Going back to a travel topic (This is why you want me traveling, you never know what I'm going to write about when I get bored) it was announced today that the TSA has agreed to allow an independent review of their backscatter scanning machines for radiation by the National Academy of Sciences.
On the surface this appears like a good thing. It's always nice to know if you've been exposed to high amounts of radiation so that you can start making shopping plans for shirts with a third sleeve. Hey, yoga and eastern mysticism are in right? So what if you look like Ganesh dressed down to business casual? Think of the advantages you'll have at cocktail parties.
Digging deeper into this I'm not quite sure how well this is going to work however, given that the NAS is of the groups who tend to blame everything technological for global warming. Would anyone be surprised to find three scientists in lab jackets informing us that residual heat from our hair follicles being microwaved has increased the Earth's temperature by .00000001 degrees leading to a rise in the Earth's sea levels that might make the carpets in certain exotic Maldives hotels slightly moist in the morning? Mainly I think the reason for this is that the scientists performing these studies are jealous that they don't get invited to the Maldives.
I'm kidding of course but these are the types of things that drive conspiracy theorists wild and that's a problem. Because having a safe, reliable scanner is the first line of defense in security theater to keeping your private parts well....private. I have to admit that I'm not happy thinking that some TSA agent with a Clint Eastwood complex might get his willies off looking at a (somewhat) transparent picture of my wife, but it sure beats her being led to a room and having them actually give her the once over. I'm not worried about myself. I'm 40 and somewhat overweight. I can't imagine my nekkid images would be at the front of the line for archival purposes. Then again.....
What this all covers up is that our security procedures aren't really about stopping the terrorists, they're about giving the impression that they are. People now feel (somewhat) safe in planes because we really believe the lightly-trained baggage scanner is alert enough at 6AM to pick out the pieces of a disassembled gun in one bag out of the thousands they're going to screen. Sadly, we know this isn't true because we've seen story after story of people getting on planes with everything short of a bazooka in their bag, and who's to say that hasn't happened?
The good news out of all of this is that, if the machines are shown to be highly radioactive, there's a good chance our children's children will have an extra arm with which to fight off the anti-social zealot of their day. No, the terrorists won't have them because all of their radiated fore-fathers will have died in suicide bombings.