HAMNET Report 19th June 2022

May I start this report by wishing all the fathers listening a Happy Father’s Day? I hope you are accorded the gratitude you earned, and that you have a wonderful day with your families.

The biggest outdoor radio activity in America’s calendar takes place next weekend, with the arrival of the annual Field Day event. Every club or group in the country will be setting up a station away from electricity and permanent antenna structures, and attempting to make contact with as many other similar stations as possible.

The American press is full of announcements of local clubs and their plans to activate stations in fields, meadows, hills, and probably mountains, running fairly portable equipment on battery power, supported by solar panels, generators or cars alternators. Low power communications will be prevalent, and hopefully the sun will play the game and provide decent ionospheric conditions to allow low power signals to be heard.

Obviously, the value of Field Day lies in training the average operator to be of use in emergency communications, helping to deal with the extreme weather conditions which the Americas so often face. We all benefit from the frequencies we are allocated, on the proviso that we be prepared to assist our individual countries when disasters of any sort strike, and America is not different.

Follow-up reports of field day experiences will be presented for several months in publications and newsletters, and post mortems of what went right, and what didn’t, will abound. No doubt I’ll have several of those for you over the coming weeks.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports this week that, on 10th June, the official radio station of the International Telecommunications Union celebrated its 60th year on the air.

It started broadcasting on 10 June 1962 and was officially inaugurated the following month by then UN Secretary-General U Thant and ITU Secretary-General Gerald Gross – himself a ‘’ham” radio enthusiast known by the callsign W3GG.

Recognized as a unique “country” in the ham radio community, 4U1ITU operates in accordance with privileges extended by ITU and the Government of Switzerland. It has also earned the DXCC (or ham radio “century club”) award from the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), confirming air contacts with 100 or more countries.

From its long-time home on the 5th floor of the Varembé Building in Geneva’s international district, this unique broadcasting outlet still today serves as a model for the highest standards of amateur radio station operation everywhere.

Not many of us have been on the air for 60 straight years, so congratulations to 4U1ITU, and may you remain with us for decades to come.

Reporting further on the humanitarian crisis still gripping the Ukraine civilian population, GDACS reports that nearly two-thirds of children in Ukraine have been uprooted, according to a UNICEF director, calling the war a “child rights crisis”. The number of damaged schools is likely in the thousands, and only about 25% of schools in Ukraine are even operational.

Since 24 February, over 6.6 million people have received food assistance, over 2.7 million health-related support and nearly 1.7 million people cash assistance.

The European Commission is coordinating the delivery of assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to Ukraine, from all 27 Member States and three Participating States. More than 40,000 tonnes of assistance from these countries and items from the rescEU medical stockpile have been delivered to Ukraine via the UCPM logistic hubs in Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

As usual, and sadly, it is always the civilian population in a conflict that suffers the worst collateral damage.

Now, here’s one to file in your head in the field entitled “Information I didn’t need to know”.

Phys.org reports that a large international team of researchers has found 69 unique genetic variants linked to the ability to keep time to a beat. In their paper published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, the group describes their genetic study involving more than 600,000 volunteers.

Most human beings have the ability to keep time to a beat—clapping along in sync with the drummer on a rock song, for example. But some people do not have this ability. In this new effort, the researchers wondered if there were genes responsible for the ability to keep a beat, suggesting genetic variations could account for those who could not keep time. To find out, they started by asking a large group of volunteers the simple question: “Can you clap in time with a musical beat?” 91.57% of the 606,825 volunteers responded yes. They also asked some of the volunteers to engage in beat-measuring experiments, such as tapping a key on a keyboard in time to the beat of a song. The researchers noted that those volunteers who answered yes to the main question scored higher on such experiments.

The researchers then conducted a large-scale genome wide association study (GWAS) on the volunteers aimed at identifying the loci associated with keeping time. They found 69 genes involved in beat synchronization that differed [in] those who could keep a beat and those who could not. They also found that the gene VRK2 appeared to be the most significant. And they found that volunteers who self-identified as musicians tended to have more variants, suggesting variants could go both ways—giving people a better sense of a beat or a worse one. Prior research has also found links between people with VRK2 variants and several types of mental illness, such as schizophrenia and chronic depression.

The researchers also found that other genes besides those that are needed to recognize the timing of a beat are involved in keeping a beat, such as walking pace, respiratory flow and the processing speed of certain parts of the brain. They also suggest the ability to keep a beat might be linked to childhood speech development and social interactions.

I note that they don’t include any reference to the ability of the genetic variants to aid one in sending or receiving Morse Code rhythmically and correctly. If there is a connection, I clearly wasn’t born with any of these variants!

This is Morse-incapable Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa