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Pigeons' Bandwidth Advantage Quantified 462

An anonymous reader submits "A well documented test took place in the north of Israel, in presence of several dozen Internet geeks and experts. During the test, 3 homing pigeons carried 4 GB (gigabytes) for 100 km distance, achieving, what apparently looks as pigeons' world record in data transfer to a given distance. Bandwidth achieved by the pigeons was 2.27 Mbps...Transferring a similar volume of information through a common uplink of ADSL line would have taken no less than 96 hours..."
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Pigeons' Bandwidth Advantage Quantified

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  • Back of envalope (Score:5, Interesting)

    by brejc8 ( 223089 ) * on Wednesday March 31, 2004 @06:59PM (#8730832) Homepage Journal
    2.27 Mbps = 0.28375 MBps
    4 GB / 0.28375 MBps = 14097 secs
    14097 secs = 3h 54Mins
    100km / 3h 54Mins = 25.53 km/h
    25.53 km/h = 15.86 mph

    Not bad for laden little pigeons
  • Sure (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Neil Blender ( 555885 ) <> on Wednesday March 31, 2004 @07:00PM (#8730855)
    Fill up a cargo jet with full up hard drives and I'd bet you get really good bandwidth.
  • by Space cowboy ( 13680 ) * on Wednesday March 31, 2004 @07:00PM (#8730860) Journal

    It's a truism within the London-based Post-production industry (pretty much all located within a square mile of Soho, central London) that the bandwidth of a bunch of RAID arrays in a transit van is pretty much unbeatable, even with the fast networks that post-houses have between themselves... transferring physical media used to be called 'sneakernet' when walking across the room, it's just been scaled up slightly :-)

    I'm quite impressed that a pigeon can do 100km in 2.5 hours though, I had no idea they were *that* fast...

  • My car is better (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cmallinson ( 538852 ) * <c.mallinson@ca> on Wednesday March 31, 2004 @07:03PM (#8730907) Homepage
    It sounds like what is being tested here is how much data can be carried by a pigeon, not bandwidth.

    I can throw 10,000 DVDs in my trunk, and drive 100km in an hour. Would that be considered "great bandwidth"? Besides, if they can use 3 pigeons, why not compare it to 3 DSL lines?

  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2004 @07:10PM (#8731003)
    Yep, and I believe it was one of the guys from MS Research that said he could buy new servers with RAID arrays and send them cross country for less than the cost of a network link that could support the same kind of data transfer =)
  • Re:It begins... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DustMagnet ( 453493 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2004 @07:21PM (#8731117) Journal
    I love all the April Fools stories, but it would be nice if they had an icon for it, so people could drop the stories if they are bothered. Of course the first few would be posted with out the icon, just for fun. What icon should be use? I nominate Darl.
  • Re:Back of envalope (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 31, 2004 @07:23PM (#8731134)
    Slashdot needs more Google calc [] love.
  • The ancient sport of "The pigeon war, better known as kash al-hamam, involves having opponents keep their flocks up circling in the sky as they try to lure each other's pigeons into their flocks." []

    So the pigeon carrier signal can be hijacked, and data can be stolen in a new kind of man-in-the-middle type attack specific to the pigeon protocol.

    Additionally, this type of attack is freighted with geopolitical intrigue: this pigeon war sport is practiced in Lebanon, which, being a place of conflict with Israel, renders yet another dimension of threat to the robustness and security of the pigeon carrier signal.
  • Re:It begins... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Wednesday March 31, 2004 @07:30PM (#8731227)
    We might as well label April 1 as Pigeon Appreciation Day in the geek world. While networking by carrier pigeon is mostly a joke, there is some serious bandwidth potential in trained birds that we might as well remember exists just in case we ever really need it.
  • by BerntB ( 584621 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2004 @07:34PM (#8731259)
    Well, if you thought you had lag in Unreal T and BZFlag before... :-)

    But I think there is work on extending the TCP/IP protocols for interplanetary missions, so timeouts etc might be OK?

    There is an old saying -- "Don't underestimate the bandwidth of a truck loaded with magnetic tape".

    (Today that would be CDs och DVDs, of course.)

  • by haggar ( 72771 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2004 @07:34PM (#8731264) Homepage Journal
    I'm quite impressed that a pigeon can do 100km in 2.5 hours though, I had no idea they were *that* fast...

    Yeah, they definitely are some pretty interesting little buggers, expecially since you would never think that of these deprecated and ubiquitous birds.

    Consider their capacity to learn the route, in additional to the purely physical fait of flying the distance.
  • by RazorX90 ( 700941 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2004 @08:24PM (#8731697)
    I think Scott Hussey is correct. Isn't distance irrelevant for bandwidth? Think, if CAT5's bandwidth is 100 Mbps, you can transfer 100Mb in 1 sec wheatear the cable run is 1 m or 100 m--the physical medium is limited to how much (in this case) electricity it can handle. It's the same for WAN technologies: DSL is limited by how much data you're allowed to put on the wire at a time but maybe the company controls the bandwidth per user and does not base it on media capabilities--you bandwidth is a portion of the ISP's internetwork bandwidth that all the users run on.
  • by msaulters ( 130992 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2004 @08:35PM (#8731777) Homepage
    This just got me to thinking about some of the other interesting thought experiments out there like the infinite monkeys protocol, or IP over bongo drums...

    The useful thing about pigeons is that they're really reliable for getting data between two places, albeit slow. (On the subject of firewalling, a recent study I read determined that pigeons follow roads as a convenient navigation tool... blow up a road, and see packet loss???)

    Some other methods (read: transport media) come to mind, but the difficulty is in finding one that can cover as great distances as pigeons reliably or within a reasonably timely fashion. Or more importantly, ensuring that the data is transmitted between two points of your choosing (arrival at other locations would represent 'lost' packets).

    As I mentioned, bongo drums have already been proposed, and I believe smoke signals, light flashes with mirrors.

    Some other ideas that come to mind might not work as well.

    1) A one-way protocol could involve damming a river & transmitting information by releasing water, or more simply using colored dye to send a signal downstream... Perhaps it could be augmented for upstream bandwidth using Salmon (during spawning season) Pros: very reliable downstream Cons: not as reliable upstream, low bandwidth. Improvements: data could be floated in some sort of vessel to improve bandwidth.

    2) Release of a large number of weather balloons could transport data, but would literally rely on the wind for delivery at the proper location.
    Pros: redundancy increases with increase in weather balloons, bandwidth could be relatively high. Cons: no guarantee of reception of packets (but isn't that whay IP is all about?) High latency.

    3) This one is my favorite: using seismometers and some device capable of creating a detectable disturbance, data could be transmitted through the entire planet reliably, with relatively low latency, at a low bandwidth. Pros: reliability, low latency. Cons: building demolitions are detectable, but what would be the smallest detectable vibration that wouldn't be lost in background noise? Use of explosives could work, but unfortunately, those are tough to replace, dangerous, etc.

    After that, my ideas get admittedly... weird.

    4) The butterfly protocol: butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo, it rains in New York. Not very reliable. Too subject to interference.

    5) Similar to the seismograph idea, using a gravitometer and a large enough mobile mass, such as a train engine, data could be represented by the location of that mass. Orient it one way, you have a zero, rotate it the other way, the center of gravity shifts, and you have a one. What range could this work at? How much mass would you need? How much energy required to move it? Pros: could work without fear of interference by RF, solar flares, etc at very large distances. Propagation of signal at light speed. Cons: energy required to move the mass, low bandwidth.

    6) Encode the data into the DNA of a microscopic organism, release into the wild, wait for it to propagate and eventually be picked up at the destination. Pros: DNA allows for extremely reliable transmission of data. The packet will likely get there uncorrupted. You can fit a lot of data into a strand of DNA. Cons: possible environmental hazards, packet loss due to environmental factors that kill the organism, high latency. (Perhaps this is already being done... why else do we have a new strain of flu coming from China each & every year?)

  • by GunFodder ( 208805 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2004 @08:48PM (#8731866)
    This reminds me of an operating system class I took. The prof presented a module on estimation, with wacky examples like figuring out the average rainfall in the Mississipi watershed. The final test problem on this subject was to estimate the amount of data that could be stored in a professor's office full of DAT tapes.

    Remembering the data storage capacity of a DAT tape was simple. However after estimating the size of a tape (including the sleeve?), the size of an office, guessing whether there was furniture, etc, I would be surprised if anyone was within two orders of magnitude of the "correct" answer.
  • by nfsilkey ( 652484 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2004 @09:47PM (#8732427) Homepage
    There used to be a sysadmin who worked where I now work [] who used to big on []. One of his greatest nodes was this one []. It discussed in absurdly great length the theoretical "bandwidth" of "a station wagon full of quarter-inch tapes".

    It made me laugh picturing this guy writing this. Because this is the guy who would suspend production servers from ropes dangling from ceiling AC ducts. ;)

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"