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Explosive Detecting Devices Face Off With Bomb Dogs

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the dog-john-henry dept.

Security 115

First time accepted submitter titan1070 writes "French scientist Dr. Spitzer and his colleagues have been working on a device that can sense faint traces of TNT and other explosives being smuggled into airports and other transportation methods. the hope for this device is that it will surpass the best bomb finder in the business, the sniffer dog. From the article: ' While researchers like Dr. Spitzer are making progress — and there are some vapor detectors on the market — when it comes to sensitivity and selectivity, dogs still reign supreme. “Dogs are awesome,” said Aimee Rose, a product sales director at the sensor manufacturer Flir Systems, which markets a line of explosives detectors called Fido. “They have by far the most developed ability to detect concealed threats,” she said. But dogs get distracted, cannot work around the clock and require expensive training and handling, Dr. Rose said, so there is a need for instruments.'"

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In other words (4, Insightful)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 2 years ago | (#41687511)

"We can't use dogs to spy on everybody, everyplace, all the time".

Re:In other words (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41687665)

Yeah, that's what it's all about. Nobody's actually afraid of any real bombs going off anywhere.
It's all an act so they can spy on your porn habits and find your drug stash.

Re:In other words (2)

causality (777677) | about 2 years ago | (#41687743)

Yeah, that's what it's all about. Nobody's actually afraid of any real bombs going off anywhere.

If it meant drastically reducing the size and power of the federal government, I would gladly take the chance of dying because of a terrorist's bomb.

I'd be more likely to die by being struck by lightning, in fact.

Re:In other words (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#41688941)

Yeah, that's what it's all about. Nobody's actually afraid of any real bombs going off anywhere.
It's all an act so they can spy on your porn habits and find your drug stash.

The risk distribution of explosives incidents makes generalizations (while statistically possible) fairly useless.

There are high-risk demographics and applications: de-mining, certain flavors of perimeter security in areas with a fondness for truck bombs, the occasional booby trap hunt. People involved with such things tend to have an urgent and honest enthusiasm for explosives detection.

The K-9 units of a zillion dinky municipalities? Yeah, they spend an awful lot of time providing probable cause for traffic stops and hunting school lockers for joints.

That's the thing: For a comparatively small number of people, who are at high risk, the legitimate applications are most salient. For the people presently at little or no risk, there isn't much room for improvement and there is fairly obvious room for trouble.

Re:In other words (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#41689289)

"For a comparatively small number of people, who are at high risk, the legitimate applications are most salient. For the people presently at little or no risk, there isn't much room for improvement and there is fairly obvious room for trouble."

But there you go. For the vast majority of domestic cases, there is little to no legitimate justification. At least a properly-calibrated machine (presumably) has no bias.

Re:In other words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41687745)

Actually dogs are better for that. An explosive detection device can be audited. Readings can be recorded and the operator's personal biases can't influence the outcome (much). Dogs will be preferred for a long time, because dogs let them search people who authorities don't like.

Re:In other words (4, Informative)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#41687775)

"We can't use dogs to spy on everybody, everyplace, all the time."

You wouldn't want to anyway. In blind studies, drug- and explosive-sniffing dogs actually have a pretty terrible track record. A literally unacceptable percentage of false positives, for example.

Turned out, the dogs were responding to very subtle cues from their handlers, rather than their own senses. Which renders them completely inappropriate for law-enforcement use.

Re:In other words (-1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 2 years ago | (#41687877)

"We can't use dogs to spy on everybody, everyplace, all the time."

You wouldn't want to anyway. In blind studies, drug- and explosive-sniffing dogs actually have a pretty terrible track record. A literally unacceptable percentage of false positives, for example.

Turned out, the dogs were responding to very subtle cues from their handlers, rather than their own senses. Which renders them completely inappropriate for law-enforcement use.

Please Mod -1000: Utter Bullshit.

Dogs are the absolute best tool we have for the job. There's a reason we use dogs to hunt animals, guard animals, property, and people, track fugitives, search for survivors, bodies, drugs, and explosives, detect cancer or seizures, lead the blind, etc.
They have incredible senses and are very intelligent.

Please link to proof of your "literally unacceptable percentage of false positives" for properly trained canines and handlers.

Re:In other words (5, Informative)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#41687997)

"Please link to proof of your "literally unacceptable percentage of false positives" for properly trained canines and handlers."

Easily done. [lvrj.com]

It amazes me how many people are so ready to call "bullshit" without taking 10 goddamned seconds on Google to check their facts.

If you think that is the only such study, you are mistaken. Google it dude. Learn something.

Re:In other words (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41689057)

If having an anon call you out bothers you (I admit he was a bit obnoxious about it), you should include links in the original statement. Anyone could have said, "dogs are perfect" or "dogs are worthless" without any references.

It's worth noting that the article you link refers specifically to bad training, and does not suggest that all detection dogs have those same issues with being trained to take detection cues from their handlers. It goes on to suggest that this is a problem elsewhere, and that there's too little information (or apparently, oversight in training).

The original material, linked in the summary, suggests dogs are the best thing we have right now. That's from Flir, who sells the alternative devices. They even suggest that their sensing technology is meant to be used only as a complimentary test, along with dogs.

I just I don't think it's appropriate for us to start drawing firm conclusions on the abilities of dogs, trained and handled properly. It seems they're the best thing going, made better in combination with technology, and what we really need is to keep an eye on how they're trained.

Re:In other words (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#41689141)

"If having an anon call you out bothers you (I admit he was a bit obnoxious about it), you should include links in the original statement. Anyone could have said, "dogs are perfect" or "dogs are worthless" without any references."

Under a lot of circumstances I do that. But in cases where anybody can find the damned information themselves with a moment or even less on Google, I don't feel the need. I am not a library (or a paid librarian), to go look up information for any bozo's purposes at their whim.

Re:In other words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41690597)

It's worth noting that the article you link refers specifically to bad training, and does not suggest that all detection dogs have those same issues with being trained to take detection cues from their handlers.

Training of a dog does not end when the school is over, it continues until the dog dies. You don't have to train a dog to take cues, the dog does that on its own. It's a little better to have the trainers and handlers not be regular cops, and only show up when called, and to have different people working with each dog.

I don't think it's appropriate for us to start drawing firm conclusions on the abilities of dogs, trained and handled properly

I would agree, except there are plenty of studies showing that in a clinical environment, the dogs to have very good abilities. The problem is that the training is NOT being properly conducted, and in most cases neither is the handling. And no amount of training will ever offset bad handling, which is what the actual issue is.

Re:In other words (1)

Genda (560240) | about 2 years ago | (#41689337)

This isn't to say that all dogs are poorly trained, only that there are unscrupulous police forces employing animals that are expressly trained to respond to their handlers, giving them a sign on command to provide the local police the false probable cause needed to perform an illegal search.

In fact there are plenty of well trained animals and scrupulous security forces, you just can't assume that you're necessarily dealing with one anywhere you go.

Re:In other words (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about 2 years ago | (#41690129)

They get away with it because there is no punishment for hassling people.

my friend was driving out of state (a crime on some highways apparently) and saw the cop obviously indicate to the trunk. Since she was clean, there was no recourse. Had she actually been transporting drugs there very well could have been (false arrest blah blah).

So only criminals have standing to challenge the practice, and only if they get a lawyer and fight rather than cut a deal. Good luck proving it too.

Re:In other words (1)

FridgeFreezer (1352537) | about 2 years ago | (#41690401)

Having read the link, that does not really prove that dogs are useless, just that they can give false positives if the handlers lead them into it. But no-one gets prosecuted because the dog thinks they might have a bomb unless it turns out they really do have a bomb. False positives are not a big problem if the alternative is either much more thorough/time-consuming/intrusive investigation or random selection.

Re:In other words (5, Informative)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#41688177)

Here's another. Though not an independent study, it did evaluate actual success rates according to the courts' own records and found only a 44% success rate. And that was the average. For one minority, the true-positive rate was clear down at 27%. (Can you say "cues from handlers"? Sure. I knew you could.)

Also, they are probably not the best things we have. [sciencedaily.com] And even if they were, that "best" is pretty obviously not good enough.

You can't just argue that it's "the best". It has to be good enough. Not only that, but the huge potential for intentional cuing of the animals is seldom considered.

"That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer, is a Maxim that has been long and generally approved." -- Benjamin Franklin, letter to Benjamin Vaughan, March 14, 1785.

Re:In other words (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#41688213)

That first link above didn't show up. It is here. [chicagotribune.com]

Re:In other words (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#41688245)

Dogs are the absolute best tool we have for the job. There's a reason we use dogs to hunt animals, guard animals, property, and people, track fugitives, search for survivors, bodies, drugs, and explosives, detect cancer or seizures, lead the blind, etc. They have incredible senses and are very intelligent.

Yes, and some of those senses are of their masters and what they want. Dogs don't even need vocal commands to respond to you. If you have one, try telling them "sit" without actually making any noise. If the dog is decently well trained, they will, simply from your body language alone. And that's a problem in law enforcement, because it means when a police officer (even subconsciously) wants or thinks there might be explosives, the dog will quite often react as if there is. Because that is what dogs do: please their owners. That is how they are trained.

Re:In other words (4, Insightful)

hrvatska (790627) | about 2 years ago | (#41688557)

Turned out, the dogs were responding to very subtle cues from their handlers, rather than their own senses. Which renders them completely inappropriate for law-enforcement use.

Please Mod -1000: Utter Bullshit.

Dogs are the absolute best tool we have for the job. There's a reason we use dogs to hunt animals, guard animals, property, and people, track fugitives, search for survivors, bodies, drugs, and explosives, detect cancer or seizures, lead the blind, etc. They have incredible senses and are very intelligent.

Please link to proof of your "literally unacceptable percentage of false positives" for properly trained canines and handlers.

Seems to me that she wasn't saying anything about properly trained handler and dog teams, but about the likelihood that so many trainers have biases that lead to false positives that dogs cannot be relied upon. She said "the dogs were responding to very subtle cues from their handlers." I don't see anything in that post about well trained dogs paired with unbiased trainers. It is very well documented that handler bias frequently leads to false positives. For example, this article [smh.com.au] notes that sniffer dogs got it wrong four out of five times in 14,102 searches. This article [chicagotribune.com] claims that over a three year period only 44 percent of alerts by dogs led to the discovery of drugs or paraphernalia. A UC Davis study found [sfgate.com] that if handlers expected their dogs to find drugs they consistently found drugs, even when there weren't any. A little bit of searching will turn up plenty of other examples. In some cases defenders of using dogs claim that the high rate of false positives is due to drug residue being left in a vehicle or on a person. That the mere presence of someone carrying a substance the dog was trained to detect, like marijuana, in a vehicle hours earlier could result in a false positive. Medical marijuana is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Which means that just transporting someone to legally obtain some marijuana for a medical condition could result in being searched and detained.

Re:In other words (1)

Genda (560240) | about 2 years ago | (#41689413)

In fact a young woman, an honor student in Jr. College, unwisely gave her boyfriend's mother a ride. The woman was a meth addict and while out of sight in the house bought a small bag of her drug of choice. They left together and were picked up a couple blocks later in a drug sting operation. The young woman was found guilty of transporting someone involved in buying an illegal substance, itself a felony and because of hard on crime mandatory sentencing was given an automatic 8 year prison sentence. The judge later said this was a horrible mishandling of justice, but that automatic sentencing leaves him no alternatives and that good and decent people, guilty of no more than a lapse in judgement or simple gullibility are spending hard prison time.

Re:In other words (2)

TheSync (5291) | about 2 years ago | (#41689511)

The judge later said this was a horrible mishandling of justice, but that automatic sentencing leaves him no alternatives

This is the biggest BS thing I've ever heard. If a judge feels that finding someone guilty will lead to a miscarriage of justice, the judge should find for innocence. Jury nullification has a rich history, nothing wrong with judges doing it as well.

Re:In other words (1)

Genda (560240) | about 2 years ago | (#41689849)

There are both state and federal "Minimum Sentencing Guidelines" that judges were REQUIRED to follow, and in some cases lead to ridiculous prison terms for what would otherwise be petty crimes. If you want to read about it start here [mandatorymadness.org] . This has nothing to do with juries, it has everything to do with laws passed by representatives on "Hard on Crime" planks and basically took crimes that deserved a wrist slap and shot them in the head instead. One more reason we have the largest prison population in the Western World.

Re:In other words (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | about 2 years ago | (#41690635)

Except that judges can issue directed verdicts of "Not Guilty" at their discretion regardless of the jury and the minimum sentencing laws.

Re:In other words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41691275)

Not if they like keeping their job. Sure, it's probably against the law to fire them for that, but they'll claim he unknowingly gave a ride to someone who bought crack, and then where will he be?

Not on the bench, for sure.

Re:In other words (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 2 years ago | (#41689515)

Wait I thought there was always this "intention" thing? So does that mean bus/taxi/train drivers should get the same 8 year sentence? So you should never carpool either and drive alone?

I think the judge wasn't trying very hard.

Re:In other words (1)

Xest (935314) | about 2 years ago | (#41690435)

"In some cases defenders of using dogs claim that the high rate of false positives is due to drug residue being left in a vehicle or on a person."

That sounds like a reasonable claim, we know dogs can detect to this degree, yet we can't recreate instruments to detect to this degree.

"That the mere presence of someone carrying a substance the dog was trained to detect, like marijuana, in a vehicle hours earlier could result in a false positive. Medical marijuana is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Which means that just transporting someone to legally obtain some marijuana for a medical condition could result in being searched and detained."

Sure, but that's an argument against the use of dogs, the GP was arguing that the other person's argument that dogs aren't very good detectors is false. As such you could both be quite right - if the point above is true, that it's not that dogs were responding to false positives, but simply detecting residue that we couldn't easily detect ourselves, then the GP has a point- the GGP could be full of shit citing an invalid study based on this point. You of course could also be right however that dogs still aren't the ideal tool for the job regardless, but that's a different discussion and not a counter to the discussion at hand i.e. the validity of the GGP's study.

Re:In other words (5, Funny)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 2 years ago | (#41687921)

"We can't use dogs to spy on everybody, everyplace, all the time."

You wouldn't want to anyway. In blind studies, drug- and explosive-sniffing dogs actually have a pretty terrible track record. A literally unacceptable percentage of false positives, for example. Turned out, the dogs were responding to very subtle cues from their handlers, rather than their own senses. Which renders them completely inappropriate for law-enforcement use.

Not to mention the probable fact that the dogs are most likely smarter than the average TSA employee.

Have any lawyers won with the argument that the dogs were taking cues from their handlers yet?

Re:In other words (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#41688011)

"Not to mention the probable fact that the dogs are most likely smarter than the average TSA employee."

Now THIS one needs modding up.

Re:In other words (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#41688943)

But can they be trained to steal iPads at checkpoints?

Re:In other words (1)

hrvatska (790627) | about 2 years ago | (#41689475)

No, but they can be trained to point to which suitcases contain iPads.

Re:In other words (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#41688819)

Turned out, the dogs were responding to very subtle cues from their handlers, rather than their own senses. Which renders them completely inappropriate for law-enforcement use.

Just think of them as adorable furry machines for turning a supply of dog food and free-floating suspicion into 'probable cause' without any judicial hassle. It's a feature!

Re:In other words (1)

cyn1c77 (928549) | about 2 years ago | (#41689735)

You wouldn't want to anyway. In blind studies, drug- and explosive-sniffing dogs actually have a pretty terrible track record. A literally unacceptable percentage of false positives, for example.

Turned out, the dogs were responding to very subtle cues from their handlers, rather than their own senses. Which renders them completely inappropriate for law-enforcement use.

I don't understand? If the dogs were blind, how could they see their handlers' cues?

Joking, joking...

Re:In other words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41687975)

"We can't use dogs to spy on everybody, everyplace, all the time".

Please Sir... people all over the world are actually dying from terrorists, and you making absurd "interpretations" of the "evil government" intentions - i respect and welcome any good anti-state claim (i may be even more "anti-state" than you), but you should learn that many people all over the world trust their governments and actually force them to spy on people with bombs.

Wrong! (1)

Weezul (52464) | about 2 years ago | (#41688473)

We could certainly employ dogs 24-7 by buying enough trained dogs for all airports an sea ports. Expensive? Yes. More expensive than TSA nudy scanners? Hell no.

Dogs are dirt cheap compared with high tech stuff, but that's their problem : DHS doesn't care one iota about security. DHS cares only about the kick backs. And good kick backs require pumping serious money into something that's basically fake, exploitive, etc.

Re:Wrong! (0)

peragrin (659227) | about 2 years ago | (#41688691)

especially since their are very easy ways to bypass sniffer tests.

It involves a little bit of work but an extra step or two isn't hard. It just means that the person who packs the bomb. has to be different from the the person who packs the bag, and who delivers the bomb.

since that is usually the case anyways,all you need is to add a cleaning and sterlization routine to the bomb packaging. and make sure none of the three people actually get close to one another.

Re:In other words (1)

artor3 (1344997) | about 2 years ago | (#41688621)

Yeah, who cares about bombs killing people!? This infringes on my right to secretly carry my lucky bag of ANFO with me wherever I go!

Re:In other words (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#41689269)

"Yeah, who cares about bombs killing people!? This infringes on my right to secretly carry my lucky bag of ANFO with me wherever I go!"

Please show me where sniffer dogs have uncovered ANYBODY carrying explosives at airports during the years since 9/11. I can certainly point out a few cases where they didn't...

Re:In other words (1)

artor3 (1344997) | about 2 years ago | (#41689491)

Who says this is only going to be used in American airports? Are you really so blissfully unaware of what goes on outside our borders? A cheap system that could detect bombs reliably and discreetly* would save countless lives in the Middle East. And making sure people aren't carrying explosives hardly counts as spying on them.

But no. This is Slashdot. America is the source of all evil. Technology enables the evil Americans. All other people in the world are simply animals reacting to the evil Americans. That's why the world was all rainbows and unicorns up until 1775.

*I'm aware that this system is neither cheap nor reliable. But I was responding to the OP, who clearly thought it was, and pointing the idiocy of such knee-jerk reactions against technological advancement.

Re:In other words (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#41689605)

"Who says this is only going to be used in American airports?"

I wasn't. *I* was responding only to GP, and asking where that cheapness and reliability actually is.

Re:In other words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41689859)

You're not even making sense anymore. You demanded examples of dogs finding people with explosives since 9/11, clearly a reference to the TSA. You made no mention of "cheapness" or "reliability", despite what you now claim. If you were trying to respond to the GP, why didn't you reply to that post? None of what you're now saying jives with what you said before, at all.

devices don't poop (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41687531)

and sniff each others asses, so they have an inherent advantage. or maybe that's a disadvantage becasue TSA,

Re:devices don't poop (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41687621)

Sure they do. The poop is simply created before instead of after and comes in the form of billowing exhaust out of a smokestack miles away.

Re:devices don't poop (1)

nonos (158469) | about 2 years ago | (#41690645)

I'm always wondering why dogs who have a such good and sensible odorate have to be so close to other dogs arses to sniff 'em.

Rats! (4, Informative)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 2 years ago | (#41687539)

The Hero Rats do just as well as dogs, and they are more suited to hot and humid clients. Plus, they work for peanuts. [apopo.org]

Re:Rats! (1)

martas (1439879) | about 2 years ago | (#41691265)

I can't believe I hadn't heard about them before. What they're doing is awesome, and adorable!

Screw you, nerds! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41687545)

*waits patiently to be sentenced in an Australian court*

Meow! (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#41687549)

They'll throw a boobie-trapped Schrodinger's Cat into the mix just to fsck with everybody

Re:Meow! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41687631)

And they won't.

One step closer... (0)

slashdyke (873156) | about 2 years ago | (#41687559)

... to the removal of the non essential inhabitants of Earth. Enough robots, machines, computers, to do everything that we humans, and other life forms, dogs in this case, and we are no longer needed. Might be a good thing if our civilization can continue beyond the species, in fact beyond all earth life, since we are slowly, or not so slowly destroying our home planet.

Well.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41687593)

Shouldn't be hard to beat the 40-50% success rate that dogs get.

Re:Well.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41688035)

It's adequate to defeat the bomber's business case.

Re:Well.... (1)

slippyblade (962288) | about 2 years ago | (#41688121)

Well, anything is better than the 0% of the TSA. Yep - 0%. I've yet to see a single successful catch by the TSA.

Priorities.... (5, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#41687607)

They have by far the most developed ability to detect concealed threats

That statement, entirely by itself, should qualify dogs as a better option, but let me elaborate...

But dogs get distracted, cannot work around the clock and require expensive training ...

so do employees. What's your point?

Dogs work. They work well. They are unsurpassed in reliability by any instrument we've been able to devise.... the fact that they can't be used like machines could should no more be a reason to not use them than the fact that humans can't work like machines should be a reason to not employ people.

When a machine can do a *BETTER* job at it than a dog... then I could see replacing them being viable. Until then, however, let Spot and Fido keep their jobs.

Re:Priorities.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41687865)

The international airport around here uses pigs. May have something to do with the fact that they mostly just ship freight and that pigs are cheaper in the midwest.

Re:Priorities.... (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 2 years ago | (#41688625)

The international airport around here uses pigs. May have something to do with the fact that they mostly just ship freight and that pigs are cheaper in the midwest.

They don't like being called that you insensitive clod.

Re:Priorities.... (1)

genkernel (1761338) | about 2 years ago | (#41687993)

While what you said is all true, instruments are also much less likely to give false positives just because the handler wants it to do so. I agree that dogs can be reliable when used well, but in situations where the true positive rate is less than 0.01%, there are other issues with dogs.

Re:Priorities.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41688119)

also, the handler can just say the dog signaled on something and use that as reasonable suspicion to illegally violate your rights. it's harder to do that with a machine.

Re:Priorities.... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#41688949)

Diebold spun off their voting machine division a while back, they might be up for a new project...

Re:Priorities.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41690519)

No, you're thinking of Bombdogs!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nvfQw8UCDE

Title (4, Funny)

Time_Ngler (564671) | about 2 years ago | (#41687623)

It took me several tries to parse the title without the image of a dog's face exploding spontaneously entering my mind.

Re:Title (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#41689199)

Yup, you read it wrong: It wasn't the dogs exploding, but the detection devices exploding.

Re:Title (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | about 2 years ago | (#41690391)

But the explosion took off the dogs faces.

Re:Title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41690705)

Hmm...

http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/File:ExplosiveDog.png

It could function as a fart sniffer (1)

kawabago (551139) | about 2 years ago | (#41687671)

to analyze what people have been consuming.

Re:It could function as a fart sniffer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41687863)

You must be a fart smeller!

Oops. I meant to say smart feller. ;)

dogs vs machines (2)

BeaverCleaver (673164) | about 2 years ago | (#41687687)

So why the hell does every airport I've been to swab me for explosives instead of using a dog? Those mass spectrometers aren't cheap.

Re:dogs vs machines (1)

truesaer (135079) | about 2 years ago | (#41687825)

Because the dogs are mobile and can search.

Re:dogs vs machines (0)

sexconker (1179573) | about 2 years ago | (#41687917)

Because the government wants you to get used to being fondled and told what to do by burly, slack-jawed, unibrow growers.

Re:dogs vs machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41687969)

So why the hell does every airport I've been to swab me for explosives instead of using a dog?

Beause 'we' place our faith$ in technology. Dogs may be superior, but we can't trust them because we can't communicate with them. If we could do one of 2 things, we'd be satisfied. Either we'll mimic the olfactory capabilities of the canine within a mechanism that can be programmed and manufactured or we'll learn to implant a neural interface within the dog. The latter would take longer, but it would probably be more accurate since millions of years of evolution have tightly coupled sensory and perceptive capabilities in the dog.

This would also challenge our socio-political sensibilities in ways that would make this outcome less politically acceptable and less likely as well. Can you imagine seeing dogs with cranial implants tethered to their handlers, looking for drugs, bombs and whatever else we believe to be a threat? Personally, I think it would be pretty cool, but then what if we find out that dogs, like crows and chimpanzees are not only capable of deceit but subject to psychological manipulation? Could we trust them if we knew their loyalty could be swayed?

Nope, my bet is on the box with canine derived olfactory membrane.

It may be less reliable, but it will be profitable. And as long as we can control the backdoors, it'll be preferable to anything that poops when and where you don't want it to.

Re:dogs vs machines (2)

slippyblade (962288) | about 2 years ago | (#41688131)

Because there is far more money to be siphoned off using scanners and spectrometers.

Re:dogs vs machines (2)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#41688231)

So why the hell does every airport I've been to swab me for explosives instead of using a dog? Those mass spectrometers aren't cheap.

You assume the swab is then used in a mass spectrometer. Putting the swab in a precursor that changes color when it detects something works too.

Re:dogs vs machines (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#41689311)

"You assume the swab is then used in a mass spectrometer. Putting the swab in a precursor that changes color when it detects something works too."

About as well as a dog. Please list for me the precursors for the 200 or so common explosives used today.

Re:dogs vs machines (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#41689825)

About as well as a dog. Please list for me the precursors for the 200 or so common explosives used today.

Hydrocarbons. Ammonia. Oxygen. That should cover most of 'em right there.

Re:dogs vs machines (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#41689939)

True, but you've just laid yourself open to a shitload of false positives.

Nitrates should be first on the list, probably, because they are the most common base, but by no means the only.

Re:dogs vs machines (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | about 2 years ago | (#41690413)

Most of the explosives break down to NO2(g) slowly, so detecting that would take care of them. Only the peroxygenbased ones and ANFO left, IIRC. ANFO needs a primary explosive, so you can detect that, and the peroxide based ones should be findable by their oxidizing effect (though that will give some false positives).

Are there any explosives I am missing?

Of course, explosives either commercial, in which case they could contain easily identifiable tracers (I don't know if they do, but it would seem likely), or home-made, in which case they will likely be dirty, and contain other tracers (such as large amount of NOx).

not a mass spec (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41689313)

That's most likely an ion mobility detector, not a mass spec. Looks for charge/mass ratio and stuff like that. It's a screening tool, designed to have a low false negative rate and a high false positive rate (e.g. you'd rather trigger an unnecessary search than miss some explosives).

That said, I've had my bag, which had held PETN in the past, swabbed without triggering a search. Ditto for a bag containing a bottle of nitromethane (aka superglue debonder). I'm pretty unimpressed with the practical performance of those swap checking devices.

Cost? (2)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 2 years ago | (#41687749)

They complain about the expense of training dogs. Yes, they require a lot of training and that takes a lot of time an money, but how many dogs could you train for the cost of these devices? Each FIDO device costs $21k. It costs $10k-$15k to train a bomb sniffing dog, and once you pay for their education dogs are willing to work for room and board. If more resources were put into training methods then the per-dog cost to train could probably be brought down quite a big too. Dogs are also a lot cuter, and the FIDO device doesn't like to cuddle, or so I've heard. I say forget all the fancy super expensive scanners, just go back to old-fashioned metal detectors for people and x-ray scanners for carry-ons, and get a lot of dogs.

Re:Cost? (2)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 2 years ago | (#41687879)

The research is to make them more effective and cheaper. I would expect these to become cheaper as time goes by. I would support the research, but not buy these devices yet.

Re:Cost? (1)

truesaer (135079) | about 2 years ago | (#41687907)

If the fido works as well as the dog, then it would seem better even at a price premium. The dog would cost a few grand a year in upkeep, needs round the clock care, need a place to be housed on premises, needs a place to relieve itself even if in a large building complex etc. A computerized device would have lower upkeep costs (hopefully), could be used irregularly (give one to each military unit, etc), can be redistributed from place to place as needs change without also relocating a handler, etc. I'm guessing Fido isn't as good as a dog though, or as fast. Those sniffing dogs at customs can cover a lot bags and people very quickly.

One thing that comes to mind -- I read recently that the MTA employees in NYC often handle "suspicious" packages themselves instead of calling authorities which may not strictly be their policy to do. Basically, shutting down a subway track/station and calling the police or bomb squad is not practical every time someone forgets a bag on a system that has a billion rides a year. They could conceivably have one of these things in some stations to check abandoned but not-particularly-suspicious items.

Re:Cost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41688631)

man u dont know anything about the real world do you? dogs might seem cheaper but they die.... then the dogs are not "willing too work" they get beaten until they do... yes i would be "willing" to work then too and third... cute?? lol i wouldnt come too close too them trained dogs if i was you... try petting them and see what happens

Re:Cost? (2)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 2 years ago | (#41689029)

man u dont know anything about the real world do you? dogs might seem cheaper but they die.... then the dogs are not "willing too work" they get beaten until they do... yes i would be "willing" to work then too

Wow! Are people really that ignorant, or are you troll? I really hope you're a troll, but maybe you're some PETA nut job? Dogs are not only willing to work, but they love it. I used to do K9 search and rescue. I moved and my dog is old and retired, but when she was working, it was her favorite thing (now her favorite activity is going to the beach, just like a retired human). She loved it! She had a special squeaky toy and wore a bear-bell (so I could hear where she was when she was ranging)...when she would hear a similar sounding bell or squeak she'd get super excited and happy. It's years later and once and while she'll hear a similar sounding bell or squeaky toy and she still gets excited because she thinks she might get to go work! Working to her was the human equivalent of having your ideal job, favorite sport and favorite hobby all rolled into one. This is true of all the dogs I worked with. A decent trainer can identify a dog who has the temperament to feel this way pretty early on. A trainer isn't going to waste their time on a dog that doesn't love to work, and isn't going to be successful even if they tried. So no, dogs are absolutely not forced to work.

and third... cute?? lol i wouldnt come too close too them trained dogs if i was you... try petting them and see what happens

She loves to be pet and she especially loves her chest to be scratched. She's had a child walk up and smack her in the face for no reason, and she just sat there still looking happy. Oh, and she's damn cute. So what PETA tells you about dogs not wanting to work is complete and utter bullshit.

Re:Cost? (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 2 years ago | (#41688643)

They complain about the expense of training dogs. Yes, they require a lot of training and that takes a lot of time an money, but how many dogs could you train for the cost of these devices? Each FIDO device costs $21k. It costs $10k-$15k to train a bomb sniffing dog, and once you pay for their education dogs are willing to work for room and board. If more resources were put into training methods then the per-dog cost to train could probably be brought down quite a big too. Dogs are also a lot cuter, and the FIDO device doesn't like to cuddle, or so I've heard. I say forget all the fancy super expensive scanners, just go back to old-fashioned metal detectors for people and x-ray scanners for carry-ons, and get a lot of dogs.

How about robotic dog trainers? Automate the process and drive costs down.

Re:Cost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41689251)

I would have agreed with your point until you gave those numbers, those are a lot closer than I expected for prices. Besides the training cost of the dog, what is the training cost of the handler? What is annual upkeep for the dogs versus for one of those devices? Which one costs more to train the operator for, and employee? Can you train a regular staff to use the device or would you have to hire a specialized person/team to use them? What is the expected usable life of the device versus the expected working life of a dog? How often do dogs have health problems versus one of the devices breaking?

Re:Cost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41690739)

It's even cheaper, and quicker, to train honeybees.

Not Just Dogs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41687849)

Trained dogs looking for drugs or explosives do interact with their trainers (for better or for worse), so the comparison should be to dog+trainer teams, and not just the dogs themselves. The trainers can reduce the search space through gentle, experience-driven heuristics.

Re:Not Just Dogs (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 2 years ago | (#41688651)

Trained dogs looking for drugs or explosives do interact with their trainers (for better or for worse), so the comparison should be to dog+trainer teams, and not just the dogs themselves. The trainers can reduce the search space through gentle, experience-driven heuristics.

Experience-driven heuristics are also known as profiles?

Re:Not Just Dogs (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | about 2 years ago | (#41690423)

Either that or prejudice.

Dogs (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#41687973)

You forgot another problem with dogs: They can be trained to respond to a surrepticious signal to indicate explosives or drugs when there are none... thus allowing the officers probable cause to go dig around for what they're actually looking for. Same thing with breathalyzers -- they're suseptible to near-field EM... like the kind that comes from a police radio being keyed up while the suspect is breathing into the device. Tools not only need to limit false negatives and positives, but also intentional manipulation by a 3rd party.

Re:Dogs (1)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 2 years ago | (#41688345)

You forgot another problem with dogs: They can be trained to respond to a surrepticious signal to indicate explosives or drugs when there are none... thus allowing the officers probable cause to go dig around for what they're actually looking for.

You do realize that in an airport they can pretty much search whoever and whatever they want, with or without a dog or machine, right?

Re:Dogs (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#41689325)

"You do realize that in an airport they can pretty much search whoever and whatever they want, with or without a dog or machine, right?"

Only international airports, for international flights.

Other than those, what they "can do" is pretty much Constitutionally limited, although I admit the Supreme Court has not seemed to feel very constrained by the Constitution in recent, past years.

Re:Dogs (2)

Artifakt (700173) | about 2 years ago | (#41689381)

The law gives the TSA a lot of flexability, but that doesn't mean the real limits the public will tolerate will always match the law. Why would any police type agent want to demand that the public simply believe they are totally fair and unbiased just because the law says so, when they can simply say the dog made the decision so their potential bias doesn't enter into it? If I somehow got a law passed saying I had the authority to do X because I am totally fair and unbiased, would you start believing that about me? If the law said you couldn't even question my fairness, under penalty, would that actually make you think I was fair? Dogs, machines (particularly computers), and for that matter FBI profilers, sometimes make good excuses for deflecting charges of bias without having to just tell people the law forbids entertaining those charges of bias. The system wants the majority of citizens to think it is fair, and will go to great lengths to achieve that goal.

false/inconsequential positives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41688205)

Anyone have any idea what the false positive rates are on days like July 5th and the day after Chinese New Year? In some parts of the country, nearly everyone gets covered in explosive residue on those days.

But, can it detect Semtex? (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#41688751)

That is the holy grail of electronic detectors. Right now the only thing that detect semtex in situ is the highly trained and sensitive nose of a springer spaniel. Bare semtex can be detected electronically by "sniffing" the RDX component, but most semtex that passes through civilian airports is encased hence undetectable. Lately the commercial production of semtex has included an internationally agreed volatile marking agent which makes it easier for dogs to detect even if the container is apparently hermetically sealed.

Better than a dog? (1)

Jeff1946 (944062) | about 2 years ago | (#41688867)

A few years ago I went to a talk by an expert on explosives detection. He said, "if someone tells you they can detect explosive better than a dog, don't believe them, because we don't really know how well dogs can detect explosives."

Was it just me... (1)

Genda (560240) | about 2 years ago | (#41689279)

Or did the Article headline seem to suggest dog detecting bombs explode and blow their faces off???

Let's Get Ready To Rumble! (4, Funny)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about 2 years ago | (#41689409)

Switches vs Bitches Smackdown.

Job Security (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41690767)

Its seems even dogs these days have to worry about job security

Another Dog has gone off... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41691043)

I was very disappointed with this story, I thought it would be about this...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nvfQw8UCDE

This will foil my efforts (2)

FilmedInNoir (1392323) | about 2 years ago | (#41692035)

I was on the verge of creating a bomb that could detect faint traces of dog.
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