Saturday December 10, 2005
The reason that I am so fabulously wealthy (girls) is, of course, that I am paid by the government and the pharmaceutical industry to rubbish alternative therapies and MMR conspiracy theorists, and thusly maintain what you clever humanities graduates like to call “the hegemony”.
After last weeks excellent “magnetic wine improver” debunking I seem to be deluged with Bad Science projects lined up for publication in academic journals. King among them all is “On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets: An Empirical Study” by Ali Rahimi et al, of MIT.
You will all doubtless be familiar with the use of radio signals by the government to monitor your thoughts and control your behaviour. Aluminium helmets and hat-linings have been recommended by various people in the conspiracy theory community for many years, as a protective measure against this government interference. However, although theoretically plausible, until now the foil hat had, surprisingly, never been experimentally validated.
Rahimi et al have healed this gap in the literature, using a $250,000 network analyser and a directional antenna to calculate the ability of each of three aluminum helmet designs to reduce the strength of the radio signals entering the brains of a sample group of four individuals.
Their results are more startling than anyone could possibly have predicted. The receiver antenna was placed at various places on the cranium of each experimental subject: over the frontal, occipital and parietal lobes. Measurements were taken, once with the helmet off, and once with the helmet on.
As per best practice, the foil helmets were constructed with the double layering technique described elsewhere in the literature. The network analyzer then plotted the amount by which the signal was attenuated – or reduced – by the foil hats, across a wide range of frequencies. The results were startling. Although the helmets did reduce the strength of the signal by around 10dB across most of the spectrum, there was an unexpected second finding: the helmets did in fact amplify signals, in certain very specific frequency ranges, by a huge 30dB at 2.6GHz, and by 20dB around 1.5GHz.
What are those frequencies used for? I’ll tell you what they’re used for. They coincide almost perfectly with frequencies allocated to the US government, between 1.2 Ghz and 1.4 Ghz. “According to the FCC,” explain the authors, “these bands are supposedly reserved for ''radio location'' (ie, GPS), and other communications with satellites.” And what about the other frequency that’s amplified into your brain? “The 2.6 Ghz band coincides with mobile phone technology. Though not affiliated by government, these bands are at the hands of multinational corporations.”
To the authors of the paper, the meaning of all this is very clear. “Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government's invasive abilities,” they conlude. “We speculate that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason.”
To me, it’s a lot simpler than that. This paper is itself a transparent attempt by the government to prevent us from taking simple and effective protective measures. Keep wearing the helmets. Unless, of course, what the alternative therapy conspiracy theorists say about me is true.
Meanwhile a statistician working at Cambridge University has discovered “the mathematical formula that determines how newsworthy certain mathematical formulas are”, inspired by the recent discovery of mathematical formulas yielding the perfect family Christmas, pancake, plate of baked beans, a happy life, dunked biscuit, teapot spout, film, piece of buttered toast, Christmas turkey, Christmas cracker, and pork crackling.
Dr Oliver Johnson's formula for newsworthiness is that N = 0.3T + 0.15 FU + (QND + 0.7 PS)^2 * x/PDS. “Here, N is the Newsworthiness of the story, T represents how Topical the material can pretend to be, FU is how Famous the University that the researcher represents is, QND is the Quietness of the News Day, PS is how much Pseudo-Science can be worked into the story, x is the Bung Received from a PR Company and PDS is the Perceived Difficulty of the Sum.”
Dr Johnson explains: "The media are petrified of covering anything more scientific than a cup of tea and a biscuit. This formula will give them a way of filling their pages with safe, non-threatening fluff, whilst ignoring scary scientific issues."