Medium Wave Radio Listening This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   "Who listens to AM radio?" "AM radio is dead!" "What's AM radio?" These are some of the answers to a survey a magazine did to see if teenagers listen to AM or FM. As you can see, teenagers believe that AM radio is only listened to by their parents in their station wagons.

But, contrary to popular belief, AM radio, otherwise known as medium wave, is one of the most exciting things you can listen to. Also, you can do it right in the privacy of your own home!

You're saying to yourself right now, "What's so exciting about listening to something my parents listen?" The exciting part is that on any night of the year, you can listen to Chicago, Boston, Nashville, Annapolis and other cities around the globe.

If you are wondering how to do this, it's all very simple. Wait until around 7 p.m., take your radio and switch the band between FM and CD, called AM. Just start tuning around slowly and as far away from the local stations as possible. Now turn up the volume and listen to all those voices in the background. After they do the news, listen to them identify themselves. You might hear: "This is WOWD, Annapolis" or "This is WCBS, New York" or maybe "This is CGDE, Edmonton." Keep on tuning around; you will hear other stations.

Now, how do you hear these stations during the night, but not during the day? Because of the ionosphere. During the day, the D layer of the ionosphere acts as a barrier; it takes signals and destroys them. So radio stations don't point their antennae up toward the sky. But during the night the D layer subsides, letting radio signals hit the E layer of the ionosphere. Now the E layer is the layer of charged ion particles, simply said, it's like a layer of aluminum foil that radio signals bounce off. So radio stations point their signals up toward the sky and let nature do the rest. Now the signal goes off the antenna, flies at the speed of light and hits the E layer. The E layer deflects the radio signals back toward earth. That's how you hear radio signals from out of state, or out of the country.

Now before you switch to FM to try to listen to Canada's FM rock station, remember one thing: it won't work! FM signals are very different from AM signals. They can't skip because they're not compatible with the E layer. They get swallowed up by the E layer just like the AM signals did with the D layer. The only time FM signals skip is when the E layer subsides and the FM signals bounce off the E2 layer. But that only happens once in a while.

So, as you can see the AM band is not dead. It is merely misunderstood by people as a band that parents listen to. But as you can see, the AM band is a very interesting place. So, next time the radio program you always listen to is replaced with something that you don't want to listen to, just turn the AM band and tune around very slowly and you will hear something that you have never heard before. u


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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