilitating sensitivity to the electromagnetic waves emitted by Wi-Fi routers and cellphone towers. Its sufferers report experiencing headaches, nausea, nosebleeds, sleep problems and other symptoms they believe are connected to exposure to such waves. Though medical research on the persistent condition is still scarce, it often inspires sufferers to rearrange their lives to limit such exposure, insulating their living spaces, eschewing wireless technology and, for some, moving to Green Bank.

Published by Newsweek.  See more at: http://www.newsweek.com/seeking-radio-silence-west-virginias-quiet-zone-475589