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  1. *COLD OPEN TO WHAT SOUNDS LIKE IT COULD BE A SMALL/HOME-OFFICE LOCALE?*
  2. DB (Office):    <reads>"Gearing up for the fourth series of David Baddiel
  3.                  Tries To Understand."
  4.                 "We've covered Nuts, Electricity, Bitcoin, the difference
  5.                  between Sunni and Shia and many others."
  6.                 "If there's anything you've never understood, speak now
  7.                  or forever hold your piece."
  8.                 'S alright?
  9. Giles:          It's great!
  10. DB (narrates):  Hello, I'm David Baddiel. Welcome to a *new* series of
  11.                 David Baddiel Tries To Understand, in which I try to
  12.                  understand things.
  13.                 You just heard me and my producer Giles, there, drafting
  14.                  my customary series-starting shout-out to Twitter.
  15.                 Asking *you* to tell *me* things that *you* don't
  16.                 understand.
  17. DB (office):    <reads>"How do people manage to get good fruit-spacing in
  18.                  fruit-cake."
  19.                 "The ending to Trading Places."
  20.                 "Why my wife says she is ready to leave the house but
  21.                  will still be there ten minutes later."
  22.                 Every *single* time I do this, some... *man*... say()
  23.                  some unbelievably 1970s things <huf> about women.
  24.                 "Brexit dividend."
  25.                 Fvvfuvuvur...
  26.                 "Wifi"
  27. Giles:          That's a good one.
  28. DB:             Not bad, I'm going to Favourite it.
  29. DB (narrates):  A long time ago, I remember reading in Martin Amis's
  30.                  novel "Money", the sentence "How dismal it is to watch
  31.                  the rain and not know why it falls."
  32.                 And, obviously, I still don't really know that *either*.
  33.                 But it occurs to me that if Amis's existential sadness
  34.                  was about not understanding something, which feels like
  35.                  it happens all the time and is all around us.. then
  36.                  now... rain... especially with climate change... won't
  37.                  cut it any more.
  38.                 The all-encompassing thing now... Is Wifi.
  39.  
  40. *PHONE/VOIP CONVERSATION*
  41. John:           It kinda seems to enveloped everything. So gone from being
  42.                  a box in the corner and... er, that you go and sit at a
  43.                  laptop or a PC and do stuff to. To just being everywhere,
  44.                  and... with the wires gone... as... it's just.. i'... How
  45.                  does it work?
  46. DB:             That's John Osborne, A civil-servant from Tunbridge Wells.
  47.                 Agreeing with me about the "all around" thing.
  48.                 But, meanwhile: What is it?
  49. DB (converses): Now... in terms of the pure science, I'm assuming... and I
  50.                  often do this, which is before I understand anything, I
  51.                  make a few guesses, so perhaps we should guess... it's
  52.                  some form of radar(?)-style thing, emanating from a
  53.                  central box(?), so... you know... (..) that's my first
  54.                  guess, so what do you think it is?
  55. John:           Yeah, I mean I assuming it's some kind of... erm,
  56.                  (y/dn)'know... r... not 'ray', but you know, it's, it's
  57.                 () wave of so', wave of some description. I mean it g...
  58.                  It obviously goes through concrete and [DB: Yes...] steel
  59.                  and all these kinds of things, so... um, it(/)I'm
  60.                  assuming it's pretty powerful, umm, sure's y'know,
  61.                  ngh<?not?> gamma rays, or (...) X-rays, y'kn', or
  62.                  anything like that, but, obviously it must be quite
  63.                  powerful. Must be something that goes through the air...
  64.                  and... erm... Yeah... I (gi...m'n'hv) beyond that (e'hb
  65.                  e'hb) into the realms of not having a clue.
  66. DB (narrates):  Yes. I think we got into the realms of "not having a
  67.                  clue"... quite a bit before that, actually. But... I...
  68.                  do have one more observation to make.
  69. DB (converses): You would have thought that since Wifi is... as it were...
  70.                  <chuckle and in-breath>... invisible(le.. le...) <sighing
  71.                  in-breath>... I mean this is like... wh'/there, er,
  72.                  there... at this point often happens li' my vocabulary
  73.                  breaks down, 'cos I don't really know what I'm talking
  74.                  about. But because there's no actual 'thing' that the
  75.                  information has to travel through, apart from the air
  76.                  that [John: Yeah...] it must be *fast*er than cabling.
  77. John:           Yeah. You'd assume that. You assume that. I mean out,
  78.                  make, the main, the main science may not bear that out,
  79.                  but, err, you would certainly assume that.
  80. [Something like a workman's hammer-blows overdubbed from next segment?]
  81. DB (narrates):  It was clear that I needed some help. And where better to
  82.                  start than with someone who deals with Wifi for a living.
  83.                 So I met up with Chris Boniface and Bart ?Mashnashe? who
  84.                  work for Virgin Media and was installing a new Wifi
  85.                  system in a house in London.
  86.                 What... I asked Chris... actually comes out of that little
  87.                  black box in the corner of the room?
  88.  
  89. *A HOUSE*
  90. Chris:          Ok... So, the... the Superhub uses radio frequencies...
  91.                  [DB: Mmm] And, there's, there's two methods, er, of
  92.                  connecting, so we've got, er, 2.4 gigahertz and 5
  93.                  gigahertz.
  94.                 Now... historically, most devices used 2.4, but now as
  95.                  devices are getting more complex they can connect on
  96.                  "5G"[sic?], as well.
  97. DB (narrates):  Bart explained that one of the reasons for this change is
  98.                  because there's lots of interference on the older 2.4Ghz
  99.                  band.
  100. Bart:           You can have uvver devices that actually not Wifi devices,
  101.                  as such, it could be a lightbulb [DB: A lightbulb..?], it
  102.                  could be... it could be a microwave oven. There's got,
  103.                  they've got. The frequency of a microwave oven is 2.45 Ghz,
  104.                  very similar to the Wifi. It could be a cordless phone,
  105.                  that's why we recommend to keep your routers away from
  106.                  other equipment that can [DB starts to overtalk...]...
  107. DB (house):     There's a... There's a good point with microwaves, which I
  108.                  also don't understand. I understand they might be powered
  109.                  on the same frequency, but surely it's a completely
  110.                  different type of signal..? Isn't it?
  111. Bart:           It's, it's, a radio frequency.
  112. DB:             It's a radio frequency...
  113. Bart:           Yeah(/p).
  114. DB:             If it's the same frequency as a microwave, why is that not
  115.                  heating me up?
  116. Bart:           Ok. Because of the power of the device. Your microwave
  117.                  oven has got much stronger... power... than the router.
  118.                 The routers are very limited to..., the, the, de wifi
  119.                  specification doesn't allow for the signal to be so
  120.                  strong that you could use it on the other.. side... of uh,
  121.                  [DB starts to crosstalk] of the town...
  122. DB:             But ?if it was?[DB/Bart crosstalk] it would be dangerous.
  123.                 It would be heating people up?
  124. Bart:           Yes.
  125. DB:             Ok.
  126. Bart:           Very, very little radiation from the router.
  127. DB (narrates):  It's really not powerful, Wifi. So although it *can* travel
  128.                  through walls, it can be *stopped* even by certain kinds
  129.                  of *paint*. In fact, some people are so nuts about keeping
  130.                  their Wifi to themselves, they will *buy* anti-Wifi paint.
  131.                 I presume in Farrow And Ball colours.
  132.                 It was at this point that my own mind's Wifi met it's anti-Wifi paint.
  133. DB (house):     Is "Radio Frequency" and "Radiation" the same thing?
  134. Bart/Chris?:    ...d'know..
  135. DB:             Do you know the answer to that?
  136. Chris:          Erm... I think that might be one for your... for your
  137.                  boffin.
  138. DB:             Erm, because if it *is* Radiation in a microwave, I
  139.                  understand that, but I've never really thought about Wifi
  140.                  as being Radiation, because it's always been described to
  141.                  me as Radio Frequency. But now that you've said it's the
  142.                  same as a microwave, I'm thinking (that) it's Radiation.
  143.  
  144. *KING's COLLEGE, LONDON*
  145. DB (King's):    Hi. I'm David, [Dr TM: Hi, nice to meet you] nice to meet
  146.                  you.
  147. Dr TM:          <?greeting?>
  148. DB (narrates):  I needed the help of what Chris had called a Boffin
  149. Dr TM:          Would you like <... continues low faded into background>
  150. DB:             So I headed off to meet Dr. Toktam Mahmoodi, an Associate
  151.                  Professor of Wireless Communications at King's College,
  152.                  London.
  153. Dr TM:          So your router at home has a tiny antenna which looks like
  154.                  a pen, erm... or pencil, basically.  Errr.. the antenna,
  155.                  ummm, transmits wireless wave signal in every direction
  156.                  because of its shape. And then what it does is with a
  157.                  very low powerr it transmits wireless signal and through
  158.                  this wireless signals, the way that the data is modulated
  159.                  over the wireless signal, you receive the signal at your
  160.                  computer, at your mobile phone, and your mobile phone
  161.                  demodulate that signal and, err, read the data from that.
  162. DB (King's):    Presumably its a wave emmitted from the wireless, so, what
  163.                  is it? Electromagnetic wave? <noted pause> Is that right?
  164. Dr TM:          Errrrrrr, yes, that's right. They're microwave waves,
  165.                  basically.
  166. DB:             Can I just get into the physics of it a tiny bit more?
  167. Dr TM:          Sure
  168. DB:             So when you say "It's an electromagnetic wave"... <pause>
  169.                 What actually is that? What are the particles... <pause>
  170.                 Are there particles..? <pause> Is it like radio waves?
  171. Dr TM:          It's radio wave, exactly.
  172. DB:             It's the same type of wave.
  173. [Dr TM, partially over: It's the exact same type of wave.]
  174. DB (narrates):  So, at this point... I should make it clear, even though
  175.                  I'm using phrases like "Electromagnetic Wave", and "Radio
  176.                 Wave"... I really don't understand what these things are.
  177.                  <Pause> Radio waves. For example.
  178.                 Up until the point of doing this show... I'm 54. I've
  179.                  always thought... they were like *sound* waves.
  180.                 Because of the word "Radio". And... you'll know this...
  181.                  the radio's like a "sound thing". But they're not.
  182.                 They're like... Light Waves. Or, as John said, X-Rays or
  183.                  Gamma Rays. Just at the other end of the spectrum of
  184.                  Electromagnetic Radiation.
  185.                 But what do *Radio* Waves *actually* wave. *What* is
  186.                  waving?
  187. Dr TM:          <Hesitant> It's a power... that... move the aiiirrr... in
  188.                  order to... <unintelligable, as DB cuts in>
  189. DB (King's):    ...it moves the air..? [Dr TM, overspeaks: ...basically.]
  190. Dr TM:          So air is your carrier, basically.
  191.                 [DB, over: Air is the carrier] Yes.
  192. DB:             Right, so the molecules in the air are vibrating, so the...
  193.                  to this frequency.
  194. Dr TM:          Exactly.
  195. DB:             How is information carried? Through that?
  196. Dr TM:          <intake of breath>
  197. DB (narrates):  Now, I thought I'd done Ok, up until this point, but with
  198.                  *that* question, things started to go rapidly downhill.
  199. DB (King's):    <intakes breath> Right.
  200. Dr TM:          So maybe I can start from a ?little bit? behind.
  201. DB:             So the difference is necessary only to distinguish between
  202.                  one Wifi network and another?
  203. Dr TM:          Noo...
  204. DB:             No? I've got that wrong too..?
  205. Dr TM:          Yes...
  206. DB:             Hmmm... <series of breaths and sighs> Yeah, the thing I
  207.                  don't understand now is the... that... err, ahm, sorry if
  208.                  this is stupid, because I'm going to have to draw this.
  209.                 Ok. So look, here's my ph<exasperated sigh>... sorry about
  210.                  this. There's my phone
  211. Dr TM:          It is important to note here... that what you draw...
  212.                 [DB: Yeah] ...is not correct.
  213. DB:             <Away from mike: ?Nope?>
  214. <Possible edit-point in audio, implausibly quick back to full volume>
  215.                 Ermmm, so as far as I understand it<sigh>... and I've been
  216.                  helped by my producer, but we'll miss that bit out... As
  217.                  far as I understand...
  218. ?Giles?:        ?I think we've <unintelligable> [someone's strange laugh?]
  219. DB:             As far as I understand it, there's... the information is
  220.                  carried in a wave, and the wave is transmiting from
  221.                  device to device, really... just binary information in
  222.                  ones and zeroes. How does a wave carry ones and zeroes?
  223. Dr TM:          Ok... so, I need to ask you to recall... maybe some basics
  224.                  of physics that [DB: Yes] you studied in school, and how
  225.                  does a wave look like.
  226.                 So, if I have this wave, that has some highs and lows, I
  227.                  would say every high is a "One", every low is a "Zero".
  228.                 So with this wave, I can transmit... a just repeated "one
  229.                  zero one zero one zero".
  230. DB:             Okaaayyy... [Dr TM, over: That's true?]
  231. Dr TM:          Okay?
  232. DB:             Yes.
  233. Dr TM:          Now... Not always I want to transmit a repeated "one zero
  234.                  one zero one zero" [DB, over: Because that's only one...
  235.                  one system] It's just one string. Now, how I do it, I
  236.                  shift this wave, for... erm... ah... <notable sounds of
  237.                  pen on whiteboard?> in the time axis in the time-axis,
  238.                  for ?very big?, and then I have another wave. Now, if I
  239.                  read from the beginning of my axis again, I have one, but
  240.                  before going to zero I have another one here
  241.                 [DB: Ah, I see] And I have a zero, ?try it?.. So I can
  242.                  have an infinite feature between a one and a zero. Now, I
  243.                  have a s- sequence of one, and after that I have a zero.
  244.                 The one <unintelligable> to have them what would I do? I
  245.                  cut my wave in the way that I only carry the ones. Or I
  246.                  cut my wave in the way that I only carry the zeroes, and
  247.                  so on.
  248. DB (narrates):  As often on this program, I started to become... confused.
  249.                 But then, out of the mists of confusion, I had... a Eureka
  250.                  Moment. I saw the light of understanding!
  251. DB (King's):    So. <Pause> The modem, or whatever it is that begins the
  252.                  transmission is slightly time-shifting, depending on what
  253.                  the data is. Is that right? And *that* is how... noughts
  254.                  and ones become waves?
  255. Dr TM:          Sure.
  256. DB:             Yeah.
  257. (Faint voice):  Is it... <presuming this is loose editing!>
  258. DB (narrates):  Toktam *also* told me that because it's travelling through
  259.                  the air, Wifi travels at the speed of light. Which I have
  260.                  to say, I think is news to most people who actually use
  261.                  Wifi.
  262.                 Including my son, who constantly complains that ours isn't
  263.                  even fast enough to make him win on Fortnight.
  264.                 But it *did* allow me to make another breakthrough of my
  265.                  own.
  266. DB (King's):    Does it work in a vacuum? Does it require the molecules of
  267.                  the air?
  268. Dr TM:          <Hesitant, slightly off mike. Could have been answering
  269.                  either preceding question!> Yeah..(?) It ?will? work.
  270.                  <words not clear - "will/would/wouldn't/will not"?>
  271. DB:             <States back> It *wouldn't* work in a a vacuum.
  272. Dr TM:          No, I... er... it would work in a vacuum. <Possibly?>
  273. DB:             No, that helps. You see, that means I've understood it,[sic]
  274.                  but I <unintelligable/slurred> wouldn't work in a vacuum.
  275.                 [Dr TM laughs over, maybe nervously] Thank you, Ok.
  276. DB (narrates):  I've learnt enough[sic!], it was time to return to John. And
  277.                  explain Wifi to *him*.
  278.  
  279. *PHONE/VOIP CONVERSATION*
  280. DB (converses): You've got a router, and that has an antenna on it <intake
  281.                  of breath> and that antennae[sic] is sending out... Radio
  282.                  Waves... they are electromagnetic waves. Radio Waves.
  283.                 They're not very high powered. They're not like...
  284.                  'light' Light Waves, or whatever.
  285.                 *On* the wave, the information is transferred.
  286.                 The way that the Wifi can transmit very complicated
  287.                  information <intake of breath> is by time-shifting the
  288.                   wave.
  289. DB (narrates):  So that's what we in Radio call a "montage" of me, trying
  290.                  to explain the whole thing, which is very...
  291.                  wide-ranging, but in the end, it came down to a single...
  292.                  simple... conceptual leap.
  293.                  Much like the one I had in the very *first* episode of
  294.                  David Baddiel Tries To Understand, which was about
  295.                  Electricity.
  296.                 In my own very limited scientific understanding, the
  297.                  Eureka Moment is the same. It's to do with the nature of
  298.                  *things* you can't see.
  299.                 You can't see the atoms in the copper wire, that connect
  300.                  your kettle, but they are there, and their electrons move
  301.                  when you switch the power on.
  302.                 Similarly... <audio spliced?>
  303. DB (converses): ...I'd never really conceived of... Wifi or radio waves or
  304.                  whatever... as... molecules in the air vibrating in a
  305.                  certain pattern. [John, over: Yeeesss...] That's what the
  306.                  frequency of Radio Waves is. Is that not right, Toktam?
  307.                 <pause/edit?>
  308.                 So... I think... a lot of time, to come back to your basic
  309.                  question "What is it?". *That's* what it is.
  310.                 [John, over: Yeahh] It's air molecules vibrating in waves...
  311.                 And *we've* created a way in which that can be decoded into
  312.                  language.
  313. John:           Fine.  Yeaaahhhp. That does, That makes, That does make
  314.                  sense.
  315. DB:             Ok. Toktam. It's Judgement-Day.
  316. Dr TM (phone?): <pause> Yeah, I think you gave a very good description.
  317. DB:             Ahhh...
  318. Dr TM:          In parts, it's true ?that? your, erm.. description of Radio
  319.                  Wave was very eloquent. [DB: Thank you.] <uninteligable>
  320. DB:             I'm looking for an actual mark.
  321. Dr TM:          Yeah, you want an actual mark? I give you 65.
  322. DB:             Sixty Five! ...out of what..?
  323. Dr TM:          <Pause> Out of hundred.
  324. DB:             Oh, oh(kay <merges into hoarse laugh>)... you see, here was
  325.                  I thinking "Ooh, out of seventy".
  326. John:           Oooh <unintelligable>
  327. Dr TM:          <laughs nervously?>
  328. DB:             Sixty five out of a hundred.
  329. Dr TM:          <Cuts over> Well, I cannot give you seventy, because seventy
  330.                  in academic terminology would qualify you for a Distinction
  331.                  mark [DB, over: Yes... Yes, you don't want that...]
  332.                  requires a bit of more effort.
  333. DB:             Yes, requires a tiny bit more [Dr TM laughs over this]
  334.                  effort. Than just turning up, and... and listening to you
  335.                  and speaking to John.
  336. DB (narrates):  So, that's it. Wifi explained. At sixty-five percent. Which,
  337.                  frankly, is a lot more than the signal I get from my phone
  338.                  in my top-room toilet. But, then again, who needs to have
  339.                  Wifi on the toilet. Apart, of course, from Donald Trump.
  340.  
  341. *PROGRAMME ENDS - CONTINUITY ANNOUNCER SPEAKS*
  342. Announcer:      David Baddiel Tries To Understand was presented by David
  343.                  Baddiel, the producer was Giles Edwards.
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