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May 3, 2004 6:56 AM   Subscribe

Advanced methods of bomb detection and investigation. New equipment developed to scan cars and people, such as a parking lot device which quickly bathes the car's trunk in invisible neutrons, a procedure that makes materials inside the trunk emit gamma-rays that would indicate the presence of explosives. Also, a bomb disposal robot which take[s] fingerprints before blowing [a] package up.
posted by mcgraw (17 comments total)

 
From the article:

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CAR BOMB DETECTOR, under development at HiEnergy Technologies, Inc., irradiates the trunk of a car with fast neutrons, revealing the chemical signatures of its contents.
posted by mcgraw at 7:01 AM on May 3, 2004


From the SciAm article, I mean.
posted by mcgraw at 7:02 AM on May 3, 2004


Also from the article:

In the post-9/11 world and especially in the wake of the March 11 terrorist train bombings in Madrid, Spain, bomb detection has a higher-than-ever priority. Airport screening with x-ray machines and specially trained dogs is common; now other transportation modes are also being examined for their vulnerability.

I'm reminded of an old joke. NASA spent millions developing an ultra-sophisticated pen which works underwater and in zero gravity. Faced with the same problems the Soviets used a pencil.

While all of this gee-whizz technology is admirable wouldn’t it be easier and a better use of scarce resources to address the issues as to why we’ve got nutters trying to blow up our train stations than to throw ever more money at the question?
posted by dmt at 8:01 AM on May 3, 2004


dmt - You are so, so right.
posted by davebush at 8:19 AM on May 3, 2004


bathes the car's trunk in invisible neutrons

How devious. I suppose the visible kind would be a giveaway.
posted by raygirvan at 8:25 AM on May 3, 2004


Figuring out why some person or group of people want to blow something up is pointless - there's as many reasons as there are wackos. Stopping them from blowing the things up, and saving lives in the process - that would be useful.
posted by Jart at 8:30 AM on May 3, 2004


wouldn’t it be easier and a better use of scarce resources to address the issues as to why we’ve got nutters trying to blow up our train stations than to throw ever more money at the question?

It would be prudent to do that while also researching security options, dmt.
posted by mcgraw at 8:33 AM on May 3, 2004


It would be prudent to do that while also researching security options, dmt.

Agreed mcgraw, I can't fault your pragmatism. I suppose however I'm trying to flag the disjunction between the treasure flung at military and security spending versus miserly development budgets.

While those neutron scanners will improve security in train stations they also raise the bar to terrorists. When they figure a work-around – which they will – then we’ll be at square one, more broke and probably looking for an even more expensive solution.

Having lived in the West Bank for 3 months I can assure you that this is not a road down which we want to travel too far. In Israel, every border crossing, bus journey and hotel visit is preceded with by security check. This pervasive climate of fear, mistrust and paranoia is driving a phenomenon wherein more Israelis are emigrating than immigrating.

The hundreds of thousands, if not millions that those scanners are going to cost would demine large amounts of Afghani farmland, feed, educate and clothe hundreds of thousands of children in some of the neediest areas of the world. God alone knows what an agency like Medicines Sans Frontiers could do with that kind of money.

So then, given we know that we live in a fucked up world where lots of people don’t like us, I astounds me that instead of trying to build goodwill, make friends and help-up the world’s less fortunate we’re entrenching ourselves into ever tighter concentric circles of defence. Perhaps y’know building plowshares rather than swords might convince a few kids that we’re not the Satans that they’ve been taught to believe. ‘Sides which, I defy you to agitate a man with a full belly.

Instead, dead eyed we watch down our rifle sights for the sceptre of the approaching other. If we continue like this sooner or later we’ll abut against our inability to circumvent the ingenuity of men of determination who’re not afraid to die.
posted by dmt at 9:03 AM on May 3, 2004


I astounds me

You astound me, too, dmt!

Naw... just foolin. Kerry for Prez, dmt. Kerry for Prez.
posted by mcgraw at 9:09 AM on May 3, 2004


I have to concur that prevention is worth a pound (or kilo) of cure... and making fewer enemies and more friends will get us much more than new technology. That said, I'm always in favor of logistic and/or mechanistic solutions applied cautiously and appropriately (provided they're not sold as cure-alls, and my civil liberties are not infringed upone).

But the first thing that came to my mind when reading this was how --- were I so inclined --- I'd just rig my bombs with neutron detectors (if that's even feasable), and blow the damn things right then. Just a thought.
posted by silusGROK at 9:34 AM on May 3, 2004


I realize that we are talking a Greater Good issue, but doesn't this device run afoul of the 4th Amendment?

I can see a big problem should this thing give false positives. Normal proceedure now seems to be "suspicious package? blow it up!" Imagine going to the garden center, putting some fertilizer in the back of your diesel volkswagen, dropping by the quickie-mart on the way home. One of these gizmos happens to be nearby and goes off. Next thing you know, cops have swarmed the parking lot and are blowing up your car.
posted by ilsa at 9:43 AM on May 3, 2004


I wonder if intense barrages of gamma radiation are such a good idea.
posted by dfowler at 10:38 AM on May 3, 2004




I'm reminded of an old joke. NASA spent millions developing an ultra-sophisticated pen which works underwater and in zero gravity. Faced with the same problems the Soviets used a pencil.

Just to make it clear, that joke isn't factual.
posted by callmejay at 11:21 AM on May 3, 2004




After reading this sheriff's site on fingerprinting with cyanoacrylates [superglue thread], I'm surprised this cyanoacrylate vaporizer hasn't already been invented. This development will surpass their work on the bot, as this idea will greatly improve cyanoacrylate fingerprinting by human investigators.
posted by roboto at 3:55 PM on May 3, 2004


Neutron activation type detectors have been around in airport use for a while. I seem to remember reading that cucumbers, of all things, have a signature similar to some plastic explosive.

Anyway, having a fast neutron source in every parking lot sounds like a cancer researcher's wet dream, but not a very good idea otherwise.
posted by hattifattener at 10:14 PM on May 3, 2004


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