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Saturday, August 06, 2005

FYI: Tin Foil Hats

As I'm sitting here zoning out trying to fight back sleep, I wondered about the originsl of the Tin Foil Hat.
A tin-foil hat, also tinfoil hat, is a piece of headgear worn by some in the belief that it protects the brain from such influences as electromagnetic fields, or as a shield against mind control and/or mind reading. Hats made from foil are very rarely used, since the injuries they might guard against are highly speculative, and their effectiveness in preventing such harm would be dubious even if the danger were plausible. Instead, the concept has become a popular stereotype and term of derision; in Internet culture, the phrase (sometimes as the abbreviation "TFH") serves as a byword for paranoia.

There is a small amount of truth or reason to be found in the tin-foil hat story. A well constructed tin-foil enclosure would approximate a Faraday cage, reducing the amount of (notionally harmless) radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation inside.

Tin-foil hats in pop culture
* The paranoid centaur Foaly, in Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series of books, wears a tin-foil hat to protect from mind-readers.
* In an episode of The Simpsons, Bart (while paranoid under the influence of a drug to cure hyperactivity called "Focusin") wears a tin-foil hat.
* In the film Lovesick, Dudley Moore plays a psychiatrist who gives a homeless patient some aluminum foil to "protect" the patient from the "mind control rays" his patient claims are bombarding him.
* In Total Recall, the hero (Douglas Quaid, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) wraps a wet towel around his head to stop outgoing radiowaves from a transmitter inside his head.
* In Signs, the children and younger brother of the lead character wear tin-foil hats to prevent their minds from being read. This is parodied in Scary Movie 3, in which the tin-foil hats are actually giant Hershey's Kisses
* In the X-Men movies, Magneto wears a helmet that prevents Stryker's son (in X2) and Professor X (in X-Men and X2) from using telepathy against him.
* Former Marvel Comics supervillain Juggernaut has worn a helmet of mystical alloy as protection against use of telepathy.
* Tin-foil hats are often referenced on Internet forums.
* Tin-foil hats are standard issue with readers of Slashdot.

[Listening to: SoSF_015_Bruce Campbell - Michael & Evo - Slice of Sci-Fi (50:31)]


At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Andyk said...

Good luck with the thon! you should try writing a guide to making your own TFH! :o)

At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Loren Javier said...

fabulous subject! Here here to andyk's comment.

I'm learning quite a bit reading your blogathon page. Keep up the good work. Fight the sleepiness! You can do it!


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