How 20,000 Pounds Of Potatoes Brought Wi-Fi To Airplanes

From Business Insider:

If you’re flying somewhere this holiday season, you could be on a plane that offers Wi-Fi.

And a good Wi-Fi connection on a plane flying 500 miles per hour at 35,000 feet was a particularly hard tech problem to solve, say the Boeing engineers who solved it.

Packing a lot of people in a small space can interfere with radio signals like Wi-Fi. That leads to hot and cold reception spots on the plane, which means some passengers get great connections and others don’t. It also has safety implications: You don’t want Wi-Fi signals to bounce around and mess up the plane’s instrumentation.

Engineers at Boeing thought up a way to fix the issue. But to test it they would need to fill a plane with people and make them sit there for days.

That’s where the potatoes came it. It turns out that a sack of potatoes acts a lot like a person, at least as far as wireless signals are concerned. Instead of hiring people, the engineers filled all the seats of an old plane with sacks of potatoes—some 20,000 pounds in all.

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