×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Boeing Uses 20,000 Lbs. of Potatoes To Check Aircraft Wireless Network Signals

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the you-mean-you-don't? dept.

Transportation 104

coondoggie writes "Boeing calls it Project SPUDS — or rather, Synthetic Personnel Using Dielectric Substitution — that is, using sacks of potatoes perched on aircraft seats to test the effectiveness of wireless signals in an airliner cabin. Boeing said it was researching an advanced way to test wireless signals in airplanes and needed a way to effectively simulate 200-300 people sitting in seats throughout the aircraft."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

104 comments

So (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42341979)

So did they do this test in their labs, or at a Five Guys?

Re:So (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42342195)

They usually do it at the five guys on 164th SW, it's the closest to their plant.

Re:So (2)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | about a year ago | (#42342999)

This was Seattle, so it was done at Dick's Drive-In [ddir.com] .

Re:So (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42346421)

Probably not at Five Guys. They wanted good results.

Irish joke (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42341985)

lolololololollll

Usually these INSANELY FUNNY jokes ooze from people who can be found stuffing their faces with fries. Yes, fries are made from potatoes.

Chill out, Paddy McButthurt! (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42342225)

You're freaking out a bit early, don't you think? There's not a single Irish joke in the comments yet.

Re:Chill out, Paddy McButthurt! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42342431)

Must be redhead, with all that anger.

Re:Chill out, Paddy McButthurt! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42342435)

He's probably drunk. Ignore him.

Re:Chill out, Paddy McButthurt! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42342711)

He avoids the losing-your-soul-by-traveling-into-the-future problem by simply not having one.

Re:Irish joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42346295)

If they're Irish, then they will call them chips, like all civilised people do.

coincidence (5, Funny)

pesho (843750) | about a year ago | (#42341999)

The fact that Boeing's customers treat their passengers as sacks of potatoes is purely coincidental.

Re:coincidence (4, Funny)

colin_faber (1083673) | about a year ago | (#42342123)

Haha yes I was just thinking that, FTA "The team determined that potatoes were ideal stand-ins for passengers, given their similar physical interactions" I've seen lots of sacks of potatoes in my travels over the last year. Some even snore.

Re:coincidence (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42343485)

If Boeing covered the sacks in lard and flew them to Florida, half of 'em would be married within a week and the rest would be cops.

Re:coincidence (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | about a year ago | (#42347015)

I was thinking, "Why couldn't they have used cows or hippos?" but then I realized, potatoes don't whine about not being able to fit into a seat because they're too fat.

Re:coincidence (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42342221)

Are they using couch potatoes or in this case coach potatoes!?

Re:coincidence (-1, Redundant)

kaehler (43680) | about a year ago | (#42342461)

I know it is a joke, but Boeing's customers are other airlines which do treat passengers as sacks of potatoes...

Re:coincidence (3, Informative)

oodaloop (1229816) | about a year ago | (#42342513)

Yeah, that's pretty much the joke. Thanks for re-stating it.

Re:coincidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42346515)

For those of you who didn't get it, Boeing's using potatoes because they interact with wireless networks in a similar way to people. But it sounds like they think their passengers are like sacks of potatoes in other ways, such as being immobile, vegetative, packed in and thrown about!

Re:coincidence (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42342841)

I think you may be on to something there. Not that Boeing really gets much choice in what their customers do after the product is sold, anymore than a movie studio can keep me from improving their DVD's by smearing them with feces.

Let's look at ways airlines treat customers like potatoes:

  • mashing
  • frying
  • boiling
  • baking
    • including twice-baked
  • roasting
  • dehydrating
  • peeling
  • soaking
  • salting
  • thrown into sacks
  • dumped out of sacks
  • fed manure
  • fed compost
  • kept in the dark
  • plowed over
  • ripped out of place
  • invasive scans
  • ID'd by machines
  • falsely rejected by machines
  • bar-coded

Boeing's engineers seem to have picked a stand-in that seems to suit most use cases. It's a shame they are right on so many levels...

Re:coincidence (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year ago | (#42348903)

The fact that Boeing's customers treat their passengers as sacks of potatoes is purely coincidental.

Execpt that passengers are typically self-loading cargo, thus saving the airline from having to pay people to load cargo as they would with sacks of potatoes.

Extra large sacks of potatoes (1)

fragtag (2565329) | about a year ago | (#42342095)

I hope some of those potatoes were asked to pay for 2 seats.

In all seriousness, 80 pounds of potatoes has similar WIFI restricting capabilities as maybe 140 pounds of person? What other food analogs are used in place of people for tech experiments?

Re:Extra large sacks of potatoes (4, Informative)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#42342219)

The weight is not important. Sacks of potatoes can form a mostly human shape, and I suppose have a more or less similar water concentration? (emphasis on more or less)

Re:Extra large sacks of potatoes (4, Informative)

mpeskett (1221084) | about a year ago | (#42342897)

Numbers found by a brief search indicate ~60% (anywhere from 45% to 75% depending on age and obesity) for a human body, and ~80% for a potato. So you could probably get away with a potato sack smaller than a human, but it's a decent approximation either way.

Re:Extra large sacks of potatoes (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42343177)

I hope some of those potatoes were asked to pay for 2 seats.

In all seriousness, 80 pounds of potatoes has similar WIFI restricting capabilities as maybe 140 pounds of person? What other food analogs are used in place of people for tech experiments?

When doing IQ tests of Republicans I usually substitute broccoli.

Re:Extra large sacks of potatoes (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#42351173)

What other food analogs are used in place of people for tech experiments?

I would have suggested scuba diving wetsuits filled with lard. Sacks of potatoes were probably cheaper.

Man, what a bitch of a long boarding time.

I hope they used the 50-ohm potatoes (5, Funny)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about a year ago | (#42342103)

cause if they used the 75-ohm ones, their Starch Wave Ratio may be too high.

oh, and they have to be properly grounded. potatoes have experience in this area, so that's not usually a problem.

Re:I hope they used the 50-ohm potatoes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42342471)

You must be a HAM radio operator!

Re:I hope they used the 50-ohm potatoes (2)

slimjim8094 (941042) | about a year ago | (#42343041)

Well, I know that if I eat too many potatoes, I find that the input impedance ends up significantly lower than the output impedance and I get lots of damaging signal reflection at the output of the feedline...

Re:I hope they used the 50-ohm potatoes (2)

tool462 (677306) | about a year ago | (#42343499)

No kidding. If they mismatch impedances, the eye's on those potatoes will close.

Re:I hope they used the 50-ohm potatoes (1)

Technician (215283) | about a year ago | (#42345141)

75 ohm is fine for video. What is the primary use? Audio is often 32 ohms for headphones, 8 ohms for speakers, 50 ohm for radio, and 75 for video. Eithernet is typicaly 110 ohm, so 75 ohm is in the ballpark. 50 ohms may be a better match if you can find 50 ohm spuds.

Can you say psudo science? I knew you could.

"Advanced..." (0)

WhackAttack (2672021) | about a year ago | (#42342191)

"Boeing said it was researching an advanced way to test wireless signals in airplanes" With potatoes. LOL

Re:"Advanced..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42344519)

When did we start calling radio "wireless"?

Re:"Advanced..." (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#42351091)

When did we start calling radio "wireless"?

About the same time we started calling antennae "aerials". For reference: It was around the time when we stopped calling the mathematicians who solved equations for the engineers upstairs "computers".

Not the problem? (1)

phizi0n (1237812) | about a year ago | (#42342201)

When the plane is connecting to low bandwidth cellular networks for internet access, how much does it really matter if there is good wifi signal throughout the plane or not.

Re:Not the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42342517)

Well, you can have the seat where there is zero signal then. It's not like you can just measure the distance from the AP to the laptop in a straight line and calculate a signal strength from that distance. The plane is a big metal tube with lots of metal structures inside. The signals bounce around and might create spots where there is absolutely zero energy in some spots and very much energy in others. So I imagine they need fairly sophisticated equipment and software along with careful placement of the APs. And a neat way of testing it is using sacks of potatoes instead of filling the plane with people while doing the measurements.

Re:Not the problem? (2)

colinnwn (677715) | about a year ago | (#42342839)

Well, this was also for regulatory and safety testing, not just for signal quality to the end user. You also want to ensure every seat on the aircraft at least has a decent signal to not compound potential backhaul problems. Finally next gen ground data service is in development for both ground and AC users, as well there is decently high speed satellite service for AC like Row44.

Re:Not the problem? (1)

mikael (484) | about a year ago | (#42350451)

Try measuring your wifi signal strength using a smartphone meter app. I did that in my apartment, and it seems there are standing wave patterns. I would imagine the signal gets reflected off cables, radiators, chairs, LCD screens, tables and whatever else.

"I took a spud, out to a see an EMI test... (3, Funny)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about a year ago | (#42342265)

...and didn't have to pay
to
get
it
IN!"

(oldie but goodie?)

Re:"I took a spud, out to a see an EMI test... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42350807)

Where's the punchline???

Why couldn't they... (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#42342429)

Why couldn't they "effectively simulate 200-300 people sitting in seats throughout the aircraft" by actually having 200-300 people sitting in seats throughout the aircraft?

Re:Why couldn't they... (1, Informative)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year ago | (#42342495)

FTFA:

The technology was first developed to more thoroughly and efficiently ensure that signal propagation met the regulatory safety standards that protect against interference with an aircraft's critical electrical systems, Boeing stated.

Even for tests, they're probably not yet allowed to have those 200-300 people in seats, using wifi, while the plane is aloft.

Re:Why couldn't they... (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#42344773)

my hat off to them: I've managed to teach my sack of spuds to use open access wifi, but wpa2 is just too hard...

Re:Why couldn't they... (1)

Firehed (942385) | about a year ago | (#42345681)

When did this take place? The BOS-SFO flights on Virgin often have half or more of the guests using WiFi, and those A320s hold 146 passengers. They've had in-flight WiFi since the fleet launched, as far as I know. Certainly since 2009 since I first flew with them.

Re:Why couldn't they... (2)

xaxa (988988) | about a year ago | (#42342557)

Why couldn't they "effectively simulate 200-300 people sitting in seats throughout the aircraft" by actually having 200-300 people sitting in seats throughout the aircraft?

Because it's cheaper than using actual people (from the video in the article, they first tested that the potatoes were similar enough to people in a lab). They were able to do some particularly long-running tests and collect a huge amount of data.

Re:Why couldn't they... (1)

mbstone (457308) | about a year ago | (#42347437)

You could never get 200 people to sit in airline seats for several hours, unless they were flying somewhere. This would violate the Geneva Convention Against Torture.

Re:Why couldn't they... (4, Insightful)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about a year ago | (#42342599)

Let's see...WiFi screws up airplane, 300 people dead, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use sacks of potatoes or something like that instead of people?"

There's just no pleasing you.

Re:Why couldn't they... (3, Insightful)

jd2112 (1535857) | about a year ago | (#42343019)

Let's see...WiFi screws up airplane, 300 people dead, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use sacks of potatoes or something like that instead of people?"

There's just no pleasing you.

WiFi screws up airplane, 300 potato sacks lost, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use people who can't stop texting for a few minutes instead of sacks of potatoes?"

Re:Why couldn't they... (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#42343627)

Let's see...WiFi screws up airplane, 300 people dead, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use sacks of potatoes or something like that instead of people?"

There's just no pleasing you.

WiFi screws up airplane, 300 potato sacks lost, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use people who can't stop texting for a few minutes instead of sacks of potatoes?"

Wifi screws up airplane, 300 mad texters lost, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use celebutantes?"

Re:Why couldn't they... (1)

Bacon Bits (926911) | about a year ago | (#42346769)

Let's see...WiFi screws up airplane, 300 people dead, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use sacks of potatoes or something like that instead of people?"

There's just no pleasing you.

WiFi screws up airplane, 300 potato sacks lost, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use people who can't stop texting for a few minutes instead of sacks of potatoes?"

Wifi screws up airplane, 300 mad texters lost, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use celebutantes?"

Wifi screws up airplane, 300 celebutantes lost, and your first question would be, "How do you know it wasn't the paparazzi on the wings?"

Re:Why couldn't they... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42344167)

My first question would be, "Why wasn't most of Congress on board?"

Re:Why couldn't they... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42343935)

Spuds don't demand union wages and benefits

Nobody flies anymore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42342475)

So they were simply unable to run a test on an actual in flight trip with live people?

But to test what sort of people? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42342521)

That might be enough potatoes to account for average sized people, but what about a plane load of fat Americans? They'd have to use 50,000 lb

Re:But to test what sort of people? (1)

drkim (1559875) | about a year ago | (#42345663)

That might be enough potatoes to account for average sized people, but what about a plane load of fat Americans? They'd have to use 50,000 lb

There's an aircraft that seats 50,000 fat Americans? Wow!

Re:But to test what sort of people? (1)

Nikker (749551) | about a year ago | (#42345999)

There has to be a paradox in there somewhere, just have to keep looking I guess.

Couch potatos fly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42342529)

I did not know that a Couch Potato would get off his / her tush and actually fly. What else is Boing doing to get them moving?

Harry Chapin (3, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#42343171)

It was just after dark when the plane started down
The airspace that leads into Scranton, Pennsylvania
Carrying Twenty Thousand Pounds

Of potatoes.

Carrying twenty thousand pounds
(hit it Big John)
Oooooof Potatoooooes

Are you sure you're not... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42344071)

...just flying high in your taxi???

..and cheaper... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42343191)

...than couch potatoes!

Potatoes? (1)

cyberstealth1024 (860459) | about a year ago | (#42343857)

Do they not watch Mythbusters? If nothing else, Mythbusters has taught me that pigs are awesome human body analogues. ...at least better than sacks of potatoes. That being said, potatoes would be easier to strap into the seats than a bunch of living (or dead) pigs. better smelling too.

Re:Potatoes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42343941)

mmmm, bacon!

Re:Potatoes? (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about a year ago | (#42345719)

Dead pigs are expensive, smell, leave stains on the seats, have a limited acceptable usage time and some people don't like for you to use them.
Now the mythbusters are usually testing other things than dielectric strength. I an certain a spud doesn't have similar ballistic properties to a human.

Re:Potatoes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42347681)

easier to clean up after as well.

They use chickens too... (3, Interesting)

pongo000 (97357) | about a year ago | (#42344145)

...at least back when Boeing had a presence in Wichita, KS in the 80's. They shot dead chickens out of a specially-built canon to simulate windshield strikes. My understanding is that jet engine manufacturers still use chicken canons to fire birds into running jet engines.

Re:They use chickens too... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42346521)

Just remember to use fresh, not frozen chickens!

Re:They use chickens too... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42346945)

You may speak in jest, but my day job involves plannig jet engine bird ingestion. You have to get the chicken out of the freezer in time to defrost, but shoot it in before it goes off. You usually have a selection and pick the ones that are just over the minimum mass requirement.

Re:They use chickens too... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42352751)

And if your first thought is trying to remember whether the Chicken Canon comes before or after the Taco Bell Canon, you've been Slash-Schickeled.

Potatoes? How about Bananas? (1)

Dripdry (1062282) | about a year ago | (#42344207)

Potatoes? That isn't anything compared to the THIRTY thousand pounds of mashed bananas!

Anybody? Aaaaaanybody?

Take your daughter to work day? (1)

Quinn_Inuit (760445) | about a year ago | (#42344675)

So I guess it was Take Your Daughter To Work Day at Boeing? I wonder who won the science fair, or if there were any survivors?

You mean? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42344969)

... a way to effectively simulate 200-300 people sitting in seats ...

It's called Congress. Now methinks vegetables can do a better job.

OP's a potato (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42344985)

We all knew this. Boeing just proved it for us.

This test would only be relevant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42345057)

if they were trying to test for a plane full of a bunch of down syndrome people...

Improvement (1)

docilespelunker (1883198) | about a year ago | (#42345515)

I would much rather share a flight with spuds than travellers. For example, new potatoes are tasty, whereas babies are noisy and smelly.

Industry Joke? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42346707)

Is this an inside industry joke? I work in I.T. for aviation and our system uses the word SCK [S(A)CK] to refer to passengers, uses for logistics and weight and balancing I think.

Great icon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42347295)

I am pumped.

Please continue using the network world icon for all further stories by them.

A tag would be great to so that I can filter search results.

Waste? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42347595)

As long as they don't just throw the potatoes away afterwards, I guess it kinda makes sense.

20,000lbs of potatoes could do a lot of good, in a lot of places. It isn't a large amount in the scale of things, but I just hate to see people wasting food.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...