Home > Entertainment, Nonsense > 4. Traffic Calming Part II – Donaldson & Stevens

4. Traffic Calming Part II – Donaldson & Stevens

“You remember that wireless calming system that you thought may have caused a problem with Karl Bernahrdsson’s pacemaker?”

“Yes, do you want me to come down?”

“It might make more sense – I do hate acting these things out on the phone…”, Donaldson placed the phone back on the receiver and switched on the old black metal electric fan. He started thinking whether the fans electric field was causing interference that the sites systems were picking up; and, if so, were the systems attempting to cancel them out.

“Right, go ahead.”, Stevens had arrived.

“That would be impossible though, right?”

“What would be impossible? – try to include me in any preamble when you want to discuss ideas, you know, just to bring me up to speed.”

“I was wondering if the electric fan here”, he turned it off, “would generate enough of an electromagnetic field to cause the ‘radio calming’ systems to try to cancel it out.”

“Oh…”, Stevens looked less than enthusiastic, having left the problem with Donaldson he’d not given it another thought since.

“But it would be impossible, wouldn’t it?”

“I don’t know – why?”

“They’d need to pick up the signal of the interference in order to know what to cancel it out with.”

“True – they would. Yes, you’re right – it couldn’t be cancelled out”

“Then how do they expect to cancel out radio hotspots unless they’re actually there experiencing it?”

“Ahhh – right, well, they might then.”

“They might? Another fine answer… please explain!”

“Well”, Stevens continued, “it might just be that the system models the electromagentic spectrum in order to ‘predict’ hot spots; it then transmits similar signals…”

“Yes – I know, to cancel it out…”

“Well, yes, but I should clarify – this is somewhat separate from the standard ‘noise reduction’ as the mechanism to cancel out the noise needs to be delivered to a particular place and is almost always achieved through refraction and reflection of the signals – not a straight forward ‘anti-replication’ of the signal passing through the building.”

“I can’t quite imagine that – although I’ll take your word for it”

“Good – I’d hate to have to explain the code behind the software that models it. What did you want me for – just that?”

“No – something else; although your answer may have helped me on the way. The system seems to never reach a balance. I wouldn’t necessarily expect it to when the areas it is monitoring are occupied although I’ve isolated some sections and it looks as though even when the living quarters are empty the system seems ‘at war’ with itself.”

“OK, I’ll bite, what do you mean?”

“I mean, well, let’s say there’s a hot spot in cabin 1; the system models that – you say – and then provides signals that will cancel out that hot spot.”

“Sounds about right.”

“Then, shortly afterwards there’s a hot spot somewhere else, perhaps – given what you’ve just told me – because the system has just adjusted what it is transmitting”


“It then adds it’s ‘new move’ to the model and finds that it must calm that hot spot.”

“Yes – that sounds right too”

“So this loop keeps on progressing and progressing until what?”

“What do you mean?”

“Does the antenna burn out – all this signal noise intended to drown out a hotspot surely causes more damage than the one hotspot eventually?”

“Ahh – no, the system should understand when it no longer…. Hmmm, I see your confusion – the signals the ‘wireless calming’ system outputs are not leyered one on top of the other – the whole system is modelled and the best ‘single’ complex blanket pattern is deployed for the ‘imagined’ state of the site.”

“By imagined I guess you mean the model that the computer has calculated”


“But how can it calculate it if it is constantly cocking it up? Schrödinger’s cat comes to mind – how the hell can you tell what state it’s in if your poking away at it every millisecond?”

“You can’t – it guesses.”

“This is getting beyond a joke. So there’s this ‘radio signal noise’ that purveys, no, that surrounds every inch of our life and, in order to keep it under control, we employ a computer to guess where the noise is noisiest so we can attempt to cancel it out with more noise; which, if done incorrectly, could result in fatalities?”

“Pretty much.”

“You must be hiding something from me – otherwise people in Oaklands would be dropping dead every day. Why does it work?”

“Generally speaking the signals are of such low power they’re not really an issue, the whole idea of cancelling them out seems like a publicity stunt for Oaklands anyway – if there was a health hazard we’d be doing it everywhere…”, he stepped over to the water cooler and poured some water, “the system is not constantly in ‘output’ mode, it does stop to listen to what is happening without interfering from time to time. This gives it the opportunity to update the model and send out the correct ‘blanket’ signal that it needs to…”

“Thank god for that! I was waiting for you to tell me you’d discovered that radio waves have a ‘memory’ like water – and you can ‘ask them’ where they’ve got a little bit hot under the collar?”

“No; we’re not quite away with the fairies.”

“Well if that’s true then why the instability – surely the system would vary only when occupants were interfering with the signals by using wireless enabled systems.”

“That would be my expectation, yes.”

“Well that’s not what it happening!”, Donaldson put his feet up on the desk and folded his arms as if to indicate his work was over.

“The idea was to establish why Karl Bernahrdsson’s pacemaker failed to restart his heart; not simply pick holes in the wireless calming system.”, Stevens knew that the best reaction to this was a resignation on his part – let Donaldson lead for a moment, he obviously had more information than he was letting on.

“OK – well I requested an autopsy report. It seems our dearly departed Karl was somewhat cooked from the inside out – judging from his activities leading up to his death he was finding it more and more difficult to get out of the house and so spent time working from home. Hot spots in his apartment are far from regular – but if you put a bag of bones in there (and the accompanying water that goes with it) the ‘imagined system’ that I’ve been informed of contains hotspots in his bed, on the sofa – just about where he watches the TV) and in the bath.”

“Sounds like someone was trying to kill him.”

“I thought that too.”

“Anything odd about the software? Have you asked it why the hot spots are there?”

“I don’t have permission to ‘converse’ with it.”

“I’ll get that changed – and I’ll get you a list of the people who did.”

“Thanks – oh, and just reassure me, we don’t have ‘noise cancellation’ here do we?”

“Funny.”, Stevens raised his eyebrows in disapproval at the joke and left.

Categories: Entertainment, Nonsense
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