Writing in The Washington Post , Sharon Weinberger recently noted that : "Tinfoil Hats , a cultural joke to many," are a sartorial reality to the few , the proud , the profoundly gonzo. Her inquiry into " the image of solitary lunatics wearing tinfoil hats to deflect invisible mind beams." conceals a profound change in popular culture. One of the nation's oldest and best beloved materials has gone missing--
Tin foil is on the verge of extinction.
" In 2005" says Weinberger ,"a group of MIT students conducted a formal study using aluminum foil and radio signals. Their surprising finding: Tinfoil hats may actually amplify radio frequency signals...while a few Thought Controlees realized it was a joke at their expense, some saw the findings as an explanation for why tinfoil didn't seem to stop the voices. Others vouched for the material.
"Tinfoil helps tremendously," reports one conference call participant, who describes wrapping it around her body underneath her clothing."Where do you put the tinfoil?" a man asks. "Anywhere, everywhere," she replies. "I even put it in a hat." The sources of delusion are hard to diagnose, but these seem to have a common denominator- headgear made of the Wrong Stuff. As a matter of material fact, no one Weinberg interviewed has tried bona fide tin foil. The stuff has become rarer than hens teeth that rectify the thought waves of L. Ron Hubbard.
Tin has been synonymous with civilization since it was first alloyed with copper to create the cutting edge of Bronze Age technology. The Greeks and Phoenicians persued it to the ends of the Earth ,and once tin evolved into foil, it backed the mirrors of Versailles and became the medium of Edison's first recording of the human voice. Yet though MIT's metallurgical supply room is lavishly stocked , its shelves have been bare of tin foil for a decade-- its students simply couldn't muster the Right Stuff for their critical experiment.
Until high powered rolling mills drove it to commercial extinction , soft tin did the office of stiff aluminum foil . As a small child I saw an unforgettable example of the dying art of stannery unveiled and cut asunder-- an embossed heraldic sheet sealing a veritable tin of Danish Christmas cookies. The last I encountered unwrapped soundlessly from around a sandwich served on a remote Pacific island in 1975.
The colonial time warp that allowed tin foil's space age survival in the New Hebrides has evaporated , but the ancient grey metal will doubtless flow as long as the solder industry soldiers on. Yet to minds that imagine themselves left hatless by the machinations of the Tin Cartel , a burning question endures. To what evil purpose are the Gnomes of Zurich and Zinnwald conspiring to put their glittering hoard?