You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination whose boundaries are… technology. Between shadow and substance, thing and idea, the quiet hamlet of Greenbank, Virginia is real and bans any and all use of technology. And it doesn’t exist in the Twilight Zone, it exists in the Quiet Zone of the United States of America.
So why do I get to make so many Twilight Zone references today? Because a town left to time, where technology is strictly prohibited and cell phones are still something out of a sci-fi movie, could only exist somewhere in the crevices of Rod Serling’s imagination. And yet it does exist, and cell phones are just the beginning of what the residents of Greenbank, Virginia know next to nothing about.
In fact, just about anything that generates electromagnetic radiation is strictly forbidden, by law, to enter the premises of Greenbank. From Wi-Fi signals to mobile devices (like tablets) to computers and television, the concept of the Internet is as obsolete as Myspace. Less than 200 people live in the Quiet Zone, and yet all of them share one thing in common: none of them have access to the Internet or any other form of modern technology.
But why, for the love of God I hear some of you (and myself) asking, would somewhere so prehistoric exist? Pardon me, but did I just walk onto the set of some bad M. Night Shyamalan movie? Or is this real life? Well, here’s the crux of this very concerning hamlet of the U.S.: Somewhere in the 13,000 square-miles of Green Bank’s Quiet Zone, the world’s largest, fully steerable radio telescope sits, listening for the slightest and most nuanced changes in the sky.
And even the most minute electromagnetic wave could throw the massive 485 foot telescope off. Scientists from around the world come to use the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) for observation at a rate of 6,500 hours every year. And being one of only four radio telescopes in the world, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory will go to any lengths to ensure its full functionality, even if that means depriving a whole region of access to basic human rights like Google.
That’s why the West Virginia Radio Astronomy Zoning Act was put into effect over Green Bank, to ensure a zero-tolerance policy towards technology. The act basically says no one can use a lick of modern technology, not even a microwave.
Virginia’s GBT is meant to detect even the faintest radio objects in the universe, from gas clouds between galaxies to hidden chemistry between stars, and the zero percent electromagnetic wave interference allows scientists to accurately measure analytics and interpret values for dark matter and energy.
Believe it or not, Green Bank is actually being actively sought out by a number of people. From those who are looking for a simpler way of life to others who believe they are afflicted with Electrohypersensitivity (a disorder that causes nausea, dizziness, headaches, and other ailments in people who are exposed to electromagnetic waves), Green Bank’s population can probably expect a rise in numbers soon.
Dial-up telephones and phone booths are a common sight in Green Bank, and that’s the way a lot of folks like it. In fact, some of its residents enjoy the time-capsule way of life so much, they say it’s a bit of a sociological experiment stepping out into the “real-world,” where wireless everything is a distant concept back home.
Residents report more and more technology slowly flooding the tiny time-warped town, but for now, that dimension between shadow and substance really does exist. The post sign is up ahead, your next stop, the Quiet Zone.
For ZBRELLA Technology Consulting, I’m Christopher Clark, goodnight and good luck!