Monday, June 13, 2005

In the event of a close encounter, put your seatbacks and traytables in the full upright and locked position

There are many arguments for not allowing cellphone use on airplanes. For one, it’s never been clear to me why so many people board flights with nothing to read, no iPod, nothing. They sit there, leafing through the sky mall magazine for a while, then try to doze but can’t and just end up looking around, bewildered. Give them permission to use a cellphone, and everything changes. Dozens of people will be chattering away as the ringtones peal. The inflight white noise zoneout that gets many of us through those 2- or 3-hour flights with no movie would be destroyed.

But via Tyler Cowen, this is the best argument:

Cellphone use on planes "could be a disaster for us", says Michael Davis, director of projects at California's SETI Institute, which searches for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence, and former chair of the NAS committee. "We have incredibly sensitive radio telescopes - even a single cellphone on a single plane 100 miles away could cause pretty serious damage", he told New Scientist. It would exceed recommended "noise" levels by 10 times.

In other words, as we talk endlessly amongst ourselves we might miss the biggest call of all time.