Terrorism Beat by Technology?


Millimeter Wave MachineScientific American reports on new technology aimed to combat terrorism, on this somber anniversary of September 11th.

This specific machine (pictured) scans people with millimeter waves which are waves of light longer than x-ray, but shorter than infrared. The frequencies used range from 30 to 300 Ghz, and which produce different results:

“Millimeter wave covers a broad range of frequencies–from 30 to 300 GHz. At some, the sky illuminates the object, the image being collected in much the same way as an optical camera,” explains John Salkeld, QinetiQ’s director of optronics. “At others, you can pick up emission from the human body.”

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On the right is an example of the view provided by the machine. Millimeter Wave Machine

While this technology is indeed beneficial, it will most likely cause controversy over privacy concerns. In addition to these concerns, machine reliability and (lack of) speed has been a negative factor in placing other machines such as “sniffers” and x-ray machines into airports.

Personally, I’m not terribly concerned about privacy when boarding an airplane. After all, I’m most likely going to be crammed in a very tight space between strangers which is already a bit uncomfortable, and I’m happy to give up a bit of privacy for everyone’s safety.