Wednesday, January 26

Tuesday, December 26

Radio waves are just a lot of noise unless you have the proper detector. The first radio messages intentionally created were simple wide-band pulses, literally sparks. Coded in the same manner as telegraph messages were sent along wires, it was the initially the spark detector that was the weakest part of the system.
The first detectors were called “coherers”, sealed glass tubes loosely filled with metal filings. The filings would clump together whenever a strong enough radio pulse passed through them, and this could be used to ring a bell or make an audible click. After each pulse, the metal filings had to be tapped loose again.
So goofy! And yet it was magic. A coded message could be transmitted through thin air across an ocean. The idea of it stayed the same for many years- there was either a “spark” (of some duration and of some strength and at some frequency) or there wasn’t. The trouble was that nature, in the form of lightning, was constantly making really big sparks somewhere on the planet. Because of all this noise (and for a few other reasons) AM radio could only sound so good.
Edwin Armstrong outsmarted lightning and a lot of other things that were holding radio quality back by using a different way of encoding and detecting sparks. Instead of changing the strength of the spark, he changed the frequency of the spark in relation to a set frequency (known as the carrier frequency). This was something that nature wasn’t doing, so there wasn’t a lot of noise to compete with. We call it FM radio.
Greta Garbo scans the horizon as she sails across a movie set playing a Queen, Christina, who is disguised as a man. The trope of women disguising themselves as men goes back a long way, and is usually seen as a way for them to obtain freedom (and power) in male-dominated fields. Or simply to evade the cultural restrictions placed on women. But in a deeper sense, she represents the things we all must do to evade cultural restrictions placed on us by stereotypes. To some extent we all must pretend to be something that we are not.
These guys aren’t playing around. They are Army Air Corps, and they are thinking about the next war. They fight over things like how the bureaucracy should be structured, but they agree on some things, like the fact that a single airplane with a torpedo can sink a battleship. It’s a new reality they are discussing over luncheon.
That new reality is visible from this window- it’s Europe, and as bad as things seem now, they are going to get a whole lot worse. But this woman probably has hope for the future, silly thing. I mean, what else can you do?

keep your sunny side up, here.


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