The Town Where Wireless Signals Are Illegal

NRAO
NRAO

Shhh! The scientists are listening to space!

Green Bank, West Virginia, is a tech-savvy teenager’s nightmare. In this tiny town in Pocahontas County—population 143, as of the last census—wireless signals are illegal. No cell phones. No WiFi. No Bluetooth. No electronic transmitters at all. Recently, a store even had to remove their automatic doors because they caused too much interference.

The remote town is smack in the center of the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000 square mile stretch of land designated by the FCC to protect two government radio telescopes from man-made interference. The rules, though, are most strict in Green Bank’s neck of the woods. So strict, actually, that someone roves the streets listening for verboten wireless signals.

It’s necessary, though. The town is home to the Green Bank Telescope, the largest steerable radio telescope in the world—and arguably our most powerful link to the cosmos. Scientists there listen to radio energy that has journeyed light years, unlocking secrets about how the stars and galaxies formed. A rogue radio signal could prevent potential discoveries, discoveries that could answer big questions about how the universe ticks.

Green Bank, West Virginia: A Visitors Guide

In Green Bank, finding cell phone service is the only thing harder than finding another human. A flip of the radio dial won’t reward you, either—it’s all a steady whoosh of white noise. If you’re lucky, though, you may catch a faint flicker of the only AM broadcasting from the area, hosted by the Allegheny Mountain Radio Network.

First responders are the only residents allowed to use communication radios, although they’re limited to short-distance CB radios. If you get lost, one pay phone is there to rescue you—a pay phone, mind you, that people actually use. And you can search the web there, too, but you’ll have to get used to the grating ping of a dial-up modem again. (Although some homes have ethernet, it’s generally not worth it for companies to bring in anything faster.)

Surprisingly, a ban on all things wireless hasn’t driven residents away; it’s actually drawn people all across the United States to settle down. Sufferers of electromagnetic hypersensitivity—a disease supposedly caused by wireless signals, but dismissed by the scientific community—have moved into the electronic dead space.

If you're in Green Bank and desperately need to update social media, you’re in luck: Recently, engineers at AT&T brought cellular connectivity to the Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort, which lies in the center of the quiet zone. Doing this was no easy task, because they needed to get the radio wave interference down to extremely low levels. In a post on AT&T’s website, the director of the site, Dr. Karen O’Neil, explained the problems involved. To get approval, AT&T installed 180 antennas around the resort and 3 miles of fiberoptic cable so that the signals don’t need to travel very far. Which is good, because they also had to lower the power—according to O’Neil, your phone ordinarily emits 500 milliwatts when you’re using it. But if you’re skiing the slopes, that goes down automatically to less than a milliwatt.

A version of this story appeared in 2013; it has been updated to add new information.

The World Health Organization Is Releasing a COVID-19 App to Combat Coronavirus Misinformation

WHO MyHealth is meant to help clear up misinformation surrounding the novel coronavirus.
WHO MyHealth is meant to help clear up misinformation surrounding the novel coronavirus.
MangoStar_Studio/iStock via Getty Images

As is the case with most crises, the novel coronavirus has become a breeding ground for misinformation. Because the disease is so new, there are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding it, but that hasn't stopped people from claiming to know how to treat, prevent, and detect COVID-19. In an effort to separate fact from fiction, the World Health Organization (WHO) is launching an app dedicated to sharing what we know and don't know about the virus, 9to5Google reports.

Named WHO MyHealth, the new app is a collaboration between former Google and Microsoft employees, WHO advisors and ambassadors, and other tech and health experts. Users will be able to compare their symptoms with those linked to COVID-19 and receive public health updates specific to their location. As of now, there are plans to invite people who have been either been diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19 to share their phone's location history to give experts a better idea of how the virus spreads.

WHO MyHealth, which is currently being built as open source, is set to roll out for Android and iOS on Monday, March 30. If you have questions about COVID-19 you need answered immediately, you can also access accurate and up-to-date information through the WHO's chatbot.

Any information regarding novel coronavirus should be met with skepticism when it can't be traced back to organizations like the WHO or the CDC—especially when it comes to supposed cures. No specific medication has been proven to treat or prevent COVID-19, so you shouldn't take advice from anyone claiming otherwise.

[h/t 9to5Google]

10 of the Most Popular Phone Chargers on Amazon

Anker/Yootech/Amazon
Anker/Yootech/Amazon

Smartphones are a daily necessity at this point, whether you're using them for work or socializing (or both at the same time). And with the countless hours people spend on their phones every week, the need to charge them quickly and on the go has only grown. We now need chargers in our homes, in our cars, at the office, and in our travel bags, just to give us enough juice to carry us through the day. To make sure you're never at 5 percent battery while answering important work emails or perusing Reddit, we've rounded up a list of 10 of the best-selling and top-rated phone chargers on Amazon, including solar-powered and wireless models.

1. Yootech Wireless Charger (4.3 stars); $12

wireless phone charger
Yootech/Amazon

This top-rated wireless charger is compatible with most recent smartphones and AirPod models—and you don’t even need to remove your phone case for it to work. Reviewers report that it can fully charge most phone models in two to four hours.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Anker Wireless Charging Stand (4.5 stars); $19

wireless phone charging stand
Anker/Amazon

More than 4400 user reviews gave this wireless charger five stars, praising it for its value and reliability. Plus, the propped angle allows you to charge your phone both vertically and horizontally, letting you watch videos or scroll through social media without losing any battery.

Buy it: Amazon

3. BLAVOR Solar Charger Power Bank (4.5 stars); $47-$50

solar charger power bank
BLAVOR/Amazon

This solar-powered combination power bank/flashlight/compass is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts (or emergency preparedness devotees). Reviewers say that this charger holds an impressive amount of battery, able to charge two devices at once—with plenty of juice left to spare. Bring it on your next camping trip or keep it stored in an emergency kit.

Buy it: Amazon

4. BigBlue Foldable Solar Charger (4.3 stars); $85

foldable solar charger
BigBlue/Amazon

This lightweight foldable charger includes four weather-resistant solar panels that you can attach to a backpack so you can charge as you hike. While it’s pricier than the other items on this list, users say it packs a punch.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Anker Wall Charger (4.7 stars); $9

Anker wall phone charger
Anker/Amazon

This portable wall charger can accommodate two devices at one time, and user reviews praise this model for its simplicity and durability. Just remember to provide your own charging cable—because this product is compatible with several different device models, it doesn’t come with a cable of its own.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Anker PowerCore Portable Charger (4.5 stars); $46-$56

portable phone charger
Anker/Amazon

We’ve all had those moments where our phones are at 4 percent battery and there’s no outlet in sight. Prepare ahead with this portable charger from Anker, which can handle multiple devices on the go. This charger comes packed with a lot of power—Anker estimates that this device can give smartphones an extra 92 hours of battery life every time it’s recharged. This is exactly the type of charger you need in your bag if you're a commuter.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Anker Dual USB Car Charger (4.7 stars); $9-$12

dual USB car charger
Anker/Amazon

While more and more cars include built-in USB outlets to accommodate smartphones, those of us who drive older cars aren’t quite so lucky. But you can make up for that with this affordable high-speed car charger, which plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter and powers multiple devices at once. This charger is compatible with just about any device, provided you have a cable to attach it to the USB port.

Buy it: Amazon

8. ZeeHoo Wireless Car Charger (4.3 stars); $40

wireless car charger phone mount
ZeeHoo/Amazon

This device does double duty as a phone charger and a car mount. It requires a bit of setup to attach this charger to your dashboard, but once that’s complete, your phone can act as a convenient, hands-free GPS while charging up.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Swaller iPhone 8 Plus/7 Plus Battery Case (4.2 stars); $37-$38

iPhone battery case
Swaller/Amazon

This portable charger can give your iPhone an extra 25 hours worth of battery if you’re in a bind. Plus, it’s convenient—you can charge both your phone and the wireless battery case simultaneously using the same charging cable. Have a newer model of iPhone? Swaller’s got you covered with a selection of other battery cases.

Buy it: Amazon

10. HETP Galaxy S8 Battery Case (4 stars); $30-$33

Samsung Galaxy S8 battery case
HETP/Amazon

If you’re not an Apple user at all, you might instead opt for this battery case that’s compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S8. As with Swaller’s iPhone case, you can charge both your phone and the battery case itself at the same time—there’s no need to remove the case in order to get a full charge.

Buy it: Amazon

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

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