Researchers sifted through a whole lot of AT&T mobile phone data to find out who’s talking to who—or, really, where’s talking to where. The Connected States of America, as the project is called, has produced some amazing maps showing clusters of communication, from the surprising—neighboring states like Oklahoma and Arkansas pair off, chatting mostly with each other—to the expected: the flood of continent-spanning calls between New York and San Francisco.
What’s the News: Libyan rebels can put away their semaphore flags and pick up a cell phone again, now that a group led by a Libyan-American telecom executive has hijacked the nation’s downed cell phone network and restored service to part of the country. Colonel Moammar Qaddafi cut off access to the network a month ago in an effort to hamper rebel organization, which it did quite effectively: “We went to fight with flags: Yellow meant retreat, green meant advance,” said Gen. Ahmed al-Ghatrani, a rebel commander in Benghazi. “Gadhafi forced us back to the stone age.” (via WSJ)
The rebel phone network went live on April 2, and rebel leaders are using it to communicate with the front lines.
What’s the News: Yesterday, AT&T announced plans to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion from parent company Deutsche Telekom, making the new behemoth the hands-down largest wireless company in the United States. Though AT&T touts this merger as good for everyone, some technology writers, such as GigaOM’s Om Malik write that “it’s hard to find winners, apart from AT&T and T-Mobile shareholders.”
What’s the Context:
Not So Fast: The company merger is still awaiting regulator approval. Some argue that the bigger AT&T will hurt smaller companies like Sprint and even larger ones like Google. “Sprint and T-Mobile often stood against AT&T and Verizon on a variety of regulatory issues, so if AT&T succeeds, Sprint will stand alone on special access and other issues,” writes Malik. With more power, it’ll be easier for AT&T to “impose its own will” on what services and apps are placed on Android smartphones. If the FCC or Justice Department agree that the acquisition will give AT&T too much power or lead to higher prices, they may veto the deal.
Manoj Nair of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has devised a new possible method of detecting a deadly tsuami long before the wave crests to dangerous heights. And, in a bit of good news, much of it is already in place.
In a new study in next month’s Earth, Planets, and Space, Nair modeled the massive 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean and found that a tsunami picking up steam as it moves across the ocean emits a tiny electromagnetic signature of of about 500 millivolts. That’s enough to have an effect on the communication cables that stretch across the ocean floor, carrying internet messages and phone calls. The electromagnetic signal “is very small compared to a 9-volt battery, but still large enough to be distinguished from background noise on a magnetically quiet day,” said Nair [Daily Camera].
Nair says this kind of system could be a lower-cost alternative to the bottom pressure arrays that directly measure large movements of water. “What we argue is that this is such a simple system to set up and start measuring,” Nair says. “We have a system of submarine cables already existing. The only thing we probably need is a voltmeter, in theory” [Wired.com].
Oleg Godin, one of Nair’s research partners, said any small improvement could make a huge difference. “If you detect tsunamis in the deep ocean — and that’s what we’re working on — meaning far from shore, you have hours, certainly tens of minutes, to warn people,” he said. “If people are well educated, a 15-minute warning is enough to save everybody” [Daily Camera].
80beats: South Pacific Tsunami Kills More than 100 People
80beats: Geologists Find One Cataclysmic Tsunami in Every 600 Years of Thai Dirt
80beats: Haiti Earthquake May Have Released 250 Years of Seismic Stress
Image: flickr / epugachev