Faraday Cages Letter

To the Bridge

To the editors:

Despite the apparently largely successful implementation of the EAT/RLC End of the Day policy this year, it is clear that the student Houses cannot be considered electromagnetically isolated systems. This presents definite and serious issues for the EOTD implementation. After all, some EOTD opponents like myself have discussed and proposed suggestions to NMH students on the use of radio-based communications technologies, whether cellular telephones, satellite telephones, Citzens Band units, walkie-talkies, or simply listening to broadcast or short-wave radio.

Obviously, as the price of consumer electronic communications equipment continues to drop, some few disobedient students may begin to take the advice of people like me and abuse the electromagnetic spectrum to do things like talking to other people whom the rules wisely prohibit them to visit in person. These uses of technology will obviously make students lose sleep, causing them to become unproductive; steps are plainly needed to insulate students from radio waves and the distracting information they bear with them.

I'd therefore like to propose the construction of Faraday cages around the student Houses. The Faraday cage is named after pioneering physicist and inventor Michael Faraday (1791-1867), who made major original contributions to the theory of electrical induction. It is a cage or enclosure made of some kind of conductor (such as metal wires or rods), which, when grounded, acts as a shield against electric fields and so against electromagnetic waves with wavelengths of a certain minimum size.

With Houses surrounded by individual large Faraday cages (in which, of course, doors could be built to allow students to continue to enter and exit their Houses, preferably not during House Closing), any unauthorized use of radio equipment like walkie-talkies or Walkmans in Houses after the End of the Day would be eliminated.

NMH Admissions would thus have a new dramatic example to showcase the innovations taking place in res life at NMH; how many other New England independent schools have well-shielded dormitory facilities? And this project could, in addition to further improving employment in Franklin County, provide a touchstone for new and interesting ways for NMH students to earn units.

For instance, physics students could study the electromagnetic principles involved, calculating the appropriate size for the holes in the wire mesh on the basis of the particular wavelengths of the EM spectrum deemed most important to shield against; new minor courses in architectural design, environmental design, metallurgy, materials sciences, and practical metalworking could take Faraday cage design and construction as a case study.

Shielding against somewhat higher frequencies would yield optical opacity and so help prevent unauthorized use of windows to look at other students at night. And shielding against yet higher frequencies could significantly improve student and faculty health by blocking the regular (well-known to be carcinogenic) gamma rays from outer space.

Finally, the presence of good EM shielding around the Houses would prevent any students from scandalously abusing School resources by listening, after the EOTD, to the newly-implemented 24-hour broadcasts from WNMH.

Seth Schoen '97