Airplane Mode


Have you ever wondered why your phone has an “airplane mode” setting?

If you’ve ever used it, then you know that engaging “airplane mode” blocks all signals to and from your phone.

In effect, it cuts off your phone from the outside world without powering it down.

But why are passengers required to engage “airplane mode” on most commercial flights?

Supposedly, airplanes are sensitive to a phone’s outgoing signals, so much so that a passenger sitting in seat 24C might inadvertently interfere with the pilots’ ability to fly the plane.

Think about that for one second.

An ordinary mobile phone being used in an ordinary fashion might bring down a plane.

That is nuts.

The Obvious Is Impossible to Believe

Mobile phones are completely incapable of disabling or interfering with the operation of a car, truck, boat, train, or motorcycle.

Somehow though, airplanes are frighteningly vulnerable to mobile phone signals.

But is that true?

And more importantly, have you already conjured up an explanation of how your phone could indeed jeopardize a flight even though you’re neither a pilot nor an electrical engineer?

Somehow, you can “see how” a phone could mess with a plane’s instruments, etc., but yet you have no proof.

That is because your phone cannot and does not interfere with a plane’s instruments or sensors.

It’s an urban legend. It has never happened.

Sure, people have reported cases of phones knocking out instruments, etc., but these reports are entirely anecdotal and impossible to repeat.

In other words, it is completely and utterly unscientific to make passengers put their phones on “airplane mode” in order to “protect” the plane.

And yet airlines keep mandating “airplane mode.”

Governments keep doing it, too.

All in the name of “an abundance of caution,” which translates to “to soothe our imaginary fears.”

Sound Familiar Yet?

There are many, mucho laws, guidelines, and regulations on the books exactly like “airplane mode” – based entirely on fear, not science.

Once enough people have a fear of something, that “something” is now real, even if it was entirely made up in someone’s mind.

Therefore, “phones will interfere with the plane” is now a real thing, even if it’s founded on pure fantasy.

Even worse, people who actually know better are still forced to submit to the nonsensical rules.

And the folks who enforce those rules enjoy nothing more than cultivating snitches.

Is any of this starting to sound familiar?

Nice and Big or Too Friggin Tiny

The problem with things like viruses and electromagnetic radiation coming out of a person’s mobile phone is that we cannot see it with our “naked” eyes.

In short, we have circa 1.000.000.000 years of experience in examining things with our eyes.

In contrast, we have maybe 300 years of experience in examining microscopic things.

Furthermore, we have just 75 years of experience in examining submicroscopic things.

So, just as you’d expect, we suck at understanding stuff in the Tiny World.

And why not? Tiny World is weird.

Tiny World is billions of times more complex and frenzied and dynamic than anything we’re used to.

Looking at a drop of pond water under the microscope for more than a couple of minutes will give you a headache. And yet those microorganisms are jumping and wiggling and zooming and skating around like that non-stop, 24 hours a day in Tiny World.

It makes you tired just thinking about it.

Periscope Depth

At best, when absolutely everything goes right, the most we ever get to see is a thin, two-dimensional slice of Tiny World.

It’s like trying to chart the coast of Norway with a submarine periscope.

We know next to nothing about microbiology. We barely have names for a tiny fraction of the bacteria that exist on this planet, and we know nothing at all about the rest.

The number of people on this planet who can identify viruses with an electron microscope could fit into a single van.

Therefore, it really would behoove us to stop acting like we have any expertise when we are only just starting to scratch the surface in terms of what is actually going on in Tiny World.

Furthermore, collectively, humanity still needs more time to get its head around the idea that Tiny World even exists.

Currently, we just are not ready to make life-destroying decisions based on what we only pretend to understand.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Merwizard says:

    @Andreas Moser have you tried to make a phone call during the flight? I don’t think it works. The caller will be outside of the range of the mobile provider antennas since they direct the signal below them, not above. Also, the hand-over procedure (jumping from a cell to another), which is sometimes difficult to achieve at much lower speeds, for instance 100 km/s. It would prove impossible at 800 km/h.
    However only the phone modem will be turned off in “airplane mode”. Other functional modules, like the GPS or WiFi will continue working. You’ll be able to enjoy the in-flght entertainment system on board

    Long before mobile phone era, the passengers were required to turn off their portable radios. Unlike your car, for instance,the plane heavily relies on radio communications, and radio navigation and location services. Normally a phone should not and will not interfere with all this equipment. Phone are certified in terms of EMI standards. But you’ll never know what a defective phone may cause.

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  2. Passengers are not requested to activate the airplane mode because of possibly causing a malfunction in the aircraft.

    The reason why they are asked to do so – only – during take-off and landing is that take-off and landing are the most accident-prone segments of a flight. And if something goes wrong, the crew want the full attention of the passengers. They want them to follow instructions, to file out of the aircraft, to put on life vests, et cetera. They don’t want them to watch movies, to snapchat or to film.

    For the same reason, the in-flight entertainment is deactivated during take-off and landing.

    Once you are safely airborne, you can switch on your phone and your laptop and everything else. This is not prohibited by regulations, and I don’t think most airlines prohibit it. Those who do, do so because they are worried that telephoning passengers will disturb other passengers and that this will lead to tension. (Or because they want passengers to use the in-flight telephones at ridiculously high expense.)

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