Questions for ‘Wireless devices crowd out cosmic radio signals and more’

This telescope in Green Bank, W. Va., collects radio signals from outer space. But radio transmissions from other sources, such as cell phones and the internet, can interfere.


To accompany feature ‘Wireless devices crowd out cosmic radio signals and more


Before Reading

1. What do you think radio waves have to do with science? What do they have to do with your everyday life?

2. Do you think there could ever be so many radio signals being sent and received that there isn’t room for them all? Why or why not?

During Reading

1. What are radio waves and what kinds of information do they transmit?

2. Based on this story, what devices emit radio signals?

3. What is the radio spectrum and why is it important?      

4. What is a growing problem with the radio spectrum, as described in this story?     

5. Why are cell phones and Wi-Fi banned from Green Bank, W. Va.?;

6. What is a pulsar and what kind of radio signals does it emit?     

7. How are scientists using radio waves to study Earth’s weather, water cycle and climate change? What challenges do such scientists face?

8. What is radio interference?     

9. How are researchers like Paul Tilghman trying to avoid issues of interference in the radio spectrum?     

10. What may be the only way to pack more traffic into a crowded radio spectrum?  

After Reading

1. How can we share the radio spectrum for personal, military and scientific use?  

2. Why is it important not to interfere with scientific studies that use radio waves?  


1. If asked, would you give your cell phone up for a day so that scientists could do their research? Would you give it up for a week? Explain why or why not.

2. Working with a partner, brainstorm ways to encourage people or companies to give up part of their radio use for all or parts of some activities. Hint: What incentives might someone or some organization offer? Is there a price or trade-off that would make giving up some Wi-Fi use compelling?

3. Identify 10 or more activities in your life or that of people in your community that rely on Wi-Fi. Now, imagine that your family moved to Green Bank, W. Va. — you’re your community now had no access to Wi-Fi. How would you adjust your activities or what trade-offs would you make to get these or similar activities done? Summarize what you learned.