Sunday, December 16, 2007

I live in a world I don't understand

Fibre optic cables - or fiber optic cables – as they’re also spelt – are something that have always been a bit of a mystery to me. I know they have great advantages in speed, and lightness and so on, and if you have them in your local telephone system, then digital information will be sent faster and more clearly than along copper wire – which is what we’ve got as far as I know. (Though Telecom is gradually shifting over to the use of fibre optics generally.)
As I said, how this works or what it does has been a mystery to me. Not any more! I’ve just had a look at the How Things Work site and read up on fibre optics. I now understand the general principles. I now know that the lightness of fibre optics is ridiculous – especially as that magic prefix nano was used in conjunction with them at one point, as in “wavelength = 1,300 to 1,550 nanometers.” And I was going fine through the article until they began to tell me how the cables are made – at which point I pretty much gave up as my elementary chemistry and physics from fifty years or so ago doesn’t help me much when such descriptions are run before me.
Never mind. There are things in the modern world which I know happen but I have no idea how. And I get to the point where I don’t actually believe that they happen at all: zip backups, for instance, which are done at the speed of light (or so it seems). If we think about it seriously, we know that no computer could back up anything so quickly. The whole thing is a hoax, and since most computers are not required to produce the backed-up information at any time, they can get away with it.
Fiber/fibre optics are the same. There’s no way anything can be produced that’s that small. In reality, good old copper wire is being used, but we’re just paying less for it.
I’m kidding – you know that, don’t you?

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