No smartphones, no WiFi, no….vacuums?

In a world that’s increasingly more reliant on cell phones and smartphones, residents of one U.S. town manage to go about their days without using a single mobile phone. And they like it that way. 

Just west of Washington D.C. lies Pocahontas County. Home to 8,000 people, this is where the National Radio Quiet Zone is located – 13,000 square miles where mobile phones have absolutely no signal whatsoever.

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The Quiet Zone: 13,000 square miles of library silence

The reason for the complete lack of this type of technology is, ironically enough, to make room for an even more impressive technology.

The Robert C Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) is located in the middle of the quiet zone and it is used by scientists to study our universe. The telescope is one of the most sensitive we have right now. (We, as in humankind – unfortunately at the moment Updato does not own any radio telescopes.) 

The surface accuracy has been measured to about 250 micrometers, which is sensitive enough to measure the energy of a snowflake hitting the ground.

And that accuracy would be totally compromised if the air surrounding it is filled with radio waves from cell phones, so the whole area is locked off – hence the Quiet Zone.

The radio silence is paying off – the GBT provides a steady stream of scientific discoveries, from pulsars to hydrogen gas superbubbles and neutron stars, and all manner of secrets of the universe that have been unlocked by a giant machine just outside of Washington D.C.

A life frozen in time

pocahontas county

Residents in Pocahontas County live their lives much like most of us did decades ago – without smartphones or any other type of wireless technology. Even vacuum cleaners are banned in the area, as their motors can interfere with the telescope’s operation.

Not all modern equipment is banned though, and internet is available as long as it comes from a cable and not a wireless router.

This inadvertent social experiment shows that people can still interact and live full lives without having their heads buried in their phones all day long.

What’s more, there are residents who have purposefully moved to the area to escape the technology-filled lives they used to live and turn to a more quiet way of life – and they say that the experience is an overwhelmingly positive one.

What’s next: A little of column A, a little of column B

So which way of living is better? Objectively, we can’t say for sure, but what Pocahontas County teaches us is that everything is good in moderation.

We don’t all have to be completely disconnected from our technology in order to start actually enjoying life, but raising our heads from our devices once in awhile will definitely help.

Which end of the spectrum do you identify with? I for one would love to live there for a couple of weeks and have a totally disconnected vacation, but it’s difficult to imagine living my whole life without smartphones and the gadgets that surround me every day.

Image credit: wikimedia.org, bbc.com, washingtonian.com

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