2338: Faraday Tour

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Faraday Tour
I asked them if it was safe to be running tours during the pandemic. They said, "During the what?"
Title text: I asked them if it was safe to be running tours during the pandemic. They said, "During the what?"


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a FARADAY SUPERFAN. Please mention here why this explanation isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
Hairy, addressing an unseen camera (possibly the reader's POV) welcomes viewers to a livecast walk through "the world's largest Faraday cage." A Faraday cage blocks electromagnetic transmission into and out of the cage area. Attempting to broadcast a walk through such a cage with any medium that uses radio waves would (theoretically, at least) cause the transmitter's signal to drop out completely, resulting in the loading wheel shown in panels three and four. Faraday cages do not necessarily have to be dark inside, as this one appears to be, but the darkness visually aligns with the concept of communications blackout, which is what Hairy's viewers experience while Hairy is in the cage.

"Smash that like (or subscribe, etc.) button" is a typical command given by YouTubers to watchers, asking to like the video or subscribe to their channel if they liked the video, ultimately to boost the creator's popularity.

The title text refers to COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. The joke is that, as they don’t get cell service in the cage, the owners would be unaware of global events. This implies for comedic effect that the owners and workers solely live inside the Faraday cage. However, they would still be able to receive news when they step out to welcome visitors or to have printed newspapers or magazines delivered.


[Close-up on Hairy]
Hairy: Hey there superfans, welcome to the livecast!
[Hairy walks toward an opening in a large building]
Hairy: Got a real treat for you today: a tour of the world's largest Faraday cage! C'mon, let's check it-
[two panels of a "loading" spinner]
[Hairy exits the building]
Hairy: -was so cool! Wow!! Thanks for coming along, and don't forget to smash that like button!

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It would be cool to know where the largest Faraday cage is. I Googled the question, but aside from a claim that a certain cage is the largest in Europe (made in an article that gives a security error when I click in the link) I can't find any claimants. -Captain Video (talk) 00:23, 28 July 2020 (UTC)

('Moving' the above comment from the article page...) The largest Faraday cage is the one around our planet, keeping us isolated from the rest if the universe. It's got a rather clever lighting rig on it to simulate what is outside, including parellax, but it's a kludge and bears no resemblance at all to what is really out there. Of course, nobody can tell that... 00:42, 28 July 2020 (UTC)
You seem to have missed several space missions. The cage is actually not just around our planet, it's around whole solar system. Of course, when Voyager crashed into it they were already prepared to fix the hole and replace Voyager's radio reports with simulation. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:43, 28 July 2020 (UTC)

"Hairy, addressing an unseen camera (possibly the reader's POV) ... Faraday cages do not necessarily have to be dark inside, as this one appears to be ... " Surely it's meant to represent what you would see if you are watching the live cast on your computer? The cage does not "appear to be dark inside" it's just that the signal cuts out, and your screen goes dark. Pete 04:43, 28 July 2020 (UTC)

It's referring to panels 2 and 5, where we see him entering/leaving the Faraday cage. Arcorann (talk) 07:21, 28 July 2020 (UTC)
Although perhaps the whole of the interior is largely unlit (for... reasons... maybe that's part of the spectacle, just daubs of phosphor paint for a Batman And Robin aesthetic?), the entry (and, if different, exit) looks to be a tunnel. Perhaps an 'airlock' of sorts, unlit at least when open to the outside as an aesthetic or practical feature (fully isolated internal power-system?) that strengthens the Faradayness around the openings they have to have in it and prevents even the slightest noise-leakage from the outside world. Though the muffling effect seems to extend outwards to the camera POV. (Hairy may have a wifi-to-Mobile Internet extender box on his person, rather than having direct-to-mobile on the camera device.) 10:37, 28 July 2020 (UTC)
True, Faraday cage would need some sort of "airlock" ... -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:43, 28 July 2020 (UTC)
You probably wouldn't even be allowed to trail a CATn-whatever cable (no matter if SF/FTP, etc) through the airlock. Not that modern devices even can be hard ethernet-connected without far too much fiddling and kludging. 09:16, 29 July 2020 (UTC)
Depending on what frequencies you're trying to block and how big the cage is, a door may be too small to matter. AM radio, for instance, has waves too long to fit through a door (~170-500m), so the cage will mostly hold up anyway. Of course, to block microwaves you need a much finer grid like that seen in microwave oven doors, and for IR through soft X-rays the conductor must be solid, so there you would need a double-door system. Magic9mushroom (talk) 10:58, 29 July 2020 (UTC)

I feel like the explanation might be reading too much into (in my opinion) weak possible symbolic interpretations that Randall may or may not have intended. (e.g. "The darkness could be taken as a metaphor for depending so heavily on electronic connectivity for one's view of the world that anything not directly connected is conceived as unobservable" and "continuing the theme of treating connectivity as the only way to acquire information. They would still be able to receive news if they ever step outside to welcome visitors, or have print media delivered, but their choice to unconventionally isolate themselves might reflect their general attitudes to the world outside and it is also implied that Hairy is one of the rare few outsiders they have pre-agreed to allow to visit")-- 16:07, 28 July 2020 (UTC)

I think the joke is exactly about being out of touch with outside events. It happened to me. I spent September 11, 2001 doing EMC testing inside a Faraday cage. When I returned to my desk someone asked "So what's your take on the Twin Towers?" I had no idea what he was on about. 08:19, 29 July 2020 (UTC)
I agree with the notion that the inhabitants of the cage would definitely be out of touch with reality, but I think it is a bit far to say that Randall is trying to express complex metaphors such as comparing the darkness of the cave to being disconnected from the outside world. (BTW I am the same person; I should probably create an account)-- 22:11, 29 July 2020 (UTC)

The picture of the cage isn't very accurate in this one. The conductor spacing for a Faraday cage should be ~1/10 wavelength or better. So for cellular connection in the US that's ~5cm down to ~1cm. If you want to include 5GHz wifi then you'd have to go smaller than 6mm. Jonfitt (talk) 15:48, 29 July 2020 (UTC) jonfitt

How do you know that's the actual cage and not just a pattern on the exterior wall? 15:05, 30 July 2020 (UTC)
That would be the weirdest thing. To build walls around a Faraday cage, and then decorate it took look sort-of like one? I mean, maybe. But why would you draw that in an abstracted webcomic? That's a real stretch.

I thought the hover text was referring to the 5G conspiracy. Given that 5G can't get inside a Faraday Cage, neither can the "conspiracy" of COVID? Drkaii (talk)

This has happened to me and every electronics engineer doing EMC certification, calling a colleague to discuss the measurements. "Wait, let me go into the chamber and see whether the cable is conn..." Mumiemonstret (talk) 13:21, 12 August 2020 (UTC)