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Hair-Raising Technique Detects Drugs, Explosives On Human Body

samzenpus posted about 3 months ago | from the charge-and-detect dept.

Science 162

sciencehabit writes Scientists have found a way to combine Van de Graaff generators with a common laboratory instrument to detect drugs, explosives, and other illicit materials on the human body. In the laboratory, scientists had a volunteer touch a Van de Graaff generator for 2 seconds to charge his body to 400,000 volts. This ionized compounds on the surface of his body. The person then pointed their charged finger toward the inlet of a mass spectrometer, and ions from their body entered the machine. In various tests, the machine correctly identified explosives, flammable solvents, cocaine, and acetaminophen on the skin.

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hmm I wonder if.... (5, Funny)

Ingcuervo (1349561) | about 3 months ago | (#47429919)

the way they detect the flammable solvents is by the ignition of them when the spark of static discharge is done

Re:hmm I wonder if.... (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 3 months ago | (#47430059)

I'm betting most explosives, being highly combustible, can be set off with a static charge. Good thing they only worked w/traces. Now they can safely find nutballs with traces of explosives on them. Perhaps it would be best if they tried someone holding a keg of gunpowder, you know, to see if it's safe. Gotta trust degreed men of science, after all they paid a lot to get those degrees. We don't need a trace finder , we need a bomb finder, no matter how many degreed scientists we have to blow up to get one. They should feel honored to serve. GO RESEARCH!!!

Re:hmm I wonder if.... (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 3 months ago | (#47431585)

If you walk on a recently fertilized lawn, you have traces of explosives on you.

Flying in new shoes saves hassle.

Re:hmm I wonder if.... (2)

durrr (1316311) | about 3 months ago | (#47430467)

I wonder more about the cocaine detection, if it was intended or accidental.

Re:hmm I wonder if.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430497)

If this tests were done in the US, it was completely accidental.

TSA pull my finger (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47429925)

Any air travelers left in that shit hole of an abortion of a country called Merika? Line up at the Van de Graaff scanner! The wool you're covered with will be standing on end.

Re:TSA pull my finger (2)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 3 months ago | (#47430373)

Any air travelers left in that shit hole of an abortion of a country called Merika? Line up at the Van de Graaff scanner! The wool you're covered with will be standing on end.

Infowars called, They want you back.

New Traveler Hairstyles (5, Funny)

Rich0 (548339) | about 3 months ago | (#47429929)

I'm just looking forward to when the TSA hears about this. Pretty soon we'll all be sporting new traveler's hairdos [blogspot.com] !

Re:New Traveler Hairstyles (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#47430349)

They want you to feel like it's 1980's all over again. Well, perhaps with a Light Brown Scare instead of the red one - fashions change.

Wait a minute... (1)

Noryungi (70322) | about 3 months ago | (#47429941)

Acetaminophen is illegal now??!! Please say it ain't so!!

Re:Wait a minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47429963)

Painkillers can be used to make disobedience drugs. Disobedience is illegal.

Re:Wait a minute... (4, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | about 3 months ago | (#47430023)

I don't know about Acetaminophen, but I've heard compelling cases made that if Aspirin were discovered today it would be a prescription drug. Think of the side effects, the modern day "think of the children!" attitude, and pathetic need of the body politic to feel "safe" from any and everything.

Re:Wait a minute... (4, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 3 months ago | (#47430037)

Acetaminophen aka Tylenol can actually be quite harmful. The difference between the maximum safe dose, and the amount to cause liver problems (or failure) is quite a small margin. Combine that with the fact that they put it in other medications such as cold medications that people take along with regular acetaminophen, and you end up with a recipe for disaster. This American Life [thisamericanlife.org] did an episode on it.

Re:Wait a minute... (0)

Mashiki (184564) | about 3 months ago | (#47430081)

Everything can be harmful. Just watch americans freak out that in Canada you can get acetaminophen+codeine OTC.

Re:Wait a minute... (3, Funny)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 3 months ago | (#47430503)

I wonder if they'll detect that super-harmful chemical dihydrogen monoxide?

Re:Wait a minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430509)

Are you serious? They let you get Codeine OTC? I need to come visit.

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 3 months ago | (#47431615)

There are still a few states that let you buy codeine cough syrup OTC.

I don't know why anybody considers codeine a recreational drug though. Junkies sometimes use it to keep from getting junk sick.

In terms of stumble/dollar vodka has it beat, hands down.

And good luck asking for APAP-free medicine! (3, Interesting)

swb (14022) | about 3 months ago | (#47430151)

The funny thing is, try to explain this to your doctor when she wants to prescribe an opiate like oxycodone.

In about half the cases I've been prescribed opiates the doctor refused to prescribe oxycodone on its own -- I was told it was Percocet (oxycodone + acetaminophen) or nothing, they would not write a prescription for just oxycodone. I had one surgeon do it reluctantly, pointedly asking me why and not really liking my answer that I felt it was dangerous and could add in acetaminophen on my own if I felt it was helpful.

I did have one specialist who wrote that way and when I asked her why she prescribed that way she said current research showed the liver risk outweighed the small benefits. Ironically she was the "less educated" physicians assistant and not a full MD.

I think most doctors believe its beneficial but I also think they somehow see acetaminophen opiate formulations as some kind of bulwark against abuse. Either because they believe it is so much more effective paired with acetaminophen and you'll be inclined to take less overall or that people "know" acetaminophen is bad in quantity and it will serve as a deterrent to excessive dosage, especially people with a history of drug abuse.

I also think they are highly skeptical of someone asking for a specific opiate formulation, even when they initiate the prescription (ie, you have an obvious injury and they prescribe an opiate). It's highly ironic that they're so worried about addiction they're willing to risk serious liver toxicity.

Re:And good luck asking for APAP-free medicine! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430363)

If I remember correctly, I researched oxycodone when I was proscribed oxycodone and found that the effectiveness of the oxycodone in reducing pain is increased if it is paired with acetaminophen. This means that you can prescribe a lower dosage to get the same effect.

Re:And good luck asking for APAP-free medicine! (3, Insightful)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 3 months ago | (#47430615)

While true (although it's quite likely the effects are exaggerated to some degree), there's no compelling reason to have them in the same pill. People build up very high tolerances to opiates, and there isn't a whole lot by way of extra side effects in doing so, but our ability to take acetaminophen without liver damage stays about the same.

Re:And good luck asking for APAP-free medicine! (3, Interesting)

swb (14022) | about 3 months ago | (#47430779)

The FDA has been mulling a total ban on acetaminophen combinations only recently, I presume this is because the most recent research probably indicated that the benefits were outweighed by the risks.

The physicians assistant who prescribed only oxycodone without acetaminophen to me was the youngest of the prescribers I've dealt with, so I'm also assuming her more recent education included this newer thinking.

The oxycodone dosage she gave me was the same as the combination offered elsewhere -- 5 mg. I found that the APAP-free version seemed more effective -- faster onset of benefit with no obvious reduction in duration or overall benefit.

The PA also prescribed other medication to try to enhance the oxycodone, hydroxazine and amytriptaline. Unfortunately both of these had significant side effects. Hydroxazine made me really sleepy and amytriptaline made it very hard to get up.

Re:And good luck asking for APAP-free medicine! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47431179)

I researched oxycodone when I was proscribed oxycodone...

You were denied oxycodone? Then why were you researching it?

Re:And good luck asking for APAP-free medicine! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430445)

I've always assumed they do this because it's much harder to "abuse it safely" if it's mixed with tylenol.
Also, generally, if you're on prescription narcotics and under a doctor's care then you shouldn't be self
dosing with ANY over the counter drugs without clearing it with them first. It's safer to have it all in one
pill and say "take this and only this pill" than it is to allow someone to self dose other stuff in addition
to what they are prescribed.

Re:And good luck asking for APAP-free medicine! (1)

durrr (1316311) | about 3 months ago | (#47430601)

Anyone prone to willfull abuse will use CWE and get rid of the acetaminophen. Some elderly person getting addicted will instead kill itself.
Drug prescription rules and opinions about drugs are hyped the fuck up and retarded, there's several completely safe drugs that's prescription only and some pretty awful ones that's free for everyone.

Re:And good luck asking for APAP-free medicine! (4, Informative)

ncc74656 (45571) | about 3 months ago | (#47431201)

I think most doctors believe its beneficial but I also think they somehow see acetaminophen opiate formulations as some kind of bulwark against abuse. Either because they believe it is so much more effective paired with acetaminophen and you'll be inclined to take less overall or that people "know" acetaminophen is bad in quantity and it will serve as a deterrent to excessive dosage, especially people with a history of drug abuse.

Also, the DEA watches doctors who prescribe opiates very carefully. If some government goon believes a doctor's handing them out like candy, the doctor's most likely going to be called in for some very uncomfortable questions. See chapter two of Three Felonies a Day [amazon.com] for some examples.

The way scripts for opiates are handled is also quite different. My wife's oncologist was able to submit the vast majority of prescriptions to her preferred pharmacy electronically; they would be ready for pick-up a short time after. The one time she was prescribed straight oxycodone (or whatever opiate), it was printed on security paper to thwart attempts at altering or copying. It was signed, and some sort of DEA ID number issued to the doc was printed in the header. I had to deliver the prescription to a pharmacy. Her usual pharmacy didn't have it in stock, so I had to find another that did. Once it was filled, I had to sign for it in a logbook (similar to when you buy products containing pseudoephedrine).

Re:And good luck asking for APAP-free medicine! (1)

swb (14022) | about 3 months ago | (#47431387)

Oxycodone has required a printed prescription on paper for a long time -- no refills, no phone in. I think hydrocodone (aka Vicodin) was scheduled lower and that made it eligible for phone-in prescriptions and refills without a new prescription, although I believe they recently re-scheduled it to be the same as oxycodone.

I have to sign for every prescription, from opiates to my high blood pressure medication to antibiotics. I can't remember not having to sign for them.

Ironically, I think the dependence on paper prescriptions as being more secure than electronic submission is kind of strange. Surely forging a paper prescription is easier than an electronic submission. I'm also surprised the DEA hasn't just created a mandatory centralized opiate prescribing system where all prescriptions are funneled through them.

I'm not endorsing this, mind you, but they could tighten it down to the point where the only way to prescribe a narcotic is for a doctor to log into a DEA terminal, complete with two-factor authentication, complete the prescription form and have it sent to the pharmacy, all under their watchful eye.

Re:Wait a minute... (3, Funny)

Imrik (148191) | about 3 months ago | (#47430291)

What do you really expect the margin between the maximum safe dose and the minimum unsafe dose to be?

100 to 1000 times below NOEL (1)

justthinkit (954982) | about 3 months ago | (#47430455)

100 to 1000 times below NOEL is the goal -- the standard that few come close to.

The maximum daily dose of Paracetamol [just-think-it.com] (aka Acetaminophen) is 66% of the FATAL dose.

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

Headrick (25371) | about 3 months ago | (#47431337)

I once dated a nurse who told me that acetaminophen was the most common cause of acute liver failure in the ICU.

People keep popping them because they're over the counter -- they can't be dangerous!

Re:Wait a minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430073)

Someone lives in his mother's basement.

Re:Wait a minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430315)

Do you have an actual point?

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | about 3 months ago | (#47430873)

Tylenol is in high demand in Cuba. I always buy some as gifts to the hotel staff whenever I visit.

Pity (1)

Adam (3469959) | about 3 months ago | (#47429949)

It can't detect a total waste of money.

Re:Pity (1)

ThatsDrDangerToYou (3480047) | about 3 months ago | (#47431653)

It can't detect a total waste of money.

No, clearly not a total waste. They got *several* publications out of this work I'm sure! ... and did you hear where they are having the conference next year? Somewhere exotic I think.

So what happens... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47429953)

...when the first terrorist decides that the best place to attack is the line (a "queue" to us Royalists) for security?

Will there be a pre-inspection inspection? Inspections all the way down? Pre-crime profiling? Not allowed to leave your house until you're cleared tor pre-clearing? Just how would the play deal with this sinister turn?

Re:So what happens... (2)

sumdumass (711423) | about 3 months ago | (#47429979)

They already do this. Check points in Iraq and other countries like Israel are known for being blown up. Buses are more typical because they are enclosed making the blast more effective. The thing is that the death toll usually isn't much higher than a bad car wreck compared to other methods so i think they are targeting the mechanism moreso than what we consider terrorist goals to be. But thats just my limited guess to why they aren't more popular in weatern nations.

Re:So what happens... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430007)

guess to why they aren't more popular in weatern nations.

Yeah, I have a guess. There aren't any terrorists in western nations. The western nations are terrorist states terrorizing innocent travelers for political gain.

Re:So what happens... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47431231)

guess to why they aren't more popular in weatern nations.

Yeah, I have a guess. There aren't any terrorists in western nations. The western nations are terrorist states terrorizing innocent travelers for political gain.

Too bad you got modded down, as your point is actually self-evident. Maybe people just don't like thinking that their perception of the world has been manipulated and is therefore skewed. Or they just like being afraid.

Re:So what happens... (4, Insightful)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 3 months ago | (#47430009)

if you're considering a large death toll as a terrorist goal, then you're wrong. Terror is the goal, and having people killed are only the means.

Re:So what happens... (2, Insightful)

Rashdot (845549) | about 3 months ago | (#47430057)

I believe most bombings are targeted, we just almost never hear who the target was. We just read about some marketplace being blown op, but not who happened to be walking there. Besides, the reasoning could be hard to understand, in some places people can get killed for holding a wrong opinion. Or because someone wants to gain power.

Re:So what happens... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430099)

I believe you're a fucking nut job.

Re:So what happens... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430119)

That depends on how you define 'target'. A terrorist that is using geographical targets (Pentagon) differs to a terrorist that is using 'crowds of people' as targets. But their overall, main target is inflicting terror in people's minds. That's why you don't 'hear' what the 'target' was, the term 'terroris bombing' already explains it.

Re:So what happens... (1)

Rashdot (845549) | about 3 months ago | (#47430357)

My point is that someone specific in that crowd probably was targeted, but to us the public, it remains a random crowd of people. At least that's what I've been told by someone who was in some special forces somewhere.

Re:So what happens... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430553)

This is wishful thinking, to try and add a more palatable reason to the madness, to boil it down to an individual so your individualist mind can find rhyme if not reason in the happenings. If a bombing attack targets someone specific it's an assassination bombing, not a terrorism bombing. The reason is simple: Terrorism doesn't work that way.

Terrorism seeks to STRIKE FEAR INTO THE HEARTS OF MEN, to make them feel unsafe wherever and whenever they may be, to pressure and elicit unthinking responses, to make governments lash out and so show your targets off as bad, wrong, and evil. How you get there is not important. If releasing grainy videos with threats to reprise a previous bombing will do, then that's what'll happen. If that doesn't work, some other tactic is needed. You can see it clear enough if you know the pattern to look for.

Terrorism bombings share with assassination bombings that they are a crude way to hit the mark, but differs markedly in the actual goal. For assassination bombings it's killing certain people. For terrorism bombings it's striking fear among the living.

Of course, if you're an enterprising terrorist out for both, there's no reason not to try do both with but one bomb. But that's two goals pursued at once. Or perhaps it's one masking the other, who knows, and who is to say? Conflating the goals still isn't a good idea if you're trying to figure out what's going on.

Re:So what happens... (2)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 3 months ago | (#47430313)

It's mainly targets and not a single target. Bombing on a bus, mall, disco, market, etc all involve densely packed people to inflict maximum casualties. Please see Boston bombings for example here in America.

Re:So what happens... (1)

Rashdot (845549) | about 3 months ago | (#47430945)

True, the Boston bombers apparently considered the whole civilized world as enemies.

But for instance in Lebanon some of the most powerful individuals were killed by bombings. Those were obviously targeted.

So both are true, but in the west we mostly read about bombings and don't always get to hear who the true target was. Maybe because there's not much point in knowing what local figure was targeted and why.

Re:So what happens... (4, Insightful)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about 3 months ago | (#47430199)

Terror is the goal, and having people killed are only the means.

Or in the case of Bin Laden, a successful attack would lead to Machiavellian scumbags within the US government turning the country into a police state for power and profit, slowly boiling away the rights and privacies of his real target: the American citizenry (who allowed murderous, abusive foreign policies to be conducted in their name).

And to this day, they are still running his playbook, with zero intention of ever stopping.

Re:So what happens... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430025)

I don't know about you but I seem to recall a time when >10 casualty bus bombings were common. Even if the casualties aren't massive enough, think of the morale implications. Hell, spread fear for fears sake. Toilets, long ass queues, restaurants. Places where people feel secure enough.

The TSA has a new toy.. (1)

wiredog (43288) | about 3 months ago | (#47429965)

It's gonna make going through airport security even more fun. Especially for those with pacemakers.

Re:The TSA has a new toy.. (1)

necro81 (917438) | about 3 months ago | (#47430195)

I'd be skeptical that sticking one hand on a Van DeGraff generator won't do anything for someone with a pacemaker. In order for things to get weird, you need some other part of the body grounded (e.g., the other hand touching earth ground), such that current passes through the person. Just building up a large electrostatic charge on the skin of someone isn't such a big deal, because a pacemaker (and, particularly, its electrodes) are contained within the body. If, as the article suggests, they turn this into a phone booth-like chamber, it should be pretty easy to ensure that the person inside is "floating", electrically, and unable to complete a circuit with their body.

A person with the prosthetic arm that uses surface EMGs [google.com] to control it, however, would need to think twice!

Re:The TSA has a new toy.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430495)

Static electricity can reach 50 kV on a bad day, and if you have one hand grounded while the other on the Van de Graaff generator, the current flow is very small. Both ways get to such high voltages because the self-capacitance of the body and just about anything else of a similar size is quite small, so you get high voltage for a small charge transfer.

Bang (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 3 months ago | (#47429967)

Its also great for detecting suicide bombers.

Re:Bang (1)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | about 3 months ago | (#47429989)

Honestly that's fine by me. Better sending up a contained security area than a plane full of innocents.

Re:Bang (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 3 months ago | (#47430033)

Bomb belts really should have grounding points.

Or (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47429971)

They could use a pair of socks.

Re: Or (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430105)

"Opt out!"
"Yes, sir; please just shuffle over here; very good, now please touch the white X ... AH HA! Cinnabon; I thought so!"

My, my, the implications (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47429985)

Curious how such a simple thing actually works where very very expensive pervy nudie scanners just don't. Then again, the manufacturers of the latter are commercial companies looking to make a buck or two million or so, even better if it's by selling snake oil because instead of finding another supplier the TSA thugs will buy some more to keep all crated up "just in case", whereas these people have a little different motivation.

Then again, charging up any random traveler to 400kV is maybe not such a great idea, even before considering this might trigger if you've so much as handled drug paraphernalia (like dollar bills) or shaken hands with a drug user (an investment banker, say).

My, my, the implications (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430075)

We will finally get nice clean terrorists! After mixing explosives and building their bomb-belt, they will wash thorougly. Especially the hand used in this new scanner. No more stink-fingered terrorists!

Re:My, my, the implications (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430253)

We will finally get nice clean terrorists! After mixing explosives and building their bomb-belt, they will wash thorougly. Especially the hand used in this new scanner. No more stink-fingered terrorists!

I doubt it. Most of the middle easterners I recall from school had no concept of soap. Or deodorant. I never wanted to get close enough to check if they were aware of toothpaste. The really bad ones usually had a one or two empty seat "buffer zone" around them during class. And you certainly waited for the next elevator if they were entering.

Breaking Headline : (5, Funny)

Rollgunner (630808) | about 3 months ago | (#47429987)

Air traveler shocked to find out he was carrying illegal drugs !

Re:Breaking Headline : (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430613)

This /is/ possible. For example on the US-Mexican border, people often don't know they carry drugs. They pass the border regularly by car, and on one side their bag gets replaced (break into their car, whatever) with a same-looking second one, having special content. On the other side, the same exchange happens just reverse. They don't even realize they have carried drugs, and when the police officers find the drugs, the innocent gets blamed.

Of course, there are also real drug dealers passing the border, so "not knowing" is not an excuse.

Even better (1)

easyTree (1042254) | about 3 months ago | (#47430005)

Scientists have found a way to combine an industrial blender with test subjects; simply pop in the suspect, pulse intermittently for five minutes then place a sample of the fluid in a mass spectrometer to detect explosive residue.

Efficiency (3, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | about 3 months ago | (#47430015)

This could be combined with automatic electrocution if the test turns out to be positive ;-)

Re:Efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430027)

Better hope you havent handled any http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contaminated_currency lately...

Hm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430029)

I can see the TSA putting the children in the booth and flipping the switch and watchng the children go up in smoke Waylon style.

Not "plain senses" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430065)

I would like to know how the courts can honestly say that things like dogs, backscatter EM devices, chemical detectors, and other augmentation tools can possibly fall under the "plain senses" doctrine.

Re:Not "plain senses" (1)

Dins (2538550) | about 3 months ago | (#47430155)

Pretty sure this is intended for security checkpoints like in airports, not random sampling of the population. At least for now...

TSA waiting line will be interesting now (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 3 months ago | (#47430069)

No need to wait for Fourth of July any more. Once this technology is fully deployed in all airports by TSA you would be seeing this. [google.com] . The large donut and the thick pillar are parts of the Van de Graff generator.

Re:TSA waiting line will be interesting now (1)

necro81 (917438) | about 3 months ago | (#47430209)

No need to wait for Fourth of July any more. Once this technology is fully deployed in all airports by TSA you would be seeing this. [google.com] . The large donut and the thick pillar are parts of the Van de Graff generator

No, they aren't. Those are pictures of Tesla coils. A Van de Graff generator [wikipedia.org] is like an industrial version of rubbing a glass rod with a piece of wool - it works via electrostatics. A Tesla coil [wikipedia.org] is a resonant transformer with a huge turns ratio - it works via magnetic induction.

Re:TSA waiting line will be interesting now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430563)

In addition, putting your ass into a faraday cage would totally negate the entire point as the current would never reach your body.

Re:TSA waiting line will be interesting now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430739)

I think they security would make you step out of a cage... unless you mean something like conductive clothes which won't do squat if you they apply the current to your hand. It doesn't matter how much current and charge goes through most of your body, just as long as the skin or clothing they want to check is exposed and has a conducting path to the generator without a substantial path to ground or return side of the generator.

Re:TSA waiting line will be interesting now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430585)

Those pictures all seem to be Tesla coils, which are quite different than Van de Graaff generators. They are substantially more dangerous (a small one I have can output on the order of 10s of milliamps of current on the output), whereas outside of some rare industrial sized Van de Graaff generators, educational sized ones at worst just sting a little when getting zapped because they store up a very small charge.

Great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430085)

Tr ying to detect explosives with static electricity..Whahahhahaha!!!!

Re:Great idea (1)

Dins (2538550) | about 3 months ago | (#47430173)

Right, and if detected there's the added bonus that the threat is almost immediately eliminated! However, one unfortunate side effect is that the tester and testing area might also be eliminated. But hey, it's a work in progress...!

countermeasure (0)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#47430107)

So... am I incorrect in thinking that a decent countermeasure would be to ground yourself in some way? Shoes with a hole in the toe... or if the put a grounding mat on the floor you could have a capacitor in your pocket...

Re:countermeasure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430243)

Fairly simple matter to lay down half a decimetre* or so of rubber for you to stand on. "Spike through this." Though I suppose stiletto heels with a stiletto needle built-in might do, but you also need to retract it again, or lose it.

And the capacitor, where will its other lead be grounded? If you do find a way to ground it, it might well explode. Not so nice to have in your pocket now, eh? So I don't see any immediate way to get rid of the voltage, n'mind giving the ruse away by failing to raise hair, unless you're already bald of course. Or worse, there might suddenly be more amps going through the length of your body than it can handle, killing you.

One might, however, try and mask the "scent", by cleaning up, finding some coating agent (though that itself may be detected), or perhaps add something to mask or fool the detector into detecting a third, presumably harmless, substance instead.

* one tenth of a metre, halved, or about two inches for youse backwardians.

Re:countermeasure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430395)

So... am I incorrect in thinking that a decent countermeasure would be to ground yourself in some way? Shoes with a hole in the toe... or if the put a grounding mat on the floor you could have a capacitor in your pocket...

I would imagine that alarms would be set off if you didn't discharge into the mass spectrometer inlet even if it was just a "test malfunction, redo test" alarm. Also, grounding yourself while touching a Van de Graaff generator can be a very painful experience which would (hopefully) be noticed by the operator...

Re:countermeasure (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#47430659)

So... am I incorrect in thinking that a decent countermeasure would be to ground yourself in some way? Shoes with a hole in the toe... or if the put a grounding mat on the floor you could have a capacitor in your pocket...

I would imagine that alarms would be set off if you didn't discharge into the mass spectrometer inlet even if it was just a "test malfunction, redo test" alarm. Also, grounding yourself while touching a Van de Graaff generator can be a very painful experience which would (hopefully) be noticed by the operator...

And would give you a good excuse to refuse another test...

Re:countermeasure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430537)

A capacitor in your pocket won't do much without the other end being connected to anything. There is a very small capacitance between an unconnected terminal on the capacitor and ground, so in series it would act like an even smaller capacitor, which would be smaller than the self-capacitance of your body. If you could somehow ground one end of the capacitor, it would just look like an effective short as the current delivered by a Van de Graaff generator is quite small and it only gets up to high voltage due to how small the self-capacitance of something the size of a human is. If they don't give you anything grounded near by to touch, you're out of luck though. You can maybe have something metal and spikey sticking out somewhere which can increase the rate of discharge in the air, but still will let you charge up to a decent voltage.

Re:countermeasure (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#47430675)

There are ways of discharging static into a capacitor without a connection to the earth... I did it in high-school, but do not remember the specifics.

Re:countermeasure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430701)

... yes, just like the one mentioned in the post you replied to. The capacitor will have a self-capacitance and so will the leads, so it effectively completes a circuit to ground via a vary small capacitance, but since self-capacitance mostly comes down to how big an object is, it will be much smaller than the capacitance of a human body regardless of what the rating of the cap is. So you would only be able to get rid of a very small mount of charge from your body that way.

False positives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430109)

Anyway to exclude false positives in this? TSA hasn't been notably interested in correcting their mistakes in the past.

but does it work on dead parrots? (1)

Cardinal Biggles (6685) | about 3 months ago | (#47430111)

"mate, this parrot wouldn't voom if you put 4 million volts through it!"

apologies to those too young to know Monty Python sketches :)

As a protest to the use of these devices, (3, Interesting)

mark_reh (2015546) | about 3 months ago | (#47430115)

I suggest that everyone who has to go through the scanner reach down into their pants and stick their finger into their butt hole just before they have to point their finger at the detector.

Re:As a protest to the use of these devices, (1)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | about 3 months ago | (#47430257)

I suggest that everyone who has to go through the scanner reach down into their pants and stick their finger into their butt hole just before they have to point their finger at the detector.

Why do it yourself, when it only takes a *little* encouragement before THE TSA offers to insert THEIR finger in your butthole?

Keeping in mind that THE TSA will not stop until their knuckles are knocking your uvula, or further press-the-digit-ation is blocked at their shoulder (whichever comes last).

Re:As a protest to the use of these devices, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430525)

Hmmm, you seem to talk by experience...

Preferred Screening Gender (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430939)

Do you have a choice of the gender of the TSA screener, or just a right to one of the same gender?

I'm on board! (2)

CyberDruid (201684) | about 3 months ago | (#47430279)

I for one, look forward to be electrocuted in loyal service to a totalitarian new world order. This way, they can exert a greater control over their treasonous subjects!

I certainly hope the recent slander from Snowden will not stop the NSA and other semi-autonomous government organs around the world from keeping a full record of all traces of substances which are found on my body, each time I travel. That will be great in case someone in power is ever questioned and would need to put the offending party in prison or at least character assassinate them!

I'm on board! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47430543)

This sounds cool. I tried something similar (but only 300kV) at the Palais de la Decouvertes in Paris. But there it was more about your hair standing on end and shooting lightning bolts with the tip of your finger, and less about bombs and drugs. But if they replace the nudie scanner with this I may start flying again!

"Don't Worry, it's only 400k volts" (1)

retroworks (652802) | about 3 months ago | (#47430305)

This is intriguing. Jokes about tasers and cattleprods will abound, and it would definitely get plenty of late night comedy attention. But if the science is good, it will have a lot of commercial applications. As the employer of several commercial truck drivers (and a CDL who takes the tests myself), I'd be very interested in having one at the doorway of our employment office (to scare away certain substance abusing job applicants, mainly).

What it doesn't really address is the "bottleneck" equation at TSA. We've already reached the breakeven point where a suicide bomber can kill more people standing in the incoming security line of the airport than he'd kill bringing down a plane (arguably TSA is mainly a property crime and marketing psychology tool). Also I wonder what the "false positives" rates are and how many people will miss flight connections. You are going after one out of a billion flyers, it would have to either be wickedly accurate in order to achieve it's outcome, which is to redirect suicide bombers from airplanes and towards softer targets.>/p>

Re:"Don't Worry, it's only 400k volts" (1)

the_fat_kid (1094399) | about 3 months ago | (#47431431)

Your magic door way to the employment office (with death ray?) will also be good for keeping out anyone with any cash or Tylenol. Are you really prepared to bet you job that you haven't touched either? I'm not suggesting that you use drugs but your money does. American money is so soaked with cocaine you can almost chew it like coca leaves. If the trucking industry is so filled with Drug Addicts maybe the problem is deeper than "scaring away applicants"
Now, if we can come up with a skin test for prostitute killing psyco I think we might have some thing.

Uh, let's see now... (1)

jenningsthecat (1525947) | about 3 months ago | (#47430653)

"explosives, flammable solvents, cocaine...

Depending on how specific their criteria, and how high they set the detection thresholds, the following people could be in for serious grief:

1) Gardeners and farmers - (nitrate compounds from fertilizer, + fuel oil from any of a dozen sources)
2) Painters, mechanics, people with Zippo lighters, people who use hand sanitizer, people who gas up their own vehicles - (flammable solvents)
3) Anyone who handles paper money (cocaine)

They'd be better off doing genetic research to figure out how to give us all the olfactory capabilities of blood hounds. Then none of us would have any secrets from each other. Of course, the ass-sniffing thing would get old pretty fast.

Risk of Burns (1)

Graydyn Young (2835695) | about 3 months ago | (#47430763)

Wouldn't this be rather dangerous to use outside of the lab? I would think that if a person tried to pull their hand off the generator while it's on, the arc would burn them quite badly.

Dubai will love this (1)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about 3 months ago | (#47430765)

In Dubai, they already arrest and convict people if they find race amounts of marijuana on the soles of their shoes, I can only imagine they will be among the first to implement these detectors at their airport so they can have fun arresting even more infidels who come to visit their dystopian tourist trap.

Many contaminants on paper currency (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 3 months ago | (#47430915)

Not the least of which are illegal drugs and they wind up on the fingertips!

They buried the lead (1)

cmeans (81143) | about 3 months ago | (#47430941)

Headline should have been: "Scientists gets Cocaine"

New PCS detection? (1)

phillk6751 (654352) | about 3 months ago | (#47430963)

Now police can use the device to charge you with PCS (possession of a controlled substance) for detecting minute traces of a substance. Just what we needed.

I'm a big boy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47431473)

Aight, I just needs to check inside yo asshoe.

Been there, done that... (1)

tom_gram (861041) | about 3 months ago | (#47431511)

Well at least the first part. Charging oneself up with a van de graff generator is a common first year physics lecture demo. We have a generator capable of 400,000 Volts (though it doesnt reach that when its humid), and I have many times, in front of about 230 students, held onto the charge storage sphere. for a minute or more. It's supposed to demonstrate the electric field from a point charge (nominally my head), with the 'sensor' being the hair on my head. It is really good at making one's hair stand on end.....

Of course when we do that demo, we stand on a 2 inch plexiglass plate, which sits on top of a couple of 4x4's. Turns out (not suprisingly) that the discharge part is much more risky than the charging. I have a student turn off the machine, which I'm still holding onto, and wait 30 seconds. The machine is then discharged by touching to ground. That give me a bit of a jolt, but if its done too soon -- IT REALLY HURTS!!

With the discharge event being an important part of this process, its not something I would willingly undergo....

400'000 volts (1)

holophrastic (221104) | about 3 months ago | (#47431627)

Yeah, um, just, no. Once a decade at the science centre is one thing; weekly in public is something totally different.

I ain't touching that with a ten-foot pole.

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