Experiments

Is it possible to beat a thermal camera?

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Crimes and Mythdemeanors."
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Finding: BUSTED

Explanation: The criminal masterminds at MythBusters have tried to burn through some of the latest and greatest security technology — including thermal alarms that work by monitoring the infrared heat energy in a room. In this case, MythBuster Tory Belleci, with help from Kari Byron and Grant Imahara, attempted to sneak past one of these souped-up security systems, which go off at the slightest change in ambient heat.

Since invisible heat waves continuously flow from our 98.6-degree bodies, the MythBusters had to somehow block Tory's red-hot energy to succeed. But their first few attempts to do that fizzled.

They tried, for example, spraying Tory down with chilly carbon dioxide from a fire extinguisher, but that didn't hold off the heat long enough — neither did covering him head-to-toe in clay. Wearing a skin-tight neoprene suit also allowed some of his body heat to escape. Even when the team raised the room temperature to 98 degrees Fahrenheit (36 degrees Celsius), Tory still tripped up the alarm. Tory was finally able to crack the thermal system only after he donned an insulated, heat-resistant fire suit.

Then, to doubly bust the myth, Tory walked through the room undetected by holding a pane of glass in front of him. Although it allows visible light to pass through, glass mostly blocks infrared. Sure enough, Tory's infrared energy — and the thermal camera myth — was no match for the thick glass shield.

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