Do you want cops to do this?
NYPD boss Ray Kelly was his version of giddy yesterday while describing new technology that will allow police to just see straight through people’s clothing. As detailed by The Wall Street Journal, “The so-called T-Ray machine detects terahertz radiation, a high-frequency electromagnetic natural energy that is emitted by people and can penetrate many materials.” Kelly, in a speech at the Waldorf-Astoria, explained, “If something is obstructing the flow of that radiation, for example a weapon, the device will highlight that object.” After a demonstration, he added, “You get a sense of why we’re so hopeful about this tool.” And the government is footing the bill.
The “multimillion” dollar machine is being paid for by the U.S. Department of Defense, according to NYPD spokesman Paul Browne. For now, the tester device (pictured above) is large and could be mounted to a car, but eventually the deparment hopes “to get the T-Ray technology in a device small enough to carry on an officer’s gun belt,” the Journal reports.
While the sci-fi-style machine could eventually make the department’s controversial street stops obsolete, it comes with its own obvious civil-liberty issues, along with the chance of identifying, say, a hairbrush, wallet, or candy bar as something more dangerous.
“Any technology that allows police to peer into a person’s body or possessions raises a lot of questions,” said NYCLU director Donna Lieberman. “But to the extent that this technology reduces the abuse of stop-and-frisk that harms hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers every year, we’re intrigued by the possibilities.”
Take a look at this:
by Gene Ostrovskyon Jan 4, 2010 • 12:00 am
As new government directives are now mandating full body (terahertz) scanning (or pat down searches) of our private parts on all US inbound flights, a recent research article in arXiv points to potential negative health effects from the new technology. Terahertz waves penetrate non-conducting material like clothing, but then they deposit energy in the skin. Now researchers at the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory have shown that terahertz radiation may be able to do some serious damage to the DNA it encounters when bouncing off your body
Physics arXiv Blog explains:
Alexandrov [Boian Alexandrov at the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico –ed.] and co have created a model to investigate how THz fields interact with double-stranded DNA and what they’ve found is remarkable. They say that although the forces generated are tiny, resonant effects allow THz waves to unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication. That’s a jaw dropping conclusion.
And it also explains why the evidence has been so hard to garner. Ordinary resonant effects are not powerful enough to do do this kind of damage but nonlinear resonances can. These nonlinear instabilities are much less likely to form which explains why the character of THz genotoxic effects are probabilistic rather than deterministic, say the team.