3
$\begingroup$

I want to solve the age-old (decades-old) question of how to bork or severely restrict wireless (radio, WiFi, satellite, cell phones, etc.) communication (semaphore is allowed, I guess, but it's not going to become incredibly useful). Because, you know, plot contrivance. Wired communication (telephone, internet, etc.) should still work. One traditional answer is to set your plot before the invention of ________, but I want a modern world with YouTube and Netflix and JNCO jeans and drastically changed seafaring/flying.

My solution is that most of the Radio Spectrum (let's say from VLF to EHF) after some event(s) has so much noise that producing intelligible signals—even after utilizing signal processing techniques—is so inefficient as to render such communication all but nonexistent.

Nobody is investing in massive shields that protect entire cities. NASA or Google or whoever may have the odd building they've designed to allow the continued use of ________, but for 99.9999% of people it's all gone.

The setting is modern (20X0s) Earth ten to twenty years after whatever event(s) caused this change. The world is still functional, albeit changed (the setting is not apocalyptic). There is no magic.

Why/how did this happen? Are there any other consequences?

Answers don't need to be "hard-science", but a link or two would be nice.

Ideally, beyond the impact on wireless communication, the event(s) shouldn't be too paradigm-shifting (a solution that would seem too drastic: a cup of neutron star matter has apocalypsed part of the world and is emitting massive amounts of RF waves).

$\endgroup$
10
  • $\begingroup$ Related: Why might radios not be effective in a post apocalyptic world. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome ifThis.... Please take our tour and refer to the help center for guidance as to our ways. Enjoy Worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ Is everybody blind in this world? Because vision is a form of wireless communication. (And I really don't see what you could do to make microwave links unfeasible while still allowing people to see.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 16:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What is largest source of noise in our solar system? The sum. For story reason the sun is producing more noise in spectrum range below infrared. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 21:17

4 Answers 4

3
$\begingroup$

Auroral kilometric radiation.

Auroral kilometric radiation (AKR) is the intense radio radiation emitted in the acceleration zone (at a height of three times the radius of the Earth) of the polar lights. The radiation mainly comes from cyclotron radiation from electrons orbiting around the magnetic field lines of the Earth. The radiation has a frequency of between 50 and 500 kHz and a total power of between about 1 million and 10 million watts. The radiation is absorbed by the ionosphere and therefore can only be measured by satellites positioned at vast heights, such as the Fast Auroral Snapshot Explorer (FAST)... The sound produced by playing AKR over an audio device has been described as "whistles", "chirps", and even "screams".

Want to listen to it?

In your world, the directionality of the kilometric radiation inverts and intensifies. Now it all goes directly down onto the earth. It is random, weird and deafening on nearly all the radio broadcast spectrum.

Some people in your world listen to it anyway. They think they can hear voices. I was listening for a while to the link and I started to think that. I turned it off. I was afraid to hear what they were saying.

$\endgroup$
4
$\begingroup$

Smart dust and jamming

During the recent crisis between North America and Eurasia, the two sides avoided an all-out nuclear war by sending many small drones loaded with "smart dust" - tiny spy bugs that send occasional chirps of information back to their home countries. Every home was invaded, every business, every password recorded, every compromising moment taken.

In rage, one side or the other, probably both, channeled Project West Ford and scorched the sky. No more satellites picking up these transponders each at their own daily millisecond. Not having space any more hurt communication a bit. The HAARP project attacking the ionosphere interfered a little more, not nearly enough.

Eventually, all the countries started interfering with the spy operations by just all-out interference, controlled by AI to try to mimic smart dust signals to block and interfere with them.

Of course, some of the dust still manages to get access to a landline anyway, but the amount of spying it can do is comparatively reduced.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Government Regulation

There is no wireless communication because your government forbids it for a combination of "national security" and/or "Public Health" reasons.

The National Security Reason

Wireless communication is behind spy drones, pineapples (automated wifi hacking devices), Pwn Phones (special phones used for wireless hacking), and all sorts of other cyber crime devices. Currently these threats make up a very small portion of cyber-crime attacks, but as tech literacy increases; so, is the use of before considered "specialty" hacking devices.

The government may have at first tried to crack down on the use of criminal wireless devices, but thanks to how many wireless signals there are out there, there is no real way to regulate it. By making wireless communication illegal, you take away the incentive for drive-by MiM attacks.

The Public Health Reason

There are reports that wireless communication can cause possible health problems over a long period of exposure. In our current day, these reports are mostly inconclusive, but as we gather more longitudinal data moving into the future, we may find that these health concerns are more justified than we realized at first. And just like lead in gasoline or mercury in medicine, it maty become another one of those ridiculously stupid things that the previous generation did to F themselves up.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Repeat the Carrington Event

You will knock out everything you just mentioned. The down side is you will also do damage to any wired connections which are not shielded and hardened.

Telegraph lines drew arcs around the planet. Telegraphs operated by DC battery back then, operators in Tulsa disconnected their batteries and were still able to send messages. On a completely unpowered circuit. If the sun got in a bad mood today, our planes would be grounded, you wouldn’t be able to call anyone, and fairly well everything we rely on would glitch, burp, or just die.

According to the NOAA, a solar storm on the scale of the Carrington Event today could severely damage satellites, disable communications via telephone, radio and TV and cause electrical blackouts

(Carrington Event major spike recorded by the British Geological Survey, September 1, 1859)

If you need it to be semi-permanent, I think the sun could arrange that. It would take some explaining.

Even if it’s not permanent, you can have it periodically emitting like a pulsar. Some strange process of the sun that has never been observed before, shoots out these storms every year and we just can’t rebuild that fast. I have a novel idea on this: a planet-sized asteroid from the Oort cloud hits the sun and punches a hole in the chromosphere, that will take centuries to calm down again.

No matter what “noise-based” problem you invent, noise is noise, and power is power. Signal-to-noise ratio will still be a ratio that we can probably overcome, with enough money. Only magic can make radio communication “impossible.”

$\endgroup$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .