The owner of a cocktail bar in the United Kingdom has turned to physics in an attempt to force his customers to actually talk to each other instead of just staring at social media all night. Steve Tyler, who owns the Gin Tub in East Sussex, has built his very own Faraday cage around the establishment to block mobile phone signals from entering the building. It’s a pretty ingenious (but controversial) move that involves installing metal mesh in the walls and ceiling of the bar to essentially filter out electromagnetic signals before they enter the building. This effect was first discovered back in 1836 by physicist Michael Faraday, and it works in a similar way to noise-cancelling headphones, which block out noise by emitting the opposite wavelengths of sound. So, when electromagnetic radiation – such as a phone signal – hits the outside of a Faraday cage, it causes electrons in the metal to move and create an electromagnetic field that exactly opposes and cancels out that wavelength of radiation. You most likely have a type of Faraday cage in your house right now in the form of your microwave. That metal mesh you can see in between the glass in the door is there to stop microwaves from escaping. Many wallets these days also have mini Faraday cages built into them to stop thieves from getting your credit card details. They can do that by using a device that sends out a radio frequency pulse, similar to one sent out by a paywave machine, telling the contactless chip in your credit card to send back data – such as your credit card number and its expiry date. Tyler told the BBC that he built his Faraday cage out of silver foil and copper mesh. “It’s not the perfect system, it’s not military grade,” Tyler explained. “I just wanted people to enjoy a night out in my bar, without being interrupted by their phones.” “Rather than asking them not to use their phones, I stopped the phones working,” he added. Faraday cages are different from electronic jamming devices, which work by actively blasting out an electromagnetic signal that stops someone from receiving radio waves. Those jamming devices are illegal, but Faraday cages don’t break the law, seeing as they passively filter out phone signals – although you can imagine that blocking all phone reception at the pub isn’t something that would go down particularly well. There’s also no word on whether Tyler’s Faraday blocks Wi-Fi signals in addition to mobile phone signals, which have shorter wavelengths, so there’s a chance people could get around his barrier by connecting to the Internet instead of the cellular network. But, either way, it’s a pretty ingenious idea. Tyler’s not the only one to use science to solve a social problem, either. In parts of Germany and San Francisco, local councils have started painting walls with hydrophobic paint, so that anyone who decides to urinate on them will have it splash right back at them. As is usually the case, if you’ve got a problem, science probably has a solution. And that’s one of the reasons we love it so much.
Science Alert, 4 August 2016 ;http://www.sciencealert.com.au ;