Lost: Faraday Cages

By Stephen Cass | April 24, 2009 3:12 pm

Lost LogoWednesday’s night’s episode of Lost was a clip job, leaving unanswered some burning questions about the show’s resident physicist, Daniel Faraday, that we hope will be answered soon.

One question that had occurred to me can be answered. Is Daniel a descendent of Michael Faraday, the 19th century English physicist, chemist and (until recently) featured star on the back of British 20-pound notes? The writers of Lost like to have fun with historical names (John Locke and Jeremy Bentham, for instance, and Daniel Faraday’s own mother, Eloise Hawking). But the original Faraday had a special interest in electromagnetism, so the thought crossed my mind: Could Daniel be his great-great-great-grandson?

Naw. Michael Faraday had a wife but no kids. So much for that, unless he was igniting someone else’s Bunsen burner on the side. But there may be another Faraday connection hidden in the science of “Lost.” At least one online denizen has speculated that “Faraday cages” have already — and will — play roles in the show.

Made from an electrically conducting material, such as metal, a Faraday cage blocks electromagnetic signals from entering or exiting the cage. Elevators often act as kind of Faraday cage, which explains why your cell phone doesn’t like to work in them; the outer shell of an airplane is another (lightning can hit plane’s structure but not fry everyone inside thanks to this phenomenon). Faraday cages can also be used to protect electronics from electromagnetic pulses, or stop electronics from leaking giveaway signals, so they are often found in military and aerospace hardware.

These days, Faraday cages are a hot topic in an unexpected field: privacy. RFID tags, those devices that track everything from library books to food products, are a major bugaboo for privacy activists. But you can prevent the tags from being detected by using a portable “RFID shield,” a very basic kind of Faraday cage. (This site sells credit-card shields for $9.99 in “five attractive colors.”)

By Randy Dotinga

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics, TV

Comments (9)

Links to this Post

  1. Twitted by valenzetti | April 27, 2009
  2. Chemistry Hub | May 18, 2009
  3. Lucas | June 1, 2009
  1. Jon Bastian

    Oh, who cares? This show jumped the shark half way through episode two.

  2. Roger Bolan

    I don’t think we can answer that question. Lost is fiction. Fiction that, so far, has included miracle cures, resurrection, time travel, and lots of other bizarre and impossible (but entertaining) things. Would it really be a stretch for the show to say that the Daniel Faraday character was descended from Michael Faraday?

    By the way, approximately 20 years ago I saw a fascinating display using Faraday Cages at a Science Museum in Boston. They had a giant Van De Graaff generator throwing impressive lightning bolts. The whole stage was inside a cage which protected the audience, and the operator was protected by another smaller cage inside the first one. If it is still there, it is well worth visiting.

  3. defective robot

    (And let’s not forget Rousseau…)

    But here’s my one question: last season, when Desmond found the young Daniel, he showed Desmond the rat maze. The rat navigated the maze then promptly died. So when did Daniel teach the rat to navigate the maze?

    Oh..splitting hairs. Right…

  4. Byron

    Another way to turn RFID cards on and off is by using Smart Tools’ RFID Shield. This prevents any unauthorized reading of RFID cards by blocking RF transmission to & from your card.. It is a card sleeve that you slide your card into, and it’s small so it fits in a wallet.

    There’s more info and pictures at:
    http://smarttools.home.att.net/rfshield.htm

  5. thank post nice informations…

  6. Awesome. We were looking for just like this.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »