Random AsidesSkepticism

Travel woes and myths…

Sorry I haven’t been very active in blogging lately – work has been more hectic than usual and I actually just got back from a couple of short trips that took away my weekends. I just got back from a trip to San Francisco and although I had a great time, it reminded me just how much I hate everything about flying.

First, a rant.  The new laws about liquids mean that I have no other choice but to check a bag (this hair doesn’t just HAPPEN people, and my hair product doesn’t come in smaller than 3 oz bottles).  Hair woes aside, every time I get in line at the airport or stand in front of a baggage carousel, I see the same things that drive me crazy. So, as a public service, I’d like to present you with Masala Skeptic’s Rules for Flying Politely:

  1. When the flight attendant says ‘turn off your cell phones,’ just turn off your goddamn cell phones! Although there isn’t actually any evidence to say that you’ll crash the plane, there’s a good chance you’ll freak out a fellow passenger, who could then report you and get your butt fined, put on the No Fly List, or tossed in Gitmo and I will MISS MY CONNECTION you selfish dickweed. 
  2. Baggage carousel rule #1.  With great positioning comes great responsibility. If you must stand right in front of the spot where the baggage carousel spits out bags, at least get out of the way when someone next to you tries to get a bag. Don’t just watch as they make a grab for it, can’t get a good enough grip to pull it off the carousel and then get dragged around the belt. And don’t get pissy if, after all that, they run into you or hit you with a heavy bag. In an ideal world, you would help the person get the bag off the carousel. That means they get their bag and you maintain that crucial spot that allows you to get your bags a full 15 seconds before the person standing 4 feet down the carousel. In this modern world, you ignore them and continue the cell phone conversation you started on initial approach to the airport.
  3. Baggage carousel rule #2. Once you do get your bag off the carousel, GO AWAY. (Latin: Vo fuckus est.) Don’t stand around looking at it, pulling items out or making sure your 3.4oz tube of toothpaste didn’t get stolen. Grab ‘n’ go, people – after five seconds, you will get a Homeland Security-approved wedgie.
  4. Security lines suck, seriously. You never feel more that the terrorists have won than when you’re standing barefoot after going through security, trying to get your laptop and ziplog baggie shoved back into your carry on, boarding pass in your mouth, while trying to get a jacket on and hoping your pants dont fall off because your belt hasn’t made it throught the x-rays. All while the machine operator is watching Oprah on one of those screens. Just move down and keep moving. Go as far to the end of the conveyor as you can.  Then, grab your stuff and repack and put yourself together at one of the chairs or tables off to the side. Yes, I know, there are never enough but even if you end up in a corner on the floor, it’s better than the carnage of a four-laptop pileup. (Unless you got your laptop free already — then a pileup is high comedy. Schadenfreude is a harsh mistress.)
  5. Zone boarding is not rocket science. Don’t crowd around the gate entrance when they start boarding.  Don’t get in line before your zone is called.  Just sit your ass down until they call you!  When there’s a crowd milling around or a long line of people who shouldn’t be boarding, it just causes confusion for the people who actually SHOULD be boarding and additional delays as they kick your butt out of line for trying to board when you shouldn’t.(Hubby disagrees with me on this. He says that while zone-jumping is obnoxious, being one of the first from your zone on has advantages. Getting the one measly laptop bag stored overhead before the idiot with the minifridge takes up the whole compartment makes for a more enjoyable flight. Plus, more Schadenfreude.)

As I was writing this, I also did some research into travel myths in general.  Here are some that I hadn’t heard of:

— clip ‘n’ save! —

  1. The airplane is a breeding ground for disease and the recirculated air means you’re more likely to get sick on a plane.  I have a huge amount of anecdotal evidence to support this but the science simply isnt there when it comes to bacterial infections. The story is different when it comes to highly infectious diseases like TB or cooties. Forbes Traveler says, in spite of the science, it’s probably a good idea to be cautious:

Hydrate yourself while on the plane, wash your hands often, and turn off the air vent over your head to not only avoid a stiff neck but also keep your own air around you longer and put off breathing someone else’s. And no tongues.

OK, I may have made some of that up.  But it’s good advice in general.  As is, don’t use Airborne. That could make things worse :) Finally, don’t wear an Asshole Medallion, or you risk some serious mocking:

Asshole Bling

  1. If you lose your hotel key card, your identity or credit card information could be stolen.  Theoretically, this is possible.  Hotels can encrypt your credit card information on your key card.  But they almost never do. According to Joe Brancatelli at Portfolio.com:

Despite an endless series of “tips” in the last year, I’ve never seen a police report or legal documents that prove a person’s financial details were lifted from a hotel key card. Not convinced? Then do what I do: Take the key card with you when you leave. No hotel in the world requires you to turn it in when you check out. I’ve never even been asked to do so.

Plus, if the person next to you is an obnoxious snorer, slip it in his or her carryon and make the spouse suspect an affair.

  1. “Rule 240” will ensure that if your flight is cancelled or seriously delayed, the airline will put you on the next available flight for any other carrier flying the route.  This one is interesting and I found some conflicting recommendations online.  Everyone agrees that the original Rule 240, an old Civil Aeronautics Board regulation required airlines to immediately put you on another flight, is no longer valid after the airlines were deregulated in 1978.  However, while some say that now, each airline makes its own rules and won’t pay any attention to citing Rule 240, others say it’s worth a shot, because most airlines have created their own version of Rule 240.

TODAY’s Travel Editor, Peter Greenberg, insists that he’s been ‘240-ed’ several times in the past year:

the real bottom line here is that while no one airline is legally mandated to follow Rule 240, many of them do — if they want to. And the real key is that you have to ask — not demand — and in many cases, you’ll be accommodated.

My guess is this is more a customer service issue than anything else. If you make enough noise and, happen to be the primary travel correspondent or a major TV network, I think you’ll probably get a slightly different level of service.  Has anyone else heard of this rule?  Had it work?

What are your favorite travel peeves and myths?



Maria D'Souza grew up in different countries around the world, including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Kenya and it shows. She currently lives in the Bay Area and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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  1. I’ll have to add something about baggage claim that would alleviate both numbers 2 and 3 on your list: DON’T STAND RIGHT NEXT TO THE CAROUSEL. If EVERYBODY would stand about 5-7 fee back from the carousel, then nobody would have any problems. If everybody stands back, then you can see your bags coming, and only then approach the carousel to remove it, then move back into or behind the crowd.

    I wonder if airports would just paint a yellow line on the ground about 6 feet off of the carousel people would get the picture. Or maybe a line and some signs “please stand behind yellow line until your bag is available on the carousel” or something.

  2. Having the heart of a petty bureaucrat, myself– top shelf, third jar from the left– I have almost never had any trouble form the administrative side of travel.

    My peeve is in the act of flying itself. Cos I hate flying. And that makes things difficult, cos most of the time when I travel, I’m off to China, from the United States.

    It essentially means that I get to suffer a thirteen hour panic attack while in flight. It’s a hell of a thing to have to control so as not to freak out the other passengers and crew.

  3. Lots of flying for pleasure over the years including many exceedingly long flights to NZ and OZ (Some with very small children who responded to the therapeutic antihistamine and warm milk nicely). Small seats aside I’m one of those freaks who likes or tolerates flying just fine. Love the rush down the runway and the feeling of soaring. Have never lost a bag but did have a flight leaving Maui backfire an engine and got put up in a nice resort on the beach one night for free. Sleeping pills, aspirin and gin work on long flights and I always bring ear plugs. I think if I flew more I’d invest in some noise cancelling ear phones. When it comes to bags I take a stand off, identify gap, and swoop strategy, and I try and remember to have a brightly colored tag on my bag because it looks like everyone else’s black nylon soft-side.

    The flight I’ll be taking to Vegas for TAM is pretty amusing on the way down. Everyone is going for fun and the flight crew has the passengers write their name on a dollar bill and put it in a bag for a winner take all drawing when the flight crosses the NV state line.

  4. My pet peeve is the liquid restriction in general. It’s my understanding that it’s not actually possible to blow up a plane with liquid explosives that could reasonably be smuggled on board.

    I’m leaving for a two-week vacation tomorrow, and the only reason for checking luggage would be to bring more toiletries. We have opted, instead, to buy extra toiletries at the vacation destination, and then just throw them out before we fly home. It’s wasteful, but there’s really no other reasonable option.

    Can we please get a scientist to tell the flight security people that they can stop checking for liquids?

  5. Here’s one,

    The “People Movers” in airports have a left-side and a right-side (at least in the States). If you are standing please do so to the right, because chances are someone has been screwed with a delayed flight and a short layover and is hauling balls from terminal Z to terminal A to make their connection.

    Here’s another one I hear from frequent travelers that pisses me off (and I will probably offend a bunch of people here).

    Do not bitch to me about how you got stuck behind/across from or in front of some whiny, crying kid. Why don’t you try BEING that kid, stuck in a plane, perhaps anxious and scared. If it’s a baby, seriously? Are you going to bellyache about a baby? That stupid baby should learn to shut its mouth, right?

    It’s called compassion people, I can guaranteee you that kid doesn’t want to cry anymore than it’s parents or you want to hear him cry. There’s nothing you can do about so just suck it up, have a heart and quit being an assbag about it. I swear if I hear one more, “Why don’t those parents just…”

  6. The biggest myth (and pet peeve) I know of is the idea that all the extra security measures are actually making us safer. Maybe marginally, but I guarantee you that the inconvenience and invasion of privacy far outweighs any actual advantage. The 9-11 highjackers were only successful because nobody was expecting them to intentionally crash the planes. Anyone who tries something like that today would be immediately mobbed by angry passengers. Flight 93 is all the evidence I need to know they would fail. If those people had known earlier what the terrorists were planning, they never would have gotten control of the plane in the first place.

    On a lighter note, we haven’t flown with our son yet, but we’re planning a trip to Hawaii (from Seattle) in January for my cousin’s wedding. I’m a little anxious about being cooped up with a high-energy, almost 3-year-old for 5 hours. Any tips? I’m not fond of the idea of knocking him out with drugs.

  7. When it comes to crying babies/young kids, I agree. Suck it up. Sure, it’s annoying, but deal with it.

    But when parents let their kids run amok on the plane, tearing ass, screaming in the aisles, getting in the way of flight attendants, tripping up and bumping passengers, then I reserve the right to be pissy and have nothing but contempt for the parents who somehow manage to ignore the situation.

    And if my foot happens to drift into the aisle and “accidentally” trip the little shit, then while I’ll admit it would be petty and immature, I’d still consider my actions justified.

  8. “And the real key is that you have to ask — not demand — and in many cases, you’ll be accommodated.”

    This is true of any customer service scenario. I’ve worked various customer service jobs–face to face, call center, etc.–for most of my working life, and it’s going to be really rare that you get more help by yelling than by asking. You *do* need to ask; most companies discourage CSRs from offering up certain options if the customer doesn’t explicitly mention it.

    But if you decide to yell at the person, I guarantee you that they’ll be as unhelpful as they reasonably (and often unreasonably) can.

  9. A story of why yelling might not help:

    Back around 1999 or so, my manager and I were flying through Heathrow back to the U.S. Just as we were about to board, a ruckus started back at the gate agent’s desk.

    A few minutes later, we were doing our best to squeeze ourselves into the lovely cattle-car seats when a flight attendant stopped by and asked if we were traveling together, and if there was anyone else in our party. Yes to the first part, no to the second. She told us to gather our things and follow her.

    Thinking that there was something wrong, we asked why, but she wouldn’t give a straight answer. She then escorted us to First Class, smiled, and wished us a happy flight. :-)

    We discovered what happened when we were leaving the plane – it turns out that the ruckus at the gate was the official ticket holders screaming bloody murder because they had checked in late or some such thing, while the agent was trying to sort things out.

    So instead of letting the agent clear things up and boarding later, the passengers got to spend a lovely evening at Heathrow while we enjoyed a wonderful flight home.

    Of course these days, they probably would be arrested.

  10. @JSug — Oooooh, I feel that pain. We’ve got a four-year-old. It’s easier when their babies and don’t know the joys of running around.

    Some things we have had success with:
    * lots of toys/books
    * crayons (or even just a pencil) and notebook
    * his favorite blanket or soft toy (encourages him to nap)
    * a laptop or DVD player, along with [many] movies

    Last but not least, get a new toy/book/thing which you can whip out a few hours into the flight if things are getting seriously stressed. “Well, kid, you’ve been being very good and I’m so proud of you for being patient. I know how hard you’re trying. So as a reward, here’s [shiny new thing]!” Something new will hold his attention longer than toys he’s already seen.

    You’re lucky there are two of you, the misery of dealing with the preschooler can be shared :)

  11. I love to fly. Understand that I’m about 6’4″ (1.9m), and have to hang my knees over my ears to fit into a seat in your average commercial flight, so you can understand the profundity of that statement, I hope… The “security” measures, however, make me want to scream. I have to say, though, that children tend to not bother me anymore, after one memorable transatlantic flight with a VERY friendly three-year old. One nine-hour conversation later, and I was about ready to strangle the next person I saw holding a crayon.

  12. so, i don’t know about you guys, but “bacon and a kiss” airlines is sounding better and better all the time.

  13. “Can we please get a scientist to tell the flight security people that they can stop checking for liquids?”

    Won’t work. It was a novelist who told them it in the first place. It’s going to have to be a novelist to tell them they can stop.

  14. Another boarding pass guideline:

    If you are going to sit next to a window please make some effort to enter the plane early in your block so you don’t have to climb over people.
    Obviously if you are next to the isle then don’t rush to get on, you’ll only be in the way and people will climb over you rubbing their bum in your face.

    Which makes me think, why don’t they load planes with window seats first, then the middles, then the isle seats? (for one isle planes)It would spread out the people along the plane reducing congestion and no-one would be climbing over anyone else. I imagine the whole boarding process might be a bit quicker?

  15. As an RF engineer, I’m going to have to defend the FCC’s ban on cell phones.

    Whenever you combine RF signals in a non-linear system, you can have interference. The primary concern with airplanes, as far as I know, is intermodulation.

    The thing about intermod is that as the number of frequencies increase, the number of potential frequency combinations increases phenomenally fast. If I’m not mistaken, it is faster than exponential. Seeing as it’s a combination of frequencies, factorial seems very likely (remember permutations and combinations from probability class?), but I don’t know the exact formula, and it’s too late to derive it.

    For comparison, a typical communication tower has a few dozen frequencies and fixed antenna locations. For a 5th order, 5-at-a-time analysis, It will have trillions of possible combinations, millions of which will typically be intermodulation “hits,” which will have to have a signal-level analysis performed to determine whether they are likely to interfere. This can take days on the quad core machine that we use.

    Now, a plane loaded with people, nearly all of whom have a cell phone, will have to be modeled for all passenger plane models and configurations, hundreds of different antenna locations, and hundreds of different frequencies. I’m willing to bet dinner at The French Laundry that the number of potential combinations will make the distance from Pluto to the Sun in millimeters look tiny in comparision.

    This is not about money. This is about impossibility. There aren’t enough people in the world to test this. There probably isn’t enough computer power to simulate it.

    Now, is the probability of cell phones interfering with you flight high? Not at all, but it’s non-zero. Have you ever won the lottery? I doubt it, but has someone ever won the lottery? Do I want to risk winning that particular lottery just so some douchebag can flap his lips all the way from New York to LA? No.

    And for future reference, quoting Mythbusters to support your argument is typically not a good idea. While entertaining, it’s hardly scientific. And just so the VP of Flight Operations knows, antennas aren’t shielded. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be antennas, and that’s where interfering signals usually enter a communications system, since most of them are very well shielded.

  16. Egaeus: Thank you for reminding me why I left engineering to work in cognitive science and decision making…where to start?

    Point 1: Arguing that any risk above zero must be avoided is impracticable. Every day I imagine you get in your car, risking life and limb with a significant chance, much greater than zero , of dying or being crippled. Happy with that decision?Do you design everything with a safety factor of 10? You don’t ?!!! Care to explain? But what if that unlikely sequence of events occurs and your engineering parameters are exceeded and people die? OMG!!!
    Take home point: Life is about managing risks to acceptable levels, you would have been taught about reliability factors and safety factors, same thing. People who try to avoid all risks in life generally live in padded cells with nice people to look after them.

    Point 2: As an engineer you know you don’t have to test every possible combination of factors to be certain to a reasonable and practicable degree that you have the bases covered. You can get by with testing likely worst case scenarios and be pretty sure, sure enough to survive your entire engineering career, that these cases do indeed cove many, many other lesser cases. As an analogy I could have said that we should test every possible combination of medicines in case there is some unexpected combination that kills people. Quite obviously not practicable however we do not ban all medicine. However we do examine worst case combinations.
    Take home point: The real world of engineering is not what you learn at University.

    Point 3: Testing. This has been done, from 2004 we have
    “Recent tests by Airbus and American Airlines/Qualcomm indicate that,
    contrary to popular lore, cellular signals do not disrupt airplanes’
    navigational systems. The two results were similar for both the CDMA and GSM
    cellular technologies, but the Federal Aviation Administration and the
    Federal Communications Commission say the tests can’t officially be
    considered in their review of the rules because they were conducted without
    government oversight. The agencies say they are moving ahead with their own
    tests. [*Wall Street Journal*, 23 Sep 2004; NewsScan Daily, 23 Sep 2004]”

    There are many more reports of this study online and others.

    which has now led to roll out…

    Take home point: Engineers have actually tested this and it’s fine.

    Point 4: Pilots regularly use their mobile phones. Think about it. They are in the cabin of the plane talking to someone and flying a plane. If they flick on their mobile and something goes wrong the person on the other end, usually a loved one of some description, is about to hear about it. Something like ” Oh my holy crap, the navigation just went offline, I’ll ring you back, I love you honey.”, promptly followed by a plane crash with an unhappy witness as to what happened. People talk. Of course many more times the plane would be recovered before crashing, loosing full control etc. and the pilots would talk to the other pilots.

    Take home point: Pilots are (generally) not idiots. They might be gung ho, take risks landing fast, saving fuel etc. but they are calculated risks. They are not into random crashing of planes.

    Point 5: Making an argument by having a whole pile of technical facts does not work with skeptical people. Slap.
    Take home point: Consider your audience when communicating and what will motivate them. Techno-babble is usually used by pseudo-scientific claims. As an engineer you don’t want to be in this camp.
    (Yes I do know it was facts but that’s not the point.)
    Take home point: Engineers are usually poor communicators, work on it, it’s more important than most things you will learn.

    Point 6: Mythbusters is scientific. They have an hypothesis, they develop a test, they run the test and go with what the empirical results show. Sorry sunshine, but for all intents and purposes it is the scientific method. Yes it might not be as rigorous as one would like but the show is meant to be snappy and entertaining, something real science isn’t always. Want to watch me use stats to analyze 16 runs of an experiment and see if it is significant? Thought not.
    Take home point: As an engineer don’t bag science or you’ll look like a fool. Engineers don’t do much science after 1st year Uni, they do applied technology. I’ve done both and there is a world of difference between engineering and science. Engineers don’t make things using a hypothesis and a blinded test. Unless you are a very bad blind engineer.

    Thought for the day: Ignoring mobile phones, how do I know the equipment in a plane, and there is a real lot these days, does not interfere with itself.

  17. Zytheran: Other than Southwest, that’s precisely how the major U.S. airlines have been boarding for several years now.

    The zone systems they’re using load First/Business first, and then the rear windows seats, and then in layers outwards and forwards to the front.

    It would work wonderfully, except that the people who couldn’t figure out how to stow their bags and themselves efficiently with the old system *still* haven’t managed to master putting a bag into a bin and their butts into a seat without blocking everyone and everything around them.

  18. mulveyr: Thanks for the good news. It’s nice to see some things in the world actually get better !

  19. Zytheran: I’ll address your so-called points in order.

    Point 1: There is no point. Risk is not avoidable. I take plenty of risks. I ride a motorcycle. However, we’re talking about a very real risk of interference that can easily be avoided by turning off the phone that you’re not going to be able to reliably use anyway. Where’s the problem?

    Take home point: You are a master of the straw man argument.

    Point 2: Yes, there are simplifying assumptions, such as assuming all cell phones are at the minimum distance a passenger can get from any antennas. However, you still have to consider all of the cellular frequencies. Believe me, when a cellular phone company is reticent to reveal what particular frequencies are being used on a particular tower, we have to put every single frequency in their licensed block into the simulation. You can’t test all possibilities. There is an infinite number combinations of frequencies. You take the most likely combinations to cause interference, and evaluate those.

    We typically perform a 5th order analysis. However, this doesn’t always eliminate everything. Bird Technologies require that the intermodulation be free of hits up to the 23rd order before they will guarantee that their equipment is suitable because they have had problems in the past with 17th order interference. It’s rare, but it happens.

    Take-home point: This is real engineering, not your fanciful notions of it from back in college.

    Point 3: I knew I should have addressed this, but I was tired. You criticize me for not knowing anything about science, and then proceed to completely not understand a simple magazine article? Give me a break. Cell phones operating with in-plane base stations are quite different than cell phones trying to communicate with the ground. Why? 2 main reasons.

    First, a modern cell phones’ output power is regulated by its communication with the base station. It is only as powerful as necessary between some maximum and minimum. On a plane without a base station, they will all be operating at maximum power, because you’re several miles from the nearest antenna. On a plane with a base station, they will all be operating at minimum power, because you’re a few yards from the antenna. There can be an order of magnitude difference between the two.

    Secondly, a base station assigns operating frequencies to cell phones. On a plane, it can be designed so that it doesn’t assign frequencies that have the potential to cause interference.

    Take home point: You have the engineering knowledge of a business major. Given that, don’t try to argue with an engineer by linking to an article you don’t understand. You just make yourself look stupid.

    Point 4: Assuming the truth of your statement for a moment, which I would call…overstated at best, you don’t understand the basics of intermodulation. It is caused by multiple frequencies interacting with each other. One phone, no problem. 2 phones, probably not. But the more you add, the more potential for interference due to the increasing number of mixes.

    Take-home point: It’s better to remain silent and be thought ignorant than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

    Point 5: Wait, what? I try to give a lay-explanation of the potential issues behind cell phone usage, and you criticize me for using technobabble? I gave you a link to Wikipedia if you wanted to know the details of what intermodulation interference is, but didn’t bog you down with details. What more do you want? I’m sorry, but at some point, electrical engineering is…electrical engineering. I didn’t use a single formula, I didn’t even use difficult words.

    Take-home point: If electrical engineering was easy, you’d be one. Don’t blame me for your shortcomings.

    Point 6: The hypothesis wasn’t tested! A spectrum analyzer is useless for predicting all but the most basic interference issues in untrained hands. What they did was basically say that if one thing operates on one frequency and something else on another frequency, then they won’t interfere. They tested for co-channel interference, and from those results said that all interference was impossible. That, quite frankly, is a steaming load of crap! Then the performed a classic appeal to authority. How very scientific of them. I like Mythbusters, but they’re engineers trying to popularize critical thinking and the scientific method, but their primary objective is entertainment, and unfortunately good TV isn’t always good science.

    Take-home-point: If you think Mythbusters is scientific, then you should probably stop trying to be a scientist.

    If you want a good technical article on cell phone-airplane interference, try http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/mar06/3069. It’s written by experts in the field. I’d hate for you to take my word for it, but I warn you, there’s plenty of “technobabble” by your definition.

  20. Oops, a few corrections. You didn’t misunderstand the article as much as you made some wild extrapolations from what you read, which weren’t even close to being supported by the article.

    Bird Technologies won’t guarantee some duplexer configurations, not all of their equipment.

    And I forgot to answer your last question. The systems don’t interfere with each other because they were designed and tested not to interfere with each other. It’s a fairly simple setup as long as you keep with what’s installed on the plane. It’s the cell phones and other electronics that complicate the issue.

  21. Egaeus @
    The only place I was rude to you was for your overuse of technical wording when the audience is not your peers. This is a major problem with most technical people and it really hurts your cause and leads to a lack of trust in the profession.

    Your “Take home points”:
    “You are a master of the straw man argument.”
    “This is real engineering, not your fanciful notions of it from back in college.”
    “You have the engineering knowledge of a business major.”
    “It’s better to remain silent and be thought ignorant than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
    “If electrical engineering was easy, you’d be one. Don’t blame me for your shortcomings.”
    “If you think Mythbusters is scientific, then you should probably stop trying to be a scientist.”

    Gee Egaeus, that really helped support your argument didn’t it.? Yes siree, may I humbly bow to your great command of the written word and fantastic communication abilities.
    Would you talk to your parents or friends like that???
    Grow up kid, this is a public forum.
    Being a rude little shit is no way to win friends.

  22. You know, there’s another point in this whole cell phone thing. Millions of people fly every day. There has to be some percentage of those people who simply don’t turn their phones off. Either they forget or they intentionally keep them on. It’s not like the flight attendants check that closely. So, to some degree, this has been tested, because there hasn’t been a single case of a plane crashing because someone didn’t turn off the network when they wanted to play BrickBreaker on their blackberry…

  23. Zytheran, your entire post was a load of condescending douchbaggery. If you’re going to condescend to me, you better be freaking right.

  24. I’m sorry, that was a bit too short. Let me elucidate a bit.

    I understand people not understanding the details of interference. If you wanted to ask me about things like how they could have in-flight cell phones when I claim that they can potentially cause interference, that’s a perfectly valid question.

    But did you ask for clarification of my assertion? No, you proceeded to tell me how I’m wrong because of how you wrongly interpolated from an article, and then insinuate that I don’t have an understanding of science or “real engineering.” I’m sorry, but that is a much more personal insult to me than if you called me a donkey-raping shit-eater.

    Your entire post was not only wrong, it was written in the most condescending way possible, with “take-home points,” you know, just in case my tiny little engineering mind didn’t understand your oh-so-nuanced points.

    So I threw you condescension right back at you, with a sharper edge to it, to illustrate how much of a douchebag you were being. It’s called parody. It’s a rhetorical tactic used to expose the ridiculousness of that which is being parodied. But surely someone who can communicate so much better than me would recognize that.

    Take-home point: You don’t have to call someone names to be a dick, but only the stupid won’t notice that you’re being one.

  25. Masala Skeptic

    Sorry, I got so caught up in answering Zytheran that I didn’t address your observation.

    You’re right. The act of simply having your cell phone on doesn’t seem to cause interference, or if so, it’s extremely rare.

    The thing is that a cell phone system has control channels and voice channels. The control channels are used for data communication between the phone and the base station. It does such things as adjust output power, notify you of incoming calls, automatically set you clock, tell the cell system where your phone is, etc. There are very few control channels, because this takes up very little bandwidth, and so a single channel can control many phones.

    However, the vast majority of channels are voice channels. Actually using your phone gets your phone assigned to a certain channel by the base station. This multitude of different frequencies increases your chances of causing interference.

    Another point is that control channels are used only intermittently, hence the number of phones that can be supported by a single channel. At most, they’d cause a temporary blip. It’s also unlikely that all the cell phones are attempting to communicate with the tower at once. This decreases the chance for intermodulation interference.

    A conversation keeps your cell phone on a given frequency band, constantly running the radio. That’s why talk time is so much less than standby time.

    It’s much safer to just say “turn your cell phone off” than it is to say, “it’s okay to leave your phone on, but don’t use it, because using it is worse than just leaving it on….” A little knowledge will just get you into trouble, and you’ll have people “reasoning” that since it’s already communicating with the tower, there’s no reason not to talk on it. What’s the difference, right?…

  26. What Egaeus is trying to say is that a serious problem may occur if many people are speaking on their phones at once rather than just having them turned on. Due to the current restrictions this has not been happening and also hasn’t been tested and it would be best if the ban is kept in place until we can work out what sort of problems,if any, this may cause.

  27. Yes, except I don’t like to make bald assertions without a supporting explanati0n, because without explaining why that could happen, it’s begging the question.

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