Fascinating Facts About GPS


GPS technology has revolutionized how we navigate and explore the world. Beyond helping us find our way, there are many lesser-known aspects of this remarkable system. Here are seven interesting facts about GPS that showcase its complexity and importance.

1. High Operational Costs: Operating and maintaining the GPS system costs approximately $2 million each day. This expense, which includes satellite launches and regular maintenance, is covered by American tax revenue.

2. Automatic Deactivation: GPS units are designed to shut down if they detect speeds over 1200 mph (1900 km/h) at altitudes above 60,000 feet (18,000 meters) to prevent misuse in high-speed, high-altitude applications such as intercontinental ballistic missiles.

3. Relativity Adjustments: Due to their high speeds, GPS satellites experience time differently. According to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, a second on a GPS satellite is 8 microseconds longer than a second on Earth. GPS systems are programmed to account for this discrepancy.

4. ‘Death by GPS’ Incidents: Some users have ended up in dangerous situations by blindly following GPS instructions, leading them off cliffs, into lakes, or deep into deserts. These incidents highlight the importance of paying attention to the real-world environment rather than relying solely on digital directions.

5. Selective Availability (SA): In the 1990s, civilian GPS accuracy was intentionally degraded by a feature called Selective Availability (SA). This changed in 2000 when President Bill Clinton ordered SA to be turned off, significantly improving GPS accuracy for civilian use.

6. Impact on Navigation Skills: Research suggests that heavy reliance on GPS can diminish our natural ability to form and use mental maps, potentially weakening our innate navigation skills.

7. Space-Based Navigation (XNAV): Scientists are developing a new type of GPS for space travel. This system, called XNAV, uses X-rays from pulsars to provide precise location information, accurate to within 5 kilometers, anywhere in space.

These facts reveal the intricate workings and profound impact of GPS technology, reminding us of its critical role and the importance of using it wisely.

Charging Ahead: 6 Facts About Electric Vehicles

Electric car charging stations
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Dive into the world of electric vehicles (EVs), where modern innovations intertwine with environmental mindfulness. Electric cars are not merely contemporary gadgets; their history traces back to the early stages of automotive evolution. Here are five captivating tidbits about the evolution, allure, and sustainable aspects of EVs.

1. Electric Cars: A Peek into the Past: Contrary to popular belief, electric vehicles were already cruising our roads at the start of the 20th century. Impressively, some pioneers of this era could achieve 25mph speeds and boasted a 50-mile range. Notably, an EV was the first to exceed 60mph in 1899.

2. The Electric Cab Trend in the Big Apple: The early 1900s saw electric cars earning their place in urban landscapes. Case in point: New York City had an impressive lineup of electric cabs, highlighting that EVs constituted around one-third of all vehicles during this epoch.

3. Open Access to Accelerate Evolution: Spearheading the EV movement, Tesla Motors took a groundbreaking step in 2014 by making all their intellectual property publicly accessible. Their ambition? To catalyze the development of EV tech. Echoing this sentiment, Toyota unveiled approximately 24,000 patents in 2019, showcasing their top-tier electric and hybrid innovations.

4. Efficient Design Equals Fewer Repairs: An often-overlooked benefit of EVs is their streamlined mechanics. An average electric motor contains close to 20 components, in stark contrast to the nearly 2,000 components in traditional internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEV). This simplicity translates to less frequent servicing and, subsequently, decreased lifetime expenses.

5. The Sustainable Edge in Production: In the battle of emissions, EVs hold a clear advantage. The associated emissions of EVs, spanning from their parts production to power generation, are markedly below those of their petrol-driven counterparts.

6. Harnessing the Power of V2G: The core of EVs is well-known: they operate on electric energy stored within. However, the innovative Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) paradigm remains relatively obscure. This strategy reimagines EVs as portable power reserves capable of supplying the grid when required.

4 Tidbits About Telephone Switchboards: The Lines Connecting History

Young woman working as a telephone operator
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Before the dawn of our digital age, telephone switchboards stood at the forefront of communication technology. These seemingly archaic contraptions played a pivotal role in connecting voices from coast to coast, city to town, and house to house. Dive into some fascinating facts that highlight the evolution and tales of these manual marvels.

1. Switching from Boys to Girls: The earliest telephone switchboard operators were young boys. However, their tenure was short-lived due to their penchant for being “rude and abusive” towards callers. This undesirable behavior swiftly paved the way for young women to take over, marking the beginning of an era where female operators became the voice of communication.

2. Holding Onto Tradition: While most telephone companies transitioned to automated systems in the 1950s, some held onto the past for much longer. The Kerman Telephone Company in California stood as a testament to this resistance. As late as 1991, they continued to use manual pull and plug cord switchboards. The owner’s refusal to adopt newer technology was driven by a heartwarming reason—he didn’t want to lay off his loyal switchboard operators.

3. A Competitive Spark of Invention: Behind many groundbreaking inventions lies a tale of personal vendetta. Almon Brown Strowger, who ran a funeral business, found himself losing clients due to a sneaky tactic by his competitor. The rival, leveraging his wife’s position as a telephone operator, had her divert calls intended for Strowger to his own business. This underhanded move ignited Strowger’s ingenuity. He went on to create the automatic telephone exchange, revolutionizing communication by removing the need for human operators.

4. End of an Era in Maine: Imagine a world where making a call involved turning a hand-crank! Well, until 1982, this was a reality for the residents of Bryant Pond, Maine. Susan Glines held the unique distinction of being the last telephone switchboard operator for such a hand-cranked system. With her departure, the town transitioned into the era of modern telephony.

From the personalities behind the switchboards to the innovations driven by competition, the journey of telephone switchboards is a captivating mix of human stories and technological evolution.

Inspired by Cinema: The Birth of Wide Area Motion Imagery (WAMI)

In the 1998 film “Enemy of the State,” the National Security Agency (NSA) pursues Will Smith utilizing real-time satellite feeds, a surveillance technology that was not available at the time. However, the movie’s portrayal of this advanced system inspired a government research engineer to spearhead the development of Wide Area Motion Imagery (WAMI).

WAMI is a cutting-edge surveillance technology that allows for the continuous monitoring and tracking of a vast area using high-resolution imagery. This innovative system can be mounted on various platforms, including drones and aircraft, to provide real-time information on the ground.