/25 Altered landscape

Paul Kranzler & Andrew Phelps

The Drake Equation

The Drake Equation
National Radio Quiet Zone, Green Bank, West Virginia
Paul Kranzler – Andrew Phelps, 2015

The National Radio Quiet Zone is a 30,000 square kilometer region in West Virginia and is home to the world’s largest radio telescopes. Created in the 50′s around the small, remote community of Green Bank, WV, the “Quiet Zone” was established in this region specifically because of its sparse population and lack of massive industry. The highly sensitive radio telescopes are disturbed by any form of radio activity such as wifi, radio stations, cell-towers and all forms of electro magnetic energy, thus rendering this region a tech-free zone for anyone living in the area. The telescopes draw the top astro-physicists and astronomers from around the world to this remote region of WV where they live side by side with local families which have been in this Appalachian Mountain area for hundreds of years. Often living on land which their ancestors claimed as wilderness frontier in the mid 1700′s, many of these homesteads still practice the traditions of cattle farming, deer and bear hunting and maple syrup harvesting and most are employed by the saw mills and timber industry which still remains in Pocahontas County. Now, in the last years since wi-fi technology has entered mainstream life in the US, many people are moving into the area exactly for the reason that it is wi-fi free. So called, “Electromagnetic Hypersensitives” are people suffer allergic reactions to radio frequencies associated with wi-fi technology. The region, which has officially been defined by the FCC as “radio free” offers relief to people trying to flee radio and wi-fi signals which are found in any populated area of the country. This culmination of diverse social, economic and personal situations make this region fascinating for telling the stories we are most interested in; how lives are influenced by the landscapes we live in. The Drake Equation, created in 1961, is an assumption of our chances of finding extra-terrestrial life from other star systems. As astro-physicist spend their days using this equation and the telescopes to search the edge of the universe looking for signs of life, a parallel set of systems and codes define the lives of the families which have been thriving for generations in Green Bank, along with the new settlers who have arrived to flee the technology age.