Will this technology fly?
June 26, 2003 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Would you prefer this to being patted down? A scanner the government is testing for airport screening reveals much more than meets the eye to be comfortable for most passengers. The agency hopes to modify the machines with an electronic fig leaf - programming that fuzzes out sensitive body parts or distorts the body so it does not appear so, well, graphic.
posted by orange swan (38 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Modesty aside, what's the risk of cancer from going through one of these things a lot?
posted by callmejay at 12:34 PM on June 26, 2003

Well, yes I suppose it's graphic. If you're into bald, luminescent chicks.
posted by jonmc at 12:37 PM on June 26, 2003

The story leads you to believe "about the same as sunshine" - but neglected to say HOW MUCH sunshine.
posted by Fat Elvis at 12:37 PM on June 26, 2003

That shouldn't be worksafe...
posted by Resonance at 12:37 PM on June 26, 2003

I enjoyed flying. Looks like I'll have to put an end to it soon. A shame.
posted by EmoChild at 12:38 PM on June 26, 2003

I bring you love.
posted by Ufez Jones at 12:44 PM on June 26, 2003

Note to self: do not pass airport scanners wearing a cock ring and anal beads.
posted by freakystyley at 12:46 PM on June 26, 2003

Backscatter machines have been available for years, priced between $100,000 (U.S.) and $200,000. They have been used to screen prisoners' families and South African diamond miners going home for the day.
They've got the same tech for searching automobiles at border crossings too.
posted by maniactown at 12:52 PM on June 26, 2003

' "It does basically make you look fat and naked, but you see all this stuff," Ms. Hallowell said. '
posted by troutfishing at 12:54 PM on June 26, 2003

I sense a new flood of airport screener voyeur sites . . .
posted by cinderful at 12:54 PM on June 26, 2003

I saw this on TechTV about a year ago. In this day and age, I don't see why something like this isn't already in effect. Right now, there is nothing stopping someone with a Ceramic Knife taped to their back from walking through a Metal Detector and getting on the plane with it.

I am sure that it would have to be a private screen for the operator so noone could be gawking at the people, but for security's sake this is probably the best way to go.

Cancer Risk? Dunno, hopefully they would make sure that it isn't a drastic dose of x-rays that would affect Frequent Fliers...
posted by stew560 at 12:55 PM on June 26, 2003

Why don't they just buy a bunch of those x-ray spex out of the back of a comic book?
posted by spilon at 1:01 PM on June 26, 2003

I can see peoples souls.
posted by sharksandwich at 1:18 PM on June 26, 2003

So they test this on healthy people who are purposely carrying weapons with them. What about people with pace-makers? Is that a pace-maker or is that an explosive device?

As far as cancer risks go it says that it emits about as much radiation as standing in the sun. The wavelength of the radiation matters though. Alpha radiation can be blocked with a piece of paper. Ultraviolet radiation can be fairly well blocked with sun screen. X-rays penetrate the body. The real question isn't how much radiation is emitted but: how dangerous is that radiation?

I'm not trying to be alarmist, you get a lot more radiation flying in an airplane than walking outside and it may well be that this device is negligible compared to that.
posted by substrate at 1:19 PM on June 26, 2003

"Her dark skirt and blazer disappeared on the monitor, where she showed up naked - except for the gun and bomb she had hid under her outfit."

I'm sure the people at the demonstration weren't thinking, "Gee whiz, you got us." It was probably more along the lines of "You crazy sum'bitch! You could have just used a knife!"
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:23 PM on June 26, 2003

So, then the solution would be to hide your weapon where the electronic fig leaf don't let the radiation shine, wouldn't it? New technology isn't necessarily advancement; this sounds like a good way to spend a lot of money without getting more accurate results.
posted by headspace at 2:20 PM on June 26, 2003

Re: safety.

I haven't checked their claims, but if the article is correct, you'll get a heck of a lot more exposure to x-rays on the flight itself from the scanner.

Some doses:
NY-LA fight: 2.5 mrem
1 day of sunlight: 0.1 mrem

Typical exposure from all sources in a year: 300 mrem
posted by bonehead at 2:29 PM on June 26, 2003

Also, I see a big future in plastic knives.
posted by bonehead at 2:30 PM on June 26, 2003

I see a big future in X-ray-fluorescing tatoos and body paints. Not to mention garroting wire woven into laces and belts.
posted by Ptrin at 2:50 PM on June 26, 2003

Maybe they'll let you trade 10,000 Frequent Flyer miles for a melanoma treatment
posted by ElvisJesus at 2:51 PM on June 26, 2003

This is asinine. You folks have already thought of a half dozen ways to defeat it, and several reasons why it might be bad for you. Nobody has even mentioned the idea that this might be a violation of the 4th Amendment, which last I heard had only been badly wounded by the PATRIOT Act. Not everybody gets a pat-down at the airport, but I imagine this device is intended to replace the metal detector (why would you have multiple types of expensive walk-through devices?). Thus everyone would get scanned, regardless of medical or religious qualms. What, you think a Moslem woman wearing a veil is going to willingly go through this thing?

This doesn't even pass the sniff test for security. It is an expensive "fix" for a non-existant problem. So the hypothetical suicide bomber gets caught by it, he self-detonates in the nice busy terminal (probably shutting it down for days if not weeks) instead of the airplane. It does however sound like one hell of a way to degrade honest citizens.
posted by ilsa at 3:34 PM on June 26, 2003

But what if they should put something up their ass? I think we should be shoving cameras up people's asses, pronto.
posted by squirrel at 3:36 PM on June 26, 2003

Well, yes I suppose it's graphic. If you're into bald, luminescent chicks.
You too?

Seriously, this is just a bit too invasive for my taste. Having never been patted down in my travels (innocent looking face or something), I cannot personally vouch for how invasive that would be, but there comes a point where the added security is outweighed by the loss of personal privacy. Security at any cost is not what we need.

Does anyone really doubt that there are any number of ways to defeat this anyway? Are they going to step up checking of hand luggage to ensure you do not have a plastic knife in your bag, or plastic gun components in your toiletries bag that you assemble in the toilet? Where does it all end - do we have to travel naked and completely without luggage to cover the minute possibility that a terrorist is on the plane?
posted by dg at 3:38 PM on June 26, 2003

dg, mmmmmmaybe that would be enough. Naked, luggageless, suspended in a brine. And then only if we could do it with big smiles on our faces and a snappy salute. That might be enough.
posted by squirrel at 3:52 PM on June 26, 2003

For now.
posted by squirrel at 3:53 PM on June 26, 2003

Make that fat, nake and BALD.
posted by Zombie at 5:13 PM on June 26, 2003

Finally the government starts taking cues from Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Soon they will be taking cues from Governor Schwarzenegger.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:09 PM on June 26, 2003

That shouldn't be worksafe...

Worksafe? That photo was page one above the fold on today's Sydney Morning Herald. File under: things I don't need to see over breakfast. Bald luminescent chicks indeed.
posted by bright cold day at 11:27 PM on June 26, 2003

substrate: If the rays emitted by this thing bounce off skin, chances are they won't make it far enough to show a pacemaker, and for the few rays that do it'll be easy to distinguish from a bomb when they take into account how faintly it's represented on the scan.

Except the bombs that are hidden... under the skin!!
posted by teem at 12:00 AM on June 27, 2003

Looks like it's time to start that tin-foil underwear bussness I've always thought about.

Oh, and you could also conceal stuff inside your vagina.
posted by delmoi at 8:33 AM on June 27, 2003

They have been used to screen prisoners' families and South African diamond miners going home for the day.

In other words, the American public is going to be treated the same way we treat criminals and slaves. What a grand thing!

Here's my tip: stuff a couple pounds of C4 plastique explosive up your ass and walk on through. If you're lucky, you might even score a seat above the wings!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:50 AM on June 27, 2003

A few things, upon further Googling.

First off, the technology can detect simple organic compounds like C4 or platic knives. They look very different from the human's organic "background radiation". I urge anyone interested to check out this link, as it has lots and lots of seriously cool photos of the technology in action.

Second, every time you change clothes in a store, you stand the chance of being seen naked by security folks making sure you don't steal stuff. This isn't much different -- if anything, it's more important because death and dismemberment is generally considered worse than stealing a $40 Gap t-shirt.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:55 PM on June 27, 2003

I don't have a problem with this. I'd rather be seen naked and glowing by someone who looks at 1,000,000 naked glowing people a day than touched in any way. Anyone who sees that many people naked will cease being titillated by it in short order anyway.
posted by kindall at 1:16 PM on June 27, 2003

bah. I'd rather just not fly. This whole airport security business sucks all the fun out of travel.

If I got more than two weeks of vacation time a year, I'd do my business trips via Amtrak.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:12 PM on June 27, 2003

I am not a modest person. I would gladly wag my genitals in the face of John Ashcroft on national television, (I'm talking to you, FOX network!). My objection to this technology is, first, that it represents a further erosion of individual privacy; second, with the variety of other ways to get weaponizable material onto the plane, this technology doesn't deliver sufficiently increased security; third, I am very skeptical about the claims that proponents of this technology make about its safety; fourth, who is going to pay for this? and fifth, it's just so creepy.
posted by squirrel at 4:58 PM on June 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

...every time you change clothes in a store, you stand the chance of being seen naked by security folks making sure you don't steal stuff

Not in Canada.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:03 PM on June 27, 2003

Well, yes I suppose it's graphic. If you're into bald, luminescent chicks.

I see a new fetish on the horizon.

Er, not mine...
posted by Foosnark at 9:39 AM on June 28, 2003

The horizon you speak of is actually behind us, Foosnark.
posted by squirrel at 12:38 PM on June 28, 2003

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