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Potatoes Help Wi-Fi: Boeing Engineers Use Spuds to Improve Wi-Fi
Emirates 24/7 ^ | Sunday, December 23, 2012

Posted on 12/23/2012 9:57:15 AM PST by nickcarraway

If the wireless Internet connection during your holiday flight seems more reliable than it used to, you could have the humble potato to thank.

While major airlines offer in-flight Wi-Fi on many flights, the signal strength can be spotty. Airlines and aircraft makers have been striving to improve this with the growing use of wireless devices and the number of people who don't want to be disconnected, even 35,000 feet up.

Engineers at Chicago-based Boeing Co. used sacks of potatoes as stand-ins for passengers as they worked to eliminate weak spots in in-flight wireless signals. They needed full planes to get accurate results during signal testing, but they couldn't ask people to sit motionless for days while data was gathered.

“That’s where potatoes come into the picture,” Boeing spokesman Adam Tischler said.

It turns out that potatoes – because of their water content and chemistry – absorb and reflect radio wave signals much the same way as the human body does, making them suitable substitutes for airline passengers.

“It’s a testament to the ingenuity of these engineers. They didn’t go in with potatoes as the plan,” Tischler said.

Recapping the serendipitous path that led to better onboard wireless, Tischler said a member of the research team stumbled across an article in the Journal of Food Science describing research in which 15 vegetables and fruits were evaluated for their dielectric properties, or the way they transmit electric force without conduction.

Its conclusions led the Boeing researchers to wonder if potatoes might serve just as well as humans during their own signal testing. Despite some skepticism, they ended up buying 20,000 pounds of them.

Video and photos of the work, which started in 2006, show a decommissioned airplane loaded with row upon row of potato sacks that look like large, lumpy passengers. The sacks sit eerily still in the seats as the engineers collect data on the strength of wireless signals in various spots.

The Boeing engineers added some complicated statistical analysis and the result was a proprietary system for fine tuning Internet signals so they would be strong and reliable wherever a laptop was used on a plane.

Boeing says the system also ensures Wi-Fi signals won't interfere with the plane's sensitive navigation and communications equipment.

“From a safety standpoint, you want to know what the peak signals are, what’s the strongest signal one of our communications and navigation systems might see from a laptop or 150 laptops or 350 laptops,” Boeing engineer Dennis Lewis explains in a video.

In a nod to the humor in using a tuber to solve a high-tech problem, researchers dubbed the project Synthetic Personnel Using Dialectic Substitution, or SPUDS.

The company says better Wi-Fi signals can be found already on three Boeing aircraft models flown by major airlines: 777, 747-8 and the 787 Dreamliner.


TOPICS: Computers/Internet; Food; Weird Stuff
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 12/23/2012 9:57:22 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

do the potatoes get strip-searched and groped?


2 posted on 12/23/2012 10:02:08 AM PST by faithhopecharity
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To: faithhopecharity

by a masher


3 posted on 12/23/2012 10:03:06 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

"Potatoes, mash em, boil em, improves reception too!"

4 posted on 12/23/2012 10:05:22 AM PST by mikrofon (Tolkien-ring Network)
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To: nickcarraway

In flight internet is really expensive. Three dollars for fifteen minutes.


5 posted on 12/23/2012 10:11:33 AM PST by SkyDancer (Live your life in such a way that the Westboro church will want to picket your funeral.)
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To: nickcarraway

Ha! (you mean the same guy who does it now to us at the airport, eh?)
ha!

we surely have to find a way to get rid of this horrible airport mess (and especially the groping and xrays)


6 posted on 12/23/2012 10:11:52 AM PST by faithhopecharity
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To: nickcarraway

We live on the edge of a spudtacular new future and the deep fryer on the bottom of the fiscal cliff. Has a whole new spudtrum of WiFi has opened? Some might call it.. WiFry. Has Obama claimed credit yet?


7 posted on 12/23/2012 10:12:20 AM PST by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi)
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To: nickcarraway

You say http://www.poh-tay-to.com and I say http://poh-tah-to.com


8 posted on 12/23/2012 10:18:05 AM PST by Larry Lucido
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To: nickcarraway
And they don't whine as much as human passengers when you shove a galvanized nail and copper wire an inch deep into them to power your iPhone.


9 posted on 12/23/2012 10:18:41 AM PST by KarlInOhio (I'm tired of being beaten like a malcontent elf so Obama can pretend to be Santa.)
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To: mikrofon

My first thought was, the potatoes are being used as some new kind of antenna to pull in the otherwise spotty signals on high-altitude flights, much like they absorb microwaves in microwave ovens.

But then, wouldn’t they just explode, unless a number of fork-punctures were put in them first?


10 posted on 12/23/2012 10:19:36 AM PST by alloysteel (Bronco Bama - the cowboy who whooped up and widened the stampede.)
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To: nickcarraway

I wish I’d read the article before I piled last night’s leftover mashed potatoes on the wireless router. So doesn’t the wife. The dog was pretty happy...


11 posted on 12/23/2012 10:20:26 AM PST by davius (You can roll manure in powdered sugar but that don't make it a jelly doughnut.)
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To: nickcarraway

I read the engineers took a vote among themselves as to which vegetable to use. Upon hearing the majority vote for the potatos, the head engineer declared, “The eyes have it, so it is the potatoes”.


12 posted on 12/23/2012 10:22:01 AM PST by miele man
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To: nickcarraway

Stacks of paper. Like medical charts and books will wipe out a WiFi signal as well. I’ve had to put TWO APs in a single room before because of this.


13 posted on 12/23/2012 10:22:56 AM PST by KoRn (Department of Homeland Security, Certified - "Right Wing Extremist")
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To: faithhopecharity

Don’t tell Eric Holder that potatoes have some characteristics similar to humans — he’ll automatically register all potatoes to vote!


14 posted on 12/23/2012 10:28:59 AM PST by duckworth (Perhaps instant karma's going to get you. Perhaps not.)
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To: nickcarraway

15 posted on 12/23/2012 10:31:29 AM PST by bmwcyle (We have gone over the cliff and we are about to hit the bottom)
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To: nickcarraway

>>It turns out that potatoes – because of their water content and chemistry – absorb and reflect radio wave signals much the same way as the human body does, making them suitable substitutes for airline passengers.<<

To the airlines and the TSA, people make a great substitute for potatoes (and cattle).


16 posted on 12/23/2012 10:33:54 AM PST by freedumb2003 (Here comes bama claus here comes bama claus left down bama claus lane!)
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To: duckworth

membership in his core voting block does not appear to require very many human characteristics.
he will register the potatoes to vote because they reside underground like so many of his voters (Chicago cemeteries...)


17 posted on 12/23/2012 10:35:11 AM PST by faithhopecharity
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To: nickcarraway

NYT Headline:

Potatoes Put 350 Experimental WiFi Passengers Out of Work
Women, Minorities, Children Hardest Hit


18 posted on 12/23/2012 10:51:52 AM PST by null and void (Going Galt: The won't of the people)
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To: nickcarraway

“Because I’m a POTATO!”
http://youtu.be/E80KIDCXQJs


19 posted on 12/23/2012 11:01:58 AM PST by RandallFlagg ("Liberalism is about as progressive as CANCER" -Alfonzo Rachel)
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To: nickcarraway
They could've used sacks of shit to simulate Dem politicians, but then again Dem politicians don't fly commercial.

CC

20 posted on 12/23/2012 11:11:43 AM PST by Celtic Conservative
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To: alloysteel

But then, wouldn’t they just explode, unless a number of fork-punctures were put in them first?
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
After using the ‘baking potatoes’, sealed in plastic with instruction to NOT poke holes, I have been baking potatoes just by rinsing off and wrapping in paper towel and nuke for about 8 - 10 minutes.

Actually found out by mistake when I neglected to puncture potatoes and they didn’t explode.

Maybe the outside water helps?


21 posted on 12/23/2012 11:21:52 AM PST by xrmusn (6/98 "It is virtually impossible to clean the pond as long as the pigs are still crapping in it")
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To: nickcarraway
So, Boeing researchers have discovered that, in some instances, a sack of potato is more useful than a human.

Liberals will be incensed about the replacement, because, those "jobs" were ideal for their constituencies, who just like to sit around.
22 posted on 12/23/2012 11:58:21 AM PST by adorno (Y)
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To: nickcarraway
So, Boeing researchers have discovered that, in some instances, a sack of potato is more useful than a human.

Liberals will be incensed about the replacement, because, those "jobs" were ideal for their constituencies, who just like to sit around.
23 posted on 12/23/2012 12:01:51 PM PST by adorno (Y)
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To: SkyDancer

>> “In flight internet is really expensive.” <<

.
When we flew on LAN-Peru last month, they were not charging anything.


24 posted on 12/23/2012 12:05:33 PM PST by editor-surveyor (Freepers: Not as smart as I'd hoped they'd be)
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To: nickcarraway

Large, lumpy passengers: Couch Potatoes.


25 posted on 12/23/2012 12:09:47 PM PST by USMCPOP (Father of LCpl. Karl Linn, KIA 1/26/2005 Al Haqlaniyah, Iraq)
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To: nickcarraway; a fool in paradise; Slings and Arrows
used sacks of potatoes as stand-ins for passengers

Perfect! The truth comes out.


26 posted on 12/23/2012 12:15:28 PM PST by Revolting cat! (Bad things are wrong! Ice cream is delicious!)
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To: nickcarraway; a fool in paradise; Slings and Arrows
Passengers about to board.


27 posted on 12/23/2012 12:17:03 PM PST by Revolting cat! (Bad things are wrong! Ice cream is delicious!)
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To: editor-surveyor

On a recent flight to Atlanta on Alaska Air, them’s the prices. I mean can you go four hours without having to check your email? The airports have free WiFi.


28 posted on 12/23/2012 12:35:31 PM PST by SkyDancer (Live your life in such a way that the Westboro church will want to picket your funeral.)
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To: nickcarraway
Synthetic Personnel Using Dialectic Substitution

Do they mean, like, using Hegel's theory instead of Marx's?

29 posted on 12/23/2012 12:51:57 PM PST by Erasmus (Zwischen des Teufels und des tiefen, blauen Meers)
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To: KarlInOhio

Back in the early 80’s, our outfit introduced our first low-power CMOS microcomputer.

Somebody got the idea of powering it with lemons. They stuck a copper electrode and a zinc electrode into a lemon, and then put two or three of these in series, giving enough voltage and current to run the micro and an LCD displaying the time of day.

They showed it off at a couple of electronics conferences, and then our marketer brought it back to the office in a plastic box and stuffed it under his desk.

A month or two later when he dredged up the box, the lemons were all moldy and LCD was blank. But he squeezed the lemons, and lo! it sprang back to life, and had actually been keeping time the whole while.

Then there’s the hamster-powered clock whose software I wrote, but that’s another tale.


30 posted on 12/23/2012 1:03:44 PM PST by Erasmus (Zwischen des Teufels und des tiefen, blauen Meers)
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To: nickcarraway
I knew a guy in High School who used a potato for a car antenna, after his aerial got snapped of.
31 posted on 12/23/2012 1:40:08 PM PST by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both)
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To: nickcarraway
It turns out that potatoes – because of their water content and chemistry – absorb and reflect radio wave signals much the same way as the human body does, making them suitable substitutes for airline passengers.

Sitting inside an aluminum tube with wi-fi is like sitting inside a microwave oven. There is iron in every cell of the human body, and iron is how blood carries oxygen, which is what gives blood its metallic taste. Iron is also the key element in a radio antenna. It doesn't seem likely second-hand wi-fi has absolutely no ill effects.

32 posted on 12/23/2012 2:31:00 PM PST by Reeses
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To: Reeses

What about earth’s magnetic field? Magnets pointing north works in a lot of different kinds of environments.


33 posted on 12/23/2012 3:21:18 PM PST by jjotto ("Ya could look it up!")
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