Tin Foil Hats (DON’T) Work

THE GOVERNMENT IS TRYING TO READ OUR MINDS!   …I mean probably, but honestly, it’ll be through machine learning algorithms that figure out our next decisions before we do so that the pre-crime unit can come arrest us first (or was that just in Minority Report?).  In the age of RFID chips and facial recognition and big brother databases maybe it makes sense to protect your privacy.  So instead of starting by ditching social media (thanks Facebook!), picking out a nice VPN to protect your data, and maybe even reading an end user agreement when you sign up for something or download some new software, let’s explore why tin foil hats are a waste of your time!  And money!  And, I mean probably dignity.

It seems to happen on a rather regular basis that some new gadget (I’m looking at you RFID blocking wallets) that purports to block the latest breed of apparently super dangerous radiation comes out, branding itself as “the thing” that will protect us.  This post itself is inspired from a video that I came across a while ago from Linus Tech Tips exploring some new beanie which proclaimed itself to be able to totally block radiation like what is released by a wifi router.  If you guessed that it didn’t work as advertised without covering the entire router, you get a virtual cookie.

Let’s do a thought experiment:  you have a hamster ball, and inside of it, you’ve put in an out of date solar calculator, which are you just hell bent on shutting off by starving the battery of light.  A dastardly buddy of yours is shining flashlight onto the ball from the top, desperate to keep the screen on the childish “80085” that he typed into it before it went into the ball.  In order to thwart him, you take a sheet of aluminum foil (have you actually seen real tin foil?  Look it up, it doesn’t look like what you think), and cover the top part of the ball, sit back, and enjoy your handiwork.

After a moment, a stroke of genius hits your friend, and he starts to shine the flashlight into the tin foil from below, causing the light to reflect into the ball, and keep that essence of 90’s immaturity shining bright on the little LCD screen that could.

Now imagine the tin foil is on your head, and the flashlight is the source of whatever radiation you’re trying to hide from.  Do you see any particular issue with that?  I mean you don’t have to take my word for it, a couple of cheeky MIT physics students to tin foil hats to the lab in 2005 and put that sweet, sweet grant money to work to demonstrate that they actually amplify radio and cellular transmission wavelengths.

If you still want to hide from the radio waves of doom however, don’t worry, I’ve got a solution for you!  You can just dig yourself a hole about as deep in the ground as you can go, built a steel and concrete bunker, and hide out until the end of the world!  …Or learn how a Faraday cage works.  Protip: if your head is the hamster ball, don’t be silly and wrap yourself up Willy.

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