Re: "Blue" Skies


8 November 1999

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 5 Nov 1999 12:18:38 -0600 (CST)
From: "Roy L. Beavers" <>
To: emfguru <>
Subject: Re: "blue" skies (Weiner) (Curry).. (fwd)


Thanks for the following.....  You write:

........"Cheaper to pay the cost of lawsuits than fix the tracks....."

Bill, that is a VERY NORMAL position for the utility industry to take.... And railroads are much like utilities....

Why does this make sense for them.....  Because they wage a constant "propaganda" (and other "P.R.") campaign to keep the public convinced that you cannot win if you go up against them (intimidation!!!).....

In spite of all that "belly-aching" you hear from them about the "terrible" state of our 'torts law' (in the U.S.) ... and the terrible cost of lawsuits (which, ostensibly, drive up costs to the consumer) -- in spite of all that, IN FACT, their law-suit costs are a very minor part of their business costs......!!! Though, of course, they DO keep a few lawyers in some fat fees.......

Frankly, if no-one is willing to sue them......  You BET!! It is cheaper NOT to fix the tracks......  Or move the power lines!!!!!

Our (industry "friendly") government is the principle ally they have in maintaining this strategy....!!!!!

(Until recently, that strategy was the time-honored strategy of the tobacco industry as well......)

As you suggest, You bet!!!  They're ALL going to pay "lip service" to the public health and safety issue (as long as they enjoy those "friendly" government policies) -- and until "we" start 'suing their balls off'......!!!!

Had a liitle saying where I used to work, once:  "When you get 'em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow........"


Roy Beavers (EMFguru)

It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness

People are more important than profits!!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 05 Nov 1999 10:28:32 -0600
From: "Bill P. Curry" <>
To: "Roy L. Beavers" <>
Subject: Re: "blue" skies (Weiner)..

Roy, Bob, and Spark

In regard to the matter of consumer electronics devices being used aboard commercial aircraft, I remember having read an article in IEEE Spectrum magazine several yers ago.  I wish that I had kept it.  The article was written in regard to the practice of airplanes allowing computers, games, etc. to be used except during and near landing and takeoff times.  It carefully analyzed the problem in airplanes, owing to the number of navigation and communication systems that are distributed throughout airliners.  My recollection is that there were about 20 problem areas.

Many more regions of the aircraft have embedded antennas than most people realize.  As I recall, the article concluded that some experts thought that passenger consumer electronics systems should not be allowed to be turned on at all during flight, but the airlines - of course - bow to the economic pressures of the needs of business people for these devices (as well as the youngsters who are kept occupied by electronic games).  I think this is just one of many areas in which corporations (such as airlines) pay **lip service** to safety and health, but tolerate a predetermined hazard level on the basis of economics.

I remember when a railroad headquartered in the South (where I lived at that time) decided it was cheaper to pay the cost of lawsuits, than to fix the tracks.  The only thing that changed that policy was intensely bad publicity when a bad tank car accident killed 12 people in a town through which the railroad ran.  Finally, the railroad retracted its diabolical policy after newspapers and other members of the media made it too hot for these out of state corporate officials to ignore the people in my state.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 04 Nov 1999 18:05:12 -0800
From: Bob Weiner <>
To: "Roy L. Beavers" <>
Subject: "blue" skies

Hi Roy,
It's bad enough when wireless signals cause problems in medical monitoring equipment, such as happened at a Dallas hospital when HDTV went on line.  In that case, the failure in equipment would have to correspond to a worsening in the patient's condition and it not otherwise be observed. The difference in the situation described below is if an airplane's navigation system or other electrical system fails causing a crash, the casualties could number in the hundreds (of course, medical monitoring failures could tally up in the hundreds or even thousands, just not all at once and not so apparent as to the cause).

As you know, there has been speculation that wireless interference has already caused airplane crashes.

Bob Weiner

November 4, 1999

Mobile computing commentary by Dan Briody

.... According to a British analyst firm, The Butler Group, British Telecom is working to bring Internet access to airplanes by fall of next year. Dubbed In Flight Internet Gateway, the service is designed to work through the airplanes' "satellite links and onboard computers," according to Butler Group analysts.

Without a doubt, this is the scariest thing I've heard about air travel in the past five years. Through the planes' own computers?  What happens when the pilot tries to pull up the flight path information and instead gets the Pokémon fan club's Web site that the kid in 15D is looking at?

In most cases, I assume that someone much smarter than I has figured out all of this stuff way in advance. Like when you're riding a rickety roller coaster, you have to believe that those running the show don't want you to die. It would be bad for business. But having 100 different Internet hackers simultaneously accessing the plane's onboard computers is more than a little disconcerting for me.

Okay, security concerns and personal-time sacrifice aside, it would be pretty cool to plug in on a plane and surf away. In-flight movies just aren't cutting it for me these days. While my credit card bills might look more like my flying altitude, I could get some really important shopping done, read the news, and catch up on the stock market. But they had better make the connection pretty speedy, because combining airline rage with pay-by-the-minute download rage is a combustible mix.

But British Telecom won't stop there. Beyond the pure entertainment value of surfing the Web on planes, they are also planning SkyPhone Mobile Connect service to allow passengers to receive calls to their cell phone through onboard telephones.  Wow. I can think of something like 30 different better uses for a plane's satellite communications equipment. But who am I to stand in the way of technological progress? In truth, I just want to be able to be blissfully out of touch while I'm on the plane, without having to hole up in the lavatory. But it's only a matter of time before we all have our eyes glued to the Internet permanently, I suppose.

Dan Briody is an editor-at-large at InfoWorld and can be reached at

Bill P. Curry, Ph.D.          |Physics is fun.
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