Skip to content

Guest Column: Electromagnetic Spectrum


Special to The Enterprise

Just about everything that rules our life depends on electromagnetic energy to exist. So how come the average person is not more familiar with how it works? The same reason we don’t know how the engine runs our car. As long as it works, we don’t need to know. But let’s cover some of the things that depend on it to work – radio, tv, cell phones, microwaves, X-ray machines, tv remote controls, GPS units, the headlights on your car, your sight, your hearing. If the entire electromagnetic spectrum is the length of a football field, what you can see with your eyes would be at about the 50-yard line and would cover about six inches out of that 300 feet. What we can see is tucked in between infrared red and ultra violet.

The light we can see is split into the colors each, which is a different wavelength, which is why the rainbow looks like it does. A lot of the spectrum is deadly if we encounter it. X-rays for example, will kill us if we get too much. Why do you think that the door on your microwave has all those tiny holes? The microwaves can’t get through them.

Which brings me to our atmosphere. If it didn’t block out a lot of radiation, we would not survive. Which means on Mars, we will have to live underground most likely in empty lava tubes. There is a story of the radar on a jet fighter killing a rabbit on the runway a hundred yards away when it was turned on while sitting on the runway.

When you hear 3G, 4G, 5G from cell phone companies they are simply moving up the spectrum to a higher frequency. Higher frequencies are inherently more difficult to control. The government controls who gets to use the different parts of the frequency spectrum and sell the rights to the highest bidder.  The smart folks who bought the rights to the first cell phone frequencies made a lot of money reselling them. The tv remote you use is an infrared device. If our visual spectrum was just a little wider, we could see the red light that changes our channels. This brings me to the realization that our present communication is totally dependent on this spectrum. Which is why communication with submarines is difficult because water attenuates all the wavelengths.

You can download a hearing test and it will start a 0 hertz and go up through 25 or 30 thousand hertz. I can now only hear up to 8,000, which is not too good. The older you are, the more hearing loss you have. Kids can usually hear up to 18,000. Try it yourself, but be warned it can be an annoying sound.

Editor’s note: Keith Tucker is a Greenfield resident and owner of The Marble Shop. He may be contacted at

Leave a Comment