AP PHOTOS: Science in silence in Radio Quiet Zone


In this Nov. 13, 2013 photo, a phone booth stands on the side of a road in Head Waters, Va., inside the National Radio Quiet Zone. While pay phones have all but disappeared in the United States, they still can be found in this part of the country, where a cell phone signal is hard to come by. The quiet zone, which has been in place since 1958, aims to protect sensitive telescopes at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, as well as a nearby Naval research facility, from interference created by cell phones and other everyday devices that emit electromagnetic waves. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) | Zoom

GREEN BANK, W.Va. (AP) - In these parts, a pay phone is a visitor's best option for reaching the rest of the world. A cell phone signal is an hour away by car. Wifi is forbidden. The radio plays nothing but static. And other than the occasional passing pickup truck whose driver offers a wave, it's dead silent.

Seemingly off the beaten path, this community of fewer than two hundred residents is the heart of the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000-square-mile area where state and federal laws discourage the use of everyday devices that emit electromagnetic waves. The quiet zone aims to protect sensitive radio telescopes at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, as well as a nearby Naval research facility, from man-made interference. This silence enables the observatory to detect energy in outer space that is equivalent to the energy emitted by a single snowflake hitting the ground.

While scientists listen intently for clues from the universe on its structure and origins, residents in some of the timeworn railroad towns in this valley maintain a fundamentally tech-less lifestyle that for most Americans is a memory. More than 90% of American adults have a cell phone today, yet some locals fondly recall ditching their wireless device after moving here. After all, it's useless, and that's fine by them.

Here is a gallery of images from the National Radio Quiet Zone.

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Follow AP photographers and photo editors on Twitter: http://apne.ws/15Oo6jo


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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