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Optical fiber cables are simply vulnerable
December 29th, 2006 posted by JB under Alumni Stories, Bits & Pieces

The quake that hit Taiwan last Tuesday wasn’t fun at all. Aside from giving us a strong, offensive reminder of what happened around this time in December 2004, it also exposed the simple fact of the whole planet relying too much on these submarine fiber-optic strands for all our state-of-the-fart global communication.

The thing is, fiber optics is one cool technology. If you’ve seen one of those Discovery Channel episodes [I think you can still watch it here] where unsmiling British people very seriously and painstakingly create a meter or so of that cable, you’ll realize creating this kind of cable feels like assembling a microchip. You don’t simply melt and tease into strands a chunk of copper ore or any of those metals you kick around everyday; you use glass.
But despite all its “high-techness,” we simply lay these cables on the ocean floor mostly unprotected. There’s this report from Rand Corp in which some sharks thought that electromagnetic pulses the cables emitted would make a good lunch, and so they feasted on it. Even ship anchors or fish nets can damage it.

Last Tuesday’s quake drove it home so sharply, mostly because half a dozen or so big-shot countries suddenly lost voice and data transmission capabilities. One moment, you’re downloading The Host, the next moment, everything’s dead. The connection, I mean.

One alternative, say some smart people, would be satellites. Or, if you really want to hark back 150 years ago, use carrier pigeons. Seriously, it’s annoying. And perhaps it’s going to happen again real soon; laying parallel fiber-optic paths will use up tons of money — money that is not easy to source. But maybe we can all start by hunting down that smart guy who had the wisdom to lay the cables around Taiwan and Japan — two countries earthquakes really love — and have the old ladies tickle him to death.

Last 20 posts by JB

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Read the Comments

[ # 37 ] Comment from arteako [December 30, 2006, 3:10 pm]

now this is the reason why these days sending sms to mother back home was a bitch! ugh! and to think that I thought she didn’t charge her phone after the holidays.

i should find that guy and feed him to the Ajummas. is there a reward or something?

[ # 39 ] Comment from JB [January 2, 2007, 1:03 pm]

oo nga e. actually i “rejoiced” too soon. it’s not yet over pala.

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