Weather Science Project

Don't knock the weather. If it didn't change once in a while, nine out of ten people couldn't start a conversation. Kin Hubbard (1868 - 1930)

You’re not too young to realize the agony some people go through in starting a conversation. Remember this quote. The weather is always a safe subject.

You could go a little deeper into the subject, though. For instance you could do the weather forecast that George Carlin gave us a while back: Weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning. George Carlin (1937 - 2008)

Just to impress your audience, now that you’ve caught their attention, forecast the end of the telephone pole.

You’d have to go into a description of the telephone line, of course. Start with that which connects a telephone from the outside plant cable terminal to the house. It is called the "drop" in phone lingo. It is one pair of wires (+Ring & -Tip) which is 18 gauge rubber covered wire. This wire is called copperclad. Copperclad is steel wire (because steel is strong) coated with copper for better conductivity. If pure copper wire alone were strung from the pole line to the house, it’d probably be stolen already. But before copper was expensive, it alone could not be used because the copper wire would stretch in time. It would start to droop across the road as it lengthened, and become thinner, increasing its resistivity. In enough time, and bad weather, pure copper wire would result in increasingly poor transmission. Then, after a nasty, brutish and short lifespan, the copper wire would finally break. Hence, copperclad wire is used.

Now, though, fiber optics is gradually replacing the steel wire in all phases of telephone communications, as well as all forms of communications.

With Kao and Hockham in 1965 and Maurer, Keck, Schultz, and Zimar in 1970, fiber optic technology took a grand leap forward, perfecting the science that enabled the internet. In 1981, General Electric produces fused quartz ingots that can be drawn into fiber optic strands 25 miles long.

The more robust optical fiber commonly used today utilizes glass for both core and sheath and is therefore less prone to aging processes. It was invented by Gerhard Bernsee in 1973 by Schott Glass in Germany.

Optical fiber is flexible and can be bundled, making it very useful in the telecommunications and networking industry. Long distance lines require fewer repeaters to electrical cables. A single fiber can carry much more data than a single electrical cable. Fiber is also immune to electrical interference. Interestingly, wiretapping is more difficult in fiber optics, compared to electrical connections.

Although fibers can be made out of transparent plastic, glass, or a combination of the two, the fibers used in long-distance telecommunications applications are always glass, because of the lower optical attenuation. Glass, being made of sand, is significantly cheaper than steel and copper.

It all boils down to much better quality transmissions with much less equipment and its attendant costs of plant, installation, and maintenance. In fact, what truly progressive city planners and developers are realizing is that fiber optics is so low maintenance that the cables can be put underground. They are being put underground. The telephone pole is vanishing.

Project:

Take a camera. Get a ride to the countryside and/or small town. Take interesting pictures of telephone poles and wires. Construct a research project on this vanishing man-made phenomenon.

Answer questions such as:

1Given the price of copper and steel, who is going to recover the telephone line? What technology will be used to separate the copper from the steel?

2Where will the birds rest? Get a picture of them. And a recording, if possible of any songs about telephone lines.

3Note any other folklore associated with telephone poles, such as carvings of initials, hanging of advertisements, etc. Get pictures of samples.

4See if the Library of Congress has telephone poles in its Memory Project.