This week I was treated to an impressive illustration of the power of modern security technology.

I was passing through Reagan National Airport, having been deflected from my previous schedule (which had originally included a stay at the hotel complex in Aurora, CO last thursday night – serendipitously I had cancelled the reservation and then couldn’t get out of DC anyway).

I had an early morning flight, security check was busy, and I was directed to the millimeter wave scanner.

The scanners are basically low power THz active radar, and penetrate thin layers of dielectric materials, such as most clothing.
The clarity of the images thus produces has been somewhat controversial, including much prurient interest in privacy issues and other puritanical concerns.

So, after taking off my shoes, removing my belt, emptying my pockets and putting it all with my laptop and carryon on the x-ray machine, I went through the scanner.

Soon as I stepped out I was stopped.
“Sir, would you mind showing us what you have in your left back pocket?”
I reached for my back pocket, and found this.

A wrapper

what I had in my pocket

Not the dime, the wrapper.
It is a crumpled up Andes mint wrapper, slightly smaller than a dime, they had them at the hotel, and I had stuck the wrapper in my back pocket as there was no rubbish bin nearby and then promptly forgot about it.

It was immediately picked up on the scanner and after producing it, and explaining, I got The Search anyway.

That is some resolution on that sucker.

Coming soon to your iThing…


  1. #1 John Fregeau
    July 24, 2012

    The sensitivity of the scanners also depends on the material.

    Apparently it’s somewhat easy to conceal a knife by holding it at your side, where it looks like a fold of clothing.

  2. #2 Vince Whirlwind
    July 25, 2012

    At least you can’t smuggle an empty sweet wrapper in. So relieved to know that.

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