Trivia question for h2g2ers: Who invented the tinfoil hat?
If you said Nigel from Brightling, you'd be wrong, but we would love you for it.
According to that ultra-reliable source, Wikipedia, the tinfoil hat was first mentioned in despatches in a science-fiction story by Julian Huxley...in 1927. Thus the custom of tinfoil-hatting is of august and hoary antiquity.
As I have now been taunted past endurance on the subject, I have decided to expand the franchise. Read on for a discussion of...
Tinfoil Hats and You
The first question is not, 'Will the tinfoil hat preserve what is left of my sanity?' but the more pressing and important, 'Will the tinfoil hat give me "hat hair"?' Yes, definitely. Well, maybe. My older female relatives are able to avoid 'hat hair' by the use of strong hairspray. A good deal of vinyl acetate, liberally applied to the surface of the coiffure, should prove steadfast against the pressure of the tinfoil if not pressed down too hard. In this respect, a cost/risk/fashion victim assessment should be made by the wearer.
Our less hirsute brethren should note that should the tinfoil fail to keep the bald head warm enough, the hat can be lined with cotton wool, felt, or even dog combings for a cosier feel. Like its life-saving cousin, duct tape, tinfoil is now available in a variety of fashion colours, although tinfoil has yet to feature at that pinnacle of US industrial chic, the high school prom. (Note its popularity in that couture-conscious steel town, Pittsburgh.)
The next question is, 'Do tinfoil hats do what is claimed for them?' Yes, indubitably. The tinfoil hat creates a sort of Faraday cage around the wearer's head, thus shielding the brain from those harmful rays beamed at one by evil governments and aliens from Area 51. The thickness of the tinfoil influences the quality of frequencies blocked – double or even triple layers are recommended. The arrangement of the hat is key to protecting vital parts of the brain. Those who favour the Napoleonic over the Nelson configuration point out that it is important to cover the temporal lobes in order to avoid hearing unpleasant voices1. Others recommend crimping the tinfoil to add knobs – and simply changing channels on the interlopers. Nigel favours a number of fashion looks – he is a more advanced sort of tinfoil-hat wearer, and believes that the purpose of the hat is to prevent the government from hearing his thoughts, which are copyrighted.
Some students of the tinfoil hat are fond of pointing out that for some energy sources, incorrect arrangement of the hat might lead to its funnelling the unwanted information toward the brain. We would ask them not to say this too loudly.
There is also the all-important question of etiquette. Removing the hat in the presence of a lady, while chivalrous, might expose the wearer to unnecessary danger. We recommend a jaunty twirling of the knobs over the ears (or, in the case of the Nelson Version, over the forehead), to indicate that while one is no fool, one is also, first and foremost, a gentleman.
Should the tinfoil hat be worn while being presented at Court? Yes, certainly. When receiving Birthday Honours, it is practically de rigueur – provided one has been to the correct haberdasher (look for the Royal Patent):
In these uncertain times, the most important question of all remains – can so simple a substance as tinfoil alone stand between us and the constant bombardment of dangerous and idiotic notions beamed into our brains by malevolent powers?
Perhaps not. But it is a start.
The next step is to turn off the television news2.
For all you DIYers out there, we offer Nigel's open-source tinfoil hat below. Measure your cranium, acquire a roll of tinfoil in your favourite colour, and may the Force be with you.