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Text messaging more expensive than space exploration

Text messaging costs roughly four times as much as downloading data from Nasa's Hubble Space Telescope.

No really. And you don't have to take my word for it. A (clearly not terribly busy) proper scientist has come up with this, ahem, stellar fact as part of a Channel 4 Dispatches programme called: 'The Mobile Phone Rip-Off'.

Here's the science bit. According to University of Leicester space scientist Dr Nigel Banister, yer average SMS text costs a mighty 5p.

It will set you back an apparently even more mighty £85 to obtain a megabyte of data from the Hubble which is 595km (370 miles) from earth. You can only text message up to 160 characters from your phone. With only 7 bits per character over SMS, a single message takes up a maximum of only 140 bytes.

Big old Hubble crams the full 1,048,576 bytes into a megabyte, so (take my word for it) it would take 7490 text messages to send just one megabyte (7,490x140 = 1048600, but let's not split hairs over a byte here and there).

At 5p per text, this works out at roughly £375 for a single megabyte of data. Expensive at half the price.

Eye-catching as this may be, it is the classic PR trick of comparing Apples with Oranges. And the limited nature of SMS is part of its charm - it hasn't stopped it being succesful, after all. But if all the people you text live (together) in space, simply get on the phone to Hubble, and watch that massive phone bill disappear into thin air.

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