I think anyone who has ever turned to the stars and wondered what might be out there has at one time or another imagined that a race of intelligent beings might have travelled across the void. What would they be like? Would they be friendly? Would they indeed want us to take them to our leader? Would they be tall and grey and vaguely humanoid? What kind of fiber would they bring with them from their world?
Okay, that last one might just be me, but I digress.
In the words of Fox Mulder: “I want to believe so badly in a truth beyond our own.” If I can have a little fun and make a little art on that journey of discovery, all the better!
The humble tin foil hat. This questionable accessory has from time to time been the bane of many a science fiction fan’s existence. It has long been a symbol associated with the fringier element of conspiracy theorists and paranoiacs, and it has been invoked occasionally to poke fun at some who believe in the aforementioned truth beyond our own. According to the cultural consciousness, wrapping a piece of tin foil (more likely aluminum foil) around your head will protect your thoughts and free will from any telepathic extraterrestrials with hostile intent. The hat features prominently in different forms of media throughout the years with varying degrees of seriousness. It has been written about in books and scientific articles, featured in science fiction media ranging from animated television shows like Futurama and The Simpsons to feature films like Noroi: The Curse, and even used in parodies by Weird Al. Perhaps my own personal favorite tin foil cameo is from 2002’s Signs, in which a family that has no choice but to believe in the alien invasion of Earth can be seen donning a matching set of homemade hats. (Source)
Pro tip: if your species finds water to be deadly, perhaps do not land on a planet that’s over 70% water, I dunno. ANYWAY…
What’s the science behind wearing these metal hats? Can they keep your mind and thoughts your own? Metal has been known to block some electromagnetic radiation, but for aluminum to be effective it would have to be very thick, indeed. A study done by MIT students in the early 2000s proved that tin foil hats can shield wearers from some types of radio waves while amplifying others. All in all, I would say this is not super convincing evidence of the efficacy of this headgear against hostile, mind-reading visitors.
Where did the idea that wrapping your head up like a Thanksgiving leftover would save you from this type of mental attack even come from? The first known use of tin foil as a protective accessory can be traced to a short story from the 1920s written by Julian Huxley (brother to writer Aldous Huxley). In the story, titled The Tissue-Culture King, a character sports a tin foil hat to prevent an evil scientist reading his mind and controlling him. (Source)
So, while the tin foil hat is firmly on the fiction end of the science fiction spectrum, it seems as though it is here to stay.
The history of the flying saucer, or the unidentified flying object (UFO) as it’s been known by American military agencies since 1952, is just as solidly in the imagination of science fiction fans, but its existence is a little more firmly rooted in fact.
Records of unidentified aircrafts have been around for a very long time. Some date back to as early as the Middle Ages. Some UFO activity can certainly be written off as hoaxes, but in recent years, the United States military has gone on the record as saying that there have, in fact, been sightings of aircraft with no explanation as to who piloted them or what their mission was. (Source)
Is the truth really out there? I like to think so. In any case, there’s no harm in being prepared for the day when we’re finally greeted by our cosmic cousins. Hopefully they come in peace, but either way, you’ll be there looking fantastic in your new handmade accessories. I can’t vouch for the protective qualities of yarn, but I can guarantee you that it will be more comfortable than aluminum!