Surfing the…Radio?!

Two people sit on a leather couch that connects two different rooms. Person A is looking at the television. Person B is listening to his/her favorite program on the radio. Would you choose the radio or TV–STOP!! Before we continue, let’s discuss what and how a radio works.

A Wikipedia image demonstrating how signals are sent on EM waves

A radio works because it uses waves. Those waves are called radio waves. Radio waves seem simple, but they become complex as you dive into their world. A radio wave is a type of electromagnetic radiation (shorten that to EM radiation), and it is not in the visible range, so we can’t see them. Waves travel everywhere, did you know that most radio waves we have are artificial? Natural radio waves appear to come from celestial bodies (stars, planets, blah-blah).

Radios work because they send and receive radio waves (as I said before), but how does the sound come out? The wave that we get is altered based on the type of broadcasting we receive. I am sure you have probably heard of AM and FM radio. These two types are different; AM radio waves have altered amplitudes while FM radio waves have altered frequencies. As a visual, imagine an ocean wave. If we changed its ‘amplitude’ like in a radio wave used in AM broadcasting, some waves would be taller, and some would be shorter. From this, we can probably determine that FM radio waves look different: some are close together, and other parts are spread out. These changes in the waves allow the antenna, a device that receives the waves, to decipher what is coming from that wave, whether it be music or just a plain ol’ talk show.

In the next paragraph, I shall inform you, the reader, about the applications of radio waves . . . QUICK! Name the first item besides radio that uses radio waves! Let’s see if I name yours…

A cell site in Illinois

Cellphones use radio waves a LOT. Your cellphone gets signal based on whether or not radio waves can reach it. These radio waves are sent by cell sits, or cell towers. A dead zone is an area where your cellphone is unable to receive any signal. Cellphones all (assuming they all do) rely on radio waves, just like telephones relied on electrical signals and such.

A parabolic dish

Satellites use radio waves very often. Certain ways of getting TV channels rely on using antennas to receive radio signals. Satellites in space can be used to receive radio waves. In the image above is what is called a parabolic dish. This type of antenna receives its radio waves in a special way. The waves are bounced off the smooth, curved side, and those reflected waves are sent into the receivers. Other antennas that may be used for this reason may have alternate ways of receiving radio waves.

If I didn’t list yours, and you KNOW that it does use radio waves, don’t hesitate to slap it into the comments section!!

Imagine a world without radio waves. What would it be like? What major differences would occur? Would you rather be Person A or Person B in the beginning scenario, despite that it appears that both objects do use radio waves?


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