Garage Warfare

Going back through dozens and dozens of links saved over the past few months, I rediscovered two quick news items I thought I’d post together, both of which involve automatic garage doors.

1) The U.S. Navy has been using a radio signal that seems to interfere with garage door openers in suburban Connecticut:

U.S. Navy officials have acknowledged on Monday that a radio signal being transmitted out of the Groton Submarine Base is likely the cause behind the residents’ garage-door woes. The signal is part of the Enterprise Land Mobile Radio (ELMR) system, which is used by the military to coordinate responses with civil emergency workers, said Chris Zendan, a spokesman for the submarine base in Groton.

In short, it seems that frequencies used by remote-control garage door openers overlap with signals put back into service after 9/11 for communicating during civil emergencies.

However, putting this into the context of several recent articles about the accelerating pace of “cyber-attacks” on U.S. infrastructure—that is, “the pace at which America’s electricity grids, water supplies, computer and cellphone networks and other infrastructure are coming under attack,” in the words of the New York Times—as well as news that New York City’s elevators and boilers are now seen as potential targets for cyberwarfare (hackers “could increase the speed of how elevators go up or down,” perhaps crashing them to the bottom of the shaft), the idea of garage doors being hacked by radio signals emanating from the ocean by belligerent foreign powers takes on the air of, say, Red Dawn as remade by Bob Vila. Or it could be the plot of a bizarre future heist film: a sleepy coastal town in Oregon, its every house and building, robbed by submarine.

Just two weeks ago, meanwhile, over-heated headlines proclaimed that “Chinese hackers have control of U.S. power grid,” but perhaps we can imagine, instead, a far less threatening scenario, in which Chinese hackers manage to take control of every garage door in a small town in southern Georgia. Indescribably ignorant politicians proclaim it the work of Satan—but it’s just distant teenage poltergeists, high-fiving each other over cans of Diet Coke and trapping families in their 4-car garages.

2) Former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan had back surgery a while back—and the resulting spinal implant has given him the power to open garage doors from afar. In an otherwise idiotic article that explains how “Hulk Hogan Has Battery Powered Back,” one of the wrestler’s friends jokes that, “When he’s walking down a small neighborhood [sic] he opens every garage door on the street!” Talk about the prosthetic imaginary.

[Image: If Hulk Hogan pushes real hard, his garage door opens].

Next year’s headline: Chinese hackers in control of Hulk Hogan’s back open every garage door in Connecticut.

Liquid Radio

Could temporary jets of seawater be used as functioning radio antennas? Apparently so: as PopSci reports, “communications are vital” for vessels at sea, but deck space for “all the large antennas necessary for long-range (and often encrypted) communications” can be hard to come by. “So U.S. Navy R&D lab SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) engineered a clever scheme to turn the ocean’s most abundant resource into communications equipment, making antennas out of geysers of seawater.”

Using arcing vaultworks of oceanwater, like domesticated waves, to beam and receive encrypted telecommunications not only reduces the metal-load of ships—thus also reducing the radar profile of military vessels—it also offers a way to construct “a quick, temporary antenna that could just as easily be dismantled.”

What they [SPAWAR] came up with is little more than an electromagnetic ring and a water pump. The ring, called a current probe, creates a magnetic field through which the pump shoots a steam of seawater (the salt is a key ingredient, as the tech relies on the magnetic induction properties of sodium chloride). By controlling the height and width of the [stream], the operator can manipulate the frequency at which the antenna transmits and receives. An 80-foot-high stream can transmit and receive anywhere from 2 to 400 mHz, though much smaller streams can be used for varying other frequencies, ranging from HF through VHF to UHF.

Turning seawater into a temporary broadcast architecture is absolutely fascinating to me and has some extraordinary design implications for the future. Pirate radio stations made entirely from spiraling pinwheels of saltwater; cell-phone masts disguised as everyday displays spurting seasonally in public parks, from Moscow to Manhattan; TV towers replaced with Busby Berkeley-like aquatic extravaganzas, camouflaging the electromagnetic infrastructure of the city as a gigantic water garden.

[Image: A mountainous display of women closely choreographed with water by Busby Berkeley, via Alexander Trevi’s Pruned].

Given some salt, for instance, the Trevi Fountain could begin retransmitting mobile phone calls throughout the heat-rippling summer landscape of greater Rome. Ultra-refined specialty saltwaters offer dependable signal clarity in audio HD. La Machine de Marly becomes a buried industrial art project, beaming death metal salt hydrologies to garden visitors: a continuous fountain of thundering music on FM, headbanging to seawater hifi. Espionage conspiracies involving elaborate, deep-cover radio links hidden inside public fountains.

So how could this be further explored in the contexts of tidal river waters—Thames Radio!—rogue waves, and even tsunamis? The artistic, architectural, musical, and infrastructural misuse of this technology is something I very much look forward to hearing in the future.