Monday, April 24, 2006

The Star and the Satellite

Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.” – Hedy Lamarr

Unfortunately, we are sometimes subjected to the profound scientific ignorance of entertainers like Tom Cruise or Pamela Anderson. Of course, this should not distract us from their entertainment talents. Tom Cruise is still a fine actor and Pamela Anderson - well I’m still at a loss to figure what her real talent is - besides looking like a cartoon character. The point I want to make here is that not all entertainers are insipid or vacuous and I wanted to remind people about one such actress.

Hedy Lamarr was a beautiful actress of the 1930s and 1940s. She appeared in over twenty movies, but she was also the principal author on a 1942 patent for a radio-frequency device originally designed to enable torpedoes to evade counter-electronic jamming measures. Her idea of “frequency hopping” was not implemented in this capacity during WWII but in another way many years later. Three years after the expiration of her patent, the concept was designated “spread spectrum” and is now used in modern communications and wireless technologies including everything from cell phones to military defense satellites.

So you see, not all entertainers are intellectual clowns, as there are a few that take a more educated approach to applying scientific principles. And it is not lost on me, that as I write and post this letter, it is being done on a wireless system. Thank you, Ms. Lamarr.

-Just a peasant