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Faraday cage

Started: 2013-11-09 17:42:11

Submitted: 2013-11-09 18:06:37

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator takes Calvin trick-or-treating in his lab and shows off an actual Faraday cage

My mother visited for a couple of days starting on Halloween, arriving just in time to join Calvin and Kiesa trick-or-treating around my office. Calvin dressed up as a fire fighter, with boots, a yellow jacket, and a hat. When they arrived I picked up their pre-printed visitor's badges and took them around the offices. Calvin was excited to see my office (and the Mindcraft Lego set I have on display). My mother was a bit confused by the post-it notes I have displayed on my window in the pattern of a Tetris game. (This setup tends to distract people who come and visit me in my office, since they can see the game over my shoulder as I'm talking to them.)

Calvin, Kiesa, and Nana go trick-or-treating
Calvin, Kiesa, and Nana go trick-or-treating

Many of my coworkers brought their children, and many of them dressed up themselves. I saw a couple of engineering officers, one wearing a yellow TNG-era tunic with a captain's rank pips and one wearing a TOS-era tunic. (I managed to resist the urge to go buy myself my own uniform to wear next year; if I were to get one it'd be a First Contact-era uniform, in yellow (engineering, of course), with a lieutenant or lieutenant commander's rank pips.) Some wore more elaborate costumes; one guy had a giant padded costume, looking like an eight-foot-tall, four-foot-wide standing rhinoceros, that I didn't specifically recognize but seemed as if it ought to fit into World of Warcraft or some such fantasy-based RPG.

As our last official stop I dropped by the lab where I've been spending most of my time recently and showed off the lab benches, phones under development, and lab equipment resplendent in blinkenlights. On the way out of the lab I pointed to the Faraday cage in the corner, which we use to calibrate the phones before we can use them. (It turns out it's cheaper to use lower-cost components with some tolerance in their values and then calibrate them carefully so each phone has different gains on each frequency band. This is a sensitive process involving delicate lab equipment and can be disrupted by external radio signals, so we put it inside a radio-blocking Faraday cage.) It turned out this was an unexpected hit; it was the first time any of my guests had actually seen a proper Faraday cage. Kiesa has seen plenty of buildings that block mobile phone signals as if they were Faraday cages (especially those built with metal mesh backing plaster), and my mother, as a social worker, has talked to people trying to build themselves a better tin foil hat. Calvin was excited, too, though I'm not exactly sure what he got out of the experience.

Closet-sized Faraday cage
Closet-sized Faraday cage
Lab bench inside Faraday cage
Lab bench inside Faraday cage
I have more [than five computers] in my own office, and they are still
breeding like rabbits.
- Arthur C. Clarke