gmalivuk wrote:It depends what you're comparing it to. The current population density of Wales puts it a bit above Florida, so it'd be the 8th most densely populated US state (meaning 43 states are less dense). If Scotland was a US state instead of Wales, it would edge in just behind Michigan and be in the 18th spot (33 less dense). Sure, England is even denser than New Jersey, at more than 1000 per km2, but even without England the UK is pretty dense from an American standpoint. (Mikeski, the one who described Great Britain as a populated first-world country, hails from Minnesota, with a population density of 26 per km2.)
I did actually notice the Minnesota location, and having road-tripped through there (Montana, too) I'm aware that America has large areas unblighted by human residence. But I wasn't trying to start a who's got the sparsest places competition, especially when average population over large areas
is irrelevant unless the distribution is uniform (it isn't) or sample coverage is broad (flight paths are distinct). I only wished to point out that the UK is not one large sprawling population centre; flying a manoeuvrable object on the scale of a few metres without passing over populated areas is perfectly possible, especially when bases are coastal and exercises are conducted at sea. And even if we assume radar-busting technologies are present on planes that fly over inhabited countries, we must also consider whether it's continuously active. Ignoring tedious jokes about military intelligence, it seems prudent to me to turn them on only during the exercises, but have them otherwise disengaged, so commuting over random police officers needn't usually be a problem.
gmalivuk wrote:[T]he article is talking about radar signals in every case. So the correct analogy is to argue that with dozens of other people near and far shining lasers at you, you wouldn't notice someone shining a puny laser pointer directly at your eyes.
But are they the same type of radar signals (search, targeting, pulse-doppler, continuous-wave)? The same frequencies?. If the spinny dishes (and Wikipedia) are anything to go by, most of that radar noise is going to be an ever-present, regular series of short, low-activity pulses (that has perhaps already been accounted for and determined to be distant and non-threatening), whereas the radar gun will be a sudden new, nearby, very active source sustained for several seconds. And if I were a military radar detector, that's exactly the kind of detection I'm going to be concerned by. The plane in the story was low flying, which might also have eliminated some of the background 'noise' if that were somehow a problem. I'm going to explicitly reiterate here: I'm not disagreeing with the conclusion, only pointing out a perceived weakness in the argument Snopes presents - which claims signal obscuration by noise without adequately demonstrating overlap of the signals' characteristics - in a clumsily Socratic kind of way.
And this is a "What If" thread, after all, so I'm also wondering (aloud) under what narrow conditions it could
be possible. This map of UK military airspace (PDF)
shows TB7 passing over (and aligned with) the stretch of road described
. At the northern end is RAF Leuchars, which was home to squadrons of Tornados during the 90s. Military planes can detect radar homing systems, which use continuous wave radar as do mobile speed traps.
Ultimately, the story exists even if its events aren't real, and its origin intrigues me. Maybe it was cooked up by a person/people who knew/were coincidental enough to add more accurate details than urban legends need to survive (cf. Ledasha). Or it's an embellished/misunderstood truth, where a local journalist translated 'the plane automatically prepared a missile for launch, which was then cancelled by the pilot' into 'the pilot had to actively prevent the plane from firing a missile all by itself'. And perhaps a speed detector produced an unexpected reading and locked itself into diagnostic mode to prevent legally useless faulty readings, which was then assumed to have been killed by the plane's jamming system. Either way (unlike the previous comparison) it's a story that bears to be repeated occasionally, and I'm glad chalkie did.