A man in Australia was sacked after he relied on a 180-year-old scientific discovery to help prevent his colleagues discovering his whereabouts while he played golf during work hours.
Tom Colella, a 60-year-old electrician in Perth, lost his job after an anonymous letter to his firm claimed that he left work to play golf at least 140 times over the last two years.
Australia’s Fair Work Commission, a workplace tribunal, heard that Mr Colella blocked his whereabouts by storing his personal digital assistant, a phone-like device that has a GPS inside, in an empty foil packet of Twisties, a puffy cheese-based snack that is popular in Australia.
The tribunal found that the packet was deliberately used to operate as an elaborate “Faraday cage” - an enclosure which can block electromagnetic fields - and prevented his employer knowing his location. The cage set-up was named after English scientist Michael Faraday, who in 1836 observed that a continuous covering of conductive material could be used to block electromagnetic fields.
"I can find no plausible explanation why Mr Colella would create a Faraday cage around his PDA, except to obstruct the GPS collecting capacity of the device," said Bernie Riordan, a commissioner at the tribunal.
"Mr Colella appears to have been deliberately mischievous in acting in this manner."
The tribunal ruled that Mr Colella was fairly sacked and that he had been "deliberate in trying to hide his whereabouts and deceive his employer". It also relied on less scientific evidence, including records from the golf club and records from an electronic gate which showed that he had not entered a worksite as required.
Commenting on Mr Colella’s use of a crisps packet, Phil Dooley, a science writer at the Australian National University, said that any object could work to create a Faraday cage as long as it was metallic.
"The main point is just that it is foil," Mr Dooley told ABC News.
"A birdcage, anything else metallic would have worked… An aeroplane, which is metal, acts as a Faraday cage. When you are travelling in a plane, you could get struck by lightning and it wouldn't hurt [because] the electricity stays on the outside of the metal and the people in the cabin don't feel it at all.”
Mr Colella is now reportedly working as an Uber driver.
Related: Never Freak About Losing Your Luggage Again With This GPS Tracking
Watch original series, sports and more on go90.