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How Terahertz Waves Tear Apart DNA

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the tear-a-cell dept.

Wireless Networking 279

KentuckyFC writes "Great things are expected of terahertz waves, the radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum between microwaves and the infrared. Terahertz waves pass through non-conducting materials such as clothes, paper, wood and brick and so cameras sensitive to them can peer inside envelopes, into living rooms and 'frisk' people at distance. That's not to mention the great potential they have in medical imaging. Because terahertz photons are not energetic enough to break chemical bonds or ionize electrons, it's easy to dismiss fears over their health effects. And yet the evidence is mixed: some studies have reported significant genetic damage while others, although similar, have reported none. Now a team led by Los Alamos National Labs thinks it knows why. They say that although the forces that terahertz waves exert on double-stranded DNA are tiny, in certain circumstances resonant effects can unzip the DNA strands, tearing them apart. This creates bubbles in the strands that can significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication. With terahertz scanners already appearing in airports and hospitals, the question that now urgently needs answering is what level of exposure is safe."

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279 comments

Who cares... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29922621)

Who cares if we turn into an entire country of genetically deformed freaks, at least we'll be a country of SAFE and FREE genetically deformed freaks, right? Just as envisioned by our Founding Fathers. God Bless America.

Remember citizen (4, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922649)

continuity of the state and its power structures is far more important than petty things like individual freedoms or human lives.

Re:Who cares... (3, Interesting)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923125)

Yeah exactly, so what if I have to have my arm amputated because of an agressive cancer caused by these scanners, at least it means I wont have to lose my arm to a terrorist!

Re:Who cares... (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923219)

Already, a friend of mine that's a cell phone addict (and has been since they were 'perfected') has had numerous benign growths removed from her face.

EMI apparently has, at various freqs, the ability to rattle our anatomy. To what extent-- we need to know, and know soon.

When I go through the airport scanners and get stripped by UUHF waves, I wonder just what's getting blown around inside me. Maybe low and vhf weren't as nasty. Maybe they were. The problem is: we don't know and we oughta find out in finality.

Re:Who cares... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29923395)

Already, a friend of mine that's a cell phone addict (and has been since they were 'perfected') has had numerous benign growths removed from her face.

[citation needed].

You need to understand the difference between ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. Don't try to draw a correlation between benign growths and cellphone use. Your local AM radio station, an old microwave that isn't properly insulated, your television with rabbit ears, your cordless phone, your 802.11x access point in your house, and many others are also hitting you with non-ionizing radiation.

Re:Who cares... (3, Interesting)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923481)

We agree. I'm not trying to go all tin-foil hat, but there are gigawatts in major cities floating around, nudging things in your body. You tell me which ones are ok [add your own citations, and I'll add mine] and everything will be fine. They'll stop the ones that have a higher statistical possibility of blowing apart DNA, RNA, or otherwise wreaking havoc, right? And everyone will follow the rule, right?

My citation is admittedly anecdotal. But her surgeries weren't. They were damn painful.

Re:Who cares... (1)

timias1 (1063832) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923493)

Well it is a win-win situation for the airlines since they will be able to charge you a baggage fee for your new prosthetic arm. They could also remove one of your arm rests to save weight since you won't need it.

Shoe-Fitting Flouroscope (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922645)

Reminds me of the time I was at the Science Museum in Minnesota and they had an exhibit from the Museum of Bad Science (or something like that). Anyway they had a shoe-fitting flouroscope [hemonctoday.com] which was a device that shoe stores bought. Basically you would put shoes on your child's feet but to see how well they fit you would jam their leg in this thing and see the bones of the toes up to the tip of the shoe and see how well it fit. See the problem yet?

Although store clerks were frequently exposed to the radiation from the machines, the radiation was more dangerous to children who placed their feet directly into the radiation. The exposure rate is thought to have been approximately 0.005 Gy to 0.058 Gy per second. If children tried on several pairs of shoes per visit it was posited that they could be exposed to as much as 0.1 Gy to 1.16 Gy. In fact, experiments indicated that radiation could exceed 1 microGy per hour as far as 10 feet away from the machine.

This device should be a warning (and I think it has been if you look at how cautious people are of new technologies like cell phones). Hopefully my sperm aren't being fried when I walk through a scanner in an airport--at least the parents of the 30s were using X-rays for their convenience and not the invasion of their privacy!

Re:Shoe-Fitting Flouroscope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29922941)

If "rays" were going to do that it's already been done. O_o

Re:Shoe-Fitting Flouroscope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29923019)

Except this is an example of us already learning from the past.
The body scanners in use now are passive. You got it they use the natural background radiation to scan so they do not irradiate at all. New scanners that are now in testing are starting to use emitters. They are in testing and some testing have shown that under rare instances that this radiation could be damaging.
So the scientists didn't ignore the issue but tracked it down and found the cause before they active scanners went in to service.
In other words we have learned from the past and in this case the system has worked very well.

Re:Shoe-Fitting Flouroscope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29923099)

to me that new discovery should be used to find a way to repair genes, or even fight cancer.

many times some discovery in one field leads to a major advance in another ...

Re:Shoe-Fitting Flouroscope (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923143)

It wasn't any better than just measuring the kid's feet, to boot. Shoe-curity theatre.

Re:Shoe-Fitting Flouroscope (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29923177)

If some of your Little Johns get a bit frazzled, you could theroetically make more so long as the rest of you stays intact. A woman, however, never makes more eggs. If those get fried, that's the end of the line.

Re:Shoe-Fitting Flouroscope (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923453)

They were common through the '50s anyway; I remember them in the shoe stores and, boy, were they cool!

Ethical use of panic... (4, Interesting)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922655)


So if there's a hysterical OMGCancer panic amongst the scientific illiterate, is it ethical to take advantage of that to protect ourselves against the privacy abuses of these things at train stations and airports and on the street?

Re:Ethical use of panic... (5, Informative)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922685)

Hasn't it always been the case that you have the option to decline to use "the machine" and be hand-searched instead?

Until this issue gets resolved, that's what I plan to do anyhow.

Re:Ethical use of panic... (3, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922717)

If they had two lanes that'd be fine and dandy. But refusing to be searched and requesting to be done by hand is making yourself a suspect. As soon as you ask that enjoy being treated like you tried to sneak a gun on board.

Re:Ethical use of panic... (4, Interesting)

AioKits (1235070) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922835)

With my assorted body jewelry I find it less hassle to actually be patted down. The scanners (last time I flew it was a millimeter waves scanner) always detect something 'on me'. The last time I went through they pulled me aside and asked, "Do you have anything on your chest sir?" I thought they were asking if I had something I wanted to tell them so I said no. They had to clarify, "Do you have any foreign objects on your chest?" I have one ring in that area, but it is only 12 gauge and not big enough to be mistken for anything really. So... I was escorted to a lil clear box, patted down, and sent on my way.

I have little to no shame, so it didn't really bother me he was patting me down. In fact he seemed to grimace at the fact he had to do it, which made it all the more enjoyable to me.

So now I just skip any of the scanners and opt for a pat down. It slows down security, it appears to make them uncomfortable, and if I'm lucky it'll be someone attractive patting me down.

Re:Ethical use of panic... (0, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922973)

The concept of a clear box as some sort of booth for performing searches is so far removed from my concept of what America ought to be that I'm terribly saddened and honestly angered that this country has gone so far towards fascism and jack-booted thuggery in so little time. While you may not feel much shame, in general people would usually prefer to be taken to an area that maintains some semblance of privacy in the odd event that such a search is necessary. That we are searching people at all with this much effort is a travesty.

As for getting an attractive person to pat you down, I can only say that I hope you are gay or bisexual because the guard who pats you down is required to be the same gender as you. Of course you already have piercings, so it may go without saying.

Re:Ethical use of panic... (-1, Offtopic)

AioKits (1235070) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923029)

>

Of course you already have piercings, so it may go without saying.

Oh yes, because as I've heard from the Trinity Broadcasting Network, everybody knows that body modification and art is the precursor to gay. Totally nailed it on the head there. Take your faked outrage and veiled homophobia elsewhere.

Re:Ethical use of panic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29923077)

There is a balance to that 'shame/privacy' by being patted down in a clear box though. It also means the officers patting you down don't have privacy and so they might be less likely to molest you in the process.

To be fair it should be in a room with a camera that isn't viewable by other people but whatever.

Re:Ethical use of panic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29923315)

The concept of a clear box as some sort of booth for performing searches is so far removed from my concept of what America ought to be that I'm terribly saddened and honestly angered that this country has gone so far towards fascism and jack-booted thuggery in so little time.

I'm an oldthinker. I unbellyfeel AmSoc too. But the box is clear so that your potential abuser doesn't have any privacy either.

Seriously - you'd really prefer an opaque box, or for the ultimate in privacy, a soundproof and lightproof room, where a TSA goon's potential abuse would never be be witnessed by anybody except the fellow TSA goon operating the camera?

Because those really are the only two options in post-9/11 America.

Re:Ethical use of panic... (3, Funny)

domatic (1128127) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923257)


So now I just skip any of the scanners and opt for a pat down. It slows down security, it appears to make them uncomfortable, and if I'm lucky it'll be someone attractive patting me down.

http://www.metrolyrics.com/security-joan-lyrics-fagen-donald.html [metrolyrics.com]

chuckle...snort!

Re:Ethical use of panic... (1)

DinDaddy (1168147) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923565)

Interesting site. Refuse the cookie it tries to place and the the lyrics disappear leaving the rest of the page intact.

Re:Ethical use of panic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29922921)

Hasn't it always been the case that you have the option to decline to use "the machine" and be hand-searched instead?

Until this issue gets resolved, that's what I plan to do anyhow.

Yeah good luck if you're from middle eastern descent. I can tell you that people eyeball you enough as it is, now if I decline to use "the machine", how do you think the reactions would be? And please -- don't rationalize, people aren't rational.

Re:Ethical use of panic... (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923145)

"I have seen research that indicates these machines might not be safe, especially for frequent travellers. I am perfectly willing to undergo a manual search instead."

Was that so hard?

Re:Ethical use of panic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29923399)

And please -- don't rationalize, people aren't rational.

Are you blind? I could be saying anything and no matter what I say all that circulates in the security officers (not to mention everybody elses) mind is: "he's not cooperative, he's hiding something." If you think I'm overreacting it's because you're putting your egocentric self in my scenario, except you're not of middle eastern descent. Get yourself a friend of middle eastern descent and join him once at the airport, follow him and just observe how more or less everybody is eyeballing him. Tell him to kindly decline using "the machine". Sit back -- and learn.

Re:Ethical use of panic... (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923573)

I have travelled with team members of many different ethnicities, including middle eastern. I have not witnessed what you describe. Hell, one time I was even the one pulled aside for supplemental screening while my colleagues walked on unhindered, and my skin is milky white most months of the year.

Re:Ethical use of panic... (1)

lordholm (649770) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922937)

I passed through one of these at Schiphol, this was about 2 years ago when no one know what they where. It was there as an experimental deployment, but nowhere did it say that the machine would look through your clothes. For all I know, it looked like an advanced metal detector.

Although, while there was one queue that went to a place where there was a normal metal detector and a guy frisking you, you had to pick a queue at the start, and then you usually picked the shorter queue.

I was mighty pissed when I read about the machines and realised that they where literally peeking under your clothes.

Not just peeking (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29923225)

They produce a 3-dimensional model of your body that is accurate down to the pores of your skin. They can also see a bit beyond the skin.

The publicly-released zoomed-out pictures of blue people only show one way of rendering the data that these machines gather. They could just as easily render a full-color image that looks like a photograph, with a fancy zoom feature that will give them intricate detail of any body part they choose to examine.

*puts on a latex glove* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29923117)

"Hasn't it always been the case that you have the option to decline to use "the machine" and be hand-searched instead?

Until this issue gets resolved, that's what I plan to do anyhow."

Ahoy, Matey! Now bend over....

Re:Ethical use of panic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29922695)

There is no such thing as an ethical use of panic.

Pushing any idea without the full understanding of the people "for their own good" is the worst kind of tyranny.

Re:Ethical use of panic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29922845)

"the worst kind of tyranny"

The kind that every "democratic" government is using as much as they can?

Re:Ethical use of panic... (1)

kilfarsnar (561956) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923325)

Yes, that kind. I'm gonna go ahead and agree with that. Though it might be expedient, I don't think it's ethical to take advantage of people's ignorance.

I don't think it's a durable strategy anyway. The whole reason our rights are being taken away is that people are more concerned about safety than with their rights (and they're only worried about safety because they've been propagandized). So preserving their rights by taking advantage of a different ignorant panic doesn't solve the root problem. It's catching a fish for a man instead of teaching him to fish.

Re:Ethical use of panic... (1)

Evil Shabazz (937088) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923199)

Tell that to FOXNews, please.

Re:Ethical use of panic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29923345)

How about to antiracists and the proponents of "We Have 50 Days To Solve Climate Change"?

Re:Ethical use of panic... (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923239)

Of course, I agree with you. However, what if your opinion is that this is EXACTLY what the other side is doing. If it wasn't for fearmongers fanning the flames of irrational panic, we wouldn't have a TSA, "mm wave" scanners, or anything like that. In fact, airport security wouldn't have hardly changed at all since the mid 1980s.

How do you fight that sort of tyranny, if its the "worst kind"?

-Steve

Re:Ethical use of panic... (2, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922815)

What is this ethics thing you are talking about and since when was it relevant to fight in a political arena ?

Re:Ethical use of panic... (-1, Troll)

Evil Shabazz (937088) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923137)

We're sorry - "OMGCancer panic" (c) is copyrighted and owned by FOXNews, along with "OMG panic" for any other noun you can think of.

The airport scanners are passive (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29922659)

If you follow the link provided about the airport scanners you find that they are passive devices meaning they don't emit terahertz waves they only recieve the waves coming off of everything around us.
There are some devices out there that using terahertz radiation to inspect packages much like x-ray today.

Re:The airport scanners are passive (4, Informative)

Gadgetfreak (97865) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922723)

For now. But the last paragraph of the MIT article indicates newer cameras will have their own emitters.

Re:The airport scanners are passive (5, Informative)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923161)

The MIT article has no citations to any models coming out that use active scanning. Meanwhile, the article summary clearly implies, no, actually STATES, that they are being introduced already into airports. Which is patently false. Active scanners ARE being introduced, but they are milliwave body scanners, and these passive t-wave scanners appear to be a more effective and safer alternative.

"With terahertz scanners already appearing in airports and hospitals, the question that now urgently needs answering is what level of exposure is safe."

The "terahertz scanners already appearing in airports", like the cited ThruVision T5000, are passive units. There is no discussion about "what level of exposure is safe" because there is no exposure to terahertz radiation. It's detecting what your body and possessions are already emitting.

The t-band scanners are being tested for two reasons that seem to make sense to me, at least:

1. Their imagery can detect materials more accurately whilst simultaneously not getting as accurate a picture of the actual body. This is better scanning with better privacy.
2. The new scanners are passive t-ray detectors as opposed to active milliwave detector.

Better scanning, less violation of privacy, no active emitter. If true, this sounds like a trifecta to me. I'd much rather pass through one of these than a milliwave unit.

If and when ACTIVE t-band scanners start being introduced into general airport use, I'll share your concern and be right there with you in the pat-down line.

Re:The airport scanners are passive (3, Informative)

Shrike82 (1471633) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922745)

If you follow the link provided about the airport scanners you find that they are passive devices meaning they don't emit terahertz waves they only recieve the waves coming off of everything around us. There are some devices out there that using terahertz radiation to inspect packages much like x-ray today.

Thankyou. The summary implies that scanning using T-waves in airports might cause you to have your DNA scrambled, which is just plain wrong. Passive scanning (which we are told is what the airport scanners are) don't expose you to any more radiation than you get in a normal day.

oh no, this means (2, Funny)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922661)

that besides my geiger muller counter, my gas spectroscopy meter, and my decibel meter, I have to carry a terahertz microwave detector with me all the time?

Incident at LAX (2, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922663)

I was at LAX with my family several months ago and there was a huge line to go through the metal detectors. Tempers were up, to say the least.

Ahead of me there was a group of Arabs, kaffiyeh, long beard, the works. Behind them was a little white haired lady apparently on her way back to "Mizzurah" after seeing her grandkids in LA. Sweet as can be old lady, the kind that talks to much to strangers on the airplane. Single serving friend, you know.

Guess who gets stopped by the TSA.

Needless to say, everyone in line was a bit pissed that the TSA was giving extra screening to the old lady when they just waved the Arab guys through without a second glance. That's when the guy behind me yelled out, "What the fuck are you morons searching her for? The towelheads are the ones flying shit into buildings!"

Turns out we were all on the same flight to Chicago. Real American guy boarded last, about 15 minutes late. TSA had a word with him, I suppose. Maybe scanned him a few extra times to make sure his DNA was totally fucked up.

Re:Incident at LAX (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29922703)

It hurts to read your posts. Seriously.

Re:Incident at LAX (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922777)

I have to say that the only time I was set aside to be in the special search category, everybody else in the group was from the middle-East or India. It was quite clearly obvious that they were profiling based on ethnic origin.

(*In my case, the "profile" was that I'd bought a one-way ticket only one hour before the flight. Apparently the profile of terrorists is that they buy tickets at the last moment. True? Probably not.)

Re:Incident at LAX (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29923127)

Might not be for bomb reasons, could be smuggling of drugs, money or other materials. If I was running a security service, I'd find it unusual that someone buys a one-way ticket one hour before a flight. At least enough to frisk them for goodies.

there was a little old lady in the UK who turned (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29922797)

out to be one of the biggest spies for the soviet union during the cold war.

dont mess with little old ladies.

Re:Incident at LAX (2, Interesting)

swarsron (612788) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922831)

so you suggest we profile people by their religion *and* create an easy to circumvent security protocol? Genius

My booming smuggling business (1)

tinkerton (199273) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923073)

My business of smuggling illicit recreational chemicals has become so much easier after 9/11. All my people dress with long beards and try to look arab(takes some training). Alright so it's not fun when the man with the glove comes but they never get checked for drugs. I lost a few that were sent to Uzbekistan but hey, it's not supposed to be a safe business.

Re:Incident at LAX (-1, Redundant)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922833)

You have been unfairly modded into invisibility as a "troll", which is completely ridiculous, so I'm reposting your message so people can see it. It's a good story about the Stupidity of the TSA.

I was at LAX..... Ahead of me there was a group of Arabs, kaffiyeh, long beard, the works. Behind them was a little white haired lady apparently on her way back to "Mizzurah" after seeing her grandkids in LA. Sweet as can be old lady.....

Guess who gets stopped by the TSA.

Needless to say, everyone in line was a bit pissed that the TSA was giving extra screening to the old lady when they just waved the Arab guys through without a second glance. That's when the guy behind me yelled out, "What the fuck are you morons searching her for? The towelheads are the ones flying shit into buildings!" Real American guy boarded last, about 15 minutes late. TSA had a word with him, I suppose.

I guess that little old lady was a real danger, as if she was about to yell out "Death to Americans" and blow up the terminal. (rolls eyes). They also stopped this guy who looks like an adult version of Harry Potter!
With photo - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMB6L487LHM [youtube.com]
unedited - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEJpzVPmih0 [youtube.com]

Remember it's resonance (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29922667)

Resonant effects build up from very small amplitudes; the 'safe' level of exposure from a CW machine is none.

Zero-tolerance? Really? (0)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922761)

Well, since every gram of tissue in your body is constantly emitting blackbody terahertz waves, I guess you're screwed, then.

Re:Remember it's resonance (2, Interesting)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922931)

Actually, the article states that "THz-radiation can affect biological function, but only under specific conditions, viz. high power, or/and extended exposure, or/and specific THz frequency". At any rate resonant absorbance does not, as a common property, "build up from very small amplitudes" outside of Star Trek. It's a way of getting energy into particular modes of the system, which can ensure you put the energy in the place where it'll do the most good (or bad), not a way of boosting that energy.

Re:Remember it's resonance (1)

Bigbutt (65939) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923195)

That's cool. So only the guys and gals that work at the airport will mutate. And hey, if you didn't want to mutate, you shouldn't have applied to work at the airport.

(Yes I know that the article says it's passive, I'm responding to the comment.)

[John]

Re:Remember it's resonance (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923393)

I imagine that the folk at the airport would be given an occupational exposure limit and told to stand behind the emitter when they're not being scanned themselves.

This Transmission is Coming to You... (1)

Merakis (959028) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922687)

Whether you like it or not, your DNA will be modified by our scanners. Signed, The G-Man.

great. they invented a 'cancer gun' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29922693)

what could possibly go wrong!

reminds me of 'saturday morning watchmen'.

In most cases, airport scanners are still optional (5, Informative)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922697)

The times I've encountered the terahertz scanners at airports, they've always been optional (although they don't make it clear to you that it is). If directed to one, I've always simply asked if I must use it or if I had a choice of a "normal" metal detector. EVERY time they've allowed me to choose (and I travel a LOT). Most times they take a note of it or ask me to sign a sheet to indicate my declination - I assume so they can figure out if people object or not.

Asking the quesiton never hurts. It also sends the message that this intrusion isn't accepted by the public. Don't surrender to these things willingly.

Re:In most cases, airport scanners are still optio (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922917)

All the scanning and waiting in line for it and having luggage checked and so on is such a big time sink. I don't think I'd ask for another detector, because I'm just happy if I'm finally there instead of waiting in line and just want the whole process to be over as fast as possible.

Re:In most cases, airport scanners are still optio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29923015)

Yes, that's what they want.

The elite don't go through the cattle corral. They just walk out on the tarmac from their special gate and get on their special plane that goes directly where they want to go. Specially.

You rubes are spending half your travel time just getting hassled. Time you might have spent getting rich and powerful if you'd had it available to you. Buses are the same way. Why do you think the schedule will have an hour between buses and two transfers that don't line up each way. Heaven forbid you have two goals for the trip.

Re:In most cases, airport scanners are still optio (3, Interesting)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923207)

Actually, when I decline, they've always walked me to the front of the line for the other detectors. It's saved me time in the end, strangely enough.

A few other times, when it was my turn, I simply walked to the standard detector myself, and had no issues.

(they have two normal lanes and one terahertz scanner lane at my departure airport, but I've run into them in many other places recently too)

Translation (2, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922713)

"This creates bubbles in the strands that can significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication." i.e. The birth of cancer cells. Terahertz waves are carcinogens.

Re:Translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29922793)

People don't realize it, but our bodies birth cancerous cells constantly. We usually kill them off, though.

Re:Translation (4, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922885)

>>>People don't realize it, but our bodies birth cancerous cells constantly. We usually kill them off, though.

Yes but irritants (like tobacco smoke) create MORE cancerous cells, and therefore increase the odds you'll die of cancer. The solution is to avoid those things that encourage cancerous growth.

Re:Translation (2, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923011)

That would depend on the degree. Your DNA's a mess at the best of times from exposure to the normal background of crap, and would be a mess in isolation by its very nature. The body has coping mechanisms: the question is, is this significant enough to pose them problems? The answer, according to this paper's lit review, is "sometimes, at a high enough or sufficiently prolonged level of exposure or at a particular frequency".

Re:Translation (3, Interesting)

put_the_cat_out (961909) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923413)

But what if Terahertz waves can also be used to kill a cancerous tumor? Think about this ... take to sources of focused EM energy beams, neither in the Terahertz range, and aim both energy beams at a cancerous tumor. When the two energy beams coincide at the tumor, through constructive interference, localized Terahertz waves are generated that disrupt the DNA of the cancer cells to the extent that those cells can no longer replicate. Since the energy is localized, damage to the surrounding body tissue is minimal and can be repaired by the body in a short time. As a result though, the cancer is gone.

Are you mad?!?!? (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922741)

You would deprive us of hundreds, if not thousands, of leaked nude photos of famous celebs just to save a little DNA?!?!? Are you insane, man????

Re:Are you mad?!?!? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29923017)

Are *you* mad!? Do you know the amount of leaked DNA caused by leaked nude photos of celebrities? This could result in a feed back loop causing a massive snowball effect that could destroy the entire human race (or at least be really gross)!

Re:Are you mad?!?!? (4, Funny)

ragefan (267937) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923287)

You would deprive us of hundreds, if not thousands, of leaked nude photos of famous celebs just to save a little DNA?!?!? Are you insane, man????

I'm thinking either way, there is gonna be some DNA lost.

I would like to contribute to the solution (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922773)

Now where do I go to buy a camera that can virtually unzip people so that I can go do some research on it's side effects?

EM radation affects matter? What?! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29922823)

Who could've guessed?! I myself became a strong believer in this after the microwave oven. You all know about the microwave oven, right? You do believe in it, right? You know how it works?

Doesn't worry me (3, Interesting)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922875)

If you read the story this conjecture is the results of a computer model ...NOT real measurements of actual damage to DNA - since no previous actual experiments have turned up any damage then I'd say the model is not quite right - at any rate its all theoretical and not proven with experiment

Re:Doesn't worry me (3, Insightful)

_LORAX_ (4790) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922963)

This is good science. It gives experimental research a direction to look in. If they find the same result it will validate this computer model, if they still can not the computer model needs to be thrown out or reworked. There will always be differences between theory and experiment, this is probably just one of those cases.

It may not matter though, with the number of people that can not differentiate between theory and reality this may stop terahertz scanning dead since people are dumb and panicky when it comes to crap like this. People still think WiFi or cell phones can give you cancer. Better yet, most people can't even tell you the difference between a tumor and cancer and use the terms interchangeably.

Re:Doesn't worry me (1)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923263)

I agree - we often use models at work to predict what will occur when we build systems - we also try to refine our models with experimental results - I think relative to Terahertz radiation effect on human cells and DNA there is still much work to do, and as you point out there are many who still buy into the cell phone cancer myth. I really hate when a true story of science gets sensationalized and turned into FUD....

Re:Doesn't worry me (5, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923093)

Actually, it's a theoretical explanation for some difficult experimental results. The issue was that some studies suggested that THz radiation would be harmful at any frequency/power range, while others pegged it as only being significant at particular resonant amplitudes or frequencies. It transpires that in the presence of thermal perturbations, you do indeed get some non-specific disruption of the base pairing, which would only be an issue if you had a long enough exposure to actually get a significant thermal perturbation and thus cause a very significant disruption. However there is also a resonant mechanism, at a particular frequency with a critical minimum amplitude, that can immediately cause a significant disruption, without the need to wait for a particularly big thermal perturbation. That's my reading, anyway.

Re:Doesn't worry me (3, Interesting)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923495)

Actually, it's a theoretical explanation for some difficult experimental results.

Which itself needs to be experimentally verified. The model they are using is fairly simple. In particular, they introduce the terahertz driving force into the model by hand. That's ok to suggest that under reasonable assumptions it is plausible that terahertz radiation can drive non-linear breathing-mode resonances that can create localized "bubbles" in double-stranded DNA, where the linking bonds between the two strands are broken. But it's a long, long way from a solid empirical result.

Of course, if you believe GCM's are a sound basis for public policy, you would have to argue that there is no need to do any experimental follow-up on this: simply use the computer model to determine the safe limits. There should be no problem with that because this model is orders of magnitude more realistic than the best GCM.

Structural explanation (3, Informative)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922927)

The summary mentions that the terahertz waves "tear apart" strands of DNA. For those who might not remember their undergraduate biology, DNA strands are held together by hydrogen bonds - not covalent bonds. So the total amount of force to "tear apart" two strands is not as great as you might imagine. For that matter, strands have to be "torn apart" in order to be replicated for cell division.

Re:Structural explanation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29923175)

some studies suggest that the hydrogen bonds are insignificant, and that thestrands are mostly held together by the well-fitting geometry of the matching base-pairs.

Either way, unzip my DNA and I'll not be pleased. Unless I win the superpowers lottery.

Re:Structural explanation (3, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923215)

The authors aren't concerned about it unzipping the entire DNA strand like string cheese. The process creates local regions of unzipping, which your DNA gains and loses as a matter of course. These unexpectedly-open regions interfere with replication and translation, but your DNA can cope with the the "normal amount", so the question is whether these additional regions are enough to be a problem.

Side Effects (1)

allknowingfrog (1661721) | more than 4 years ago | (#29922935)

I was amused by the summary's mundane description of the horrible side effects.

"We're sure it's perfectly safe, but in certain circumstances it might unzip your DNA."

That sounds like a bad thing...

just another resonance problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29923039)

Sweet they answered how to avoid it as well then. If it is because of resonance you treat it like any other resonance problem and vary the frequency a bit.

Double Stranded? (2, Insightful)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923075)

i thought all DNA was double stranded. Is there single or triple stranded DNA? If all DNA is double stranded, why mention strandedness at all?

i'm not trolling, i'm asking a question. Yesterday some jerks with more mod points than sense labeled me as a troll for asking questions.

Grossly simplified, but... (4, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923305)

Single-stranded DNA has its information-encoding side exposed and flops around kind of pathetically. Double-stranded DNA sticks the two information-encoding sides together so that they're hidden and inactive, and helps you wind up and store the DNA. However the double strand can "unzip" along a small part of its length to expose two single strands which can go to work.

You can get triple-stranded DNA, but it's not traditionally been thought of as important. Normally the groove for the third strand would be occupied by proteins involved in the function and maintainence of the DNA instead. However it now seems that forming a triple strand in some regions might be important in DNA's control mechanisms too.

Re:Double Stranded? (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923577)

From a recent article I read right here on slashdot, the telomer section of a strand of DNA is supposed to zip itself up as a 4 stranded section to keep the end from getting unzipped. Though I have no idea how accurate that actually is.

Can you insultate yourself? (1)

mastahYee (1588623) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923339)

If you line your clothes with something conductive, would it disperse the waves before reaching skin? What about your house? What about tinfoil? I know little about this stuff, but I'm genuinely concerned about being groped internally. Talk about spooky action from a distance.

WWDD - what would Dorthy do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29923367)

Dorthy, I'll get you and your little dog too.
Walk thru this airport scanner before I board my broom. Ok.

Oh NO... I'm Melting...

Khm... (2, Funny)

zrbyte (1666979) | more than 4 years ago | (#29923549)

"break chemical bonds or ionize electrons"

Don't know about breaking apart DNA, but I'm pretty sure they can't ionize electrons.

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