HAMNET Report 26th July 2020

Here’s some obvious research emanating from the journal Paediatric Research. The authors went to a lot of trouble with this study, but showed conclusively that young children from dog-owning households have better social and emotional wellbeing than children from households who do not own a dog.

The study used questionnaire data from 1,646 households with children aged 2-5 years.

After taking into account children’s age, biological sex, sleep habits, screen time and parents’ education levels, children from dog-owning households were 23 per cent less likely to have overall difficulties with their emotions and social interactions, than children who did not own a dog.

Children from dog-owning households were 30 per cent less likely to engage in antisocial behaviours, 40 per cent less likely to have problems interacting with other children, and were 34 per cent more likely to engage in considerate behaviours, such as sharing.

Children who played with their family dog three or more times per week were 74 per cent more likely to regularly engage in considerate behaviours than those who played with their dog less than three times per week.

Associate Professor and co-author Hayley Christian, said: “While we expected that dog ownership would provide some benefits for young children’s wellbeing, we were surprised that the mere presence of a family dog was associated with many positive behaviours and emotions.”

Thanks to Univadis.co.za for this news. Mankind’s best friend really is mankind’s best friend!

IEEE Spectrum reminds you that space seems empty and therefore the perfect environment for radio communications. But don’t let that fool you: There’s still plenty that can disrupt radio communications. Earth’s fluctuating ionosphere can impair a link between a satellite and a ground station. The materials of the antenna can be distorted as it heats and cools. And the near-vacuum of space is filled with low-level ambient radio emanations, known as cosmic noise, which come from distant quasars, the sun, and the centre of our Milky Way galaxy. This noise also includes the cosmic microwave background radiation, a ghost of the big bang. Although faint, these cosmic sources can overwhelm a wireless signal over interplanetary distances.

Depending on a spacecraft’s mission, or even the particular phase of the mission, different link qualities may be desirable, such as maximizing data throughput, minimizing power usage, or ensuring that certain critical data gets through. To maintain connectivity, the communications system constantly needs to tailor its operations to the surrounding environment.

Imagine a group of astronauts on Mars. To connect to a ground station on Earth, they’ll rely on a relay satellite orbiting Mars. As the space environment changes and the planets move relative to one another, the radio settings on the ground station, the satellite orbiting Mars, and the Martian lander, will need continual adjustments. The astronauts could wait 8 to 40 minutes—the duration of a round trip—for instructions from mission control on how to adjust the settings. A better alternative is to have the radios use neural networks to adjust their settings in real time. Neural networks maintain and optimize a radio’s ability to keep in contact, even under extreme conditions such as Martian orbit. Rather than waiting for a human on Earth to tell the radio how to adapt its systems—during which the commands may have already become outdated—a radio with a neural network can do it on the fly.

Such a device is called a cognitive radio. Its neural network autonomously senses the changes in its environment, adjusts its settings accordingly—and then, most important of all, learns from the experience. That means a cognitive radio can try out new configurations in new situations, which makes it more robust in unknown environments than a traditional radio would be. Cognitive radios are thus ideal for space communications, especially far beyond Earth orbit, where the environments are relatively unknown, human intervention is impossible, and maintaining connectivity is vital.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Penn State University, in cooperation with NASA, recently tested the first cognitive radios designed to operate in space and keep missions in contact with Earth. In their tests, even the most basic cognitive radios maintained a clear signal between the International Space Station (ISS) and the ground. They believe that with further research, more advanced, more capable cognitive radios can play an integral part in successful deep-space missions in the future, where there will be no margin for error.

Now, in this barren radio landscape that is a combination of solar minimum and a COVID pandemic, I have managed to find some radio news for you.

Southgate Amateur Radio News says that August sees two GB80 Special Event Stations coming on air, marking the critical role that radar played in the Battle of Britain 80 years ago

In mid-August 1940 as events unfolded, the radar stations such as Ventor on the Isle of Wight bore the brunt of the initial wave, but stayed on air to play a vital role. Unlike its modern counterparts, the pioneering Chain Home Radar system operated over HF to VHF (~20-55 MHz).

GB80CH (Chain Home) will be operated from Chelmsford in Essex, which has the most complete surviving radar tower from the Battle of Britain. Originally located at Canewdon near the Essex coast, the 360ft tall Chain Home mast was moved to what was Marconi Research Centre in the 1950s (now BAE Systems) in Great Baddow, where it has recently been given listed status. In recent times, it has supported amateur experiments on 1.8MHz and 472kHz. The BAE Systems Great Baddow Amateur Radio Club, with amateur colleagues in local clubs, will be operating across the HF+6m bands.

GB80BRS will be operated to commemorate Bawdsey Radar Station in Suffolk, which was where radar was developed in the late 1930s and was the location of the world’s first operational radar station. This will be the latest special event station following several previous commemorations including in 2015, when the 80th anniversary of the first demonstration of working radar was made in the UK. Operation will be on the 10m to 80m bands, SSB, CW and FT8.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.