I wanted to find out what it was like to disconnect in the quietest town in America, so here I was, hiking down a dirt road behind the Green Bank observatory campus. I wandered through a meadow and into an abandoned playground. The rusted swings creaked in the wind.

In the distance, the largest of the Green Bank telescopes reared up over a hill like a shimmering apparition, with its lacy struts and moon-white dish. The telescope is so freakishly huge that it looked completely unreal, as if it had been CGI-ed into the sky.

But the quiet was even eerier. Not just radio quiet, but the kind of silence that I hadn’t heard in years: no buzz of the highway, no planes overhead, just the rush of wind through the grass. That — along with the lonely playground — made me feel as if I had stumbled onto the set of an apocalyptic TV series.