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Often your Towel is something which is very useful to carry around with you, especially in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where you are taught to upgrade your Towel by, say, reinforcing the stitches in your Towel, or soaking a corner of it with nutritious substances so that you can suck it in an emergency. In fact a rather large list has been constructed of uses for your Towel.

So now I come to my question, I want to learn Towel chi: The Art of the Towel, and for this I need to upgrade my Towel for military purposes, specifically military Towel combat. So I was wondering how I should best upgrade my Towel for these purposes? And please, when you answer, give the mighty Towel its honour by giving it a capital 'T'.

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    $\begingroup$ @ParanoidPanda What other resources do you have access to? $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jul 18 '15 at 19:48
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    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868: That is a very good question... Well... Lots of things, for instance soap, and banana skins, so I could easily trip my opponent up with my Towel... $\endgroup$ – user10622 Jul 18 '15 at 19:51
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    $\begingroup$ How is this world building? Funny sure but... $\endgroup$ – James Jul 27 '15 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ Some folks may be slightly confused as to why five close votes were cast nine days after the question was asked. It was the result of a discussion in chat that ended up covering half a dozen topics (some of which are still active). If anyone disagrees, chat and meta are good places to bring it up, as are simply votes to reopen. I still think it should be closed, though. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jul 27 '15 at 21:35
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    $\begingroup$ I'd say that the fact that it is now the 3rd most highly voted question in the history of this site means that your visitors want to see more questions like this. If the rules don't allow it, expand your rules. Also, to a mite, a well used Towel is much better than an entire world. $\endgroup$ – krowe2 Jul 28 '15 at 18:54

14 Answers 14

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Actually, careful analysis will show that Towels are already perfectly optimized for military use.

Any permanent modification to the Towel, while improving it in a single dimension, will reduce its flexibility. For example, if you improve the Towel's bludgeoning capability, you reduce the protection it can give you from chemical attacks or its use as an improvised picnic blanket (remember that armies march on their stomachs).

Therefore, you should not try to upgrade the Towel. Instead you should upgrade your mind. Unpredictability is the key to warfare, and sticking to a single tactic will quickly lead to defeat. Consider that if you always get your Towel wet and then try to use it as a garrote, your opponents will simply start carrying hair dryers.

Instead you should develop several disparate tactics and use your Towel as a randomizer. When your enemy appears, simply throw it in the air and watch how it lands. Then kill them based on the appropriate randomized tactic. I'll give you a sample chart here:

  • Folded in two - strangulation
  • Kind of a wobbly-line type thingy - whip the Towel at them like you're in a gym shower until they run screaming to the principal.
  • Flat - pull out your tea set and challenge them to a duel of wits.
  • Perfectly folded, as if by your mother - they will bow down to you and become your follower.
  • Ends up going really, really high - pull out your gun and shoot them while they stare in awe at your Towel tossing abilities.
  • Kind of vaguely like a sheep's head if you squint at it - you have successfully predicted their death in the form of The Grim. Your opponent will realize they are doomed, walk away and be hit by a bus.
  • Hovers in midair before you - you both bow down and become the Towel's followers.

This is, of course, quite a short list - you'll need to develop your own Towel-tossing chart and tactics. But in the end you'll find yourself undefeatable.

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    $\begingroup$ "Well, if they're bigger than a mouse, you can strangle them with it, and if they're smaller than, you flog them to death with it!" $\endgroup$ – Doug McClean Jul 19 '15 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ I managed to keep a straight face until the last bullet point. +1 $\endgroup$ – gatherer818 Jul 20 '15 at 11:43
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    $\begingroup$ "...a duel of wits" - it really should be two goblets and a bottle of wine - and it's a good idea to spend a year building up an immunity to iocaine powder first. Also - remember not to make any of the classic blunders, the best known of which is - never get involved in a land war is Asia! But only slightly less well known is this - never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line..! Ah-ha-ha! Ah-ha-ha! Ah-ha-ha! ... (thud!) $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Jul 22 '15 at 0:22
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    $\begingroup$ a duel of wits with tea replaced by pangalactic Gargleblasters migt be even more decisive $\endgroup$ – Hagen von Eitzen Jul 22 '15 at 10:16
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    $\begingroup$ If it hovers in the air rather than hitting the ground then something amazing has happened to distract it - surely both sides will stop fighting to find out what this is? $\endgroup$ – Darren Bartrup-Cook Jul 22 '15 at 16:29
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Take a large rock (a half-brick is traditional). Place it in the centre of the Towel. Gather the Towel up around the rock and twist to form a long flexible form with a heavy weight at one end. To upgrade further, tie this all together using string, or for an extra bad-ass-upgrade, use gaffer tape.

Swing resulting weapon over the head and strike targets with the weighted end. In extreme circumstances can even be launched as a ranged weapon.

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    $\begingroup$ How does it feel to know that you passed 20k thanks to a towel? $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jul 19 '15 at 15:53
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    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 That's Towel with a capital T. $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Jul 20 '15 at 2:42
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    $\begingroup$ Any idea how to remove the resulting bloodstains? My Towel would like to be clean... $\endgroup$ – Nolonar Jul 21 '15 at 10:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Nolonar wrap the Towel wish another, disposable, towel $\endgroup$ – o0'. Jul 22 '15 at 9:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Lohoris a disposable towel? Blasphemy! $\endgroup$ – Wayne Werner Jul 23 '15 at 18:20
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Assuming you have access to unlimited advanced material science:

  1. Weave your Towel from a special polymer/compound/nanomaterial which - while water-absorbant in normal circumstances - can also be triggered - by termperature, or electricity, or radiowave, or other triggers - to assume different shapes and mechanical properties, with multitude of military uses:

    • Straighten out into extremely thin, very hard, wire/lance. You now have a stabbing or throwing weapon, better than any dagger or lance or javelin due to small cross-section (though for throwing aerodynamics and momentum transfer are an area of further research needed).

    • Become an extremely strong yet flexible string. Can be used for close quarters combat as any string/rope/line (choking, tying, tripping, lassoing, making traps, etc...); as well as a basis for building other weapons (heavy object at the end of a rope, bolos, bow strings etc....).

      • BTW, a whole bow can be made by combining several flavors of this weave: a flexible string for a bow string; a bendable spring-type form for actual bow; and the lance-wire form for an arrow.
    • Become an elastic string, making it possible to use in constructing slingshots (in case you run into antagonistic green pigs)

    • Become a material with mechanic properties of tree branch, for use as a bow.

    • Become a Kevlar-like shield.

  2. Communication. There is no modern military without communication.

    • Special weave can be turned into an antenna

    • in-clothing circuitry can actually contain a whole communication device

    • White Towel surface can be used as a projection screen

    • White Towel can be used to signal surrender {insert French jokes here}

    • White Towel can be used as a writing surface; and with proper material engineering, as an etch-a-sketch.

    • With even better technology, a Towel can serve as a display.

  3. Amateurs study tactics. Professionals study logistics.

    • You can use the Towel as a carrying bag.

    • If the Towel is made from proper material (see #1), it can be turned into a sled.

    • In survival situation, fluffed out pieces of Towel can serve as a very good kindling.

    • If the Towel is made out of watertight material on one side (which admittedly makes it a pain to dry out when used as an actual Towel), use it as shelter from the elements. Raicoat, windbreaker, etc...

    • If you are in a need of an infantry slog, you never know when you need good socks type solution. A Towel can be used to make socks, or similar things.

    • For that matter, you can use the Towel to make mittens/gloves, or simply to shield your hands from hot/cold/dangerous stuff (e.g., lifting a hot kettle off a fire when cooking in the field)

  4. Other MacGuyvering solutions using Towel as a piece of cloth.

    • You can use a Towel as a poor man's parachute

    • You can make it into a rope, to escape high place.

    • A properly colored Towel can be used for camouflage. White for s arctic/tundra. If you're lucky, your Towel is chromatophoric and can change colors, or even adapt camo patterns.

    • A Towel can not only be a kindling for a fire as per above, but a workable fuse.

  5. A way to clandestinely carry dangerous compounds.

    Someone else already mentioned poison. But that's just the start of it.

    • Wet the Towel in a solution of highly radioactive material. Then you can either use it to give someone radiation poisoning; or use it to transport radioactive material (the latter seems useless, without radiation detectors a Towel isn't really needed)

    • Wet the Towel in a compound that in and out of itself isn't dangerous.

      But, a second Towel is wetted in a material that - while not dangerous - when combined with material in a second Towel - produces a powerful explosive.

  6. Or hell, you have access to nanomaterial. Just have your Towel be made out of Gray Goo!

    At needed moment, signal them to stop pretending to be a Towel, and start Eating Everything!

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The Hitchhiker's Guide provides some handy hints as well:

Wrap the Towel over your own head. If you cannot see the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast, it cannot see you either.....

Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters make amazing weapons. Drape the Towel over your arm to disguise yourself as a waiter (most alien species have never seen Earth people before, so you should be safe) and serve the drink to your unsuspecting victim. After downing the drink, the victim should pass out and then wake up with a feeling of having had their brain smashed out with a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick. Few other weapons or devices can compete with that. Once the victim has been immobilized by the drink, you are then free to do whatever you need to do (although activating an Infinite Improbability Drive and escaping is usually the best bet).

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It may be best to weave into your Towel a Sombody Else's Problem field generator, dye it bright pink, and wear it as your only form of clothing, preferably in the least appropriate manner possible. You can then power this off of the single torch battery for most if not all of your life, thus your Towel has become a cloaking device.

While not explicitly weaponizing the Towel, it should be noted, you will be completely invisible to all but the most astute, and can simply stick them with a shiv in their heart, brain, gelatinous nerve center, power core, and/or most other vital organs without the least bit of interference.

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  • $\begingroup$ -1 for stabbing poor Meggie's heart. Or wait, was it Ron who did that? $\endgroup$ – leftaroundabout Jul 25 '15 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ Why is that your only form of clothing?...and then you make it invisible... you might want to test it before you try it in public. $\endgroup$ – kaine Jul 28 '15 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ An SEP is something we can't see, or don't see, or our brain doesn't let us see, because we think that it's somebody else's problem.... The brain just edits it out, it's like a blind spot. If you look at it directly you won't see it unless you know precisely what it is. Your only hope is to catch it by surprise out of the corner of your eye. $\endgroup$ – Sidney Jul 28 '15 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ The technology involved in making something properly invisible is so mind-bogglingly complex that 999,999,999 times out of a billion it's simpler just to take the thing away and do without it....... The "Somebody Else's Problem field" is much simpler, more effective, and "can be run for over a hundred years on a single torch battery." This is because it relies on people's natural predisposition not to see anything they don't want to, weren't expecting, or can't explain. $\endgroup$ – Sidney Jul 28 '15 at 13:54
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Find a source of liquid, preferably something poisonous. Place most of the Towel in the liquid, allowing it to soak it up. Carefully - use gloves if necessary - tie the Towel up, like intertwining threads on a rope. The resultant rope-like weapon will hurt any opponent quite a lot, as it is now somewhat heavy. I believe this was referred to in the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes as a "rat tail".

For close-quarters combat, feel free to use this wet Towel-rope to trip up the opponent or strangle them. You can also use the poison to your advantage.

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    $\begingroup$ Dihydrogen monoxide is especially dangerous - even moreso when combined with the might Towel! $\endgroup$ – Wayne Werner Jul 23 '15 at 18:21
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A wet Towel can be wrapped about your face in the event of a chemical attack. Although not as effective as a gas mask, the wet Towel is at least a better air filter than a dry Towel would be.

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  • $\begingroup$ gosh, you're right! $\endgroup$ – punkerplunk Jul 18 '15 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ This is useful for defensive, but what about when you need to be offensive? $\endgroup$ – user10622 Jul 18 '15 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ A wet Towel is still a better weapon than a dry Towel, @ParanoidPanda $\endgroup$ – Wayne Werner Jul 23 '15 at 18:22
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  • Put it in a big jar of petrol, now you have a huge ass Molotov cocktail.
  • Put if flat on the ground, when someone walks on it, give a quick tug and they'll fall to the ground
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The method we used in my youth was as follows: Place the towel on the ground in front of you long edge at the bottom. Fold the two upper corners down toward the center bottom edge creating a triangle. Roll the towel roughly downward parallel to one of the upper sides of the triangle. This forms what is commonly known as a 'rat tail'. To make it even more formidable, just dip the end in a bit of water. To use it simply grasp by the fat end and use it like a bull whip. It can rend flesh to bloody welts in an instant and if practiced with restraint can be used to cause bikini clad girls to give you a fairly pleasing demonstration of inertia as they gingerly hop about to avoid it's snapping tip.

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Get a White Towel. Wave it at your enemies if you are under attack.

For reasons unknown, this will cause your enemies to adopt the "Goliath Posture". Their mistaken sense of superiority affords you limitless opportunity for cunning and artifice.

TL;DR

Your Towel is best understood as a psychological weapon.

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Upgrade today to a Peirson's Puppeteer Towel, the absolute pinnacle of Known Space Towel technology! The circuitry of a Slaver Statis Field is sewn into the fabric, allowing your Towel to be frozen at the atomic level in a timeless state, immutable, un-malleable and indestructable. From Bullet-proof Shield to Baseball Bat, the Puppeteer Towel is the irreplacable for every Guide Agent, everywhere!

Available in both urban, forest and desert camouflage colors.

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    $\begingroup$ Hey, Larry Niven! Fun. $\endgroup$ – Rob Grant Jul 20 '15 at 13:52
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I'm suprized no one has brought up Towelie

enter image description here

A militarised towel from the South Park series.

Military Leader: You did very well bring the towel back here, boys. Let me ask you something... What was it that those people at Tynacorp told you? That the "big, bad Military" wanted to turn Towelie into a weapon of mass destruction? Now let me tell you the REAL story...

we've been making our own smart-towels, but only because we HAD to. You see, when we started spying on Tynacorp, we discovered a certain terrifying secret...

Tynacorp was using these towels to take over the world!

Don't you see what towels like these are capable of?? You get out of the shower and dry yourself off... But then, the towel makes you drier and keeps on making you more dry... Can you imagine it? What it would be like to be way, way too dry? I'll tell you something: you don't want to know, and I don't know.

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If you want to improve the Towel, so that it does not get bloodstains on it from war in the first place, I would suggest nano-coating it. That would however not be good for it's fluid-soaking capabilities, which are one of the core-capabilities of a Towel.

But maybe bloodstains are a feature on a Towel, not a bug? Then you could wave your blood-stained towel at your fiend, and they would be so scared, they would bow down to you and hail you as their master. But as this would only work with fresh blood (nobody is scared by dried blood, right?), you would need to remove them between uses.

How to remove blood from your Towel after it has been used for war:

1. Soak your Towel in cold water. The water should be as cold as possible in the circumstances, but not frozen. This should be done as soon as you can. Fresher blood yields better results (is it not always so?).

2. If it is accessible to you, add a bit of detergent to the mix. If your Towel is white, bleach can be added too.

3. Let it soak, preferably over night, but no more than 48 hours (lest your Towel might start disintegrating or rotting).

4. Wash your Towel at a normal cycle in a washing machine or hand wash it vigorously if none such is at your disposal.

5. Hang your Towel up to dry properly.

As a woman, I can testify this is the most efficient way to remove blood from a Towel.

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  • $\begingroup$ This does not answer the question. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jul 27 '15 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ The answer could be good if it described how to improve the towel to deal with the bloodstain, not the process to remove it. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Jul 27 '15 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ Is this better? $\endgroup$ – Kitalda Jul 28 '15 at 6:51
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The BudK catalog, mostly containing knives and Zombie Apocalypse supplies, had a cheap "space blanket" for sale. A blanket is just a large towel, right? This is thin aluminized material that is folded and compressed into a very tiny package. Even without cutting down, you can fit it in your pocket, smaller than your wallet!

As indicated in the accepted answer, optimizing the Towel for some purpose compromises it for others. This is optimized for "keeping warm" as a thermal layer, and high de-optimized for drying off or being cushioning. Even so, it has unique uses not shared by my regular Towel: it can reflect light like a mirror! It's actually water and air tight, rather than porous. It might be useful in fashioning a still for drinking water, both for concentrating sunlight and for providing a surface for condensation and making a water-tight container and keeping the wind off the apparatus.

The accepted answer makes me realize that the real point is being very general. Just like duck tape and paracord, it has a variety of uses. In the Towel in particular this relies on mediocre properties, having some blend of A and B which are each accessible, as opposed to being much better at A while not having B.

I recall Microfiber cloth towels for sale, and one of the reviews explained how they are great for keeping on a sailboat because they are remarkably absorbant yet more compact when dry, so good for limited storage. So it is with the Towel: you want it easily stowed and thus light and compact.

So use materials not known at the time H2G2 was written, using microfiber napping to be both suber absorbant for water and able to handle hydrophobic (oily) materials as well.

Make the weave out of super strong monofilliment. Have it so if you cut off a strip it won't make the rest of the Towel unravel, but you can unweave the strip to yield a long strong cord (and a handfull of loose felt).

The loose felt could be used as fire kindling. The strips torn make good bandages, so make the fluff be antimicrobial as well.


But that's all 2010 technology. Just as we have stuff at Walmart that was impossible in 1985, what will the future — or advanced technology from aliens — bring?

Ever hear of Programmable Matter? Wil uses this in several of his SF novels, and has a real-world patent on the quantum well technology.

The Flick of a switch: A wall becomes a window becomes a hologram generator. Any chair becomes a hypercomputer, any rooftop a power or waste treatment plant. Imagine being able to program matter itself—to change it, with the click of a cursor, from hard to soft, from paper to stone, from fluorescent to super-reflective to invisible.

Or a humble Towel. Now there is a mil-spec towel for you! It normally maintains the form of a primitive cloth towel, with random daily changes to its color and print pattern. If used for any purpose, its intelligence automatically modifies its form and properties to be better at that task, while stealthily trying to remain "just a towel" to outward appearances.

In more extreme needs, it can morph into any material desired.

Folded up into a compact form, it will be your 21st-century phone/PDA. Unfold for a big screen, window, sheet metal, or the softest silk. Wrap it around yourself and it becomes a full space suit with life support capble of adapting to any extreme environment.

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