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Saturday, February 28, 2004

The origin of the tinfoil hat 

Many people are familiar with the notion of the tinfoil hat, an idea linked with wild conspiracy theories. I think I've figured out where the tinfoil hat idea comes from. From 100-year old junk science, as a matter of fact.

The February issue of Scientific American contains this item on its "50, 100 & 150 Years Ago" page:

FEBRUARY 1904
CHIMERICAL RAYS--"M. Aug Charpentier brings out the interesting point that the rays given out by living organisms differ from the N-rays discovered by M. Rene Prosper Blondlot, and the thinks they are formed of N-rays and another new form of radiation. This is especially true of the rays from the nerve centers or nerves, whose striking characteristic is that they are partially cut off by an aluminum screen. A sheet of 1/50th of an inch is sufficient to cut down considerably the rays emitted by a point of the brain... [Editors' note: Both these forms of radiation were eventually disproved.]" (Emphasis mine.)
So there you have it--the origin of the tinfoil hat.
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